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Who Needs a Change of Scenery?

Which Eastern Conference players need a change in scenery? David Yapkowitz breaks it down.

David Yapkowitz

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When it comes time for teams to address their roster concerns in the offseason, one of the first things to consider is whether any players need a change of scenery. Maybe a free agent signing or midseason trade acquisition didn’t pan out. Perhaps an older veteran or two is not in the team’s plan for the future. Whatever the reason is, teams usually do what they can to accommodate those players.

Here’s a look at some of the biggest names in the Eastern Conference that should be looking to move on from their current teams.

Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks

Perhaps the biggest name in desperate need of a new home is Carmelo Anthony. There was chatter at the trade deadline about moving Anthony, but the Knicks decided to hold on to him and possibly revisit trade scenarios in the summer. Anthony has a no-trade clause in his contract, so he must approve any potential trade. But after six and a half seasons, it is time for the Knicks and Anthony to part ways. Anthony can use a player option to become a free agent at the end of next season, but both the Knicks and Anthony should make finding him a new team a priority this summer.

With Kristaps Porzingis in place and another top lottery pick coming the Knicks’ way, Anthony just doesn’t fit in the team’s rebuilding plans. His season averages of 22.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists are right around his career averages, so he still has All-Star level basketball left in him. He shouldn’t waste what high-level years he has left on a team that is moving into the rebuilding phase. He can be the missing piece that a team needs to put them over the top and become a real contender for a title.

Derrick Rose, New York Knicks

Also needing a new destination is Anthony’s teammate, Derrick Rose. Rose will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, so he’ll have a bit of an easier time figuring out where he’ll play next. The Knicks had aspirations of making it back to the playoffs and making some noise when they traded for Rose and signed Joakim Noah. For many reasons, it just didn’t work out and Rose should seriously consider leaving the Knicks.

Rose has actually stayed healthy for the most part this season. His averages of 18 points per game, 3.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists are not too far off his career averages. His 47.1 percent shooting from the field is the third-highest for his career. He can still be a serviceable player for a playoff team.

His starting days, however, might be nearing an end and should he go to a team that is looking to make a deep playoff run, he may need to reinvent himself as a sixth man type of scorer off the bench. At any rate, he also has enough left in the tank to be a difference-maker for teams in need of some added scoring punch. Rose is only 28 years old and should have a few more productive seasons left should he be able to remain healthy.

Paul George, Indiana Pacers

Another big name that could change teams this summer is Paul George. George, like Anthony, has the option to terminate his contract at the end of next season. George’s name was also mentioned at the trade deadline, but nothing materialized. The Pacers have been a big disappointment this season. Following an offseason that saw them add Al Jefferson, Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young, they sit in eighth place in the East and are in danger of missing the playoffs altogether.

Statistically, George is having one of the best seasons of his career. His 22.8 points per game are the second-highest for his career as is his 45.2 percent shooting from the field. He remains one of the best two-way players in the league and has shown no lasting effects from the injury that forced him to miss most of the 2014-15 season. At 26 years old, he is in the prime of his career.

If the Pacers keep him heading into next season, and they show no noticeable improvement, it is likely he will exercise his option. Barring any major moves that catapult Indiana near the top of the East, it would be wise for both sides to push for finding George a new home in the summer.

Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls

It seems there is no shortage of talented perimeter players who need new homes in the East, and Jimmy Butler is next on the list. Butler’s name was also tossed around at the trade deadline but like with Anthony and George, nothing happened. The Bulls are stuck in no man’s land right now. They started the season looking to make a run in the playoffs, but have since looked more like a team ready to hit the reset button. That leaves Butler in an interesting situation. He could either be part of a potentially long rebuild while in the prime of his career, or the Bulls could elect to move him this summer and allow him to go to a team with postseason aspirations.

Butler is averaging career highs across the board in points (23.5), rebounds (6.2) and assists (5.5). Like George, he is in the prime of his career and among the best in the league when it comes to two-way players. His current contract runs through the 2018-19 season, at which point he can use his player option to become a free agent.

As it stands, the Bulls are still alive in the East’s playoff race and if they end up making the playoffs, it will no doubt be because of Butler’s brilliance. But even if they do get there as a low seed, do they have the chance to actually pull off an upset? That’s what Butler has to ask himself, and ultimately this summer the Bulls should make moving Butler a priority. He, like George and Anthony, can also put a team over the top.

Dwyane Wade, Chicago Bulls

Butler isn’t the only Bull who should change teams in the offseason. His teammate Dwyane Wade needs to consider it as well. The duo of Wade and Butler, along with the rest of talent the Bulls had looked good on paper, but the chemistry just hasn’t been there this season, which is why they are on the verge of missing the playoffs. With a trade deadline move that saw Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott shipped off to Oklahoma City, it should be obvious that the Bulls will be heading down the rebuild path sooner rather than later.

While Wade has shown flashes of the player he once was this season, his 18.3 points per game are his lowest since his rookie year. His 30.2 minutes per game, 3.9 assists and 43.4 percent shooting from the field are all career lows. He’s missed the last six games due to an elbow injury, and eight of the last 12 overall. It was the first time in 12 years that Wade was not named to the All-Star team.

That’s not to say that Wade doesn’t have anything left to offer a team. He’s a three-time champion and veteran leader. As he enters the twilight of his career, he can still be an important piece to a team that wants experience and leadership, as well as some scoring punch as they look to make a playoff run. He can opt out and become a free agent in the summer, and he should definitely do so and see what comes next.

Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks

Another potential free agent that should seriously consider going elsewhere is Paul Millsap. Millsap’s name also came up around the trade deadline but the Hawks decided to hang on to him. Atlanta is also in the dreaded no man’s land. A middle of the pack team that is not good enough to do anything in the playoffs, but not bad enough to take advantage of a top lottery pick.

Millsap, however, has been having one of the better seasons of his career. His 18.1 points per game and 3.8 assists per game are career highs. He was named to the All-Star team for the fourth consecutive year. He’s ready to win now as he’s in the last years of his prime. It’s just not clear whether he can do that in Atlanta.

Millsap has a player option this summer, which he should definitely exercise to test the free agent waters. At 32 years old, this is probably his last shot at securing a big, long term contract. And it’s obvious that he still has quite a bit of game left, his recent injury notwithstanding. He may end up re-signing in Atlanta, where he would continue to be the team’s best player and focal point of the offense. He owes it to himself though to test the market and see if there is a better opportunity for him than Atlanta can offer.

There are a couple of other somewhat high profile names that could potentially switch teams. However, these high-profile players have plenty of reason to consider making a move. Considering how much noise there was surrounding each of these players around the trade deadline, it wouldn’t be surprising to see some serious changes during the upcoming offseason.

 

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NBA Daily: Georges Niang’s Big Break

After dominating the G-League for a year, Georges Niang has more than earned this big opportunity with the Utah Jazz, writes Ben Nadeau.

Ben Nadeau

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For Georges Niang, reaching professional stability was always going to be a tall order.

Even after four dominant seasons at Iowa State, the tweener forward was viewed as a draft risk. At 6-foot-8, the versatile playmaker has always scored in bunches but also struggled to find his place in the modern NBA. Despite excelling as a knockdown three-point shooter, the fundamentally sound Niang has bounced around the country looking for a long-term opportunity.

In the two seasons since he was drafted, Niang has played in 50 G-League games for three separate franchises and had his non-guaranteed contract waived twice.

As a summer league standout for the second straight offseason, Niang’s determined efforts officially paid off last week after he signed a three-year deal with the Utah Jazz worth about $5 million. Now with a fully-guaranteed contract under his belt for 2018-19, Niang has been eager to prove his worth both on and off the court — a newfound skill-set he happily attributes to Utah’s excellent system.

“In the Jazz organization, from top to bottom, they do a good job of nurturing guys and forming them into good leaders and things like that,” Niang told Basketball Insiders. “So, it was really easy to transition to summer league, [I’m] really just trying to lead by example, not with just my words.

“And I think playing hard, being a good teammate and doing the right thing –I think those are three things that the Jazz really stand for.”

But his meandering path toward year-long job security wasn’t destined to end up this way — no, not at all.

Selected by the Indiana Pacers in the 2016 NBA Draft with the No. 50 overall pick, Niang was correctly projected as a hard-working, high-IQ contributor that could put up points on almost anybody. Unfortunately, following a low-impact rookie year with the Pacers — and some short stints with their G-League affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, as well — Niang was waived the ensuing summer. Shortly thereafter, Niang latched on with the Golden State Warriors, where he participated in training camp and four preseason games — but, again, he was waived before the season began.

With the Santa Cruz Warriors, Niang flat-out dominated the competition for months, up until he grabbed a two-way contract from Utah in January. In total, Niang played in 41 games between Santa Cruz and the Salt Lake City Stars in 2017-18, averaging 19.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.1 steals on 45.7 percent from deep over 33.9 minutes per game.

Once attached to Utah’s affiliate franchise, Niang averaged a team-high 22 points per game and finished the campaign as the 13th-best scorer in the G-League. On top of all that, Niang was both an All-Star and honored with a spot on the All-NBA G-League First Team at season’s end.

Although he would ultimately play in just nine games for the deep Western Conference roster, Niang was simply laying important groundwork for the days ahead.

This summer, Niang averaged 16.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists in three contests during Utah Summer League. Given the golden opening to impress his future would-be-employers, Niang kept things rolling in Sin City and posted similar numbers over five games. On the back of a 20-point, eight-rebound performance early on in Las Vegas, Niang embraced the chance to fight and compete for his team — five full days before the Jazz signed him to a guaranteed deal.

“It was a real physical game, but those are the games you want to play in during summer league,” Niang said. “You want to play in those types of environments, where every possession matters and you gotta make plays down the stretch — and I think we did a really good job doing that.”

Those scrappy aspirations have been a staple of Niang’s since his collegiate days at Iowa State, too. During an ultra-impressive senior year, Niang tallied 20.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game for the Cyclones, leading their roster to 23 wins and an eventual trip to the Sweet Sixteen. That season, Niang took home the 2016 Karl Malone Award as Division-I’s top power forward and finished with 2,228 points, the second-best mark in school history.

Any way you slice it, whether at college or in the G-League, Niang can play, the moment just needs to reveal itself — and maybe it finally has.

Of course, this new contract — one that’s only fully guaranteed in 2018-19 — doesn’t ensure Niang any playing time and he’ll have some stiff competition. Just to get on the court, he’ll need to squeeze minutes from Derrick Favors, Jae Crowder and Joe Ingles — a tough task in head coach Quin Snyder’s defense-first rotation. No matter what his role or obligations end up amounting to, Niang is ready to meet that challenge head-on.

“In the NBA, everyone has a role,” Niang told Basketball Insiders. “So, obviously, things are gonna be peeled back and you’ll have a defined role. My role is just when I get the ball, and if I do, play-make for others or get guys open, defend multiple positions, play multiple positions on offense and knock down open shots.”

Although his past resume certainly speaks for itself, it’ll be up to Niang take his big break even further. But given his efficiency and execution at every other level, there’s little reason to doubt the forward now. Days before they signed Niang, he was asked if Utah was somewhere he could see himself for the foreseeable future — his response was precise and foreboding.

“I’d love to be here — what [the Jazz] stand for is what I’m all about. I’ve had a blast with all these guys and I’d love to keep it going.”

And now, he’ll get at least 82 more games to make his case.

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NBA Daily: The Carmelo Anthony Trade is a Rare Win-Win for All Involved

It is rare for a trade to be beneficial for all parties, but the Thunder-Hawks-76ers swap has the makings of a win-win-win situation.

Shane Rhodes

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The Big Three Era in Oklahoma City came and went rather quickly.

On Thursday, the Thunder reached an agreement to trade Carmelo Anthony and a protected 2022 first-round draft pick to the Atlanta Hawks for guard Dennis Schröder, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. As part of a three-team deal with the Philadelphia 76ers, the Thunder will also walk away with Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot while the Hawks and 76ers swap Mike Muscala and Justin Anderson.

It is rare for a trade to be beneficial for all parties, but the Thunder-Hawks-76ers swap has the makings of a win-win-win situation. Just as well, the trade is perhaps even more beneficial for the players involved.

While Anthony may have wanted to stay with Russell Westbrook and Paul George, the trade is more than beneficial for him. After the trade goes through, the Hawks plan to buyout Anthony’s contract and he will reportedly receive the entire $27.9 million he is owed next season. Even better still, Anthony is free to join any team he wants, whether it be the Houston Rockets and friend Chris Paul, the Los Angeles Lakers and friend LeBron James, or elsewhere.

With his money already in hand, Anthony could sign on the cheap as well, making negotiations with any franchise that much easier.

For the Thunder, clearing Anthony’s massive salary from their books was of paramount importance. Staring down a $150 million luxury tax bill, Sam Presti managed to move Anthony and improve the team or, at the very least, make a lateral move depending on how you look at Schröder. Even as they take back the remaining $46.5 million owed to Schröder, the Thunder will save more than $60 million next season alone. That makes the trade worth it for Oklahoma City all by itself.

Still, the move allowed them to fill a need, perhaps more important than the cash savings as they look ahead to next season. Schröder not only fortifies the Thunder bench but the point guard position behind starter Russell Westbrook as well; he is another athletic playmaker that Oklahoma City can play on the wing with confidence. And, after averaging a career-high 19.4 points per game to go along with 6.2 assists last season, Schröder provides the Thunder offense with more firepower to compete against the other top teams in the Western Conference, a necessity if they hope to make a long playoff run.

For Schröder, the move to Oklahoma City is just as beneficial for him as it is for the team. Schröder is no longer the starter (he was unlikely to be the starter in Atlanta with Trae Young in the fold), but he can still make an impact and now he can do so for a contender.

The Hawks, as they should be, are playing the long game here. They acquired Jeremy Lin, an expiring contract, from the Brooklyn Nets earlier this offseason. After drafting Young, their guard surplus afforded them the chance to move Schröder’s deal off their books, netting them a first-round pick in the process and opening up playing time for the Young right away.

While the pick is top-14 protected (the pick becomes two second rounders if it doesn’t convey in 2022, every asset counts as the Hawks will look to add talent through the draft for years to come. With the addition of the Thunder pick, the Hawks now are owed an extra three first-round picks between the 2019 and 2022 drafts, a benefit for the Hawks whether they use those picks or trade them for already established talent. Meanwhile, Anderson, 24, presents another intriguing, and more importantly, young, option alongside the core of Young, Kevin Huerter, John Collins and Taurean Prince.

Anderson will almost certainly receive more playing time in Atlanta as they figure out who and who can’t help the team. His time in Philadelphia was mired by injury and he never had the opportunity to show what he could do. So, whether they use him as an asset in a future trade or plan to keep him on the roster, Anderson, at the very least, will have the opportunity to show what he can do.

For the 76ers, Muscala is essentially insurance for the reneged deal with Nemanja Bjelica. Bjelica agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the team but the stretch-four never signed his contract and backed out of the deal. With him out of the picture along with losing Ersan Ilyasova, Muscala was one of the few remaining options for the 76ers in that specific, stretch-big role.

Muscala doesn’t have the same shooting chops that Bjelica has, but he is younger and might have more upside alongside Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and co. Last season, Muscala, in addition to career highs in points and rebounds, averaged a career-high 3.2 three-pointers per game and hit 37.1 percent of them. While he likely won’t see the playing time he saw in Atlanta, Muscala should easily slide into a role off the bench for the 76ers. Moving Anderson and Luwawu-Cabarrot clears a logjam on the wing as well and will afford more minutes to Markelle Fultz (when he is ready), T.J. McConnell and rookies Zhaire Smith and Furkan Korkmaz.

As it stands, this trade made sense for all parties involved, and that alone is reason enough to consider it a win all around. While things could certainly change and hindsight is 20/20, this deal is beneficial for all three teams right now and could positively impact all three squads both next season and beyond.

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NBA Daily: Grayson Allen Ready for NBA Challenge

Making it in the NBA alone is quite an impressive feat, which is why Grayson Allen is doing the best he can to prepare for the big stage.

Matt John

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Grayson Allen may not be the most hyped-up prospect to come out of this year’s draft, but he is one of the more experienced rookies coming into the league this season.

Allen spent four years learning under the tutelage of Coach K at Duke University while also playing with the likes of Brandon Ingram, Jayson Tatum, and Marvin Bagley III. He’s been through it all at the collegiate level, but he knows that if he’s going to make it in the pros, he’s going to have to adapt as quickly as possible.

“I have to set the tone for myself where I have to know playing in the NBA as a rookie, guys are going to be physical with you,” Allen said. “They’re going to come at you, they’re going to test you and see what you got. You’re gonna get beat. You’re gonna fail, but you gotta come right back at ‘em the next time.”

Since debuting in the summer league, Allen’s been the perfect storm for the Jazz. His shooting numbers have not been encouraging, but his numbers across the board have shown how impactful a player he can be. These have been his stat lines in both the Salt Lake and Las Vegas summer leagues.

July 2 vs. San Antonio: 11 points on 4/16 shooting including 2/6 from three, eight rebounds, seven assists
July 5 vs. Atlanta: 9 points on 2/13 shooting including 0/2 from three, six rebounds, eight assists
July 7 vs. Portland: 16 points on 6/17 shooting including 2/9 from three, six rebounds, six assists
July 19 vs. Miami: 17 points on 7/17 shooting including ⅕ from three, seven rebounds, three assists

Maybe it’s been the dry climate, or maybe it’s been the high Utah elevation that has caused Allen’s struggles shooting-wise, but the fact that his all-around game has shined despite his shooting woes should excite the Jazz. After his summer league play, Allen says the biggest adjustment he’s had to make offensively is acclimating himself with the pace of the game.

“Offensively, it’s a lot easier when you slow down,” Allen said. “I’m starting to see the space of the floor a lot better and finding the open guys. There’s still a few plays out there where I think I got a little antsy but it’s human nature and I’m trying to fight it right now. As a rookie playing in his first couple of games, I’m trying to fight that and play under control.”

On the other side of the ball, Allen says the biggest adjustment is the increased level of physicality in the pros.

“Defensively, it’s physical,” Allen said. “You gotta fight guys. You gotta get through screens. I mean, the bigs, they really set great screens, so you gotta be able to fight through that… If you’re tired on defense, they’ll find you.”

Allen knows that he needs to commit if he’s going to make it in the NBA, which requires eliminating all bad habits. In order to eliminate any habit that Allen has, which in his case is fatigue at the moment, Allen believes that he needs to be more mindful of himself when he’s physically drained.

“I try to be really self-aware of my habits when I get tired out there,” Allen said. “On defense, I have a habit when I’m tired, I stand up and my feet are flat. On offense, I’m not ready for the shot… I try to be really self-aware of that stuff so that in practice or in August, September, October, leading up to the regular season, I can have good habits when I’m tired because we got a short leash as a rookie. You don’t have many mistakes to make.”

In Utah, Allen will be playing for a team that exceeded all expectation last year and has a much higher bar to reach this season. He believes the summer the league should serve him well as he fights for minutes in the Jazz’ rotation.

“I’m joining a playoff team, so I gotta carve out a role with the guys they already have,” Allen said. “When I’m playing in summer league, I’m trying to play the right way. Don’t take too many tough shots, find the right guy, make the right pass.- Because when you come and play for Quin Snyder, that’s what he’s gonna want. He’s just gonna want you to play the right way.”

When Adam Silver announced that Utah was taking Allen with the 21st overall pick, the general masses laughed due to Utah, a state with a white-bread reputation, took a white player. Given that Allen just played four years of basketball at one of the best college basketball programs in the nation and will be starting his career playing for one of the most well-run organizations in the league, he may be the one laughing when it’s all over.

In other words, Grayson Allen playing in Utah could be quite the trip.

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