[Editors Note: be sure to check out Mike Schreiner’s look back at the Cavs’ deadline deals also from this morning]
four point play….
1. Well, that was fun? Jonathan Simmons, a 2020 Thunder first round pick, and a future second rounder. That was the price for the 2017 number one overall pick, Markelle Fultz. What an abject disaster.
It’s not like I am the biggest fan of “The Process” and Sam Hinkie. I’m a bigger proponent of “The Process” than I am of Hinkie as his drafting was, er, questionable. Still, the fact that so many years of Process got so horribly destroyed because of Fultz’s inability to play professional basketball is extremely disappointing. Poor Sixers fans.
An optimistic fan may look at the new starting lineup of Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, Jimmy Butler, JJ Redick, and Ben Simmons and think, “sheesh, we have a chance to compete with the Warriors!”
A pessimistic fan would look at Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris as two unrestricted free agents seeking max deals, one of whom the Sixers would like to keep, and the other…? I mean, would you like to play with Butler?
Again all of this is rather silly to discuss before the playoffs work themselves out. There is a chance that the Sixers use their huge starting lineup to rip through the East before shocking the Golden state Warriors in the Finals.
I don’t see that happening, but they surely have the talent and the multiple ball-handlers necessary to puncture a Warriors defense. Clearly, the summer’s outlook would be a little different if they were to be defending champions. But let’s be real. They could as easily lose to the Raptors, Bucks, or Celtics before the Eastern Conference Finals even begin.
Considering the prime position the Sixers were in before the 2017 draft, it is quite the bummer that the 2019 Playoffs are already an All-In proposition. Fultz. Man, what a whiff.
2. Up North, the Raptors surprised quite a few people by acquiring Marc Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies. I have seen many people roughly equate Gasol to Jonas Valanciunas. Yes, they’re both large European centers with a soft touch around the rim. Neither is going to beat a wing in an agility test.
Other than that, they are drastically different players. Before Gasol sprained his ankle on Nov 27, he was having a dominant season at 34 years old. It lingered for a solid two months. He seems to be rounding into shape over the last two weeks. If he can regain some of his early season touch, watch out.
There is no way to be sure that Gasol will stay healthy thus maximizing the benefit of this trade, but assuming he is for the playoffs, Gasol provides the Raptors a defensive force in the paint.
Somehow Gasol is still underrated as a defender. Yes, he has lost a step as he enters his mid 30s, but his brilliance has never been based on athleticism. It has always manifested itself through angle and play recognition, active hands, and defensive leadership. Remember this is a man who anchored a great defense paired with Zach Randolph.
Those Memphis teams gave the proto-Warriors a lot of trouble. He was able to stay on the floor against the Warriors, albeit as a younger man, because of his smarts and incredible defensive intelligence. Gasol is still sporting good efficiency numbers on the defensive end this season despite his injury issues.
The Raptors much upgraded their roster by exchanging Valanciunas for Gasol. Jonas can be a beast on the block, and he has extended his range over the last few seasons, but he has never truly understood how to consistently leverage his post play with play-making. Defensively, he has also improved, but he has never approached the high level thinking of Marc Gasol in Pick and Roll defense.
In order to get out of the East, the Raptors will likely have to beat Joel Embiid. Gasol gives the Raptors a two-way center that can stay on the floor against the likes of Embiid, Lopez, and Horford, while not having to dominate the rock like Valanciunas is wont to do. Gasol’s play-making nature should fit right in with Nick Nurse’s offensive game plan.
For those concerned with how he will handle a reduced load, I ask you with this: Do you really think Nurse is going to play Ibaka over Gasol in crunch time? Ibaka is a fine player, but he is best suited at the five, doesn’t switch onto smaller players anymore, and contrary to popular opinion, is no longer a great defender.
If you are going to have to employ show and recover on defense for your five man anyway, I would rather do it with Gasol than Ibaka. Gasol, Siakam, Leonard, Green, and Lowry. The ball moving and intelligence of that lineup is absolutely staggering. I expect the raptors to play incredibly well post trade.
3. Another big Eastern Conference winner of the 2019 trade deadline was the Milwaukee Bucks. By acquiring Nikola Mirotic, the Bucks further diversified their line-up possibilities adding still more shooting to surround Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Mirotic isn’t exactly an elite shooter, but he does have unlimited range and can get incredibly hot. He was a monster in last year’s Western Conference Playoffs for the Pelicans. He is also a slightly underrated defender, not because he is actively good, but because he isn’t quite the sieve that most people considered him to be upon entering the league.
Mirotic is also a good rebounder to pair with Brook Lopez. Side-note: Brook Lopez is a great rebounder even if his counting numbers do not reflect it. His teams’ rebounding rate has always been massively better with Lopez on the floor. He is a master at boxing out. A 7’0″ Delly, if you will. Combining Lopez and Mirotic should really help the Bucks on the glass.
Mirotic’s size also gives the Bucks the option of playing him at center, maintaining the floor spacing they have with Lopez, while adding more positional flexibility and speed to chase opposing stretch fives. The Bucks have quietly been the most consistently elite team in the NBA. Adding Mirotic should only help them going down the stretch.
4. I would like to take this moment to laugh and think negative thoughts about the Los Angeles Lakers. Take your time, I’ll give you a minute…
I’m having some mad Schadenfreude here thinking about LeBron in that purple and yellow nonsense (that isn’t gold). I still think LeBron is likely to go down as the best player of all time. I still appreciate all of the joy that LeBron brought Cleveland, and respect his agency to choose his future. But, boy is it nice not to have to deal with all of that LeBron-centric noise!
The Pelicans absolutely made the correct decision in not trading Anthony Davis to the Lakers mid-season. Even if Davis suffers a severe injury, he is going to have incredible trade value over the summer. There is risk involved in letting him play, but the team must do so in order to maintain good faith throughout the league.
Potential free agents can certainly understand the Pelicans’ reticence to trade Davis to the Lakers mid-season, but they would be far less forgiving if the Pelicans were to actively shut him down for the rest of this season against his will.
I won’t get into any potential deals the Pelicans may have this summer as it has been covered ad nauseam, but I will say that I don’t quite see the point of pairing Kyrie Irving with Anthony Davis if those are the only two good players left on the roster post trade.
They are both great players, but the league has clearly shown us that multiple high level players are necessary in order to compete for a championship. I also don’t quite understand why the Pelicans have not been better than they have if Davis really has the “it” factor to accompany his immense talent. Hmm. We shall leave him for another day.
Bonus: I am very happy for Iman Shumpert and Kenneth Faried. By joining the Houston Rockets, those limited players are able to showcase the best of their talents while hiding some of the largest flaws.
Houston is essentially the only place where Faried can really thrive in the modern NBA. James Harden makes any rim running big man with energy look like a good NBA player.
The way their defense switches and swarms in its generally mediocre fashion helps to hide Faried’s limitations as an interior stopper. Similarly, Iman Shumpert has trouble with high-level defensive X and O execution. The Rockets mostly stick to a switch everything scheme with only a few rules about where to send drives, and how to execute a “help-switch”.
Shumpert should be able to get a decent grasp of that relatively quickly. He must be able to play at least as well as Gerald Green has on the defensive end of the floor. At times, Shumpert will be able to display his good one-on-one defense further promoting the myth that he is a good all-around defender.
Mike D’Antoni will allow him the chance to shoot every single three he wants as long as he never dribbles more than three times. D’Antoni will make it very clear that Shump is absolutely forbidden to take his pet mid-range jumpers off the dribble. Since everyone on the team but Paul and Harden is also forbidden, maybe Shump will finally learn. If Shump can internalize that change, he can be the best version of himself in Houston. Good luck, buddy.