Anyone trying to settle into a calm summer after a disastrous bore of a playoff season was in for a surprise as the NBA turned into an episode of the Young and Restless. Players moved. Money was thrown around. The East got worse. The West became insane. No one even remembers the season that was Russell Westbrook and James Harden. Or, that the Warriors are chasing rings while the rest of the league is chasing them. The NBA didn’t sleep and it was supposed to be the off-season. A lot was off. But it was still a season.
Everybody Loves Chris
The deal of the summer, Chris Paul to Houston, may not have changed what happens at the top of the west but it elevated the Rockets to, at the very least, the third seed, if not the second seed. It reminded GM’s that players do leave money on the table and that losing over a period of time with the same cast gets exhausting. Chris Paul said, “I haven’t been this excited about basketball in a while.” That, in itself, is an indictment of the Clippers and Doc Rivers. Their inability to deliver the supporting cast talent that Paul needed set the groundwork for Daryl Morey to make his move.
Chris Paul is the best point guard of his generation. Three of the last four years he has been a top-5 NBA player when measuring impact (Real Plus-Minus). In contrast, James Harden has only one top-5 finish (2014-15).
Chris Paul will help James Harden when Harden gets frozen in those pressure moments. Paul relishes pressure and everything on the line. Though it still is a work in progress how Harden and Paul will create chemistry when both like the ball in their hands, there is no question Chris Paul makes any team better with his toughness and skill. (C.J. Hampshire)
The Celtics Exhale
Gordon Hayward doesn’t make the Celtics the favorites to win the title and he doesn’t close the gap exponentially against LeBron James but the reputation of Danny Ainge was on the line for a few tense days. The past several years, Ainge built a good enough team but no one was exceptional. The Celtics didn’t have a bona fide star and Hayward still doesn’t yet qualify after just one breakout season. But Hayward is the talent the Celtics were seeking. He is a huge upgrade over Jae Crowder. He can drain the three, finish at the rim, he has a nice three ball game, his defense is improving and he is reunited with his college coach. But it is Ainge who is finally off the hook.
He traded the #1 pick in the draft who scouts agreed was a James Harden prototype. If Ainge failed at Hayward, all the Celtic chess moves would have meant nothing. From the looks of it, the Celtics #3 pick, Jayson Tatum, has strong NBA skills for a one year college player so everything has gone right so far for the Celtics. (Julian Billick)
Speaking Lonzo Into Existence
When the team president interviews your high school teachers you know he is serious about your character. Magic Johnson wanted to know what type of person Lonzo Ball was. He knew the talent. He knew the father. He heard the hype. He watched the college games. But who is Lonzo really? All the teachers repeated the same thing: leader, leader, leader. Ball’s summer league play sustained the college narrative. Brilliant passes. Control over the court. Vision to know when plays are going to happen. Ball delivery at the right time, in the right hands. Confident. Aggressive. Trusted.
Lonzo has defied his critics who said he didn’t get into the paint enough and derided his defense. He has displayed above average defensive energy on rotations and filled passing lanes. He is smarter than most of the point guards he is playing against and sizes up their mistakes before they even known they are about to make them. Then it is defense turned into offense and a long pass on a fast break.
Lonzo is a strong rebounding guard with a preternatural ability to be a part of every play, regardless of his impact, whether as a primary facilitator or a secondary one. He defines what a playmaker is supposed to be- you first, me second. It is a reminder of how point guards used to destroy their opponent back in the day. Watching Lonzo throw dimes around like candy, it is very easy to forget his self promoter of a father and that is a beautiful thing. (Valerie Morales)
Carmelo Is Still Here. Carmelo Is Still Here. Carmelo Is Still Here.
Why is Carmelo still a Knick when he was told he was going to be in Houston? You can thank Meyers Leonard’s contract. Leonard was the holdup in the tentative deal between the Rockets (Carmelo Anthony), the Blazers (Ryan Anderson), the Knicks (Meyers Leonard). The Knicks don’t want Leonard’s contact of $30 million, as if now they are suddenly interested in fiscal responsibility. It didn’t bother them when they were dropping bills on Tim Hardaway Jr. The new GM Scott Perry seems to think Carmelo can be converted or at least that is the current spin for the Knicks to explain this sudden pump the brakes moment. But there is no Carmelo conversion to be had.
There is only Carmelo goodbye. It is going to happen. The unknown is when, where and how. Carmelo has to get out of New York. He knows it and waived his no-trade clause so he could be reunited with his not favorite coach Mike D’Antoni. That is how desperate he is to flee. (Julian Billick)
Money, Happiness and Have You Lost Your Mind?
Jrue Holiday, who has won (8) playoff games, was rewarded with a $126 million dollar deal. The Wizards matched the Brooklyn Nets offer sheet and will pay Otto Porter $106 million because of one very good year. Tim Hardaway Jr. will get $71 million from the Knicks. In his four year career, Hardaway has scored 25 points or more 12 times. He has played in 281 NBA games, been a starter in 22% of games played.
Desperation seems the likely answer to what the hell GM’s? But the talent is so thin and the salary cap is so deep that above average players are getting treated like royalty. There are so few elite players, teams are anointing also-rans in the hopes that they will get better and develop into special. The players, naturally, are ecstatic. When Jrue Holiday sets the market for what marginally accomplished players are receiving, all the players win. The GM’s have to live and die with their hypocrisy. The way they threw money around this summer, over a billion dollars, they have no shame. (Brendan Gillespie)
Of Course The Kings Go Old While the Rest of The League Goes Young
The Sacramento Kings have been a joke for much of their recent history. When they decided to trade DeMarcus Cousins instead of paying him his $200 million dollar designated player extension it was so Sac town worst front office in the league move. They used part of Cousins money to pay a bunch of old retreads who can barely drop 13 points a game: Vince Carter and Zach Randolph.
The Kings had a good draft and so on the one hand, they have speedy De’Aaron Fox to pair with scorer Buddy Hield and big man Willie Cauley-Stein, on the other hand they round the group out with the geriatric bunch. Do the Kings have an identity? Do they even know how they want to play? Has it come to this, feasting off other team’s cast offs like a crow eats flesh, when you had the best center in the league? I guess so. (C.J. Hampshire)