On Tuesday night, my fellow podcaster Matthew Wellington posted an excellent round-up of the NBA rumours which were beginning to emerge, and everyone in our group chat went to bed after what was a tumultuous day in the NBA. After our team decided to catch some much-needed sleep, more things happened, as the Atlanta Hawks traded Dwight Howard to the Charlotte Hornets, and more rumours began to circulate. Below is a round-up and analysis of moves that happened last night, and of further rumours that we as a website need to address.
The Hornets perform DAYLIGHT ROBBERY
Many are wrongly analysing this trade as a salary dump by the Atlanta Hawks, the trade should be said for what it is- an absolute disaster. Moving Howard and opting for a rebuild is fine, but even though Howard is frustrating, he is still a much better player than Miles Plumlee, who might be on the worst contract in basketball. Essentially, the Hawks gave up Dwight Howard and in exchange, moved down in the second round, and inherited an atrocious contract in the form of Miles Plumlee, and a streaky shooter in Marco Belinelli.
Dwight Howard is nowhere near as valuable as he should be, and leaving Orlando was probably the biggest mistake a star player has made in the 21st century NBA, but the Hawks could have easily have got more, they essentially flipped him for nothing. The Hornets added a potential all-star centre for very little, as Nick Denning of SB Nations At the Hive excellently outlined last night.
Schematically, Howard is an excellent fit in the Hornets offence, and he was rather wrongly accused of stunting Atlanta’s growth last year. The main issue with Atlanta last year, was that when Al Horford left, their flow offence became a congested offence as the likes of Dennis Schroeder, Kent Bazemore and Paul Millsap are nothing more than average perimeter shooters. Horford essentially created extra space, which allowed the Hawks below average shooters to thrive with more space. To put this loss into perspective, in 2015-2016, 28% of the Hawks looks were wide open, that number decreased to 19% when Howard replaced Horford.
Atlanta’s offence became slow, half-court oriented, and clunky, which was not a good fit for Howard. Charlotte’s offence, however, is more dynamic and there is more action, which will help Howard as he does not really have the ability to be a sole focal point on offence anymore, as he is a poor post-up player. Charlotte already has multiple players who can create such as Kemba Walker and Nic Batum, and the ball rarely stops as no team had a lower usage of isolation than the Hornets last year. Howard is a dark horse to make the all-star game next year, as Steve Clifford’s offence should, in theory, maximise him.
It is nice to see Atlanta committing to a rebuild after years of being a middling franchise, but that does not mean that Hawks fans cannot criticise this trade, it was an absolute stinker.
Envisioning how Minnesota and Phoenix can move for Jimmy Butler
Earlier this week, multiple outlets reported that the Phoenix Suns and the Minnesota Timberwolves are in preliminary talks to acquire Jimmy Butler from the Chicago Bulls. Due to the fact that the Cavaliers are currently more relevant than these teams, the majority of NBA Twitter is not really discussing the fact that the Suns and the Wolves have many more assets than Cleveland, and their interest should be taken more seriously.
What would a Minnesota-Chicago trade look like? Well, it is hard to see the Wolves being able to acquire Butler without giving up either Andrew Wiggins or Zach LaVine, although certain members of Bulls twitter are so fed up with Gar-Pax, that they think a Tyus Jones–Gorgui Dieng package could be enough, as the Bulls are more invested in their terrible Head Coach than they are with their legit top 20 NBA player. Minnesota twitter is divided over whether Andrew Wiggins or Zach LaVine is the piece that should be moved, but Butler’s ability to play at the two and the three makes this a decision purely based on ceilings for Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden. The 7th pick would almost certainly have to be thrown in, and someone such as Kris Dunn or Tyus Jones would likely have to be partnered with Wiggins or LaVine, although the Bulls asking price may drop in the coming days.
The Suns do not have as many ready-made players as the Timberwolves as proven by the difference in the win columns last year, but they have a lot of project players who would not cost the Bulls a top five pick next season. Phoenix could feasibly package TJ Warren, Dragan Bender, the fourth overall pick, and one of the numerous stashes they have in order to acquire Jimmy Butler, although it would be intriguing to see how he co-exists with Devin Booker, who has a very high usage percentage.
In comparison to these teams, the Cavaliers do not have the assets to land Jimmy Butler, and if the Bulls were to take a Cavaliers-centric package for Butler, then it would not be unreasonable to fire the entire front office.
Can Luke Walton survive the Lakers win-now mode?
One aspect of the Lakers current rebuild that is being overlooked by many, is what happens with Head Coach Luke Walton. Walton was hired last summer to come in and develop young players whilst running a pace and space offence with a lot of outside shooting. De’Angelo Russell showed a lot of development, and Julius Randle looks to have shaken off the ‘bust’ tag that certain people were itching to label him with. Walton was in his element, as player development was more important than results, but the agenda has now changed as the Lakers added Brook Lopez, and probably now have the ammo to make a run at Paul George, with LeBron James or someone else potentially following next summer.
I am not trying to label Luke Walton an inflexible coach, but Paul George is not a fit in the up-tempo style offence that Walton is attempting to run, which means there will need to be a change in style when the Lakers inevitably get their man. As of now, it is highly questionable whether Walton is capable of adapting his offence, as he does not have a huge body of work experience behind him. One thing Magic Johnson may choose to do, is load Walton’s staff with a variety of experienced coaches, to make sure that Walton does not find himself in the deep end after coaching in the shallow end last season. Walton may be a good coach, but he is about to get tested quicker than he probably expected to be.