Sorry, Mark! It’s just such a useful format, so I’m stealing it, just like first base on an errant pitch (I kinda like that rule change!).
This summer saw some of the most player movement (or, quality player movement) in NBA history: six of the fifteen 2018-19 All NBA players changed teams. TWO former MVPs changed teams, along with the player who was second in the MVP voting this year (Paul George). Chris Paul, the Point God, one of the best point guards in history, is on his fourth team, and might soon be on his fifth, if he’s traded again. Kawhi Leonard, a two-time Finals MVP (for two different teams), changed teams while simultaneously damaging the chances of two other competitor teams by making them wait out the furious opening frenzy of free agency. Marcus Morris changed teams twice, maybe even three times if he turned down a Clippers offer, too.
Now that the chaos has settled, here are some thoughts on each NBA team (in random order) and their offseason:
Let’s start with a thought for two teams. Since it doesn’t seem like anyone is excited about trading for Chris Paul, why not go for it if you’re the Thunder?
Send the Wizards multiple first round picks (the Thunder have a plethora, they could lose some and still be hella wealthy in first rounders) and some expiring contracts, and give the Thunder, and CP3, a chance to contend during a season without a dominant Warriors team. This season of the NBA could belong to ANYBODY. Why not the Thunder? Meanwhile, the Wizzle-Wazzles get to clear some salary and replenish their picks while they wait for Dr. John Wall to return and regain his form (...three years from now).
CP3, Bradley Kind of a Big Beal, Danilo Cincinattus Gallinari, Davis Never Missed! Bertans, and Steven Adams, with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and CJ Miles and Nerlens Noel on the bench. I think that’s a good team! Danilo is GOOD. CP3 is GOOD. Steven Adams is GOOD. Even if the Thunder don’t make another move, at all, they’re still going to be good because those three players are good. (Man, it sucks that OKC traded Jerami Grant. He’d look INCREDIBLE in this hypothetical lineup.)
The Wizards need to restock and they shouldn’t torture poor Brad Beal by making him play out this ridiculous string on this ridiculous team. What an utter disaster. Remember when they traded two valuable young wings for, uh, nothing and Trevor Ariza this past season? Remember Dwight Howard? BTW, Ian Mahinmi is still on the Wizards. Hahaha! What a great contract! Mahinmi’s agent should have a statue on the National Mall for getting that contract. His name should be taught to every school child.
Anyway, the Thunder could be good with very little cost, and the Wizards could be less spiders-in-your-underwear terrifying with a single good decision, about anything, even what to have for lunch. Just stop choosing the option that says “Demon Nightmare Papercut Kidney Stones Nixon-For-Life Anti-Basketball.” If you don’t choose that option, Washington, I guarantee you: things will improve.
George Hill is a 6-foot-3, 33-year-old point guard who shot 31% from three last season. He is NOT worth $9 million a year, and he’s not worth that for three years in a row. You can find George Hill’s production for MUCH less money. If Milwaukee hadn’t done this contract, maybe they don’t let Brogdon go? This is a serious miscalculation.
This also piggybacks onto the Eric Bledsoe contract, which isn’t bad, but Bledsoe doesn’t move the needle that much. Two replaceable guards instead of a good, young one, who is now on a direct competitor. I’d rather have Brogdon than Bledsoe and Hill, no matter what the situation.
Signing Kyle Korver was a good move, but the Bucks lost their best shooter (Brogdon, 40+ 3PT%), and kept/paid two sub-average ones. Korver can’t defend, and while he’s a great outside shooter, Brogdon had a better 3-point percentage than him last year.
I’d be VERY concerned if I were a Bucks fan. Brogdon is the EXACT type of player you want next to Giannis. I honestly would have chosen him over every other player on the Bucks roster to keep with Giannis. Oh well, hopefully it works out.
The Suns are owned by a terrible owner, and so nobody cares about them outside of Phoenix. People just wait for them to make stupid trades and stupid free agent signings and stupid coaching hires and stupid trades again. I could see them being a fun team: Ricky Rubio, Devin Booker, Kelly Oubre, Mikal Bridges, and Deandre Ayton. But, who cares? While Sarver owns the team, they’re trash, and not worth thinking about (except in fantasy!).
Jrue Holiday, JJ Redick, Brandon Ingram (hopefully), ZION WILLIAMSON, Derrick Favors, Lonzo Ball, E’Lite E’Twaun Moore, Josh Hart, Jaxson Hayes, and Jahlil Okafor.
That spells Playoff Team my friends.
Jeff Teague, Andrew Wiggins, Robert Covington, Noah Vonleh (?), and Karl Anthony-Towns, with Jarrett Culver and Josh Okogie, I guess?
That does not spell Playoff Team.
The best defense in the NBA. This team will be BRUTAL to play against. I anticipate big things for Zhaire Smith and Matisse Thybulle, and I think you can always trade for shooting during the season. Clippers-Sixers in the Finals?
There’s a good reason to watch this team, and that reason is “If you live in Cleveland.” If you don’t, there’s no reason to. They have a LOT of point guards on this team, which is really funny because there are cheap point guards everywhere in the NBA. Did you know that Cleveland only has three players on their roster with an SG or SF as their primary position? Is that good?
This team is getting Kristaps Porzingis back, and more/better Luka Doncic. JJ Barea is still here, phew!, and Boban signed with this feel-good Mavs team. If everyone’s healthy, and everyone clicks, this could be a playoff team, even in a loaded Western Conference. Luka’s that goddamn good.
(By the way, Seth Curry’s salary is $7.5 million, which is less than George Hill’s, and Seth Curry can shoot threes, and isn’t older than 30. Again, great job, Bucks!)
The thing about Miami is that they really do try to be New NBA and get Wings and Length and Athleticism and Shooting. But, they suck at it. Goran Dragic, Jimmy Butler, Justise Winslow, Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Bam Adebayo = snore, and What is that? Are they a playoff team? Sure, why not. Does anyone care? No, they do not. I like KZ Okpala, though.
So I guess the plan is for Nikola Vucevic, the Center, and Terrence Ross, the Shooting Guard, to space the floor for Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier, and Markelle Fultz to NOT shoot threes, while DJ Augustin, Al-Farouq Aminu, Jonathan Isaac, and Mo Bamba lock down opposing benches with their...uh...their, uh, their tenacity? Are those guys tenacious? I love Aminu but I...don’t know what he’s doing on this team…
I will say this: if Fultz has recovered (is no news good news?) and looks even a little bit like his old self, then the Magic will have an enchanted year. EVERYONE will root for the kid. When’s the last time we all felt that way about a basketball player? Linsanity? Let’s hope and pray for some Markelle Magic this year, because A) when Orlando’s good, they’re a coolass franchise to watch play basketball, and B) WHAT IF THEY BEAT BOSTON AND PHILLY IN THE PLAYOFFS, TOO SOON??? Revenge. Sweet, delicious, salting-the-Spartan-lands level revenge.
One of my favorite teams added one of my favorite players. Jerami Grant, traded from OKC for a draft pick, is 25, 6-foot-9, can guard all five positions, and is one of only 22 players last season to average 13+ PPG, 5+ rebounds per game, and 1+ block per game. Grant is one of the most efficient scorers IN THE NBA, and he’s one of the most versatile defenders, AND he’s young!
The Nuggets are adding a player you hope your first round draft pick develops into to this team: Jamal Murray, Will Barton, Golden Gary Harris, Paul Millsap, The Joker Nikola Jokic, and hopefully Michael Porter, Jr., AND Malik Beasley. This team is DANGEROUS. I’d like a better defensive backup Center, but aside from that, I think this team is legit, and could contend for the Western Conference Finals.
The sad part of this is that Jerami Grant is exactly the type of player that Sam Presti has been trying to draft his entire tenure: long, athletic, good defender, and hopefully learns to shoot. Well, Jerami Grant learned to shoot. If I’m a Thunder fan, I’m a little pissed off about trading him. You got a draft pick, but you have a ton already. A rebuilding Thunder team has no room for a 25 year old? If the Thunder don’t trade Grant, he’d have looked superb next to Gallinari. I just don’t know why you trade someone as young and as good as Jerami Grant. Oh well, good for Denver.
I don’t care about Hassan Whiteside, but I really like the acquisition of Kent Bazemore. Bazemore gives you an underappreciated player on the wing who can help alleviate the pressure on the backcourt masters, Maestro Dame Lillard, and C.J. McCollum, Fulfiller of Jennifer Challenges. They probably should have tried to get someone like Bojan Bogdanovic, but, y’know, ditto everyone. I still think they’re a player away. Someone like Tony Snell or Marcus Morris (lol) would be helpful. I can’t really tell if Portland improved their roster, though, which makes me think that it’s possible they got worse. Still, they deserve the benefit of the doubt, I think. The Blazers will be a very interesting team to watch this year.
Sooo, they’re not trading Kris Dunn? I really, really like the starting five of rookie Coby White, the Dentist Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Baron Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. They also have Tomas Satoransky, a vastly unappreciated fantasy gem during Dr. John Wall’s frequent trips to the DL. Is he the Bulls starting point guard, or is Dunn, or is White? I feel like it’s irresponsible to NOT trade Dunn, kind of like Charlotte not trading Kemba Walker when they knew he wouldn’t resign: you have a duty to get some kind of value out of a temporary asset, especially in Chicago’s case since they very publicly drafted a replacement for him, and THEN very publicly signed a free agent replacement for him. Dunn’s done, so get a deal done, too.
Regardless, this will be one of the very best fantasy teams, I think, especially if they’re allowed to run. In real life, the Bulls are in the same division as Giannis and the Bucks, and Dipo and the Pacers, and Blake and the Pistons (anti-jinx!), so while I’m pretty certain the Bulls will make the playoffs, I don’t think they’ll have a top seed.
This is a team ready to make trades. Andre Iguodala, Jonas Valanciunas, Solomon Hill, Miles Plumlee, Jae Crowder, and DWIGHT HOWARD. All of those players are older than 26, and all of them make more than $5 million, but less than $18 million, making them moveable. That leaves rookie Ja Morant at the point, with SlowMo Kyle Anderson, Tyus Jones, and Josh Jackson on the wing (or, trying to be), and the two young bigs, Jaren “3J” Jackson Jr., and Brandon Clarke in the front court. That’s the core group moving forward, I think. If you’re drafting Grizzlies in fantasy basketball, Ja, SlowMo, 3J and Clarke are the guys to own. Iguodala—and maybe even Dwight Howard?—could be moved in short order, but it’s doubtful Memphis would want players back, unless they’re young and cheap.
Two 29-year-old max players, including a short point guard, and two young perimeter players. That’s what the Boston Celtics got out of their treasured hoard of assets. Hahaha! And here I thought the Lakers looked stupid and mismanaged!
This is not a team that competes for a title. I love Marcus Smart, and I really like Romeo Langford, but that’s a lot of guards who aren’t as good as Kyrie Irving, and there isn’t a Big on the roster who’s anywhere close to Al Horford. Maybe if Coach Brad Stevens hadn’t played his favored son, Gordon Hayward, so many minutes to the detriment of the rest of the roster, then Kyrie’s still in green? Losing Kyrie AND Horford is bad GM’ing.
Boston fans, question: would you rather have Whiteside or Walker? Were I Danny Ainge, I’d be hollering at Indiana and asking about Myles Turner, or maybe calling Masai Ujiri and inquiring about Marc Gasol and/or Serge Ibaka.
I’m curious to see how Jayson Tatum gets drafted in fantasy. I assume people think he’ll have a bounceback year (me included), but how high in the draft does that propel him? And, what of Jaylen Brown?
By the way:
Add some picks, and who says no?
This team still, somehow, lives and dies with RJax. Reggie Jackson is the most significant, non-great player I’ve ever seen in my Pistons fandom. Like, he’s completely replaceable, but he’s been THE most important part of the Pistons since he arrived. The Pistons win when he’s healthy and playing well, and they lose all the other times.
I like Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (OHMYGOD! I SPELLED IT RIGHT, FIRST TRY!) and I like Sekou Doumbouya. I love Blake Griffin and I love Andre Drummond. Dukie Lukie Kennard should be better, Tony Snell is a player who fits a need, Bruce Brown is a terrifying defensive force and I LOVE HIM, and I like Markieff Morris. But, let’s get real, people: this team will not win games unless Reggie Jackson is doing well.
If he’s totally healthy, and everything clicks for the Pistons, I think they could grab the 3rd seed. But, they’re more likely to end the season at 41-41 again, and get destroyed by Giannis in the first round.
This team will be fine. I kind of anticipate a quiet season for them, drama-wise. I don’t think James Harden and Russell Westbrook will have problems playing together, at all. I think PJ Tucker and Clint Capela will get fewer rebounds, but that’s about it. BTW, Westbrook’s three point shooting probably was as bad last year as it’s going to get. He’s a career 30 3PT% shooter, so just by taking fewer of them, he can become more efficient. I think that’s something he can do in Houston, since everyone else will be shooting threes, providing space for the Sarge to charge to the rim. I honestly think this team will be just fine, and maybe even grab the #1 seed, if the other Western teams aren’t nearly as strong as people believe they are during the summer.
Alex Len is listed as their starting Center. Sometimes, you plan to tank, and sometimes the tank just runs over you whether you will it or not. This team will run and this team will score (Trae Young and Kevin Huerter will be good fantasy players), and we’ll get to see how Cam Reddish adjusts to the real game. But, this isn’t a team with expectations, only potential. If they’re a playoff team, it’s probably because they’ll have traded for an established player (Serge Ibaka?), rather than Alex Len developing into a force.
Chandler Parsons is on this team.
Nic Batum is good and Miles Bridges is good. Nothing else is good here. A complete and utter disaster, the Hornets may be the worst team in the NBA this year. I don’t believe in this team, at all. The Terry Rozier contract is another sign that the franchise doesn’t know what it’s doing.
Who’s better run: Phoenix or Charlotte?
I loved Utah before last season, and I love them even more this season. Signing Ed Davis was pure ninja, that guy is GREAT. He’s like the Davis Bertans of rebounding. I thought signing Emmanuel Mudiay was a smart move, and Bojan Bogdanovic and Mike Conley are also two of my faves.
But...it’s a pretty different roster than last year. Mike Conley doesn’t run the point exactly like Ricky Rubio did, and Derrick Favors isn’t on the team anymore, and I don’t think the bench is that good after Ed Davis, so why do I like this team so much?
I think I want Mike Conley to do well, and I want Rudy Gobert to find success, and I like Donovan Mitchell, and I like Joe Ingles, and Bojan, etc. I think I like this team, and that’s making me believe they’re better than they were. I’m not sure of that, though.
Los Angeles Lakers
If LeBron hadn’t missed so many games due to injury, or if the young guys could say the same, then the Lakers would’ve made the playoffs. Lack of talent wasn’t the problem. The problem was A) health and B) the second worst free throw percentage in the NBA (69.9 FT%) combined with being in the top half of teams that went to the line (23.3 FTA/game as a team). The Lakers went to the line as much as the Blazers, but shot nearly TWELVE percentage points worse.
LA has to take advantage of the foul line. The Lakers shot under 70 FT% last season, when the league average per game was 76.6% (thank you, Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com). The below chart shows NBA game averages since 2007-08. The scoring has jumped 12 points, the pace (number of possessions per game) has jumped by nearly 8, while the turnovers have remained steady at 14. Guess who turned the ball over a ton last season? That’s right, the LA Lakers: they had the second worst turnover rate, 15.7 per game, in the NBA. The Suns were better than them!
This team isn’t finished being constructed yet, and it doesn’t need to be. LA will most likely make trades throughout the season, and acquire bought out players, and the roster will look very different, I expect, come late December, when players who signed new contracts this summer are eligible to be traded. The team can add shooting and players who don’t waste precious possessions by either turning the ball over or shooting free throws like Shaq (kidding? Shaq’s best free throw year was 62.2 FT%, not too far off from Bron last year...).
The Lakers can wait on Boogie Cousins getting healthy, and they can play around with lineups and see how LeBron at the point looks when Kyle Kuzma’s playing Center, or something weird like that. They were absolutely a playoff team last year, but LeBron got hurt. It’s the same deal this year: so long as LeBron can play, his team is a playoff team. Remember, before Bron got hurt last season, the Lakers were 20-14, comfortably in the playoffs, and LBJ was having an incredible year. In a season when the Warriors aren’t at full strength, why can’t LeBron take the #1 seed? What’s changed other than the fact that he’s gotten the most rest of his career since he started playing basketball? Hell, we could be looking at an MVP year. Remember when Bron said he could be points leader any time he wanted to? (That was a loooong time ago, but I still believe it.) But, they definitely won’t succeed in the postseason if they can’t hit their free throws. And, honestly, it might be hard to be as crappy at the line as the Lakers were last season, so maybe just a bit of a regression to the mean will help LA.
Not much has changed in San Antonio. They unfortunately traded Davis Never Misses Bertans (before getting SPURned by Marcus Morris for the Knicks, I’m not sorry), and got DeMarre Carroll back (unclear if that’s an upgrade), but the Spurs have a thin front court, and I think they’ll have to count on the length and athleticism of their back court to help them negate the lack of bigs. This is another team that may want to call up the Pacers and inquire about Sabonis or Turner, although Indiana also seems packed with guards. Maybe holler at Charlotte about Uncle Marv, or see if Orlando could part with one of their bigs?
Is this a playoff team? I think we have to say Yes, until the Spurs prove otherwise. Kinda sorta seems like Pop might have something to prove: last year, the Spurs had the highest 3PT% but they attempted the lowest amount of threes in the entire league. They made some of those points back by having the best free throw percentage in the entire NBA, too (they were 24th in FTA per game).
The Spurs just know how to win, and they do it however they can. This is another interesting team to watch this season.
The SadSacs are doing it again! Why in the name of Buddy Hield did the Kings sign Harrison Barnes? And, then why did they sign Trevor Ariza, who plays the same position? Why did they sign Dewayne Dedmon when they already have Marvin Bagley III, Harry Giles, and Nemanja Bjelica? I like the Richaun Holmes signing—I think a lot of other teams should have done that—but the one thing the Kings DON’T need is more players crowding their front court. Now, Harrison Barnes is a fine player: he averaged 16 PPG and 4 RPG, and that puts you on a list of good NBA players. But, the Kings loaded up on contracts that they hope will help them make the playoffs, when they should be trying to focus their assets into adding another complementary piece next to De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, and Bagley. Maybe that’s Harrison Barnes, but it sure as hell isn’t Ariza or Dedmon.
I think Fox and Hield are still fantasy studs, but I’m not a fan of this team in real life. I think they miss the playoffs, and I think they regret this offseason pretty quickly. You can see the outline of the season pretty clearly: the Kings falter through the season, which is usual with young teams, and Sacramento falls out of contention; they trade the olds, Ariza especially, since he’s just one of those guys who keeps getting moved around, and Dedmon to contenders; the young players, now free to have big minutes and develop a rhythm, play well in the second half of the season, and everyone goes into the offseason excited about the youth and how well they played; then, Sacramento’s front office ruins it by making moves similar to the ones they made this offseason.
On the other end of the spectrum of franchises, the Nets became the most lauded front office because they landed Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant (and DeAndre Jordan). Here’s the team once Kevin Durant’s back next season:
PG - Kyrie & Spencer Dinwiddie
SG - Joe Harris & Caris LeVert
SF - Taurean Prince & Rodions Kurucs
PF - Kevin Durant
C - Jarrett Allen & DJ
That’s a dangerous playoff team.
I am 100% guaranteeing the Nets make the playoffs this season (if they don’t, then Kyrie’s rep takes a seeeeeeerious hit). I think this team, sans Durant, will be the team that nobody wants to play in the first round of the playoffs, similar to the Pacers last year. This team has a lot of players who can catch fire and score in bunches (love you, Mayor Dinwiddie!), and going small means that Joe Harris, LeVert, and Prince get to run all over the court while Kyrie, one of the best players in the NBA, orchestrates and runs the show.
One thing’s for sure: Brooklyn’s arrived. Barclays will be bangin this year. (Also, I’m in love with Taurean Prince’s fantasy value this season, too. IN LOVE.)
This team stayed quiet during free agency. It’s basically just Lou Williams and a bunch of guys. I love PatBev, and they got Ivica Zubac for cheap for no good reason (Lakers!), but the season will depend on whether Montrezl—wait, the Clippers signed who? And traded for who?
Oh. They signed the best player in the playoffs, Kawhi Leonard, and traded for one of the only people who can credibly guard LeBron James and James Harden and Klay Thompson, Paul George. So, they added two of the best wings in the game.
Only two players on this roster are 30 or older: Patrick Beverley and Sweet Lou Williams. What a complete coup for the Clippers. And, as mentioned before, two of the Clippers’ direct competitors for postseason success were weakened by the signings, and the time it took to make them. Unreal.
If the team lacks anything, it’s a little light on proper centers. But, you can always find those. Just look at the next team!
Golden State Warriors
GRIII is on this team!
Golden State got both Glenn Robinson III and Willie Cauley-Stein, a proper C, on the minimum. The minimum! AND, they traded for D’Angelo Russell, a young guard who can score, and run the team when Steph Curry is resting. The Dubs can run this team out there without Steph, Klay Thompson, or Draymond Green: DAR, GRIII, Alec Burks, Jordan Poole, and WCS. That’s not a bad bench! It’s also YOUNG.
Suddenly, the Warriors only have ONE player over 30 years old: Steph Curry. Klay and Dray are both 29, but everyone else is younger than that.
This is a team with a TON to prove. A team that’s been to the Finals five straight times, with a two-time MVP, a Defensive Player of the Year who’s in a contract year, and a system that’s second to none. This team could be a fantasy behemoth. Or, the stress of playing SO many games might take its toll, and both Steph and Dray have down years (Curry will be guarded especially tough this year), and the kids don’t play very well, and the rest of the West is stacked, and the Dubs end up missing the playoffs by a game or two.
This will be Steve Kerr’s toughest coaching challenge yet.
One of the two teams who I think will be pivotal to this season, the Indiana Pacers are a mixed bag with two great young bigs, and good to great guards with health concerns. If any little thing goes wrong for the Pacers this year, they could be in prime position to sell. Victor Oladipo is one of the best players in the NBA when fully healthy, and Malcolm Brogdon is one of the most efficient; Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner are two of the best young bigs in the game. But, after that, it’s Jeremy Lamb, TJ Warren, TJ McConnell and TJ Leaf. Doug McDermott’s on this team. I think there’s a good possibility that this team is its top 4, and then duds.
That should still be enough to be a playoff team in the East (again, if Dipo is healthy). But, how good is that team, really? Can that team beat Philly? Milwaukee? I’m skeptical. This team has a pretty hard ceiling to me. I like a lot of the players, but I think they’ll have to trade one of Sabonis or Turner. The question is, to whom and for what? The answers to those questions could be of the utmost importance to the playoff race.
Say whatever you want about the Raptors, they have good players. Much has been made about Masai Ujiri’s desire to rebuild the team, but if the Raptors are competitive this season, and they almost assuredly will be, can he really justify tearing it down? What if they’re a top 4 team in December? If you think you have a legit shot at the NBA Finals, you almost have a duty to try to make it. I think the Raptors can get there. I think Pascal Siakam is amazing, and I think OG Anunoby is a young, ferocious defender, and I think Kyle Lowry now owns this team in a way few other players own their teams. Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka still form a potent combination, especially for load management purposes, and it seems like the younguns are developing nicely. Hell, the Raps added Rondae Hollis-Jefferson on the minimum, which is a savvy move no matter what team you are.
If the Raptors sell, we can’t predict what will happen, but the landscape of the NBA will change, especially in the East, as yet another good team fades.
If the Raptors buy, we can’t predict what will happen because Masai Ujiri’s last trade RESULTED IN A GODDAMN CHAMPIONSHIP.
The East is NOT a foregone conclusion. And, the West is so messy that the eventual team to emerge could be beaten up and worn down by the time they reach the Finals.
Yes, the Raptors lost Kawhi, one of, if not the, best players in the NBA right now. But, the Raptors won a bunch of games without Kawhi, too. They’re not some empty calorie team with scrub players.
There’s a way forward for the Raptors. So, why not Toronto?