Category Archives: Trade

2019 NBA Free Agency Bonanza *UPDATED*

*UPDATED 7/12*

These are my very brief, initial reactions to free agency.  I’ll keep updating this post as soon as more news breaks.  Take a deep breath:

 

The Oklahoma City Thunder have agreed to trade Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul, 2024 and 2026 first round picks (protected 1-4), and two pick swaps (2021 and 2025).  (Link)

~ I like this move more for the Thunder than the Rockets even though I think Westbrook is an upgrade over Chris Paul.  Now is Westbrook that much better than Paul?  No.  Paul is the better three point, free throw and mid-range shooter plus is the better defender.  The skill gap to some degree actually favors Paul over Westbrook.  But over the last three seasons Paul has played 61, 58 and 58 games respectively.  He’s six feet tall, 34 years old, has brittle hamstrings and major durability concerns.  Being durable is a skill and it’s the deciding factor in why I favor Westbrook over Paul.  Not only is Paul’s availability a major question mark but his skill has slightly eroded over the last season as well.  He’s still a fine defender but is declining as a shooter, lost a step on his drives and can’t hit movement twos like he used too. 

His dependability during the playoffs and long stretches of the season were concerns for the Rockets.  With Harden getting older they needed another ball handler by his side that could sustain the offense for long periods of time without him.  Westbrook can definitely do that.  He will take over the role Chris Paul played the last two seasons in Houston and be the secondary ball handler.  With Clint Capela as his rim-runner and Harden, Tucker, Gordon as his floor spacers, Westbrook will have the most space he’s had to operate in a long time.  On the flip side though this could hurt the space for Harden.  Westbrook is a poor catch-and-shoot player and is inactive off-ball.  That stagnation could shrink the court for Harden with defenses loading up even more not worrying about Westbrook.  Will the Rockets be able to make the necessary changes to Westbrook’s game at age 31?   The human element between Chris Paul and James Harden was apparently a bigger problem than we realized for Houston but their games still did mesh well overall.   

I think at the very least this puts the Rockets in the running for a top three seed during the regular season in a stacked west.  But in terms of playoff basketball I don’t think this makes them that much better than teams like Denver or Utah let alone the LA teams.  Unless Westbrook becomes more efficient from three, the free throw line, pull-up and catch-and-shoot then any team he’s on during the playoffs will be at a major disadvantage.  The Rockets want to do everything in their power to make sure they optimize Harden’s remaining prime years.  Making this trade does that.  That doesn’t mean they will win a championship but at least the Rockets are better suited for a title run now with Westbrook instead of Paul.  Giving up two first round picks was the cost of doing business.  In four to six years the Rockets may still be a competitive team, or, maybe they’ll suck. It’s hard to project that far out but as of now those picks have a fair amount of value.  The Thunder could end up winning this trade by a mile at the end of the day.

The Thunder now have a war chest of draft picks.  They are in full rebuild mode while most of the league is in “win now” mode in a wide open league.  The Thunder are looking five to seven years down the road when players like Kawhi Leonard, Lebron James, James Harden, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry are aged past their primes.  That’s their timeline to rebuild and they have a leg up on the competition.  I feel bad for Chris Paul.  He really is one of the best point guards of all time and this could be how his career ends.  Who is willing to trade for that contract?  Unless the Miami Heat do something stupid then Paul is stuck on the Thunder for the foreseeable future.  If the Thunder by some miracle flip Paul I’ll update this post but that would be some miraculous feat.      

 

Kawhi Leonard agrees to a four-year, $142 million deal with the Los Angeles Clippers.  The Oklahoma City Thunder trade Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers for their unprotected 2022, 2024, 2026 first round picks, Miami Heat’s unprotected 2021 first round pick and protected 2023 first round pick, and the rights to swap picks with the Clippers in 2023 and 2025.  (Link)

~ The NBA is wide open now after these moves.  There is no elite superteam that is the overwhelming favorite for the first time in a while.  That will undoubtedly heighten suspense throughout the regular season and playoffs.  Something that will be very interesting to monitor is Paul George’s shoulder surgery and recovery.  He might miss all of training camp and some of the regular season.  I wonder how that affects the start of the season and beyond for the Clippers.  But it sounds like the Clippers had to make the trade for Paul George if they also wanted Kawhi Leonard.  Before this past week it always seemed like the Clippers were his preferred destination but after the Lakers got Anthony Davis and acquired max cap room they were the “in vogue” team rumored to be favored in the Kawhi sweepstakes.  Heck, from all the noise I heard this past week I thought Kawhi to the Lakers was only a matter of time.  What a twist ending!

This must have been a shock to the Oklahoma City Thunder who were preparing for the upcoming season fully expecting Paul George to be on the roster.  Why would they think otherwise?  That’s how they approached the draft and proceeded through free agency.  Well, I guess acquiring five first round picks and two pick swaps and a solid rookie point guard is a nice consolation prize.  Danilo Gallinari has one more year left on his deal so I wouldn’t expect he’s apart of Oklahoma City’s long term plans.  After trading away Russell Westbrook for Chris Paul the Thunder are in full rebuild mode.  They will probably try to flip Gallinari and players like Steven Adams, Andre Roberson and Dennis Schroder.  This was for the best.  Even with a healthy Paul George the Thunder were never true title contenders.  It’s better to be a year early then a year too late trading away coveted players.  They got great value in return for Westbrook and George right this instant.  You never know how the market will change a year from now.  It’s going to be a long road back to the top for the Thunder but they have a nice head start to get there.  

The Clippers seem like winners because they got Kawhi Leonard as a result of the Paul George trade but with the amount of risk involved there is no concrete conclusion to this deal anytime soon.  Giving up that many first round picks sounds so crazy but given the move for the Clippers those first round picks will surely be late first rounders, or at least that’s what the Clippers hope for.  The Clippers calculated that they will be a competitive playoff team for the foreseeable future which would mean giving up late first round picks.  Also with Miami getting Jimmy Butler those first round picks might not hold as much weight as they once did.  The Clippers thought that the value of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will be greater than three late round picks by the Clippers, two mid round picks by the Heat and a couple of pick swaps.  Now even though that calculation on paper makes sense there are always unintended circumstances.  Kawhi Leonard and Paul George haven’t been the most durable players throughout their careers.  Expecting that both players will stay healthy and play at a high level for the next seven seasons is wishful thinking.  That’s the down side of a trade like this and could come back to haunt the Clippers when it’s all said and done.  There’s obviously a lot of variables involved in a trade like this for the Clippers but it was a gamble that they were willing to take.  Kawhi Leonard is a top three player in the league and before his shoulder injury Paul George was an MVP candidate.  The Clippers are expecting to win a title which would mean the juice was worth the squeeze.   

Should the Clippers be considered title favorites?  Even though the league is wide open with no overwhelming favorite the Clippers right now seem like the slight title favorite.  The Lakers are obviously still heavy favorites to win the title as well but missing out on Kawhi means they need to build their bench ASAP.  Until that happens though it’s tough to say what the Lakers are for sure.  But the Clippers on the other hand have a complete roster: Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Pat Beverley, Lou Williams, Landry Shamet, Maurice Harkless, Montrezl Harrell, Jerome Robinson, Ivica Zubac, Rodney McGruder, JaMychal Green and other free agent signings.  What would be their crunch time five?  Pat Beverley, Lou Williams, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Montrezl Harrell?  If Maurice Harkless can actually make a three point shot for a change he could be interesting in a closing lineup.  If Shamet gets hot from deep he could be interesting in a closing lineup.  Rodney McGruder is an underrated 3-and-D wing, he could be interesting in a closing lineup.  The possibilities are endless.  But like I stated earlier, Paul George’s shoulder injury could be a cause for concern.  If he’s healthy though then it’s going to be tough to beat the Clippers.

Don’t feel bad for the Raptors.  They won a freaking championship that otherwise doesn’t happen without Kawhi.  The Raptors gamble paid off even though it seemed pretty likely that Kawhi was leaving.  The Raptors also lose Danny Green to the Los Angeles Lakers.  Even with the departures as long as Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and Norman Powell continue their maturation process the Raptors should still be a competitive team in the comically weak east.  The Bucks and Sixers seem like the clear favorites in the east but the Pacers should be intriguing as long as Victor Oladipo comes back healthy.  

Overall this was a game changing move that shook up the whole league.  We knew going into free agency that Kawhi changing teams was going to alter the league but no one had a clue this was going to happen.  I respect the move by Kawhi.  Ultimately he didn’t want to join Lebron but beat him.  This will be legacy defining for sure.  I can’t wait until opening day! 

 

Kevin Durant plans to sign a four-year, $164 million contract with the Brooklyn Nets.  Kyrie Irving plans to sign a four-year, $141 million contract with the Brooklyn Nets. (Link) De’Andre Jordan agrees to a four-year, $40 million deal with Brooklyn Nets.  Apparently Durant and Irving and willing to take slight pay cuts to make the Jordan deal work. (Link)

~ I’m going to bury the lead for a second…why in the world did Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving take a pay cut to accommodate freaking De’Andre Jordan?  Do they not know about Jarrett Allen and Nicolas Claxton?  The deal would make more sense if the Jordan contract was only for a season but we’re talking about four seasons for an average at best starting center, that’s a little unnecessary.  Jarrett Allen is better, younger and cheaper when compared with Jordan.  They also just drafted Claxton who has promise as their backup center with upside.  I just don’t get signing Jordan.  I guess being good friends with Kevin Durant has some advantages, huh?

With that said clearly the Nets have positioned themselves arguably better than anyone else has at long term title contention.  It all rides on Durant’s health but assuming he’s maybe 80% of what he was the Nets are still in great shape.  They have a nice core of young players that include Allen, Claxton, Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, Taurean Prince, Caris LeVert and Rodions Kurucs.  Add that to Irving and a healthy Durant and the Nets would have a roster that possesses shooting, length, versatility and depth.  This also might not be their final roster and most likely have a move or two left to make.  Depending on how healthy Durant is when he returns the Nets might be favorites to win the 2021 title.  

 

The Warriors acquire D’Angelo Russell from the Brooklyn Nets apart of a sign-and-trade deal with Kevin Durant.  To make the deal work financially, the Warriors had to trade Andre Iguodala to the Memphis Grizzlies for a 2024 first round pick.  D’Angelo Russell signs a four-year, $117 million deal with the Warriors. (Link, Link)

I think the fit with Russell in terms of offense will actually be pretty good when Klay Thompson comes back.  I think people are overreacting to Russell as a ball dominant guard.  Russell can create his own shot, shoot off-ball, attack closeouts and pass with anticipation, all pillars of the Golden State offense.  He has the skill required to fit inside the system, it’s more of a mindset alteration that needs to take place for Russell to excel with the Warriors.  Re-signing Kevon Looney to a three-year, $15 million deal is a big deal since the Warriors had to give up their best wing defender Andre Iguodala to make the deal with Russell work.  Iguodala is one more injury away from retirement but was still a high impact defender even at his old age.  As of now it looks like the Warriors don’t have a replacement for Iguodala, unless rookie Jordan Poole and second year veteran Jacob Evans are ready to take on that role. 

That’s why Looney is important.  He gives the Warriors another plus defender and a vertical spacer.  One of the main reasons why the Warriors death lineup worked so well was because they had three terrific perimeter defenders to go along with an excellent team defender to clean any mistakes.  A starting five of Curry, Russell, Thompson, Looney and Green doesn’t exactly fit that mold but still has the potential to be championship worthy.  Since they are hard capped this season it will be hard to find roster upgrades.  That was the case until Willie Cauley-Stein and Glenn Robinson iii took minimum contracts.  If the Warriors can continue to find young, athletic players willing to take pay cuts on a yearly basis then that will help mightily with their bench.  Adding 3-and-D wings should be the priority for next off-season.  The question now becomes: When will Klay Thompson come back?  Will their young players develop in time?  How will they round out their bench unit?  And can they flip Russell for other assets at the trade deadline?

 

Julius Randle has agreed to a three-year, $63 million deal with the New York Knicks. (Link)  Taj Gibson has agreed to a two-year, $20 million deal with the New York Knicks.  (LinkBobby Portis has agreed to a two-year, $31 million deal with the New York Knicks. (LinkReggie Bullock has agreed to a two-year, $21 million deal with the New York Knicks. (Link)

~ Once again the Knicks missed out on the elite free agent prospects.  They are now changing course and setting their eyes towards the 2021 free agent class when Giannis, Bradley Beal and other high profile players become available.  So what the Knicks have decided to do with the massive amount of cap space they have is spend it on two-year contracts.  It’s not a bad idea and better than overpaying players on long term contracts like Tobias Harris and Terry Rozier.  The issue I have is with who the Knicks are signing and how that affects the development of their young core which should be their number one priority.  The Knicks signed Portis, Gibson and Randle who all play the same position and might take away from Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson’s development.  Probably their best pickups were signing Reggie Bullock and Wayne Ellington who are much needed in terms of floor spacing.  But then the Knicks signed Elfrid Payton even though their ball handlers should primarily be RJ Barrett, Kevin Knox, Frank Ntilikina, Dennis Smith and Allonzo Trier for development purposes.  

Having a massive amount of cap space in today’s NBA shouldn’t be looked at like a burden.  It feels like the Knicks just wanted to get rid of their cap space as soon as possible with disregard to value.  Instead, smart teams look at cap space as a commodity.  Teams like the Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks take on unwanted contracts to obtain assets.  In the last 24 hours alone Andre Iguodala was dumped to Memphis with a first round pick attached and Maurice Harkless dumped to the Clippers with a first round pick attached.  Both contracts we’re less than two years in length, fit the 2021 timeline, could be flipped for more assets at the trade deadline and fit well with this young roster.  Iguodala and Harkless are both players that won’t take possessions away from the youth movement and can play without the ball.  Then with the remaining salary cap space sign one to two year deals to compliment the roster or try to find more contracts to absorb into cap space for draft picks.  I get what the Knicks are trying to do but I think they are going about it all wrong.

 

Tobias Harris has agreed to sign a five-year, $180 million deal with the Philadelphia 76ers. (LinkAl Horford has agreed to sign a four-year, $109 million deal with the Philadelphia 76ers. (Link)

~ On top of the quality draft picks and players the Sixers gave up to acquire Tobias Harris they are now overpaying him with a massive $36 million annual contract.  You would expect Harris to be a top 20 player with how much they’ve invested in him.  When Sam Hinkie started his rebuild with Philadelphia did anyone expect that the player the Sixers would eventually go “all in” for is a borderline all-star caliber player?  I get that the Sixers had to do it since they pumped so many resources into obtaining Harris but the caliber of player you would expect in return for the high price the Sixers paid should be better than freaking Tobias Harris.  Don’t get me wrong I like Harris as a player and think he fills a major need for the Sixers but I just think the Sixers went a little overboard in terms of price tag.

Horford is another good player that I like but again I think a $27 million annual for a player that just turned 33 coming off a season where he had knee tendinitis is a little excessive.  I get that most players are overpaid in todays climate anyways but typically title contending teams do a better job looking for value.  With that said though, the Sixers should once again be atop of the eastern conference race especially if Kawhi leaves.  Everything is relative to outcome.  If the Sixers win the east then these deals, which I consider to be overpays, will be worth it.  I do question the fit of Embiid and Horford as a front court duo and without JJ Reddick I wonder do they have enough shooting but their defense will be the driving force of the Sixers success next season.  They now need players to step up during crunch time of playoff basketball. 

The Miami Heat send Hassan Whiteside to the Portland Trail Blazers, Josh Richardson to the Philadelphia 76ers and a protected 2023 first round pick to the Los Angeles Clippers.  The Portland Trail Blazers send Meyers Leonard to the Miami Heat and Maurice Harkless to the Los Angeles Clippers.  The Philadelphia 76ers send Jimmy Butler to the Miami Heat where he agrees to a four-year, $142 million deal. (Link)

This deal has gone through so many changes but I think it’s finally official.  The Clippers must be happy.  They didn’t have to do anything and yet they get a first round pick, a solid 3-and-D wing on an expiring contract plus they still have max cap room for Kawhi.  The Trail Blazers wanted a starting caliber center since Jusuf Nurkic was going to miss time with his leg injury.  Whiteside is on an expiring contract and should fit well within Portland’s defensive system.  Interestingly enough Portland loses a good chunk of their wing rotation from last year.  Evan Turner, Al-Farouq Aminu and Maurice Harkless played heavy minutes along the wing for Portland last season and have moved on to other teams.  Portland will now have to rely on veterans Rodney Hood, Kent Bazemore and inexperienced Anfernee Simons, Nassir Little and Gary Trent jr at wing.  I’m interested to watch Simons and Little especially. 

I like Josh Richardson on the 76ers.  He fills a need left by JJ Reddick, is on a fairly priced contract and still has room to grow being only 26 years old.  He can catch-and-shoot efficiently, play make in a pinch and defend the opposing teams best guard.  These are the type of contracts that title contending teams should strive to obtain.

Miami didn’t have may options to improve.  They have one of the worst cap sheets in the NBA and didn’t even make the playoffs last season.  Without a conceivable way to add star talent Miami had to give up their best asset, Josh Richardson, a future first round pick and Hassan Whiteside who lost his starting job late last season.  They were able to keep Goran Dragic, Kelly Olynyk and Derrick Jones jr which was important for Miami.  They have a fairly balanced team and should be a playoff team nonetheless.  But how far they advance is another question.  Dion Waiters and James Johnson will have to get in better shape than they were last season.  Dragic will have to stay healthy.  Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro and Derrick Jones jr will have to continue their development process.  Miami got better in the immediate but at what cost to their long term prospects?  Their next best way to pair another star player with Butler might have to wait until the summer of 2021 when Miami will have max cap room.  Will Pat Riley wait that long however?  He doesn’t seem like the patient type.

 

 

Kemba Walker agrees to a four-year, $141 million deal with the Boston Celtics.  Terry Rozier agrees to a three-year, $58 million deal with the Charlotte Hornets.  Both deals are apart of a sign-and-trade with each other. (Link)

~ The deal for Kemba in terms of value is obviously an overpay but I still like the overall fit on-court.  The Celtics now turn their attention on finding a cost efficient big man, maybe someone like Maxi Kleber or Cheick Diallo.  The Celtics probably aren’t competing for a title unless their young players make serious advancements.  I’m still bullish on the Celtics young core.  Add that with Kemba, Hayward and a cost efficient center the Celtics should still be a competitive playoff team with a lot of room to grow.  

Terry Rozier at a $19 million annual is another overpay but this one is tough to justify.  At least with other overpays you know what you’re getting, with Rozier I have no clue the type of player the Hornets just signed.  There’s a scenario where he’s an all-star caliber player but another scenario where he disturbs his teammates player development process with his poor shot selection and play on the court.  The Hornets need to focus on developing PJ Washington, Cody Martin, Miles Brides and Malik Monk.  Do you think Rozier will amend that development process or inhibit it?  I get why the Hornets signed Rozier because on paper it makes sense: add a young point guard to our already young core deprived of a starting point guard.  I just wonder how good Rozier actually is and how he fits in Charlotte’s  player development process. 

 

Malcolm Brogdon agrees to a four-year, $85 million deal with the Indiana Pacers as apart of a trade with the Milwaukee Bucks.  The Pacers are sending to the Bucks a 2020 first round pick and two second round picks. (Link) The Pacers also sign Jeremy Lamb for three-years, $31.5 million. (Link)

~ The Pacers were a fun, unexpected team last season that surprised a lot of people.  If it wasn’t for the Victor Oladipo injury maybe they win a playoff round.  After today that team is now totally different a year later.  Goodbye to starters Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collison and Thad Young, welcome TJ Warren, Jeremy Lamb and Malcolm Brogdon.  It’s going to be hard to tell if the Pacers are better or worse now especially since Oladipo might take a season to regain form after his injury but let’s assume that Oladipo comes back healthy.  Brogdon is better than Collison, Bogdanovic is better than Lamb and Warren is better than Young in my opinion.  So on paper I can make the argument the Pacers are a better team.  The question boils down to fit and obviously Oladipo’s health.  A starting five of Brogdon, Oladipo, Lamb, Warren and Myles Turner is a pretty enticing starting five.  I actually like the fit of the Pacers starting five more than the Sixers starting five even though the Sixers starting five has more talent. Jeremy Lamb will be the x-factor.  If he can improve his shooting, creation and perimeter defense then that could be the tipping point for the Pacers success.  I actually think the Pacers sneakily had one of the better free agency’s.  Oladipo coming back healthy will be vastly important though.

 

Khris Middleton has agreed to a five-year, $178 million deal with the Milwaukee Bucks. (Link)  Brook Lopez has agreed to a four-year, $52 million deal with the Milwaukee Bucks. (LinkGeogre Hill has agreed to a three-year, $29 million deal with the Milwaukee Bucks.  (Link)

~ It seems the Bucks were able to bring everyone back except for Nikola Mirotic and Malcolm Brogdon.  The loss of Brogdon is obviously the bigger issue.  He provided good shooting, tertiary playmaking, clutch scoring and high IQ defense.  Making that up will be a challenge for the Bucks.  They now have to rely on their young players taking another step in their development.  DJ Wilson in the front court and Donte DiVincenzo and Sterling Brown in the back court will all have to contribute in high pressure playoff moments if the Bucks want to win the east.  Giannis taking another step as a shooter will alleviate some of the pressure as well.  The Bucks also just signed Wes Matthews at the vet minimum which is a bargain deal.  This move will help mitigate the loss of Brogdon but the Bucks will still need Wilson, DiVincenzo and Brown to step up.

 

Ricky Rubio agrees to a three-year, $51 million deal with the Phoenix Suns. (Link)

~ I guess this was what the Suns had in mind when they traded TJ Warren to the Pacers for nothing.  They wanted to make sure they were able to have enough money to sign D’Angelo Russell and losing a good scoring wing for nothing was the price.  Enter Rubio who hurts his hamstring every other month in the NBA.  He isn’t a good shooter or scorer but can play make and defend well.  I guess Rubio provides skills that the Suns are lacking in even though he isn’t a good all around point guard.  Rubio will give the Suns a stabilizing ball handler who can create for others while Devin Booker can do more off-ball movement shooting. 

Giving Rubio this expensive contract still means they had to move some salary to make it work.  That’s why the Suns traded former number four overall pick Josh Jackson and De’Anthony Melton for Jevon Carter and cap relief.  Jackson hasn’t panned out over his first two seasons in the league and his off the court problems were starting to get tiresome; I guess the Suns looked at him like a sunk cost.  However this should be another reminder of the Suns poor track record when it comes to talent evaluation and player development.  I wouldn’t be shocked to see Josh Jackson develop better habits and progress his skill in the right nurturing environment.  Maybe that’s Memphis or maybe its not.  But continually squandering top ten picks over and over is a major indictment of an organization riddled with head scratching moves.

Kristaps Porzingis agrees to a five-year, $158 million deal with the Dallas Mavericks. (Link)

~ This one is pretty self-explanatory.  The Mavs have already invested heavily in Porzingis and now both sides are making the commitment to each other.   When healthy Porzingis is one of the best front court players in the NBA.  In a league where massive overpays happen all the time this deal could actually be a bargain if Porzingis continues his career trajectory. 

The Mavs also re-signed Maxi Kleber to a four-year, $35 million deal.  Back in November of last year I wrote an article talking about how much I like Kleber and how title contending teams should snatch him up at great value (Story).  With noticing the other contracts given out to front court players this off-season a $8.75 million annual for Kleber is solid value.  I can’t wait to see a Porzingis/Kleber front court with Luka Doncic as the initiator.    

 

Harrison Barnes agrees to sign a four-year, $85 million deal with the Sacramento Kings.  Trevor Ariza agrees to sign a two-year, $25 million deal with the Sacramento Kings. (Link)   Dewayne Dedmon agrees to sign a three-year, $41 million deal with the Sacramento Kings. (Link)  Cory Joseph agrees to sign a three-year, $37 million deal with the Sacramento Kings.

~ Even though the Kings over paid for most of these contracts I still like the idea behind the fit with Marvin Bagley, De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield.  For the Kings to bring outside talent through the door sometimes it has to involve minor overpays.  I was actually surprised that Barnes took a $21 million annual contract.  It’s an overpay for a player of his caliber but I was expecting him wanting a higher annual after opting out of a $25 million player option.  Then the Kings signed Ariza and Dedmon to slight overpays but I personally think could end up as fair deals in terms of what they bring in production and on-court impact.  They needed a center after Willie Cauley-Stein decided it was time to move on so they replaced him with a solid rim-protector that can shoot threes.  They’ve also been in need of swing forwards for the longest time so they sign Ariza who is the quintessential 3-and-D wing plus Barnes who can be their good enough wing scorer. 

The Cory Joseph deal is probably the one I question the most.  I thought that was pretty unnecessary with Yogi Ferrell being a cheap competent backup point guard.  Cory Joseph is the better defender but unless there is some partial guarantee after his first year than it’s kind of a pointless deal.  Did the Kings acquire enough talent to make the playoffs?  Maybe.  Being a playoff team in the loaded west isn’t a guarantee but the Kings still did a good job in terms of fit.  They’ve at the very least put themselves in great position to make a run at the playoffs.

 

JJ Reddick has agreed to a two-year, $26.5 million deal with the New Orleans Pelicans. (Link)  Details are still pending but Derrick Favors has agreed in terms to sign with New Orleans Pelicans.  (Link)

~ I guess new general manager for the Pelicans David Griffin really thinks that they can contend in the loaded west.  Why else make these moves if he thinks otherwise?  Getting Reddick’s shooting will be a huge plus for a team devoid of shooters and signing Favors gives the Pelicans a starting front court mate for Zion since Jaxson Hayes is a long term project at center.  I don’t see the Pelicans making the playoffs though and question the overall impact these moves will have on player development.  These deals aren’t bad moves since they’re short term deals and won’t tie up salary cap down the road.  I just wouldn’t have playoff expectations if I were David Griffin.

 

Ed Davis has agreed to a two-year, $10 million deal with the Utah Jazz. (Link)  Bojan Bogdanovic has agreed to a four-year, $73 million deal with the Utah Jazz. (Link)

~ Bogdanovic was one of the better scorers on the open market that wasn’t a max player.  He can create his own shot and is one of the better shooters in the league.  His defense will become an issue the deeper into the playoffs the Jazz go but since the Jazz needed another shot creator to pair with Donovan Mitchell I think it’s a relatively fair signing for the price tag.  With Derrick Favors going to New Orleans the Jazz needed another front court player.  Ed Davis is the perfect value contract that fits the system.  These are the types of contracts that I tend to favor: good value AND good fit.  The Jazz are making bold moves to compete for a title this season and I like what I’ve seen so far.

 

DeMarre Carroll has agreed to a two-year, $13 million deal with the San Antonio Spurs.  (Link)  Rudy Gay has agreed to a two-year, $32 million deal with the San Antonio Spurs.  (Link)

~The Spurs didn’t make any big splashy moves.  They brought back Rudy Gay on contract that is a slight overpay but only for two years.  When Gay was healthy last season he was a steady contributor and much improved three point shooter.  The Carroll contract is solid value and solid fit so clearly I’m a fan.  Carroll doesn’t produce or play defense the way he once did but provides the Spurs with a player of need at swing forward.  The Spurs have a bunch of guards but lack depth at swing forward.  Every year people want to count out the Spurs from making the playoffs but every year they prove people wrong.

 

Al-Farouq Aminu has agreed to a three-year, $29 million deal with the Orlando Magic. (Link)  Terence Ross has agreed to a four-year, $54 million deal with the Orlando Magic.  (Link)  Nikola Vucevic has agreed to a four-year, $100 million deal with the Orlando Magic. (Link)

~ What the hell are the Magic doing?  What’s their roadmap to success? It’s been about seven years since the Dwight Howard trade and I still don’t know what the Magic are doing.  They snuck into the playoffs last season with quality veteran play from Vucevic and Ross but have accumulated high level draft picks over the years that need time on-court to develop.  I thought the Magic were going to realize the ceiling a team lead by Ross and Vucevic had and turn over the 2019-2020 roster to the youth movement.  Boy was I wrong.  Not only did they re-sign Vucevic and Ross to big money deals but they signed another veteran, Aminu, at a position they don’t really need.  So what about Mo Bamba?  Did they spend a top 10 pick on a backup center?  What about Jonathan Isaac? Did they spend another top 10 pick on a backup power forward?  What about Chuma Okeke who they just drafted in the first round?  Are they going to play Aaron Gordon out of position?  I just don’t get the plan for their front court players and as of now it looks like a logjam to me.

 

Jonas Valanciunas has agreed to a three-year, $45 million with the Memphis Grizzlies. (Link)  

~ I was personally looking forward to watching the Jarren Jackson and Brandon Clarke front court play a ton of minutes together but I guess Memphis thought otherwise.  The Grizzlies didn’t have a traditional center on their roster so this move does make sense but I just hope Valanciunas is more of a placeholder starter with Jackson getting the bulk of the minutes at center.  The Grizzlies have made major investments in Jackson and Clarke so giving them on-court time to develop should be a priority.  I’m assuming Valanciunas is a placeholder center and nothing more.

 

Patrick Beverly has agreed to a three-year, $40 million deal with the Los Angeles Clippers. (Link)

~ I guess this deal signifies that the Clippers are only going after one max salary player.  Makes sense after the moves today.  We’ll see if they get Kawhi or not later in the week.  Overall I like this deal.  Good value and good fit.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Trade Deadline (2019)

The unofficial holiday of the NBA trade deadline has come and gone.  I got to tell you this was one fun deadline and it surely didn’t disappoint.  I’m going to briefly go over my initial thoughts about some of the moves that were made.  I’m only going over the deals that I think were relevant.  Sorry Skal Labissiere and Caleb Swanigan:

 

The Philadelphia 76ers acquire Tobias Harris, Mike Scott and Boban Marjanovic from the LA Clippers for Landry Shamet, Mike Muscala, Wilson Chandler, 2020 1st round pick, 2021 1st round pick (via Miami), 2021 2nd round pick and a 2023 2nd round pick (Story):

~ I like this trade for both teams but I love it more for the Clippers.  The Clippers traded away a player that wasn’t going to be their after this season for expiring deals, a solid young prospect and multiple draft picks including two 1st rounders.  I mean, that’s freaking amazing.  The Clippers are acquiring draft capital, cap flexibility and young prospects.  This rebuild is off to a great start and the Clippers are clearly headed in the right direction.  The Clippers also ended up flipping Muscala to the Lakers for Ivica Zubac and Michael Beasley.  Another small deal that nets a solid young prospect for the Clippers.

Now, I like this move for the Sixers but wish they would’ve only gave up one 1st round pick.  I just don’t know how many other competitive offers were putting up two 1st round picks for a guy that could leave in a few months.  Would have it been better to trade for Harris and not trade for Butler to keep more depth with Saric/Covington?  The new starting five the Sixers have is as talented a unit that there is in the league outside of the Warriors.  But what makes the Warriors so special is fit, sacrifice and the fact that Draymond Green is the ultimate “glue guy.”  How will the Sixers new starting unit gel?  That’s why I bring up maybe the Sixers should’ve just traded for Harris and kept Saric/Covington since that might be a better fit.  Either way this is obviously an “all-in” move by the Sixers. To quickly address some of the concerns about depth the Sixers also traded for James Ennis from the Rockets.

The Sixers also traded Markelle Fultz to the Magic for a protected 1st round pick (via OKC), a 2nd round pick and Jonathan Simmons.  So maybe the Sixers were fine giving the extra 1st round pick away for Harris since they were trying to get one for Fultz.  The Sixers also upgraded their bench with Jonathan Simmons.  The Magic get a nice retread reclamation project at a position of need while the Sixers move on from one of the biggest draft blunders in recent memory. It’s going to be interesting to see how the buyout market turns out for the Sixers.  With the added depth of Ennis and Simmons plus another player via the buyout market, the Sixers could have the best 8-man rotation in the East.  Overall I do like the fit with Harris and with the amount of talent the Sixers have they should win the East but can the new starting unit make sacrifices for the greater good to be possibly the East champs?  That’s something I need to see first before I believe.  The Sixers have a world of potential but considering that Butler, Harris and Reddick are all free agents to be this summer, as of now, I’m skeptical.

 

In a three team trade, the Milwaukee Bucks acquire Nikola Mirotic, the Detroit Pistons get Thon Maker and the New Orleans Pelicans get Stanley Johnson, Jason Smith and four second round picks (Story):

~ At the start of the season I wasn’t buying the Bucks as a real contender.  I thought they had improved their depth behind a great starting unit but didn’t think relying on Donte DiVincenzo, Ersan Ilyasova and Pat Connaughton as their core bench was good enough to beat the Celtics or Raptors.  Fast forward to now and the Bucks have made outstanding decision after outstanding decision. Whether it was the decision to start playing Sterling Brown and DJ Wilson more, trading for George Hill or making the deal to acquire Mirotic, I’ve been a huge fan of each move that the Bucks have made.  No shade to Ilyasova, Connaughton or DiVincenzo but I just didn’t think they brought a level of versatility that you need come playoff time.  But now with Brown, Wilson, Hill and Mirotic, the Bucks should be looked at as the favorite in the East.  They might not have as much talent as the Sixers, Raptors or Celtics but I think the fit, everyone being secure with their role and overall versatility of style will give opposing teams trouble during the playoffs.  Also for the Pelicans they get a nice retread reclamation prospect and a bunch of draft picks for a player that probably was leaving this summer.  The Pistons make a lateral move moving on from one draft question mark to the another.  Thon Maker is still only 21 years old so the potential is there.

 

The Toronto Raptors acquire Marc Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies for Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, CJ Miles and a 2024 second round pick (Story):

~ I honestly don’t know how I feel about this trade for either team.  If you were to tell me that the Raptors were getting the Gasol who during the month of November averaged 19 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists on 50% from the floor and 39% from three then I’d say overwhelmingly this was a grand win for the Raptors.  But since November it’s been downhill for Gasol, whether it be due to an injury or old age.  During the month of January Gasol averaged 15 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, on 44% from the floor, 30% from three and not nearly the defender he was at the start of the season.  Don’t get me wrong, by no means am I saying this was a bad trade for the Raptors.  Gasol is a better shooter and defender in comparison to Valanciunas plus Delon Wright is a prospect that hasn’t developed the way the Raptors have hoped he would.  So on face value it was a solid move for the Raptors.  I guess my issue is that I didn’t think making an upgrade at center was what the Raptors needed and instead making an upgrade at secondary ball handler and shot creator was more important since I’m worried about Kyle Lowry’s health.  Maybe they pick someone like that up via the buyout market.  If they do that then I’m probably more enthused about this trade for the Raptors.  For the Grizzlies, I don’t know what the market was for a 34 year old declining center but if this was all that there was then I’m just not that impressed with the return.

 

The Dallas Mavericks trade Harrison Barnes to the Sacramento Kings for Zach Randolph and Justin Jackson (Story):

~ I like this deal a little more for the Mavs then the Kings but I like this deal for both teams nonetheless.  The reason why I like this deal a little more for the Mavs is because they realized that Barnes wasn’t the right fit next to Doncic/Porzingis and they wanted to be a player in free agency this summer.  This deal allows them to potentially go after a max salary player that would fit better long term with Doncic/Porzingis.  Also this summer was booming with available talent in comparison to the next available time the Mavs were going to have cap space, the summer of 2020, which looks much weaker.  I love this move by the Mavs.

The Kings obviously make an upgrade at wing but I’m concerned about fit and locker room chemistry.  Barnes is really just a glorified 3-and-D wing who is a solid scorer and an overrated defender.  He’s also not a good playmaker and there’s question about how much impact he has on offense when he doesn’t have the ball.  The trio of the future in Sacramento is clearly Fox, Hield and Bagley.  With a high-usage player like Barnes coming in how does it affect team chemistry?  The Kings have played so well this season in part because of an improved locker room morale, how does the addition of Barnes effect that?  The Kings also traded Iman Shumpert to the Rockets in a three team trade in exchange for Alec Burks from the Cavs.  I mean, in terms of talent the Kings get better with Burks/Barnes over Shumpert.  But Shumpert was acknowledged as having a big influence on the young Kings.  He was considered a good locker room guy.  I just wonder how the loss of Shumpert shakes up the young Kings morale?  The Rockets meanwhile get a 3-and-D wing they desperately needed after the Danuel House contract impasse and the Cavs get a protected first round back.

 

The Washington Wizards trade Otto Porter jr to the Bulls for Jabari Parker, Bobby Portis and a 2023 2nd round pick (Story):

~ After the news of John Wall rupturing his Achilles tendon the Wizards went into fire sale mode.  Otto Porter is a good player who is having a down year on a bloated contract.  The Bulls could’ve been somewhat of a player during free agency this summer but with so many teams having cap space they probably figured it was best to make a move now instead of overpaying for contracts they don’t want this summer.  This deal ultimately is up to how Porter plays.  If he snaps out of his funk and starts playing up to his potential then the deal it’s a clear win for Chicago.  Even if Porter doesn’t make improvements the risk was giving up on Portis and trading away a player they weren’t playing that much.  Portis is a solid young prospect but the Bulls wanted a wing to pair with Wendell Carter and Lauri Markkanen.  Even though Porter is not on the same age timeline as Carter/Markkanen, the upside is still present for a great frontcourt for years to come.  The Wizards just wanted to be out of the tax.  They also traded away Markieff Morris to the Pelicans for Wesley Johnson, another salary cap saving move.  The John Wall contract could overtake the Chandler Parsons contract as the worst in the league.  Getting under the tax penalty is all they can do at this point.

 

The LA Lakers acquire Reggie Bullock from the Detroit Pistons for Svi Mykhailiuk and a 2021 second round pick (Story):

~ The only reason why I’m mentioning this trade at all is because I like Bullock.  I think he’s going to be a good fit around Lebron especially for a playoff push.  They did have to give away a second round pick which could’ve been used for Anthony Davis this summer.  They also gave up on Mykhailiuk who wasn’t a contributor for the Lakers.  He holds some upside as a shooter but so far hasn’t displayed that.  Bullock is a free agent this summer so I’m assuming the Pistons weren’t going to re-sign him but again, I really like Bullock so this could be a loss for the Pistons when it’s all said and done.

Kristaps Porzingis, I hardly knew ye

If one of the best young star players in the NBA walks into your office (and apparently his brothers too) and indirectly tells you he wants out, typically you would give it some time to sink in and contemplate your best course of action, right?  Apparently not the New York Knicks who within hours of the Porzingis sort-of-trade-request was on his way to Dallas.  Even if the Knicks were secretly shopping Porzingis for months, they should at least survey the landscape of the league at that point in time.  The type of player Porzingis is deserves at least a full day to mull over options.  The once bright spot of the tumultuous organization played for three seasons and 186 games before his ouster.  The way restricted free agency works makes it likely for a star player to stay 7-8 seasons with the team that drafted them.  In the case of the Knicks drafting Porzingis, it didn’t even last the length of a standard 1st round rookie deal.  The genesis of the deal revolves around the Knicks sending Porzingis and contracts no one wants (Tim Hardaway jr, Trey Burke, Courtney Lee) to the Mavs for Dennis Smith jr, two 1st round picks and expiring deals (Wes Matthews, Deandre Jordan).

I know there’s a lot of rumors floating around about this deal but I personally think if the Knicks would’ve offered Porzingis a max contract this off-season he would’ve taken it.  I understand he has the option of signing a one year, qualifying offer to become an unrestricted free agent the following season.  The qualifying offer would be about $4.4 million which means he loses about $23 million next season since the max for him would be around $28 million.  For a seven footer coming off an ACL injury getting guaranteed max money for 4-5 years would’ve been tough to turn down, no matter how inept the franchise is.

The next question becomes were the Knicks prepared to offer max money for him?  The answer should be a resounding yes but since they’ve been so cautious about rolling over cap space I’d honestly say it’s 50-50 whether they would’ve offered max money to Porzingis.  The Knicks plan now is to sign two max players this summer and hopefully get a top 2 pick in the 2019 draft.  That’s wishful thinking for a franchise that has struck out on every big name free agent except for the great Amare Stoudemire.  Also the draft odds are changing this year.  Instead of the worst record having the best odds for the number 1 overall pick, it’s now the bottom 3 teams with the same odds of getting the number 1 pick.  So clearly the Knicks master plan of signing 2 star players plus getting a top 2 draft pick this summer sounds doubtful at the moment.  Nothing is impossible of course but obviously the Knicks would need a lot of luck on their side this summer to pull this off.

The Knicks have to know their master plan is far-fetched and unlikely to happen.  That tells me they were more comfortable in their contingency plan compared to re-signing Porzingis to a max contract.  They were more comfortable with signing Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic compared to re-signing Porzingis at the max and signing another all-star caliber player to go along with him.  No offense to Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic who are both great players but if they end up becoming the Knicks free agency plan then their summer was a failure.  Anything less than two star players like Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler or Kawhi Leonard would be a failure for the Knicks.  That’s the internal pressure the Knicks put on themselves after trading a player like Porzingis away.   If the Knicks do somehow pull off getting Kyrie and Durant, well then obviously the trade will be looked at as a win.  But one could say an actual smart franchise doesn’t saddle themselves with toxic contracts and looks ahead to the summer of 2019 with Porzingis on his rookie deal and 2 max cap slots.  Now that’s a win-win-win.

I know it’s risky to give a seven footer who’s coming off ACL surgery max money but in this case I would’ve done that without hesitation.  Now maybe the Knicks know something that we don’t about Porzingis’ knee, maybe there’s a long term red flag.  If that were the case then clearly everything changes but as of now I’m going on the believe that nothing is long term serious.  Porzingis has the potential to be a top three player on a title winning team or if everything breaks right for him the best player on a title team.  Players with his skill set don’t come around often and the NBA is trending towards bigmen who can shoot threes, be versatile at pick-and-roll defense and play any type of lineup whether big or small.  Porzingis is 23 years old going on 24 with a new pick-and-roll partner who has an elite feel for the game and a coach who can get the best out of him.  As much as I love the Doncic/Porzingis pairing, the issue becomes filling out the rest of the roster with Tim Hardaway jr on their books until most likely 2021, Courtney Lee plus Harrison Barnes on their books until most likely 2020 and giving Porzingis a max contract.  They also traded away three 1st round picks in the next five drafts.  Finding that third star player to go along with Doncic/Porzingis will determine how much of a title contender they will become.  I don’t assume the Mavs think Harrison Barnes is that third guy either.  Right now the Mavs should be projected to have a max salary slot in 2020.  At this moment in time the 2020 free agent class looks pretty weak.  Understandably the market is fluid with ever changing trade requests by the month.  But I wouldn’t be surprised if they try to package Barnes with draft picks and try to make an upgrade.  Either way, the Mavs are going to be one of the most fun teams to watch in the league when Porzingis gets healthy and the Knicks are going to need a tinge of luck if they want to make it out of this unscathed.

Should Anthony Davis Let It Be?

Within the next few days I’m going to post my preliminary top 20 prospect rankings.  I’m going to have brief summaries for each player and I’m about halfway finished writing that up.  But before I finish my rankings I wanted to quickly give my thoughts on the Anthony Davis situation.  We all know that any trade involving Anthony Davis will seismically alter the league.  For me the question comes down to preference.  Almost every player that has demanded a trade typically gave a preferred destination wish list.  Kyrie Irving wanted to go to Miami, San Antonio, New York or Brooklyn.  Jimmy Butler wanted to go to Brooklyn, New York Knicks or Los Angeles Clippers.  Paul George wanted to go to the Lakers.  And a while ago Carmelo Anthony wanted to go to the Knicks and Dwight Howard wanted to go to the Lakers.  Funny enough, outside of last two aforementioned players every other player got traded to a different destination in contrast to their wish list.  But in the two situations where the player got traded to their preferred destination, Carmelo and Dwight, both scenarios didn’t go as smoothly as planned.  The assets Carmelo was traded for expunged the Knicks of having a well rounded roster and Dwight didn’t mesh well with Kobe in Los Angeles.

So the question becomes does Davis have a preference and if so should he even let it be known?  A star player asking for a trade to a specific team tends to suppress the market since teams are now unwilling to give up as much for a rental contract.  Teams that were once ready to give up premier assets are now reluctant to talk.  Plus the star players team of choice holds more leverage in that scenario and could lower their offer.  We’ve also seen teams get spiteful before and not trade star players away to their preferred location aka the Pacers with Paul George and Spurs with Kawhi Leonard; both instances each player wanted to go to Los Angeles.  Maybe it’s better for Anthony Davis to let it be and not say out loud where he wants to go.  Let the market dictate his new location.  By saying your team wish list out loud we’ve seen teams act vindictive, the trade market becomes restricted and arguments between the team that owns the star player with the star players preferred destination become contentious.

I think the buzz around the league is Davis wants to go to the Lakers.  The dilemma ensues when the Pelicans don’t trade him before the deadline, wait until the summer and then Davis declares his intention to only sign with the Lakers.  That would screw over the Pelicans making them bitter, suppress the trade market and give leverage to the Lakers where the discussions will undoubtedly turn combative.  Because of the “Designated Player Rule” in the CBA where you can only trade for one designated rookie and one designated veteran from another team stipulates that the Pelicans can’t trade Anthony Davis to the Celtics unless it’s for Kyrie Irving.  Both Irving and Davis are designated rookies and since the Celtics acquired Irving through a trade that makes trading for Davis impossible until the summer when Irving becomes a free agent.  The only way the Celtics acquire Davis before the deadline is by trading Irving which I’m sure they don’t want to do.  This predicament really forces the Pelicans to wait until the summer where they can get the best offers possible.  But that’s if only Davis doesn’t say out loud his preferred destination suppressing the Celtics and other teams offers.

At the end of the day Davis controls the conditions of the trade market.  If he says out loud he wants to go to the Lakers then maybe that complicates his arrival in Los Angeles.  We’ve seen it happen before.  So maybe Davis should let the market be.  The Lakers are fortunate enough to have great assets so no matter what they can offer a top level deal for Davis.  Maybe Davis should let the conditions play out and in no time he will be wearing a Laker uniform.  Then again, if the Pelicans wait until the summer and the Celtics make Jayson Tatum available or the Sixers make Ben Simmons available then we’ll see how much Davis cares about going to the Lakers.  The Lakers should be considered frontrunners for Davis but far too often does thinking something will happen turn out to be false rational.

 

A Very, Very, Very Random Trade Idea

The Houston Rockets defense stinks.  I think most people thought there would be some kind of regression due to losing Trevor Ariza, Luc Mbah a Moute and defensive coach Jeff Bzdelik.  But so far they are the 4th worst defensive team in the league sporting a defensive rating of 114.7 points per 100 possessions while starting the regular season 1-4.  Ouch.  The Rockets have been without Marquese Chriss, Brandon Knight and Nene during the five game stretch and losing Chris Paul to a suspension hasn’t helped their struggling defense either.   Houston has centered their defensive concept  around switching.  When you have the appropriate players to execute a switching scheme it’s arguably the toughest defense to score on since the defenders have less space to recover. Unfortunately as of now the Rockets don’t have the personnel to properly switch most ball screens.  Maybe when Chriss, Nene, Paul and Knight come back the ability to switch will be less of an issue but the amount of blown weak side assignments due to players being out of position or poor communication has handcuffed the Rockets defense so far.  Smart teams have also head hunted the mismatches as a consequence from uneven switching.

The Rockets are in desperate shape.  They recently offered the Timberwolves four 1st round draft picks for Jimmy Butler and coach Mike D’antoni has said “the Rockets awful defense needs a do-over.”  Counting on players like Gerald Green, Eric Gordon, Carmelo Anthony and James Harden for defensive prowess was fool hearted from the beginning to rely on.  A defensive minded coach would have altered the Rockets defensive scheme to more of a hybrid between hedging and drop coverage until the Rockets get more capable players to execute a scheme entirely built off switching.  Maybe the trade for Jimmy Butler goes through and the Rockets get one of the better perimeter defenders in the NBA to fit their defensive scheme. However that still won’t be enough to contend with the Warriors and it still seems like coach Tom Thibodeau will sabotage any offer made to not trade Butler.

A Butler trade is shooting for the stars.  It’s a super risky deal to pull off with Butler being a possible free agent this summer and not being able to resign him will be a setback for the Rockets.  So I was thinking of trade idea that would be more risk averse but obviously not as flashy as the Butler trade.  The idea is centered around trading Zhou Qi for Sterling Brown of the Milwaukee Bucks.  The Bucks are off to a hot start with new coach Mike Budenholzer and a revamped 5-out motion offensive system deploying Ersan Ilyasova and Brook Lopez as stretch bigs.  That system is not really the greatest fit for Sterling Brown since playing within a motion offense calls for players to have solid spatial awareness, good decision making and fine tuned skills which isn’t Browns game.  So far Brown has lost minutes to players that fit the system better like Donte Divincenzo and Pat Connaughton.    Both players are newly acquired this season while Brown was a second round pick last year.  I’ve been a fan of Brown since the pre-draft process last year and have followed his progress closely.

Brown shot 35% from three his rookie season last year and had a  +.67 defensive real plus/minus which ranked 13th among shooting guards according to espn.com.  A very solid rookie year for a player that’s 6’6 with a 6’10 wingspan trending towards a “3-and-D” wing player in the NBA.  He’s still only 23 years old and clearly needs more time to develop but would be a practical roster move for a team without many options.  The Rockets run a spread pick-and-roll system on offense with a switching concept on defense as previously mentioned.  Sterling Brown would be a great fit within those constructs playing off of Harden/Paul’s play making and Capela’s vertical spacing.  Brown can make open threes, attack a closeout in a straight line and is suitable to play in a switching defense.  Brown also dealt with a horrific ordeal with a local police officer in Milwaukee that if you want to read up on click this (Story).  Brown had to deal with this unfortunate situation for most of his off-season and could use a change of scenery to distance himself from that toxic situation.  

Zhou Qi, the 7’1 center, was a second round pick for the Rockets in the 2016 draft.  Qi has had his offensive moments during summer league being able to step out, shoot long distance and rebound at a high clip.  He’s currently dealing with an injury but has recently returned to practice.  Qi could be a nice project for the Bucks as the stretch big for their future center spot while Brown could be that “3-and-D” wing the Rockets so desperately need at the moment.  Brown has one more year left on his contract after this season at $1.618 million that’s non-guaranteed while Qi has 2 more years left at $1.618 and $1.752 million both of which are non-guaranteed also.

This isn’t a trade idea that’s going to make headlines.  It might not even be on the bottom ticker on ESPN.  But as far as a low risk high reward deal for both teams then this trade idea makes sense to me.

Kawhi to the Raptors!

The Spurs have agreed to trade Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors for Demar Derozan, Jakob Potel and a protected 2019 first round pick(Link).  Just wow.  I think most people thought that OG Anunoby or Pascal Siakam would be included in the deal since they were the Raptors best prospects with upside.  I thought this move was a good gamble for Toronto even before the deal became finalized so upon further review now that the details have come out, this deal is extremely smart by Toronto.  They get off of Derozan’s contract which has two years plus a third year player option for $27 million per season and get the best player in the deal.  How often does the team salary dumping contracts get the best player in the deal?  Even if it’s most likely for a one year rental, it’s an attractive risk profile.  

Derozan is a mid-range jump-shooter who can draw fouls, get to the line, score buckets, is an average at best defender and outlived his shelf life next to Lowry.   Even if Kawhi decides to go to Los Angeles next summer, the Raptors still retain their two best prospects, have Danny Green’s expiring contract and more cap flexibility without Derozan’s toxic deal.  It’s a good bet that Kawhi doesn’t re-sign with the Raptors but it’s a smart gamble no matter how you slice it.  This is by far the best Raptors team in team history and probably are a true contender now.  A five man unit of Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Kyle Lowry has the versatility, length, spacing, playmaking and defense to be an elite lineup in today’s NBA. Their perimeter defense will suffocate anyone who can’t remotely dribble.  They can switch more on pick-and-rolls, stretch the court horizontally and play multiple styles. The eastern conference just got a whole lot better.

I guess the Spurs really didn’t have much leverage anywhere.  The Lakers, Clippers, Sixers and Raptors all had total control over this process and for San Antonio to not get back either Anunoby or Siakam is a stunner.  The first round draft pick is protected 1-20 in 2019 and if it doesn’t convey it becomes two second round picks. That’s terrible for the Spurs.  Potel is a solid prospect but was by far the low man on the Raptors prospect totem pole.  Derozan will be weighing down their books for the next three years, the fit with San Antonio is questionable and they didn’t get back any real upside players. The Spurs should still be a playoff team but would I be surprised if a rebuild happens within the next couple seasons?  No. The Spurs are one of the best run organizations in sports so it’s tough to doubt them.  The only way this works out for the Spurs is if Derozan adapts his game to the modern NBA; play better perimeter defense, be more efficient from the outside and stop taking long twos.  Will he do that so far into his career?  If anyone can change his game, it’s Pop.  I do like Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker and Chimezie Metu as a nice young core too.  But overall, the Spurs had their hands tied so maybe getting either Anunoby or Siakam wasn’t attainable.  This deal will land on Derozan and his maturation.  

If this can happen to the Spurs it can happen to anyone.  Players have all the power and leverage when it comes to market value.  I have a feeling this will only get worse and star players will be asking for targeted trades more often.  I honestly think it’s good for the league because at the end of the day it’s super riveting, promotes player movement and is down right fun to watch.  

     

Kyrie’s Shawshank Redemption

Out from the sewage drain and into the rain.  Kyrie finally got what he wanted.  According to Shams Charania of The Vertical (Link) the Boston Celtics have acquired All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving from the Cleveland Cavaliers for point guard Isaiah Thomas, forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and Brooklyn’s 2018 unprotected first-round pick.

This trade can’t properly be judged at least for another year; it’s full of “what-if” scenarios.  What if Isaiah Thomas’ hip doesn’t hold up?  What if Lebron leaves?  What if he stays?  What if the Nets pick becomes the number one overall selection?  What if the Nets pick falls outside of the top five?  What if Kyrie decides to leave?  What if Cleveland doesn’t want to pay Isaiah Thomas?  What if Thomas doesn’t want to play for Cleveland?  All these questions need to be answered before anyone decides a winner and a loser right now.

However, as it currently stands both teams seem to have gotten what they wanted.  The Celtics wanted another “superstar” player to officially bring Boston in the “win-now” discussion.  They got out under a potentially terrible contract in Isaiah Thomas with a year one starting salary at around $30 million for a 30 year old 5’9 guard who’s coming off a serious hip injury next season.  The Cavs got back a potential blue-chip prospect with the Nets pick, a backup center on a rookie contract for the next four years, a quality starting swing-forward on a cheap contract for the next three years and a score first point guard who can take the load off Lebron when he needs to sit.

On the surface of this deal I’m not a huge fan of Boston giving up the unprotected Nets pick for a player that might leave in two years.  I’m also a huge fan of the top draft prospects for next year; I actually think they are slightly better than the 2017 class.  If Michael Porter Jr, Luka Doncic or Marvin Bagley came out in this years draft they would’ve been the number one overall pick and if Mohamed Bamba or Deandre Ayton came out in this years draft they would’ve been the number three overall pick.  If Boston would’ve put a top five protection on the Nets pick I think the trade works more evenly.  I’m leaning towards Cleveland getting the better of this deal now, but again, there are too many “what-if’s”.  

If the Nets pick becomes the number one overall selection and as a result Lebron decides to stay because of it than Cleveland are the clear winners.  If the Nets pick falls outside the top five, Lebron leaves, Kyrie re-signs with Boston and Thomas decides not to re-sign than Boston are the clear winners.  

I don’t think the Nets are going to be very good next year, potentially another top three selection.  That Nets pick brings tremendous value that Boston hoarded for years.  The Celtics had a treasure trove of assets that they could’ve traded instead; the 2019 Kings/2018 Lakers first round pick, the 2019 Clippers first round pick, the 2019 Grizzlies first round pick, their own draft picks, Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum.  To give up your best asset with no protections out of a stable of quality assets for a score first point guard that can leave in two years who doesn’t play defense is a questionable decision.  

I don’t know who (if anyone) was Boston competing with in the Kyrie sweepstakes.  The Suns said they weren’t willing to trade Josh Jackson, the Knicks said they weren’t willing to trade Kristaps Porzingis and Minnesota said they weren’t willing to give up Andrew Wiggins.  The Bulls got back a pick-swap, Zach Lavine who’s coming off an ACL injury, Kris Dunn who was a terrible offensive player last season for Jimmy Butler with the same amount of years left on his contract as Kyries.  That haul is significantly worse than what Cleveland got back for a better player in Jimmy Butler.  Is Chicago that inept of an organization?  Or is Boston so focused on winning they don’t mind that type of risk for a superstar?

No matter what I say the trade does work for both sides…..at least for now.  I’m slightly favoring Cleveland winning the deal but only time will tell who really won.  Cleveland has set itself up nicely to still be competitive in the event of Lebron leaving.  Boston got out from under a potential toxic contract with Thomas and are officially in “win-now” mode with multiple “superstars”.  Danny Ainge finally pushed his chips in for a “superstar” but the unfortunate part is the price tag is still pending.