four point play….
1. Are the Cavaliers going to compete for the 2019 playoffs, or will Dan Gilbert and Koby Altman do their best to subtly keep their Top 10 protected first round pick? The more I have thought about it over the summer, the more I have quietly hoped that the Cavs would grit, grind, and shoot their way to an 8th seed.
A lineup featuring George Hill, Cedi Osman, Kyle Korver, Kevin Love, and Larry Nance has the intellect, shooting, and defensive acumen to be a tough first round opponent. Love and Korver would do their screen dance while Nance and Cedi dope fools on hard baseline action. Love and Nance could own the offensive glass, and Osman’s unleashed PnR game would open cross-court three bombs from Kyle Korver.
Alas, the rumors of a Kyle Korver for Jarrd Bayless swap with the Sixers quickly aroused me from my optimistic daydreaming. The trade seems to already be agreed upon and is only being postponed for accounting reasons. Sure, the deal could fall through, but the rumor has already done enough to clarify the Cavs’ intentions.
There is no world in which Jarrd Bayless is a better player than Kyle Korver. Even if the Sixers are willing to include a reasonably valuable pick, this trade screams “we do right by our veterans” with a pinch of “Hey, Koby! Who’s the smallest ball dominant shooting guard out there who shows just enough to get people excited, but is ultimately a negative player?” Mr. Gilbert, may I present to you one Jerryd Bayless!
Really, it’s a solid move if you are looking to tank. The Cavs probably should be looking to lose for all the reasons we have discussed. It’s just a drag.
Cavs fans have allowed themselves to be delusional following LeBron’s departures. While there is absolutely more talent on the roster this time around, the coaching staff could be equally putrid. The player selection philosophy remains flawed, and the East isn’t the garbage pit that many would like to believe.
We can use this time to imagine a season in which Ty Lue shows his true colors as a leader of men, a season featuring our beloved Cedi Osman at 35 mpg, Kevin Love rocking 25, 14, and five assists, Larry Nance drilling corner threes and rim-rocking dudes at the cup, and Collin Sexton sliding his heels on the defensive end.
It is a possible scenario, if unlikely. There is a path for this team to win 45 plus games if everything were to go correctly. A coherent offensive and defensive system might actually mitigate the train wreck that is Jordan Clarkson’s decision making.
Look. It’s July. We should be optimistic now. Even we pragmatists can enjoy a theoretical successful future. It’s just that we should be sure to read the writing on the wall, in whatever font it may appear.
2. One team that clearly decided against the tanking route is the San Antonio Spurs. It would be lovely to say that the drama involving Kawhi Leonard is finally over following the trade that sent him and Danny Green to Toronto for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Pöltl, and a protected first round pick. Of course it isn’t.
The NBA media still hasn’t heard a word from the Leonard in ages. “Sources” only say that he doesn’t want to play for the Raptors. Regardless, it seems highly unlikely that Leonard would forfeit his salary in order to sit out. The Raptors can simply fine him without any goodwill to lose. At this point, Leonard has to play, and play well, to salvage his reputation around the league.
No matter what, the guy will again be offered a large contract in the NBA. It just won’t be a Max unless he gets his house in order.
If he does, I like the trade for both teams. The Spurs weren’t being offered any of their targeted young players. Brandon Ingram was off the table for some time. Some say he was never on the table at all. The Sixers were never going to part with Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, or even Markelle Fultz.
One could argue that the Sixers were being ridiculous by not including Fultz, but they know more about the young man than anyone. Many around the league expect him to explode this season. I’m rather dubious of a legitimate explosion, but if Fultz can lose the Yips, he’s got a chance. Dude is extremely talented.
Apparently, the Celtics were never in serious talks with the Spurs. That leaves very few blue-chip prospects to be had. “Then they should have traded for picks and sent him to a bad team!”
Tell me which awful team is going to sacrifice its pick for a guy who clearly states that he wants to go to L.A.. And tell me how the Spurs could benefit from the “awful team’s pick” if that team gains an MVP talent on their roster. All of a sudden, that pick isn’t so high.
Basically, the Spurs were out of great options and left with only decent ones. They have been trying to get out from under Danny Green’s contract for some time. Both Green and the Spurs were eager to move on. They accomplished that without actively antagonizing Green.
Acquiring DeMar DeRozan and Pöltl immediately upgrades their roster. Remember, Leonard only played nine games last season. Green is a much better defender than DeRozan, but even the harshest DeRozan critics don’t truly believe Green is the better player (it could have been a conversation five years ago). Pöltl is a very talented and smart defender. Offensively, he is an agile roller and adequate passer.
If both players are healthy, DeMar is nowhere near the player Leonard is. One forgets just how dominant Kawhi was in 2016-2017. Had he not gotten injured against the Dubs, the current NBA landscape likely looks very different. His Spurs consistently destroyed much of what the Dubs like to do. He was absolutely the best player on that floor before he was Zaza-ed.
Still, much of Leonard’s success can be traced back to his incredible work ethic combined with supreme coaching. DeMar also has a great work ethic (he doesn’t approach Leonard’s on-court tenacity, but he does work his game hard every off-season), though DeRozan has never had the Spurs’ shot doctor, Chip Engelland at his disposal.
Considering DeMar is a supreme mid-range shooter, I find it hard to believe that Engelland can’t help him improve greatly in the one area of his offensive game that is lacking, the three ball.
Defensively, the Spurs have shown an ability to plug just about anybody into their system with good results. Team defense is pretty darn easy when everyone knows exactly what they are suppose to do. The Spurs don’t leave that to chance. While other coaching staffs forego practice on a regular basis, the Spurs practice and get their players rest by sitting them out for games. Argue against that philosophy if you want, but it has resulted in winning basketball.
It will be interesting to see how LaMarcus Aldridge reacts to the new offensive totem pole. There is likely to be some annoyance as they try to mesh their games. Annoyance or not, the Spurs will win 50 games. Again.
3. The Raptors side of this is both a larger gamble, but relatively low risk. That doesn’t make a lot of sense on the surface, but basically the Raptors now have a championship ceiling that they didn’t have before. Whether Nick Nurse is up to the task or not remains to be seen.
The huge win for the Raptors, beyond the potential of a fully engaged MVP season from Leonard, is that they didn’t have to part with OG Anunoby or Pascal Siakam. Let’s assume those guys continue their development as shooters and elite defenders. A lineup of Lowry, Green, Leonard, Anunoby, and Siakam could legitimately match-up with any small ball unit in the NBA, including the Warriors’
Worst case scenario for the Raptors is that Leonard doesn’t play for whatever reason he can come up with, and he leaves in the off-season. DeRozan was probably overpaid as a Raptor. Opening up that salary isn’t the worst idea idea in the world.
I sincerely hope Leonard conquers whatever injury and/or weirdness that has dogged him this last year. I’d much rather cheer from the Raptors in the NBA Finals than the Boston Celtics. Of course, if the previously mentioned trade goes through, we might find ourselves cheering for Kyle Korver’s Sixers.
4. Since I’ve already used the umlaut with Pöltl, I probably should make a quick reference to the Dennis Schöder trade to the OKC Thunder. On one hand, it could be nice for Dennis to run with some real talent for the first time since his rookie year. On the other hand, every skilled ball-handler who plays on a roster with Russell Westbrook gets tossed into obscurity.
If the Thunder can find a way to actually give Dennis the rock, the NBA might be in for a surprise. There is potential for the Thunder to simply let Dennis play like Russell. He could end up dropping 18 ppg off the bench.
Unfortunately, it is more likely that Schröder is just marginalized like every other secondary point guard that Russ has played with.
It’s an easy move for the Thunder. Ditching Carmelo Anthony’s contract while actually acquiring a talented player is a huge victory. Let’s be real. Ditching Anthony’s contract was already a huge victory.
What’s going on with K.J. McDaniels? Can Altman finally make Nate and me happy? If the Cavs aren’t going to win a lot, they will need to at least have some entertaining high flyers. Who’s your random Cavs dream guy you have loved for years?