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Head-to-Head: Fixing The New York Knicks

The 4-16 New York Knicks clearly need fixing, and we have some potential solutions.

Basketball Insiders

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This offseason, the New York Knicks committed over $200 million to Phil Jackson, Derek Fisher and Carmelo Anthony alone. It was a financial commitment that team owner James Dolan knew wouldn’t yield great benefits immediately, but was necessary in order to eventually build a contender. Still, at 4-16, Dolan’s lowest expectations aren’t even being met. The Knicks are still a mess, an expensive one at that. So, we asked three of our experts – Tommy Beer, Moke Hamilton and Nate Duncan – to debate over how much of the Knicks’ current plan they’re on board with and what they would do differently to fix them.

Essentially everything that could have gone wrong has for the Knicks. They have stumbled and bumbled their way to a bitterly disappointing 4-16 record.

We are just a week past Thanksgiving and most Knicks fans have already abandoned hopes of the playoffs, instead focusing on the distant 2015 draft. While most fans tend to be emotional and overreact, even rational New Yorkers have sufficient reason to be pessimistic.

Amazingly, the Knicks are 12 games under .500 despite playing the easiest schedule in the NBA over the first five weeks of the regular season.

However, that is about to change. The “easy” part of the Knicks’ schedule has come to an abrupt end. Seventeen of the Knicks’ next 20 opponents are currently sporting records of .500 or better.

Furthermore, eight of the Knicks next 19 games are against teams currently leading their division. They play the Raptors twice, the Trail Blazers twice, the Wizards twice and the Bulls and Grizzlies once apiece.

Per basketball-reference.com, the Knicks have a much better chance of winning the lottery (12.2%) than qualifying for the playoffs as the eighth seed (1.0%)

The Knicks’ offense has been decent, at best, thus far. They rank 22nd overall in team total true shooting percentage (53.9 percent) and 22nd overall in offensive efficiency as well.

One of the main reasons for New York’s struggles on the offensive end is due to a over-reliance on the least efficient shot in basketball: “Long two’s” (FG attempts further than 16 feet from the basket but inside the three-point stripe). Incredibly, 27.3 percent percent of the Knicks’ total FG attempts are two-point shots beyond 16 feet from the hoop. No other team in the NBA attempts more than 25 percent of their shots from this distance. In comparison, the Houston Rockets attempt fewer than seven percent of their shots from this distance.

However, if we are looking for the main culprit to blame for the Knicks’ horrendous start to the season – we need look no further than the defensive end of the floor. Put simply: The Knicks can’t consistently get stops. New York currently ranks 27th in the NBA in defensive efficiency, allowing over 107 points per 100 possessions.

No need to dig too deeply into the particulars with this group, because, as noted above, this season is already circling the drain. If both Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher have learned one thing from this distressing first portion of the 2014-15 season, it is that many of the players on the current roster likely won’t be around at the start of the 2015-16 season.

There has been a lot of talk in New York about how the implementation of a new offensive system (the triangle) is partly to blame for the team’s struggles. However, the Knicks were 21-40 in late February last season. They finished with just 37 wins. The principal issue is not simply allowing these same players more time to acclimate themselves to a new philosophy. This team needs a wholesale makeover. And fortunately, the stars are aligned for that to happen next summer.

New York has over $25 million coming off their books in July, as Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrea Barganani are in the last year of their contracts. Samuel Dalembert, Jason Smith and Shane Larkin are also playing on expiring contracts, which will clear roughly another $8.8 million off the cap.

For the first time in a long time, the Knicks will have a tremendous amount of cap space with which Jackson can re-shape the roster.

Better yet, the Knicks actually have the rights to their first round draft pick next summer. That could be an extremely valuable lottery pick, possibly as high as top three if the ping pong balls bounce the right way.

The moral of the story is that the Knicks need to start focusing on the future. The Knicks won’t be fixed this season. They need to be torn down and re-constructed next summer.

Once December 15 rolls around, trade chatter throughout the league will increase. Jackson and the Knicks need to focus on maximizing cap space for next summer. As result, they shouldn’t even consider any deal unless it benefits them long-term. They don’t need to entertain any trades that aim to salvage a lost season, especially if such a hypothetical deal would inhibit their spending in July of 2015. The focus should be on creating/maintaining cap space and/or accruing additional draft picks.

Fisher will have to take his lumps this year. However, for all the doom and gloom surrounding this season, the hope in NYC is that brighter days will arrive in New York as soon as next summer.

– Tommy Beer

IN RELATED: The New York Knicks’ salary cap page

Asking how to fix the Knicks is almost like asking whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing former president John F. Kennedy or whether there truly is a meaning of life.

Where to begin?

Keep it simple and start here: The main problem with the New York Knicks, traditionally, has been impatience in the front office. Since Ernie Grunfeld left the team in 1999, whether it was Scott Layden, Isiah Thomas, Donnie Walsh or Glen Grunwald, the Knicks have been a franchise that has recently been the hallmark of impatience.

So if you want to know where to begin to fix the Knicks, it would be in the front office. The decision makers need a collective overhaul of their thought process. There are few shortcuts to building a contender in the NBA. You want to win? It begins with embracing the process that is building, brick by brick.

When you attempt to build your team via trades and free agency acquisitions, the simple truth is that you will most likely end up with players that other teams did not want.

What do Tim Duncan, Dwyane Wade, Tony Parker, Paul Pierce, Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki and Kawhi Leonard have in common?

They are all NBA Finals MVPs who were drafted by the team that they led to the championship. There are exceptions to the rule, but for the most part, the key to getting a foundational player who can lead your team to a title is by drafting him.

Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Anthony Davis and Derrick Rose all have that potential, and they happen to have one thing in common: their incumbent teams will do any and everything to hang onto them.

Still, there no use crying over spilled milk. With Phil Jackson and Derek Fisher, the Knicks seem to have bright minds in control. With Carmelo Anthony, they have one of the game’s premier pinch-post offensive weapons and a system that can take advantage of his gifts.

The main problem for the Knicks? The auxiliary pieces around him aren’t a great fit. The current Knicks are nothing more than a collection of what I would refer to as “single-impact” players.

Iman Shumpert? He is a plus-defender who has not been consistently able to find a way to meaningfully contribute on the offensive end. The same can be said for Samuel Dalembert and Quincy Acy.

Amar’e Stoudemire and Tim Hardaway, Jr.? They’re the opposite: primarily offensive weapons who can’t stop a nosebleed.

Guys like Anthony Davis, Jimmy Butler, Klay Thompson and even Marc Gasol—guys who impact both sides of the floor—those are the guys who can win championships in the NBA.

The Knicks have a dearth of them.

In all likelihood, this season is lost for the Knicks, but there are worse places to be for a team with its own 2015 first round pick (likely a lottery pick) and one that will have truckloads of cap space this summer.

Marc Gasol is and should be the apple of Jackson’s eye, but it’s difficult to see him leaving Memphis. The goal for this team this summer, aside from scoring with their upcoming draft pick, should be a two-way player that can defend the paint and create offensive opportunities within it.

Butler, Gasol, Al Jefferson, Aaron Afflalo, Greg Monroe, Omer Asik, Reggie Jackson and Tobias Harris could all make great sense for the Knicks, but the key will be to avoid maxing out the wrong player.

If I could have any two players from the above crop, it would be Gasol and Butler, but their hefty price tags make the acquisitions risky.

And now, I find myself rambling

Wanna know how to fix the Knicks? There are no shortcuts. Only patience can save them and help Anthony win a championship in New York. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a NBA Champion.

– Moke Hamilton

MAKE SURE TO READ: The latest NBA news and rumors

Moke and Tommy have already hit the major points on the Knicks’ performance to date. There’s no fixing them this year, and more importantly no such attempt should be made. At 4-16 after Thursday’s loss to Cleveland, and with Carmelo Anthony clearly not fully recovered from his bout with back spasms, all hope of the playoffs is lost.

New York’s 40.5 win Vegas over/under was always wildly optimistic before the season. This is a team that wheezed its way to 37 wins a year ago on the back of a career year from Carmelo Anthony at age 29. Rare is the player who experiences his best year at that age, and he was likely to regress quite a bit even before his recent injury. The trade of Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton for Jose Calderon, Shane Larkin, Samuel Dalembert and the pick that became Cleanthony Early was a clear downgrade in talent, necessary though it might have been to appease Anthony amidst rumors of friction between he and Chandler and his impending free agency. Almost all the important players on this team were all likely to be worse this year. Throw in a first-year coach, growing pains with the triangle, and precisely one above-average defensive player on the roster (Iman Shumpert), and the 35-27 or so record the Knicks would need to make the playoffs over the rest of the season is unattainable.

The plan now needs to be to play for next year and beyond. Anthony should be shut down immediately until he is fully healthy. The losses will augment their draft status, but Anthony is also going to need to play well enough at the end of the year to convince free agents that he is still a true superstar player worth joining. With a potential $25 million in cap space this summer and another potential $20 million in 2016 with the rising cap, that needs to be the Knicks’ focus.

Given that, the acquisition of the now-33-year-old Jose Calderon and his approximately $7 million per year through 2017 was a curious move. But he could likely be dumped on a team like New Orleans for salary cap flotsam that expires this summer. The Pelicans, under pressure to win now and with little hope of cap space through 2017,  could really use the Spanish point guard’s shooting and passing on their second unit, or alongside Jrue Holiday (who can guard twos) in the absence of Eric Gordon. The Knicks could then increase their 2015 treasure trove to as much as $30 million, depending on what happens with J.R. Smith’s player option and Iman Shumpert’s restricted free agency.

The Knicks are not quite in total rebuilding mode, as the goal should be to get as good as possible in 2015-16 (when they owe a pick to the Raptors from the Andrea Bargnani trade anyway). But they should absolutely get what they can for veterans on the roster who are not going to be on that team, while avoiding taking on long-term salary, seeing which of their young players might make an impact, and bettering their draft status. With Anthony, a high draft pick, and two or three big free agents over the next two years, the Knicks can at least get back into the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff mix.

-Nate Duncan

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NBA AM: Is It Smart To Bet On Yourself In This Market?

Many extension-eligible players opted to bet on themselves and a questionable free agent marketplace next summer.

Steve Kyler

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No Big Surprises On Draft Extensions

The big news yesterday wasn’t a new extension for a 2014 first round draft pick, it was the news that the San Antonio Spurs reached a three-year, $72 million extension with veteran LaMarcus Aldridge.

The news was surprising for a couple of reasons. The biggest being the Spurs had shopped Aldridge in trade scenarios this offseason under the idea that he was a problematic fit for the Spurs.

Ultimately, Aldridge and the Spurs ended up in the same place on his deal. The Spurs were not going to be big free agent players and locking Aldridge in now gives them some security as well as trade leverage later. In Aldridge’s case, his camp saw the marketplace this past summer and all of the mouths that need to be fed in July and realized he wasn’t likely getting more money on the open market come free agency.

One of the things the Spurs found out was that trading a player with a player option is not an easy task as teams that would give up value want to know what comes next, either way. Over the past few years, player options have become almost toxic in trade, mainly because there are two classes of trade partners, one that wants the ending contract and a player for a stretch run in the postseason and teams that want the player for next season. The options make valuing the player sticky at best.

In doing a deal for Aldridge, the Spurs basically lock him into their roster for this season but give themselves a trade chip next summer, if they need it. This was smart for both sides. The Spurs locked in the player and the trade asset, Aldridge locked in money he likely wouldn’t have gotten in the open market.

For those players drafted in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft, yesterday closed the window on the “Early Extension Period.” While there were talks all the way to the wire on several players, the bulk of the deals that didn’t get done didn’t get close enough to seal the deal.

The Boston Celtics and Marcus Smart frequently talked about an extension, and his camp labeled the talks as getting “close” but ultimately, future luxury tax concerns killed a possible deal before the extension deadline, meaning Smart will hit free agency in July.

The Celtics will have a couple of months to see if Smart continues to evolve before they have to make decisions, and they now know what a deal would take for Smart to sign outright. Given the Celtics tax concerns, there is a window for a team with cap space to poach him in July if they come with the right kind of offer sheet. While the Celtics can obtain the right to match Smart with a $6.53 million qualifying offer, the tax issues won’t go away without a cap dump of a trade. Equally, the Celtics roster is loaded with point guards, so the C’s have the luxury of seeing what unfolds in the next three months before the February 8 trade deadline.

The Orlando Magic and their pair of 2014 draftees, Aaron Gordon and Elfird Payton, talked about extensions, mostly out of courtesy. The Magic would have done deals if it favored the team, but the new front office in Orlando has been open and honest that they are still very much in evaluation mode on the roster and were not going to pay a premium at this point.

The Magic’s reluctance to do a deal wasn’t about valuing either player as both are said to have been very good so far, this preseason. The Magic don’t have a clear-cut direction yet and inking a long-term deal with either would have been counter to their goal of flexibility. Equally, the Magic also know that both players are unlikely to get huge free agent offers unless they blossom this season, which would make matching an easier decision after seeing how they play this season.

Neither player entered the process expecting to reach a deal, so there is no ill-will about not getting an extension. Both players have said publicly and privately they knew they had to earn their next deal and came into camp with that mindset.

The Utah Jazz and guard Rodney Hood engaged on an extension most of the summer. The Jazz are very committed to Hood, but would not commit to a deal at this point for a bunch of reasons, the biggest being they don’t really know what the team is yet. Hood is going to get a big opportunity this year, and the Jazz want to see if he can handle the increased load and stay healthy. Injuries have ravaged the Jazz lately, and they were reluctant to lock in a big number to a player that hasn’t been durable.

Of the bunch, Hood is the most likely to get a deal without the restricted free agent offer sheet process next summer—the Jazz may simply pony up and pay him if he can fill the void they hope he can for the team.

The Milwaukee Bucks and injured forward Jabari Parker did talk about an extension despite him having torn his ACL for the second time. The Bucks looked at the idea of locking Parker in at a value, but ultimately, neither side got close enough for it to be realistic. Parker is expected to return to action sometime in February, meaning he may log enough games for a big deal in July to be realistic, especially if the Bucks are as good as they project to be this year and land home court in the postseason.

The big hurdle for all of the players that did not get an extension is that the free agent marketplace in July does not project to be as robust as it was even last year. A number of agents urged their clients to take the security of money on the table this summer, and many players opted to bet on themselves, which always sounds like a great idea until the reality of restricted free agency sets in.

Nerlens Noel and JaMychal Green were both causalities of a shrinking marketplace this past summer. It will be interesting to see if some of the players that got close this week get less in the open market in July.

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @MikeAScotto, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton@jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_ and @Ben__Nadeau.

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NBA PM: Hornets Rookies May Become Key Contributors

Some key injuries may force Charlotte’s rookies into becoming effective role players earlier than expected, writes James Blancarte.

James Blancarte

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As the NBA finally gets underway tomorrow evening, the 2017 rookie draft class will get their first taste of regular season action. Teams reliant on young rookie talent might produce an exciting brand of basketball but that rarely translates into a winning formula. Having rookies play a key role for a team hoping to make the playoffs can be a risky endeavor.

Out West, the Los Angeles Lakers are relying on both Lonzo Ball as well as Kyle Kuzma, who may have worked his way into the rotation with his surprising preseason play. However, the Lakers are, at this point, not realistic contenders in the competitive Western Conference. In the East, the Philadelphia 76ers have more realistic playoff hopes. The team is relying on this year’s top overall draft pick, Markelle Fultz, and 2016’s top pick, Ben Simmons, for meaningful production. Although Simmons has been in the league for over a year, he is still classified as a rookie for this season since he didn’t play last season.

The Charlotte Hornets are looking to return to the playoffs after narrowly missing the cut this past season. The team will likely feature not one, but two true rookies as a part of their regular rotation. Like the Lakers, the Hornets feature a highly touted rookie with the talent and poise to contribute right away in Malik Monk. The team also features Dwayne Bacon, a rookie that has flashed scoring potential as well as maturity — key attributes that will allow him to quickly contribute to the team.

Both players will be given the opportunity to contribute as a result of the unfortunate and untimely injury to forward Nicolas Batum. Batum tore a ligament in his left elbow in an October 4 preseason game against the Detroit Pistons. Initial speculation was that the injury would require surgery. However, it was announced on October 10 that surgery would not be necessary, and that he is projected to return in six to eight weeks. Assuming that there are no setbacks in Batum’s recovery, the Hornets will be looking to replace his perimeter scoring, playmaking abilities and perimeter defense. Enter Monk and Bacon.

Monk and Bacon have both shown the ability to score the ball, which is not exactly a common trait in Hornets rookies. Bacon, the 40th pick in the 2017 NBA draft, has made it a point to look for his shot from the outside, averaging 7.8 three-point shots per game while knocking down 33.3 percent of his attempts. As Bacon gains more experience, he presumably will learn how to get cleaner looks at the basket within the flow of the team’s offense. Doing so should help him increase his shooting percentage from beyond the arc, which would turn him into an even more effective contributor for Charlotte.

Bacon spoke to reporters after a recent preseason game against the Boston Celtics. Bacon was placed in the starting lineup and went 4-4 from three-point range in 34 minutes of action.

When asked what are some of the things he wanted to work on, Bacon focused on one end of the court in particular.

“Definitely defense. I’m trying to perfect the defensive side, I want to be one of the best two-way players to ever play the game,” Bacon stated. “I feel like I got the offensive side so just keep getting better on defense, I’ll be fine.”

Lack of consistency and defense are key factors that prevent many rookies from playing and being successful on winning teams right away. Based on Bacon’s size (6-foot-6, 221 pounds with a long wingspan) and physicality, he has the physical tools necessary to play passable defense. Combine that with his ability to score (he led the team in scoring in three of its five preseason games) and the unfortunate injury to Batum, it’s apparent that Bacon will get an opportunity to make the rotation and contribute.

Reliable two-way players on the wing are crucially important, but are not always readily available and are even less common on cheap contracts. The Los Angeles Clippers went through the entire Chris Paul/Blake Griffin era swapping small forwards on a nearly annual basis, struggling to find this kind of contribution from the wing. With little cap flexibility, the Clippers were unable to acquire a forward that could effectively and consistently play both end of the court, which caused issues over the years. As a second round pick, Bacon is set to make $815,615 in his first year. If Bacon is able to contribute at even a league average level, that will be a major boost for the shorthanded Hornets. Bacon is smart to focus on improving as a defender as Steve Clifford is a defensive-minded coach who will leave talented players on the bench if they aren’t making a positive impact on the defensive end of the court.

In fact, Clifford offered some strong simultaneous praise and criticism of Monk when it came to his scoring and defense.

“He can score, he can score, he can score [speaking of Monk],” Clifford stated. “I think his defense will come because he’s willing, he’s a good guy. I think that being a good player is very important to him.”

It’s apparent in Clifford’s comment that he values scoring, but that defense is also extremely important and essential to any player that wants to be a “good player.”

“He knows and understands that the way he has played in the past [in college], he can’t play in this league if he wants to be a good player,” Clifford said about Monk. “The big thing is, I told him, when people say, ‘he’s a talented offensive player’ that is a lot different than somebody saying, ‘he’s a talented NBA player.’”

Point guard Michael Carter-Williams also suffered an injury (bone bruise in his left knee), which received less attention than Batum’s injury. While Carter-Williams is not the same caliber of player as Batum, the Hornets are alarmingly thing at backup point guard. Without Carter-Williams, the team was going to lean on Batum to act as a playmaker more than he has in the past, which would have, at least in part, addressed the lack of an established backup point guard. But with Batum sidelined, Coach Clifford has given Monk time at the point guard position. If Monk proves capable of playing both guard positions and playing alongside Walker, that could go a long way towards mitigating the loss of Batum and Carter-Williams. It’s not reasonable to expect Monk (or Bacon) to produce as consistently as a seasoned veteran, but having them contribute at a league average level would constitute a big win for a Charlotte team with serious playoff aspirations.

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Teams Refuse To Back Down To Stacked Warriors

Golden State got better over the summer, but that didn’t stop others from trying to stop them from repeating as champions

Spencer Davies

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Opening week is finally upon us.

Appropriately enough, the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics will kick off the 2017-18 NBA season tomorrow night, as will the defending champion Golden State Warriors when they host the improved Houston Rockets.

The clear-cut favorites to win the league title are the ones who have done so two out of the past three years, and rightfully so. Warriors general manager Bob Myers has done a masterful job of assembling a juggernaut. They’ve kept their insanely talented core intact and—aside from Ian Clark and Matt Barnes—haven’t lost any of their key bench pieces to free agency.

In fact, Golden State has added to that dangerous second unit. Jordan Bell was bought from the Chicago Bulls and will bring another Draymond Green-esque impact almost immediately. Nick Young and Omri Casspi were brought in to fill the void of backup wings, which is an improvement at the position anyway. With the same roster as last year and better reserves to give the starters a breather, there’s no reason Steve Kerr and company can’t repeat if they stay healthy.

Knowing what the Warriors are capable of and how well they are set up to truly be a dynasty, there are some league executives out there who are hesitant to make significant moves that could potentially flop against such a powerhouse.

ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported back in middle June that select teams don’t want to risk a big play because of it. What that basically translates into is: We’re throwing in the white towel until that ball club disbands.

But luckily for fans and for parity’s sake, there was a handful of general managers that refused to take that path. Just looking down the list in the Western Conference, there were organizations that swung for the fences this summer.

The aforementioned Rockets are one of them.Daryl Morey pieced together multiple trades to allow him to land Chris Paul to play next to James Harden and form a dynamic backcourt tandem. Houston also signed a pair of veteran two-way players in Luc Mbah a Moute and P.J. Tucker to provide depth and defense.

What about the Oklahoma City Thunder? Just when we thought Russell Westbrook’s MVP season was enough to maybe build off, the unthinkable happened. Sam Presti unloaded Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to Indiana after just one season with the team to add All-Star forward Paul George, who is in a contract year.

That blockbuster move was followed up with another two months later, as Presti decided to deal fan favorite Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott to the Knicks in exchange for Carmelo Anthony. The creation of a Westbrook-George-Anthony big three forms an elite trio that is determined to prove championship worthiness.

Top tier Eastern Conference counterparts did their due diligence as well. The Cavaliers and Celtics are essentially rivals and became trade partners in an attempt to re-tool their respective rosters, in addition to gaining important pieces outside of that.

Boston inked Gordon Hayward to a maximum contract to create a bolstered starting unit alongside Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Al Horford until madness happened.

Firstly, Bradley got moved in a swap with the Detroit Pistons for Marcus Morris to address the hole at power forward. After that—with reports of Kyrie Irving’s unhappiness in Cleveland swirling around the basketball universe—Celtics general manager Danny Ainge acted immediately and swung a deal for the All-Star point guard in exchange for his All-Star point guard, a vital member of his team in Jae Crowder and the coveted Brooklyn Nets first-round pick.

It’s almost a brand new squad, but Brad Stevens has a versatile group to work with to try and finally dethrone the conference champions of the last three years.

As for the East’s cream of the crop, the Cavaliers moves are well known because wherever LeBron James goes the spotlight follows. Thomas and Crowder were huge gets for first-time general manager Koby Altman, especially after the outside growing doubt in the franchise’s front office. The rookie executive was also instrumental in signing Derrick Rose, Jeff Green, and Dwyane Wade to veteran minimum contracts.

Rose and Green have plenty of motivation because their critics think they’re washed up, meaning Tyronn Lue won’t have to give them a reason to play their hearts out. Wade simply made the decision to come to Cleveland because he can play with his best friend and potentially add to his collection of championship rings.

Ante Zizic, Cedi Osman, and Jose Calderon are also now a part of the roster that all-of-a-sudden is now deep at almost every position. It’s a new flavor for a team that may have only one year left to compete for a title with James’ pending free agency next summer.

Those four teams feel great about their chances to get in the way of the Warriors. It doesn’t stop there though. The West in general loaded up.

The Minnesota Timberwolves executed the first big move of the year when they traded for Jimmy Butler. The Denver Nuggets signed Paul Millsap to provide leadership and a veteran voice in a young locker room full of talent. The San Antonio Spurs lost Jonathan Simmons but brought in a very capable Rudy Gay under-the-radar as Kawhi Leonard’s backup.

Nobody expected the league to completely fold and hand Golden State another championship, but it was surprising (and relieving) to see so many teams have the fortitude to pull off the moves that they did. There was definitely risk involved for some of them, however, one thing is for certain.

The Warriors will not have a cakewalk to the NBA Finals. They will have to go through a rigorous set of teams in the West throughout the regular season and the playoffs.

If any team is up to the task, it’s Golden State. But we’ll see how it plays out starting about 24 hours from now.

See you at tip-off.

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