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.

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Can Mario Hezonja reach his potential in New York?

Mario Hezonja

Out of the prospects carefully selected by the Orlando Magic in the 10 years leading into the 2018 draft spectacle, only Aaron Gordon (2014) and Jonathan Isaac (2017) remain a part of the team.

Be it through substandard form or simply not wanting to stick around, the rest are gone. Mario Hezonja added his name to the list of players that have bolted from Florida this summer, a list that includes an All-Star in Victor Oladipo and solid pieces like Courtney Lee and Domantas Sabonis.

The 23-year-old was a polarizing figure in his three seasons for the Magic, who often seemed (rightfully) underwhelmed with the production their former fifth pick was providing. They demonstrated their displeasure by declining the Croatian’s 2018-19 team option, allowing him to make his way to the Big Apple on a 1-year, $6.5 million deal.

With a dearth of young talent, Orlando may have been wise to try and hang on to Hezonja, but that’s in the past. Now, the Knicks – who have had trouble developing stars of their own – get a crack at molding the disappointing lottery pick into a stud.

He may have a below par player for the majority of his career,  but in the final knockings of his Magic career,  the 6-foot-8 wing showed some of the promise that fans had expected from day dot. Over the final 10 games of the season, Hezonja was finally let loose, averaging 13.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.8 steals per game while shooting a very respectable 37.7 percent from behind the 3-point arc.

Take those numbers, and add in the elite-level 100.9 defensive rating that he was pumping out during that time frame, and it’s easy to see the very real 3-and-D upside that Hezonja possesses. That’s the version of him New York Knicks fans want to see.

When speaking with Stefan Bondy from Daily News, new Knicks head coach David Fizdale gave a ringing endorsement of his new man – despite his sub-par first three seasons.

“It’s so easy to write a kid off after a couple years. But any one of you and me when we were 18 to 21 were jerks. Let’s be real about that,” Fizdale said. “So a lot of times we discard these players and this kid still has a lot of things as he showed at the end of the year. Although he had struggled, it finally started to pick up.”

With a healthy Kristaps Porzinigis, a defensive stud in Frank Ntilikina and this year’s lottery pick Kevin Knox likely littering the starting line-up, Super Mario forecasts to replace Michael Beasley as New York’s bench gunner. If New York opts to go small and start Knox at the power forward position, Hezonja may just find himself in the starting unit come opening night.

A starting role might be exactly what Hezonja needs. He was given minimal opportunities in Orlando, starting just 41 out of a possible 219 outings. 30 of those appearances came in 2017-18, and he looked like a whole other player when he was given the starting nod. The 23-year-old averaged 14 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists in the first five, which should give Knicks fans great hope about his future.

The best part for New York general manager Scott Perry is that even if Super Mario isn’t quite as super as they expected, they can simply let him walk next summer when his deal expires. If Hezonja does slash through that ‘bust’ label, the Knicks will be in pole position to re-sign him. Win-win.

 “No judgment. I’m not going to look back at your past for any negatives. I want to start from scratch and develop you and play you … That’s all he was asking for was a fresh start and being a place where he was valued and people cared about him. I think it’s going to be a good relationship.” Fizdale told Daily News

With a run of form behind him, a coach who has his back and a big role to fill, Mario Hezonja looks like he is on track for his best season yet. Spike Lee is going to like this kid.


Next Post: Under the radar Kawhi Leonard Trade Possibilities

Free Agency Devastation

LeBron James Heat

NBA free agency is almost here and with it brings the anticipation of new players your team might bring into the fold. It provides the ultimate joy when the superstar player chooses your team. That feeling of being chosen by someone so talented and powerful is only trumped by the thought of what is to come next. Then, there is the other side of free agency. The emotions of agony and anxiousness as the pillar of your franchise faces that giant fork in the road. One turn, continues a familiar journey with the same team and fan base he has guided for so long and the other is leaving it behind for a new challenge and what he might deem to be greener pastures. Just like the exhilaration of being chosen by the star is powerful, the feeling of getting left behind is just as strong. While this mass player movement is a relatively new phenomenon in the NBA, in this article we are going to dive into the five most devastating free agency decisions ever.  

 

5. Carlos Boozer, 2004

Boozer makes this list for two reasons. First, this was one of the greatest double crosses in NBA history. Cleveland had decided to make Boozer a restricted free agent in order to sign him to a long-term deal the two sides had agreed upon. Reports are that Boozer and then Cavs GM John Paxson even shook on a deal, but then Utah comes with an offer the Cavs can’t match due to salary cap rules at the time. Boozer runs out of Cleveland and has a great run with Utah. Secondly, if Boozer had decided to stay, the entire NBA landscape might have turned out differently. People forget how good Boozer actually was. This is a guy who averaged 19 and 10 in his six seasons in Utah. Add Boozer’s prime years with those Cavs teams and they might have had more success therefore erasing LeBron’s departure.

 

4. Steve Nash, 2004

We have a second 2004 free agency appearance here as Steve Nash decided to take his awe-inspiring passes to Phoenix. Mark Cuban passed on giving Nash a long-term contract at age 30 and Phoenix swooped in with a six-year deal. While Dallas fans never loved Nash like Dirk, it has to be hard watching your star PG leave and win two MVP awards and steal headlines for years with his incredible passes. While some will point to Mike D’Antoni’s system in why Nash exploded I still think Mark Cuban would like to take this decision back.

 

3. Shaquille O’Neal, 1996

The Magic won 60 games and made the NBA Finals in Shaq’s last year. The team was looking ahead to a bright future with a then 24-year-old Shaq at the helm. The Lakers that summer had already made a significant move trading for the rights to someone named Kobe Bryant and then went out and outbid Orlando for the superstar center. Shaq signed a seven-year, $120 million contract and the rest is history. This plummeted Orlando into a sea of mediocrity for several years and then bottoming out in the 2003-04 season with a measly 21 wins before being fortunate enough to draft a young man named Dwight Howard. I would feel even worse for Orlando, but they have Disney World so I don’t feel as bad.

Shaq Lakers
Bleacher Report

2. LeBron James, 2010

While this was technically a sign-and-trade between Miami and Cleveland, it makes the list considering there was an hour long television show just for James to announce he was leaving “The Land.” This one stung. King James took those talents to South Beach and left behind a truly devastated fan base. You always know when a players departure hits home hard when the reaction upon their first return is as hostile as the one James endured. Not only that, but the letter from Dan Gilbert only fueled the fire in Cleveland’s agony. The Cavs immediately became one of the worst teams in the league and were unwatchable the next season.  

 

1. Kevin Durant, 2016

This one was truly crushing. This one tops the list because Kevin Durant’s departure meant not only pain for OKC, but for the entire league. The entire NBA world was disappointed in this decision and after the last two seasons we can see why. The NBA is as scripted as ever with Durant leaving to form the ultimate super team in Golden State, and they show little signs of slowing down. Durant left a title contending team with as passionate a fanbase as there is in the NBA to switch on to the squad who just came back down 3-1 to beat him. If that isn’t a gut-punch to fans, I don’t know what is.

 

There it is. That’s the list. As free agency soon begins, I hope none of you are devastated in the ways these five moves made their fans feel. However, it is free agency which spells joy for one and doom for another. Good luck, have fun and may the free agency gods be ever in your favor.