By Shabab Karim
It’s only been 25 days since the Warriors redeemed themselves (more or less) and were crowned NBA champions once again. And yet there’s been a flurry of rumors of franchise players leaving their teams to go find a spot in teams that can be considered possible contenders. Regardless of whether people view this as a result of Kevin Durant’s choices, it brings excitement for the game and the next season to an all-time high. Rarely has the offseason meant more than the playoffs themselves, but the possibility of underdog teams finally ending the reign of juggernaut ball clubs, Golden State and Cleveland, fires up fans in cities like Houston, Boston, and Los Angeles (Lakers) alike to end their droughts.
Key points in the Draft:
The NBA draft was the beginning of the madness this offseason. The “surprise” being the 2nd overall pick Lonzo Ball of UCLA. The marketing abilities of LaVar Ball have made the skill set of the UCLA point guard hard to miss. Lakers’ legend and GM Magic Johnson can appreciate the talent and basketball IQ of Lonzo that make him an on-court general. There was brief speculation that the Lakers were targeting De’Aaron Fox with their second pick, but Ball’s marketable brand and his ability to make teammates better put Ball ahead of Fox.
The trade between the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves however was an unexpected turn in the night. Minnesota netting a positive of the deal acquiring one of the league’s best two-way guards in Jimmy Butler and the 16th overall pick, Justin Patton, ranked the best prospects by many. The Bulls settled for Zach Lavine, coming off an ACL injury, the 2016 5th overall pick Kris Dunn who averaged about 17 minutes and 3.8 ppg, and the 7th overall pick this year, Lauri Markkanen. Butler is finally reunited with his former coach Tom Thibedaou to add fire power and team defense to the two of the best young players in the league, Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Timbewolves fan can rest easy this offseason because the acquisition of Butler made the possibility of acquiring Taj Gibson and Jeff Teague, solidifying the availability of talent for Tom Thibodeau’s down-and-dirty defensive schemes.
Chicago chose the path of rebuilding with a rookie forward (Lauri Markkanen) that scored the ball at an impressive 48% in college despite talks of a disappearing D-Wade and the loss of veteran PG Rajon Rondo, who has reportedly caught the eyes of the Knicks
For the other teams, the picks were as expected. Markelle Fultz going first was a reasonable expectation with his complete package of play at the 1 spot. His skills, especially the use of the pick and roll, will give Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid ease in moving to the basket and scoring at will. While injuries still remain a problem for the team, a healthy offense could move this team into playoff contention.
The Celtics’ pick of Jayson Tatum was a reminder at the formidable talent on their roster. His iso-ball tactics make him a complete threat at the next level. For a lot of fans that see the team as having a high-powered offense, the addition of a scoring forward is a bonus for Isaiah Thomas who takes the bulk of having to create shots.
Biggest moves for the Warriors and Cavs:
The offseason is going just as smoothly as the playoffs. The Warriors don’t seem to be bleeding dry of their talent because Kevin Durant has reportedly taken roughly a $9 million pay cut to remain on the Warriors and free up enough cap space for Andre Iguodala (3/$48 million), the signing of Nick Young (1/$5.2 million), and to keep most of the team intact. Doubts arose about Iguodala and Klay Thompson remaining for much longer due to diminishing cap space. Golden State can still be expected to remain at the top for a long time by also considering the Steph Curry deal which resulted in a max contract of $201 million over 5 years after his 4 year, $44 million deal expired.
The Cavs on the other hand haven’t been able to do as much this offseason after the firing of General Manager David Griffin which prompted a social media backlash including comments from LeBron James himself. While this lead to speculation about the honeymoon phase of James’ relationship with Dan Gilbert seem to be ending and thoughts of moving West to another team are in the air, it was even more of debacle considering the loss of signing Paul George. George’s trade to the Thunder (1 year left on contract and a player option the year after) gives LeBron James little firepower to take down the Warriors in a 7-game series. But it was a time to rejoice for both Thunder and Pacer fans.
The Thunder-Pacer deal:
The Thunder acquired one of the leagues most dominant small forwards at the price of Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Thunder fans can expect to see another playmaker on the court to create shots. George is coming off his best FG percent this season (46%) and 23.7 ppg. Pacers fans have won on the side of rebuilding with Oladipo who averaged 15.9/4.3 and Sabonis who averaged 5.9/3.6 (20 mpg). The two former 1st rounders are both relatively cheap players for production level based on the amount of touches they get per game (Oladipo 4/$84 million and Sabonis on his rookie contract).
Clippers and Rockets:
Other big moves in the player market have been the Chris Paul trade to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Patrick Beverly (2017 Hustle Award Winner), Sam Dekker, Lou Williams, along with some bench players and next year’s 1st round pick. The trade comes at a time when Rockets have just opened up their potent offense with D’Antoni’s move of James Harden to PG and unlocked firepower from beyond the arc. There is still a lingering question as to how the fit will be made for the 2017 Coach of the Year, but for the Clippers it was necessary to move players to contend for a championship. The Clippers let JJ Redick walk in order to work a three-team trade between the Hawks and the Nuggets. The Hawks get Jamal Crawford, Diamond Stone, and a 2018 1st round pick while the Nuggets get a 2019 2nd round pick. The Clippers acquire Danilo Gallinari from the Nuggets as part of the deal as well. Crawford has been reportedly wanting for a buyout so he can seek a deal with either the Cavaliers, Lakers, or Timberwolves.
The Rest of the East:
The Gordon Hayward deal was the most confusing moment in the offseason. Reports came in of Hayward signing with the Celtics but died down in less than an hour as his agent denied there having been an agreement. Later the news was then broken that he actually had reached a deal with the Celtics (4/$128 million) and settled the debate. A big moment for the Celtics as this signing opens up new options for Danny Ainge to build an offense around a solid scorer. Hayward’s ability to cut to the basket and fight through contact (69% from up close) makes him fearsome around the rim. His ability to also catch-and-shoot (40% from three) matches perfectly through an offense that runs through Isaiah Thomas, especially during clutch moments.
Paul Millsap signed with the Denver Nuggets, inking a deal that gives him $90 million over three years. It is a valuable deal that adds a seasoned veteran to a young team. Millsap 18.1/7.7/3.7 last season with a 44% FG. The Nuggets were in the run for the last seed in the playoffs, which they lost to the Blazers, and with talks of picking up Jae Crowder, seem a real possibility this upcoming season.
The final and most intriguing story making its way to the top is the reports of the Nets’ pursuit of Otto Porter. Porter was earlier approached by the Kings in the beginning, but had to withdraw their offer their max offer once they signer George Hill and Zach Randolph. The former 2013 3rd overall pick averaged 13.4 pts on 52% FG and 43% from behind the arc. With 6.4 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game there is talent that is desirable in Porter. His efficient offense and rebounding talent will undoubtedly cause the Wizards to match the Nets’ offer of 4/$106 million that includes a 4th year player option and a 15% trade kicker. This would make Porter the highest paid player on the team even with John Wall, even though Wall has a current offer waiting from Washington, 4/$168 million.
The NBA offseason started off with a bang, and with multiple teams frantically trying to stay alive, its seems like this is only the beginning.