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.
NBA Daily: The Golden State Warriors Need to Enter Rest Mode
With a bevy of injuries to their stars, the Golden State Warriors should rest up the remainder of the regular season to avoid any playoff letdowns.
After a three-year-long run of dominating the NBA, the Golden State Warriors are showing some cracks in their armor.
Granted, those cracks aren’t a result of a botched system or poor play, but rather the injury bug biting the team in full force as they come down the regular season stretch.
First, it was Steph Curry and the ankle that’s bothered him all season — and for most of his career — when he tweaked it yet again on March 8 against the San Antonio Spurs. Golden State announced he would miss at least four games. Then it was Klay Thompson, who fractured his thumb three days later against the Minnesota Timberwolves — he’ll miss at least two weeks.
Now it’s Kevin Durant. Last year’s Finals MVP suffered an incomplete rib cartilage fracture and was ruled out of Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings. Durant is expected to be sidelined for at least two weeks. The Warriors would go on to lose that contest 95-93.
In about two weeks time, the Warriors went from having one of the most formidable offenses and scoring trios in the entire league, to having Quinn Cook and Nick Young logging starter minutes.
Luckily for the Warriors, they’ve built up a big enough lead in the standings to achieve a 52-17 record, good for second place in the Western Conference. But the issue for the remainder of the season now becomes how healthy will the Warriors be come playoff time?
Curry and Durant have injury histories. Curry particularly has been bothered by this ankle since he entered the league. Without either of them, the Warriors — while still incredibly talented — will be on a completely even playing field with the Houston Rockets, and possibly other teams in the gauntlet that will be the Western Conference playoffs.
The bigger issue on top of the pending injury concerns becomes whether the Warriors should just pack it in for the rest of the regular season, and regroup for another expected title run.
Steve Kerr doesn’t seem to be thinking that way, however.
“All these injuries seem to be temporary,” Kerr told reporters. “A couple weeks, a week, two weeks – whatever. We’re in good shape. We’ve just got to survive this next slate of games and hopefully, start getting guys back and get rolling again for the playoffs.”
That’s true. None of the aforementioned injuries seem to be anything more serious than a few weeks of rest and relaxation. But that’s assuming the best case scenario for these players.
Should we assume that the Warriors are without their scoring trio for the next couple of weeks as their health updates have indicated, that would put their return roughly around April 1. At that time, Golden State would have six games remaining on their schedule. Four coming against playoff teams (Oklahoma City, Indiana, New Orleans, and Utah) with the other two games against Phoenix.
After missing the last few weeks on the court, with injuries that most likely won’t be at 100 percent, tossing their most valuable contributors back into the fray against a slate of playoff teams probably isn’t the smartest idea.
At this point, the Warriors postseason position is locked up. They likely won’t take the top seed away from Houston, and their lead is big enough to keep their second seed intact regardless of who’s on the court. The only thing left now is the determining who Golden State will play in the first round. With the revolving carousel that is the playoff standings out West, that’s anybody’s guess right now.
The only thing that’s certain is whichever team coming into Oracle Arena for that first round will be battle tested and talented based off of the dogfight they had to survive just to make the playoffs. The last thing the Warriors need to be is a banged up in a postseason with their first opponent smelling blood in the water.
In all likelihood, the Warriors — should everything go according to plan — will play the Houston Rockets for a chance to return to their fourth straight NBA Finals. Only this time, a potential Game 7 won’t be at Oracle Arena. It will be in downtown Houston, at the Toyota Center.
An advantage as big as the Warriors’ homecourt can never be understated. Operating in a do-or-die situation away from home will be newfound territory for this bunch. Regardless of talent or team success, at that point, it’s anybody’s game.
It won’t be easy for the Golden State Warriors as they try to extend their dynasty’s reign. This might be their most difficult year yet.
Durant, in his own words, can’t even laugh right now without feeling pain. The league’s only unanimous MVP is operating on one and a half ankles, and the team’s second Splash Brother has an injury on his shooting hand.
Resting up the team’s stars should be the team’s top priority right now, at risk of entering the postseason hobbled. Track record means nothing if the Warriors don’t have their full arsenal at disposal when the games matter most.
Hey, a 16-seed finally won a first-round game in the NCAA Tournament. Anything is possible on a basketball court, and the Warriors should do everything possible to ensure they’re not the next major upset candidate in line.
Fixing The Detroit Pistons
David Yapkowitz looks at how the fading Pistons can turn things around moving forward.
We wrap this week up with another installment of our “Fixing” series here at Basketball Insiders. The next team up is the Detroit Pistons.
The Pistons came into this season with playoff aspirations after a disappointing 2016-17 campaign that saw them regress instead of building on their playoff appearance the season before. To begin the season, they looked like they were on their way to accomplishing that objective. Then Reggie Jackson got hurt and the season began spiraling out of control.
They tried to inject some life into the team by trading for Blake Griffin, but it hasn’t worked out as expected. The Pistons have gone 8-12 since acquiring Griffin and the postseason looks like a pipe dream at this point.
What Is Working
Not a whole lot. Despite trading for a superstar player, the Pistons have tumbled down to the point where playoffs are looking extremely unlikely.
If there’s one thing that’s a welcome sight, it’s the bounce back of Andre Drummond. After being named to his first All-Star team in 2015-16, Drummond had a bit of a let down the following season. This season, he was once again an All-Star while putting up career-highs in rebounds (15.7) and assists (3.2). Drummond is still only 24 years old and has his best basketball years ahead of him.
The Pistons have also received encouraging signs from rookie Luke Kennard. A lottery pick in last summer’s draft, Kennard he’s been one of the few bright spots at times for the Pistons. About a week ago, his playing time had diminished some and he racked up a few DNP’s, but Stan Van Gundy has since reinserted him into the rotation.
They’ve also gotten solid production out of Reggie Bullock. When Bullock came over to the Pistons in a trade with the Phoenix Suns almost three years ago, he was little more than a seldom-used wing with the potential to become a solid 3&D guy. This has been his year, however. He’s the best shooter on the team at 43.5 percent from the three-point line. His numbers, 10.8 points per game and 49.1 percent shooting from the field, are career-highs.
What Needs To Change
Quite a bit. Acquiring Griffin was a move the Pistons needed to make. On the verge of losing control of the season, they needed to make a move to try and turn things around. It’s been a disaster thus far, however. They are 2-8 in their last 10 games and although they’re in ninth place, they’re falling farther and farther away from eighth.
Who the Pistons are really missing is Reggie Jackson. Ish Smith, who has proven himself beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is an NBA player, just isn’t Jackson. They desperately need Jackson’s playmaking abilities to help take the pressure off everyone else. Even if he returns this season, it’s already too late. The Pistons need to focus on getting him healthy and ready for next season.
The Pistons also need to improve their offense. They’re in the bottom half of the league in both points per game (25th) and offensive rating (24th). A big part of that is Jackson’s absence, but they could also benefit from additional outside shooting. Right now they have one long-range threat on the roster and that’s Bullock.
Focus Area: The Draft
To make matters worse, the Pistons will likely give up their draft pick to the Los Angeles Clippers as part of the Griffin trade. The only way the Clippers wouldn’t acquire the Pistons’ pick this year is if it falls in the top four, and that’s not going to happen.
The Pistons will have a second-round pick though. The draft is never 100 percent guaranteed, and the second round is even more of a crapshoot, but talented players can definitely be found. That’s what the Pistons’ main objective in the draft should be. It sounds silly, but they truly need to buckle down and do their homework in hopes of finding that one overlooked guy in the second round. That’s pretty much all they have to look forward to come draft night.
Focus Area: Free Agency
The Pistons are going to have a couple of minor decisions to make this summer regarding their free agents. Jameer Nelson, James Ennis, and Anthony Tolliver are all unrestricted free agents. Out of the three, Ennis has given the team the best on-court production, but it isn’t necessary that any of them are brought back.
Bullock and Dwight Buycks have non-guaranteed contracts, and those are the two guys that the Pistons should work towards bringing back in the fold. Both should have their contracts guaranteed for the following season. Bullock is their only three-point threat. Buycks began the season as a two-way contract player splitting time between the Pistons and the Grand Rapids Drive of the G-League. He’s since been converted to a standard NBA contract and has done enough to earn his spot on the team next year.
In terms of adding new players to the roster, as mentioned before, the Pistons need outside shooting. Marco Belinelli and Wayne Ellington are possible options that the Pistons might be able to afford. Joe Harris is another option, but it will be interesting to see what the market is for him after the strong season he’s been having in Brooklyn.
It’s tough to gauge the Pistons’ true potential without Jackson. If he returns before the season ends, it will be too small a sample size to accurately assess the team. There are only 14 games left. Although things look pretty bleak right now, it can’t be argued that injuries haven’t played a big role in the Pistons disappointing season.
The team deserves a shot at seeing how a healthy Jackson, Griffin, and Drummond trio looks on the court together. If they start off next season the same way despite all three being healthy and in the lineup, then it would be time for serious changes.
Fixing The Chicago Bulls
Spencer Davies says the Bulls have a long way to go, but they’re taking steps forward. In year one without the former face of the franchise, that’s about all they can ask for.
Next up on Basketball Insiders’ “fixing” series is a stop in the Windy City.
In spite of the criticisms over last summer’s Jimmy Butler trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves, it feels like the Chicago Bulls at least have a sense of direction. Many members of the media—including this one—expected them to finish dead last in the NBA, yet they have 23 wins, with seven other teams worse off.
Obviously, the goal for the organization this season was to establish an identity and see what they had with their new cornerstone pieces. To a good extent, there’s optimism regarding those players because of the potential they’ve shown.
There’s still a good chunk of the year left, but the Bulls are 12th in the Eastern Conference standings with 15 games to go.
What Is Working
If it weren’t for the spectacular seasons by Donovan Mitchell and Ben Simmons, Chicago stretch big man Lauri Markkanen might be the Rookie of the Year. Even with some second-half struggles, the entire body of work is impressive.
The 7-foot Finnish forward continues to stay aggressive with a high usage and great mentality in snatching up those boards. It’s normal for a first-year player to go through those ups and downs. Add in a back injury that’s been bothering him as of late and the slump make a little more sense. Markkanen has shown the skill and consistent effort that it takes to be a mainstay in this league.
Bobby Portis is another member of the frontcourt who’s made a noticeable impact off the Bulls’ bench. In his third year, you can see the confidence continue to grow as a versatile offensive threat with a ton of touches. He’s taken a responsibility upon himself to lead the second unit and the proof is in the pudding. According to Cleaning The Glass, the team is a net plus-11.5 per 100 possessions with him on the court.
Second-year swingman Denzel Valentine has filled the stat sheet in multiple games as one of the most unselfish players on the roster. David Nwaba’s role from the beginning was to be a defensive menace and he’s come through for the majority of the year. Even two-way contract rookie Antonio Blakeney has shown flashes as a volume scorer in stretches.
Recently, Chicago has given a couple of cast-offs opportunities to display their skills. In 10 games, Cameron Payne looks as comfortable as he has in quite some time coming off a major foot injury. Noah Vonleh has been an effective late addition playing next to Portis and filling in for Markkanen. Let’s not forget that these two were lottery picks and are still in their early 20s.
What Needs To Change
Looking at what Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine have done, it’s been a mixed bag. With that being said, there’s clearly untapped potential between the both of them.
Dunn proved in very little time that the narrative of him being a lost cause was far from the truth. Hoiberg’s trust in him to be Chicago’s floor general has gone a long way. He’s been in attack mode with the ball in his hands, has seen his outside game get better and has been bothersome with his length defensively. It hasn’t resulted in wins, but remember—it’s this group’s first season together.
As for LaVine, it’s difficult to judge where a player is using a 23-game sample size. Yes, it’s a good amount of playing time, but let’s not forget he’s coming off a devastating left ACL tear. His defense has been subpar, but the bounce seems to still be there. The jumper is on and off, but he hasn’t been bashful at all. Starting the year off fresh in 2018-19 will benefit him.
Speaking of next season, the goal for the front office of Gar Forman and John Paxson should be simple—get younger. Currently, Robin Lopez is the highest paid player on the Bulls and he’ll have one year left on his deal going into the summer. The same applies to Justin Holiday. These are two veterans who could contribute on teams ready to win now, and it would be logical to part ways considering the direction the franchise is going.
Focus Area: The Draft
Due to the Nikola Mirotic trade on February 1st, Chicago acquired a first-round draft pick from the New Orleans Pelicans. That gives them two chances to add to their young talent pool in the upcoming 2018 NBA Draft.
Typically you’d go with the best player available when you’re slotted in the top ten, but the Bulls should feel good about their backcourt and the power forward position. What they really are lacking are reliable shooters and perimeter defenders, as well as a player with a bulldog mentality.
Chicago doesn’t get to the free throw nearly enough and they don’t convert looks that they should. Considering a true wing is amiss, it’d be the ideal scenario for Michael Porter Jr. to fall right into their lap. The Missouri freshman just returned after missing basically the entire season with a back injury. He was a top name coming into the class because of his size and could be a steal with the eighth selection.
If Porter Jr. doesn’t make it to them, Miles Bridges would make for a heck of a consolation prize. Unlike Porter, he has a more muscular frame at 6-foot-7, 230 pounds that allows him to bully the opposition. There’s a relentless nature and fearlessness about him that will translate to the next level.
Using that Pelicans pick, the Bulls would be happy to see Duke sharpshooter Gary Trent Jr. fall to them in the early-to-mid 20s, but that seems more unlikely with Anthony Davis continuing to carry New Orleans to new heights. If they end up selecting towards to the back end of the first round, Arizona junior guard Allonzo Trier could end up being a good fit as well.
Focus Area: Free Agency
Entering the summer, Chicago doesn’t have too many decisions to make on the contract front.
The trade exception from the Butler deal expires on June 22nd. If it’s not used by then, the amount will be renounced if the team goes under the salary cap. The deadline to present Noah Vonleh and David Nwaba a qualifying offer is June 29th.
Everybody’s going to keep an eye on LaVine because of restricted free agency, but the Bulls have indicated they prefer him to be a part of their core. They’ll in all likelihood look to bring him back on a long-term contract. If he doesn’t approve of the terms, he can always choose to play on his qualifying offer and bet on himself.
Chicago has to decide whether or not to guarantee Paul Zipser’s $1.5 million salary for next season by July 18th. The extension deadline for Payne, Portis, and Grant is the day before the first day of the 2018 campaign and team option deadlines for Dunn and Markannen come on Halloween.
There probably won’t be too much activity on the Bulls’ part regarding free agency. The focus will lay on improving their young core and getting guys who are just getting on the upswing in the pros. There are talents out there who fit the bill. It just all depends on what comes from the draft.
All in all, Chicago has a long way to go to get back into the postseason conversation, but they’re taking steps forward. In year one without the former face of the franchise, that’s about all you can ask for.