The Dust Never Settles: NBA Thoughts, June 2019 Edition

Congratulations to the Toronto Raptors. A team has officially dethroned the Golden State Warriors without a crotch-punch-suspension by Draymond Green. Unfortunately, it happened over a cloud of injuries to those Warriors. The Durant-less Warriors managed to push the series to a 6th game after a Game 5 second half of pure grit and Klay Thompson’s marksmanship. In Game 6, Thompson went down awkwardly, grasping at his knee, writhing in pain on the baseline. The Warriors didn’t just lose Game 6. They lost the 2019–20 season as well when it was determined Durant tore his Achilles and Thompson tore his ACL. After five years of good fortune, the luck drained out of Oracle Arena on the final day of it’s NBA existence. Now the Warriors move to San Francisco, furthering their luxury-status and deepening the divide from their Oakland roots.

Meanwhile, Canada celebrates and for a short stretch, Canadian hoops fans can watch their beloved Raptors bask in the glory of a title. Toronto won in part because of health, but in large part because of great defense, and a imperturbable steady determination, not to be overwhelmed by the streaks of brilliant offense from the Curry-Thompson-Green trio. As the Finals dust settles, Kyle Lowry has officially stuck a fork in his playoff past, Fred VanVleet has officially become a sturdier version of Sam Cassell, and Nick Nurse’s victory in his first season as an NBA head coach goes out to all the vagabond coaches, taking circuitous routes to the big time. None of it would have been possible without Kawhi, who is simply relentless.

There is always luck involved, though. A Game 7 game-winning bounce against Philadelphia in Round 2. A Game 3 overtime win against Milwaukee, keeping the Raptors from falling behind 3–0 to the Bucks. Then the Warriors injuries. Instead of the Bucks it was the Raptors this time. Now we head off into a tumultuous free-agency…

July 1: the Free-Agency fandango is two weeks away….and then…

Lakers Agree to trade future (minus Kuzma) for Anthony Davis

Three first round picks, including this year’s #4 overall pick, plus Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Josh Hart.

This leaves the Lakers with LeBron, Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma and…

Moritz Wagner, Isaac Bonga, and Jermerrio Jones and $23.7 million in cap space to figure out how to find some depth. Shooting and ball-handling will be badly needed. The Lakers would be wise to spread that around to 2 or 3 solid rotation players instead of go for one more star.

Meanwhile in New Orleans…

The most intriguing League Pass team of the next three years has arrived. David Griffin, new Pelicans front-office honcho, has set up the Pelicans with the 4th overall pick of the draft to pair with Zion Williamson, Jrue Holiday and Julius Randle, not to mention a fresh start for Lonzo Ball and Brandan Ingram. With only Holiday under contract for more than the coming year, New Orleans might not be building much continuity in year one of Zion. What they’ll need to develop is chemistry between Holiday-Zion-and whoever they pick at #4 (maybe De’Andre Hunter: compared to Rondae Hollis-Jefferson). Instead, the Pelicans might trade the pick and one of the young soon-to-be-free-agents for a veteran.

Meanwhile the other dominoes…

It’s all speculation until July 1st, but here are some guesses and dominoes:

Kyrie Irving to Brooklyn seems likely, and according to some speculators…that means D’Angelo Russell is less likely to stay in Brooklyn…which means he might sign with Indiana, who badly needs an offensive creator to ease the pressure on Victor Oladipo.

With tantalizing young point guard Ja Morant almost certainly going to Memphis at #2 in the draft, Mike Conley will likely be traded.

Conley’s likeliest suitors: Utah, Indiana, Orlando, Boston, and San Antonio.

Ricky Rubio is a free-agent and Utah would love to add Conley to the Donovan Mitchell-Rudy Gobert-Joe Ingles trio. Indiana would be out of the mix if Russell landed there. Orlando would jump at the opportunity to add Conley to their burgeoning core of Aaron Gordon-Jonathan Issac and — if they can re-sign him, Nic Vucevic, who had a break-out season with the Magic.

Boston’s New Outlook (With Davis to Lakers and Kyrie to Brooklyn) and Next Steps

Assuming the Celtics lose Kyrie, they’d love to have Conley’s veteran savvy and offensive stability. The Celtics need Al Horford to come back on a non-max contract and then figure out the best way to maximize the Tatum-Brown-Hayward-Horford core over the next few years. Hayward has two years left on his deal, and Tatum and Brown will command new salaries/extensions by the summer of 2021. Marcus Smart and Robert Williams are the only players signed thru 2022.

Point Guard Search

The likelihood of Terry Rozier staying in Boston might be contingent on the Celtics ability to trade for Conley. The top point guards available after Kyrie are Kemba Walker, D’Angelo Russell, Malcolm Brogdon and Goran Dragic. All will likely be out of the Celtics price-range, and most expect Dragic to stay in Miami. Brogdon would be ideal, but he isn’t going to take a discount unless he loves being in Milwaukee. Rubio, Patrick Beverley, Rozier, Elfrid Payton and Tomas Satoransky make up the next tier.

Personally, I like Satoransky’s malleable game. He can hit from deep, has great passing skills, can guard three positions solidly, but never demands attention. The Wizards continually seemed to play better with Satoransky next to Beal in the backcourt. In addition, Satoransky might be more affordable than the rest.

Other Guesses

  • Kawhi stays in Toronto
  • Durant and Klay re-sign big deals with the Warriors (who compete with the Lakers in the 2021 and 2022 Playoffs).

Now we wait until the dust settles in early July.

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