Small moves with potentially big impacts
This article will highlight what the offseason moves that I think will have the biggest impact that may be being overlooked or underappreciated right now. This offseason was madness, F5 season was in full swing, and it never disappointed. The top two teams in the eastern conference traded their starting point guards, Hoodie Melo finally got out of New York, and Chris Paul got traded for 7 active NBA players. These moves where the above the fold on the newspaper headlines.
At this point, do you even remember that Jimmy Butler and PG13 got traded too? You know those guys who were rumored to be traded all throughout last season. It
Lets start with the Rockets. The Rockets lead by the ever-fearless Daryl Morey and coached by the offensive mind of Mike D’Antoni scored an incredible 115.3 points per game. This was second only to the 115.9 by the Warriors. The advanced statistics show that they were second only to the Warriors in offensive rating, but they were 18th in defensive rating. By comparison, the top three teams in defensive rating were the Jazz, the Warriors, and the Spurs. This puts the Rockets last in defensive rating of the final four teams in the west. When they lost to the Spurs in the playoffs they never held the Spurs under 100 points. To improve on what was a historic year for the Rockets it would have to start on defense.
Enter Tarik Black, Luc Mbah a Moute, and P.J. Tucker. Three defensive minded players who have the kind of toughness that the Rockets lacked. To use a simple stat steals per game (SPG), the rockets had three players who averaged over 1 SPG. These players were Harden, Ariza, and Beverly. Beverly is gone. PJ Tucker and Mbah a Moute both have averaged over a steal a game last season. The rotation for the Rockets will now have Tucker, Black and Mbah a Moute coming off the bench to offer the second unit a large defensive boost. I see this making a huge difference. Could this put them over the top of the warriors? We can’t say right now, but if I were Mike D’Antoni I would be coming up with many new ways to bother Curry, Thompson, and Durant with my new defensive weapons.
Staying on the topic of the Warriors, they are coming off their second championship in three seasons and kept their starting five and five key bench players. That seems like they didn’t need to do anything. Well, they did anyway. In my favorite signing of the offseason, they grabbed Nick “Swaggy P” Young for 5.2 million for one year. The former Laker loves to shoot threes. I mean his most famous moment may be when he loved one so much he turned around and missed it. He had 7 3PTA last season and shot 40% on them. That seems to fit right in with the Warriors deadly west coast run and gun offense.
Swaggy is coming off a season where he started all 60 games he played and averaged 13.2 points per game. During the 2014-2015 season, he came off the bench for 42 games and averaged 13.4 points per game. If we look deeper at this Nick’s per 36 points were 18.3 in 2016 and 20.3 in 2014. The minute per game will go down assuredly on a stacked Warriors roster, but a guy who loves to get buckets on a team that runs and guns will get his buckets. He can be in instant offense off the bench for the Warriors that they never really had, surprisingly.
**I am not including any analysis from the 15-16 season where Young missed a bunch of games to injury and this was the Kobe finale celebration tour. I feel like this was a throwaway season for the Lakers that included no coaching. **
Lets talk about the Nets. Wow, the Nets… They won twenty whole games last year and none in February. Their last playoff appearance was the 14-15 season. They traded all of their first-round picks from 2014 to 2018 to the Celtics for some old dudes (Paul Peirce, Kevin Garnett, and Jason Terry). So it can only go up from there, right? RIGHT! I was very impressed with the offseason that they had.
The Nets return Rondae Hollis-Jefferson as their only starter, assuming Russell starts over Jeremy Lin and I don’t feel like I am going out on a limb with that one. The Nets got things going this offseason by trading their best player in Brook Lopez and a draft pick to the Lakers for D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov. Russell a former second overall pick was never really given the keys to the car in LA. The Nets have nothing but playing time to go around and can let Russell run the team. They also had to take on the gargantuan Mozgov contract, but they had nothing but cap space and as that contract expires it will become a valuable asset in the cap space conscious NBA. Two solid players and some foresight in one move.
Next up for the Nets, DeMarre Carroll and draft picks. They sent Justin Hamilton to the Raptors for two picks in 2018 and DeMarre Carroll. Carrol is coming off a down year and is owed a lot of money, but hey he can play and is better than anything else the Nets had. Carrol brings a veteran playoff presence into the locker room too. He played on that Hawks team that won 60 games and has made the playoffs the last two seasons with the Raptors. This was another savvy move by the Nets, they got a guy who can hoop, some draft picks, and an expiring contract soon.
Last but not least the nets grabbed Allen Crabbe from the Trail Blazers. Last offseason the Nets tried to get him while he was a restricted free agent. The Blazers matched the 75 million dollar offer sheet for him and he stayed in Portland, until now. The Nets gave up Andrew Nicholson, who I honestly had to look up, for Crabbe. Crabbe was a bench player for a stacked Blazers backcourt and wasn’t seeing the floor or producing how they had imagined, but good news the Nets have lots of playing time to go around. Crabbe is set to thrive in his new role.
The Nets turned a bunch of garbage into four new starting players, draft picks and future assets. This will help them on the court and off of it. I have to throw in a bonus for the Celtics here as a bit of a homer. The Celtics traded the Nets 2018 1st rounder to the Cavs in the Irving deal, but the Nets got a lot better. It doesn’t look like it will yield a top 8 pick next year if the nets win a lot more and in a depleted eastern conference, they are set to. This just makes trading that pick feel better as a Celtics fan.
So we have the Rockets improving their defense with three long-armed tough guys, the Warriors sneaking in and grabbing an instant offense bench player, and the Nets transforming their whole team while everyone was trying to figure out if Kyrie and LeBron are friends.