It’s time to put Siakam in the MVP conversation

Pascal Siakam
Game 2 of 2019 NBA Finals” by Chensiyuan is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Earlier this week, the NBA put out their KIA MVP Ladder, ranking players based on their production so far this season. Below are the top five MVP candidates so far.

Current NBA MVP rankings

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

2. LeBron James, Los Angeles Lakers

3. Kawhi Leonard, Los Angeles Clippers

4. Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers

5. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

With all of these guys having some of the best teams in the league and them all being some of the most popular names in basketball, it’s no surprise these guys are atop the list.

 

The next five

6. James Harden, Houston Rockets

7. Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets

8. Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers

9. Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns

10. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets

As the list moves into the next five, it’s no surprise the guys listed above are there either. They’re just as popular as the guys above, it’s just their teams haven’t had as much early success.

 

And five more

11. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks

12. Kendrick Nunn, Miami Heat

13. Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz

14. Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves

15. Kemba Walker, Boston Celtics

Then there’s these guys, who are having successful seasons early on and are still popular names, but aren’t as popular as the top tier guys.

 

The guy who should be in the conversation

With most of this list I agree, but there’s one huge disagreement. That’s the absence of the name Pascal Siakam. I get Siakam isn’t a super popular name. Last year was the first year most people knew who he was! Instead of being a star player, he won Most Improved Player. While that is an accomplishment, winning Most Improved doesn’t make you a star.

I understand that Siakam has yet to play an entire season as the main guy for his team, but based on what he’s done so far this season, he absolutely should be in the MVP conversation.

Through the Raptors’ first eight games, Siakam has led them to a 6-2 record, which currently puts them second in the Eastern Conference. In those eight games, Siakam has averaged 27.9 points (7th in the NBA), 9.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists. He’s doing all that while shooting 51.9% from the field and 41.3% from three-point range.

First of all, why is the NBA’s seventh leading scorer not in the top 15 in the MVP race? Guys like AD, LeBron, KAT and Booker are all on the list, and they’re all currently averaging less points than Siakam!

Second, how in the world is Kendrick Nunn, an undrafted rookie, ahead of Siakam? Nunn is averaging 16.6 points, 2.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game and ranks 12th on the list, yet Siakam is left off? Makes perfect sense!

 

Where should Siakam rank?

If you ask me, Siakam should at the very least be ranked in the top 10. Let’s take a look at the guys in the top 10 and briefly compare them to Siakam.

Jokic currently has his team at the same record as the Raptors and in the same playoff spot, only in the Western Conference. However, he averages 16.3 points, which is 11.6 less than Siakam. Jokic averages 0.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists more than Siakam, but there’s no way that’s enough to overtake him.

Booker has his team off to a worse start (5-3), and is also averaging less points and significantly less rebounds. Lillard currently has the Blazers at 3-6 and not in a playoff spot, so I’m not sure why he’s even on the MVP list. He may be the league’s second leading scorer, but MVP’s don’t play for losing teams. Irving is kind of in the same boat as Lillard. He’s the league’s third leading scorer, but his team is just 4-4 and seems to be struggling to finish games. If anyone ranked six through 10 has a legit case, it’s Harden, who has his team at 6-3 and is the league’s leading scorer right now.

Now let’s move to the guys ranked in the top five. Embiid currently averages less points and assists, while shooting worse percentages from the field than Siakam. I’d easily take Siakam over Embiid for MVP right now.

This is where it starts to get interesting. AD and James are both averaging less points than Siakam, but they do have the best record in the Western Conference right now. You could make the argument here that Siakam has less help, because he’s not playing with a top five NBA player, while these two guys are.

That leaves us with Kawhi and the Greek Freak. Both guys are averaging more points than Siakam. With both of their teams sitting right where the Raptors are, I think I’d have to put these guys above Siakam at this moment.

I don’t know if I can pinpoint a specific place for Siakam to rank right now, but I’d say he’s at least in the top five. At the very, very least, he should be in the top 15! Again, how on earth is Kendrick Nunn ranked over him, or even in the top 15 at all?

Pascal Siakam may be last year’s Most Improved Player, but he’s this year’s star for the Toronto Raptors. Siakam is a star, yet most people don’t see it. It’s time to start recognizing Siakam as more than the guy who helped Kawhi a year ago. It’s time to recognize him as a legit MVP candidate. Let’s give him the recognition he deserves.

 

How the Lakers signing Dwight Howard will be different this time around

Dwight Howard’s first stop with the Los Angeles Lakers didn’t go as planned, but his second stop with the team will be much different.

Back in 2012, Dwight Howard became a member of the Los Angeles Lakers. The then 27 year old Howard joined a 34 year old Kobe Bryant and 38 year old Steve Nash. At the time, Howard was a star in the league. Prior to joining the Lakers, Howard had been a six time All-Star after leading the Orlando Magic to the playoffs six straight times, including one NBA Finals appearance.

Coming off a season in which he averaged 20.6 points, 14.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks, Howard was expected to be a star for his new team. It was at this same time that Howard’s career would never be the same. From there on out, Howard has bounced around the league, spending time with the Rockets, Hawks, Hornets and Wizards.

Howard with the Lakers in February 2013” by scott mecum is licensed under CC BY 2.0

2012 to 2016

In his first season with the Lakers, Howard’s stats didn’t look as bad as things actually were. Howard averaged 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds (led the league) and 2.4 blocks. The Lakers finished that season with a record of 45-37, making the playoffs, but went on to lose in the first round.

The very next season, Howard moved on to the Houston Rockets, where he spent the next three seasons of his career. Why did Howard move on so quickly? There were several factors that likely went into Howard moving on, but to put it simply, Howard wasn’t the star he was with the Orlando Magic any longer. Howard wasn’t able to take a team of aging stars deep into the playoffs, as he hoped to do when he joined the team. Sure, his stats were still good, but individual stats and team wins are two very different things.

Howard’s short time as the star player for the Lakers seemed to take a toll on him. That’s why he split to join James Harden in Houston. Unfortunately for Howard, he was still expected to perform at a superstar level. Again, his stats looked good, but the team had another early out in the playoffs. The longer Howard played in Houston, the worse he got. Clearly, he still couldn’t handle having to perform at such a high level.

I’ll just go ahead and skip over the next few years of his career, as the story is the same.

Lakers Round Two

Howard’s first stop with the Lakers didn’t work out, but now he has a second chance. This time around, Howard will be a much more effective player for the Lakers than he was back in 2012. His stats won’t be as high, but his impact on the team will be much greater.

How so?

Well, this time around, Howard isn’t expected to be a star. This time the Lakers are bringing him in to protect the rim and grab rebounds in the absence of Boogie Cousins.

Instead of having to be a star with a rapidly declining Kobe Byrant and a Steve Nash who was about to walk away from the game, Howard will now be asked to play a specific role next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis. LeBron may be getting up there in age, but he can still perform at a very high level. We all know Anthony Davis is a star.

With LeBron and Davis, Howard will not be required to carry the team. He won’t be expected to be a star like he was the first time around. Instead of averaging 17+ points per game, we should look for Howard to average 10 points per game or less.

While Howard’s points will be way down, he still has the talent to be a good rebounder and shot blocker for this Lakers team. That’s what the Lakers expect from Howard, and that’s exactly what they’re going to get. He won’t have the ball in his hands nearly as often, just when LeBron or Davis pass it to him down low or he grabs a board.

I believe the Lakers made the right move by giving Howard a second chance with them, but they’re making an even better move by making the expectations for him very clear before he even steps foot in the building.

Are the Lakers better off without Kawhi?

The Los Angeles Lakers missed out on pairing Kawhi Leonard with LeBron James and Anthony Davis after Leonard signed with the Los Angeles Clippers. A Kawhi, LeBron and Davis combo would have been great, but are the Lakers better off without Leonard?

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2013 Los Angeles Lakers 2” by Michael Tipton is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

After the Los Angeles Lakers were able to acquire Anthony Davis, they opened up enough room to sign a third max contract player. With Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving and others already off the board, L.A. had their sights set on Kawhi Leonard.

Just a few days ago, Kawhi Leonard made his free agency decision, choosing the Los Angeles Clippers over the Lakers and Toronto Raptors. Not landing Kawhi may seem like a huge blow for the Lakers, as the combo of him, LeBron and Davis would have incredibly tough to stop. However, the Lakers may be better off without Leonard.

I know it sounds crazy for a team to be better without Kawhi Leonard, but hear me out on this one.

 

Roster with Kawhi

Had the Lakers signed the Kawhi Leonard, the Lakers would have had a roster consisting of three of the best players in the NBA. That sounds awesome, but it takes more than three guys to win basketball games. By adding Kawhi, the Lakers would have had a roster consisting of pretty much the following:

  • LeBron James
  • Anthony Davis
  • Kawhi Leonard
  • Kyle Kuzma
  • Jared Dudley
  • Troy Daniels
  • No name players who won’t help them win

Had the Lakers signed Leonard, their roster would have been real thin. Outside of Leonard, LeBron, Davis and Kuzma, all the Lakers would have had were depth guys. Not guys who could help them win off the bench, but depth guys. Guys who probably shouldn’t play unless the absolutely have to. Sure, the Lakers would have been able to sign a couple more guys to minimum contracts, but they wouldn’t have been anything more than depth guys either.

One of the biggest problems the Lakers had a season ago, was their frequent usage of backup players in a starting role. Yes, injuries had something to do with that, but regardless, they played guys who shouldn’t have been on the floor way too often. That obviously helped lead the Lakers to missing the playoffs.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. Would the Lakers have made the playoffs with the above roster? Yes. Would they have been a good team? Yes. Would they win a championship? I’m not so sure. It would have been great to have at least one of these guys on the floor at all times, but who would have been around them? As proven by Kawhi Leonard’s Raptors, it takes a team FULL of capable players to win a championship. This Lakers roster would have been far from that.

 

Roster without Kawhi

The Lakers’ roster with Kawhi Leonard would have been good, but their roster without him may be better because of how well rounded they can be. After missing out on the biggest free agent available, the Lakers made a series of great moves to fill out their roster. Let’s take a look at what their roster looks like now.

  • LeBron James
  • Anthony Davis
  • Kyle Kuzma
  • DeMarcus Cousins
  • Danny Green
  • Rajon Rondo
  • Quinn Cook
  • Troy Daniels
  • Jared Dudley
  • JaVale McGee
  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
  • Avery Bradley
  • No name players (Alex Caruso, Zach Norvell Jr., Talon Horton-Tucker and Johnathan Williams)

As you can see, because the Lakers didn’t sign Kawhi Leonard, they were able to make several moves they wouldn’t have been able to make before. They were able to sign DeMarcus Cousins and Danny Green to fill out their starting lineup. Next, they were able to sign Rajon Rondo, Quinn Cook, JaVale McGee, Kentavious Caldewell-Pope and Avery Bradley to fill out their bench rotation. There’s no way they would’ve been able to acquire a roster this deep with Kawhi Leonard’s contract.

Without Kawhi, the Lakers now have a well built roster. They’ve got a lineup of guys who should be starters (LeBron, Davis, Kuzma, Green and Cousins). They’ve got a lineup of guys who can make valuable contributions off the bench, but won’t be relied upon to carry the team (Rondo, Cook, McGee, Caldwell-Pope, Bradley, etc.) Finally, they’ve got guys who may play occasionally, but shouldn’t play often.

This Lakers’ roster has a lot more depth and a lot more possibilities than it would have had they landed Kawhi Leonard. Throw that in with the possibility of them acquiring Kyle Korver (recent free agent after being waived) and maybe adding Andre Iguodala (Grizzlies are seeking a trade, but may come to buyout agreement).

Not adding Kawhi Leonard allowed the Lakers to build a solid roster from head to toe, rather than having a roster consisting of three stars, one young player who’s on the rise and a bunch of no names. This Lakers roster is legit, and they may not be done making moves just yet.

 

NBA Free Agency: Winners and losers from day two

After an exciting day one of NBA free agency, day two didn’t offer nearly as much excitement. However, there were still a few significant signings throughout the league that will impact how things play out the rest of the way.

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Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Brooklyn Nets” by Erik Drost is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Yesterday we looked at the winners and losers of free agency’s first few hours, as that’s when most of the action happened. However, several significant moves happened later on on day one, meaning there were winners and losers we missed from the first day. With that in mind, the winners and losers from day two will include some of the moves made technically on day one of free agency. Let’s take a look at the free agency winners and losers from day two!

 

Winner: Golden State Warriors

Just when you think the dynasty is over, it comes right back. After losing Kevin Durant to the Brooklyn Nets, the Warriors were able to pull off a sign-and-trade to get D’Angelo Russell on a long term deal. Somehow, someway, the Warriors lost two All-Stars in Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins, yet they still have four All-Stars on their team.

This move by the Warriors is a great move for them, both for now and later. It’s a good move now, because Klay Thompson will be out for most of, if not the entire 2019-20 season. With him out, Steph Curry still has another splash bro who can drain three point shots pretty much at will.

It’s a great move for later, because we know the Warriors’ stars won’t last forever. Curry and Thompson still have great years ahead, but when they do start to decline, they’ll have D’Angelo Russell there to keep them competitive. Russell’s four year deal will give the Warriors time to develop a relationship with Russell to make sure he doesn’t leave when his opportunity arises. They can take care of that before it even gets that far.

The down side to the trade is that the Warriors had to get rid of Andre Iguodala in order to make space for Russell. Iguodala was a huge factor in the Warriors’ run over the last several years. We can’t tell just yet how that will impact this team, but it’s likely they’ll decline defensively. Despite that move, the Warriors are winners because they’ve kept themselves legit title contenders after losing one of the NBA’s best players.

 

Loser: Los Angeles Lakers

While NBA teams have been going nuts and making headlines, the Lakers have been sitting back and doing nothing. We all know they’re waiting on Kawhi Leonard, but in the mean time, a lot of solid players have been swallowed up by their competitors. This team is banking on getting Kawhi Leonard, and it may not even happen. I don’t blame them for banking on him. If they land him, they’re legit title contenders. However, if they don’t, they pretty much wasted free agency.

Since free agency started, the Lakers have done just about nothing. They did make one move during day two of free agency, but it wasn’t anything exciting. The Lakers signed guard Troy Daniels, who’s spent six years in the league with multiple teams. Who? Yeah, most people don’t even know who Daniels is.

The reason they signed Daniels is because of his three-point shooting ability. He’s shot 40% from deep over his six year career. He’ll provide some nice shooting for the Lakers, but he doesn’t bring much else outside of that.

L.A. could easily go from losers to winners if they land Kawhi, but for now, their boring free agency period and lack of ability to surround LeBron and AD with help has landed them here.

 

Winner: Boston Celtics

I’ve been going back and forth on if I think the Celtics are winners, losers or just somewhere in the middle. They lost Kyrie Irving, but were able to land Kemba Walker. They also lost Al Horford, but replaced him with Enes Kanter. Replacing Irving with Walker offsets, but what about replacing Horford with Kanter?

Overall, I think Horford is the better player. However, the Celtics were able to get Kanter on a two-year, $10 million deal. That’s a great value for what Kanter brings to the table. Many don’t like Kanter, but I personally love the way he plays. He’s a great rebounder, who excels at getting his team second chance opportunities. He’s not an elite scorer, but the Celtics don’t need him to be. The Celtics won with this signing because they got a player who’ll do all the dirty work on such a great deal.

 

Loser: DeMarcus Cousins

After day two of free agency, DeMarcus Cousins is still sitting there, waiting for someone to scoop him up. For most bigger name free agents, we’d typically hear something about them meeting with teams and getting close to a deal. We haven’t really heard anything about DeMarcus Cousins during free agency to this point. What does that tell us about how teams view Cousins?

I think a lot of teams may be shying away from Cousins because of his recent injury history. He’s been hurt a lot over the last couple of years, and hasn’t been available for his team as often as teams would like.

Then there’s the fact that Cousins has never been able to help his team win. The only time Cousins has been on a relevant team have been when he played with Anthony Davis, and when he played for the Warriors with Curry, Thompson, Green and Durant. Other than that, Cousins’ teams have been nothing.

Someone will pick Cousins up eventually, but the fact that he hasn’t received much interest to this point has to be bad for him going forward. This has shown he’s got a lot to prove this coming season wherever he ends up signing.

 

Winner: Portland Trail Blazers

Portland won day two of free agency because they were able to land Hassan Whiteside from Miami. The acquisition of Whiteside gives the Blazers a legit big man to help fill the void of Jusuf Nurkic as he continues to make his way back from injury. Enes Kanter did a nice job last season, but he’s no longer with the team. Had Portland not traded for Whiteside, they would have had a huge gap to fill at the position.

There are two more things I love about this trade. One, the Blazers didn’t give up much to get Whiteside. They only had to give up Meyers Leonard and Mo Harkless in order to land his services. Second, Whiteside is entering the final year of his contract. That means the Blazers didn’t commit to anything long term with Whiteside. If they like him, they can sign him to a long term deal later. If he ends up not working out, it’s not like the Blazers are stuck with him.

Landing Hassan Whiteside was a good insurance policy for the Blazers, which should help them stay competitive in the Western Conference this coming season.

 

Loser: Houston Rockets

We all know the Rockets were trying to add Jimmy Butler to their roster. Well, that didn’t work out, as Butler is now a member of the Miami Heat. Instead, the Rockets settled for re-signing Austin Rivers. That’s no knock on Rivers, but it’s not great when comparing it to trying to land Butler.

There’s also another downside here. There had been a lot of talk about the Rockets moving on from Clint Capela to possibly make room for Butler and his contract, but now it looks like he may be sticking around. How will that impact Capela and his relationship with the team?

There already seemed to be some sort of drama going on within the organization. Will this make it even worse? Things have been tough for the Rockets lately, and this certainly didn’t help.

Better fit for the Lakers: Kyrie or Kemba?

NBA Free Agency is one week away! Over the next week, the NBA world will be all in on the speculation of which stars go where. The Los Angeles Lakers have been talked about as one of the biggest free agent destinations all season long, but has become even more attractive after the team acquired Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans. 

Since the acquisition of Davis, the Lakers have had their sights set on adding a third star to the mix. With a glaring hole at PG, two of their biggest targets this offseason will be Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker.

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Kemba Walker” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Both Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker are star PGs in the NBA, meaning there’s absolutely no chance the Lakers sign both of them. I don’t think they intend to even attempt to do so, but that makes the decision of who to sign that much more important.

We all know the Lakers are trying to bring a championship back to their city. In order to do so, they’ll have to make all the right moves this offseason. With Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker being their top targets, this decision is their biggest one, and they have to get it right.

With that in mind, which PG would bring the Lakers closer to a championship? Who’s the better fit next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis?

In order to answer these questions, I’m going to break down five categories of skills I believe the Lakers need from their third star. I’ll then break down which of these two star free agent PGs would be the better fit.

 

1. Health

Even with LeBron James leading the way, the Lakers missed the playoffs last season. A huge part of that was because of injuries. The biggest injury was to LeBron James, who missed a significant portion of the season. All together, LeBron missed 27 games, which was by far the most he’s missed in his career.

LeBron will come back healthy this season, and the Lakers have Anthony Davis now, but Davis isn’t necessarily the most reliable player when it comes to availability. Last season he only played in 56 games. Not all of those games were because of injury, but he still has an injury history we shouldn’t ignore. Prior to this most recent season, Davis played in 75 games two seasons in a row. That’s pretty good, but before those two seasons, Davis didn’t play in more than 68 games during a season.

With an injury history to Davis, the Lakers need a third star who will be available if Anthony Davis is not.

This one’s easy to evaluate, because Kyrie and Kemba came into the league during the same year. Since these two were drafted in 2011, Irving has played 508 games and Walker has played 605. Kemba Walker has played 97 more games than Kyrie Irving in the same amount of years. Walker has never played less than 62 games in his NBA career. Irving has played less than 60 games three times.

If the Lakers are looking for the guy with a greater chance to be available, Kemba Walker is their guy.

Advantage: Kemba Walker

 

2. Pure scoring ability

For this skill, we’re going to take a look at the scoring stats for both players.

  • Irving has career averages of 46.5 FG%, 39.0 3PT%, 49.8 2PT%, 87.5 FT% and 22.2 PPG.
  • Walker has career averages of 43.4 FG%, 35.7 3PT%, 45.2 2PT%, 83.5 FT% and 19.8 PPG.

Based on their career numbers, Kyrie Irving has the advantage as a scorer. Irving’s career numbers are better than Walker’s in every shooting category. Both players are great scorers, but Irving seems to be just one level above Walker.

We’ve seen several times throughout his career that Irving can score at will when he wishes to do so. We’ve seen Irving make big shot after big shot, even in the biggest moments. I’m not saying Walker hasn’t or can’t do this, but Irving’s numbers speak for themselves.

Advantage: Kyrie Irving

 

3. Defense

Kyrie Irving has always been known as a guy who’s not great on the defensive end. Kemba Walker also isn’t one of the better defenders at the PG position. Neither of these guys are great defenders, but does one of them hold an advantage? For this skill, I’m going to be looking at steals, blocks and defensive rebounds. Yes, rebounds count as defense. Let’s compare career averages.

  • Kyrie Irving: 1.3 steals, 0.3 blocks and 2.9 defensive rebounds.
  • Kemba Walker: 1.3 steals, 0.4 blocks and 3.3 defensive rebounds.

The defensive numbers for Irving and Walker are pretty much identical. Neither guy has been known for their defense during their time in the league. With these career numbers, neither guy has the advantage here.

No Advantage

 

4. Assists

This skill is interesting. Kyrie Irving has been known as a ball hog type player for much of his career, while Kemba Walker hasn’t ever had that type of reputation. It’s funny Irving gets that type of reputation, because he has a better career average in assists than Walker does.

Irving’s career assist number is 5.7 per game. Walker’s career assist number is 5.5 per game. Both guys are in the same general area when it comes to this category. Walker has had one season in which he averaged less than five assists per game, which came in his rookie season. Irving has also had just one season in which he averaged less than five assists per game, which came in the 15-16 season.

When it comes to seasons in which these two have had more than six assists, Walker has one and Irving has two. Neither of these guys are considered the premier passers in game, but both are more than capable of creating for their team.

The reason this skill is important for the Lakers to consider, is because LeBron James can’t be the only guy who creates shots for his teammates. Anthony Davis can create shots from the post, but he’s not going to be the primary shot creator. When LeBron isn’t on the floor, the Lakers will need a guy who can create shots. Lucky for them, both of these guys are capable of doing the job.

No Advantage

 

5. Ability to elevate a team

This is perhaps the most important skill of them all. LeBron James and Anthony Davis aren’t going to be able to be on the floor at all times. When they’re not on the floor, the Lakers need a guy who can elevate the players around him.

Kyrie Irving has never really been a guy who can elevate his team. Before LeBron James returned to Cleveland, Kyrie Irving never made the playoffs. Granted, he was still a very young player, but he never even came close to a playoff appearance until LeBron came back.

Since going to Boston, Irving has taken the Celtics to the playoffs both years. However, he seemed to be more of a hassle for them rather than a guy to elevate them. During his first playoff appearance with the Celtics, Irving was injured. The Celtics, without Irving, gave LeBron James a heck of a time in the Eastern Conference Finals. When Kyrie was playing in his second playoff appearance with the Celtics, they didn’t even make it close to the Eastern Conference Finals.

On the other side, Kemba Walker has only been to the playoffs twice in his career. Both times he was in the playoffs, his team lost in the first round. That doesn’t look great when talking about elevating a team, but we have to consider how well those teams would have done without him.

We just talked about how the Celtics seemed to be better when Irving was out. That’s not the case with Walker and the Hornets. Without Kemba Walker, the Hornets would likely be one of the worst teams in the league. They wouldn’t be anywhere near the playoffs. It’s only because of Walker that the Hornets are anywhere near relevant. It’s not his fault the Hornets have failed to put players around him.

I can only imagine how much Walker could elevate a team when he has legit players to help him out.

Advantage: Kemba Walker

 

Recap

Kemba Walker got the advantage in two categories, while Irving got the advantage in just one. The other two categories were ruled no advantage. Therefore, Kemba Walker gets the nod as the PG who’d be a better fit for the Lakers.

I believe his ability to stay healthy and elevate a team outweigh Irving’s ability to score. Walker isn’t that far behind Irving in that category anyway. I believe that if the Lakers are going to pursue one of these guys, it should be Kemba Walker.

Five role players the Lakers should pursue in FA after acquiring Anthony Davis

With the addition of Anthony Davis, the Los Angeles Lakers have turned themselves into an attractive free agent destination. Free agents who want a shot at winning a title will strongly consider going to L.A. to play with two of the best the NBA has to offer. 

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2013 Los Angeles Lakers 1” by Michael Tipton is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Los Angeles Lakers have finally acquired Anthony Davis from the New Orleans Pelicans! In return for the now former Pelicans superstar, the Lakers gave up three players: Lonzo Ball, Brandom Ingram and Josh Hart. The loss of those three guys is leaving the Lakers a little thin at those positions. Combined their absence with the potential loss of several free agents, and the Lakers aren’t looking too good outside of James and Davis.

Acquiring Anthony Davis is a step in the right direction for the Lakers as they try to win another title, but his presence alone won’t get them there. We know the Lakers are interested in acquiring another superstar, most likely at the PG position. Kemba Walker and Kyrie Irving are two players heavily linked to this squad. With James and Davis there, it seems pretty likely they’ll add a third superstar to the roster. However, even a third superstar won’t get the Lakers a title if the rest of the roster doesn’t shape up.

We all know superstars are a big part of success in today’s NBA. Superstars get all the praise when things go right, and all the blame when things go wrong. What we tend to forget, is that a team is more than just superstars. A championship caliber team has successful role players too.

So, just because the Lakers acquired Anthony Davis and will likely land another superstar, it doesn’t mean their work is done. After acquiring their stars, the Lakers need to focus on building the rest of the roster with role players who will fit alongside them. Let’s take a look at five role players the Lakers should pursue in free agency this offseason.

 

Five free agents the Lakers should pursue

Tomas Satoransky, JJ Redick
“”Tomas Satoransky, JJ Redick” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

1. JJ Redick, SG

LeBron James is at his best when he has reliable shooters around him who can get open and knock down big shots. James has a down low presence in Anthony Davis now, but he still needs players on the outside. JJ Redick would be the perfect alongside James and Davis.

Redick may be getting up there in age, but he’s still one of the best three point shooters in the league. Last season with the 76ers, Redick shot 39.7% from three-point range. We’ve watched Redick knock down three-point shots for years, and I think he’d only be more lethal from outside with James and Davis on his team. LeBron James and Anthony Davis demand attention pretty much anywhere. With teams focused on stopping them, it’ll give JJ Redick a lot of open shots. If Redick can shoot 39.7% from three while being surrounded by Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, I have no doubt he’ll shoot better with James and Davis around.

I should mention that Redick isn’t just a three-point shooter. Redick can space the floor with his shooting from inside the arc as well, as evidenced by his 50.2% shooting on two-point FGs. Another bonus to having Redick, is that he’s one of the better free throw shooters in the NBA, having shot 89.4% from the line last season. Redick’s ability to space the floor from outside, inside, and knock down free throws, makes him a perfect fit for the 2019-2020 Lakers.

 

2. Danny Green, SG

I believe Danny Green would be a great fit for this Lakers team for many of the same reasons JJ Redick would be. Danny Green shot a career high on three-point shots last season, making 45.5% of his shots from that range. Just like Redick, Green would benefit from having James and Davis demanding so much attention. He could move around, get open, and knock down open shots off passes from James and Davis.

Much like JJ Redick, Green can also space the floor from inside the arc, as he shot 48.7% from inside the arc this past season. I do believe JJ Redick is a little bit more of a scorer than Green is. Redick averaged 18.1 points per game last season, while Green averaged just 10.3 and has never averaged more than 11.7 in a season. With that being said, Green makes up for it in other ways.

While being a very good three-point shooter, Danny Green is one of the better defenders in the league. I would consider him one of the most underrated defenders, as he doesn’t get a ton of attention for it. If you haven’t watched Green’s defense, go back and watch him in the NBA Finals against Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. He played a big part in slowing them down.

The reason I bring up Green’s defense, is because if there’s one thing I’ve noticed about LeBron’s teams in recent history, it’s that they’re not good defensively. Anthony Davis will improve the defense, but he can’t be everywhere at once, and you need more than one good defender to be a good defensive team. Danny Green would take the Lakers’ defense up another notch, all while playing a crucial role in their offense at the same time.

 

3. Patrick Beverly, PG

Patrick Beverly shot 39.7% from three-point range last season, which is the same as JJ Redick, but I don’t believe he’s anywhere near the three-point threat Redick is. Instead of being on this list for his shooting ability and potential to space the floor for James and Davis, Beverly is here because of his toughness and defense.

How many times have we seen Beverly get in the head of his opponent because of tough defense? Countless times. One thing I love about Beverly’s defense, is that it doesn’t really matter how big or small a defender is. Beverly defends with the same intensity regardless of who he’s defending. That kind of defensive ability is very valuable, especially to a team who struggled defensively last season.

While I do believe Patrick Beverly would be a very valuable addition to this team, I think he’d be best as the backup PG. If the Lakers do end up signing Kyrie Irving or Kemba Walker, having Beverly would give them a great set of PGs who could constantly be contributing to the team. With not much depth on the bench right now, the Lakers need to add a player like Patrick Beverly to it to give them a major boost.

 

Indiana Pacers
Indiana Pacers” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

4. Bojan Bogdanovic, SF

Of all the free agents I’ve mentioned so far, I think Bogdanovic is the least likely to join the Lakers. He had a breakout season in the absence of Victor Oladipo, averaging 18.0 points on 49.7% shooting. It really was Bogdanovic who kept the Pacers alive after Oladipo went down. It’s for that reason I believe he can get more money elsewhere than the Lakers could offer him, especially if they sign a third superstar.

Another problem with signing Bogdanovic, is that there’s a good chance he’d come off the bench. There’s a good chance he could start, but the Lakers could possibly ask him to come off the bench to strengthen their second unit. After how he played last season, would he be willing to do so? Would he be willing to take a pay cut for a chance to win a title? There are some questions here, but if they could somehow sign him, it would greatly benefit this team.

Bogdanovic can do a little bit of everything. He can shoot the three, make a high percentage of two-point shots, hit free throws at a consistent rate, rebound, do a little passing and play decent defense. A player like Bogdanovic could be used in all sorts of different ways if he was surrounded by guys like LeBron James and Anthony Davis. With his scoring ability, it’d take a ton of pressure off the superstars, especially when they’re having an off night.

 

5. Enes Kanter, PF/C

A lot of NBA fans don’t like Enes Kanter for various reasons, but I’m one of his biggest fans. Why? He does the dirty work. Kanter ranked fifth in the NBA in offensive rebounds last season, averaging 3.8 per game. Can you imagine what LeBron James and Anthony Davis could do with all those second chances to score? The Lakers need a player like Kanter on their roster.

Another thing I love about Kanter, is that he can be productive in multiple roles. When he came to Portland last season, he went there knowing he wasn’t going to be the starting C. Despite not being the starter, Kanter still produced. Kanter did get the chance to start due to an injury. When his chance to start came, he took it and ran with it.

It’s possible Kanter could start for the Lakers next to Anthony Davis, but he would also be a great addition to their bench if they were to sign him. Kanter would give the Lakers valuable minutes off the bench when Anthony Davis goes off the floor, and I’m sure there would be several occasions when they’re on the floor together. Anthony Davis averaged 12.0 rebounds last season, while Enes Kanter averaged 9.8. If these two were on the floor together, teams will be hard pressed to get many second chance opportunities on offense.

Two NBA lottery teams who should trade their picks

Several NBA teams in the lottery ended up with picks they didn’t expect. For some, that unexpected pick was fantastic, but for others, not so much. 

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2013 Los Angeles Lakers 1 and 2013 Atlanta Hawks 2” by Michael Tipton is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

After looking over the teams in the NBA lottery and where their picks landed, I believe two teams should trade their picks. Those two teams are the Los Angeles Lakers and Atlanta Hawks.

For the Lakers, getting the fourth pick in the draft was fantastic. Had they got the pick they were supposed to get, they would have been picking 11th. Going from 11th to fourth is a huge jump. It’s a jump that will greatly benefit the Lakers this offseason.

For the Atlanta Hawks, the balls didn’t bounce in their favor. They were supposed to receive the fifth overall pick, but ended up with the eighth. However, they did pick up a second first-round pick from the Mavericks, which also has them selecting 10th.

Let me break down why I believe these two teams should trade their picks in the first-round of the 2019 NBA Draft.

 

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2013 Los Angeles Lakers 1” by Michael Tipton is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Los Angeles Lakers

Again, going from 11th to fourth is a huge jump. That’s a big win for the Lakers, a win they really needed after last season. The reason I believe the Lakers should trade this pick, is because it would allow them to get LeBron James the help he needs in order to compete for a championship.

The most common name the Lakers have been linked to is Anthony Davis. If I were the New Orleans Pelicans, I’d be intrigued by the Lakers having the fourth overall pick. We already know the Lakers are willing to give up a lot, but the fourth pick would make their offer even that much sweeter.

If the Pelicans traded Anthony Davis to the Lakers, I believe it would benefit both sides. The Lakers are a team trying to compete now. LeBron James needs a star player to help him compete, not another young guy who will take time to develop into a star. If the Lakers kept their pick, they’d be getting a young guy who needs time to develop. If they trade that pick as part of the package for Anthony Davis, they’d be giving LeBron what he needs to compete for a title.

On the other side, the Pelicans would be getting rid of their star player, but they’d be fully prepared for a rebuild. We already know they’re selecting Zion Williamson with the No. 1 overall pick. If they had the No. 4 overall pick in addition to that, it would allow them to give Zion another potential star to grow and develop with.

This move makes too much sense in my opinion, and I believe this move will be done between the two sides before draft day.

 

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2013 Atlanta Hawks 2” by Michael Tipton is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Atlanta Hawks

The Atlanta Hawks weren’t exactly thrilled with getting the eighth and 10th overall picks. The good news is that they’ve got two lottery selections. Looking at the teams ahead of the Hawks, there’s the Cavaliers, Suns and Bulls. I’m willing to bet that at least one of those teams would trade back for the eighth and 10th overall picks.

Atlanta is a team who’s trending upward. I expect them to be a playoff team within the next few seasons. I believe they believe that too. If I’m the Hawks, I would try to trade up in the draft to get the player I like, rather than waiting until picks eight and 10 to get two players who may not be as high on my board.

Atlanta has some really nice pieces in place, but their roster isn’t complete yet. They’re still a team who needs to add as much talent as possible. If a guy they like is there from picks five to seven, it’d be more than worth it for them to move up and get a guy who can be part of their team moving forward.

I’m not saying the Hawks can’t get good players with picks eight and 10. What am saying, is that I think they could get someone better if they use those picks to trade up.

Buy or Sell: Knicks, Lakers, Kawhi Leonard

It’s that time in the week where we buy or sell topics in the sports world. This week we will have two separate articles dealing with two sports with essential games going on.

Those two sports are the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League. As both of these sports wrap up the first round of the playoffs, we ask the questions that need answers, but which side are you on?

“Knicks” by Miguel Mendez is licensed under CC-BY 2.0

This Buy or Sell will focus only on the NBA and the critical moves of two of the biggest franchises in the history of all sports. Those two franchises are the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers. They both have a lot of questions that need to be answered.

But how about one of the biggest names in the upcoming free agency pool? Will Kawhi Leonard stay with Toronto, or move back West? Let’s find out what Dan, Joel, and I think it should be bought or sold.

 

Dan: Despite his past, James Dolan will finally get it right in free agency & the draft this year?

Joel: Being the worst team in the NBA, James Dolan better not screw up free agency or the draft this offseason. I think this offseason may be the one where he gets things right. He’s got a lot of opportunity coming his way, so he’ll have to go out of his way to screw things up this time.

As far as the draft goes, getting the number one pick is out of his control because of the stupid draft lottery, but that’s a topic for another day.

Regardless of if he has the number one pick, he’ll still have a top pick with the opportunity to draft a future NBA stud. It’s easy to go Zion Williamson if he gets the first pick, but if he doesn’t, he could go after a guy like Ja Morant or RJ Barrett. Any of those guys would be solid picks.

In free agency, Dolan will have a few players with legit interest. There have been rumors all season long that Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are interested in playing for the Knicks. I don’t know how much truth there is to those rumors, but I can honestly see it happening because New York is a prominent market place to play.

Big markets seem to be where NBA stars want to go now, regardless of how good the team is. Dolan will have many opportunities this offseason. So I buy him getting it right and building the Knicks into a team who can compete in the NBA, whether that be now or in a couple of years.

Rahim: Wow! Joel pretty much summed it all up for us, and I agree! I buy that Dolan finally gets it right, especially now that all the distractions are gone. Let’s face it, the NBA is full of great players, but some aren’t meant to be NBA Champions.

That one someone we all know of is Carmelo Anthony. Anthony came to the Knicks in a trade from the Denver Nuggets to be back home in New York, where he won a National Championship for Syracuse. But during his six and half seasons with the Knicks, they made the playoffs three times, losing in the first round twice.

Dolan invested a lot in Anthony and tried to put pieces around him who could win, like drafting Kristaps Porzingis a few years back.

With everything that has happened to the franchise with the Charles Oakley feud and the demise of Phil Jackson, the Knicks need a new direction. Trading Porzingis this season told us all they are ready for a fresh start.

What can they do? Well, as Joel said, they will have a top pick in the draft, maybe the No. 1 overall. That pick will attract some big free agents, like perhaps a Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving. Everything is in play for Dolan and the Knicks to get it right this time, so I’ll buy it!

 

Rahim: The Lakers will still get Anthony Davis despite a dysfunctional front office

Joel: I buy the Lakers still getting Anthony Davis despite front office problems. It doesn’t matter how bad the Lakers are; they will always be a big market team.

Big market teams attract big-name players. Anthony Davis is one of those big name players. We all know Los Angeles is where Davis wants to go, and something tells me he’ll end up there, even though the decision of where he ends up at this point isn’t his to make.

I feel like, somehow, someway, Anthony Davis will end up playing for the Lakers. I can’t put numbers into this one like I usually like to do to support my buy or sell opinions. This one comes down to a feeling for me.

Dan: I agree with Joel; there are no stats or numbers needed for this one because we all know how valuable Anthony Davis is. As Joel said, Davis has made it known where he wants to go this offseason, and I’m buying that. Davis wants to go there, and LeBron wants him there.

But let me make things interesting by saying what I felt once I saw this move take place. That move was the signing of a new Executive Vice President of basketball operations to the New Orleans Pelicans. That new position was given to former Cleveland Cavaliers general manager, David Griffin. Griffin was the Cavaliers GM from 2010-2017 and was a part of the memorable championship run led by LeBron James. Now, LeBron is on the Lakers, the favorites to land Davis, and I would not be shocked to see Griffin help out LeBron by sending Davis to the Lakers before next season.

 

Joel: Kawhi Leonard will stay with the Raptors regardless of if they win a championship or not.

Rahim: This is a tough decision to make because Leonard could lead the Raptors further then they’ve ever been. Leonard and the Raptors have their eyes set on the NBA Finals, and if they manage to get by the Sixers in the next round, they will have the tough task of taking on the Bucks or Celtics if they want to make it o the NBA Finals.

With the East already lacking a lot of superstars, I think he might stay, so I’ll buy him as a Raptor for the foreseeable future regardless of how far they go this year.

I say it like that because I don’t think it’ll be a long term deal. I can see Leonard doing a three year deal with the third year being an option, and he could then return to the West to win a title against the older players in the league. By the time he finishes out his three-year deal, he would have just turned 30, and still have plenty of great years ahead of him.

I think he could bring a title to Toronto during his time there and help get him a spot in the rafters.

Dan: I’m going to sell this. Kawhi wants to be in the West; that’s the bottom line. He may not want to play in the purple and gold as people thought, but he wants to be in LA or somewhere else in the Western region of the United States.

From the moment he got traded to Toronto, he expressed his displeasure with the Spurs for trading him, and you could tell he didn’t want to be in Toronto. I don’t think anything has changed from day one to now. No matter the result of this season, he will be on a different team come next season.

 

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And there you have it! Now, what do you think?

  • Will James Dolan finally make the right moves in the draft and free agency for the New York Knicks?
  • Will the Lakers still get Anthony Davis despite a dysfunctional front office?
  • Will Kawhi Leonard stay with the Toronto Raptors regardless of how far they go in the Playoffs?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments!