Tag Archives: Gordon Hayward

NBA Offseason Aftermath Pt. 2: Just the Worst

We already know who’s had the best NBA offseason, but which teams have had the worst so far? It’s been a little over a week since the NBA Draft and free agency has hit its lull.

Restricted free agents like Brandon Ingram have even signed after seeing no movement outside of Bogdan Bogdanovic who ended up with Atlanta.

There was a surprising amount of activity but not all offseason moves are created equal. There was also at least one team with a disturbing lack of activity.

Who Had the Worst Offseason in the NBA?

Honorable Mentions:

Utah Jazz

Perhaps this is being nitpicky. But a team that finished sixth in the Western Conference and got bounced in the first round (albeit in seven games) didn’t add anyone of consequence to their roster this offseason?

Outside of the return of (another) defense-oriented big in Derrick Favors and adding another in Udoka Azubuike with the 27th overall pick they must be counting on more 50-point explosions in the playoffs from Donovan Mitchell.

Or maybe they’re relying on the return of Bojan Bogdanovic and perhaps second-rounder Elijah Hughes (that’s sarcasm, though he was a near-20 PPG scorer at Syracuse last season). We may have seen this group peak already.

Milwaukee Bucks

The Milwaukee Bucks listing here is even more nitpicky as they did manage to do some very nice things with their roster. Trading for Jrue Holiday is a move very much akin to bringing in another Khris Middleton.

A player who can handle the ball, perform off the dribble, or as a spot-up shooter. He is also a very capable defender. Milwaukee was also able to unload the albatross contract of Eric Bledsoe in the process.

Can he, D.J. Augustine, and Bobby Portis keep Milwaukee in contention for not only a championship but also retaining the services of Giannis Antetokounmpo next offseason? Their little snafu with Bogdan Bogdanovic probably didn’t help the situation.

5. Charlotte Hornets

It’s pretty hard to have a roster as bad as the Charlotte Hornets, take arguably the best players in the draft, and add a former 20-point per game scorer to the roster and still be considered among the worst.

Drafting LaMelo Ball third overall was a no-brainer. But that former walking dub, Gordon Hayward, will cost Michael Jordan and the Hornets just shy of $40 million a year. That’s his $30 million deal (already grossly overspending) plus an additional $9 million from stretching the remainder of Nicolas Batum’s horrendous contract.

And that’s the rub, this isn’t abnormal for the franchise formally known as the Bobcats. Cody Zeller has never averaged more than just over 11 PPG and has never averaged close to double-digit rebounds yet is making upwards of $15 million this season. And has anybody checked on Terry Rozier?

4. New York Knicks

Can anyone answer why a team that has been searching for a point guard since Linsanity was a thing decided to pass on arguably three of the best and go for an older prospect with questions about his fit at the next level? One Kevin Knox isn’t enough so you go and get one with a lower ceiling?

Never mind Tyrese Haliburton, Cole Anthony, and Kira Lewis were all still on the board. Austin Rivers is here to join Dennis Smith in the endless recycling of once-promising lead-guard prospects. The additions of Alec Burks and Omari Spellman are cool in a vacuum for a good team.

The acquisitions for the Knicks, at least in Burks’ case, are puzzling. Then again, this is the Knicks we’re talking about. That’s why they aren’t higher on this list. You can only be so upset about something you expected to happen.

3. Detroit Pistons

Here we have a team that, while expected to do silly things, actually provided a glimmer of hope in the draft just to sabotage their own work with odd free agency decisions. The easier path to the playoffs in the East has the Detroit Pistons drafting for the future but working free agency largely for the now and overpaying in the process.

Jerami Grant’s deal will see him average $20 million based largely on his bubble performance. He’s a valuable, versatile player. But no one expected to see him sign a deal worth that much. We haven’t even gotten to Mason Plumlee and Jahlil Okafor. Just why?

Again, you expect them to screw things up for themselves. But their promising draft which included Killian Hayes and Saddiq Bey out of Villanova (one of the most underrated prospects in this draft) is overshadowed by poor free agency decisions.

2. Indiana Pacers

How have the Indiana Pacers done so little in the offseason check-in so high on the list of worst offseasons? That’s exactly how, actually. Indy finished fourth in the East but, like Utah, was a first-round out via sweep at the hands of the Miami Heat.

Their saving grace was that arguably their best player in Victor Oladipo wasn’t at full strength and they were without Domantas Sabonis who also has a claim as their best player. But since their elimination, it has been reported that there is a rift between Oladipo and management resulting in the two-time All-Star seeking a way out.

For an organization that didn’t do much to add to its early-exit roster, losing an All-Star caliber player seems less than ideal. The entire thing looks even worse considering Oladipo could have opted out to preserve himself but played to help in the playoffs.

1. Los Angeles Clippers

A second-round exit and subsequent implosion (that may have been taking place all season) are why the (still) star-studded Los Angeles Clippers find themselves atop this unflattering list.

Getting bounced by a one-legged Luka Doncic is bad enough, but to have all the tea spilling about players dissatisfied with the treatment of stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

Montrezl Harrell was a name continuously mentioned among those displeased and found his way to the rival Lakers; making his feelings on the situation very well known. They replaced him with Serge Ibaka and Landry Shamet with Luke Kennard.

Consider what the Lakers added. And the fact the Clippers blew a 3-1 lead with many of the same players they’ll have this season. The latter has dropped the ball on what may be a pivotal offseason. Both Leonard and George can opt out and become free agents after this season.

It’d be a shame if both left for greener pastures.

 

NBA Playoff Surprises and Disappointments: Eastern Conference

The Western Conference was the focus of the last article but this time, it’s the Eastern Conference that gets a turn. It’s playoff time! A long, grueling NBA season has finally given way to the postseason and there will be no shortage of excitement. Before breaking down the first-round matchups (an article for another day), let’s continue identifying the playoff teams that surprised by making it. Conversely, we will also discuss a pair of squads that enter with more doubt than confidence.

Playoff Winners and Losers in the Eastern Conference

Pt. 1

Brooklyn Going Hard

Somewhere Jay-Z has to be throwing up the dynasty sign. A decade after the release of the hit single that served as the theme when they relocated from New Jersey, the Brooklyn Nets are living up to the hook. They had back-to-back 44+ win seasons in 2013 and 2014; following the acquisitions of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. But that was always an ill-fated attempt to capture (someone else’s) lightning in a bottle. This is, by and large, a homegrown product that has turned around the fortunes of the once-wayward franchise.

D’Angelo Russell’s maturation has been the catalyst to what GM Sean Marks and Head Coach Kenny Atkinson have built. Heavily reliant on the three-ball (34.1% of their offense, 5th in NBA) the Nets are also among the best at defending it (31% of opp. Scoring, 5th in NBA). Russell (.369) and this year’s winner of the three-point contest, Joe Harris (.474), can and will shoot it out with the best of them. And Spencer Dinwiddie, their second-leading scorer, is slashing .442/.335/.806 while leading the team in free throw attempts with 5.2 per game.

Now for the not so positive part. Brooklyn allows the highest shooting percentage and the third-most attempts in the paint in the Association. That is a problem for second-year big man Jarrett Allen with one Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers on tap for the first round. Allen averages two blocks a game but Embiid (30% from 25+ ft) is fully capable of pulling him away from the basket. Allen allows 38% on such shots. The other major knock on the Nets: turnovers. Brooklyn turned the ball over at the fourth-highest rate in the NBA. That is a problem as Philly is scoring 21.4 points per game in transition, eighth-most in the league.

Do You Believe in (the) Magic?

Mouse in the house! The Disney sponsored Orlando Magic have reached the postseason for the first time since Dwight Howard last donned the blue and white (2011-12). Their 42-40 mark is their best since the 2010-11 season when they won 52. The Magic are 11th in three-point percentage (35.6%, 10th out of playoff teams. More impressive, they are fifth in turnovers (13.2) and second in personal fouls (18.6); playing a very clean game on both ends. Orlando also managed to block 5.4 blocks per game, good for sixth across the NBA.

Maybe it was divine intervention that kept Nikola Vucevic with the Magic. More likely it was lack of a quality offer. Whatever the case, Vuc set career-highs in points, rebounds, and assists; going for 20/12/3. He did that while slashing .518/.364/.789 and committing a career-low 2 fouls per game. Perhaps his contract situation contributed to his (and Terrance Ross’) mid-career breakout, but Head Coach Steve Clifford, and Magic fans will take it. Aaron Gordon showed more of his playmaking ability, notching a 16.6 assist percentage, and tallied a career-high 5.1 win shares.

Where they may need some actual magic, getting easy buckets. Orlando is dead last in free throw attempts per game. They draw fouls at the second-lowest rate too, so it isn’t as if the calls they get are simply on the floor. The Magic are a screen-heavy offense but that is where the positives about their hustle stop. They are 27th in deflections, 27th in loose balls recovered, and a paltry 29th in contested shots. Their first-round opponent, the Toronto Raptors, are no worse than third in any of those categories.

Green Envy

The Boston Celtics finished 49-33, fourth in the East. That is a drop from the 55 wins and second-place finish of last year. But a closer look shows they had improved production in several areas this season. They increased their scoring output, field goal percentage, free throw percentage, and assists. They also managed to cut down on blocks, increase steals, and blocked more shots. Their advanced metrics improvement is also largely across the board.

So why are they a disappointment? Well, for starters (no pun intended) Marcus Smart will miss the entire opening round and, quite possibly, all of the second with a torn oblique. Smart has a slash line of .422/.364/.806 with career-high effective field goal and true shooting numbers. But his greatest impact is on the defensive side of the ball. He tied for eighth in steals per game during the regular season and is in the top-40 in defensive win shares. Boston will attempt to replace what Smart brings with Terry Rozier, who also resides in the top-90 for defensive win shares, but lacks Smart’s size to defend wings.

Of course, this is a team that reached the Eastern Conference Finals last year without Kyrie Irving or Gordon Hayward. But Irving (23-6-5) has been the talk of NBA Twitter this season in regards to where he will even be playing next year. Meanwhile, Hayward (11-4-3) is having a down year in his comeback campaign after playing all of five minutes last season. Then there is young Jayson Tatum, who is also dealing with an injury. Undoubtedly adjusting to life as something other than the top option, he has seen his scoring efficiency fall in his sophomore season, though he has upped his point totals, rebounding, assists, and steals.

Keeping the Pace

Indianapolis Pacers Head Coach Nate McMillan has to be a darkhorse favorite for Coach of the Year. Sure the Pacers record is the exact same as last year. But Indy has managed to raise their production across the board, save for dips in free throw percentage, offensive rebounds, steals, and a minor drop in two-point attempts. Oh yeah, they also only got 36 games out of their best player, Victor Oladipo, after he went down with a quad tear back in January. That was supposed to be the death knell for the Pacers in 2019 and instead, they head to the NBA postseason.

For all the praise they deserve for even getting here, the loss of Oladipo might be about to catch up to them in a major way. We already know that the team with the best player usually wins in the playoffs. One could argue that even if Oladipo was healthy, he would still not be the best player on the floor in their first round matchup against the Celtics. But, it is hard to envision a scenario in which a player who averaged 22 points, eight rebounds, and six assists in the playoffs last season would not help.

All of this feels like a slight to the amazing season Bojan Bogdanovic is having. He is averaging 18-4-2 this season; well above his career numbers of 13-3-1. He also parlayed career-high usage into his best efficiency rating, effective field goal percentage, and true shooting percentage. He has been the de facto lead dog for a team with seven players averaging double figures for the season. Where they lack sans Vic is in isolation. They are the 24th in Isolation play frequency so that could obviously be the reason. But there will be times in the postseason when the play breaks down and they will need a player to go get a bucket.

Eastern Conference Has Warts

Just like it was for the teams in the Western Conference surprises and disappointments piece, these are indeed still playoff teams. There is a case to be made that this is all nitpicking, and maybe so. But the issues raised here only accentuate what is already assumed. Save for Boston, none of these teams are thought of as true contenders for a title. Even the Cs have less luster than last year with what, in total, is a better team simply by having Irving and Hayward healthy.