Barkley > Draymond- Why is this even a conversation?

The Last Dance documentary has shined the light on a lot of under celebrated players from the 90’s.  Most notably in episode six they talked about the Phoenix Suns and Charles Barkley.  Today’s generation see Barkley as the outspoken analyst on TNT and other media outlets but it is very noticeably forgotten that the Round Mound of Rebound was actually one of the best NBA players not only of the 90’s but in the history of the game. 

Recently Barkley has been in a war of words with fellow outspoken power forward Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors.  Green has cited that Barkley’s inability to win a championship puts him below the level of the Warriors star.  I am a believer in championships cementing the legacy of great players. It  is downright laughable for Green to believe that his legacy in the league will ever match Charles Barkley.  Green is a key cog in the machine the Golden State Warriors have built but by no means is he in the league of the Hall of Famer.  Barkley was a cornerstone of two different franchises.  The Sixers of the late 80’s and the Suns of the 90’s success was primarily built on the back of Barkley.    

Who had even heard of the Phoenix Suns before Barkley was traded there and led them to a losing effort against the prime Michael Jordan Bulls of the 90’s. The Suns had made it to one other finals in the 1975-1976 season and to this day haven’t made it since the time of Barkley and company.  It wasn’t until the Steve Nash and Amare Stoudamire Suns of the mid 2000’s that Phoenix was able to make any impact in the league.  Barkley is unquestionably the face of the entire organization and unless Devin Booker gets some help he will be the face for years to come.  

I am not here to knock Draymond Green.  He is the perfect example of the progression of the point-forward position in today’s NBA.  Barkley however was carrying teams with lesser talent for years.  No matter who was on the court Barkley found success.  His career PER was 24.6 and destroyed Green who hasn’t had a season PER above 19.  We have seen what happens when Green becomes the focal point of a team.  He is not the scorer, rebounder or leader that Barkley was.  Draymond Green is an overachiever in the NBA.  He has done great things in the league, his defense is better than Barkleys.  That is the lone aspect about his game that you can argue is better.  That is it.  Someone tell me something that he does better.    It is actually very funny that Drayond believes that he is on the level of an NBA hall of famer.  Imagine if Green didn’t play along with some of the best players in the entire league. Would he even be talked about?  

Barkley played with some talent in his prime.  Kevin Johnson was very good for a small amount of time.  Dan Majerle was a three time all star, but he was never a premium level player.  Who did he play with on the level of  Steph Curry, Klay Thompson or Kevin Durant? Green could never take a team as far as Barkley did.  He could never be the #1 option. 

Three teams that could have beat the late 90’s Bulls.

“The Last Dance” documentary about the Chicago Bulls highlighted the final run of the great Bulls dynasty of the 90’s.  Winning six championships in eight seasons cemented the legacy of both the players, coaches and the city.  While watching I thought to myself who could really stop this team loaded with the best player and coach in NBA history. I felt like the second half of the three-peat the Bulls were the most dominant.  I wanted to look at which teams could have been able to stop their great run.  

I did not include the Orlando Magic team that eliminated the Bulls during Jordan initial return. 

Indiana Pacers 1995-1996

The 95-96 Indiana Pacers lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Atlanta Hawks.  An injury to superstar Reggie Miller forced him to miss most of the first round. The injury doomed the Pacers.  During the season the Pacers were a thorn in the side of the historic 72-10 Chicago Bulls.  Indiana actually beat the Bulls twice during the season.  They were responsible for 20% of the losses for arguably the greatest team in the history of the league. Unlike most of the rest of the league they seemed to have an idea of how to handle the juggernaut. 

The Pacer’s were able to utilize their size and toughness in the post.  Rik Smits and Dale Davis were able to control the paint against Chicago. They could handle the inside and they had skilled shotmakers to punish.  Indiana had tons of talent as well as a great leader in Larry Brown.  Indiana had everything it took to pull off the upset in the playoffs, but the injury to Miller ended any chance of being successful.  It would have been really fun to see the playoff trash talk between Miller and Jordan both in their prime. 

Miami Heat 1997-1998

Led by Tim Hardaway, Alonzo Mourning and Coach Pat Riley the Miami Heat were serious contenders during the time of the Bulls second three-peat.   Injuries plagued Miami throughout the season.  The first 22 games of the season they played without Alonzo Mourning due to offseason knee surgery.  Despite the loss of Mourning the Heat still began the season 15-7. They were in the driver’s seat for the division even without their superstar. 

Miami was not just built around their superstars.  The secondary pieces the organization assembled were able to fit perfectly.  Guards Voshon Leonard and Dan Majerle provided sharpshooting.  PJ Brown provided defense and rebounding.  Jamal Mashburn was the athletic mutli-purpose up and coming star. They had plenty of talent to surround their stars along with a coach that knew exactly how to utilize the talent around him.  

Miami was ranked in the top ten in both offensive and defensive rating.  The Heat’s game plan was to slow down the pace and take advantage of their elite talent.  They ranked 26 of 29 in pace of play, which was exactly what Pat Riley wanted.  He was an old school coach that wanted to grind out the game.  

The Heat dominated their division finishing 12 games above the New York Knicks.  They were matched up with the Knicks in the first round of the playoffs.  This Heated rivalry got out of hand in game four when Alonzo Mourning got into an altercation with the Knicks Larry Johnson.  The fight led to the suspension of Mourning in the deciding game.  Without Mourning the Heat were not able to overcome the Knicks.

The Heat had the experience and talent to match the Bulls.  Physically they could handle any team. Mentally they had problems that would have been tough to overcome the Jordan led Bulls. If you base it on talent alone the Heat would have been a great matchup with Chicago.  

Seattle Supersonics 1995–1996

The Supersonics were the only team on this list that actually had a chance to take down the infamous 90’s Bulls.The Supersonics were led by guard Gary Payton and forward Shawn Kemp.  Two players that were legendary figures in the game.  Payton was known for his great defense and leadership. Kemp was known for his ferocious dunks and rebounding skills.  They were the perfect compliment to each other and it showed on the court as they dominated the Western Conference with a 64-18 record.  

The rest of the Sonics lineup were not push-overs but actually seriously talented secondary players.  Sam Perkins, Detlef Schrempf, Hersey Hawkins, Vincent Askew and Nat McMillan rounded out a solid lineup of players that all filled in their roles perfectly. Each one of them fit in perfectly with the two stars. 

The Bulls and Sonics split the season series with both winning their respective home games. These teams’ statistics were nearly identical with the only real difference being the Bulls 40% 3-pt shooting compared to the Sonics 36%.  That was literally the only large statistical difference between the two teams.  

The series began with the Bulls jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the series before the Sonics were able to get themselves in gear.  The Sonics dominated game 4 and 5 before being finished off in game six in Chicago.  Injuries plagued Seattle from the start as defensive stud Gary Payton was dealing with a bad calf injury that forced him off of Michael Jordan.  Sonics second best defensive guard Nate McMillan was injured nearly the entire series.  The loss of their two best defensive guards had Jordan salivating at the idea of being guarded but the third choice. Jordan dominated a gimpy Seattle team averaging 30.7 ppg.  If Gary Payton was fully healthy the Sonics could have been the team that stopped the dynasty.

The next Patrick Ewing

Patrick Ewing was as dominant a force as there was in the NBA during the late 80’s and 90’s.  Joining the New York Knicks in the “rigged” NBA draft of 1985 the center from Georgetown was supposed to take over the league and return the franchise back to glory.  Ewing was joining a team that actually had made the playoffs in three of the previous five years. The rookie made an instant impact scoring 20 PPG and 9 RPG, winning the rookie of the year award.  Ewing continued to be a dominant player in the league becoming an 11-time All-Star, ending his career 13th all-time in his career. Ewing individually has a great career but he will forever be known as the one of the best center’s to never win a title. In today’s NBA game the traditional center has transitioned into a different type of player.  There is one player in particular that stands out as the next Ewing. His similarities are hard to ignore and his fate may be the same.

Patrick Ewing’s time in the NBA always had a shadowy overtone.  In that shadow was the greatest player of all time Michael Jordan and his dominant Bulls teams of the 90’s.  No matter what he did his team was not able to overcome the greatness of the Bulls. Even in the baseball years of Jordan, Ewing had to deal with the dominance for Hakeem and the Houston Rockets. Ewing was able to make it to one finals in 93-94 but Houston was a much better team. So, why did Ewing not win a title?  He was able to lead Georgetown to a national title. He was consistently winning games at both levels, but it seemed like when he entered the NBA his game changed. He came into the league as a defensive and rebounding force. The offensive game was supposed to develop over time and it did, but he lost what made himself dominant. His formation of his offensive game got the Knicks front office so excited that they decided to build around him.  They added one-dimensional players like John Starks, Anthony Mason, Rolando Blackman and Larry Johnson. In reality building around Ewing was not the wrong move but they should have added a premier scorer rather than players to work along with him.  

With the development of his offensive game, Ewing’s defense took a hit.  He was not the same player that was drafted for his interior force. The Knicks eventually added their premier scorer when they traded for Latrell Sprewell in 1998.  Ewing had begun his decline, which led to the Knicks adding big man Marcus Camby to eventually fill the shoes of the organization’s icon. The Knicks were able to transition very quickly without Ewing making an improbable run without him. New York was able to make it to the finals even though he had an achilles injury that forced him out of the playoffs. This would be the last chance for Ewing to win the big one with the team that drafted him.  His career would have a few more stops in Orlando and Seattle but the player that dominated the league was gone. Patrick Ewing is a case of a player with a team that didn’t understand how to utilize his skills and build around him correctly. He was extremely talented but the team and the player were not the right mix to win it all. Ewing should have been a franchise changer that was a part of a great dynasty. He never had a Kobe, a Clyde or Jerry West.  A big man should have a go to player to work with and he never had that.  

In the 2014 NBA Draft the Philadelphia 76ers were in the midst of their “Trust the Process” rebuild.  With the #3 overall pick they chose Kansas center Joel Embiid. Embiid had a prevalent knee injury that kept him out of the lineup until 2016.  Embiid immediately made a difference for the 76ers leading them out of the abyss. The comparison to Ewing is actually very interesting. Both players were born outside of the US, both players played for premier college programs, both players were rebuilding large city franchises.  In their first seasons in the league they both made the All-Rookie first team as well as averaging 20 points and 9 rebounds. The amount of similarities are impossible to ignore. 

Embiid has seen similar problems to Ewing during his short time in the NBA.  He has had to deal with all-world players Lebron James, Kawhi Leonard and now Giannis.  Each of the top players in the league have the talent and the correct organizational pieces to build around.  Embiid has had to deal with players that don’t fit with the skill set that he brings to the table. He should be an inside force that draws the defense and kicks out to athletic shooters.  If he does decide to play outside of the paint it should not be consistent. The Sixers have Ben Simmons, whose game does not fit with Embiid. Simmons inability to shoot forces him into the paint which allows the defense to clog up the middle of the lane.  The organization needs to develop the understanding of today’s game. They have to utilize the best assets of their star player. 

If Philadelphia doesn’t find a way to understand their player they will forever be the team that is known for wasting a great talent.  Ewing will go down as a historically great player that was never good enough and Embiid is on track to do the same.

Five Underrated Sports Moments

1) Joe Carter’s game winner 1993 World Series.

Five time All-Star Joe Carter had a near Hall of Fame career.  While his numbers don’t transition well to the analytics world that we know today, he still made an impact with his power and speed through his career. Carter spent a long time in the league making his impact most notably in the 1993 World Series where he not only sent home the Philadelphia Phillies but also gave Toronto their second straight World Series title. Carter’s homer literally won the World Series for the Blue Jays yet it seems to be ignored in history. The fact that this home run was in Toronto also makes it one of the craziest atmospheres in baseball.

2) Lance Berkman’s game tying single, game six 2011 World Series.

David Freese’s game winner will live on in baseball history.  We all tend to forget that it was actually Lance Berkman that saved the series for the Cardinals in game six. The Cardinals were down to their final out and final strike when Berkman shot a single up the middle that kept the game going for the Redbirds.  While Freese’s homer is obviously the moment that should be played over and over again, it was Berkman that made everything possible. Lance had a great career but this moment was by far the biggest of his career. 

https://www.mlb.com/video/berkman-s-game-tying-single-c19955467

3) Derek Fisher’s game winner with .4 seconds left 2004 Western Conference Semifinal.

The Lakers had plenty of guys that took the spotlight in 2004.  Shaq and Kobe were in their prime and dominating the league. Big shot Robert Horry was the guy known for hitting the game winners, hence the nickname.  However it was a shot in the 2004 Western Conference semi-final that stuck out to me. The Spurs and Lakers were battling for dominance in the Western Conference and this game was the swing that led to the win for Los Angeles.  The Lakers seemed done after the Spurs took the lead on a shot from Tim Duncan. This game was over and then out of nowhere the role player Derek Fisher launched a shot with .4 seconds on the clock and sent the fans home, giving the Lakers a 3-2 advantage in the series.  If this shot doesn’t happen we likely see the Spurs versus the Pistons in that year’s NBA Finals. 

4) DeWayne Wise saved Mark Buehrle’s perfect game. 

I watched this game live on WGN when I was in high school.  Soft tossing Mark Buehrle had a very underrated career that had a few highlight moments and one was on July 23rd 2009.  Buehrle threw a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays. That perfect game was nearly taken away by Gabe Kapler leading off the ninth driving a ball deep to center field.  Little known DeWayne Wise was playing shallow in center and immediately broke into a full sprint back to the wall jumping up off the wall knocking the ball back into play, juggling it before hauling it in. Wise never did anything else in his career that was noteworthy but this catch was awesome and will stay in my memory forever. 

5) Hatteberg’s walk-off for 20 straight. 

We all know the story of Moneyball.  The real world story of Scott Hatteberg is still hard to believe. The former Red Sox catcher seemed like his career was over after suffering an arm injury that forced him out of the position he had played his whole career.  Hatteberg only hit 106 homers in his entire 14-year career. By far his most memorable homer was on Sept 4th 2002 when he took the first pitcher from Royals pitcher Jason Grimsley over the right field wall and gave the A’s their (at the time) record 20th straight win.  While the story was made more famous by Hollywood years later, the actual game was as dramatic as it comes. Oakland had blown a massive lead and needed the former catcher to just get on base but he swung his way into history. If you haven’t seen Chris Pratt’s portrayal of the homer you have to watch Moneyball, he absolutely crushes the performance.

NBA Draft: Three worst drafting teams of the last 15 years.

The Sixers showed the NBA that you don’t actually have to win in the NBA to give you a chance for future success.  Philadelphia’s “trust the process” approach eventually found success with the progression of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. With the draft on its way after the cancellation of the NCAA tournament, it’s time to focus on the NBA’s future stars.  I want to look at organizations that have continually had issues in rebuilding their teams through the draft. This list is for teams that continuously have stunk but can’t seem to figure out their rebuild.  

I am going to focus on the players that were actually drafted, rather than who they missed out on.  Sometimes players just don’t pan out. Missing out on players like Giannis shouldn’t hurt their grade here.  No one saw that dominance coming.  

Minnesota Timberwolves

Best: Karl Anthony Towns (2015), Zach Lavine (2014)

Worst: Derrick Williams (2011), Rashad McCants (2005), Kris Dunn (2016), Jonny Flynn (2009)

The Minnesota Timberwolves have had a long history of being terrible in the draft. Their best move on draft day was trading OJ Mayo (#3 overall pick) for a package that included Kevin Love back in 2008.  When it comes to actually drafting well Minnesota has made many questionable decisions over the last few years. Notably in 2009 Minnesota had four picks including three in the first round and two in the lottery. The Timberwolves chose three point guards in this draft Ricky Rubio (#6), Jonny Flynn (#7), and Ty Lawson (#18).  Minnesota also picked shooting guard Wayne Ellington (#28). They took four guards and three of them played the same position. While Rubio put together some solid seasons in Minnesota he was never the player that was going to change the landscape of the organization. Jonny Flynn’s injuries made him an afterthought to most fans.  

The Timberwolves continued to make questionable decisions drafting four forwards the year after drafting four guards.  None of which worked out for the Wolves. While Karl Anthony-Towns has worked out their only other successful pick Zach Lavine spent most of his time playing a secondary role until he was moved to Chicago for a handful of nothing.  

Then there is Derrick Williams.  I don’t want to blame Minnesota for this pick but when you look at what was chosen around Williams it is hard to just ignore the mistake.  The 2011 draft class included Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson. The Wolves went with the raw projected talent of Williams.  While this move may have made sense to the media at the time it clearly set the organization back for years. Wasting a #2 pick on a guy that never even sniffed an All-Star season.  

With Karl Anthony-Towns clearly on the move due to his problems with management, Minnesota will again be starting over very soon. 

Sacramento Kings

Best: DeMarcus Cousins (2010), De’Aaron Fox (2017)

Worst: Nik Stauskas (2014), Spencer Hawes (2007), Marvin Bagley (2018), Willie Cauley-Stein (2015)

It’s been 14 seasons since the Sacramento Kings made it to the NBA playoffs.  The Chris Webber/Vlade Divac/Mike Bibby Kings are a thing of the past. Sacramento partly have themselves to blame for their losing ways.  Most notably the Kings spent their 2018 #2 overall pick on Duke forward Marvin Bagley, leaving potential franchise cornerstones Trae Young and Luka Doncic on the board. When playing, Bagley has shown potential, he has a problem if he can’t stay on the court.  The Kings saw De’Aaron Fox as their future, putting a dynamic player next to him such as Doncic or Young would work in today’s NBA success model. I am a Bagley fan but this was a pick that will keep the Kings out of the playoffs for a long time. 

While the recency of the Bagley pick is still on everyone’s mind we still can’t forget the mistakes made before that.  The pick of Willie Cauley-Stein in 2015 to play with your star of the same position Boogie Cousins not only made no sense but actually hurt the development of the super athletic Cauley-Stein.  The Kings have a way of going with the more recognizable name rather than going with the best prospect. They need to learn to open up their international scouting. It’s very confusing why they haven’t bought into the future landscape to the league with Vlade Divac’s in charge. 

Charlotte Hornets

Best: Kemba Walker (2011)

Worst: Adam Morrison (2006), Cody Zeller (2013), Frank Kaminsky (2015), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (2012)

This team chose Adam Morrison with the #3 overall pick in 2006.  To be fair the 2006 draft was as bad a draft as you could imagine.  The only notable names from that draft chosen after Morrison were Brandon Roy, who had an injury shortened career, Kyle Lowry, Rajan Rondo and Paul Millsap.  The latter three were not chosen until Rondo at #21. Despite the weakness of the draft Morrison at #3 was still a joke. While Morrison was a great NCAA player his tools never made the transition into the NBA.

After Morrison the mediocre core of picks continued to ravage the organization.  In 2012 the Hornets (Bobcats) had the #2 pick and went with Kentucky freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist passing on Bradley Beal, Damion Lillard, Harrison Barnes and Andre Drummond.  Kidd-Gilchrist never became anything more than a role player on a bad team. The former Wildcat never averaged over 12.7 ppg in his career and that number came in 2015-2016 when he only played seven games. This is one of the more under the radar complete busts of all time. 

Charlotte continued to make terrible selections when given a chance in the lottery taking Cody Zeller at #4 and Frank Kaminksy at #9 in 2013 and 2015.  Both players never became anything more than role players as well, while they weren’t projected to be stars Kaminsky is no longer with the organization while Zellers PER (player efficiency rating) has been barely above league average.  

The Hornets have had their chances at the top of the draft, they have swung and missed way too many times.  They now are stuck in a place where they continually put themselves in a place where they are middle of the pack and can’t get a great lottery spot.  We have seen Miles Bridges begin to develop along with for Kansas guard Devonte Graham but the Hornets are still in a place where they don’t really have a direction. 

Honorable Mention 

Chicago Bulls, saved by Derrick Rose (2008), Jimmy Butler (2011).

Washington Wizards, saved by John Wall (2010), Bradley Beal (2012).

Worst Trades last Twenty Years

On December 26th 1919 the Boston Red Sox traded sold the rights to Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees.  Thus began one of the longest and most miserable championship droughts in the history of any organization.  In honor of this and the coming of a new year, I wanted to talk about some of the worst trades over the last twenty years.  I am going to try and pick one from each sport. These will be trades, not free agent signings and most will be bad but maybe not the worst on all lists.  I would also like to note that these trades won’t have the impact of Babe Ruth to the Yankees but what really would?

NBA: OKC ships James Harden to the Rockets

Fresh off a Sixth Man of the Year award James Harden was entering the 2012-2013 season with high hopes for himself and his team built around young stars.  Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka and Harden were going to be the core of a future championship team. Unfortunately management saw the writing on the wall.  They knew resigning all four players was not realistic to a smaller market team. While the Thunder did reportedly offer Harden a contract worth about $55 million it was never signed and the team decided to move on. 

They trade Harden and a handful of players that names are worth typing for Jeremy Lamb, Kevin Martin and two draft picks (one became Steven Adams).  At the time this seemed like a decent return for a player that had primarily played a bench role, they were soon to find out that it may have taken a future championship away from OKC.  Harden developed into the MVP, multi-time All-Star and franchise player Rockets GM Darryl Morey thought he saw while no players outside of Adams are active for the Thunder. Anyone and everyone will always question what could have been if Westbrook, Durant and Harden had stayed together.  We will never know.  

Honorable Mention: Brooklyn Nets trade everything for KG and Paul Pierce

MLB: Indians steal Corey Kluber from Padres

In 2010 the St. Louis Cardinals were in need of a proven starter.  The San Diego Padres were looking for a power bat. The Cleveland Indians started the season 30-47 and were looking to unload some veterans to bring in prospects.  This culminated in St. Louis getting veteran Jake Westbrook, the Padres getting slugger Ryan Ludwick and the Indians acquiring a 24-year old rightie in Double-A named Corey Kluber.  

Kluber was a bit older for a pitcher in Double-A but possessed strikeout potential.  The Indians projected him as a potential middle of the rotation innings eater down the line.  The Padres and Indians had little idea that Kluber would discover a pitch that would end up changing his career.  Kluber was none for a low 90’s fastball and trouble with command, until he found the sinker. Becoming a mainstay in the rotation in 2013 Kluber would go on to win 98 games in total for the indians over his 8 full seasons including three All-Star appearances and two Cy Young Awards.  

The Cardinals and Padres got what they needed out of the veteran pickups but neither would be near the impact of Corey Kluber,  sometimes things just workout.

Honorable Mention: Cubs trade Josh Donaldson (2008)

NFL: Raiders trade Randy Moss to Patriots

Randy Moss as a Raider seemed like it would make sense.  Until it didn’t. The Raiders picked up the troubled wide receiver in hopes that they would be able to give a premier target to their young quarterbacks.  Two years and mediocre production along with some other issues, forced the Raiders to move on from Moss. In 2007, the Raiders found a suitor, the New England Patriots. The Patriots traded a fourth round selection for the future hall of famer.     

The Patriots had already established themselves as top of the league organization but had not really shown the offensive force that most dynasties had.  The combination of Tom Brady and Randy Moss was almost unfair to the league. Their first season together the Patriots raddled off 18 straight victories before being upset in the Super Bowl by David Tyree’s helmet.  Still the combination was lethal almost immediately. Moss, was reenergized by the move to New England. His 2007 season was something you would see when you play easy mode on Madden football, 98 catches, 1493 yards and 23 touchdowns.  That is not a typo. Randy Moss had 23 touchdowns in 2007! Moss would go on to have three stellar seasons with the Patriots while the Raiders would fall on hard times trying to replace the weapon they had basically handed away.

Honorable Mention:  Bills trade Marshawn Lynch (2010)

NHL: Bruins trade Joe Thornton to Sharks

In 2005 the Bruins started slowly.  Before the lockout of the previous year they had exited the playoffs in the first round three consecutive seasons.  They decided to shake things up. The decision was made to move their star Joe Thornton to the San Jose Sharks for a few afterthoughts and some players I guess.  

Thornton went on to continue a hall of fame career in San Jose, currently leading the franchise in most offensive categories.  The Sharks may have not gotten the championship they were looking for in picking Thornton but they did become a force in the NHL for years to come.  The Bruins floundered for a bit but in the long run they were ok. Still when you trade a star in their prime you have to get something in return….they didn’t.

NBA’s Biggest Disappointments so Far


San Antonio Spurs 

The Spurs are 8-14.  While it is early, you don’t have time in the loaded Western Conference to sit around and wait for your team to develop.  It’s really not the record that is the biggest surprise, it’s more the style of play that we have seen from San Antonio. Greg Popovich is a future Hall of Fame coach that has found a way to adapt his players to the style that is necessary to win.  They have always been a solid paced team that was able to play defensively at a high level. That’s no the case in 2019. Currently the Spurs are sitting behind the New York Knicks in team defensive rating. The NEW YORK KNICKS!

The Spurs have an interesting problem, they have two stars that don’t shoot threes.  That is an uncommon trend in today’s NBA. While San Antonio has become a faster paced team on the offensive end they have not caught up with the trend of shooting from deep.  They are mid-range happy. With their defensive issues they have to find a way to put more points up. The Spurs don’t have a lot of time to figure this season out, if they continue to flounder in mediocrity it may lead to a moving of one or potential both their star players LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar Derozan.  Derozan would make a lot of sense as he is an impending free agent in 2020.

Brooklyn Nets with

Kyrie Irving

The Brooklyn Nets surprised many last year making it to the playoffs while expectations were remarkably low. The summer hit and in comes Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.  With the additions of Irving and Durant the spotlight was now on Brooklyn. The Nets knew they would have to wait for the Durant debut, but they still had Kyrie.  

The disappointment has been the Nets with Kyrie.  The record is the first thing to stand out, 4-7 with Kyrie, 6-3 without Kyrie.  Over this Irving-less stretch, Brooklyn is 13th in net rating  per NBA.com, ranking 20th offensively and ninth defensively. In comparison, it was 20th overall in the first nine games with Irving, ranking 11th in offense and 25th in defense.  

The offense obviously was going to take a hit without Kyrie, but the defensive numbers and the progression of players is noticeable.  Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris and Jared Allen have all stepped up to become the focal points of the team. Kyrie is set to return from his shoulder injury in the next few games.  The Net’s have progressed as a full unit, will they continue their positive regression with the impending return of their star??  

Portland Trailblazers

The Blazers are fresh off a trip to the Western Conference Finals.   Coming into the season the rest of the West made improvements but the Blazers were still considered a legit playoff contender.  That has not come to fruition. Portland sits at 9-13 and that’s after winning 4 of their last 5.  

Why is Portland struggling?  

The Trail Blazers lost a lot of their depth over the offseason.  Jake Layman (Minnesota), Seth Curry (Dallas), Mo Harkless (LAC), Al-Farqou Aminu (Orlando), Meyers Leonard (Miami), Enes Kanter (Boston) and Evan Turner (Atlanta).  That is seven players are the Portland roster that had moved on to different teams. Team chemistry is an understated element of any successful team. Portland was now relying on a group of young players that haven’t developed into their roles.The biggest addition of the offseason was adding Hassan Whiteside to replace their rising star Jusef Nurkic.  Another new player to try and build chemistry with.  

Portland has seen the biggest impact to their changes on the defensive end.  They are ranking 24th in the league in defensive efficiency. An early season injury to Zac Collins has forced the Blazers hand to bring in Carmelo Anthony to help with on the offensive end.  This team has some young talent but it needs time to grow.

NBA Offseason Steals

Malcolm Brogdon, Indiana Pacers

The Pacers paid Malcom Brogdon a lot of money.  He is not the reason for their 0-3 start.  Brogdon has been exceptional in the Victor Oladipo role, putting up points and shooting over 43% for the season.  Brogdon has also posted a double double in each game so far this season. 

Brogdon got a huge contract at four years and $85 million, but he has looked worth every penny.  He will fit in perfectly when Oladipo comes back, potentially being one of the most productive guard tandems in the league. Brogdon has shown in his time with Milwaukee that he doesn’t need the ball to be effective, when the Pacers star comes back Brogdon will be established as a real threat that will force teams to game plan opening up opportunities.  

Kelly Oubre Jr., Phoenix Suns

I was a huge fan of the Suns offseason.  Adding Ricky Rubio, Dario Saric and Aaron Baynes solidified a young roster with veterans that bring multiple skills to the table. The best move by far was resigning Kelly Oubre Jr to a 2-year $30 million deal.  Oubre Jr. is still just 24 years old is in his fourth season in the NBA after being drafted by the Atlanta Hawks #14 overall, ultimately being traded on draft night to the Washington Wizards where he suffered in the wasteland of John Wall’s deteriorating legacy.  

Oubre Jr. in Phoenix has been allowed to be the running mate of star Devin Booker.  Running the wing and opening up his offensive game has contributed to a great start in 2019-2020 averaging 20 a game over the first four. With Rubio handling the ball and the extra scoring opportunities due to the suspension of DeAndre Ayton Oubre Jr. will continue to progress and become a future All-Star.

Rodney Hood, Portland Trailblazers

Rodney Hood has never lived up to the hype coming out of Duke.  The former #23 overall pick has always had trouble holding down a starting spot for whatever team he has been a part of.  He has seemed to find his place in Portland, signing a miniscule 2-year/ $12 million dollar deal, Portland has found a valuable 3 and d wing that complements Dam Lillard and CJ McCollum perfectly.  

Hood started the season off slow, but after the injury to power forward Zac Collins the Blazers have been forced to move to a consistently smaller lineup.  Hood has thrived shooting over 51% on the season including 50% from behind the arc.  Portland will have to wait for big man Jusuf Nurkic to come back in a few month before we know exactly how much of a threat they will be in the stacked Western Conference. We do know that for now their third most important player was grabbed from the bargain bin.

Did I miss anyone?

NBA: Four Winner in Free Agency and the Knicks

The first day of NBA free agency played out like a fantasy draft on 2K.  With 40% of the league available it wasn’t about teams trying to make themselves better as it was about teams trying to build themselves.  An array of stars swapping cities took over the sports world, blockbuster sign and trades along with monumental decisions have swung landscape of the league.  While arguably the biggest name in free agency Kawhi Leonard still sits on the top of every teams wish list there were still a number of clear winners on day one….and there was the New York Knicks.

Brooklyn Nets

The Nets will not immediately see the impact of their moves to begin free agency.  The additions of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and Deandre Jordan headlined the day’s events.  Brooklyn fans have a right to be excited, they will though have to find a way to be patient.  Kevin Durant must be allowed to fully recover from his ruptured achillies tendon.  Still with the moves made by Brooklyn they are set to be a staple in the Eastern Conference for the next four years.

Assuming Durant doesn’t play this year, the Nets should still have a solid top five seed in the East. The underrated signing of Deandre Jordan and veteran Garret Temple will be great locker room leaders to go along with the at times frustrating personality of Kyrie Irving.  Brooklyn has great young pieces as well with Caris Levert, Rodans Kurucs and Jarrett Allen.  Joe Harris will provide great shooting and Spencer Dinwiddie may be the best backup point guard in the NBA.  

Brooklyn crushed day one of free agency.  Unless there is an injury, they should be setting for next season already.

Utah Jazz

The Jazz mad some “noise” picking up underrated veteran point guard Mike Conley in a trade with Memphis before free agency.  They continued to develop their roster on day one with the additions of Bojan Bogdanovic and Ed Davis.  While the Conley move was a step in the right direction, Utah just added to players that will immediately step into their rotation and fit in.  

Bogdanovic took over as team leader of the Indiana Pacers last season after the injury to Victor Oladipo left them team without a primary scorer.  Stepping straight into the role Bojan averaged a career high 18.4 ppg while shooting a career high 42% from behind the arc. He will step into a situation in Utah where he will be second fiddle to Donovan Mitchell but will have a veteran core of proven performers along with him. 

Ed Davis, was a bruiser for the Brooklyn Nets last season. Not the flashiest of players, Davis is a rebound machine averaging eight boards a game while playing just about 17 minutes per game.   Davis will be able to step right in for the dominate Rudy Goebert giving opposing front courts nightmares on the glass.

New Orleans Pelicans

David Griffin is showing his worth over and over again.  While there were no major additions made by the Pelicans, sometimes it’s the smallest ones that make an impact.  New Orleans was able to add veteran shooter JJ Reddick to a roster full of youth and also full of mediocre shooters. Reddick is entering his age 35 season, he will not be asked to go out and take over a game, he will simply be the outlet when the Zion show causes the defense to pack the middle.

The Pelicans have had a solid offseason in a time that could have been disastrous. They wanted a veteran and a shooter and they got exactly that.

Philadelphia 76ers

Philly did not look like they were going to do much after a lack luster draft and a slow start to their conversations with key free agents.  GM Elton Brand magically turned a negative into a positive on Sunday signing Al Horford, Tobias Harris and working out a trade with the Miami Heat for Josh Richardson. The trade for Richardson means that despite losing Jimmy Butler they were still able to get a quality asset.

The additions of Richardson and Horford provide strong defensive capabilities, they do however lack the shooting of a JJ Reddick whom had more threes then Horford and Richardson combined last season.  The 76ers will still have a chance to sign a few more shooters to friendly contracts, if they do that, they will be looking at a great chance to take the East.  Depending on the decision of a certain NBA Champion of course.

And then there is the New York Knicks

To call the Knicks losers in day one of free agency is an understatement.  Not because the players the signed are bad.  Bobby Portis, Julius Randle, Taj Gibson and Reggie Bullock are a solid core for a team if you have a star to build around.  The Knicks openly told their fans that they were going after the big names, clearly, they were not.  Playing the waiting game is not an option in New York.  Based on the deals they signed it would look as if they are trying to wait two years to make moves when free agency is going to be great again.  This is New York and you just got embarrassed by a team that plays 30 minutes away.  Sorry Knicks fans you deserve better.

Breaking down the AD Trade

The deal is finally done.  Anthony Davis finally got his wish, the six-time All-Star was traded to Los Angeles over the weekend finalizing a saga that started last season.  Davis’s wish to move on from New Orleans

Obvious winners:  Lebron James – Anthony Davis

Lebron James went from best player in the world to aging star in a two-month span during last season.  James was tasked with mentoring a group of talented unproven players.  Entering his 15th NBA season James did not have the energy to overcome the deficiencies of his team and the relative inexperience of the coaching staff.  Lebron has reached a point in his career where he can’t develop the talent, he needs established players that agree with their role on the team.  Now that he has a running mate with the same skills that he possesses, the Lakers will now just have to fill in the gaps of their roster with affordable role players.

Anthony Davis got what he wanted, moved to a franchise that will allow him to build his brand.  Davis sees himself as the future of the NBA, playing alongside the NBA’s best promoter in Lebron James as well as the center of the basketball universe LA is right where he wants to be.

No-so obvious winner:  Zion Williamson

Most would assume that Zion losing a potential All-NBA player from his potential new destination would be a bad thing. With the loss of Davis there will be no immediate team expectations.  Zion will be able to come into the league and not have the weight of immediate success on his back.  The Pelicans will now be able to build completely around their future #1 pick.  The Pelicans already transitioned to a run and gun team last season averaging the second fastest pace of play in the league, with the addition of Lonzo Ball and Williamson, Alvin Gentry should continue his upbeat play. Williamson will have a chance to excel in this situation.

Losers: Boston Celtics

Danny Ainge has done his best to rebuild the Celtics by accruing assets over the past few years.  They have yet to bring in the star that will bring the championship back to Bean Town.  Kyrie Irving was supposed to be the missing piece to the championship puzzle but he was unable to mesh with the young talent of the Celtics.  While Kyrie was the appetizer for the Celtics the main course was supposed to a be a player that Ainge could bring in to be the long term future star.  Anthony Davis seemed like the perfect fit for the organization, unfortunately Davis was added to the list of stars that seem to have no interest in playing in Boston. With Davis off of the table and Kyrie out the front door what do the Celtics do now???

Final Thoughts

Anthony Davis got what he wanted.  Good for him.  Hopefully he and Lebron mesh because it would be fun to watch.

The Pelicans got themselves the talent they need to build around.  With the #4 pick they can add a player like Darius Garland to help on the perimeter or Jarrett Culver to help on the defensive end.  If all of my personal dreams come true New Orleans could have RJ Barrett fall to them at put together a Dukes dynamic duo to build a future juggernaut. 

Both the organizations did well in this trade.  But as the old saying goes, the team that got the best player wins the trade and the Lakers undoubtable got the best player.