Connect with us


Six Best Deals In The Southeast Division

Spencer Davies looks at notable offseason moves from the Southeast Division.

Spencer Davies



We continue our division-by-division look at the best moves each team has made here on Basketball Insiders by taking a glance at the third and final group of five in the Eastern Conference.

One blockbuster trade, two returning faces and a couple of new veterans highlighted the summer of the Southeast.

Here are six moves that should impact the direction of the division.

John Wall signs extension with Washington Wizards

While one of the East’s top point guards is unsatisfied with his situation and asking for a trade, another just got paid a lot of money to stay with the team that drafted him.

One week ago, it was reported that Wall agreed to a four-year, $170 million supermax contract extension to remain with the Wizards as the face of their franchise. The deal includes a player option for the final season (2023-24) and a 15-percent trade kicker. Washington confirmed the agreement Wednesday.

By locking up Wall, the Wizards have kept together a dynamic backcourt between himself and Bradley Beal for years to come. As you’ll read later in this piece, they were able to bring back another key piece of their young core for the long haul as well.

Aside from a head coaching change last summer, Washington has been one of the most stable organizations in basketball. Teams around them have made dramatic changes to bolster their respective rosters, but the Wizards have gone with the approach of sticking with their guys that have been with them from the start.

Entering his eighth year as a pro at the young age of 26, Wall hasn’t even come close to reaching his ceiling yet. He’s about to hit his prime. For the first time in his career, the All-Star point guard averaged over 20 points and more than 10 assists per game last season. He did this on a career-high 54.1 true shooting percentage to boot. If Wall can get a little more consistent from deep, it’ll be very difficult to exploit a weakness in his game.

Following years of mediocrity after the Gilbert Arenas era, Wall was the one to start the renaissance in D.C. It’s only right that he gets to continue that with a team that is certain to be a contender this upcoming season and beyond it.

Charlotte Hornets acquire Dwight Howard and No. 31 overall draft pick from Atlanta Hawks in exchange for Miles Plumlee, Marco Belinelli, and No. 41 overall draft pick.

Talk about a trade that was a complete heist for Rich Cho.

Knowing that the Hawks were going into a rebuilding stage with the loss of Paul Millsap, Charlotte jumped in and pounced on the first opportunity they saw to land Howard.

It was a steal for the Hornets, who will be the big man’s fifth team in his career, but the trade made sense even if Atlanta’s return wasn’t the best. With a slew of promising young talent about to gain meaningful experience in their development, Howard was no longer a fit. The homecoming only lasted one year, but this next opportunity should excite him.

Joining forces with Kemba Walker and Nic Batum might take some getting used to, however, the transition might not be so hard. Steve Clifford, who previously worked with Howard for six years when he was an assistant with both the Orlando Magic and Los Angeles Lakers, will reunite with him as the head coach of the Hornets.

Howard doesn’t have the same legs as he did when the two were last together, but he’s a perfect fit for the style Clifford wants to play. Charlotte is a team that hangs its hat on hard-nosed defense and toughness, and the 31-year-old veteran can bring that. He still crashes the glass with aggressiveness (ranked fifth with 12.7 rebounds per game) and can finish inside like he always has.

The Hornets have been looking for a true center for a while now. It’s understandable to be a little skeptical considering Howard’s bounced from team-to-team over the last few years, but something about this situation seems too ideal for it to flop.

Washington Wizards match Brooklyn Nets offer sheet and re-sign Otto Porter

The Georgetown alum stays true to his city’s roots and earns a huge payday in the process. $106 million over four years to be exact.

Just like Wall and Beal, the 24-year-old Porter is going to be a part of something special in D.C. For the first time since the mid-2000s, the Wizards have an established trio with a ton of talent.

Last season was a breakout one for Porter, speaking from every aspect of his game. The most eye-opening improvement was his confidence shooting the basketball from three, which leaped from 36.7 to 43 percent in just one year. His assertiveness and discipline on both ends of the floor were vital to Washington’s success during the season and in the playoffs.

In his fourth year in the league, Porter placed fourth among those playing over 30 minutes per game in true shooting percentage (62.8). That ranks above superstars such as LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and James Harden.

Furthermore, Porter was the best catch shooter in the NBA with a 47 percent clip on five or more attempts per game. He also had the fourth-highest catch-and-shoot three-point percentage (44.4) amid players taking four or more shots from the perimeter per contest.

If this past season is any indication of where Porter can go in his career, the Wizards will have themselves a special player to pair with a star-studded backcourt, and it won’t be long before they’re the elite of the East.

Orlando Magic sign Jonathon Simmons

Based on value alone, this was an excellent addition made by the new front office duo of Jeff Weltman and John Hammond.

Simmons is one of the up-and-coming two-way wings in this league, regardless of being older than most players with as little experience as he has.

His athleticism is off the charts and he’s proven he can be a solid scorer with a bulldog mentality. When Kawhi Leonard went down for the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs, Simmons showed multiple times that he wasn’t afraid of the spotlight.

The championship DNA he’ll bring to Orlando for Frank Vogel will prove to be beneficial for a young Magic team searching for success. He’ll be a great mentor for Jonathan Isaac and will lead by example.

The chase-down blocks are fun to watch, but Simmons is a consistent energetic defender that will help on that side of the floor tremendously. He’ll give you some memorable highlight dunks to pair with Aaron Gordon’s flash as well.

Miami Heat re-sign James Johnson

A deal like this has been a long time coming for Johnson, who has matured immensely as a person and as a ball player.

In an expanded role under Erik Spoelstra, Johnson flourished as one of the toughest and most important members of the Heat. His veteran leadership and on-court contributions were one of the main reasons Miami didn’t throw in the white towel after an 11-30 start to the season.

After a career-year as an offensive threat, the 30-year-old’s defensive prowess has only gotten better as the years have gone on. Look for his success to continue.

Orlando Magic sign Marresse Speights

Similar to signing Simmons on the cheap, the Magic got Speights on a one-year deal for the veteran minimum. As talented as he is as a scorer in bunches, the addition makes a ton of sense.

Speights has played a bench role for the majority of his career, but there’s no doubt how quickly he puts points on the board and gets those rebounds, too. That’s without mentioning his willingness to shoot the three nowadays.

There are three franchises that can realistically compete for first place in the Southeast division. The entire trio may even find a way to make the playoffs in a declining Eastern Conference.

There’s a lot of potential in this division and it’s only going to get better from here.

Spencer Davies is an NBA writer based in Cleveland in his first year with Basketball Insiders. Covering the league and the Cavaliers for the past two seasons, his bylines have appeared on Bleacher Report, FOX Sports and HoopsHype.


Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


The Lakers Have Finally Stabilized

After a tough five-year period filled with loss and disappointment, the Lakers have finally put themselves back in a position to succeed.

Matt John



On paper, missing the playoffs for the fifth year in a row would rarely be considered impressive, but for the Los Angeles Lakers, a team that’s suffered pretty much nothing but misery over the last half-decade, this season was a sign of progress.

Leading up to this past season, the previous four years overall were anything but easy on the Lakers. Besides consistently being one of the worst teams in the league, some of the team’s high lottery picks, such as D’Angelo Russell, did not pan out as well as they had hoped, and management baffled the fanbase when they signed both Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov to approximately $140 million combined over four years.

This season, things finally took a turn for the better. The team’s youngest players, particularly Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Julius Randle and Lonzo Ball, started to yield positive results. The team’s new acquisitions, specifically Brook Lopez, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and briefly Isaiah Thomas, made a notable impact on the season. Second-year head coach Luke Walton proved himself to be up for the job with improved personnel at his arsenal. That may have led to only 35 wins, but compared to the previous four seasons’ final results, 35 wins is about as good as the Lakers could have hoped for.

And it should only get better from here. The biggest positive is that the team’s long-term outlook is now the brightest its been since Dwight Howard skipped town in 2013. Their impending return to the glory days is still up in the air, but the Lakers can finally look forward to a promising future for two reasons.

Cap Flexibility

When the Lakers replaced Mitch Kupchak with Rob Pelinka and Magic Johnson to run the team, the two of them went to work right away. Pelinka and Johnson knew that if the Lakers were going to attain relevance again, they had to undo the franchise’s previous mistakes, even if it meant getting rid of some of their young talent.

It’s as the old saying goes, “You can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs.”

Making said omelet started with getting rid of their albatross contracts. The Lakers found a taker for Mozgov when they traded him to Brooklyn for Brook Lopez’s expiring deal, but that deal also required trading Russell. Mid-season, the Lakers found a taker for Jordan Clarkson when they traded him to Cleveland, but that deal also required trading Larry Nance Jr.

Losing Russell and Nance Jr, and to some degree Clarkson, may have been tough cheese to swallow, but with Mozgov and Clarkson off the payroll, the Lakers have a ton of cap space at their disposal. In fact, this summer, the Lakers have only $34.5 million in guaranteed contracts, which will be the lowest payroll in entire NBA. This is a much bigger deal now that it’s been in the past for one simple reason: Hardly any teams will have cap room this summer.

The NBA salary cap’s drastic rise in 2016 caused many teams to overshoot their mark over the past two off-seasons. Because of that, quite a few teams will be paying the luxury tax while others will do everything in their power to avoid the luxury tax. This means that only a select few teams will have cap room to add a free agent on a max deal. The Lakers, on the other hand, have the cap room to add two.

Their situation only gets better given the competition in free agency. Most of the other teams that have cap room are in rebuilding mode, so the Lakers shouldn’t expect many competitors in their chase for marquee free agents ie LeBron James and Paul George this summer. The only other team that will be competing for their services with available cap space is Philadelphia, who only has $44 million on payroll this summer. Houston will also be in the race, but they will have to get creative if they hope to add a max free agent this summer plus keep Chris Paul AND Clint Capela.

Even if the Lakers whiff on LeBron and George, it isn’t the end of the world. They can afford to re-sign Thomas and/or Caldwell-Pope to one-year deals worth over $10 million because hardly anyone else can do the same. Even if absolutely nothing goes their way this summer, they’ll have flexibility again next season. While having cap space does not automatically mean free agents will come to the Lakers’ door next season, it’s better to have money available to offer than having to spend it on Clarkson and Mozgov.

Promising Youth Movement

Many knew the Lakers’ young core was nothing to sneeze at, but for the first time since they’ve started their rebuild in 2013, their youth movement’s talent finally translated into wins. They didn’t do it all on their own, but nothing makes a team’s future brighter than their young players starting to reach their potential.

That starts with Brandon Ingram. Ingram was the textbook example of raw his rookie season, but his sophomore year, he started living up to his billing as the second overall pick in his draft. Across the board, he improved his numbers, but his shining moment came when the Lakers turned to him to run the point with Lonzo Ball out in late-January. During that stretch, the Duke alum averaged 18.4 points on 52 percent shooting including 46 percent from three, 5.4 assists, and 5.5 rebounds. Ingram struggled mightily with injuries after that, but his vast improvement should be very beneficial in the long run.

Then there was the biggest surprise of the season: Kyle Kuzma. When the deal was first agreed to, Kuzma was originally a throw-in when the Lakers traded Mozgov and Russell for Lopez, but knowing Brooklyn’s luck, Kuzma may wind up being the best player in this deal. Kuzma wowed the fans at the Staples Center, as he averaged 16.1 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting 45 percent from the field. Since Kuzma is only 22 years old, there’s no telling what his ceiling might be.

Then there’s the first lottery pick the Lakers drafted in their rebuild: Julius Randle. Randle got himself in the best shape of his life in preparation for this season, and it paid off on the court. Randle averaged career-highs in both point average (16.1) and field goal percentage (58 percent), but his best stretch came in February through March. In that time, Randle averaged 21.2 points on 57.6 percent shooting, 9.5 rebounds, and 3.3 assists. Randle is a restricted free agent this year, but with the lack of available money this summer, his best option may be to stay in LA.

Finally, the biggest wild card of the Lakers’ young talent: Lonzo Ball. Ball was both injury-riddled and inconsistent his rookie year, but he showed flashes every now and again of the player his humble father said he would be. While he had his issues putting the ball in the bucket, Ball’s much-hyped passing translated in the NBA, averaging 7.2 assists a game, and his rebounding was terrific given his size, as he averaged 6.9 rebounds a game. The jury is still out on Ball, but he should be given a full season before anyone comes to judgment.

In short, the Lakers’ cap flexibility and promising youth movement give them stability that not many believed they would have had at the end of last season. Inadequacy and incompetence have plagued the Lakeshow for the past several years, but now that they’ve brought the right people aboard, they are now pointed in the right direction.

Continue Reading


NBA Daily: Meet Chimezie Metu, A Versatile Big Man

Chimezie Metu could end up being one of the steals of this year’s draft.

David Yapkowitz



Each year when it comes to the NBA draft, there always seems to a few players flying under the radar a bit. Players who are underrated or overlooked for whatever reason. This year, one of those players is Chimezie Metu from the University of Southern California.

In early mock drafts, Metu was projected to go anywhere from mid to late first-round. In some of the more recent mocks, he’s fallen out of the first-round altogether and into the second-round. If those projections hold and he does end up being selected in the second-round, then some team is going to get a huge steal.

Metu is a versatile big man who impacts both ends of the floor. He is an agile shot blocker who can control the paint defensively, and on the other end, he can score in the post while being able to step out and knock down mid-range jump shots. He is confident in what he’ll be able to bring to an NBA team.

“I think being versatile and being able to make an impact on defense right away,” Metu told reporters at the NBA Draft Combine this past week. “Being able to switch on to smaller players or guard the post, and just being able to knock down shots or make plays when I’m called upon.”

In his three years at USC, Metu blossomed into one of the best players in the Pac-12 conference. This past season, he led a solid Trojans team in scoring with 15.7 points per game on 52.3 percent shooting. He also led the team in rebounding with 7.4 per game and had a team-high 59 blocked shots.

He’s taken note of some of the best big men in the NBA, some of whom he’s tried to model his game after. He told reporters at the combine that some of his biggest influences are Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns and Joel Embiid. He knows that there may be misconceptions about his game, or those that doubt him, but he isn’t worried about that at all.

“I don’t really worry about what other people are saying about myself. I just go out there and play hard, and try to help my team win games,” Metu said. “My strength is being versatile, being able to impact the game in multiple ways. Not being one dimensional and being able to have fingerprints on different parts of the game.”

It’s been busy past few days for Metu. He’s had 13 interviews with NBA teams to go along with workouts, medical testing and media availability. Although it’s been a hectic time, part of what has made it so worthwhile is all of the NBA personnel he’s been able to interact with. What really has stood out to him being at the combine is the difference between college and the NBA.

“I can just go up to the owners and the GMs and just talk to them,” Metu said. “Coming from college you basically have to act like they’re not there, cause of the rules and stuff. Just the fact that they can come up and talk to you, you can talk to them, that’s probably the most surprising part for me.”

Aside from all the front office personnel he’s interacted with, Metu has also had the opportunity to meet with some of the most respected names in NBA history. Among the former players who he’s had a chance to meet with, Magic Johnson and Bob McAdoo have definitely stood out to him.

While he’s grateful just to have been able to meet NBA royalty, he’s used it as an opportunity to pick their brains. He’s also been able to showcase his game in front of them. He is confident that he’s been able to impress them and hopefully make an impact on their decisions come draft night.

“Just coming out here and having fun, there’s a lot of basketball royalty,” Metu said. “Being able to get a chance to shake their hands, being able to take stuff from them and what helped them become great. I’m just trying to take their advice. It feels great because never in a million years did I think I’d be here. It’s fun just going out there and showing what I can do.”

Continue Reading


The Case for Upperclassmen in the NBA Draft

College upperclassmen are becoming increasingly viable options in the NBA Draft, writes David Yapkowitz.

David Yapkowitz



Each year when the NBA draft comes around, there seems to be an aversion to taking upperclassman with a top selection. More specifically, it’s college seniors who often find themselves getting drafted in the second-round if at all.

It can be understandable. NBA teams are clearly looking for a home run pick with a lottery selection. They’re looking for a player who they can build a foundation around for years to come. College seniors often project as solid role players to strengthen a team once that foundational superstar is already in place.

However, recent years have seen the entire first round dominated almost entirely by freshmen and sophomores. In 2017, a college senior wasn’t drafted until the San Antonio Spurs took Derrick White with the 29th pick. The Los Angeles Lakers followed that up with Josh Hart. Hart ended up having a better rookie season than a few of the underclassmen taken ahead of him.

A few other upperclassmen, Frank Mason III, a senior, and Dillon Brooks, a junior, both had better rookie seasons than many of the freshmen taking before them as well. Junior Semi Ojeleye is playing a major role for the Boston Celtics who are in the Eastern Conference Finals.

In 2016, Malcolm Brogdon, another college senior, was taken in the second-round with the 36th pick by the Milwaukee Bucks. He went on to win the Rookie of the Year award and was a starter for a playoff team.

Senior Tyrone Wallace was taken with the last pick in the draft at No. 60 that year. When a rash of injuries hit the Los Angeles Clippers this season, Wallace stepped in right away as a starter at times and helped keep the team afloat in the playoff picture.

There were a few college seniors that went undrafted in 2016, players such as Fred VanVleet Yogi Ferrell that have had better NBA careers to this point that a lot of the underclassmen taken ahead of them.

This isn’t to say that NBA teams should completely abandon taking young, underdeveloped players in the first-round. The Spurs took Dejounte Murray, a freshman point guard, over Brogdon, Wallace, VanVleet and Ferrell. That’s worked out well for them. It’s more a testament to having a good front office and scouting team than anything else.

But maybe NBA teams should start expanding their horizons when it comes to the draft. There appears to be a stigma of sorts when it comes to upperclassmen, particularly college seniors. If a guy can play, he can play. Of course, college production is often not the best means of judging NBA success, but it does count for something.

With the 2018 NBA draft about one month away, there are a few interesting names to look at when it comes to college seniors. Players such as Devonte’ Graham from Kansas, Theo Pinson from North Carolina, Chandler Hutchinson from Boise State, Jevon Carter from West Virginia and Bonzie Colson from Notre Dame are all guys that should be on NBA team’s radars.

Sure, none of those guys are going to turn into a superstar or even an All-Star. But you’re probably going to get a player that becomes a solid contributor for years to come.

Again, it’s understandable when teams take projects in the lottery. After a long season of losing, and in some cases years of losing, ownership and the fanbase are hungry for results. They don’t want a top pick to be used on a player that projects as only a solid contributor.

But after the lottery, the rest of the draft gets a little murky. A good front office will find an NBA caliber player whether he’s a freshman or a senior. The NBA Draft isn’t an exact science. Nothing is ever for sure and no player is guaranteed to become the player they’re projected to be.

College upperclassmen tend to be more physically developed and mentally mature for the NBA game. If what you’re looking for is someone who will step right in and produce for a winning team, then instead of wasting a pick on the unknown, it might be better to go with the sure thing.

Continue Reading

NBA Team Salaries


Trending Now