Updated: Dec 22, 2020
Last week in the NBA was a highly anticipated one, with the end of the trade moratorium on Monday, the draft on Wednesday, and the start of free agency on Friday. And it delivered.
From blockbuster trades to shocking free-agent signings, many players found new homes this offseason. Here are just a few takeaways from a wild week in the world of basketball.
Suns Ready to Make a Deep Playoff Run
The Suns aren't playing around, and they've established themselves as a playoff team in the last week.
Last Monday, Phoenix traded for 10-time All-Star point guard Chris Paul. They re-signed 25-year-old guard Jevon Carter and inked Jae Crowder to a three-year contract. Oh, and they also have Devin Booker, one of the best offensive players in the whole league.
Chris Paul should act as the team's primary facilitator and mentor Booker, a budding superstar with more to still learn. Ricky Rubio was a capable point guard during his one year on the Suns, but Paul is an undeniable upgrade. He'll provide 12 years of playoff experience to a young team looking to reach the postseason for the first time since 2010.
Jae Crowder is a perfect fit for the roster that Phoenix has assembled. Paul, Booker, Mikal Bridges, and Deandre Ayton are surefire starters, and Crowder will slot in at the power forward position. He plays a passionate game and brings fire to a team, evident in the Heat's Finals run last season. With Paul, he will bring a valuable veteran presence to a nascent roster.
The Western Conference is extremely tough, especially with the return of Steph Curry and the Warriors into the picture. Still, the sum of what Phoenix has put together this offseason could allow them to reach the Conference Finals.
Questionable Moves by the Pistons...
With the seventh pick in the draft, the Pistons selected Killian Hayes, a point guard with natural feel for the game. He has the chance to develop into Detroit's franchise cornerstone and will earn a spot in the starting rotation early in the season. They then selected center Isaiah Stewart and forward Saddiq Bey, two safer picks with lower ceilings. Overall, it was a nice draft for Detroit. They recognized the weak spots on their roster and picked accordingly.
Where it gets sketchy for Pistons GM Troy Weaver is in free agency. He started by letting potential star Christian Wood sign with Houston. Wood was a revelation for Detroit in the last 15 games before the season was suspended, averaging 22.3 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 1.7 threes made per game. He's a center with the handles of a guard and can score both inside and outside. We don't know if Wood can maintain that level, but that's exactly why the Pistons are at fault for letting him go.
Weaver proceeded to lure forward Jerami Grant from the Nuggets for $60 million over three years. It's simply too much money for a player that hasn't proven consistent offensive production over an entire season. He had a nice postseason for Denver last year, but he's more of an off-ball threat who isn't a great passer.
Potentially the worst series of moves was Detroit's run on veteran centers. Weaver brought in Mason Plumlee (yes, the one responsible for Anthony Davis's playoff game-winner) for three years, $25 million. He also signed 2015 draft bust Jahlil Okafor for two years. Factor in draft pick Isaiah Stewart, and that's three traditional centers who can't space the floor.
There's no doubt that the Pistons have been one of the most aggressive teams in the league this offseason. The question remains of whether it will translate into better results than years prior.
...and the Hornets Too
Gordon Hayward signed a monster 4-year, $120 million deal with Charlotte after declining his $34.2 million option with the Celtics. After a successful draft headlined by LaMelo Ball, it's become clear the Hornets want to make a playoff push.
Hayward's contract is ugly for two reasons: he'll turn 31 in March and he's lost explosiveness following that gruesome injury during his first game in Boston. However, Hayward should receive more opportunities as an offensive mainstay, similar to his later years with Utah. It's a bit paradoxical; if he and Ball can prove their impact and will the Hornets to the eighth playoff seed, then free agents may have some interest in Charlotte next offseason. But the Hornets won't have much cap space to sign them because they spent it all on Hayward. Tough luck.
Of course, they have young talent in Devonte' Graham, PJ Washington, and Miles Bridges. Still, those players need to stay dedicated and keep improving to compete. The Hornets may squeeze into the playoffs, but if they can't, Hayward's contract will likely go down as one of the worst in history.
Klay's Injury Isn't Slowing the Warriors Down
The Warriors were ecstatic for this season to begin, as the Splash Brothers would both be healthy and ready to shred defenses with 3-pointers. Then, news broke that Klay Thompson tore his right Achilles tendon, almost 18 months removed from tearing his left ACL in the 2019 Finals. It's a rough break for both Thompson, one of the greatest shooters in league history, and the Warriors, coming off their worst season since 1965.
Still, they aren't panicking nor should they. Just days after he was traded to the Thunder in the Chris Paul deal, Kelly Oubre Jr. was added by Golden State in exchange for a 2021 first-round and second-round pick. Oubre Jr. is no sharpshooter like Thompson, but he should fill in some of the offensive load at the wing. He's a firecracker when he has the ball in his hands, and who knows how much more effort he'll put in with a championship contender?
Rookie James Wiseman will have the smoothest transition to the pros possible playing alongside Steph Curry. They can build a strong rapport in the pick-and-roll before this season commences. Can't you visualize it? I can see it now: Curry nonchalantly brings the ball up to the 3-point arc and like he does so often, calls for a screen to be set. Wiseman comes up and runs to the rim, Curry jumps ever so slightly while floating a lob up to his new target. The rook slams it home, and the crowd goes wild (if there even is one).
There's no replacing Thompson, the most dangerous off-ball threat in all of basketball. What the Warriors are cooking up this offseason could be a viable substitute.
Finals or Bust for the Bucks
I wrote about Milwaukee's situation in September, when they were fresh off a second-round sweep at the hands of the Heat. They looked outmatched, mainly because Giannis Antetokounmpo wasn't his dominant self. There was still no excuse for his supporting cast's poor performance, except Khris Middleton; he carried the team on his back for as long as he could.
Perhaps one of the biggest trades this offseason, the Bucks added Jrue Holiday from the Pelicans in exchange for Eric Bledsoe, their point guard that had a history of playoff struggles. Holiday is a stalwart on both sides of the ball, but most importantly, he's a decent shooter! He can take some offensive responsibility off of Antetokounmpo's back, a desperate need.
Milwaukee knew they needed to bolster their rotation around Giannis, preferably adding more outside threats. They took that philosophy and stuck with it, drafting spot-up threats Jordan Nwora and Sam Merrill in the second round. Bringing in Bryn Forbes from San Antonio and Torrey Craig from Denver was also a nice addition for their bench.
The Bucks have assembled an excellent team for Giannis to lead to the Finals. But this is as far as they can help him; it's up to the Greek Freak to develop his game outside of the paint and become a respected leader. If not, he'll be packing his bags to leave in free agency next year.