It was an insane start to the NBA offseason, but with free agency slowing down, here’s some of the best moves that happened under the radar.
Golden State Warriors: Willie Cauley-Stein
The former Kings player is not a great three point shooter, but neither are most of the centers that have started for the Warriors in the past couple of seasons. Though they haven’t been playoff contenders for many years, Sacramento has had many talented players on their team throughout recent years, with Cauley-Stein being one of them. Still only 25, “Trill” is one of the best and most versatile defensive centers in the game. His offensive game still needs time to develop, but Cauley-Stein will move very well in Golden State’s offense and will be a force on defense. For a two year deal worth $4,463,840, the big man was a great bargain for the Warriors.
Indiana Pacers: Malcolm Brogdon & T.J. Warren
If Victor Oladipo comes back in the 2019 season fully healthy after rupturing a quadricep tendon, the Pacers are contenders for making it to the Finals. Competition in the Eastern Conference has gotten weaker after Kawhi Leonard left for the Los Angeles Clippers, and the only serious threats for Indiana so far are the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks. Brogdon and Warren are good overall players, especially Brogdon, who is a great defender and shot 42.6% from three last season, while Warren shot an even better 42.8% from three. Even if Oladipo ends up never being the same after his injury, Indiana can have one of the best backcourts in the East with Brogdon and Warren.
Miami Heat: Meyers Leonard
I’ve always been a big fan of Leonard for years as he’s a physical specimen, can shoot it from anywhere, and is just an overall great person. Unfortunately, the Illinois alumni has never been able to put it all together since he was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers in 2012. He’s way too inconsistent, plays no defense, and at times completely wastes the athletic gifts he has and gets bullied. However, Leonard has a fresh start, a new change of scenery and his softness is not going to fly with Jimmy Butler. Leonard can end up complimenting Bam Adebayo very nicely as Adebayo will bring the ruggedness, while Leonard brings the finesse. There’s flashes of a great player in the former Portland big man, especially in his last playoff game for the Trail Blazers, where he had 30 points and 12 rebounds to go with five out of eight shots made from deep. If this isn’t Leonard’s breakout season this year it may never happen.
New York Knicks: Julius Randle & Bobby Portis
If the Knicks can make all the players they have work well together, they can be a playoff team in a weak Eastern Conference. After losing out on all the star free agents, the Knicks damn near did everything perfect this offseason. They put together a nice young core, with most of the veterans having a team option in the 2020 year of their contract. The only thing they could have done better is what Bill Simmons mentioned a few weeks back on Twitter:
Simmons has a great point but at the same time, any Knicks fan would easily take this offseason rather than past ones such as when they gave Tim Hardaway Jr. that awful four year deal in 2017 for $70,950,000. Randle and Portis were great signings and the only minor issue with those signings is that they should have tried to sign them to longer deals because that’s how talented they both are. Randle is coming off a 21.4 point and 8.7 rebound season, while shooting 34% from three and hasn’t even come close to reaching his ceiling. Portis had his best season last year as well averaging 14.3 points and 8.6 rebounds with a 40.3% three point shot and still improving as a player as well. Randle and Portis are only going to get better as they get older, but one thing they have in common with most players on the Knicks roster is that they’re all bullies. The frontcourt and backcourt are stacked with really tough players, along with some shooters and defenders to compliment that. There’s a very good chance that both Randle and Portis average double-doubles next season along with good shooting numbers if they’re given the chance.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Throughout the Thunder’s crazy offseason, the best acquisition they had so far was Gilgeous-Alexander. The organization is in rebuild mode and it’s going to be a much easier process now that they have their franchise point guard. The Second Team All-Rookie avergaed 10.8 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 3.3 assists in 26.5 minutes. While those may not be crazy numbers, he led all rookies on +.500 teams in scoring and minutes per game and no rookie in NBA history has matched his past season stat line in points, rebounds, assists, field-goal percentage, three-point field goal-percentage & free throw percentage. When you watch the 6’6 point guard play, you can tell how good he is and how great he’s going to be. If Chris Paul does end up staying on OKC for a while, Gilgeous-Alexander can learn a lot from him and make his game even greater.
Utah Jazz: Mike Conley & Bojan Bogdanovic
With how tough the Western Conference is this upcoming season, it’s tough to say that the Utah Jazz are Finals contenders, but they no doubt are a top five team in the conference. Conley gave it his all in Memphis, and along with former teammates such as Tony Allen, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol, it would’ve been fun to see the Grizzlies reach the Finals at least once in the last few seasons. With a new change of scenery, and some young amazing players, we could see a much more motivated Conley. Add Bogdanovic to the mix, who is just a pure scorer, and the Jazz will surprise many people this season. Conley and Bogdanovic are both coming off career seasons, Conley having 21.1 points and 6.4 assists, and Bogdanovic scoring 18 points and shooting 42.5% from three. Everyone knows Conley brings the whole package to the table: scoring, shooting, passing, defense and more. People know what Bogdanovic provides as well, straight buckets, but for someone who was a late bloomer, and improved as the 2018 season went by, the Bosnian can take it to a higher level. Utah is definitely going to be a fun team to watch next season.