A rather modest flurry of trades before the draft last Thursday, but a better look upon what’s to come in the future of the NBA.
Picks 17 and 51
Picks 10 and 40
Protected (top 10) 2022 FRP via Lakers
This trade should be concerning for Pelicans fans, and frankly, it officially places David Griffin on the hot seat. Let’s first get to the picks and the players. This trade was enclosed around the picks, as the Grizzlies received the 10th pick, and saw something they liked in Ziaire Williams. For the Pelicans, it unloads $35.1M in cap space as Adams and Bledsoe both carried large salaries. For Memphis, it’s assumed that he will be bartered to another team, and the same is speculated for Adams. It’s difficult to pay a player of their caliber that type of money because it confines you from paying other athletes you’d wish to remain on your team. Although it’s tough to lose Valanciunas, who recently bore a career year, the Grizzlies will rebound and compete for a playoff spot next season. On the other side, Valanciunas will fit better with the Pelicans than Steven Adams, simply because of his floor spacing (37% reg. season, 25% playoffs). People are raving about this stat and how he can help with Zion and imply a better fit with Tomas Satoransky, DeVonte’ Graham, or whoever they start at point guard (if he remains with the team), however, adding solely three-point shooting isn’t going to improve things that drastically. That’s not what Valanciunas wants to do. He wants to get deep in the paint and bully his opponent at the rim which won’t function with Zion because that’s exactly what he needs and wants to do. Valanciunas will welcome a role of screen setting and flaring, but this isn’t how to best utilize him. It will be interesting to see how New Orleans employs the big man.
Circling back to what I mentioned earlier, this trade is not a good look for David Griffin and he should know that. Last year, you traded for these two players, both (along with the entire team) didn’t work out, and now you’re swapping them following one year with the team. Although this is a good exchange for Griffin, the time to push for success while Ingram and Williamson are on the roster is ticking, and Griffin seems to be wasting that time.
Pick 31 (Isaiah Todd)
Pick 22 (Isaiah Jackson)
I don’t frequently examine rookies, so I will analyze the one player who wasn’t drafted Thursday, Aaron Holiday. Holiday will likely pose as a third-string point guard for the Wizards and has the potential to be a solid one as well. He has to be himself, as sometimes he gets too wrapped up in making the right play. He then goes too far to make that ‘right play’ and ends up making a mistake. If he plays freely and gets to his mid-range jumpers and floaters, he will contribute to his team in that way. His court vision is phenomenal and he always finds the open man. He is a 37.2% career three-point shooter and can always knock down an open look as well. It’s unlikely that he will receive much playing time, but the minutes he’ll play will be impactful.
Pick 37 (JT Thor)
Pick 57 (Balsa Koprivica)
A questionable swap here for the Pistons. Although Plumlee’s contract is not ideal ($8.3M for 2021-22 season), his value to any team he’s a part of is underappreciated. He averaged 10.4 PPG and 9.3 RPG last season, but his playmaking ability for a center is top-notch. The Hornets are in desperate need of a center, given that Zeller and Biyombo will likely sign elsewhere in free agency, and Plumlee can fill in their backup spot. However, this isn’t enough. Plumlee isn’t a starting-caliber center and if they don’t acquire an abler center, that position only receives a small upgrade.
2022 second-round pick
No big names here, but Ricky Rubio is the primary component in this exchange. Rubio, coming off a 38 point masterpiece in a loss to Team USA, should immediately click with Jarrett Allen or whoever the secondary big man is as he has with most bigs he’s ever played with. He’s gained confidence in his deep ball, and his pump fake is still lethal, but his accuracy is still in the low 30% range.
On the other side of the deal, Taurean Prince is a 41.5% three-point shooter (as of last season) and possesses a sweet stroke from deep. Prince maintains a scorers mentality and has attributes similar to Jae Crowder regarding playmaking. He isn’t a flashy passer, but he makes high IQ passes (extra passes, finding the open man, etc.).
Pick 29 (Day’Ron Sharpe)
The 23-year-old Shamet, fresh off of a 38.7% shooting season from deep, joins the Phoenix squad as they look to run it back after losing in the Finals. Not much to state here, as he provides solid defense at the wing position and shoots threes. Jevon Carter is a bulldog on defense, getting up into his opponent’s grill at all times. Offensively, he is a career 38.1% three-point shooter, and catch and shoot threes are high percentage shots for him.
Pick 22 (Traded to Indiana, Isaiah Jackson)
Another generational player added to the Lakers stacked offense. Let’s dive into the positives before I explain why this is the wrong trade for L.A. The Lakers are going to be one of the most dangerous transition teams in the league. With Russell Westbrook (always looking to push, and I mean ALWAYS), LeBron and AD, plus Kendrick Nunn (solid finisher), Talen Horton-Tucker (solid finisher), and Malik Monk (great lob dunker) coming off the bench, the Lakers bear a dominant transition team. Westbrook is also 32 years old and his ball-handling and playmaking prowess (assists to turnovers) have yet to improve in his 13 years of experience. The obvious questions loom above the Lakers’ head coaching staff. Who brings the ball up court? Who leads the offense? LeBron and Westbrook will likely split that amongst themselves, but this creates another problem. Russ cannot play off the ball. Fans have dreams that Russ could be an off-ball cutter/pick setter and even set screens for LeBron, but that probably won’t happen. Westbrook’s floor spacing will put the team at a disadvantage as well. Westbrook shot 31.5% from three last season with the Wizards, which is efficient for him. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t firing a good amount of deep balls as he rattled off 4.2 3PA per game, which is substantially too many for someone shooting that low of a percentage. This trade is extremely questionable when in fact Buddy Hield was on the table previously. Although not as ‘big’ of a name as Westbrook, the Lakers could’ve given up less and they would’ve obtained a wing that can shoot. Fans harped on Hield for his defensive incapabilities, but Westbrook isn’t the best of defenders either. At 32 years of age, Westbrook has trouble maintaining laterally with younger and quicker guards. I’m aware that Westbrook is still explosive, but if someone that is equally or even less athletic than you are has good footwork and mechanics, it is tough to stop that individual in today’s NBA. This is the case with Westbrook. Russ and LeBron are two Hall of Famers, good friends, and they’re determined. Although this wasn’t the best move possible for Rob Pelinka (and LeBron, because you know he was a part of this), these two businessmen will make sure everything works.
As for the Wizards, they utilized the 22nd pick to trade for the Pacers’ Aaron Holiday, an exchange that I analyzed previously. Kyle Kuzma (a solid yet inconsistent scorer), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, (a prominent catch and release shooter, 41% from three last season), and Montrezl Harrell (offensive paint beast, 75 FG% at the rim) will all serve as quality role players or trade bait. Either approach, these players benefit the team, and this was a great swap by Tommy Sheppard gazing into the near future.