The Calm Before the Storm: Free Agency Thoughts

Feature image: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images North America

I love the off-season. The draft is always fun but free agency is another beast entirely, as fans, writers and even league executives await a tweet that reveals a free agent’s destination, a change in fortunes, a change in scenery, a change in direction…it all happens in free agency if it hasn’t happened in the draft.

And this year’s free agents class is chock-full of great players. Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, Blake Griffin, Gordon Hayward Kyle Lowry and Paul Millsap to name a few. Sure, not all free agents will necessarily leave their teams but free agency is a wild beast. You just don’t know…

There’s so much talent available this summer, far exceeding last year’s free agency class. From potential franchise changers to role players…it’s all here this summer.

Quite a number of teams are already regretting how much money they spent last season. Teams like Houston already looking to move on from Ryan Anderson, Atlanta possibly from Kent Bazemore… I think you’re going to find that the teams who didn’t spend all of their cap space for the sake of spending (Boston, Denver, Phoenix etc.) are going to be the teams with a huge say in free agency this season.

Because teams might look to move on from the mistakes of years past, I think you could see a lot more trades that relieve salary so that they can become involved in free agency this season, which may cost teams valuable assets. Look at the Lakers, they had to sacrifice D’Angelo Russell just to dump that horrible Timofey Mozgov contract. The Nets are ultimately going to reap the benefits of the Lakers’ mistake, even if they’re left with Mozgov for a few years.

That’s just one story, are there similar ones waiting to be written when July 1st hits?

We’ve already seen superstars under contract on the move via trade. Chris Paul and Jimmy Butler so far but surely there’s more to follow, and you’d imagine Paul George will eventually join this club. What if OKC can’t convince newly crowned MVP Russell Westbrook to sign another extension? That’s an interesting thought.

Chicago are in an interesting spot. They’re clearly heading for a rebuild but their veterans (Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade) will surely seek a way out of Chicago and I think you’ll see them wiggle free. Who knows where they’ll end up.

Boston haven’t looked great recently. With the Timberwolves package that the Bulls ultimately settled for, the Celtics could’ve easily have gotten involved and acquired Jimmy Butler. That’s just a fact. They’ve seemingly been reluctant to overpay but it’s cost them the opportunity at acquiring one star. How will free agency play out?

Restricted free agency should be interesting as always. The Brooklyn Nets are always in play in this market, just waiting to catch playoff teams unawares with big offer sheets that they may not be willing to match. Players like Tim Hardaway Jr., KCP, Andre Roberson and Otto Porter could be pried away with big money offer sheets.

Miami are my team to keep an eye on. Watch out for them, think they’ll be big players in free agency, especially if there’s a resolution to be found with Chris Bosh that will free up a lot of cap space. They’re my favourites to land Gordon Hayward.

Let’s do some predictions. Those are always fun.

Who stays?

Curry and Durant stay, that’s for sure. I think Serge Ibaka stays in Toronto along with Kyle Lowry as will Jrue Holiday in New Orleans — they simply have to keep him.

Who’s leaving? Lots of players.

Griffin, Millsap, Hayward (NOT to Boston…), I think some team will pry Andre Iguodala away from Golden State with an offer he can’t refuse, JJ Redick will leave as will Danilo Gallinari.

It’s going to be a wild summer filled with bad contracts no doubt but, hey, you never know.

NBA Draft 2017 Winners and Losers

NBFeature image: @Sixers

The one thing I forget about draft night is how long it takes. With teams, most of the time, using all of the five minutes given to them to make their selection, the first round takes an eternity to go by. So, unfortunately, I checked out at the conclusion of the first round near 4 a.m.

Anyways, the NBA Draft did eventually finish, and here’s who I thought did really well for themselves on Draft Night.

Winners

Philly

Fairly easy one here. Philly did what they needed to do and that was add a quality point guard to their cause and they did so in the form of Markelle Fultz. Fultz will come in and, I think straightaway, will contribute and I think that core of Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, Ben Simmons and now Markelle Fultz — if healthy — could make a run at a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Process is sure looking good right now.

Lakers

The Lakers drafted LaVa… I mean, Lonzo Ball last night with the second pick. Despite all the buzz that comes from LaVar’s mouth, Lonzo can straight up play and the fans will love him. The ‘Showtime’ Lakers are long gone but Lonzo will rekindle some memories of those days when he takes to the court.

The Lakers were also busy working the phones and did a nice little deal with Utah (who apparently really wanted Tony Bradley) to fall from 28 to 30 where they selected Josh Hart, who looks like a great pick at 30. He was a player who I loved straightaway when I watched some clips and analysis of him. The Lakers also selected Kyle Kuzma at 28 and that’s also a nice little pick up for the Lakers, whose future is suddenly looking bright indeed.

The Kings

This has to be a mistake, right? Right? Wrong!

The Kings actually had a great draft, hitting a home run when they selected De’Aaron Fox and did a good deal with Portland to move out of the 10th selection to move down to 15 and 20 where they took Justin Jackson and Harry Giles.

Fox has the potential to be a great point guard in this league, and I love his attitude and character. Jackson is a nice pick since Rudy Gay is about to hit the free agency market and now the Kings aren’t under any pressure to pay him/re-sign him (not that Rudy was going probably going to re-sign there anyways). And with Harry Giles, why not? Why not take a low value risk on the injury stricken Giles? He could turn out to be great value at 20.

The future doesn’t necessarily get much easier for the Kings, at least immediately, but they made good progress thanks to their good work last night.

Minnesota

The clear-cut winners from Thursday and it’s not about who they drafted but who they acquired. Jimmy Butler. Jimmy Butler is headed to Minnesota, who gave up Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and the 7th overall pick to land the three-time All-Star. Added to this, the Wolves received also Chicago’s 16th overall pick!!

What a steal.

Forget that they drafted a center into their logjam (Justin Patton), they netted Jimmy Butler and get to pair him up with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Wow. Surely a first playoff appearance since 2004 beckons…

Honourable mentions

Shout out to the Spurs for selecting Derrick White in a typical Spurs move near the end of the first round, the Mavericks for selecting a solid point guard in Dennis Smith Jr., the Nets for landing Jarret Allen at 22 and the Indiana Pacers for stealing Ike Anigbogu at 47, who was a sure lock for the first round.

Losers

A lot of teams generally did a good job, so there’s only one clear-cut loser to mention.

The Bulls

Flip me… Why?? Why??

The Bulls got absolutely hosed in this trade…they didn’t receive any sort of star in return for a top-20 player in the league. It truly was unbelievable.

Zach LaVine was having a great season before he tore his ACL…he tore his ACL. Who knows how he’s going to respond to that? That a serious injury from which some players never properly recover from. Kris Dunn proved very little in his first season that he could be possibly be a starting point guard in this league.

With the Wolves’ 7th pick, the Bulls selected Lauri Markkenen, which was a good pick since it means that you don’t have to pay restricted free agent Nikola Mirotic, but then to throw the 16th pick back to Minnesota??? Why??

Gar Forman and John Paxson might be even more unpopular than Phil Jackson right now… Do you know how hard that is to do?

 

Draft Day 2017 Thoughts

Feature image Source: Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America)

Probably my favourite NBA day of the year is here: Draft Day.

It’s just an exciting time for nearly everyone involved (except the Brooklyn Nets this time around). Young players seeing their dreams come true and for floundering franchises the chance to start over. It’s a celebration and culmination of years of hard work.

With the draft comes immense excitement: who’s going to be selected where and what trades (TRADES!!!) might arise. Last year, we had a very exciting trade which sent Serge Ibaka to Orlando and Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and the pick that became Domantas Sabonis. In the build up to this draft we’ve already seen D’Angelo Russell (the 2nd overall pick in 2015) traded to Brooklyn and Dwight Howard traded to Charlotte, with other teams rumoured to be trying to trade in/out of the top 5. It’s been exciting.

Markelle Fultz seems to be an absolute lock for the first overall pick for the Sixers, who I think did the right thing in trading up to number 1 — it’s time to get their point guard. Lonzo Ball is also a lock at number 2 with the Lakers, who all but confirmed their intentions when they traded away Russell. I’m disappointed. My ONE hope for this draft was that Ball wouldn’t fall to the Lakers, that’s not happening now…

The Celtics control this draft from the third spot. There has been talk of them perhaps leaning towards Jayson Tatum over Josh Jackson, perhaps they see Tatum similar to a Paul Pierce-type of player? I’d be surprised to see them draft Tatum over Jackson.

De’Aaron Fox is also an interesting player, but surely he falls past Phoenix at 4? They have so many point guards/guards, they either pass on Fox or make a significant trade involving either Brandon Knight or Eric Bledsoe.

After Fultz, Ball, Jackson, Fox and Tatum, the draft really opens up. Lauri Markkenen, Malik Monk, Dennis Smith Jr., Jonathan Isaac and Zach Collins… It’s going to be fascinating to see where they all end up.

My hope is for an unpredictable and entertaining draft with some juicy trades. That’s all I’m looking for tonight.

Surprises of the Young NBA Season So Far

It has been a fun two weeks of NBA basketball so far. Triple-doubles, multiple 50 point games, buzzer beaters… It’s been a good.

Before the start of the season, we form our own expectations of how the season is going to go. We put teams and players in boxes and some out of them. Naturally we don’t get everything right and surprises are always sprung. With that said, here are some of the things that have come as surprises to me so far in this early 2016-17 season.

The Los Angeles Lakers

Are the Lakers actually decent again?? Wow, it has been a long time… The Lakers sit above .500 with a 4-3 record — rolling behind a 3 game streak after they fought off the Suns. And they’ve beaten some decent teams too. The most notable being the home drumming of the Golden State Warriors, but they’ve also beaten the Hawks on the road as well as the Houston Rockets at home in their season opener — all teams that figure to be pretty decent.

And they haven’t been driven by a single player like the Pelicans are with Anthony Davis, it has been by committee. Five Laker players are averaging double digit scoring and Luol Deng and Brandon Ingram are not among them. It has been their bench has given them such a boost: 50 points per game (the most in the league) led by Jordan Clarkson (14.1 PPG) and Lou Williams (15.3 PPG). Brandon Ingram is also coming off the bench to begin the season and I think that’s the smart thing to do with Ingram. There’s no rush here, let him adjust to NBA second units first and take it from there. It’s a long season and injuries happen (especially to Luol Deng), there’s no rush. Good stuff from Coach Luke Walton.

D’Angelo Russell has been pretty good so far, as has Jordan Clarkson. Other players that have impressed are Larry Nance Jr. and Tarik Black, whose emergence meant that Yi Jianlian wasn’t going to play a whole lot of minutes, and he subsequently asked Laker management to be released.

But perhaps the biggest surprise for me is Nick Young is actually playing and contributing in a significant manner. I thought this guy was absolutely done, at least with the Lakers. So to see him actually start and play well (averaging 13.7 PPG and 33% shooting from deep).

The Los Angeles Lakers and Nick Young… Things I didn’t think I’d be talking about at this early stage of the season in a positive manner. It’s early days but this team might have to be taken a little more seriously this season. The Byron Scott chains have been broken!

Dwyane Wade — three-point specialist?

While the Bulls sit with a 3-3 record, they’ve actually begun the season pretty decently. They started 3-0 before losing their next 3 games, but it has been Dwyane Wade that has shocked the basketball world by shooting 47% from three on 3.5 attempts per game.

Let’s just put this into context: for his 13 season career Wade has shot 28% from behind the arc on 1.6 attempts per game — Josh Smith like. So to see these numbers out of Wade is staggering. I certainly thought his Game 6 three-point heroics vs the Hornets (triggered by Purple Shirt Guy) was a one off, but it may have been just the start.

People made fun of the Bulls’ hilarious lack of spacing with Rondo, Wade, Butler and Lopez, but if Wade can even hit 35% of his threes, they might have the last laugh… As they get KO’d in Round 1/2 of the playoffs.

The Washington Wizards

There’s a lot to be said for continuity in this league and the Washington Wizards have been one of the better examples of this in the recent years. The core of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Marcin Gortat and Otto Porter have been together for years now and they’ve done well to add to that core. The addition of Markieff Morris has helped the Wizards quite a bit (an unbelievable upgrade over Nene, holy crap…) and Ian Mahinmi is a player I like quite a bit, coming off the bench. Add to that bench unit of point guard Trey Burke, second year wing Kelly Oubre, veteran Jason Smith, Marcus Thornton and Andrew Nicholson — decent players to have coming off your bench. This, combined with a very decent starting five, is a team that is definitely better than the 1-4 record that the Wizards currently rock.

Their offense has been shaky (96.6 points per 100 possessions) and their defence isn’t good enough to make up for their lack of offense (104 points conceded per 100 possessions). Bradley Beal has been healthy so far but has shot a very poor — for his standards — 29% from behind the arc and John Wall has been turning the ball over an awful lot: 5.3 per game. This is killing the Wizards, who concede 21 points per game off of turnovers — only the Timberwolves concede more in the league.

They have played some tough teams: Memphis, Atlanta twice and the Raptors. Not the easiest schedule but if the Wizards want to be in the playoff picture they need to be beating some of these playoff calibre teams.

It’s early days but in the competitive — at least for playoff seeding — Eastern Conference, but the Wizards need to enforce themselves as a legit playoff contender. They have no excuses right now, everyone is healthy.

The Minnesota Timberwolves

A lot of people where very quick to hop on this bandwagon before the start if the season and it seems as though it was too much too soon — at least at the start of the season. The Wolves sit at 1-4 and things haven’t come together as people expected.

Towns, Wiggins and even LaVine have been great but the Ricky Rubio injury really hurts this team in the short term because now Kris Dunn is thrown into the frying pan. It’s so hard to be a rookie point guard in the Western Conference, the quality of opponent is unbelievable. Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Mike Conley and technically James Harden. These are all the guys you’re facing 3-4 times a year, and that’s tough for a rookie. There’s going to be a huge adjustment period for the Wolves with Dunn and that’s going to hurt them in the short term while he figures things out.

They’re a young team, and with K.A.T entering Year 2, Wiggins and LaVine entering Year 3, Kris Dunn being an interesting prospect and the addition of Thibs on the sideline, I think people expected too much too soon and they’ve been let down by this team just being themselves: young. They’ll get better as the season progresses as they figure out and grow into Thibs’ system and his ways, but it might be too late for the playoffs by the time they do hit their stride.


I would mention Joel Embiid, but his season is of no surprise to me. You only had to look at his college highlights to know that he was going to be a monster if he did play.

And look, take all of these things with a grain of salt: we’ve played, like, six games. There’s a long way to go yet…