Thunder GM Sam Presti has had one hell of a run in Oklahoma City. Despite being considered as one of the top NBA GMs over the past decade by NBA pundits, when Kevin Durnat left for Golden State people began to see some holes in his strategy of running an NBA team. For example, for every Thabo Sefolosha player he was able to make relevant (on a cheap salary), some of the deals Presti made was crippling the team. For example, is Enes Kanter really a $75 million dollar player? Kanter didn’t even start over a rookie last year. There’s no way I would have payed Kanter close to $75 million guaranteed.
The writing was on the wall after the way the 2017 NBA playoffs turned out for the Thunder. Quite frankly, Russell Westbrook needed more help. At the beginning of the season, many believed Oladipo could pick up some slack in a new role as Robin to Westbrook’s Batman, but to no avail. Oladipo was actually disappointing and did not live up to expectations this year. Some of that could be because Westbrook dominates the ball, and as a newcomer that can be a hard adjustment. Nonetheless the writing was on the wall. The Thunder were toast if they did not find solutions fast.
No matter how much I despise the Thunder and Sam Presti for trading James Harden, I will give credit when credit is due. Pulling off a trade for Paul George is probably the only thing the Thunder could have done this offseason to ensure future team success. And to only give up the underachieving Oladipo and second year forward Domantas Sabonis, this deal was easily one of the biggest steals in NBA history. Sure they’ll say George is a “one year rental” which could be true, but Presti is betting on a deep playoff run that will persuade him to stay. For example, say the Thunder make the Western Conference Finals and lose to the Warriors. It kind of makes it hard to leave the Thunder, considering you already play for a contender and they can offer you more money than any other team.
Bottom line this deal was an absolute steal.
LOSER – Los Angeles Clippers
Is any team falling out of relevancy faster that the LA Clippers? The sky began to fall when Chris Paul decided to start a new chapter and leave to Houston. This is a terrible blow for the Clippers, because the whole allure of playing with “The Point God” Chris Paul is gone now. This will undoubtedly impact future team success. How will they attract free agents without CP3 leading the way? And does Chris Paul leaving put a nail in the coffin for “Lob City”? I think CP3 moving to Houston is the beginning of the end for the LA Clippers. Not to mention they also lost JJ Reddick and Jamal Crawford this offseason as well.
In a surprising move, Blake Griffin resigned; I guess he enjoys his money just as much as being the captain of a sinking ship. Dysfunction has plagued the Clippers before, and this year is nothing new. Doc Rivers was removed as the GM but is still on as head coach. In my view, its only a matter of time before Doc Rivers is replaced as head coach. Before that its was the Donald Sterling saga, Blake injuring his hand with Clippers staff last year – just an array of mistakes. At this moment, the Clippers are simply on a downward trajectory, with the bad news being that it could be a very long time before the Clippers can be championship contenders again.
WINNER – Houston Rockets
If the Clippers are losers this offseason, its only right my next choice for winner would be the team Chris Paul left LA for, the Houston Rockets. Now on paper, the Rockets have the strongest backcourt in the NBA. Some people question whether Harden can play more off-ball after taking so much of the load offensively last year. I think Chris Paul and Harden are good enough players to figure out a way to manage usage rates on the floor this season. The Rockets were also trying to make a play at Carmelo Anthony (still a possibility) before the Knicks withdrew the trade inquiry. Nonetheless, I like what Daryl Morey is doing with this team, he’s followed a path of aggressive moves to bring in more top tier talent to surround Harden, as he should be doing while Harden is still in his prime.
LOSER – Utah Jazz
Losing Gordon Hayward in free agency to the Celtics is a big deal, but not the end of the world for the Utah Jazz. In all reality, they were never championship contenders anyway. But, they have been rebuilding for some years, and were finally relevant again last year. Remember the constant playoff appearances from the Jazz when they had the combo of Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer? Well last year was their first year back to relevancy since then. They’ve been slowly building the right way, with good prospects in several positions. But now with Hayward gone, what is this Utah Jazz identity? Simply put, they don’t have one. This Utah Jazz roster follows the saying “Too many Indians, and not enough Chiefs.” For the Jazz ownership, this was a crushing blow and hits home with the fans of the team. They basically have to trot out the same roster as last year but without Gordon Hayward, making the Utah Jazz a major loser this offseason.
WINNER – JJ Reddick & KCP Define the One Year SharpShooter Max Contract
I still remember reading the Bleacher Report update on my phone that the Sixers paid JJ Reddick $23 million on a one-year contract. This was one of the most shocking deals on paper but made a lot of sense for the Sixers. JJ Reddick steps in and fills the shooting guard role perfectly with Markelle Fultz at point and Ben Simmons at small forward. With the lack of success Philly has had over the past few years rebuilding, new Sixers’ GM Bryan Colangelo knew it would take overpaying free agents like this deal indicates. At the end of the day, the deal for Reddick and the Sixers is a win-win for both parties. The Sixers get their guard who can stretch the floor with one of the premiere sharpshooters in the NBA, and JJ Reddick gets immensely overpaid for one year. An overpaid one year deal has its’ advantages, including the fact Reddick doesn’t have commit long term to a franchise that’s been bad for so long. Technically, with the type of money Reddick will make in the 2017-2018 NBA season, he could leave the Sixers and play for less money on a contender if he wanted to next year.
JJ Reddick’s deal set the market for the rest of the NBA’s sharpshooters like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. When the Pistons rescinded his rights and made him an unrestricted free agent, it allowed him to get paid and find a winning situation where his skillset was desperately needed. The Lakers under a new regime were looking to offset some of the scoring they’d lost with guys like Luo Williams and Nick Young, both on new teams for the 2017-2018 season. They signed KCP on a one year, $18 million dollar contract. When the Lakers want to sign you in free agency and give you that kind of money, you’re probably doing something right. KCP steps in with Lonzo Ball and will most likely see starters minutes to stretch the floor. Again, this deal was another win-win for both sides. The Lakers get their shooter, and KCP gets $18 million next season to start a new chapter in his NBA career.
LOSER – Cleveland Cavaliers
Coming off a loss in the 2017 NBA Finals, a lot of question marks surrounded the Cleveland Cavaliers roster. One thing was certain, and that was they needed to reload with another star to compete with the Warriors. Trotting out the same roster next year would have been fine in the weaker Eastern Conference, but not to win another NBA Championship. The Cavs really needed an aggressive move this offseason. Yet, things really started to go down the wrong path when they decided to fire their GM, David Griffin. David Griffin is credited with three straight finals appearances and the moves that got them in that position. For example, I give him credit for the trade with the Knicks that netted Cleveland JR Smith and Iman Shumpert. It’s still unclear why GM David Griffin was let go, but it most likely dealt with losing to the Warriors while having to pay luxury tax penalties with the NBA’s highest payroll. That is one way, in theory, to upset your owner.
With former GM David Griffin’s departure as the first domino to fall, the Cavs were in discussions to get the likes of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, but could not close the deal. There was also rumblings they wanted Chauncey Billups to be their next GM, but they didn’t get that deal done either. After a while, the entire foundation began to crumble as leaks of Lebron leaving in 2018 began to surface. NBA media coverage was mainly focused on “Could this be the last year for Lebron in Cleveland?” and “Could Lebron join up with Lonzo Ball and Paul George in Los Angeles in 2018?” Despite these rumors, the claims triggered another chain reaction, in that now Kyrie Irving began making trade demands.
Now this Cleveland Cavaliers situation is getting out of control and the media is having a frenzy with it. One could argue that Kyrie’s request for a trade has damaged the relationship enough with Lebron that not trading him would be the wrong move. In reality, its going to be hard to get through an 82 game season with your two superstars butting heads. The duo has had a great past 3 seasons together, but maybe the tide has run its course. As far as trading Kyrie and to what team, if I was Cavs’ owner Dan Gilbert I would refuse to trade Kyrie anywhere. I revert back to the Kobe conversation when he too requested to be traded from the Lakers. Back then the Buss family was smart enough to hold on to him as an asset and just improve relations. You know what kills trade requests? Success. The Cavs are in desperate need of a trade, but not a trade of Kyrie Irving. My solution would be getting rid of Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, or JR Smith and targeting a guy like Carmelo Anthony. The only way to improve this team and get them on the same track at this point would be to increase the stakes of winning an NBA Championship. With Melo on the Cavs, not only does Lebron James stay long term after 2017-2018 season, but that would also mean a new big three and thus a new era of Cavaliers basketball.