The NBA offseason pressure cooker is ratcheting up a little more every day in the leadup to the draft on June 22nd. The big news is the landmark trade for the #1 pick, which inspired a slightly premature but endearingly exuberant Twitter meltdown when it was announced.
It seems like we’ve all talked ourselves into and out of Markelle Fultz as the #1 pick a thousand times, but with the Philadelphia 76ers picking first, the world might just make sense again. As contending teams look to retool for another run at the finals, and other teams look to rebuild for the future, the shuffling of players and teams is going to come to a head in the next few weeks.
A sneakily important storyline is the Cavalier’s parting ways with GM David Griffin. The move leaves the Cavs without (among other things) anyone to answer the phones in Cleveland, and while they should be wheeling and dealing to get some talent around LeBron in his last season under contract, the Cleveland front office is answering questions about why Griffin didn’t get offered a contract extension.
As for me, I’m answering questions about where the biggest names on the trade market are liable to end up, what it means for their new/old teams, and what’s about to transpire on draft night.
Indiana Pacers: Paul George salts the earth
It’s no secret that Paul George was open to being traded away from the Pacers. His desire to play for the Lakers has been high-octane rumour fuel in many an offseason. But few expected him to torpedo the team on his way out like this. A huge part of a team’s ability to negotiate comes from its ability to re-sign the player in question, but since Paul George announced to the world that he would be using his upcoming free agency to go elsewhere, his trade value has gone down sharply. Why would the Lakers trade for him when they know he’ll be eager to sign when he declines his player option in 2018?
The Cleveland Cavaliers, that’s why. The Cavs are looking for (a) a replacement for the (somewhat) disappointing and (seriously) expensive Kevin Love and (b) another star on the wing that can help defend against the Golden State Warrior’s historic offense. Their competing interest in George is the only bargaining chip for the Pacers, who would love to trade him before he hits free agency and get something of comparable value, as difficult as that would be. With the Cavaliers’ front-office being at least somewhat in disarray, the Pacers have to be cursing Dan Gilbert’s stinginess.
Paul George’s imminent exit leaves the Pacers with … Lance Stephenson? Jeff Teague? If they can’t leverage George into a seriously good trade they’ll be left with very little to work with in a very tough conference (tough to make the playoffs in, that is).
Odds Paul George starts the 2017 season with the …
- LA Lakers: 7/3
- Indiana Pacers: 7/3
- Cleveland Cavaliers: 4/1
Odds Paul George starts the 2018 season with the …
- LA Lakers: 11/9
- Cleveland Cavaliers: 3/1
- Indiana Pacers: 9/1
Boston Celtics trade no. 1 pick to Philadelphia
The Celtics sent no. 1 overall to the Sixers for no. 3 and a 2018 first-rounder. Call it one of the rare super-dramatic trades that doesn’t inspire a whole lot of controversy. Sure, projected no. 1 pick Markelle Fultz is heralded as the best point guard to come into the league since Kyrie Irving, and Boston’s point guard is 30 years old, 5’6, and a conscientious objector on defense, but they seem to do alright anyway. It made sense on both teams.
On the Philly side, Fultz is the young, feature point guard they’ve been missing all along, and if The Process can get healthy, then maybe The Process will finally turn into Some Results.
The results for the Celtics are less dramatic. They go from 53-win Eastern Conference champions to maybe-55-win Eastern Conference champions with a really good wing (likely Josh Jackson) and even more draft picks.
Odds 76ers take Markelle Fultz no. 1 overall: 3/7
Odds 76ers make the 2018 playoffs: 3/2
Odds 2017-18 Celtics regular-season win total exceeds 53: 4/5
Chicago Bulls: Jimmy Butler to the Timberwolves? Cavs? Celtics?
Rumors have Jimmy Butler on the move to pretty much everywhere, but the most credible indicate the Timberwolves are interested in trading for him, while he’s interested in a trade to the Cavs. You’d expect the Bulls, who have him under contract until he gets a player option in 2019-20, to jealously guard their star, but for some reason they’re still not sold on Butler, who made his first All-Star start this year and averaged near-as-makes-no-difference 24 points per game.
At some point, it becomes a matter of who’s got the assets to trade for Butler. The Celtics have a wallet full of draft picks that would make the Vegas Golden Knights blush; the Timberwolves have tons of young talent; and the Cavaliers have Kevin Love and a shelf full of role-players. Jimmy Butlers’ destination will likely be determined by what Chicago’s front office think they need.
Odds Jimmy Butler starts the 2017 season with …
- Minnesota Timberwolves: 3/2
- Chicago Bulls: 3/1
- Boston Celtics: 4/1
- Cleveland Cavaliers: 4/1
New York Knicks: Kristaps Porzingis to … somewhere?
The only thing Phil Jackson has done in New York that Knicks fans even halfway agree with is draft Kristaps Porzingis. He’s a young player with incredible talent that seems destined to be a star, a lone bright spot in the darkness that is the Knicks’ immediate future.
So rumours that the Knicks are looking to deal Porzingis are being met with understandable dismay.
Losing Porzingis would be, in all probability, a bad thing for the New York Knicks, but on the other hand: this is a team that lost fifty games last year and is still trying to implement the triangle offense in the year of Our Lord two thousand and seventeen. Was Porzingis going to change that in some significant way this year? Can their prospects really get worse? In a league where a team that’s deliberately tanking wins 28 games, can you really fall that far from 31 wins?
How does this affect their betting prospects? If Porzingis goes, New York fans are going to be, if anything, overly pessimistic, so take a look at their win total O/U and see if they’ve really lost their minds. There could be some value there.