The NBA is beautiful. Everything about it, the pageantry of the on-court product. The majesty of the stars is unmistakably unique. But all of those superlatives are under threat from the off-season. There are several smiling faces in new places.
Start with The King
— Klutch Sports Group (@KlutchSports) July 2, 2018
With one simple tweet, superstar LeBron James announced his move to the LA Lakers. James previously led the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals for a fourth straight year and his eight in succession. The James move was the major domino to fall. Many speculated that free-agent star Paul George was keen to play on the Lakers team and James would, in fact, join him. Those plans took a huge hit when George came to an agreement with the Oklahoma City Thunder thus scuttling the possibility of a Los Angeles union.
Thus far the Lakers brain trust led by President Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson and General Manager Rob Pelinka has assembled what can only be described as a motley crew cast of characters around James and the young Lakers. This off-season the Lakers added JaVale McGee, Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo and most recently Michael Beasley. None of those players has been an all-star since 2012-13 Rondo’s last appearance. As currently constructed this Lakers team has more questions than talent. However, the charm of the NBA off-season is tied to the fluidity of it. Expect more moves to be made.
Oakland is now “Boogie”-Wonderland
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) July 7, 2018
In what can be described as the rich getting richer, the defending champion Golden State Warriors signed four-time all-star center Demarcus Cousins to a one year deal. Cousins is currently on the mend from a ruptured Achilles tendon. If one considers the quality of centers the Warriors have used over the past three seasons (McGee, Andrew Bogut, Zaza Pachulia, Jordan Bell, Kevon Looney and David West) it’s safe to say that position is not a priority in their scheme.
This move made the Warriors look like bullies in the eyes of many, however, Cousins stated that he did not receive any offers from any of the other 29 teams. On the face of it, that assertion by Cousins seems almost logical when one considers his past and mercurial attitude or reputation. Of course, many disputed that notion including Cousins former team the New Orleans Pelicans. The fact is, teams thought with Cousins hurt, they’d be able to lock in his services long-term for a discounted rate. There were reports of the Pelicans trying to execute a sign and trade for Cousins. However, that would have meant that Cousins needed to sign a three-year agreement where quite possibly only the first year was guaranteed. Obviously, Cousins would not agree to a contract is totally unfavorable to him.
Be that as it may, Cousins is a member of the Warriors for one reason. Insurance. What does that mean? During the Western Conference finals, the Warriors were pushed by the Houston Rockets. Much like the Warriors, the Rockets played a style of defense that allowed and encouraged players to switch. At times that meant Rockets guard Chris Paul 5’11 guarded JaVale McGee. While Paul is a great player and fantastic defender, there’s no way he guards the currently hobbled Cousins right now, much less when Cousins is healthy. Cousins isn’t expected to play until January for the earliest. There is no pressure on either party involved, but great upside. If the status quo holds, Cousins will play in his first ever postseason game and the Warriors will be heavily favored to three-peat as NBA Champions.
A major coup up North
Welcome to the North pic.twitter.com/FWy6huVI9l
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) July 20, 2018
The NBA summer of 2018 is the summer of storylines, and there were quite a few. For example, Where would LeBron go? Will Paul George go to the Lakers? and most importantly, What would the San Antonio Spurs do with disgruntled want away superstar Kawhi Leonard? Well, LeBron went to LA, PG stayed in OKC and on Wednesday, the Spurs traded Leonard to the Toronto Raptors.
While this move came as a surprise to the casual NBA fan, many in NBA circles predicted the Raptors had a chance. What made trading Leonard difficult was the expressed desire to play in his hometown of Los Angeles (whether Lakers or Clippers). A demand like that often lowers the value of the asset being traded. To compound the situation, Leonard played only 9 games last season, due to a mystery thigh injury.
That injury or rather treatment of it appeared to be the source of much consternation and disagreement. There was no agreement on the injury itself. The Spurs medical team diagnosed Leonard with tendinopathy (a chronic tenderness of the tendon often treated with a combination of rest and rehab). Leonard sought and received a second opinion from Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Jonathan Glashow of Mount Sinai in New York City. Dr. Glashow and his team believed the problem to be muscle-related which required a different course of treatment. Things only got worse.
Leonard is a two-time All-NBA player and a four-time All-Defensive player who was voted Defensive Player of the year twice. The Raptors led by team general manager Masai Ujiri pounced on the opportunity to acquire a top-tier player. Ujiri admitted that Leonard’s injury issues played a major part in the Raptors acquiring Leonard. “Without all this medical drama that there is, we have no chance of talking to a player like that,” Ujiri said. “Zero.”
There is much to speak on this story as Leonard is in the final year of his deal and he was not initially thrilled to be traded to Toronto according to reports. It is up to Ujiri and the Raptors organization to sell the city of Toronto to Leonard. No easy task. NBA stars traditionally aren’t enthusiastic to play in Canada for some reason. Damon Stoudamire, Vince Carter, Chris Bosh, and Antonio Davis all engineered their way out of Toronto, while Alonzo Mourning never showed up. Maybe Ujiri can pull off what his Oklahoma City Thunder counterpart Sam Presti did with Paul George. Or maybe just maybe, in a year LeBron James would have beaten the Raptors yet again, this time in free-agency by successfully wooing Leonard to Lakers. Stay tuned.
There’s a New Star in San Antonio
Welcome to San Antonio, DeMar! pic.twitter.com/kpjhqYigvf
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) July 18, 2018
DeMar DeRozan is the star that embraced the city of Toronto. He stayed. While players mentioned earlier eagerly got out of Toronto as quickly as they could, DeRozan loved it there. The fans loved him as well. DeRozan was disappointed that he was traded by the Raptors. Ujiri met with DeRozan during the Summer League in Las Vegas and DeRozan felt assured he was not a candidate for a trade.
What do the Spurs get in DeRozan? First off, DeRozan is a star. He is a four-time All-star and a 2 time All-NBA player. There are critics of DeRozan’s game, most notably his lack of defense and inconsistent three-point shooting, but offensively DeRozan is proficient. Last season, DeRozan averaged 23 points and 5 assists per game. DeRozan attempted seven free-throws per game and held a 48.8 percent Effective Field Goal percentage (eFG).
Secondly, and perhaps the most overlooked factor in all of this, DeRozan fits the Spurs organization perfectly. DeRozan is a consummate professional and much like Leonard, as well as legends Tim Duncan and David Robinson, DeRozan is a lowkey, low maintenance star. There are no off-court antics to be concerned about with DeRozan. Also worth noting is the fact that the Spurs organization now possess a star player (flawed or not) under contract for the next three seasons. This bodes well for the Spurs team most likely in a win now mode. However, it will be interesting to see how he (DeRozan) meshes with the other Spurs star LaMarcus Aldridge. While the Spurs brass lost the trade with Toronto, they did not come away empty-handed.
Stay Me7o in where?
ESPN story on the impact of Oklahoma City's Carmelo Anthony trade with Atlanta, including 'Melo's future, Dennis Schroder's playmaking role and cost savings. https://t.co/QeiGNb2y7B
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 19, 2018
Ah yes, Carmelo Anthony! A great player, fantastic scorer and most polarizing figure. Now heading into the twilight of his career, Anthony sought to play for a contender after some forgettable years on the forgettable franchise known as the New York Knicks. Anthony permitted a trade to the Thunder with visions of completing a ‘Big 3’ with Russell Westbrook and Paul George. The experiment went predictably horribly. The Thunder won 48 games and entered the playoffs as the fourth seed. Utah Jazz dispatched the Thunder in six games. The writing was on the wall for Anthony.
Anthony had a player option in his contract worth approximately $27 million which he rightfully opted into. No team would pay him that much on the open market so activating that option was a no-brainer. It also meant that Thunder GM Sam Presti needed to make a decision. The luxury tax bill was simply too high. So the Thunder with Anthony’s permission (Anthony has a No-Trade Clause in his contract) made a move. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Thunder traded Anthony to the Atlanta Hawks who will waive him. In effect, the Hawks is firing Anthony with a $27 million ‘Golden Parachute’. This makes Anthony a free agent allowing him to sign with any team for what most like is the league minimum. Like ESPN’s Bomani Jones says, Anthony is a legend on the court but more importantly, he’s a legend at the bank.
Expect Anthony to sign with the Houston Rockets in the next few days.
Miami Heat President Pat Riley coined the phrase, “The Disease of me.” Most players mentioned in this article wanted out of their current situation for their specific and some may even call selfish reasons. This is what Riley meant by that phrase.
Riley also had another phrase, ‘Smiling faces with hidden agendas.’ DeRozan felt that way upon knowledge of his trade from the Raptors. Cousins some argue, made the Pelicans feel that way.