Roundtable: NBA Offseason Edition

What was the most franchise changing move of the offseason?

Spencer: LeBron James signing a four-year contract. The Lakers will not be held hostage by the risk of Lebron leaving in free agency every season as the Cavs were for so long.

David: Agreed. The King giving the Lakers at least 3 years before a potential opt-out, which is longer than any commitment he gave the Cavs upon his return. Even if some of their other moves were perplexing, having him in hand at the start of free agency allowed them to take a patient approach with the Kawhi Leonard situation and their young prospects since they won’t be a contender this season anyway.

Charles: LABron. But for the sake of being different, Paul George staying with the Thunder (is it considered a ‘move’ when someone stays?) saved the franchise a trip back to the drawing board and allowed them to comfortably make moves toward improving [getting] their [rid] supporting [of] cast [Melo]. While adding one more game to their win column this past season compared to their 2016-2017 outing is hardly the solid foundation you want to build four more years upon, Westbrook and George are two elite talents at a time in this league in which a common belief is that a winning formula starts with the number of elite talents you can assemble on one team. And considering that the former of the two will turn 30 at the start of the season, it was a boon that the Thunder didn’t have to scramble, or worse, wait another year, to snag a replacement Robin to Westbrook’s Batman. They remain set up for the playoffs for the next three years with the usual opportunity to finally play up to their ability and a puncher’s chance of overachieving.

Lastly, Paul George staying with Thunder also had big implications for the Lakers franchise. Adding George to the mix would have placed them in the playoff run this season and, with the possibility of Kawhi Leonard, among other notable free agents, joining next season, the Lakers roster (albeit some congestion in the SG and SF positions) could have been battling for the upper rungs of the Western Conference as early as next season, all while keeping their young prospects.

 5 years from now what will be seen as the biggest screw up of the offseason?

Spencer: In 5 years Demar Derozan will be 33 years old. He is a highly technically skilled offensive player and will be able to score using good footwork and foul-drawing. Nevertheless, he will be noticeably out of his prime and it will not be so easy for him to check off 25 points each night as he does now.

In 5 years Brandon Ingram will be 25 years old, entering his prime. He has all the main ingredients of a unicorn. A 6’9”, lanky af workhorse who can dribble, playmake, and potentially shoot from the outside. All of his stats significantly improved from year one to year two and in five years who knows how productive he could be. IF the Spurs were ever at any point offered Ingram for Kawhi Leonard this summer (as was repeatedly rumored), they are sure to regret it.

David: It’s easy to say that giving a 33-year-old small guard a $160 million will age poorly, but that was basically a part of Chris Paul agreeing to opt in at a reduced salary last year for his trade to Houston. If we’re looking at the offseason as a whole, I’d say that Luka Doncic being passed up by essentially three teams will look comical in 5 years, particularly for the Kings.

Which team has had the most overlooked offseason improvements?

Charles: With re-signing Paul George, the Thunder get the heralded offensive monster Paul and the oft-overlooked defensively savvy Paul. The Thunder are the most frightening version of themselves when they decide to lock in on defense. Re-signing Paul pairs him with Andre Roberson again and grants the Thunder the lockdown wing defenders tandem they had before Roberson went down due to injury. Anchored by the consistent Big Kiwi in the middle and bolstered by occasional effort from 2008’s PAC10 Defensive Player of the Year, this is a formidable squad capable of shutting down top offenses in the league. Noel should fit in as back up defensive anchor and Schroder is a reliable scorer that their bench has desperately needed. Ditching Melo improved the team’s financial situation and also improved the team’s fit.
Notable mentions: Nuggets, Pacers

Which team(s) missed their window and should have been more aggressive this offseason?

Spencer: The 76ers.

Marvin: Lakers

David: Rockets.

Charles: Rockets

 Which team(s) tried too hard?

 Spencer: The Thunder.  Adding an aggressive slashing guard behind Westbrook is a good strategy in theory, but Schroeder was not the right application.  Expect the Westbrook effect we saw on Oladipo to take hold of Schroader this season, and for him to be a quickly forgotten ex-experiment.

David: Suns. I was tempted to say the Lakers for overpaying Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, and Michael Beasley, but they’re automatic winners this offseason thanks to LeBron. Phoenix, meanwhile, started the summer by overpaying to move up in the draft for Mikal Bridges. I love the player, but he wasn’t worth trading Zhaire Smith and the future Miami 1st round pick for, especially with Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, and T.J. Warren already on the wings. And then they gave Trevor Ariza a bloated one year contract to presumably start at small forward, anyway. They sent out one forward in the Jared Dudley and Darrell Arthur swap, but was it really worth dumping a (protected) 2nd rounder for?

Charles: Rockets

 Did the Kawhi to Raptors trade make the Eastern Conference relevant again?

 Spencer: It certainly could have. Before Kawhi’s injury, he was a dominant force. LeBron ran train through the east on his own for four years with the Cavs and if everything goes perfectly for Toronto Kawhi could do something similar, but unlike the Cavaliers with Lebron, there’s legitimate talent surrounding Kawhi.

Marvin: There’s no denying the type of all-star the Raptors and the East received when trading for Kawhi. With his defensive abilities and amazing athleticism, he is sure to keep the Raptors on the top side of the eastern conference playoff bracket. With all that said, Kawhi still hasn’t proven to be a superstar that can carry a team the same way Lebron does. Main point here, is the East relevant. At this point in time, any team in the East is set to lose to a western conference team.

David: It helped, but Kawhi doesn’t make up for the loss of LeBron. Boston, Philly, and Toronto should be legit Finals contenders, but it remains to be seen whether any of them have the same ceiling as their counterparts in the West.

Charles: “Relevant” in terms of being intriguing enough to foster and sustain long NBA speculation conversations, the Eastern Conference became relevant when LeBron left Cleveland. This is the first time in the last four years that we are 100% guaranteed to have at least one new team participate in the Finals; I can imagine any of East’s top 5 teams having a chance to get there.

 Realistic or not, what structural changes are you hoping to come soon to the NBA?

Charles: Taking a page out of Spencer’s book for this one: 3v3 Tournament Style Bracket All-Star Game.

 Spencer: Heck yes Charles you got me back on board with this. Eight teams of 3, games are to 5, and the winner stays on the floor. Keep the rotation going until enough matchups and the 2 teams with the most wins have one final game to 7. I’ve been advocating for 1-16 playoff seeding since I was 12 years old so I’ll leave it to David so I don’t feel like a Westworld robot on a loop.

David: 1-16 playoff seeding with the top seeds getting to choose their opponents at the start of each round. Sure, the possible cross-country travel could get burdensome, but that could end up being a factor in who a team chooses to face. Imagine the drama of underdogs taking it to the higher seed that picked them!

 For more of David’s awesome sports insight check out his blog here.

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