First of all, it happened. LeBron James officially opted out of his deal and became a free agent. Everyone expected this, so it isn’t anything surprising, but it’s the King. The Decision part three will be the highlight of the NBA offseason for sure. Oh and Kevin Durant intends to sign a two year max deal with a player option with the Golden State Warriors. Nothing surprising there either.
2018 NBA Awards
Let’s just quickly recap the NBA awards that were given out about a week ago. Lou Williams, who was an All-Star snub in 2017, predictably won the Sixth Man of the Year award. I don’t think that was ever in doubt. Another predictable award race was the one for the Most Improved Player of the year, which went to Victor Oladipo. Oladipo made his first All-Star game this year and will likely make more further down the road. Another outcome that seemed more than likely was Rudy Gobert winning the Defensive Player of the Year award, which a lot of people thought he should’ve won last year.
The rest of the award races were a lot closer in public opinion and were more controversial. First off, James Harden beat out James and Anthony Davis for the MVP. Public opinion was that Harden would win and many people wanted him to because they felt he got gipped out of the honor last year. At the same point, James is clearly still the best player in the game and was deserving of the award himself. But this was Harden’s year. The selection feels kind of empty though, maybe it’s because of Harden’s poor play in the postseason when compared to how James and Davis played. But it is a regular season award. Maybe they should add a postseason performance award, although I guess the finals MVP would make that kind of pointless.
Ben Simmons won Rookie of the Year because, get this, he was a rookie. 2017 was the first year that Simmons played in a regular or post season NBA game, making it his first season. This is how the NBA has defined a rookie for a long time, we all knew this going into the year. Don’t make a big fuss over who a rookie is or isn’t now. Putting that irksome topic aside, I would’ve voted for Donovan Mitchell. I’ll admit I’m a Simmons fan, but something about Mitchell’s game is just so smooth and sharp at the same time. If Simmons develops a three point shot he might have the higher ceiling than Mitchell, but right now the Utah Jazz guard is the better player and he showed it in 2017. Again, Mitchell shined in the playoffs while Simmons struggled at points. This selection feels incomplete in many ways. Oh, and I’m just going to float this out there: Simmons = James and Mitchell = Stephen Curry in the next generation of NBA talent. What about it, sounds interesting right?
I have the most complaints with the last award selection I’ll be discussing. The NBA Coach of the Year was Dwane Casey from the Toronto Raptors. Quin Snyder from the Jazz came in second. Brad Stevens came in third. THIRD! WHAT? Gordon Hayward went down minutes into the season, Kyrie Irving missed a fourth of the season, including the playoffs, and Al Horford also missed ten games. How does this guy finish in third? What he’s done over the last few years, coaching up young talent and bringing the Celtics back to relevancy in a few seasons is ridiculous and rarely every happens so smoothly. So can somebody, anybody tell me how he lost this award to the man who hasn’t figured out how to beat James after seven years in the East? Don’t get me wrong Casey and Snyder are good coaches, but Stevens is a great coach. That much should be easy to see.
George Staying in OKC
The first major unpredictable domino has fallen. Paul George has agreed to a four year, max deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The contract is worth $137 million and includes a player option. George made the announcement himself last night on stage at a party being thrown by his teammate, Russell Westbrook. And Westbrook really does have a reason to party. He and the Thunder would’ve become just another team without George, not that they were all that impressive in 2017. Maybe year two will be more successful.
The decision to resign with the Thunder makes it clear that George will not be teaming up with James or other super star free agents this summer. He’s locked himself into a situation, but I think it’s the wrong situation. As of right now, there’s no way that Thunder team will beat the Warriors, Houston Rockets, or even the San Antonio Spurs if they choose to hold onto Kawhi Leonard. I understand George wanting to be loyal and win one for the team he’s on now, but if he was desperate for a championship then he should’ve rolled the dice and tried something new. I think the Thunder can be better than they were last year, but their ceiling is to low.
If George plays out the full extent of his contract, he’ll hit the market going into his age 32 season. We’ve seen star players stretch their peaks into their mid-thirties so George could still be a star at that point and still have a chance to go chase a ring. He’ll just have to do it without James, and if he’s lucky the Warriors will no longer be standing in his way either.
Jordan to Mavericks 2.0?
I guess that wasn’t really a quick recap, oh well. Moving on, Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan has opted out of his deal and become a free agent. Now things are lining up for him to join the Dallas Mavericks, who he had a verbal agreement to join the last time he was a free agent. We all remember the drama that unfolded when he reneged on his word and returned to Los Angeles, but this time he might actually end up in Dallas. Jordan was the final key member on the Clippers from the Lob City era that also featured super stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. J.J. Redick and Jamal Crawford were also key members of that team.
In preparation to make a run for Jordan, the Mavericks declined Dirk Nowitzki’s team option to create more cap space. The Mavericks have every intention to resign Nowitzki in July. Nowitzki has spent his entire 20 year career with the Mavericks, during which he has won an MVP, an NBA championship, and accumulated over 31,000 points.
Father-Son Combo Splits
Since we were talking about the Clippers, head coach Doc Rivers and the team traded Austin Rivers to the Washington Wizards for Marcin Gortat. Rivers, the son, has had his fair share of troubles in Los Angeles. The father-son dynamic was complicated and probably negatively impacted both Rivers. I do think that if it wasn’t for Austin being his son, Doc would’ve traded him long ago. Austin has shown some flashes throughout his career but has also been toxic in the locker room and is publicly one of the least liked players in the NBA.
The Wizards had their fair share of locker room issues this past season too. Notably, Gortat and star point guard John Wall got into a feud and things began to break down within the team. What this trade ends up looking like is two struggling teams trading each other two average players who were at the center of tensions within their locker rooms. Gortat will have to fill the void left by Jordan leaving for, possibly, the Mavericks this time.
Crabbe Saves a School
On a more fun note, Brooklyn Nets guard Allen Crabbe made a six-figure donation to keep his old high school in Los Angeles from closing. Crabbe told TMZ, “I was at that school practically my whole life. I’m just happy and feel blessed to be in a position now to do this”. It’s certainly a feel good story that shouldn’t be glossed over in the hectic and exciting NBA offseason. Crabbe had his best year as a pro in 2017, scoring 990 total points while averaging 13.2 points per game.
The 2017 No. 2 overall pick, Lonzo Ball has a torn meniscus. It doesn’t appear to be a major injury though. The damage is in his left knee, but Ball should be ready for the start of the season. Even if it’s only a slight injury that shouldn’t impact him this season, I have to imagine this changes his potential trade value. It was reported that the Spurs weren’t interested in a trade including Ball, but this probably ensures no team will be pursuing him. Ball was disappointing in his rookie year, but still played better than people give him credit for. He’s currently part of a young trio of soon to be second year players on the Los Angeles Lakers that also includes Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart.
While we’re here, do you think the Lakers fan base will survive if they don’t land a super star this summer? Magic Johnson himself said he’ll step down if he can’t get the job done and bring some stars back to LA within the next few years. The team was left out in the cold last year when they missed out on George and everyone else. So far it’s looking like they could be in for another rough year. The Spurs may refuse to trade Leonard within the western conference, George has resigned with the Thunder, and James could be lured in by a more competitive team. Talk about a nightmare type situation for the Lakers. It could be Leonard, James, or even DeMarcus Cousins, but they need to land somebody real soon or it will be another failed offseason for one of the most storied franchises in the sport.
The Warriors have agreed to a contract extension with head coach Steve Kerr that will make him one of the association’s highest paid coaches. Kerr has taken the Warriors to the NBA Championships all four of his years with the team. The team won three of those times, all against James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Kerr has a 265-63 regular season record (.808 winning %) and is 63-20 in the playoffs (.759 winning %). He also won five championships as a player on Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls and Tim Duncan’s Spurs.
The Most Interesting Man in Basketball?
While I’m not a Warriors fan I do like Kerr. He’s fun to have around the game kind of like Gregg Popovich. At the same time I think it’s fair to ask how much his coaching helps his team. I mean the squad has four of the top twenty best players in the league, they had better be in the finals every year. This group of players should be able to get along just fine without a coach, and they have been successful during Kerr’s numerous absences because of health related issues. I do think Kerr is a great coach, in the same class as Stevens, but I wonder how history will remember him as a coach.
Either way, the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame will likely induct Kerr after his run with the Warriors ends. He does have eight total championships after all and past ties to Jordan, Phil Jackson, Duncan, Popovich and tons of other legendary players and coaches. He’s got quite the life story to tell one day.