What. A. Freaking. Offseason. With the breaking news of Kyrie Irving being traded to Boston, the final domino (minus the odd small-scale signing here and there) has fallen, meaning I can finally give my takes on all of the important moves that took place in the past few months.
*I put an asterisk on the word major because some of the moves that I will talk about wouldn’t conventionally be considered major, but I’m still going to talk about them because it’s my blog and I do what I want.
This will be the first in a series of my offseason posts, with the following being more predictive orientated. The end of the summer is an exciting time for only one reason; the NBA season is fast approaching and I am once again very pumped to share my thoughts and opinions on the upcoming year with you.
Note: These moves are in no way ranked, and are in no particular order.
Kyrie Irving traded to Boston / Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and Brooklyn 2018 1st unprotected to Cleveland
The most recent transaction is a huge shakeup in an otherwise boring Eastern Conference. The storylines are endless with this blockbuster trade, starting with the opening night matchup against LeBron and co. in Kyrie’s old stomping ground. Cavs/Celtics was already a great game to start the season off, but now with the two swapping star point guards it will be an absolute treat. Isaiah being moved from Boston is tough, other than David Ortiz he was the most loved athlete in Boston in recent memory; playing through injury in the Playoffs, along with playing just days after the tragic death of his sister, he was beloved in Beantown. Unfortunately, basketball is a business, and the upgrade to Irving is worth moving a fan-favourite. Irving is younger, less injury-prone, and a (very slight) defensive upgrade. Jae Crowder is a solid defensive player, and gives the Cavs another wing option to throw against the main competition; the Golden State Warriors. Ante Zizic might become something down the road, and the 2018 Brooklyn pick, which might not be as high a pick as it seemed only a few years ago, is a good trade piece for them if they decide to move it. Overall, I’d say this was a fair trade for both sides.
Chris Paul sign-and-trade to Houston / Patrick Beverly, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrel to L.A. Clippers
Lob City finally comes to an end. It’s crazy to think that the Chris Paul-iteration of the Clippers never made the Conference Finals, (thanks to a tough call during the 2014 Thunder series, and an amazing Josh Smith/Corey Brewer lead comeback in 2015 against the Rockets) but here we are. Chris Paul is going to Houston to team up with James Harden, creating one of the best backcourts in the league. My first thought on this move was that there’s only one basketball, and both of these guys love to hold it. However, Harden and Paul have been playing together a lot this summer, and putting team U.S.A. guys together is never a bad idea. Mike D’Antoni’s offence just got scarier, and the passing ability in this backcourt is phenomenal. Meanwhile for the Clippers, they got a pretty good package for the 32-year old Paul. Patrick Beverly is a bulldog on defence, Lou Williams, while undersized, is a scoring machine, and a perennial 6th-Man of the Year candidate. Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrel are the young, future pieces, and both are rotation-ready players with a lot of athleticism. Overall, if I were the Rockets I would have loved to hold onto either Dekker or Harrel, but teaming up Paul with Harden makes them a real contender, and the Clippers had to change it up after years of Conference Semi-Final losses.
Danilo Galinari traded to L.A. Clippers / Jamal Crawford to Atlanta / Picks to Denver
Continuing on with the Clippers, the other big move they made this summer was bringing in Danilo Galinari from the Nuggets. Galo had a rough summer, breaking his hand during EuroBasket when he punched an opponent. That makes back-to-back years of top Clippers players breaking their hands while punching someone, (Blake Griffin punching the Raptors equipment manager) which I find absolutely hilarious. Back to the deal itself though, Jamal Crawford is still a solid scorer off the bench, but he is getting up their in age, so dealing him along with a couple picks for a proven small forward was a good idea The small forward position has been the bane of the Clippers organization during the GM-Doc era, and the addition of Galo creates a really good forward trio; Galo, Griffin, and Jordan. For Denver, they are a younger team that had to get rid of Galinari eventually, and receiving more future picks that will fit their timeline was a smart move. For Atlanta, receiving Crawford is a non-factor, clearly evident by them waiving him almost instantly. Overall, the Clippers gaining Galo keeps them in the Playoff race out West, the Nuggets move up further in the total asset standings, and the Hawks are going to be really bad for a while.
Jimmy Butler traded to Minnesota / Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, Lauri Markkanen to Chicago (Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson sign with Minnesota)
I’m still shocked that Gar Pax and the Bulls organization dealt their star player to the head coach that they fired just a few years ago. But, this trade did happen, and the T-Wolves came out as clear winners. Jimmy Butler reuniting with Thibs is great for the entire franchise, not just because of his talent, but his ability to be a coach on the floor for his younger teammates; primarily Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. This Wolves team was supposed to make the jump last season, but now with Butler showing his new teammates the way, they are almost a sure-lock to make the Playoffs. On the flip side, a team that is poised to be at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, the Chicago Bulls. Trading a star is hard, generally you don’t get a fair return on said star player, and that’s exactly what happened in this trade for the Bulls. Zach LaVine is an exciting player with a good amount of potential, but he will be coming off an ACL injury which tends to alter the explosiveness of a player. For LaVine, this could be challenging to return from, as he is one of the most explosive guards in the league. Looking at the other returns, Kris Dunn came into the NBA with many expecting big things, however in his rookie year he didn’t show any promise whatsoever. Lauri Markkanen is an intriguing prospect, garnering comparisons to a young Dirk Nowitzki (very lofty goals, but the easiest connection when comparing a tall, European big man who can shoot is to the German Nowitzki). Fortunately for Chicago fans, Markkanen has been killing it at EuroBasket this year, but his lack of rim protection as a 7-footer makes him a tough play at the center position. Overall, Minnesota wins this deal. Zach LaVine will garner a hefty pay increase come extension time, a tough thing to do with a young player coming off a major injury. Kris Dunn, as of now, has to be considered a miss of a pick, especially with notable players being selected after him; Jamal Murray, Thon Maker, and even 2nd-round stud Malcolm Brogdon. He still has a lot of defensive upside, but this year could be make-or-break for Dunn. Lauri Markkanen could be something, but in the end this isn’t impressive enough of a package for Jimmy Butler.
(While talking about Minnesota, they further upgraded their starting lineup with the signings of Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson. Teague is an above-average point guard, and Gibson brings another Thibs defensive-disciple to the organization. Spacing-wise this new starting lineup has some question marks, but the defensive versatility and ability can be near the top of the league.)
Paul George traded to Oklahoma City / Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis to Indiana
I was shocked about the Jimmy Butler trade, but the Paul George-to-OKC trade has me shook. George being traded wasn’t surprising, but Sam Presti and the Thunder coming out of the woodwork to absolutely fleece the Pacers was, and still is, insane. Paul George is a top-10 player, and even though his value was low due to his contract being up in one year, partnered with his presumed desire to become a Laker, getting him for pennies on the dollar is wild. Pennies on the dollar sounds like I’m downplaying Oladipo and Sabonis, and it sounds like that because that’s exactly what I’m doing. Oladipo is a decent player, but he’s one of those players with a body and game style that doesn’t fit a certain position. Even though the league is trending/has trended towards position-less basketball, he’s still an awkward fit. He can’t shoot well enough, isn’t big enough to guard the Klay Thompson’s/Jimmy Butler’s of the world, and isn’t a good enough playmaker to play the point. He’s athletic, has amazing bounce, but as the focal point of a trade to land a superstar? No chance. Onto Sabonis, I actually quite like him. He can’t play defence to save his life, but he is only going into his second season. His outside shooting to start last season off showed a lot of promise, until Russell Westbrook started chasing triple-doubles and Sabonis was clearly afraid to shoot, struck with the fear of missing and incurring Beast-brook’s wrath. Overall, the Thunder got away with highway robbery in this trade. If David Stern was still running the league, this would’ve been a Chris Paul-Lakers-veto type of situation. Good luck to Sabonis and Oladipo, hopefully the latter going to Indiana University will make it easier for the fans to accept their new second option, behind Miles Turner.
Gordon Hayward signs with Boston
First Thibs and Butler, now Stevens and Hayward; it’s the season of reunions. Gordon Hayward going to Boston before the Kyrie trade made them arguably the best regular season team in the East in my opinion. Now with a big three of Irving, Hayward, and Horford, I think they’ve solidified their #1 spot going into the Playoffs. Hayward is somewhere in the top 5-7 wings in the league, and he’s a safe bet to make the Eastern All-Star team. Losing Crowder and Bradley hurts Boston’s defence, but I can’t wait to see a lineup with Irving, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Hayward, and Horford; Brad Steven’s offence will be beautiful to watch. Overall, A+ signing for Danny Ainge, finally inking a star player to a contract to wear Celtics green.
Paul Millsap signs with Denver
Hawks fans, this is going to be a tough year for you. Last offseason Horford walked for nothing, and this season Millsap did the exact same thing. Paul Millsap joining the young Denver Nuggets is a fantastic move for both sides. The Nuggets were horrible defensively, spearheaded by their terrific passing big man, Nikola Jokic, and pairing up the young stud with the switchy and stretchy Millsap makes sense on all fronts. Millsap doesn’t fit their timeline, but his mentorship to guys like Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Emmanuel Mudiay will be crucial in their future success; long past the 3-year contract Millsap signed. Overall, A+ signing for the Nuggets, this team could be a top-5 League Pass team this season.
Dwight Howard signs with Charlotte
Oh Dwight, what happened. If you told me back in 2009 that Dwight Howard, at the time an MVP-calibre player on a fantastic Magic team, would have played on the Lakers, Rockets, Hawks, and now Hornets, by 2017 I would have called you ridiculous. But, here we are, and the artist formerly known as Superman is teaming up with Kemba Walker in Charlotte. The best part is that the Hawks traded the 31st pick, along with Howard, for Marco Belinelli, the worst Plumlee, and the 41st pick. Yes, the Hawks moved down in the draft, and basically just got Belinelli to get rid of Dwight. This move is very meh to me, I think Charlotte would’ve had a bounce back season this year with or without Howard, and he doesn’t make a huge impact on their potential success. I actually think that Cody Zeller will close more games at center than Dwight will, and how do you think that’ll make him feel? Howard’s biggest flaw is that he still thinks he’s fantastic, which is just not true unfortunately. Overall, this move is a negative for Charlotte. They have to pay Dwight and his constantly injured back 23.5 million for the next two years. Ouch.
D’Angelo Russell, Timofey Mozgov traded to Brooklyn / Brook Lopez to L.A. Lakers
This is the best possible thing to happen to D’Angelo Russell. After the Nick Young-Snapchat fiasco, Russell was a pariah in the Lakers locker room, and playing for the Lakers in general puts a massive spotlight on you as a player, nevertheless as a 2nd overall pick. Going to a Nets team that has no expectations allow Russell to just go out and ball, something that he will do. Russell is my early choice as Most Improved next season, and as the number 1 option on a bad Nets team he’ll get as many shots as he likes. Meanwhile, for the Lakers, this was a fantastic move. Giving up on a young guy with potential in Russell is tough, but they knew that Lonzo Ball was their guy, and now he has nobody in his was of the starting job at point. Also, dumping Timofey Mozgov’s horrendous contract aids in their pursuit of two max-level players next year. Oh, and they acquired Brook Lopez, along with the rights to 27th pick Kyle Kuzma, a solid center who has been increasing his shooting range, and a young wing player who showed tremendous upside at Summer League alongside his “light skinned brother” Lonzo Ball. Overall, great move for both teams. The Nets acquire a young building block, and potential franchise-guy in Russell, and take on Mozgov’s salary to reach the salary floor; while the Lakers get a starting-calibre center in Lopez, open up starter minutes for their new 2nd-overall pick point guard, and potentially get the steal of the draft in Kuzma.
Avery Bradley traded to Detroit / Marcus Morris to Boston
In a league with a salary cap, eventually teams with too many good assets have to trade away key pieces because they can’t afford to pay them. This is exactly what happened in Boston, where they traded All-Defensive level shooting guard (outrageously not voted to the team last year even though it was well deserved) Avery Bradley to Detroit in exchange for Marcus Morris. This move was only made because of the cap situation, Avery Bradley is a great starting guard, however his stellar play priced him out of the Celtics equation. In contrast, Marcus Morris, a sneaky good defensive option against top wing players, is slated to only make 10 million over the next two years; allowing them to eventually sign Gordon Hayward. Overall, this trade helps both sides, albeit in different ways. Boston managed to acquire a premier talent in Hayward, while decreasing their cap expenditure; whereas Detroit made the decision to go with Avery Bradley as their future at the 2-guard position instead of retaining Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope signs with L.A. Lakers
Speaking of KCP, his signing with the Lakers speaks more about the Lakers future plans than himself. KCP is a great young guard with two-way abilities, and instead of signing a longer term deal at a potentially lower price per year, he signed a 1-year deal worth 18 million. As I stated above, this speaks more to the Lakers plans for next offseason, rather than how they view him as a player. Signing him for just one year gives them the flexibility to pursue two max-level players next summer, something that would’ve been discussed in his meeting with his agent, Rich Paul. That name is well known in basketball circles and to fans because he is also the agent , and best friend, of LeBron James, a player whom the Lakers have a keen desire to go after next summer. KCP could be cashing in on a slightly larger than expected pay-check this season so that he could ideally, in the Lakers eyes, take a pay-cut to bring in LeBron and one other star player next season. Overall, this is a great signing for the Lakers, and for KCP. He is still young, at just 24 years of age, and becoming a UFA at 25 he could garner large offers in other situations if he doesn’t decide the pay-cut to stay in the purple and yellow next season is worth it for him. The Lakers maintain flexibility, and add a solid shooter to pair up with the pass-first Lonzo Ball.
J.J. Reddick signs with Philadelphia
Speaking of players signing lucrative 1-year deals, J.J. Reddick did exactly that when he signed with the “Trust the Process” 76ers for 23 million dollars. Similarly to the KCP situation, this is a fantastic move for both sides. J.J. Reddick has never made large money in his eleven year career, totalling a net salary of 55 million over that time. For the 76ers, he gives them flexibility for next season when rookie extension time comes for players like Joel Embiid and Dario Saric, along with veteran leadership for an extremely young team. J.J. Reddick is one of the best shooters in the league, and will provide amazing spacing for the driving-style of Markelle Fultz, his new backcourt mate. The 76ers, as a young team, don’t have a lot of large contracts on their books, and this move allows them to hit the salary floor. Overall, congratulation to Reddick for making nearly half of his career earnings in one year, and great move for the 76ers, the ability for Reddick to teach Embiid, Simmons, Saric, and Fultz the pitfalls of the NBA will be crucial to their future success.
Rudy Gay signs with San Antonio
This move puzzled me at the time it happened, and it still puzzles me today. The Spurs are a rigid organization, and Rudy Gay just doesn’t seem like a Spurs-ian type of player. The overall fit of Gay on this roster is also pretty odd, his outside shooting is average at best, and it’ll be interesting to see how happy he is coming off of the bench. The Spurs, like all other teams in the league, are looking up at the Warriors, and this move does give them another good-sized wing player to attempt to matchup with Steph, KD, and company. If I was running the Spurs, I would personally rather have Jonathan Simmon at 6 million a year than Gay at 8.5 million, but I digress. Coach Pop is amazing, the Spurs are a machine of consistency, and this could end up being the best year of Gay’s career, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
Kelly Olynyk signs with Miami
I watched Kelly Olynyk play for South Kamloops High at my local high school’s Western’s basketball tournament, saw him drop over 150 points during the span of three games, and now he’s signed a 4-year, 50 million dollar deal down in Miami. A 7-foot white Canadian guy living in Miami, he’s going to stand out just a bit. Congratulations Kelly, I never would have thought you’d become the player you are today, but now you’re the starting forward for a solid Eastern Conference Playoff squad. Now, to talk about the move itself for Miami, I really like it. Hassan Whiteside is one of the top rim-protectors in the game, and he’ll have to rotate over often to assist Kelly on the defensive end, but Olynyk’s outside shooting ability will add valuable spacing to a team lacking pure shooters. Olynyk can also play as a “small”-ball (he’s 7 feet, not super small but his 3-point shooting fits the small-ball definition) center in certain lineups. Overall, great deal for Olynyk and the Heat, and a huge win for Canada basketball.
George Hill, Zach Randolph, Vince Carter sign with Sacramento
I have mixed feelings about these signings for Sacramento. The Kings have been a dumpster fire for a while, I’ve shared my thoughts about them a multitude of times over the past couple years, but it looks like they are slowly turning the ship around. Once Cousins was traded, it was clear that the Kings were going young with Buddy Hield, and 4 first-round picks in the 2017 Draft, where they selected stud point guard De’Aaron Fox, junior wing Justin Jackson, former top recruit Harry Giles, and senior point guard Frank Mason III. Besides Giles who is still recovering from an ACL tear, the other 3 rookies would probably have played significant minutes this season, but that all changed in the free agency period. Bringing in veterans to a young team, especially an organization like the Kings who have been a nightmare for a while, is a fantastic thing. However, I’m an advocate to throwing young players into the fire when the opportunity is available. At times, this can be problematic, such as when players don’t live up to expectations and crumble. On this idea, I’m of the thought that a player’s confidence is crucial, but if they crumble and can’t fight to show they still contain potential, then bringing them along slowly wouldn’t have changed this outcome. In the Kings case, drafting Fox was one of the best draft-fits from the entire draft. At the time, the Kings had no real direction, no clear option at the point, and Fox was clearly taken to be the future at point for Sacramento. Bringing in a veteran guard to show Fox the way behind the scenes in practice is ideal, but a player like George Hill will push Fox to the bench and restrict his minutes early on in his career. The Kings, in my eyes, should be playing for more draft picks, and for the future. Players like Hill, Zach Randolph, and Vince Carter will add wins to their total, pushing their potential draft picks further back. The Hinkie-76ers process was tough for Philly fans, but now they have multiple top-3 picks on their roster, and have a bright future to look forward to. The Kings signing players of such an ilk brings them closer to the middle, arguably the worst place to be in sports. The veteran leadership is solid, the draft picks were awesome, but instead of garnering a top-3 pick, that pick could end up being more in the 5-7 range, which is a huge change. Overall, A grade for bringing in quality vets and players, but an F for thinking about the future.
Tim Hardaway Jr. signs with New York
After signing Hardaway Jr. to the most universally panned contract of the offseason, the Knicks might be the new Kings in the dumpster fire rankings. 4-years, 71 million for a player whose best NBA career moment was a shootout with Dion Waiters in the Rookie-Sophomore game during All Star Weekend is absolutely outrageous. The best tweet after this signing came from Bobby Marks, @BobbyMarks42, who tweeted, “Tim Hardaway Jr. was traded for Jerian Grant who was traded for Derrick Rose who was renounced so NYK could sign Hardaway Jr. for $71M.”. Yes, the Knicks traded Hardaway Jr. for two players who are no longer on the roster, just to then sign Hardaway Jr. to a ludicrous contract. Even Hardaway Jr. himself was reportedly surprised about the contract offer, I can only imagine the Hawks management laughing and falling off their chairs when that offer came in. Hardaway Jr. did average a career high in points last season at a whopping 14.5 points per game, but who’s going to pass him the ball in New York? Rookie Frank NTIlikina? Ramon Sessions? Ron Baker? (I actually love Ron Baker, but you understand what I’m getting at.) Carmelo Anthony and his hoodie will be bought out at some point, Joakim Noah will spend another year injured, smoking a ton of weed (no chance he doesn’t, I see you Joakim), and Porzingis probably has a board at home where he’s counting down the days until he can leave. Overall, Hardaway Jr. is a decent player, massively overpaid, and the Knicks media are going to have a great year putting forward depressing storylines.