How the Kevin Love Contract Affects the Rest of the NBA

 

In a nightmarish offseason where they saw their greatest player in franchise history leave for a second time, Cleveland was not been fazed and has turned their attention towards their new franchise cornerstone. The Cavaliers have signed All-Star forward Kevin Love to a four-year extension that will pay him around $30 million annually. While this signing has obvious implications for Cleveland, it also has a broad impact across many teams and events in the NBA.

 

The Teams Affected:

 

The Cavs:

After losing LeBron to LA, Cleveland was left with more questions than answers in regards to the direction of the team. The series of deals they made at the trade deadline last season did not pan out as they hoped, and as a result they are left with an core consisting of Love and a group of average role players. Players such as JR Smith and George Hill will fetch almost nothing in the trade market due to their large contracts, but they can still contribute to the Cavs.  

 

In addition to their plethora of overpaid vets, young players such as Larry Nance Jr., Rodney Hood, and Collin Sexton create a youthful core that should Cavaliers fans hope. While this  roster situation gives Cleveland the tempting option to tank, they are choosing to stay competitive in a weak Eastern Conference.

 

However, the most important aspect of this deal is the flexibility the Cavaliers now have. It is clear now that they are going to attempt to stay competitive this year, and if that works out then they can ride this core and gradually try to acquire talent around Love. Although, if this experiment fails, Cleveland now has a very tradable contract that they can deal and jumpstart the rebuilding process.

 

The Atlanta Hawks:

In the deal that sent sharpshooter Kyle Korver to the Cavaliers, the Hawks obtained Cleveland’s 2019 unprotected first round pick. If the Cavaliers had chosen to blow the team up and rebuild, this would have been an extremely valuable pick. However, now that it is clear that is not the direction the team is headed in, the pick becomes less enticing to the retooling Hawks. Atlanta is probably the most negatively impacted team by this extension.

 

The Teams Competing for the Eighth Seed in the East:

Before diving into this let’s examine my current power rankings in the Eastern Conference.

  1. Boston Celtics
  2. Philadelphia 76ers
  3. Toronto Raptors
  4. Indiana Pacers
  5. Milwaukee Bucks
  6. Washington Wizards
  7. Miami Heat
  8. ?????????

I can not overemphasize just how open the race for the eighth spot in the East is right now. Any number of teams could be forgoing tanking in hopes of treating their fan base to a playoff appearance. For the franchises looking to do just that, their competition just got a little tougher. If the players on Cleveland’s roster can return to the excellent form many of them showed, which is a big if, they have the talent to compete for any of the bottom four playoff spots in the East. Because of this, teams like the Knicks or Bulls are likely unhappy that the Cavaliers are refusing to blow up the team.

 

Any Team That Needs a Stretch Four Who Can Score and Pass at a High Level:

The reason that this deal was unpopular to may was in large part due to what was perceived as a massive pay raise for Love. However, he is only making six million more in his extension than he will this season. Because of this, the narrative that the contract is untradable is entirely untrue.

 

Love is now a very intriguing trade piece to those teams in need of a big man. Teams such as Portland or Toronto, who before may have viewed a trade of this nature as a one year rental, now would receive Love under contract for four years which is much more attractive to potential trade partners. If the Cavaliers are struggling around the trade deadline, and a team believes they are an All-Star away from competing for a championship, I would not be surprised if Love was traded.

 

Other Fun Things That are a Result of the Extension:

 

The NBA might get to see Minnesota-era Kevin Love Again:

After four years in Cleveland where Love struggled with a reduced role and injuries, many NBA fans have forgotten how good he was in Minnessota. Over six seasons Love was the star of six bad teams in Minnesota and put up some crazy stats. As a 22 year old he led the league in rebounding at 15.2 per game while also scoring 20 points per game. He was a lethal scorer and a fantastic playmaker. Now that he is going to be in the spotlight once again in the midwest, it will be interesting to see if he can return to his previous form.

 

2019 Free Agency:

This year’s cycle of free agency resulted in an unprecedented number of players taking one year contracts with the hope of fetching more money next offseason. Because of this, 2019 free agency is now set to have an unusual amount of talent. The problem with this resides in the money teams will have to spend.

 

The projected cap in the 2019-2020 season is $108 million and as a result NBA teams will not have an abundance of money to spend on free agents. When taking these factors into account, it becomes clear that some players are going to have to settle for less money than they may had hoped.

 

Before his extension, Love could have opted into free agency next year, and likely would have received close to a max contract. Thanks to the new contract, that max money will be opened up to be spent on other players.

 

It is pretty insane how just one contract extension can impact so many aspects of a multi-billion dollar industry. Kevin Love is now one of the richest men in the NBA, and the league is altered because of it.

 

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What is Next for the Raptors?

I hope Kawhi Leonard has his passport ready, because he is headed north of the border. Following months of rumors that bounced between LA, Philadelphia, and Boston, the Spurs finally found their ideal trade package with the Raptors.

 

In the deal, that has reportedly been agreed to in principle per Woj, Leonard and Danny Green will be sent to Toronto in exchange for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a heavily protected 2019 first rounder. This trade can be viewed as a win for both teams for a variety of reasons.

 

It was widely reported throughout this process that the Spurs were seeking a package of an All-Star talent and young players in return for Leonard. This package meets all of their requirements. DeRozan is a four-time All-Star and is coming off of one of the best seasons of his career. Jakob Poeltl, a former number nine overall pick, is still only 22 and will have plenty of opportunities to develop in coach Popovich’s system.

 

With that being said, what does this trade mean for Toronto? In the short term, it shuffles up a team that was clearly in need of some changes. Even though DeRozan was coming off one of his best seasons, it had become clear that his style of play does not translate to playoff basketball.

 

In a point in time where the three point shot is crucial, DeRozan only attempted 3.6 threes per game, which was a career high. For a shooting guard who’s best attribute is his scoring, the lack of an outside shot limited his effectiveness at times.   

 

Replacing Poeltl and DeRozan with Danny Green and Leonard will be a significant upgrade, even if it is only for a year. Leonard is essentially DeRozan but more versatile. He is a career 39% three point shooter who, when healthy, is the best defender in the NBA. Adding him to the deepest team in the NBA could reinsert the Raptors into the conversation as Eastern Conference favorites. Danny Green is a knockdown shooter and an excellent perimeter defender which is the perfect player for a contending team to have.

 

As far as on the court production goes, swapping DeRozan for Leonard is at worst a slight upgrade, and adding Danny Green into the starting lineup will result in significant improvement on the wing. Losing Poeltl is a blow to the bench that was the most productive in the league, but the Raptors are deep enough that they will likely not experience an imense drop off. The NBA is in an era where teams can never have enough perimeter defenders, and the Raptors have now added two of the best.

 

Despite the on-court upgrade this trade creates, the biggest benefit is the newfound flexibility the Raptors now have. After locking Kyle Lowry and DeRozan into expensive long-term deals, Toronto was all in on the current core and had no flexibility to do much of anything. By getting DeRozan’s contract off the books the Raptors have now created two potential timelines.

 

The first of which revolves around the success of this core in the upcoming season. If they mesh together really well, and make a playoff run, it may be enough to convince Kawhi to sign a long-term extension in Toronto. This would mean the Raptors would be able to be contenders in the Eastern Conference for the foreseeable future, which would be a win for the franchise.

 

The other scenario that could play out is Kawhi deciding he still wants to leave for LA, and making this a one year rental situation. Which would not be a terrible situation for Toronto. If it becomes clear that the current core needs to be blown up, it will be much easier to do while only having one max contract on your books as opposed to two.

 

Taking this all into consideration, this was a trade the Raptors needed to make. It is a low-risk, high-reward deal that could make the Raptors front office look like geniuses in a few years, or one that could make the dismantling of a stagnant team a little easier.

 

It is Time to Blow up the Cavaliers’ Roster

Sorry Cleveland sports fans, the day you feared has finally come for a second time. LeBron James is now officially a Los Angeles Laker and has left the safety of his home state for the allure of Hollywood. As a result, a new era has begun for the Cavaliers. It is time for Dan Gilbert to press that big red button in his office and blow the team up to start rebuilding.

 

   LeBron did not leave an easy situation for the Cavs front office to deal with. Going into next year, Cleveland is paying five players who will be  30 years old or older by the start of next season. Four of these players are getting paid 14 or more million dollars, and only one of them was a significant contributor during the Cavaliers’ finals run. This results in a very tough situation that will likely require a series of deals in order to even begin what will be a massive rebuild.

 

The first opportunity to shed salary that Cleveland should examine is trading Kevin Love. Love was acquired shortly after LeBron returned from Miami and was a solid contributor on all four finals teams. His production fell off a little in the playoffs this year, but he should still have decent market value.

 

Cavaliers receive: Evan Turner, Zach Collins, Wade Baldwin IV, Unprotected 2019 first round pick

Blazers receive: Kevin Love, Ante Zizic

 

This trade would be beneficial for both sides. Portland would unload that awful Evan Turner contract, even though they had to package some valuable assets to do it, and would receive Kevin Love in return. This would form a very solid big three in Portland who would become even more competitive in an increasingly tough Western Conference.

 

From Cleveland’s point of view, they should be attempting to acquire as many assets as possible in return for their current roster. Kevin Love is no longer valuable to them as they begin to retool, and getting a draft pick and multiple young players should be viewed as a win for them. The 2019 pick is especially important because their own first round pick this year is in the hands of Atlanta after the Kyle Korver trade. Speaking of Kyle Korver, that is who they should trade next.

 

Cleveland receives: Alexis Ajinca, Cheick Diallo, 2020 second round pick

New Orleans receives: Kyle Korver

Korver is a 37 sharpshooter who can still be very useful off the bench for a playoff team. This is what makes him a perfect fit in New Orleans. If DeMarcus Cousins returns to the Pelicans, they will be in desperate need of shooting to surround him and Anthony Davis especially due to their signing of Elfrid Payton. Kyle Korver would fill that role very well. Cleveland also would benefit, as they unload Korver for assets and only take on an expiring contract in return.

 

After these two deals is where it gets complicated. Cleveland would likely want to move JR Smith and George Hill, but both of them have huge contracts that are unlikely to be traded on their own. If I were the Cavaliers I would cut Smith, and continue to explore possible trades for Hill. One of which involves the Denver Nuggets.

 

Cleveland Receives: Kenneth Faried, Malik Beasley

Denver Receives: George Hill, Miami’s 2024 second round pick

Denver has been trying to move Faried’s contract for multiple years, and they would finally accomplish that by giving him a new start in Cleveland and receiving  much-needed point guard help in return. Cleveland would get Malik Beasley, who was a borderline lottery talent a couple years ago, and Cleveland would only have to surrender a future second rounder in order to unload Hill’s contract. Denver accepting this deal would hinge on what direction they are looking to take with their young guards. They attempted to play Jamal Murray at the point, but he was clearly more suited for shooting guard. This move would give the Nuggets more options as they could start Hill, or bring him off the bench as a very expensive backup.

 

As a result of these deals, here is what the Cavalier’s future would resemble:

 

Starting Lineup:

PG: Collin Sexton

SG: Jordan Clarkson

SF: Evan Turner

PF: Kenneth Faried/Larry Nance Jr.

C: Zach Collins

 

This is certainly a downgrade from the championship winning team they had just a few years ago, but their future is far less bleak than when LeBron left for the first time. Sexton will have ample opportunity to develop, Zach Collins will get a real shot to prove his worth, and Kenneth Faried will finally get the second chance he has been looking for. As a whole, this is a pretty good deal for everyone involved. Except for Evan Turner, I feel bad for Evan Turner.

 

NBA Draft Reaction and Team Grades

As the draft approached, it was widely publicized that this year was expected to be one of the most unpredictable in recent memory. While it may not have lived up to those lofty expectations, each team has now made moves that they feel will enable their franchise to take the next step towards success. Whether your team picked their franchise center, an undersized volume-shooting point guard, or a former top recruit who fell due to injury concerns, your team believes it is now better positioned than it was a few days ago. However, that is not always the case which is reflected in our post-draft grades.

 

Atlanta Hawks-

First Round: Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, Omari Spellman

Ok I love Trae Young’s potential, and if Doncic was not still on the board at that point it might not have been a bad pick. However, considering they gave up the chance to select Doncic and only got a future pick in return it does not make much sense to me. In regards to their later picks, I am not too high on Kevin Huerter because he was not even the best player on an average Maryland team this year. Omari Spellman does have the potential to be a prototype for the modern NBA big man, but he probably should have stayed one more year at Villanova and will be a year or two away from contributing. Fortunately, the Hawks have time to wait.  

Grade: C

 

Boston Celtics-

First Round: Robert Williams

Robert Williams, who was considered a potential lottery pick up until he fell down the draft boards on Thursday, miraculously fell to Boston at 27 and it might be the perfect situation for both sides. Williams is an elite shot blocker with massive defensive potential and will be able to come in and contribute on that end of the floor right away. He is also a solid rim runner who could develop into a great pick and roll weapon for Kyrie and Rozier. As a whole his offensive game is raw and there are concerns about his health and character; therefore, he will likely need a year or two to polish his offensive repertoire and mature. However with Brad Stevens leading the way,  anything is possible.

Grade: A

 

Brooklyn Nets-

First Round: Dzanan Musa

Second Round: Rodions Kurucs

 Both of Brooklyn’s picks this year were from overseas and they selected players with extremely high potential. Musa is an offensive weapon that after a couple years of adapting to the physicality of the NBA could be a straight up assassin on that end of the floor. Kurucs, who played sparingly for Barcelona this year, has potential to be a very solid rotation player and is  a borderline first round talent at pick 40.

Grade: B+

 

Charlotte Hornets-

First Round: Miles Bridges

Second Round: Devonte’ Graham, Arnoldas Kulboka

The Hornets started off their night by selecting Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the player they knew the Clippers wanted, in order to get two more second round picks and only move back one spot to pick Miles Bridges. Bridges underperformed in his sophomore season at Michigan State, but I think a lot of people will be surprised by how good he ends up being. He is a prototypical stretch four skillset although he is a little undersized and could play SF if he improves his quickness. Graham was the best player on Kansas’ final four team and, some would argue, in the entire country. It is not hard to see a timeline in which the former four-star point guard will be a successful pro. Charlotte will stash Kulboka for at least a year, but he is a 6’10 wing who will have ample opportunities to develop in Lithuania.

Grade: B+

 

Chicago Bulls-

First Round: Wendell Carter Jr., Chandler Hutchison

Chicago was a mixed bag on draft night. Wendell Carter Jr. was the best prospect available at that point in the draft so that was the best pick even though it creates a very crowded frontcourt. Carter was in Bagley’s, and to a lesser extent Grayson Allen’s, shadow at Duke and it has become clear we have yet to see the best of Wendell Carter’s game. Lauri Markkanen and Carter would be a fantastic frontcourt for the modern NBA, and should be super fun to watch. On the other end of the first round, I was not a fan of the Hutchinson selection. According to Woj, the Bulls had promised to select Hutchinson at this point over a month ago, which is something I do not understand at all. At 22 years old, I simply do not think he has the polish to warrant a first round selection. However, if the Bulls promised to take him so early in the process it is likely they see something in him that I do not.

Grade: B-

 

Cleveland Cavaliers-

First Round: Collin Sexton

This pick shows the Cavs are prepping once again for an era without LeBron. Sexton is a ball-dominant guard who can create his own shot and is a tenacious defender. If he is able to develop a three-point shot he could easily be an All-Star one day, and if not he is at worst a Patrick Beverly type player. However, if LeBron does return, Sexton could have a tough time carving out a role on offense as he needs the ball in his hands to be effective.

Grade: A-

 

Dallas Mavericks-

First Round: Luka Doncic

Second Round: Jalen Brunson, Ray Spalding, Kostas Antetokounmpo

I absolutely love what Dallas did in this draft. They gave up minimal assets to move up two spots and select Doncic, who I consider the best prospect in the draft, who will make a dynamic backcourt with Dennis Smith Jr. which instantly makes them a top five League Pass team. Jalen Brunson, the Wooden award winner this season,  is a low-risk high-reward pick who could develop into a starting point guard in the right situation. Ray Spalding and Kostas Antetokounmpo are lengthy big men who are young and full of potential. Rick Carlile finally has some young assets again and it will be extremely fun to see how he develops them.

Grade: A+

 

Denver Nuggets-

First Round: Michael Porter Jr.

Second Round: Jarred Vanderbilt, Justin Jackson, Thomas Welsh

After a dismal 2017 draft where Denver traded Donovan Mitchell for Tyler Lydon, the Nuggets are gambling once again. Porter, once the top recruit in the country, slipped in this draft due to injury concerns around his back. Porter is one of the most talented players in this draft so if he is able to get healthy, he could be the steal of this draft. In the second round, Denver first selected Jared Vanderbilt, a former five-star forward recruit that struggled with injuries while at Kentucky. He is a low-risk, high-reward pick for the Nuggets. Keeping with the current theme, Justin Jackson was hurt for the majority of his sophomore year but would have likely been a first round pick if he came out after his freshman season. Thomas Welsh is an intriguing prospect that averaged a double-double and shot 40% from three in his senior season. If this draft class is able to get healthy, they could be the biggest winners from this draft.

Grade: B+

 

Detroit Pistons-

Second Round: Khyri Thomas, Bruce Brown

Despite not having a first round pick, the Pistons were able to select two first round talents. Both Khyri Thomas and Bruce Brown were extremely productive players in college and address positions of need within Detroit’s organization. Brown and Thomas spent multiple years in college and are seasoned vets that with time to develop could be contributors in the future for the Pistons.

Grade: A

 

Golden State Warriors-

First Round: Jacob Evans

The Warriors need more guard depth and they attempted to address this by selecting Jacob Evans. Evans was a star on Cincinnati’s best team in a while and has the potential to be a solid pro player. He is a lockdown defender who posted a 88.3 defensive rating his junior year, and may be able to contribute to the Warriors second unit right away.

Grade: B

 

Houston Rockets-

Second Round: De’Anthony Melton

De’Anthony Melton is a do it all guard who is a great value pick at 46. He can do a little bit of everything, including defend at a high level. The major question mark for Melton is his shooting as he only shot 28% from three so he will not be incredibly useful in Houston’s offense

Grade: B-

 

Indiana Pacers-

First Round: Aaron Holiday

Second Round: Alize Johnson

Aaron Holiday, the third Holiday brother to be in the NBA, was one of the more polarizing prospects in the draft. Some mock drafts had him in the mid-teens while some had him falling to the second round. He is an undersized guard who can score in bunches and is a decent playmaker who recorded 5.8 assists per game at UCLA. This does address a need for Indiana, as they do need point guard depth, but it might have been a reach at this point in the draft. Alize Johnson was a star at Missouri State who averaged a double double and shot almost 40% from three last year, so he could end up being a quality prospect if his game translates to the NBA.

Grade: B-

 

Los Angeles Clippers-

First Round: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jerome Robinson

Going into the draft the Clippers were in a very nice situation with back to back picks in the late lottery. However, their use of them was less than optimal. After being forced to surrender two second rounders in order to pick Gilgeous-Alexander, who the Hornets had selected, they reached on the next pick for Jerome Robinson. I am not too high on either of these prospects, as both have big question marks, and in the case of Robinson, could have been selected later in the draft. I am not saying Robinson won’t be a solid NBA player, but I would have selected a player like Lonnie Walker or Zhaire Smith before him. With back to back first round picks, taking the risk on Michael Porter Jr. might not have been a bad idea either.

Grade: D-

 

Los Angeles Lakers-

First Round: Moritz Wagner

Second Round: Isaac Bonga, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk

The Lakers are likely gonna be making headlines all offseason, but they did not do anything notable on draft night. Moritz Wagner was a very productive player at Michigan, but the German big man may struggle with the quickness of the NBA game and I would not have used a first round pick on him. Isaac Bonga is a draft and stash player who is only 18 and full of potential. If he can fill into an NBA-ready body, look for him to make an impact in a couple years. At Kansas, Mykhailiuk was a very productive player with above-average athleticism and a solid three-point shot. Out of these three picks, Bonga is the only one I can clearly being a game changer.

Grade: C-

 

Memphis Grizzlies-

First Round: Jaren Jackson Jr.

Second Round: Jevon Carter

In the hours leading up to the draft, trade rumors were running wild around the Grizzlies’ fourth overall pick. They reportedly were looking to unload Chandler Parsons’ contract and move down into the middle of the lottery. However, they decided to remain where they were and select their big man of the future. Jackson is a perfect fit for the modern NBA big man. He has all of the tools to be an elite defender, and also shoots at a high clip from three. In the early second round they selected former West Virginia star Jevon Carter which I think is a great pick. Carter is a plus defender who can knock down open shots as well. He is a great fit for the Grizzlies and will come in to contribute immediately.

Grade: A

 

Miami Heat-

Grade: I mean….. They didn’t pick anyone so C I guess??

 

Milwaukee Bucks-

First Round: Donte DiVincenzo

The Bucks used their 17th pick on this year’s final four Most Valuable Player. DiVincenzo is an extremely athletic guard who can score from anywhere on the floor. He rode the momentum he gained from a dominant championship run at Villanova through the pre-draft process into the top 20 of the draft. That being said, I think 17 was too high of a pick for him. Especially with a player like Lonnie Walker IV still on the board. Milwaukee lacks backcourt depth, and DiVencenzo will likely be asked to do a lot early in his career. Coach Budenholzer has shown that he is good at developing his young players, so this might be a good situation for DiVincenzo to thrive.

Grade: C

 

Minnesota Timberwolves-

First Round: Josh Okogie

Second Round: Keita Bates-Diop

After Jamal Crawford opted out of his contract for next year, the Timberwolves were in desperate need of wing players off the bench. Minnesota took a step to addressing these issues by drafting two extremely talented players that play on the wing. Okogie is a super tough and talented defender who can also score his fair share of points. He did struggle with playmaking and only averaged 2.5 assists in his career, and he likely only has the size to play the lead guard. Bates-Diop was a star on a surprisingly good Ohio State team this year who has excellent size for an NBA wing. The reigning Big Ten Player of the Year scores and rebounds well and was a steal for the mid-second round.

Grade: B+

 

New Orleans Pelicans-

Second Round: Tony Carr

The Pelicans’ only pick in the draft was the 21st spot in the second round. However, they were able to get extremely good value for their pick. Carr is a tall point guard who was extremely productive at Penn State and began appearing on draft boards  late this year. Carr is a 40% three-point shooter, but he struggles to finish inside as he shot worse from inside the arc than out. If he can develop some inside touch and improve his playmaking, Carr could be a very good point guard one day.

Grade: A-

 

New York Knicks-

First Round: Kevin Knox

Second Round: Mitchell Robinson

If you told a Knicks fan one year ago that they would get two former five-star recruits in this year’s draft they would likely be ecstatic. Kevin Knox, a lengthy forward with shooting range, is one of the most underrated prospects in this year’s draft class who underperformed at Kentucky in part because he was asked to do to much. Next year with a more focussed role, I expect Knox to flourish and within a few years develop into a quality NBA player. The selection of Mitchell Robinson in the early second round is one that should get Knicks fans excited. Robinson committed to Western Kentucky before suddenly quitting the team and never playing a minute of college basketball. His high school tape shows that he could already be a solid shot blocker and inside finisher, but we have yet to see him against anything close to NBA competition. If he lives up to his five-star label, then the Knicks could be the biggest winners of the draft.

Grade: A-

 

Oklahoma City Thunder:

Second Round: Devon Hall, Kevin Hervey

The Thunder took two flyers on experienced college stars with very different backstories. Hall was a key piece to an elite UVA basketball team that was at the forefront of national coverage for each of his for seasons. This was a significant difference from Hervey who spent four years at Texas-Arlington which has not made the NCAA tournament since 2008. Both players had solid college careers and skill sets that will likely translate to the next level. Considering the Thunder want to be contenders, spending their second round picks on polished veterans was probably the right way to go.

Grade: B

 

Orlando Magic:

First Round: Mohamed Bamba

Second Round: Melvin Frazier Jr.

Due to a series of questionable roster moves, the Magic have a surplus of frontcourt players and have now added one more. Bamba is a questionable fit due to the Magic’s current roster situation, and Orlando will likely make a couple of deals to trade away players like Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo. If they are able to do this it creates an exciting and big frontcourt of Jonathan Isaac, Aaron Gordon, and Bamba; which is young and super versatile. Melvin Frazier was a solid guard for Tulane this year, but he lacks shooting range which is something he will need to develop in order to contribute to the Magic.  

Grade: B-

 

Philadelphia 76ers:

First Round: Zhaire Smith, Landry Shamet

Second Round: Shake Milton

After the unfortunate situation with Colangelo, Philadelphia was left without a GM. Coach Brett Brown stepped in in the interim, but he did not have the luxury of scouting these players all year and that was reflected in his drafting. After selecting Mikal Bridges with the tenth pick, they quickly flipped  him for Zhaire Smith and a future pick. Smith is a super athletic guard who played center in high school and is a great defender. His offensive game needs significant work which is why I question this selection by the 76ers because they are in win-now mode and need someone to contribute immediately. Picking Shamet in the late first round was a big reach according to most mock drafts and they might have been wiser to trade back into the second round if they really wanted him. Shake Milton was the one pick they made that I liked. Milton did everything at SMU and can score at all three levels, along with passing and rebounding at a high level. All three of these pick could be asked to contribute as early as next year depending on the health of Markelle Fultz and the 76ers’ choices in free agency.

Grade: C

 

Phoenix Suns-

First Round: DeAndre Ayton, Mikal Bridges

Second Round: Elie Okobo, George King

The Suns started off the night by doing the predictable and selecting DeAndre Ayton who will likely end up being a very good NBA player. However, it is what they did with the rest of the draft that led to them possibly winning the night. By trading for Bridges they acquired one of the most NBA-ready players in the entire draft who has a very high floor as a prospect. Elie Okobo was considered the second best international prospect in the draft and it was very surprising that he fell to the second round. It is great news for the Suns though, as they now have an intriguing option at point guard if they fail to resign Elfrid Payton. King is a more questionable pick who will require significant development before contributing.

Grade: A

 

Portland Trail Blazers-

First Round: Anfernee Simons

Second Round: Gary Trent Jr.

The Trail Blazers used both of their first round picks to select two young guards. Anfernee Simons opted to enter the draft out of IMG academy this year despite the fact that he likely would have been a lottery pick next year. He landed in a good situation in Portland where he will be able to develop slowly and be mentored by two fantastic guards. Trent is more prepared to contribute immediately as he was a sharpshooting role player on Duke this year. I would have possibly selected a big man with one of the picks to make up for the potential loss of Nurkic, but other than that they drafted well.

Grade: B

 

Sacramento Kings-

First Round: Marvin Bagley III

For years the Kings have been labeled one of the most dysfunctional NBA franchise in the league. After bouncing back and forth between multiple prospects, they finally focussed in on Marvin Bagley III, a selection I do not agree with. Bagley has some very questionable aspects to his game, including a suspect jumpshot and his defense. Selecting him over Doncic is just not something I can agree with at all. However, I do think there is a very good chance he will be at least a starter in the NBA, I just would have picked Doncic.

Grade: C+

 

San Antonio Spurs-

First Round: Lonnie Walker IV

Second Round: Chimezie Metu

Thanks to the Kawhi Leonard situation the Spurs are experiencing there first organizational dysfunction in a long time. Despite this, they may have struck gold in this year’s draft. Lonnie Walker is a super athletic guard who defends at a high level. He fell in the draft for unknown reasons, but if it is not something Popovich is worried about then I’m sure it is no big deal. Metu is a highly athletic big man who blocked almost two shots per game last year. However, he will have to develop significantly on the offensive side of the floor if he hopes to contribute at the NBA level.

Grade: A-

 

Toronto Raptors-

Grade: No picks, C

 

Utah Jazz-

First Round: Grayson Allen

Second Round: Vincent Edwards

I am not super high on Grayson Allen as an NBA player. Not to mention all of the on-court drama he creates, he is not a great defender and will likely be a liability on that side of the floor. However, he does score at a high level and if he is only used as an instant offense off the bench player he may thrive in Salt Lake City. Vincent Edwards was a key contributor on a very good Perdue basketball team. He has good size for an NBA wing and shoots an excellent percentage from three. That being said, he is probably a year away from being a rotation player.

Grade: C-

 

Washington Wizards-

First Round: Troy Brown

Second Round: Issuf Sanon

I can not get over the fact that the Wizards did not pick Robert Williams with the 15th pick. He is the perfect big for their system, and he would have thrived catching lobs from John Wall next year. However, they went in the direction of Troy Brown, a point guard in high school who has developed into a skilled defender and a good ball handler but lacks an outside jumper. If he can develop the jumpshot, Brown could end up being a very good pick. The Wizards also managed to reach with their second round pick by selecting Sanon, who will be stashed in Europe for the foreseeable future. They made this pick despite players like Keita Bates-Diop still being on the board.

Grade: D

 

What is the Worst Team LeBron Could Take to the Finals?

Over his 15 year career, LeBron James has played over 44,000 minutes, and over 10,000 of them have been in the playoffs. For the majority of those minutes, it is safe to say that James was the best player on the court. James has been to finals nine times, including the last eight in a row; however, his greatest achievement might be carrying the Cavaliers squad to the finals this year.

A team that has a supporting cast of a struggling Kevin Love and not much else should not be able to advance that far. A team that had to rely on Jeff Green to win an Eastern Conference Finals game seven should not be able to advance that far. However, with that being said, they made it that far. It is obvious that this is in large part to the heroics of LeBron who has cemented himself into the greatest of all time conversation.  

After taking into account how mediocre this Cleveland supporting cast was, it leads to questions being asked about how bad a team would have to be to keep LeBron out of the finals. Let’s find out! I will examine the first seven lottery team’s roster situations, insert LeBron into the picture, and then predict how far he could carry them. This will hopefully show how teams that may have narrowly missed the playoffs, could be transformed by one player.

The Denver Nuggets:

Projected Starting Lineup-

PG: Jamal Murray

SG: Gary Harris

SF: LeBron James

PF: Paul Millsap

C: Nikola Jokic

6th man: Will Barton

This would be an extremely fun team. The Nuggets have one of the more promising young squads in the NBA. A backcourt of Murray and Harris, with a combined age of 43, would be an extremely capable shot-making duo who would be able to provide their fair share of scoring. However, what would truly make this team dangerous would be James’ frontcourt teammates. Millsap and Jokic are the ideal big men to play next to LeBron as both are fantastic passers and can stretch the floor. Cleveland struggled this year with providing enough offensive firepower to support LeBron. This would not be an issue for this new Nuggets team, as their top seven players all shot 34% or better from three point territory. The main concern with this team would be their defense. Nobody in this starting lineup is a lockdown defender, so the Nuggets would likely  have an offensive shootout most games which would be an issue against Houston or Golden State. Despite their defensive deficiencies, I think this team would be very successful.

Ceiling: Western Conference Finals

The Los Angeles Clippers:

Projected Starting Lineup-

PG: Patrick Beverley

SG: Avery Bradley

SF: Lebron James

PF: Tobias Harris

C: DeAndre Jordan

6th Man: Lou Williams

Adding LeBron to this roster would result in one of the most formidable defensive teams in the league. Each member of the starting lineup, with the exception of Harris, has appeared on the All-Defensive first team at some point of their career. These four players would help create the defensive force that would basically be a better version of this year’s Cavaliers team. Despite having to carry a similar offensive load, James would have much more margin for error due to a vastly improved defense. This squad would also be extremely deep with productive role players such as Lou Williams, Milos Teodosic, and Danilo Gallinari taking some of the pressure off of LeBron’s shoulders. Similar to the Nuggets, this is likely a team that would could win a series against any team except the Rockets or Warriors, but they would probably be able to make the series competitive against either team.  

Ceiling: Western Conference Finals

The Detroit Pistons:

Starting Lineup-

PG: Reggie Jackson

SG: Reggie Bullock  

SF: LeBron James

PF: Blake Griffin

C: Andre Drummond

6th Man: Stanley Johnson

This team is certainly polarizing. The frontcourt is All-Star laden, and would likely shoulder the majority of playmaking. However, the backcourt is not great and Reggie Jackson would not be an ideal point guard to play around James. However, if  he could return to the form that he played with in OKC while alongside Durant I might be wrong. The other main concern for this team would be injuries. Blake Griffin and Reggie Jackson both missed significant parts of last year due to injuries, and Griffin especially has had issues with staying healthy. Furthermore, the the depth on this team would also be of concern. Only one player off the bench scores in double figures, but if Stanley Johnson can realize the potential that was expected of him coming out of Arizona the bench unit should be fine in the playoffs. Therefore, since they are in the Eastern Conference, they would at least be in contention for the finals.

Ceiling: Finals

The Charlotte Hornets:

Projected Starting Lineup-

PG: Kemba Walker

SG: Jeremy Lamb

SF: LeBron James

PF: Marvin Williams

C: Dwight Howard

6th Man: Frank Kaminsky

Two years ago the Hornets were a promising team led by emerging young star Kemba Walker. Now, after a series of bad trades and ill-advised contract extensions, Charlotte is in a tricky spot where they are not bad enough to rebuild but also in no position to acquire elite talent. Acquiring LeBron would undoubtedly put this team over the hump. Kemba Walker is a star that is exceptional at creating his own shot. He would fill the role that Dwayne Wade and Kyrie Irving had on LeBron’s former superteams. Lamb and Williams would provide defensive versatility and floor spacing, both of which make LeBron’s life easier. Dwight Howard would likely be the X-factor on this team. Howard has showed an unwillingness to conform to a smaller role when playing alongside other stars which would not fly on a LeBron-led team. However, if LeBron is able to keep Howard in check, it would not be surprising to see this team make a run through the Eastern Conference.

Ceiling: Finals

The Los Angeles Lakers:

Projected Starting Lineup-

PG: Lonzo Ball

SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

SF: Brandon Ingram

PF: LeBron James

C: Brook Lopez

6th Man: Kyle Kuzma

This is the one and only team in the lottery that has a legitimate shot at landing LeBron in free agency this year. While if he did choose to go to LA the roster would look nothing like this; however, let’s imagine it did. The main thing that jumps out immediately would be the youth. Excluding LeBron, the average age of this starting lineup is 23. They are extremely talented young players but young nonetheless. They would have to rely on a bunch of 25 and under role players to be consistent in the playoffs, which is likely too much to ask. However, the talent would be very enticing. Ball’s court vision and ability to make amazing passes would pair wonderfully with LeBron’s skillset, and Ingram would likely be the beneficiary of double teams brought to LeBron. Young players off the bench such as Julius Randle and Kyle Kuzma would also be excellent weapons for LeBron to have at his disposal. Despite these positives, this team would likely be a year or two away from title contention.

Ceiling: Western Conference Semifinals  

The New York Knicks:

Projected Starting Lineup-

PG: Jarrett Jack

SG: Tim Hardaway Jr.

SF: LeBron James

PF: Kristaps Porzingis

C: Enes Kanter

6th Man: Courtney Lee

This team would be very similar to this year’s Cavaliers team except the defense would be even worse. A backcourt of Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jarrett Jack would likely provide the same impact offensively as George Hill and JR Smith, but their defense would be worse. Neither of them posted a defensive rating under 113 this season. Kristaps would probably be a similar player to Kevin Love when paired with LeBron, and Enes Kanter is a terrific offensive player but his defense is atrocious. Since this team is in the Eastern Conference I could see LeBron  just barely dragging this team to the finals, similar to this year.

Ceiling: Finals, maybe?

The Brooklyn Nets:

Projected Starting Lineup-

PG: Spencer Dinwiddie

SG: D’Angelo Russell

SF: LeBron James

PF: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

C: Jarrett Allen

6th Man: Jeremy Lin

This Nets team would be in a comparable situation to the Lakers but with less talent. D’Angelo Russell has loads of unrealized potential, and Jarrett Allen looks like he may one day be a star, but they are not at points in their careers where they could make an impact on a playoff team. While the team would not have a ton of high-end talent, they do have 7-8 players who are all rotation-caliber NBA players which would help ease the load for LeBron. However, depth does not play a huge role in the playoffs which is why I think this is a team that LeBron could not carry to the finals, even in the East.

Ceiling: Eastern Conference Finals

The first conclusion to draw from all of this is that LeBron James is very good at basketball, and adding him to any team would drastically improve the status of that franchise. Despite this, there is clearly a tipping point where even LeBron would struggle. However, LeBron fans should be comforted because no matter where he ends up  this offseason, he will be in a much better situation than any of these seven teams.