Is there a Lonzo trade out there?

(photo cred Sportsnewsinstant.com)

Immediate follow up question: Should the Lakers even consider trading Lonzo?

Do yourself a favor and search “Lonzo Trade” on Twitter. Grab a coffee, maybe a snack wrap from McDonalds, and settle in somewhere cozy. Then look at all the angry tweets from Lakers fans, urging Magic and Pelinka to ship away their young point guard for a whichever talented guard exploded for their team that night. Last night, it was Kemba Walker (more on him to come.)

There is a case to be made for trading Lonzo, despite him still possessing a high ceiling. On the other hand, a case can be made that Los Angeles might be one of the worst fits for Lonzo regarding his development; he may never reach that high ceiling next to LeBron.

Therefore, this will be a blog of five parts: two quick arguments on why and why not Lonzo should be traded, two possible trade destinations and a final statement. Buckle up, folks.

1. Taking my Ball and going home

When the UCLA product was in his pre-draft process, it was easy to see how scouts fell in love with his ability to pass the ball. People were comparing Ball to Jason Kidd, and saying that his floor would be someone like Ricky Rubio, but with the potential to be a better shooter and better defender.

I cannot emphasize his extraordinary vision enough. Ball simply sees reads more quickly than other guards; some guards don’t even see them at all. Take this clip below, for example. Ball starts passing the ball to a cutting Kyle Kuzma before Kuz even leaves from his spot in the corner.

The majority of NBA guards either won’t see this read, or when they do, it is a step late which will force the cutter to either adjust for the score, or allow the defense to catch up. Ball’s feel for the game is innate, and it shows in his passing ability.

Ball’s defense has been encouraging as well. He has good lateral quickness, is a smooth athlete, and has a decent wingspan to match that 6’6″ frame. At times, his defensive IQ is just as good as his offensive IQ, and when the effort is there, Ball shows the potential to be a plus defender who is capable of guarding multiple positions. See for yourself.

At the end of the day, Ball has been both frustrating and tantalizing at times. His rookie season stats, however, put him in historic standing. Take a peak at home many players averaged at least 10 points, 7 assists and 1.5 steals their rookie year.

Query Results Table
Crit Crit Crit Crit
Rk Player Season Age Tm Lg PTS AST STL WS
1 Magic Johnson 1979-80 20 LAL NBA 18.0 7.3 2.4 10.5
2 Chris Paul 2005-06 20 NOK NBA 16.1 7.8 2.2 10.4
3 Ben Simmons 2017-18 21 PHI NBA 15.8 8.2 1.7 9.2
4 Mark Jackson 1987-88 22 NYK NBA 13.6 10.6 2.5 7.6
5 Phil Ford 1978-79 22 KCK NBA 15.9 8.6 2.2 5.7
6 Sherman Douglas 1989-90 23 MIA NBA 14.3 7.6 1.8 4.4
7 Allen Iverson 1996-97 21 PHI NBA 23.5 7.5 2.1 4.1
8 Jason Kidd 1994-95 21 DAL NBA 11.7 7.7 1.9 3.7
9 Tim Hardaway 1989-90 23 GSW NBA 14.7 8.7 2.1 3.3
10 Isiah Thomas 1981-82 20 DET NBA 17.0 7.8 2.1 2.3
11 Kenny Smith 1987-88 22 SAC NBA 13.8 7.1 1.5 2.2
12 John Wall 2010-11 20 WAS NBA 16.4 8.3 1.8 2.2
13 Lonzo Ball 2017-18 20 LAL NBA 10.2 7.2 1.7 2.0
14 Ricky Rubio 2011-12 21 MIN NBA 10.6 8.2 2.2 2.0
15 Gary Grant 1988-89 23 LAC NBA 11.9 7.1 2.0 -0.4
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/18/2018.

2. It’s your Ball now

Sometimes, we have a tendency to overthink the game.

Lonzo Ball’s best skill is his ability to create for others. In order to do this, he must have the ball in his hands often. Playing alongside LeBron James, Brandon Ingram and Kuzma, Ball does not have the ball often enough to maximize his impact on the game. Logic.

Specifically, I compared Ball’s average second per touch to other players who either were among the league leaders in assists or had a similar playing style to Ball. John Wall, Ricky Rubio and Ben Simmons, as well as a plethora of other creators, all averaged more seconds per touch than Ball (NBA.com) What’s more, they led Ball by considerable margins as well, as Lonzo averaged a mediocre 3.82 seconds per touch.

Yet, Ball finished the league 13th in total touches per game last season. There is conflicting data here. How can Ball get so many touches while not keeping the ball in his hands for too long?

The answer lies in the Lakers’ pace. They are 3rd in the league in pace, which means they get up and down the court a lot. They are 2nd in the league in fast break points and also 2nd in total possessions per game. These dudes fly up and down the court, and Lonzo is often the creator. His grab and go ability allows him to do this.

So what do we make of this?

Lonzo is a beast at finding people in transition. He makes full court outlet passes reminiscent of Kevin Love. Yet, Lonzo struggles in the pick and roll. In order to reach his ceiling, Lonzo has to improve this area, something of which he is surely capable of doing. Ball finished in the 17th percentile for pick and roll ball handlers last year, and despite improving to the 45th percentile so far this year, Lonzo still hasn’t mastered this part of his game.

With LeBron and other creators on the Lakers, Lonzo will not get the chance to develop fully into a complete NBA playmaker. If Magic and co. want Lonzo to be a transition god who takes 57 percent of his field goals from 3-point land, then so be it. But they would be wasting an entire area of his game which if developed correctly, could see Lonzo become one of the best point guards in the league.

As of right now, the Lakers are using him as a 3&D, grab and go fastbreak leader, although he can be so much more. If that is their plan for Lonzo, why not trade him for an established star who is a better fit besides LeBron? Speaking of which…

3. Charlotte, an old trading partner

We all remember how the Hornets gave Kobe Bryant to the Lakers, right? Perhaps now is a time for karma to swing back Charlotte’s way.

Kemba Walker is one of the most underrated stars in this game. His pick and roll game is elite. Kemba finished in the 92nd percentile as a PnR ball handler last year for a dismal Hornets team. The dude’s lack of team success probably leads to him being overlooked as one of the league’s premier guards. But let’s see how his last last season compares to the 2017-18 season of other stars such as Kyrie Irving, Dame Lillard, Kyle Lowry and John Wall.

Per Game Table
Rk Player Season Age G FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% eFG% FT FTA FT% TRB AST STL TOV PTS
1 Kyrie Irving 2017-18 25 60 8.9 18.1 .491 2.8 6.8 .408 .568 3.9 4.4 .889 3.8 5.1 1.1 2.3 24.4
2 Damian Lillard 2017-18 27 73 8.5 19.4 .439 3.1 8.6 .361 .519 6.8 7.4 .916 4.5 6.6 1.1 2.8 26.9
3 Kyle Lowry 2017-18 31 78 5.2 12.1 .427 3.1 7.6 .399 .553 2.9 3.3 .854 5.6 6.9 1.1 2.3 16.2
4 Kemba Walker 2017-18 27 80 7.4 17.0 .431 2.9 7.5 .384 .516 4.5 5.3 .864 3.1 5.6 1.1 2.2 22.1
5 John Wall 2017-18 27 41 6.8 16.3 .420 1.5 4.1 .371 .466 4.3 5.9 .726 3.7 9.6 1.4 3.9 19.4
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/18/2018.

Kemba is right on pace with his colleagues. This year, he is putting up a crazy 28.7/6.1/4.5 stat line while taking 10.3 triples per game and making a wild 37 percent of them. He is wonderful fit next to LeBron too.

Not only does Kemba have the intangibles to play with LeBron, his on-court style meshes well with what the King needs. For instance, Kemba is more than a ball-dominant point guard. This season, he is taking 4.5 3-pointers per game on catch and shoot opportunities, and sinking 38 percent of them. Wow.  This shows that Kemba can move around on off-ball action when LeBron is handling the rock.

Yet, Kemba can also take some of the offensive load away from LeBron. He is a pick and roll savant who can dish to open teammates or hit a deadly pull-up. I’m not kidding about the “deadly” part. Walker hits 45 percent of his 10 pull-up attempts per game, and 37 percent of his 5 pull-up triples per game. So far this year, those are better numbers than what CP3, Lowry, Irving, Lillard, Wall and that Harden guy have put up. He is a late game closer, for sure.

On a one-year, expiring deal, Los Angeles would have to get a wink-wink deal from Kemba that he would resign. But, the man is an excellent fit next to Lebron. He will turn 29 this season and seems to be getting better as he grows older.

Charlotte has a lot of incentive to make this deal too. They have a promising young core in the much improved Malik Monk and Miles Bridges. They cannot let Kemba walk in free agency for nothing in return. Landing Ball would be a steal. Charlotte could bottom out and pick up a high draft pick this year, giving them four solid players to build around going forward.

I know what you are thinking: “Lonzo Ball has more trade value than Kemba Walker.” Well, not so fast. What are the odds Lonzo Ball turns into a two-time All-Star and ever stars a season the way Kemba has this year? A better question: What are the odds Lonzo Ball ever plays as good as Kemba is playing this year? Of course, we all have differing opinions. But, Magic Johnson and company should seriously consider reaching out to the Michael Jordan and the Hornets.

The Trade:

kemba-trade.png

4. What’s up, Milwaukee

This is the one I will catch a lot of pushback on, I can feel it. Well, pushback from Bucks fans, most likely.

If there is one player who will challenge Walker for most underrated in the league, it is Khris Middleton. The guy can defend four positions and beat you from all three levels offensively. This year, my guy is putting up 19 per game on 46 percent from the field and 44 percent from deep, on 7 3-point attempts per game, mind you.

A two-way star, Middleton will be receiving a max contract this offseason that likely starts around $30 million per year. Ouch.

The Bucks already have a team payroll of $126 million for this season. Let’s do some projecting here. Next season, if they resign solely Middleton and no one else, their salary will be around $110 million. Keep in mind that they still have to resign at least one of either Eric Bledsoe or Malcolm Brogdon, both of whom will not come cheap. Oh, and given that Brook Lopez is having the most efficient shooting year of his career (62.5 eFG percentage!) the Bucks may want to bring him back too.

Let’s be generous and say that Brogdon, and not Bledsoe, comes back for $12 million per year. That brings their cap up to $122 million. Congrats (sarcasm), you aren’t bringing back Lopez in this scenario, or the rejuvenated Bledsoe.

The Bucks would be cap crunched for years if they resign Middleton. He is a wonderful talent, but does a core of Giannis, Middleton and X take the Bucks to a title? Hmmm. Let me present to you another option.

Send Lonzo Ball to Milwaukee for Khris Middleton. Sell high on the guy and get a guard with All-NBA potential. Replacing Ball for Middleton will see the Bucks salary (before any signings) be at $89 million next year. This gives them the flexibility to bring back both Lopez and either Brogdon or Bledsoe.

Lonzo would be a much better fit next to Giannis than he would next to Lebron. Despite having the Greek Freak on their team, Coach Bud and the Bucks still run a ton of action through Bledsoe, their point guard. In fact, Bledsoe is assisting on 28 percent of their buckets while on the court. Pretty good.

The Bucks play a style of basketball that would allow Lonzo to take advantage of his push-the-pace style. They are 5th in pace this year and 8th in fast break points. A Giannis-Ball fast break connection should give you shivers. Yet, they also run a great combo of free-flowing sets and traditional pick and roll basketball, giving Lonzo a place to develop the PnR game previously discussed.

Calm down Bucks fans, and let me tell you why you should consider this trade. In all likeliness, the Bucks ceiling with Middleton falls somewhere short of an NBA title. In a Eastern conference with a talent-heavy top four teams, you need to take a gamble to acquire top-end talent. That is the way the league has always been and will always be.

Lonzo Ball is not currently top-end talent, but he has the potential to be. If he hits, then the Bucks would be looking at an plus defensive player who is one of the best playmakers in the league and can space the floor too. Plus, he is cheap right now. Locking in Middleton means that the Bucks roster will stay the same for the foreseeable future, for better or for worse. Acquiring Ball gives Milwaukee a dice roll at supreme talent and cap flexibility for the future. Throw in another asset for good measure.

The Lakers should be all over this deal. In a lineup of Middleton, LeBron, Ingram and Hart, the Lakers would have four plus defenders who are super switchy. Also, a lineup of those four plus Kuzma gives LeBron the coveted “four shooters” lineup we want around him. Can the Lakers get better talent than Middleton, however?

middleton-trade.png

5. Closing statement

Jimmy Butler is resigning in Philadelphia. KD is not coming to LA; if he wants to be better than LeBron then he cannot play with LeBron. Klay Thompson is most likely staying put. Will DeMarcus Cousins recover from his injury, and if so does he sign in LA? Who knows. Kawhi? So far, we have heard nothing further about him coming to LA and if anything, he looks mighty comfortable in Toronto.

What’s the point? The free agency market –  or better yet, pre-agency market –  does not look too promising for the Lakers. Shoot, they couldn’t convince hometown star Paul George to sign. Don’t get me wrong, the Lakers still have a great shot at landing Kawhi. But should LA really put all their eggs in that basket?

If they strike out in free agency, a real possibility, then what does LA do next? Why not trade for Middleton or Kemba and have the leg up on resigning them? Lonzo won’t be the player he was drafted to be there, so send him out for a good return before his trade value plummets even more.

Thoughts? @Mattesposito_

PS. Here is how the rest of NBA Twitter feels about this so far…

https://twitter.com/MattEsposito_/status/1063912269539655682

 

 

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Five NBA Stars that won’t be on the same team next year

NBA Stars

The NBA landscape is always changing. There was clear evidence of that once again this summer. LeBron headed to the Lakers, Cousins joined Golden State, and Anthony Tolliver returned to Minnesota. This trend seems to be picking up steam in the NBA, rather than losing momentum. Next offseason will provide more changes in the NBA, but it could be a historic amount of star players swapping teams. Here’s five NBA stars that won’t be on the same team next year.

 

Jimmy Butler

What a rollercoaster ride it is being a Timberwolves fan. That’s right, I’m a Wolves fan. Possibly the biggest mistake that I’ve ever made, but I love it. The Timberwolves just ended a decade-plus playoff drought last season. Now, it looks like they could be in for another long run. While Minnesota is positioned to make the playoffs in the West with a healthy Jimmy Butler, if the team doesn’t advance past the first round come April, things will get even uglier than they already are.

It’s no secret that Jimmy Butler is a free agent next summer. It seems he’s made it known himself. This summer has been full of storylines about the Timberwolves with Butler not being happy with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Butler is seemingly unhappy with the young guns’ work ethic. So, now the entire Wolves fanbase is panicking about whether Butler will leave after just two years with the team. While the issues with the Wolves can be worked out with a solid season, it appears Jimmy Buckets is headed to the exit doors.

 

Kevin Durant

Surprise, surprise. Kevin Durant isn’t going to finish his career in Golden State. Sure, he could be taking one-year deals with the team to maximize his future earnings, but Durant is also keeping the door open to leaving the team he’s won two rings with. Durant seems to be taking a LeBron-like path in his career. He left a team that he never won a championship with to join a championship-caliber team. Now that he has two rings, maybe three after this season, Durant could look to try and win elsewhere, much like LeBron did returning to Cleveland.

Maybe next summer is too soon for Durant to bolt the Bay Area, but with the reported tension in the Warriors’ locker room last season, I think Durant will be in a different uniform come next season.

 

Kemba Walker

Poor Kemba Walker. As one of the top-tier point guards in the NBA, Walker has made the playoffs just twice in his seven-year career. Walker hasn’t been surrounded by great talent in Charlotte and it’s time for him to leave next summer. Kemba is an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2019, and he needs to go someplace with a better supporting cast. Walker has the talent to lead a team to the postseason and do some damage, but it’s not happening in Charlotte.

Kevin Love

Kevin Love just signed a huge contract to supposedly stay in Cleveland with the Cavaliers. Love signed the contract because he got a great financial deal. What we aren’t sure of is why the Cavs offered Love the contract. Is it because Cleveland views him as an important piece of their future? Is it because Love would be easier to trade on a long-term contract? We won’t get a true answer until the next two-three years play out. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t take a guess.

If I was a betting man, I think Kevin Love was signed in Cleveland to be traded. The Cavaliers have the potential to make the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference, but they aren’t contending for a title anytime soon. The Cavs are bound to go into a rebuild and that would mean unloading Love for future assets. That is exactly what I think will happen next summer in Cleveland.

 

C.J. McCollum

If the Blazers don’t do any damage in the playoffs this season, it’s time to get some scenery changes underway. The Blazers are stuck in the middle of the pack in the West and can’t seem to perform in the playoffs. If similar happenings occur this season, the Blazers will shift their attention to a different gameplan. Switching that gameplan would involve trading Lillard or McCollum. I can’t see the Blazers trading Lillard, so McCollum would be the option.

McCollum is a high-tier shooting guard that is a very valuable player in the NBA. However, with Lillard and McCollum paired together, the Blazers haven’t been able to do much damage in the postseason. It will be time for the Blazers to make a change and trading McCollum is the gut-wrenching move that they will need to make.

 

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Celebrating 17 Years of Tony Parker and the Spurs

Tony Parker

Before the 2001 NBA draft, future hall of famer Tony Parker was merely a skinny Parisian kid who was making some minor waves overseas. He was an unknown diamond in the rough.

At the time, former New York Times reporter Mike Wise predicted he was a chance to scrape into the first round of the draft, but nothing more. Standing at a meager 6-foot-1, Parker didn’t even start in his debut season for French club Paris Basket Racing. However, after earning the starting role and putting up 14.7 points and 5.6 assists per game. After the breakout year, the time was right for the 19-year-old to make the move stateside.

When the big night did arrive and the San Antonio Spurs did nab the Frenchman with the 28th pick, he was the typical giddy teenage soon-to-be millionaire basketball player.

“I’m excited, I’m happy. Playing with a good team, play with superstars, very exciting. Can’t wait to meet them and play with them” he said in his post-draft interview. 

Parker entered the Spurs fold at the ideal time, as incumbent point guard Avery Johnson bolted to Denver that summer, leaving the starting position wide open for head coach Gregg Popovich’s newest draft pick.

His maiden regular season in the big leagues wasn’t a mind-boggling one by any means, as he put up 9.2 points, 4.6 assists and 1.2 steals a night in the starting role. Although he did log the third highest minute total – behind legends Tim Duncan and David Robinson – on a team that won 58 games, which provided a crucial building block for the soon-to-be All-Star.

Parker used that stepping stone to explode in his first ever NBA playoffs. As we know now, it was a sign of things to come. San Antonio was eliminated in the second round by Kobe and Shaq’s Los Angeles Lakers, but Parker announced himself to the world, averaging 15.5 points and 4 assists while nailing 37 percent of his 3’s.

It was an awesome showing by the Parisian –  if the Big Fundamental, who was already a fully-fledged star, didn’t take much notice. As Parker explained to ESPN Los Angeles’ Dave McMenamin back in 2014.

“[Duncan] didn’t talk to me for a whole year. It was kind of weird coming from France and you have your superstar player that doesn’t talk to you as a point guard, it’s kind of tough, you know? Because you’re supposed to talk to everybody.” Parker said.

As Robinson’s star-studded career reached its twilight, Tony Parker – who only just snuck into the first round of the draft just a year earlier –  was already Popovich’s undisputed second fiddle. Still just a tender 20-years-old,  he carried his playoff momentum into his sophomore season, a campaign that ended with the first of four championship runs.

Now, Manu Ginobili had joined Parker and Duncan as the future of the organization, one that blossomed into the winningest in 21st-century hoops. By the 2004-05 season, the trio had just won their second NBA title, with Parker at the helm every step of the way. A year later, the skinny French kid was an All-Star for the first time.

Parker was averaging 18.9 points and 5.6 assists per outing, those shifty in-and-out dribbles, floaters and mid-range jumpers, up-and-under layups and crisp passes had become second nature for Spurs viewers, and so had winning games consistently.

The following season the Spurs capped off their third championship in six years, on the back of an all-time NBA Finals performance by the 24-year-old. Tony Parker played a hefty 37.8 minutes per night and put up 24.5 points, 5 rebounds and 3.3 assists, shooting a blistering 56.8 percent from the field and 57.1 percent from long-range, spring-boarding his squad to a finals sweep over Cleveland.

Six years after drafting him, Gregg Popovich stood on top of the world with his star point guard. In an interview with Reuters’ Steve Ginsberg, Pop explained what he told his point guard on the stage as the trophy presentation took place.

“I reminded him that when we gave him his first workout, we didn’t think he was tough enough and we sent him home,” Popovich said. “Then we set up another interview, another workout where we stacked it and had some people go after him physically and he was fantastic in that one.

“I reminded him of that and he had a big laugh. And I said, ‘Now you’re standing here on the stage with the finals MVP trophy,’ and he just kept laughing. He couldn’t believe it.” he said.

While the Spurs stayed relevant as ever for the next six seasons, that fourth championship ring eluded Parker and his usual band of talent. However, the wily guard continued to cement his resume as one of the best point guards to play the game. He averaged 18.8 points and 6.7 assists, featuring in three All-Star games and three All-NBA squads.

Tony Parker was in career-best personal form throughout those six seasons. He exploded on the Minnesota Timberwolves for a personal best 55 points in a 2008 tilt and posted a career-high 17 assists against New Orleans back in 2012. The personal accolades were coming in abundance, but there was one final title-winning run for that same kid who couldn’t even start for Paris Basket Racing back in France.

After falling at the last hurdle of a grueling seven-game series against LeBron James’ legendary Miami Heat in the 2013 Finals, Parker and the Spurs got their revenge in 2014. San Antonio slapped the Heat to the tune of a five-game series win, and the now 31-year-old was his usual productive self – pumping out 18 points and 4.6 assists per game while shooting a sizzling 41.6 percent from 3-point land throughout the series.

After that last outburst from the hall of famer,  it Father Time was slowly but surely catching up with him. However, like all of the best players, Parker quickly adjusted his game to remain effective for a few more years.

A career 32.6 percent 3-point shooter, he was never a high-volume shot taker from behind the arc (1.3 attempts per game), but he re-calibrated as the NBA as the NBA game evolved into a long-range game. Parker nailed 42.7 percent of his triples in 2014-15 and backed that up by hitting 41.5 percent in 2015-16.

Now, after his final two seasons in Texas failed to cover him in glory, Tony Parker will likely finish his all-time great career in Charlotte after signing a 2-year, $10 million deal this summer. Bringing an end to one of the most underrated but brilliant careers San Antonio – or the NBA in general – has ever seen.

Kudos Tony Parker, thank you for 17 years of magic.

 

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Who is the next NBA Star to be Traded?

Kemba Walker

After the Kawhi Leonard trade that sent him to Toronto and DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio, the Thunder dumped Carmelo Anthony on the Hawks in order to lighten their luxury tax bill. With free agency for the most part behind us, teams will start revving up trade talks before training camp starts. The question is, now that Leonard has been dealt, who is the next star player to find himself in a new city.

 

Kevin Love

Possible trade partners: Blazers, Wizards, Pacers

Best trade offer: Love to the Blazers for Evan Turner, Anfernee Simons, future first-round pick (top 10 protected).

The Blazers are over the luxury tax and need to make a deep run in the playoffs to make it worth wild. The western conference has gotten stronger this offseason and the Blazers are being left behind. Adding Love, who grew up in Oregon, would give the Blazers a third star to pair with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Turner hasn’t been an ideal fit with Lillard and McCollum and has negative trade value. Pairing him with the high upside Simons and a first round draft pick should be enough to get the Cavaliers to trade away the 30 year old, injury prone Love.

Just because the Cavaliers recently signed Love to a contract extension, that doesn’t mean they won’t trade him if the right offer comes along. The extension is a win-win for Love and the Cavaliers. For Love, he has locked up an additional $120 million dollars. For the Cavaliers they have a star player on the roster long term if they choose to do a quick rebuilding. However, if the team struggles and they decide to take the long term rebuilding approach, a new team will like that Love is locked up through the 2022-2023 season. Assuming the Cavaliers trade Love, the Blazers can offer back a solid package. Turner has only two years left on his deal and is a good locker room guy. Simons is a 19 year old kid with some athleticism and upside to him, that should get plenty of minutes on a rebuilding team. The first round pick would give the Cavaliers another asset to help rebuild around Simons, Larry Nance Jr., and Collin Sexton.

Kevin Love
USA Today Sports

 

Kemba Walker

Possible trade partners: Knicks, Nets, Suns

Best trade offer: Walker, Jeremy Lamb, Frank Kaminsky to the Knicks for Joakim Noah, Kevin Knox, future first-round pick (top seven protected).

For the Knicks, this is the kind of move that pushes all the chips all in for a chance to make a run as the top team in the eastern conference starting in 2019. Finally being able to shed Noah’s contract for the 2019 offseason, the Knicks will have a projected $46 million dollars in cap space with the cap holds for Walker and Kristaps Porzingis. Both Lamb and Kaminsky are free agents after the season and should be renounced. The Knicks can use the cap space to add a third star in free agency and still have enough room left over to add another starting caliber player, then resign Walker and Porzingis using their bird rights. While giving up the first round pick and the promising Knox is a tough pill to swallow, getting rid of Noah’s $19.3 million dollar salary for the 2019-2020 season is critical.

Given all the bad contracts on their roster, the Hornets best course of action might be to trade Walker for young assets, bad contracts and rebuild long term. Taking back Noah’s contract isn’t ideal but they could work towards a buy out in order to save some money. Like Knox, Miles Bridges had an impressive summer league and looks like a future impact player. The Hornets would likely have two lottery picks next year to go along with Malik Monk, the 11th pick in the 2017 draft, Bridges and Knox that can help jump start their rebuilding process. The best part about this deal for the Hornets is it keeps them out of the luxury tax; which is critical for a rebuilding team.

 

Jimmy Butler

Possible trade partners: Lakers, Clippers, Knicks, Nets

Best trade offer: Butler to the Lakers for Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, future first-round pick (top three protected).

With the reports that Butler is frustrated with the young Wolves players and won’t resign with the team this coming offseason, they should look to move him for the right package. So, who wouldn’t love to play on the wing with LeBron James in Los Angeles. If the Wolves fear they will lose Butler next summer they could look to trade him for a younger player and an expiring contract given their long term cap issues. With both Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns up for contract extensions next season, the Wolves will be very deep in the luxury tax penalty in 2019. Caldwell-Pope is a 3&D guy who can help this season and is on an one year deal. Ball is only 20 and while his rookie season was a disappointment to some, maybe a change of scenery will help. For the Wolves, Butler didn’t really fit their long term plans while a trio of Ball, Towns and Andrew Wiggins (all 23 or younger) could turn into the next great big three.

Now the James is a Laker, the team’s mindset has totally changed. Ball is no longer the focal point of the team. The Lakers can finally have enough with LaVar Ball and ship Lonzo off to Minnesota much easier now; especially if it lands them a star player. Butler would be able to play off the ball better than Ball and guard the other team’s best player. The Lakers would now have two star players and several of their young players still on the roster, setting them up for a big summer in 2019 where they could add a third star.

Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns
USA Today Sports

 

Karl-Anthony Towns

Possible trade partners: Celtics

Best trade offer: Towns, Jeff Teague for Kyrie Irving, Aron Baynes, Robert Williams, Kings 2019 first-round pick (top one protected).

Reportedly, Butler wants to team up with Irving, his best friend, this offseason. Also reportedly, Butler has grown frustrated with the young Wolves players. If the Wolves want to keep Butler long term, getting Irving would certainly help. While giving up Towns is tough, the Wolves would get back two big men in the trade, a likely top five pick and the multi time all-star Irving. Baynes would provide some size and veteran leadership, while Williams is a raw and athletic 20 year old kid. If the Wolves can resign Butler and Irving next summer and add a nice prospect with the Kings 2019 first round pick, this trade will be a steal for them.

The report that Butler wants to team up with Irving next season has to be concerning for the Celtics as well. However, the Celtics won 55 games and went to the eastern conference finals last season despite Irving missing 22 games in the regular season and not playing a minute in the post season. The combination of Teague and Terry Rozier would give the Celtics solid enough production to replace Irving. The biggest factor for the Celtics is they would have control of Towns as he is a restricted free agent next season. The Celtics have struggled at times rebounding the ball when Al Horford is playing at center. Meanwhile, Towns’ has averaged 11.7 rebounds per game for his career. Lastly, Horford can become a free agent after the season and at 33 years old, the Celtics may not be so inclined to give him a long term deal at a big salary given they have to think about locking up Rozier, Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum in the coming years.

 

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Busts of the NBA: Michael Carter-Williams

Michael Carter-Williams

The definition of a “bust” when it comes to an NBA player is someone who doesn’t meet the expectations given to them when they come out of the NBA draft. It’s a common occurrence for players to be highly touted coming out of college securing them to be a lottery pick in the NBA Draft, and then turning out to be an underwhelming NBA player. Michael Carter-Williams has found himself to be one of those players.

 

Rookie of the Year

The terms “Rookie of the Year,” and “Bust,” aren’t typically used to describe the same NBA player, but in this case they are. In the 2013 NBA Draft the Philadelphia 76ers drafted Michael Carter-Williams with the eleventh pick. During the 2013-14 season MCW averaged 16.7 points per game, 6.3 assists per game, 6.2 rebounds per game, and 1.9 steals per game. This stat line proved to be the best among the rookie class of 2013 as MCW won the Rookie of the Year award for that season. MCW also had one of the best rookie debuts in NBA history where he tallied 22 points, 12 assists, 7 rebounds, and 9 steals. That steal total is the most ever by a rookie in a debut game. To someone unfamiliar with Michael Carter-Williams they would be questioning how a player with this stat line is a bust. Well, MCW’s rookie season is where he peaked. His stats and usage would only go down from the 2013-14 season to now.

 

MCW’s second season was also a solid season. Prior to the beginning of the 2014-15 season MCW underwent a shoulder surgery that forced him to miss the beginning of the season. He would come back on November 13th, and make his season debut against the Mavericks. In that game he tallied nineteen points, eight rebounds, and five assists. By the end of MCW’s second season he was averaging 14.6 points per game, 6.7 assists per game, and 5.3 rebounds per game. He also racked up two triple-doubles in his second season, giving him five career triple-doubles in his first two seasons.

 

The Beginning of the End

On February 19, 2015 Michael Carter-Williams found himself in a position that most NBA players dread being in. MCW was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks. In the 2015-16 season MCW  found himself missing five of the first nine games of the season due to an ankle injury. After returning to play on November 14th, MCW continued to start for the Bucks but was soon moved to the bench on November 29th. Jerryd Bayless would take his spot after MCW began to show he wasn’t good enough to be the starting point guard spot. On March 7, MCW was ruled out for the rest of the 2015-16 season with a torn labrum in his left hip. He finished the 2015-16 season averaging 11.5 points per game, 5.2 assists per game, and 5.1 rebounds per game.

 

Traded Again

On October 17, 2016 Michael Carter Williams was traded to the Chicago Bulls for Tony Snell. MCW’s debut for the Bulls consisted of five points, six rebounds, and three assists coming off the bench. Later that season on November 1, 2016, MCW was ruled out to miss four to six weeks of game time due to a bone bruise on his knee and a wrist sprain. MCW finished the 2016-17 season with measly averages per game. MCW averaged 6.6 points per game, 2.5 assists per game, and 3.4 rebounds per game. These totals aren’t even the worst of his career. In just his next season his totals went down even more.

Michael Carter-Williams Bulls
The Runner Sports

A New Team, Once Again

Michael Carter Williams’ tenure with the Bulls only lasted one season. After the 2016-17 season MCW thought a change of scenery would be best for his career and signed with the Charlotte Hornets for the 2017-18 NBA season. MCW hoped to find that spark he had with Philly in his rookie season in Charlotte but unfortunately for him, he never did. MCW performed poorly the whole season and on March 9, 2018, MCW found himself ruled out for the rest of the season with ANOTHER injury. This time the injury was a labral tear in his left shoulder. He finished the season with insanely mediocre stats per game. At the end of the 2017-18 season MCW averaged 4.6 points per game, 2.2 assists per game, and 2.7 rebounds per game. MCW averaged these stats while playing in only 52 games on the season.

 

New Beginnings

For some busts the cause of death for their basketball career is health. That seems to be the case for MCW as he can’t seem to get away from the injury bug. In hopes to revive his once solid NBA career MCW signed with the Houston Rockets on July 6, 2018,  for the upcoming 2018-19 NBA season. MCW has shown once before that he has the talent to be a solid player in the league, and with him still being a young player, there is time for him to turn his career around if he can stay healthy. Let’s just hope for MCW’s sake, playing for a good team under a good coach allows him to have a breakout season and hopefully bring the title of, “Bust” off of his name.

The most untouchable player for every Eastern Conference team

Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons

This is it. We can do this, ladies and gentlemen. Free agency is winding down, the NBA draft has been done for what seems like ages, and summer league is wrapping up as well.

Now more than ever, we need thought provoking NBA content. Well, say no more fam.

 

1. Atlanta Hawks – Trae Young

When I first glanced at this roster, I threw up a little in my mouth. But then I took a deep breath, dry heaved some more and decided to look again. Things aren’t as bleak as they seem.

Trae Young, John Collins, Taurean Prince, Kevin Huerter. The Hawks have the start of something promising or at the very least, intriguing. Is anyone on this roster truly untouchable? Probably not. Still, with management trading back and still drafting Trae Young, all signs point to him as being the least likely to be traded.

 

2. Boston Celtics – Jayson Tatum

The rookie standout is the obvious answer here. Do the Celtics want to trade any of their core? Nope. Still, I cannot imagine Danny Ainge trading Tatum for any realistic option out there right now. (Anthony Davis cannot come to the Cs via a DPE rule.)

Tatum’s duel with LeBron in the game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final is something we could see in a 30 for 30 one day. The kid is that special.

 

3. Brooklyn Nets – Jarrett Allen

Just when I thought I was done throwing up…

All jokes aside, the Nets are finally headed in the right direction. They own their future picks and have acquired then developed some good prospects. Spencer Dinwiddie revived his career in Brooklyn, and other reclamation projects await.

Jarrett Allen has looked like a good gamble so far. There is a reason he only played 20 minutes per game last year but, his per-36 minutes suggest a bright future lies ahead.

Per 36 Minutes Table
Season Age Tm G FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% FT FTA FT% TRB AST STL BLK PTS
2017-18 19 BRK 72 5.8 9.9 .589 0.1 0.4 .333 2.8 3.7 .776 9.7 1.2 0.7 2.2 14.7
Career 72 5.8 9.9 .589 0.1 0.4 .333 2.8 3.7 .776 9.7 1.2 0.7 2.2 14.7
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/16/2018.

4. Charlotte Hornets – Miles Bridges

So this is the question: What makes Miles Bridges more untradable than Malik Monk?

Monk had a disappointing rookie season. Sure, he showed flashes during the last month or so of the season. Yet, Monk proved to be more of a project than what scouts originally thought.

Bridges may not project as the safer long term prospect however, he has a two-way ceiling higher than Monk’s. Offensively, Bridges looks to be equally as dynamic as Monk, despite these two having different skill sets. It is on the defensive side of the ball where Bridges separates himself, as he has the potential to defend four positions on the court.

 

5. Chicago Bulls – Wendell Carter Jr.

I struggled with this selection as well. Lauri Markkanen set rookie records for three-pointers last year. Plus, Coach Hoiberg ran a bunch of the offense through him, something that displayed Markkanen’s playmaking ability. So why did I side with Carter Jr here?

Lauri Markkanen may learn NBA defensive spacing but, he simply lacks to physical tools to be an effective two-way player. With the game getting quicker, I can imagine future playoff scenarios where Markkanen gets played off of the court. Who does Markkanen guard when a team like the Sixers trots out Embiid, Simmons, Redick, Fultz and Covington. Carter Jr won’t ever get played off of the court. His three-point stroke and playmaking look to be just as good as Markkanen’s as well.

 

6. Cleveland Cavaliers – Collin Sexton

Has anyone made an “I wanna Sexton you up” meme yet? No? Great.

Cleveland has players that are the opposite of untouchable. They should be looking to gain value for Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson and others. Yet, Sexton remains untouchable. The former Alabama guard is a locker room blessing. Sexton can reset the culture in Cleveland while becoming their point guard of the future. Cedi Osman was in contention here as well.

 

7. Detroit Pistons – Andre Drummond

If I were the GM of the Detroit Pistons, Andre Drummond would not be untouchable. That does mean I would be looking to unload him however, I prefer my centers to be able to switch pick and rolls, as well as space the court. Yet, Drummond is probably the most unlikely player Detroit is willing to part with.

Blake Griffin was a Stan Van Gundy guy, not someone new management particularly wanted. I am not suggesting his trade value is high enough to warrant a move but, crazier things have happened. This summer, Drummond has posted videos on his Instagram account draining threes. Perhaps he will bring this skill to the Pistons this year, and truly earn this hypothetical untouchable title.

 

8. Indiana Pacers – Victor Oladipo

I won’t get into too much detail about this because Josh Eberly of HOOPmag already did it for me:

9. Miami Heat – Josh Richardson

Why not first time All-Star and former All-NBAer Goran Dragic? Dragic can opt out of his contract after next season and will be a 33-year-old point guard. If anything, Miami should be tryingto ship Dragic off to a fringe contender looking for that next piece.

Bam Adebayo came to mind here but, paint protecting rim runners are becoming easier and easier to find nowadays. 24-year-old defensive wings who drain 37% of their threes and hit 45% from the field are not easy to find, however. Throw in Richardson’s cheap contract and Miami has a piece they should hold onto.

 

10. Milwaukee Bucks – Giannia Antetokounmpo

Ask Tim Hardaway Jr to explain this one.

11. New York Knicks – Kristaps Porzingis

Want to know how many NBA players shot 39% from deep last year while also blocking 2.4 shots per game? One. Don’t overthink this one, people. Kevin Knox will be an awesome player and is on a cheap deal. Frankie Smokes is already an elite perimeter defender with promising offensive development. Still, KP is the way to go here.

 

12. Orlando Magic – Mo Bamba

Rookies seem to be dominating this list, and I do not know if I am comfortable with that.

Aaron Gordon took a step forward with his three-point shooting ability last season yet, he still has so much more to develop if he wants to truly take advantage of his elite athleticism. With both Bamba and Jonathan Isaac looking great in summer league, I would move off of Gordon for a top-20 pick.

Jonathan Isaac has shown promise lately however, he does not have the ceiling that Bamba has. Bamba is the most boom or bust player of this bunch, but Orlando needs a star and Bamba is worth making untouchable.

 

13. Philadelphia 76ers – Ben Simmons

Let the debate begin!

I love Embiid’s game and potential. In my opinion, he has a higher ceiling than Simmons. Embiid could be an MVP and  DPOY winner. Yet, I like my untouchable players to be on the court. Out of 328 possible regular season games, Embiid has played 94 of them. Folks, he has only played in 28 percent of his games. Unfortunately, 7’1″, 260 lbs centers tend to progress towards injuries, not away from them.

Ben Simmons has an MVP ceiling as well. At one point during his career he will be the best passer in the game. Defensively, he can be elite too. Simmons has all the tools to be transcendent and a gambling man will bet that Simmons will find a way to fix that jumper. Factor in his health, and Simmons is my pick here, although I would not trade either.

 

14. Toronto Raptors – No one

Why should anyone on this roster be untouchable? Toronto is at a crossroads. With LeBron out of the East, they need to take a risk and go all in.

I have been a fan of the “DeMar for Kawhi” fake trades. Kawhi is simply a better player than DeMar DeRozan and would raise Toronto’s chances of winning. If the team can package Lowry and other assets for an upgrade, do it. Could they need to sell off OG and other young prospects for an experienced difference maker? Go for it.

If not now, when? Toronto has a very small window to win. If there is a move out there that makes them better for even one season, they must do it.

 

15. Washington Wizards – Bradley Beal

Surprised you, right?

Bradley Beal had a better year than John Wall last year, straight up.

Per Game Table
Rk Player Season Age GS FG FGA FG% 3P 3PA 3P% eFG% FT% TRB AST STL BLK PTS
1 Bradley Beal 2017-18 24 82 8.3 18.1 .460 2.4 6.5 .375 .527 .793 4.4 4.5 1.2 0.4 22.6
2 John Wall 2017-18 27 41 6.8 16.3 .420 1.5 4.1 .371 .466 .726 3.7 9.6 1.4 1.1 19.4
Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/16/2018.

 

I will take Beal’s numbers here over Wall’s any day of the week. Plus, Washington should be looking to move off of Wall’s contract. John Wall will be paid $37 million dollars in 2019-2020. Compare that to Beal who will be making $10 million less! Remember when I was throwing up earlier…

…John Wall will be making $43 million when he is 31-years-old! That type of money cripples franchises from making other important acquisitions. The point guard position is the saturated one in the game today, making Wall expendable in the long term. Bradley Beal is the guy to hang onto.

Creating the best NBA Lineup from this year’s Rookies

Jaren Jackson Jr.

The third edition of the “Creating NBA Lineups” column is here! Make sure to check out the first and second edition of the column at the bottom of the page after reading this post. This week, the rule is to create the best NBA lineup from this year’s rookie class. Although it may seem easy to just plug in the top picks from the draft, the lineup is a lot more complicated than it may seem.

 

PG: Luka Doncic

Point guard or shooting guard. Whatever you want to call him. Luka Doncic is going to be special. Being the Most Valuable Player in the second-best basketball league in the world is no small feat at 19 years old. Doncic can do it all on the offensive side of the ball. His ability to create for himself and his teammates is impressive at such a young age. Doncic is the perfect player to lead this fictional lineup to the top.

 

SG: Troy Brown

Shooting guard was the toughest position to choose. I decided to put Doncic at point guard, and with all the offensive potential this team will have at the other positions, a versatile defender fits right in at the two. Brown is a competitive, young player out of Oregon. He has upside on offense, but he will make an immediate impact on the defensive side of the ball. Brown can guard one through four at all times and that versatility makes him a perfect fit on this team.

 

SF: Miles Bridges

Miles Bridges will be a great small forward in the NBA, with the potential to turn into a star. Bridges can fill it up on offense, with unlimited scoring potential. His defensive potential gives him the chance to play the four in small-ball lineups. In addition, he will feed off Doncic nicely, who will get him a lot of open looks.

Miles Bridges
USA Today Sports

PF: Jaren Jackson Jr.

Jaren Jackson Jr. is cut from a different cloth. The dude is all defense and effort. Oh, and by the way, he can shoot threes too. Jackson Jr. has the ability to switch one through five, giving him great value to any team. With his physicality and body type, Jackson Jr. will give this lineup a lockdown defender that can stretch the floor.

 

C: DeAndre Ayton

DeAndre Ayton is a flat out beast. The dude is huge. He has all the physical traits necessary to succeed in the NBA. Ayton was the easy choice at center for this fictional team as he gives the squad a low-post scorer with the ability to knock down shots. Ayton will also be the main rebounder on the team, something they lack at the other positions.

 

Recap:

It’s quite the team that can be created from NBA rookies. While each rookie goes to their separate team, combining rookies onto one team can make a very scary lineup. This team has it all. There is flair, shooting, defense, versatility, rebounding, and much more. It could take some time for the team to develop, but once they do, nobody is stopping them, not even Golden State.

Be sure to check out Edition One and Edition Two of the column!