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.

Warriors vs. Pelicans Preview and Pick

The first matchup of the Western Conference Semifinals has one team that is supposed to be there and one that seemed to mature over night.  The Pelicans were two losses aways from potentially not making the playoffs. It felt like New Orleans might be left for dead when DeMarcus Cousins suffered a season ending rupture of achilles tendon, but the Pelicans persevered and found a new identity over the season’s final two-plus months. They have adjusted to their personal, finding success with their upbeat fast style.

The Pelicans were able to jump out on the Blazers each game of the first round, immediately taking control of each game allowing them to dictate the pace.  The Blazers did not possess the depth of scoring that could overcome early deficits.  That will not be the case with the Warriors, even without Steph Curry they have more then one asset that can carry the load of the scoring.  Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant carried the load in the first round averaging 22.6 PPG and 28 PPG in the first round versus a tough but undermanned San Antonio Spurs team.

Jrue Holiday will be a key for the Pelicans without Steph Curry, he will likely be forced to handle Kay Thompson.  If Holiday can continue to defend the opposing teams best guard as well as keep up his offensive production from the first round then the Pelicans will have a great chance to make this a series.  Holiday was sensational in the first round averaging 27.8 point and 6.5 assists per game during the entire series. The difference in this series will be Klay Thompson.  Thompson will be tasked with handling the dynamic Pelican guard. Holiday stands 6’4″, but it will be the 6’7″ Thompson with the height and length advantage in the series ahead. If Thompson can shoot the ball effectively while using his length to force Holiday into disadvantageous positions, it could significantly hamper New Orleans’ ability to score.

Anthony Davis is going to get his numbers, he will give the Pelicans a chance to win a few games in this series.  I worry that he Zaza Pachulia effect may become a factor in this series, he could be the Warriors version of Lance Stephenson.  If he can annoy and effect Davis getting under his skin enough to disrupt him at any point during the series it will cost the young Pelicans any chance to pull off the upset.  Kevin Durant will be a problem for the Pelicans.  Durant played 3 of 4 games vs the Pelicans in 2018, averaging 27 points and 8 rebounds per game, shooting over 50% against them. The Pelicans have now answer for Durant.  Their roster s not equipped to handle the length and ability that Durant brings to the table. Etwan Moore is to small and Nikola Mirotic is not fast enough to handle Durant. The Pelicans may try and take away other Warrior stars similar to the way the Utah Jazz handled the OKC Thunder, shutting down Paul George an Carmelo Antony.

The Pelicans, along with the Warriors, were the only teams in the league to rank in the top three in both points scored and assists per game during the regular season, but that’s not the only tie that binds them. Former Golden State associate head coach Alvin Gentry is now in his third season as Head Coach of the Pelicans, and this upcoming series will offer the first chance for he and Steve Kerr to go head-to-head in that time. The in season series was won by the Warriors 3-1 but the three Warrior wins came before Christmas when Boogie Cousins was still a part of the Pelican rotation.  The Pelicans have become a different team since that injury.  Alvin Gentry will have his team ready to compete but right now the young Pel’s do not have the depth to handled the high powered an experienced Warriors. These games are going to be full of offense and fun to watch but I just think that the Warriors will be to much especially if Steph Curry is able to play at any point during this series.  New Orleans is very close to be a real contender in the West and they have already proved me wrong once.  I won’t be wrong about them twice.

Warriors in 5

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