LeBron in LA, Melo on the move, and Cousins chasing a championship and contract

The State of the NBA Pt.5

I can’t say that there haven’t been some big moves this offseason, but not nearly as many as I’d hoped for entering the Summer. Think about it, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul, Paul George, Nikola Jokic, Aaron Gordon, Zach LaVine, J.J. Redick, Will Barton, and Avery Bradley are all returning to the teams they played for last year. Talk about a buzz kill. But this is usually what happens, and players are incentivized to remain with their teams anyways, so I guess I knew this was coming but was just hoping for something more.

The King moved to LA

Either way, there have been some big moves that did happen. I already talked about DeAndre Jordan in the last issue, but since then the news about the LeBron James and DeMarcus Cousins signings came out. James signed a four-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, committing to the team long term. When the deal ends James will be 37. If he wants to keep playing he could hit free agency one more time, but he won’t be the game-changing force that he is now.

Anyway, I was surprised by how quickly he signed with the Lakers. I thought he’d take more time to make his decision, but I guess Magic Johnson really sold the King on going to LA. It was the big move the Lakers and Johnson desperately needed. They then proceeded to sign Lance Stephenson, Rajon Rondo, and JaVale McGee to one-year deals.

Those additions, plus resigning Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a one-year deal, made it clear the Lakers weren’t landing any other free agent stars. The way the team is now it looks like they’re planning to compete next year after hopefully snagging at least one other free agent star in 2019’s loaded free agent market. Because Stephenson, Rondo, and McGee are just role players who are ironically all from teams James has had rivalries within the past.

James must really trust that the Lakers are going to make moves over the next year because many people think he’s put his legacy on the line again with this move. Right now the Lakers are at most the third best team in the Western Conference behind the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets.

Here we go…

Speaking of the Warriors, they signed Cousins to a one-year deal worth just $5.3 million. The four-time All-Star suffered an Achilles injury last season that could cause him to miss time in 2018. Even so, if he comes back midway through the season or even after the All-Star break and is playing at about 90% by the playoffs, then the Warriors have already won the Championship.

I know Cousins will miss time and might not be the perfect fit for the Warriors system, but between Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Steve Kerr, you don’t think they can find a way to incorporate Cousins? They will and even if it isn’t a perfect fit the four players they have there now are already good enough to win the team a Championship, as we’ve seen over the past two seasons.

Look at it this way, the Warriors have the second and third best players in the world, the two best three-point shooters in the world, a former Defensive Player of the Year, and now a center who can shoot threes and was averaging roughly 25 points, 13 rebounds, and 5.5 assist per game last year. And he did it while playing and cooperating with 2017-18 MVP candidate Anthony Davis. People worry about his personality and on the court antics, but doesn’t Green do the same stuff? Kerr knows about Cousins’ style and is prepared to handle it.

Honestly if fans of other teams are upset by this than blame your own team for not being interested in Cousins and at least offering him a deal slightly higher than the Warriors did. I mean it sounds like hardly anybody was going after him so people shouldn’t get so mad when he takes on of the few deals that were offered to him. The man was going to sign a small one-year deal, more teams should have jumped on that opportunity.

People overreacted in many ways to the Cousins signing. Some, me included, initially thought it would make the NBA boring and completely eliminate any competition for the Championship. Others thought that finally building a team with five All-Stars would make the Warriors completely unbeatable. Neither of those ideas is correct. Although I still think it’s obvious that the Warriors will win the Championship that doesn’t make the NBA boring.

We’ve watched the Warriors play the Cleveland Cavaliers for four years straight and it wasn’t boring. James has been to eight straight finals and they haven’t been boring. The NBA will always be exciting no matter who is winning or losing. And second, the Warriors can still be beaten. Cousins will miss significant time during the season so the team will only have their same four All-Stars from last year when they finished SECOND in the West and had to go a full seven games with the Rockets in the Conference Finals. They aren’t invincible, it just feels that way. Maybe they’d lose if Paul actually stayed healthy and James Harden showed up for a clutch postseason series.

Melo to Houston?

We know for sure now that Carmelo Anthony is going to part ways with the Oklahoma City Thunder, but where will the former superstar land? The Rockets seem likely and reports have even surfaced that the team is pushing hard to land Melo. The Lakers are another obvious choice because of James and the team’s string of short contracts with veteran players. Melo also met with the Miami Heat on top of the Rockets recently. The Heat will likely resign Dwyane Wade, one of Melo’s best friends, for the 2018 season.

I love Melo, he’s always been one of my favorite players, but if I’m a GM in the NBA there is no way I’m signing him. He’s too much money, too little on defense, too unreliable on offense, too demanding with playing time, and on the wrong side of his prime. I hope his next stay with a team goes better than his short stint in OKC.

Butler Annoyed with T-Wolves

Reports claim that Jimmy Butler is “fed up” with the Minnesota Timberwolves and some of their young stars, particularly Karl-Anthony Towns. To make things more complicated, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times reports that Butler will not sign an extension with the Timberwolves. Butler is under contract for the 2018-19 season but then has a player option the following year. He can simply decline that and become a free agent.

This is yet another instance of a star player being disgruntled with his team and perhaps wanting a change of scenery. I don’t think he’ll be going anywhere anytime soon, but his stay in Minnesota has been anything but successful. The team finished eighth in the Western Conference last year and were never as threatening as I expected they would be. If Butler leaves the Sun-Times report claimed he’d like the chance to team up with Kyrie Irving in Boston. There are so many issues with making that happen that I won’t even get into that right now.

Available Free Agents

As of the time this article is being written, there are only a few quality free agents left. Clint Capela stands out as a man who some team will make super rich, but he is a restricted free agent (RFA). He’s an athletic monster who’s effective on both ends of the court. Losing him will really be a blow to the Rockets. Marcus Smart and Jabari Parker are other big-name RFAs. Smart is one of the best defenders in the NBA and Parker has All-Star potential, he just can’t stay healthy. Yogi Ferrell is another young player who Is an RFA.

Veterans Wade, Vince Carter, and Joe Johnson are all available. The future Hall of Fame candidates are well past their prime but can still contribute on the court and in the locker room. Wade will likely resign with the Miami Heat and end his career there. Carter is 41 and could retire just as easily as he could sign for the veteran’s minimum on a team and go another year. If Johnson finds a new home, it will be his fifth team since 2015. Three-time Sixth Man of the Year, Jamal Crawford is also looking for a new home.

Parker Parts with Spurs

Speaking of veterans, four-time NBA Champion Tony Parker is leaving the San Antonio Spurs after 17 seasons. He signed a two-year deal with the Charlotte Hornets. Parker’s departure leaves Manu Ginobili as the only remaining member of the Spurs legendary big three in San Antonio. The move comes at a hectic time for the team. Superstar Kawhi Leonard has made it clear he wants out, but the Spurs will decide his fate. Ironically, Parker was one of the factors that disenchanted Leonard with the Spurs. He didn’t appreciate the veteran calling him out last year.

The Spurs could easily move Leonard, but his contract still has one year left. If they want to they can hold onto him for 2018, but he’ll likely leave after that. George and Irving were in similar situations last year, in both cases their teams traded them. But Leonard is a different type of player. For the Spurs to trade him they’ll need a massive package of draft picks and young prospects in return. Teams like the Lakers, Boston Celtics, and 76ers may not be willing to part with their young talent.

Leonard wants to go to one of the teams in LA, but the Spurs would be wise to not trade him to a team in their conference, especially not the one that already has James on it. However this situation plays out, some team might be getting one of the five best players on the planet. As long as his health is assured teams should bet on Leonard.

His play is reliable, but once his contract runs out after the season he’s free to go wherever he wants. It’s a difficult situation for all the team involved. The Lakers don’t want to part ways with Kyle Kuzma and the Celtics want to hold onto Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Terry Rozier. If those pieces don’t move I don’t see Leonard going anywhere.

Other Free Agent Signings

Just to quickly run through some other free agent signings that occurred: the New Orleans Pelicans signed former Laker Julius Randle to a two-year $18 million deal. Brook Lopez agreed to a one-year deal with the Milwaukee Bucks. Derrick Favors resigned with the Utah Jazz for two-years and $26 million. Tyreke Evans signed with the Indiana Pacers on a one-year $12 million deal.

Former New York Knicks Doug McDermott and Kyle O’Quinn are also headed to Indiana. Wilson Chandler was traded from the Denver Nuggets to the Philadelphia 76ers. Elfrid Payton has agreed to a one-year deal with the Pelicans and Nerlens Noel reached a two-year deal with the Thunder.

Dwight Howard and Jeff Green will be joining the Washington Wizards and Zaza Pachulia signed with the Detroit Pistons. The Wizards are yet another team that Howard had chosen to play for that has little to no chance of contending for a Championship. I wonder if he’ll ever sign with a contender. Seth Curry got a two-year deal with the Portland Trailblazers. I think he’ll impress people there with his play.

Fred VanVleet resigned with the Toronto Raptors, who probably partied like they won the Championship after hearing James left the East. Rudy Gay, Dante Exum, Joe Harris, Dirk Nowitzki, Amir Johnson, Jerami Grant, and Aron Baynes all resigned with their respective teams.

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