Free agency isn’t completely over and there will be more trades and contract extensions before the season starts. After the moves that have been made, though, how has the landscape of the league changed?
CBS Sports writers Brad Botkin, James Herbert and Colin Ward-Henninger have some thoughts. Here is their roundtable discussion:
After winning the championship, did the Lakers win the offseason? If not, who did?
James Herbert: As a Marc Gasol believer, the Lakers won the offseason. Gasol is exactly what they needed at center, and he makes their other moves look better. Dennis Schroder and Montrezl Harrell will give Los Angeles more offensive options than it had last season, but Gasol ties everything together with his passing and his ability to space the floor. Wesley Matthews is a nice replacement for Danny Green, even if he’s not the same caliber of help defender.
Los Angeles improved in meaningful ways, and it needed to. These moves will allow LeBron James and Anthony Davis to play fewer minutes in the regular season and empower Frank Vogel to diversify the Lakers’ attack. And by re-signing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Markieff Morris, there are only a couple of areas in which they have taken a significant step back: offensive rebounding and vertical spacing.
Colin Ward-Henninger: Let’s be honest, Gordon Hayward won the offseason. But if we’re talking about teams, it’s almost impossible to argue against the Lakers as the biggest winners. They addressed their biggest issues from last season, adding bench scoring with Harrell, a secondary ball-handler with Schroder and a much more reliable starting center in Gasol. He looked rough offensively last postseason, but Gasol’s defensive intelligence and passing ability will greatly benefit the Lakers, even if he’s no longer a viable scoring threat.
Forgetting the minutiae and looking at this from a macro level, the Lakers just have more guys than they did last year. We saw the heavy lifting LeBron and A.D. had to endure, when they were relying on players like Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo, Alex Caruso and Dwight Howard to have the occasional big game. They’ve now added two borderline All-Stars and a future Hall of Famer, whose consistent production will allow the superstars to take a deep breath every once in a while.
Brad Botkin: I understand the point that the Lakers won the offseason, but to me, that’s only because they started with the best duo — and therefore the best team — in the league, so it was only about fit. Adding a secondary ball-handler, a way-past-his-prime big man and wing isn’t some major coup. Fact is, people actually thought Harrell was a bad signing and are still questioning whether he’s even playable in the playoffs.
So again, this was only a great offseason for the Lakers because they already had arguably the two best players in the world on their team. It’s like when the Warriors signed Zaza Pachulia and everyone was like, “he’s perfect for them!” or when JaVale McGee became a cult star but it was only because they didn’t need guys like that to actually be that good for them with the team they already had. In this environment, relatively average players can have a bigger impact. (Hello, Dwight Howard!) Bottom line, the Lakers were going to be the favorite to win it all before these moves, anyway.
In a vacuum, the Trail Blazers actually added more necessary pieces, as did the Suns, who will benefit more from Chris Paul and Jae Crowder than the Lakers will benefit from all their pieces combined. From a pure talent standpoint, Atlanta arguably did better than anyone.
Danilo Gallinari (though I’m not sure he’s a perfect timeline fit at $20 million a year for three years) and Bogdan Bogdanovic are 20-point-a game scorers given that kind of opportunity. Onyeka Okongwu and Kris Dunn provide the Hawks with a defensive element that is vital. Rajon Rondo, if he’s anywhere near as good as he was in the bubble, becomes a legitimate playmaker to spell Trae Young and even play alongside him so Young can really start to develop off the ball.
If you look at the Hawks’ potential 10-man rotation — Young, Bogdanovic, Gallinari, John Collins, Clint Capela, Okongwu, Rondo, Cam Reddish, De’Andre Hunter and Kevin Huerter — and compare it to last season’s roster, it’s more than arguable that they actually made the biggest leap.
The Clippers and Bucks were both under enormous pressure to improve. What do you make of their respective offseasons?
Botkin: I think they both came out a better team than they were last season. Milwaukee getting Jrue Holiday is getting somewhat lost since it happened early and was clouded by the botched Bogdanovic move. The Bucks simply can’t win the title without another All-Star-level playmaker to go with Khris Middleton because you can’t depend on Giannis to do that for you in the half court. I also love the Torrey Craig signing.
For the Clippers, Serge Ibaka gives them a ton more flexibility on both ends. Opening the lane for Kawhi Leonard and Paul George with a five-man who can stretch to the 3-point line is a big deal when that big can also protect the rim. I’ve just always liked Ibaka. He’s a comfortable player to me. Someone I trust.
And now we get to Luke Kennard. My man. I absolutely love Kennard’s game. You guys know I’m a sucker for shooting, but he’s more than a shooter. He’s way better with the ball as a creator than people realize. He’s just a smooth player who I think has a 20-point, five-assist future in the right opportunity. He won’t get that kind of opportunity with the Clippers, but he’s that kind of player. I believe that. I’m super pumped to watch him next to two superstars drawing all the attention.
Herbert: I love the Ibaka addition for the Clippers for the obvious reason: They can now play five-out offense without going “small.” The Marcus Morris signing is an overpay, but a necessary one. I’m higher than most — though apparently not higher than Brad — on the Kennard trade, mostly because of his secondary playmaking, and I remain curious about what they’ll do between now and the playoffs, especially when it comes to Lou Williams.
As for the Bucks … well, I liked the thought of Holiday and Bogdanovic in the backcourt. Since then, it’s been messy. Craig is a bargain, Augustin gives them some desperately needed ball-handling and Bryn Forbes is a nice offensive fit, but the bungled Bogdanovic deal and the Connaughton kerfuffle were both extremely disappointing. Milwaukee had some lingering holes despite another incredible regular season, and, even with Holiday aboard, it hasn’t quite filled them.
Ward-Henninger: As usual, the Clippers have been overshadowed by the Lakers, but they made some solid moves to improve. Harrell makes it sound like the Clippers prioritized Ibaka over him, which makes sense given the fit and the two players’ respective postseasons. Ibaka looked springy and shot about 95 percent from the 3-point line, while all of Harrell’s shortcomings, particularly on the defensive end, were put on display. I, too, really like Kennard, but I worry about his health on a team that struggled all last season to keep guys on the floor.
I’d be more excited for the Bucks if they would have gotten Bogdanovic (though I admit my affinity for him might be a bit lofty), but Holiday, given his ability to play both on and off the ball with more defensive versatility, is an unquestioned improvement over Eric Bledsoe. Craig was a sneaky move to give them another wing defender, and Bobby Portis will provide a smaller center option than Brook Lopez, which could allow the Bucks to switch more. It sounds crazy when talking about a team that’s been so successful over the past two regular seasons, but running it back in Milwaukee wasn’t really an option. I think their moves will help them in the playoffs, which is all that matters now.
The least popular contracts went to Jerami Grant and Gordon Hayward. Defend the one you think is most defensible.
Ward-Henninger: I don’t get the Hayward deal at all for Charlotte, which appeared ready to see what a LaMelo Ball-led team looks like while bottoming out for a loaded 2021 draft class. So I’ll defend the Grant signing.
I always forget that Blake Griffin is on the Pistons, and if he can somehow remain healthy next season then Grant is actually a pretty nice complement, particularly since the Detroit front office seems to think he has untapped offensive potential. Griffin is close to untradeable, so seeing if you can compete for the eight seed with him, Derrick Rose and Grant as your top three while you develop Killian Hayes, which will likely take some time, isn’t an unforgivable plan. If it doesn’t work or Griffin gets hurt, you trade Rose at the deadline and Grant becomes a foundational piece of your rebuild.
Botkin: I look at the Grant deal from the player’s perspective rather than the team’s; I just don’t get why he would rather be in Detroit than Denver, as the money was reportedly pretty much equal. Detroit is where players like Grant who want a “bigger role” go to die. Denver was allowing him to become the absolute best version of himself. Now he thinks he’s good enough to be a legit No. 2 NBA scoring option, and possibly a No. 1 if Griffin ends up getting dealt? No chance. Grant messed this up. Know your role. He was on the ascent big-time with the Nuggets. You’ll hardly even hear his name next season.
As for Hayward, he’s not worth $30 million a year, I think we can all agree on that, and it’s hard to imagine why the Hornets would want to gun for the No. 8 seed instead of being bad enough to get a high draft pick in next year’s stacked class.
But the Hornets seem to be a team destined to gun for the lower playoff spots no matter how much young talent they get, and they have to overpay to get anyone established. Hayward, on paper, is one of the more perfectly suited secondary creators in the league to play alongside Ball without suppressing his development.
In the end, the Hayward deal is far more defensible than the Grant deal. Again, it’s obvious why Hayward would take that deal, and I have no idea why Grant would want to be with the Pistons. Also, I don’t really get why the Pistons want Grant at that number. They’re a terrible team. Grant is not a player who even comes close to changing the fortunes of a bad team; he’s a guy who really improves an already good one. I know Detroit isn’t done and could still have a lot of moves to make, but my guess is as long as Grant is in Detroit, he’ll be an irrelevant player in the grand scheme of the greater NBA power structure. In Denver, he was on the cusp of having championship-level impact.
Herbert: Charlotte isn’t a free-agent destination, and this offseason gave the franchise a rare opportunity: It had cap space, and only a few other teams did. The Hornets reportedly tried to get Harrell, who turned them down to take less money from the Lakers. They didn’t have to sign anybody, but I can understand them wanting to do so, even if I think they clearly paid too steep a price for Hayward.
Hayward will make Charlotte a more cohesive, competitive and relevant team. If he can stay healthy he’ll probably be its best player. Between him and LaMelo Ball, the Hornets have added a lot of passing, and those two should complement each other just fine on offense. Looking at this from a short-term, on-the-court perspective, I can get behind it.
The Hawks and Suns are going for it. How far will their respective moves get them?
Herbert: I’m fascinated by the Hawks. They’re stacked on offense, and having all of these scoring options is going to be a real adjustment for every returning player, not just Young. They should be a playoff team now, but they’ll need to be at least average defensively if they’re going to be better than a lower-rung playoff team. That seems unlikely without meaningful improvement from Collins and their young wings on that end, even with Dunn, Capela and the promising Okongwu around.
The Suns are dangerous. I loved how they played on both ends in the bubble, and now they’re deeper, more talented and more experienced. The Paul trade showed that they were serious, and he won’t be the only adult in the room because Crowder, Langston Galloway and E’Twaun Moore have come with him. Health permitting, Phoenix should be among the glut of teams jostling for position underneath the very best of the West, although I do have some concerns about its interior defense. If it’s fully healthy come playoff time and the Cameron Payne breakout was real, then the coaching staff might actually have to make some tough calls about the rotation.
Botkin: The answer is I don’t know. The Hawks look like an Eastern playoff team on paper, but now that they’re actually playing to win, we’ll see just how detrimental Young’s defense really is. If I had to bet, I would bet Atlanta makes the playoffs, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it doesn’t.
Phoenix is a much better team than Atlanta, but it’s in the much better conference, too. If Houston doesn’t trade James Harden, the only West playoff team from last season that likely falls out is OKC, with Phoenix, Golden State and New Orleans all vying for that one spot. Who knows, man. But Phoenix, for the first time in a long time, is a genuinely good team either way.
Ward-Henninger: Dating back to the deadline, the Hawks have added shooting (Gallinari, Bogdanovic), defense (Capela, Okongwu, Dunn) and secondary ball-handlers (Rondo, Bogdanovic) for when Young sits or coach Lloyd Pierce wants him to play off the ball. Add these components to what was already a promising young core, and you’ve got a team primed to make the playoffs. They could still run into crunch-time problems, however, because their best offensive players are all minuses on defense. With Brooklyn’s expected improvement, the East is suddenly very deep at the top, so Atlanta’s ceiling this season is probably a No. 7 seed — but that’s saying something for a team that hasn’t cracked 30 wins in any of the previous three years.
The way the question is phrased is interesting because I love the additions of Paul and Crowder for Phoenix and the Suns should be a much better team, but in the loaded Western Conference, how far can they really go? The timing of the Suns’ all-in moves is actually kind of perfect, as OKC and Houston may completely drop out of the playoff picture. Denver might take a small step back after losing Grant and Mason Plumlee. Dallas should be good, but the health of Kristaps Porzingis is a question. If Paul can stay on the court, there’s a real chance that the Suns can make it to somewhere in the No. 4-No. 6 range in the West — remember, nobody thought OKC would be the No. 5 seed last year — and if they do that they have a puncher’s chance of getting out of the first round.
Give me your favorite under-the-radar acquisition.
Ward-Henninger: The Blazers made some great moves this offseason, so the Harry Giles signing might fly a bit under the radar. Still just 22 years old, Giles is an energy big who has soft touch around the basket and averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds per 36 minutes last season in Sacramento. He was the No. 1 player in his high school class before multiple injuries derailed his trajectory, and there is a lot of offensive potential for Portland to develop.
Giles also provides a nice contrast to Jusuf Nurkic, Zach Collins and Enes Kanter. He may not play a ton to start, but if injuries rear their ugly head he’s a great insurance policy.
Botkin: I think Robert Covington is the single most necessary addition anyone made. The Blazers couldn’t defend elite wings — or defend anyone, really, for that matter — and Covington, along with Derrick Jones Jr., at least gives them a fighting chance. Their lineup flexibility just went to another level. (I’m not sure Covington is under the radar, but he’s certainly not a marquee addition.)
As I said above, I also think Kennard is a really solid player nobody is talking about and should have every chance to thrive with the Clippers. And I agree with Colin on Giles in Portland. The Blazers plan on being a playoff team every year, so they’re not going to be in position to add a 22-year-old with this kind of upside in the draft anytime soon.
I also like the Dunn signing in Atlanta. You guys know I hate guards who can’t shoot, but with Bogdanovic and Gallinari to now carry the scoring load when Young is on the bench, I expect the Hawks will actually win a lot of those minutes with Dunn hounding opposing point guards.
Finally, I LOVE Seth Curry in Philadelphia.
Sorry, was that more than one answer?
Herbert: The Grizzlies signed John Konchar to a four-year deal worth $9 million, with $5.1 million guaranteed. (The final year is fully non-guaranteed, as is most of the Year 3 salary.) This represents security for an undrafted player with 181 minutes of NBA experience, and it’s also a smart bet for Memphis. I’m not saying Konchar is definitely the next Covington, but the way he performed in that small sample suggests he can be a valuable role player.
And he’s definitely under the radar.
Published: 2020-11-26 03:01:28
Tags: #NBA #free #agency #roundtable #Lakers #win #offseason #Defending #Gordon #Hayward #Jerami #Grant #deals