NBA Lord's NBA Blog

NBA Lord's NBA Blog

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Saturday Slam: How big of a blow is Brandon Knight's ACL injury to the Phoenix Suns?

Earlier this week, it was revealed that Phoenix Suns point guard Brandon Knight suffered a torn ACL in his left knee during a pro-am game. Due to the nature of the injury, it is anticipated that Knight will miss the 2017-18 season after undergoing surgery.

On the surface, this appears to be a pretty significant blow to the Suns. Knight's name has been frequently mentioned as one of the rising stars in the league. He averaged 19.6 points and 5.1 assists per game for the Suns in the 2015-16 season and was billed as a cornerstone piece of the franchise when he was acquired from the Milwaukee Bucks.

                                          (Yahoo! Sports) 

After having what appeared to be a breakout season in his 2015-16 campaign, Knight has since struggled to replicate that same type of success, largely due to injury. Last season, he played in only 54 games and averaged 11.0 points and 2.4 assists per game. He only saw 21.1 minutes of action per game and never was able to get into a rhythm. Now that Knight has suffered a torn ACL on top of the struggles he had last season, it's fair to question whether or not he'll ever return to his former self.

As far as what this means for the Suns, this is a significant blow in the sense that they acquired Knight with the hopes of becoming one of their franchise players and he is clearly not living up to the hype. What also is unfortunate for them is that Knight is scheduled to make $13.6M in the 2017-18 season, $14.6M in the 2018-19 season, and $15.6M in the 2019-20 season before hitting unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2020. It'll be hard for them to move a guy whose contract requires teams to pay him more with each season.

On the flip side, it's not like the Suns are holding their breath on Knight being their franchise player for the future. Guards Devin Booker and Eric Bledsoe, both of whom scored over 20 points per game last season, are viewed as the franchise centerpieces for the future along with rookie small forward Josh Jackson. The Suns can continue to build around those guys and focus their attention on getting them the pieces that they need to succeed.

Ultimately, the loss of Brandon Knight is significant for the Suns because they've invested a lot of money into him and have him under contract for the next three seasons. When you acquire a guy with the hopes of him being a franchise centerpiece and he doesn't deliver, that always stings. The good new for the Suns is that they have Devin Booker and Eric Bledsoe to build around in the backcourt instead. They're already used to playing without Knight and appear to already be preparing for the future with him not in the picture. What would soften the blow even more is if the Suns could find a team willing to roll the dice on him, but at this point, the odds of that happening appear to be pretty low.

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Monday, July 24, 2017 Podcast: Kyrie Irving requests a trade; John Wall extends with the Wizards

                                          (Akron Beacon Journal) 

On this week's episode of the Podcast, Brian Kaiserman joins me to discuss Kyrie Irving's trade request and also John Wall's 4 year, $170M extension with the Wizards. Click here to listen to the podcast.

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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Saturday Slam: Making sense of Kyrie Irving's request for a trade

                                                   (Akron Beacon Journal) 

The big story of the week is the report that Kyrie Irving wants out of Cleveland and is pushing for a trade. The New York Knicks, San Antonio Spurs, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Miami Heat are said to be the teams that he is most interested in joining, though the Cleveland Cavaliers ultimately control his fate.

When I first heard the news I was surprised given the sheer magnitude of the story and what it could mean for the NBA, but upon further reflection, I'm not surprised at all. Irving has always wanted to be the number one option on a team and so long as he played alongside LeBron James, he wasn't going to get his wish. He's won a championship with the Cavaliers and has been to the NBA Finals three straight years. He rightfully feels like now is a good time for him to move on to a new city and forge his own path separate from LeBron.

Whether you feel like this is the right move for Irving or not, one cannot deny that the Cavaliers were never his team with LeBron around. While there's no shame in being second fiddle to a guy of LeBron's magnitude, one can certainly understand why Irving would ultimately want to spread his wings and fly away. He's proven himself as one of the top players in the NBA and as such is deserving of having a franchise built around him.

As far as where he might land, I don't see the Cavaliers trading him to another Eastern Conference team. It just wouldn't make sense for them to help out a team that competes in the same conference as them. Rather, it would make more sense for them to ship him out West and allow him to make the Western Conference even more of a logjam than it already is.

Out of all the teams in the West that he could go to, the Spurs seem to make the most sense. They could use another superstar to go alongside Kawhi Leonard and they also have an attractive trade chip in LaMarcus Aldridge who has been rumored to want out of his situation as well. A trade sending Aldridge to the Cavaliers and Irving to the Spurs would make sense for both sides. Aldridge would be a very nice number two option for LeBron to play with while Irving would be a nice upgrade over Aldridge, giving the Spurs more versatility in the backcourt.

During the coming weeks, it will certainly be interesting to see how this all plays out. I expect Irving to be traded relatively soon since the Cavaliers won't want to have to deal with him as a distraction come training camp. At the same time, the Cavaliers shouldn't rush to make a move, either. Irving is a very valuable piece and if you are going to trade him, you better make sure you get back something really good.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Wednesday Windmill: The Atlanta Hawks are tanking and I don't know why

The Atlanta Hawks are tanking and I don't know why. To be clear, I know why teams tank. They tank to get higher draft picks so that they can be better for the long term. The Atlanta Hawks, however, are a team who seemed to tank for no good reason. They went 43-39 last season, which was good enough for 5th place in the Eastern Conference. The year before that, they were 48-34, which was good enough for 3rd place in the Eastern Conference, though they fell to 4th place due to a tiebreaker. In the 2014-15 season, the Hawks finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference at 60-22 with Paul Millsap, Al Horford, Jeff Teague, and Kyle Korver as their core, all of whom are no longer with the team.

Since the 2014-15 season, the Hawks have gone downhill, wholesaling their best players to other teams without wanting anything good in return. Rather than trying build around a core that won 60 games, the Hawks decided to blow the whole thing up and start anew, believing that what they had wasn't going to produce a championship no matter what moves they made.

While I understand the tanking philosophy and acknowledge that it has its place, the Hawks were not a team in need of embracing it. They should have instead embraced the quality roster that they had in the 2014-15 season and done all they could to enhance it for the purposes of better positioning themselves for a championship run.

By embracing the "If you're not first, you're last" mantra of Ricky Bobby, the Hawks have robbed their fans of witnessing deep playoff runs year in and year out. While it is true that the ultimate goal is to win a championship, it's not like the only successful seasons are the ones that result in a championship. Reaching the conference finals is a successful season that gets your fans excited. Winning a playoff series can also be considered a successful season, especially if you are a young and up and coming team.

My point is that if your ceiling is to reach the conference finals for a few years in a row, ride that ship out and see where that takes you. You never know, maybe someone gets hurt and you find yourself in the NBA Finals. If you are positioned to make those kind of runs year in and year out, tanking is not the solution to getting over the hump.

With most teams that tank, I understand why they are doing it. They're far from winning a championship and are in need of replenishing with young talent. The Hawks however were not in either of those camps. They were close to winning a championship and had a talented core that had plenty of years left. Taking a nosedive like this is very perplexing and difficult to understand.

Wednesday Windmill is a weekly piece that focuses on the Eastern Conference 

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Tomahawk Tuesday: What does Rudy Gay bring to the San Antonio Spurs?

While they didn't make the biggest splash in free agency, the San Antonio Spurs still found a way to get significantly better by signing Rudy Gay. Gay, who is entering his 12th season in the NBA, averaged 18.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game last season with the Sacramento Kings. Those aren't bad numbers for a veteran swingman.

When looking at this move, there's a lot to like if you are the Spurs. First, you get a guy who can become your number two or number three scoring option behind Kawhi Leonard, who averaged 25.5 points per game last season. LaMarcus Aldridge averaged a very solid 17.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game, but after that, there was a bit of a drop off to Pau Gasol, who was the third scoring option on the team (12.4 points). It was clear that the Spurs needed more of a scoring punch in order to compete with a team like the Golden State Warriors and adding Gay certainly addresses this need.

In addition to giving the Spurs another scoring threat, Rudy Gay provides some veteran leadership. With Tim Duncan gone and Manu Ginobili entering what could be his final season, the Spurs could use another veteran leader to help them dig deep against a team like the Warriors. While the Spurs still have Tony Parker and a veteran head coach in Gregg Popovich, it won't hurt to have another veteran like Gay who is battle tested and hungry for a ring.

Lastly, Gay gives the Spurs another guy to match up against Kevin Durant. At 6'8", 230 pounds, Gay has the size and length to guard Durant and give him some trouble. At the moment, the only guy who the Spurs have that can really guard Durant is Kawhi Leonard. Adding a second swingman that can guard him will help take some of the defensive pressure off of Leonard and allow him to guard Durant more effectively when he is on him.

When looking at what Rudy Gay brings to the Spurs, it's pretty obvious why he's such a great addition for them. He provides scoring, leadership, and more versatility on defense. I don't know if this move pushes the Spurs over the top, but it makes them a lot better. When you consider the options that the Spurs had to work with in free agency, they really couldn't have asked to land a better player.

Tomahawk Tuesday is a weekly piece that focuses on the Western Conference. 

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Sunday, July 16, 2017

Skyhook Sunday: Farewell to the 20 second timeout

This week, the NBA announced some rule changes with the attempt to improve game flow. The most notable are the changes to timeout length. Each team will be given seven timeouts per game with each timeout lasting 75 seconds. That means that the 20 second timeout is no more.

As silly as this sounds, I am really sad to hear that the 20 second timeout has been removed. It's been a part of my life forever and to have it gone, I feel like a piece of me has died along with it. I know that sounds over the top, but in a way it's really true. There was always an extra feeling of drama when a 20 second timeout was called down the stretch of a close game. It was just a part of the background of the NBA that I've grown to love. To have it gone will feel very weird.

By reducing the number of timeouts from 18 to 14, the NBA is ensuring that there will be fewer interruptions to games, something that will be nice. All the same, I feel kind of sad knowing that when I someday become a father, my children will never get the chance to see a 20 second timeout. It will be a thing of the past. Just like how my children will never know about the Vancouver Grizzlies, the Seattle Super Sonics (fingers crossed that they'll return), etc. There's some things you wish could last forever and unfortunately they don't.

Hopefully, these new changes will make the league better and make in-game experiences better for fans. If they do, then I'm all for it. The NBA does a great job of looking for ways to improve their product and they are never afraid to try new things.

All the same, I will never forget the 20 second timeout. It's always been there from the very beginning, adding just the right amount of drama and tension. In the words of Salute Your Shorts, "20 second timeout, we hold you in our hearts and when we think about you, I hope we never part."

For a full description of what these rule changes are, click here.

In case you haven't seen Salute Your Shorts or would like to take a stroll down memory lane, click here to watch its intro. 

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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Saturday Slam: What exactly are the New Orleans Pelicans becoming?

The New Orleans Pelicans are becoming something, but what is it, exactly? In an effort to build around Anthony Davis, they've traded for DeMarcus Cousins, re-signed Jrue Holiday to a 5-year, $126M deal, and now added Rajon Rondo on a one-year deal. The combination of Davis, Cousins, Holiday, and Rondo is certainly interesting, but will it produce the results the Pelicans want?

Before I dive into the concerns that I have with what the Pelicans are doing, let me quickly say why this could work. First, Anthony Davis is the best big man in the NBA. He averaged 28.0 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game last season. The dude is a beast. When you got him as your franchise centerpiece, you got a shot to be really good.

Second, DeMarcus Cousins is arguably the second best big man in the NBA. He's been in need of a change of scenery and paring him with a guy like Davis could be what he needs to reach his full potential. When you got two of the best big men in the NBA, there's good reason to think you'll succeed.

As for Holiday and Rondo, both have proven their value as elite level point guards. Rondo has tailed off since his best days in Boston, but he's still a very good pass-first point guard. As for Holiday, he averaged 15.4 points and 7.3 assists per game last season, which are very solid numbers.

The concerns I have with the Pelicans has nothing to do with the individual talent they are adding. It has to do with the blend of talent that they are adding, specifically putting DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo together. The very best of teams can handle one head case if they have a strong leader and know what they are doing. The Pelicans have added two head cases in Cousins and Rondo without having the pedigree of a championship level team. That alone raises serious concerns.

As far as what these guys bring to the court from a pure basketball standpoint, it's unclear how Holiday and Rondo will play together as pass-first point guards. As for Davis and Cousins, there are legitimate concerns about their ability to matchup against smaller and quicker teams, especially in a league that is moving towards positionless basketball.  Such a frontcourt may find better success in an era with more traditional big men.

The bottom line with the Pelicans is that while they are adding talented players to their roster, it's unclear whether or not they are the right fit for each other. If they can find a way to work together and get the most out of each other's talents, the Pelicans could be a really good team. When you consider the upside and also potential for failure, this really is the ultimate example of a "boom or bust" team. I smell bust, but I'm willing to withhold my judgment and see where they are at come playoff time.

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Friday, July 14, 2017

Fadeaway Friday: Breaking down the new NBA G League franchises

As we head into the 2017-18 NBA season, I thought it would be good to provide a quick breakdown of the new franchises that will appear in the NBA Gatorade League. The NBA is moving towards a 30 team G League, giving each NBA team their own minor league affiliate. As it stands right now, the G League is almost at its goal, featuring 26 teams for the upcoming season. 

The South Bay Lakers are a rebranded version of the Los Angeles D-Fenders, who also were the D-League affiliate of the Los Angeles Lakers. This isn't really a new team so much as it is the D-Fenders getting a new name. I'm guessing that the switch from D-League to G League prompted this change.  "D-Fenders" was a clever name that tied into the name "D-League", but with the league now known as the "G League" the name "D-Fenders" would just seem obsolete. 

The Los Angeles Clippers used to be affiliated with the Bakersfield Jam, but they moved to Prescott Valley, Arizona to become the Northern Arizona Suns, the G League affiliate of the Phoenix Suns. With the Jam relocated, the Clippers needed a G League affiliate of their own, giving rise to the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario. It's quite a name, which means "Hot Water Clippers" in Spanish. The team is named after the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, a federally recognized tribe of the Cahuilla in Southern California. 

The Memphis Grizzlies were formally associated with the Iowa Energy, who now are known as the Iowa Wolves, associated with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Memphis Hustle will replace the Energy as the Grizzlies' G League affiliate, playing their games in Southaven, Mississippi. The logo is similar to that of the Memphis Sounds, a team that played in the now defunct ABA. 

The Orlando Magic were previously associated with the Erie BayHawks, located in Erie, Pennsylvania. With the desire to have their affiliate closer to Orlando, the Magic moved the BayHawks to Lakeland, Florida, which is located about an hour southwest of Orlando, closer to Tampa. 

The Iowa Energy, formally associated with the Memphis Grizzlies rebranded themselves as the Iowa Wolves, now serving as the G League affiliate for the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Wolves will play in Des Moines. 

The Wisconsin Herd will serve as the G League affiliate for the Milwaukee Bucks. The Herd will play in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, which is located about an hour southwest of Green Bay, located right off Lake Winnebago. 

With the BayHawks name now available after the team's departure to Lakeland, Florida,  the Atlanta Hawks took advantage and purchased the team name, keeping the team in Erie, Pennsylvania. At least for now, anyways. 

Note: The Washington Wizards will get their own G League team based in the D.C. area starting in the 2018-19 season. This leaves the Denver Nuggets, New Orleans Pelicans, and Portland Trail Blazers as the only NBA franchises that do not yet have a single affiliate G League team. 

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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Wednesday Windmill: Will the Charlotte Hornets strike it rich with Dwight Howard?

                                         (Credit: Scott Fowler. Charlotte Observer) 

Perhaps the most under the radar move of the summer is the Charlotte Hornets acquiring Dwight Howard from the Atlanta Hawks in advance of the NBA Draft. The Hornets shipped Miles Plumlee, Marco Belinelli, and the 41st pick (Tyler Dorsey) to the Hawks for Dwight Howard and the 31st pick (Frank Jackson). Jackson was subsequently traded to the New Orleans Pelicans for the 40th pick (Dwayne Bacon) and cash.

The Hornets are hoping that Howard will provide them with a sound low post presence on both ends of the floor and also a legitimate go-to option to accompany Kemba Walker, who averaged 23.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game last season. While Howard didn't exactly live up to his "Superman" nickname in Atlanta, he did average 13.5 points, 12.7 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game during his lone season there. Those numbers are actually pretty solid for a guy who isn't living up to expectations.

It's no secret that Howard has had a hard time finding a new home since his departure from Orlando, playing for the Lakers, Rockets, Hawks, and now Hornets within a span of six seasons. His inability to find a permanent landing spot has many people labeling him a bust and a failure, which is actually fair when you consider all the expectations that he's placed on himself. At this point, there's good reason to question whether or not things in Charlotte will be any different.

If there's anything that I can say to give the Hornets some hope it's the fact that they really have nothing to lose. They're a middle of the pack team that isn't projected to land a top three pick in the 2018 NBA Draft and also not projected to win a championship. They are stuck in basketball purgatory. When you find yourself in this position, it doesn't hurt to roll the dice a little bit and take a chance, which is exactly what the Hornets are doing by landing Howard. He probably won't turn their fortunes around, but then again, maybe he'll find new life in Buzz City and make them one of the more competitive teams in the Eastern Conference.

What helps Howard out more than anything is that he isn't expected to be the number one option. Walker will be expected to carry the load and be the go-to guy in the clutch. By being the number two option, Howard won't be faced with the same level of pressure and hype that he has had to deal with in other cities. Many have already written him off and don't expect much from him going forward.

With the pressure now off his shoulders, it's certainly possible that Howard plays better and actually makes this Hornets team relevant. I don't necessarily think Howard will have a renaissance in Charlotte, but I do think that he could surprise people and make a bigger impact than people expect. He's got nothing to lose and ironically, that lack of pressure may be what he needs to thrive.

As far as the Hornets are concerned, this is a fantastic move given the fact that they really have nothing to lose. If Dwight Howard plays like he has during the past few seasons, the Hornets won't find themselves to be all that much better, but they definitely won't be worse. If on the flip side Howard does come up big and produces, they'll have significantly improved their team without giving up very much. They really couldn't ask for a better deal.

Wednesday Windmill is a weekly piece that focuses on the Eastern Conference. 

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Tomahawk Tuesday: Are the Sacramento Kings finally turning the corner?

It's been a while since I've written a blog post about the Sacramento Kings, but due to all the moves that they've made, they've become a team worth writing about.

The Kings kicked off the summer by having a fabulous draft, landing Kentucky point guard De'Aaron Fox, North Carolina small forward Justin Jackson, Duke power forward Harry Giles, and Kansas point guard Frank Mason III. Fox is the headliner due to his comparisons to John Wall, but Jackson, Giles, and Mason are very promising rookies as well. After trading away DeMarcus Cousins to the Pelicans, the Kings were in need of getting some fresh young blood in their system and they couldn't have asked for a better draft to accomplish this goal.

In free agency, the Kings landed George Hill and Zach Randolph, giving them a very underrated point guard-power forward duo. Hill and Randolph are both very focused players that will bring a sense of professionalism and seriousness that has been missing from the Kings in recent years.

As a result of all these moves, the Kings have undergone a fairly radical transformation. Fox looks like their franchise player for the future, Jackson, Giles, and Mason look like solid role players, and both Hill and Randolph are veterans that can lead while the young bucks adjust to the rigors of the NBA. Their combination of youth and veteran leadership is very nice.

While I'm not sure if this Kings team will make the playoffs next season, they are definitely turning the corner. With a new arena and improved roster in place, the Kings finally have a product that the city of Sacramento can get behind. It's just a matter of giving it some time to fully develop.

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On this week's episode of the Podcast, I share my thoughts on Gordon Hayward going to the Boston Celtics and the wild NBA free agency that we have experienced. Click here to listen to the podcast.

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Saturday, July 8, 2017

Saturday Slam: Where do the Utah Jazz go after losing Gordon Hayward?

After losing Gordon Hayward to the Boston Celtics, the Utah Jazz find themselves in a jam. They've lost their best player and with the free agent pool largely dried up, there's not much they can add to help them replace Hayward's production. Such is the result of living in a world with free agency. 

With Hayward gone, this is Rudy Gobert's team now and that's not a bad thing. Last season, the 7'1", 245 pound center averaged 14.0 points, 12.8 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per game, playing in 81 games in the regular season. Gobert has the tools to be the next dominant center in the NBA and be a game changer in a way that Hayward never was. If the Jazz had to pick between Hayward and Gobert, they'd pick Gobert every time. It's not even close. That isn't to say it wouldn't be nice to have both, but the Jazz can now focus on building the team around Gobert and help him become the next face of the franchise. 

The challenge the Jazz have is that right now, they are up against a very stacked Western Conference. Teams like the Thunder, Rockets, Timberwolves, and Spurs have all gotten better while they have gotten worse. Long term, I don't think the Jazz should panic, but as far as next season is concerned, it will be tough for them to get back to the playoffs and win another series. 

The best the Jazz can do is evaluate who they have and figure out who makes sense to hang onto for the future. Derrick Favors is a guy who they'll likely take a hard look at trading at the deadline given that he'll enter unrestricted free agency next summer. He's been solid for them, but hasn't lived up to the hype, either. Unless he has a monster year, he's likely playing for someone else in 12 months or less. 

Two other guys who should be under scrutiny are Danté Exum and Alec Burks. Exum is yet to live up to the massive hype that he had coming into the NBA and after dealing with injury, it's unclear whether or not Burks can return to the level he was at before. Exum enters restricted free agency next summer and Burks enters unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2019, so if the Jazz want, they can part with both guys after two seasons. 

Outside of Gobert, the only other guy who Jazz fans should really feel excited about is Rodney Hood, who is emerging into one of the better three-point shooters in the NBA, averaging 12.7 points per game on 37.1% shooting from three-point range last season. With Hayward gone, Hood will really get a chance to get more touches and prove his worth in the backcourt.

                                         (Chris Detrick. The Salt Lake Tribune) 

Gobert and Hood could evolve into a really nice one-two punch for the Jazz, but even if they live up to their potential, I'm not sure they'll be enough to make the Jazz a serious contender. The Jazz need to find another piece and what has to be of concern is it's unclear who that piece will be. At this point, all the Jazz can do is go forward with what they have and make the best moves possible to give Gobert and Hood the support they need. 

Saturday Slam is a weekly piece that focuses on a major story of the week. This blog post also appears on my Utah Jazz blog. Click here to check it out. 

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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Triple-Threat Thursday: Will Lonzo Ball save the Los Angeles Lakers?

The Los Angeles Lakers are hopeful that they finally have their franchise player for the future in rookie point guard Lonzo Ball, who they drafted #2 overall out of UCLA. At 6'6", 190 pounds, Ball draws comparisons to Jason Kidd due to his combination of size, speed, quickness, and strength. He handles the ball extremely well and is a gifted passer. On top of that, he scores really well around the rim and also knows how to shoot from deep, making him a very tricky player to defend.

While there's a lot to like about Ball and what he brings to the table, is it too early to label him as the savior of the franchise? On the one hand, the answer is obviously yes because we've seen many a talented rookie fall short of their lofty expectations. You never know what will happen in the future and given that he hasn't even played in a game, Ball is yet to prove himself on an NBA floor.

At the same time, it's hard to see Lonzo Ball not living up to expectations. Nobody is calling him the next Kobe Bryant, but to see him as a guy who produces like Deron Williams in his prime seems to be pretty reasonable. Unlike with some guys, you don't need to look up Ball's statistics and use analytics to justify the hype. He passes the eye test with flying colors and I'm a believer in the eye test being the most important test.

While Ball is obviously a fantastic piece to build around, the Lakers still have a ton of work to do in order to put him in the best position to be successful. Brook Lopez has a history of getting injured, so it's no guarantee he stays healthy. Even if he does, he's getting older and can't be counted on as a long-term piece to build around. Julius Randle, who averaged 13.2 points and 8.6 rebounds per game last season, looks promising, but it's still too early to label him the second coming of Karl Malone.

If the Lakers can add one more quality young piece to the mix, I think they'll really have something to get excited about. An elite point guard is practically a must in today's NBA. Assuming they have that need checked off, the Lakers are definitely on their way back to glory.

Triple-Threat Thursday is a weekly piece focusing on the NBA Draft/Rookies. 

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Wednesday Windmill: What adding Gordon Hayward means for the Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics landed the biggest prize in NBA free agency on Tuesday, getting a commitment from Gordon Hayward, who opted out of his contract with the Utah Jazz. Hayward's deal with the Celtics is 4-years, $128M according to Shams Charania of Yahoo! Sports' The Vertical and other reporters.

Last week, I addressed what adding Hayward would mean for the Celtics, so I feel like somewhat of a broken record addressing this topic one week later. However, now that the Celtics have actually landed their man, I can address this topic more in full, knowing the outcome of the situation.

With Hayward now on their roster, the Celtics have just gotten a lot better. When watching them last season, it was clear that they didn't have the pieces to win a championship. The fact that they finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference was very impressive considering that their roster was inferior to the roster of the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was pretty much the Isaiah Thomas show with Avery Bradley and Al Horford sharing some of the load.

The Celtics needed to add another piece and Hayward was as good of a piece as they could have added. He's only 27 years old and just finished his best season in the NBA, averaging 21.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game en route to his first All-Star season. He instantly becomes the #2 scoring option on the Celtics and gives them an elite wing, a piece that is needed to contend in today's NBA.

As for whether or not the Celtics are contenders, I think the answer is pretty clear that Hayward makes them a legitimate threat to the Cavaliers. I still wouldn't bet against the Cavaliers due to the presence of LeBron James, but I wouldn't at all be shocked to see the two teams go to a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics have gone from virtually having no shot at the Cavaliers to having a legitimate shot at taking them out given the right conditions. That is a significant improvement.

Going forward, the biggest thing the Celtics need to do is figure out how else to balance out their roster. Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN are reporting that Hayward might be headed to the Celtics via sign and trade with Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, and Jae Crowder all discussed as possible trade chips. This is for the purpose of freeing up more cap space to sign Hayward. In addition to a sign and trade for Hayward, the Celtics might need to tinker with their roster some more to put themselves in the best position to succeed.

While the loss of Hayward is sad for the Utah Jazz, his arrival in Boston is very exciting for the Celtics. They've been in need of adding another elite player to their lineup and they have couldn't have asked for a better addition. I do want to say that Celtics head coach Brad Stevens deserves a ton of credit for this one. If he didn't have such a tight relationship with Hayward going back to their days at Butler, I don't think Hayward leaves Utah. Stevens clearly sold Hayward on the Boston experience and all that they could accomplish together.

When you think about it, that's pretty tough for Hayward to turn down. He wishes they would have won a national championship at Butler and by reuniting in Boston, the two of them get another shot at winning a ring. When you look at it that way, it's actually pretty cool things worked out the way that they did.

Wednesday Windmill is a weekly piece that focuses on the Eastern Conference. 

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Tuesday, July 4, 2017 Podcast: NBA Free Agency and where Gordon Hayward might land

                                          (Credit: Trent Nelson. The Salt Lake Tribune) 

On this week's episode of the Podcast, Brian Kaiserman joins me to discuss NBA free agency and where Gordon Hayward might land. Click here to listen to the podcast.

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Sunday, July 2, 2017

Skyhook Sunday: Are the Oklahoma City Thunder serious contenders after landing Paul George?

A move that caught the basketball world by surprise was the Indiana Pacers trading Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. Paul George leaving the Pacers wasn’t a huge shock, but Oklahoma City wasn’t a destination that was considered a likely landing spot for him. With George now on their roster, the Thunder have a legitimate superstar to pair with Russell Westbrook. The question is, do they have enough to contend for a championship in such a loaded Western Conference?

In order to answer this question, it needs to be understood that while the Golden State Warriors remain the clear cut favorites to come out of the Western Conference next season, it is not clear who should be expected to face them in the Western Conference Finals. Even though free agency is still going on, we already can put the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder in the conversation based on the trades that they have recently made. The San Antonio Spurs we also can’t leave out due to the fantastic season that they just had.

In addition to the Rockets, Thunder, and Spurs, the Minnesota Timberwolves are also making big moves and the Utah Jazz, if they can hang on to Gordon Hayward, will be another force to be reckoned with as well. The bottom line is the Western Conference will be loaded next season and the race to the conference finals will be a battle.

What the Thunder have in their favor is they have the 2017 NBA MVP in Russell Westbrook, who averaged 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 10.4 assists per game last season, the first triple-double average for a single season since Oscar Robertson did it way back in the day. Westbrook is arguably the best player in the NBA and when you pair him with a guy like Paul George, who averaged 23.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game last season, you got yourself a team that can do some serious damage.

While we are still yet to see how the rest of free agency plays out, it’s already clear that the Oklahoma City Thunder will be a serious contender next season. With Kevin Durant leaving for Golden State, the Thunder had to find another elite swingman to pair with Russell Westbrook and Paul George is as good of an option as anyone out there. While they probably still need to make one more major move in order to give the Warriors a serious scare, the foundation to contend is definitely in place. 

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Saturday, July 1, 2017

Saturday Slam: Did the Houston Rockets give up too much for Chris Paul?

The first major headline in the NBA this week was the news that the Los Angeles Clippers traded Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets. Yahoo! Sports' The Vertical reported that in exchange for Paul, the Clippers receive Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, DeAndre Liggins, Darrun Hilliard, Kyle Wiltjer, a 2018 first round pick (protected Nos. 1-3), and $661,000 from the Rockets.

On the surface, this looks like a fantastic move for the Rockets. James Harden needs another superstar by his side to make the Rockets a contender and Chris Paul certainly qualifies as a superstar. But when you look closer at this deal, it's possible that the Rockets gave up too much for Paul. Especially when you consider the fact that depth was a major strength of theirs last season.

Last season with the Clippers, Chris Paul averaged 18.1 points, 9.2 assists, 5.0 rebounds, and 2.0 steals per game. Those are big time numbers. When you add that to the Houston Rockets, he easily becomes their number two player behind James Harden, who averaged 29.1 points, 11.2 assists, 8.1 rebounds, and 1.5 steals per game.

                                          (Credit: Keith Allison. Click here for source)

However, Lou Williams (14.9 points), Patrick Beverley (9.5 points), Montrezl Harrell (9.1 points), and Sam Dekker (6.5 points) were all solid contributors for the Rockets last season. Especially Williams, Beverley, and Harrell. While Williams is the best player the Rockets traded away, Beverley is the most valuable. He was the only player on the team that actually played defense. He's a tough, hard-nosed perimeter defender that plays very hard on both ends of the floor. When healthy, he has the pieces to give guys like Stephen Curry headaches when they have the ball. Considering that he was the only guy who actually cared to defend, giving away Beverley is no small thing.

When looking at this trade, it's no question that the Rockets gave up a lot to get Chris Paul. They gave away their third best scorer and their top defender. But did they give up too much? At the end of the day, I don't think they did. The fact that they were able to hang on to Eric Gordon, their number two scorer from last season, is huge. Had they given him up, I think that would have perhaps tipped the scale.

The biggest challenge for the Rockets will be to figure out how to get Chris Paul, James Harden, and Eric Gordon to all co-exist in the same backcourt. Having their top three scorers play two positions is an issue that will need to be addressed. The good news is that Eric Gordon is comfortable in an off the bench type of role and shouldn't have any issue playing the role of sixth man on this Rockets team.

Assuming they can figure that part out, the Rockets project to be really good next season. They added the best pure point guard in the NBA and did so without giving up their number two scoring option. Considering what they are up against next season, this is a low-risk high-reward type of move for the Rockets. They played their cards right with this one.

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