The beginning of the season edges closer and closer as we’ve recently turned our calendars to September. Team USA continues to struggle with almost zero semblance of continuity in the FIBA World Cup. But most people aren’t worried about USA basketball because, in all reality, almost every single player that would normally be on the team dropped out. However, this is all beside the point because you came here to read about the Lakers.
Ah, Los Angeles. The City of Angels. The land of two teams where one is about a million times more popular than the other. Seriously, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard are teaming up and still, the Lakers get considerably more air-time. The Clippers have been SO much better than the Lakers since Kobe Bryant’s decline, but if you were strictly looking at media analytics you’d assume the Lakers have trumped the Clippers year after year.
This isn’t to say that the Lakers haven’t done enough this offseason to merit more clicks and views – trading for Anthony Davis was absolutely a big-time transaction – but are the Lakers really going to be that much better than last season?
Just about every sportsbook in the world has the Clippers at the highest odds to win the title, but the Lakers are usually in the top five, if not the top three. Their roster outside of LeBron James and Davis is not too palatable, so that shows just how talented those guys are. But will their talent alone be enough to get the Lakers their first title since 2010? Let’s break down their roster this year compared to last year and see just how much better they can potentially be.
Big Additions: Anthony Davis, Danny Green, Dwight Howard, Avery Bradley
DeMarcus Cousins would merit a spot on this list, but his torn ACL will likely keep him out the entire season. His off-court dealings are a different story in and of itself, but it technically doesn’t make a difference anyway because he won’t be suiting up anytime soon.
Anthony Davis is clearly the big win for the Lakers this offseason. His acquisition came at a cost, however, because they had to dole out a huge portion of their team from last season in order to pry him away from New Orleans. What’s worse is he only has one year left on his contract. Should things not work out well in LA with Mr. Space Jam 2 himself, he could be seeking for brighter pastures elsewhere.
But let’s not downplay the Lakers for making an obvious home run trade. Getting Davis, even if it’s only for one year, gives Los Angeles a legitimate chance at winning a championship. Had they run it back with the same team from the season prior, they might have squeezed out a playoff spot.
Davis gives the Lakers instant help on both ends of the ball. He’s a top-five big man defensively, a top-three big on offense and arguably one of the best five players in the league.
AD is surely more suited to play a five, but he prefers the four, oddly enough, so the Lakers signed Dwight Howard after Cousins’ recent injury.
Dwight is a decent pickup for LA with not much left on the market, but he’s not the kind of player this late in his career that will move the needle. His pickup is more of a lateral move than a vertical one, and to be frank it wouldn’t even be necessary if Davis would just agree to play the five full-time. We all know it is going to happen come playoff time.
Danny Green is a really solid pickup for a team that sorely lacked outside shooting last season. His acquisition is really the only offseason move that will help the Lakers with their perimeter shooting, so it looks like they are content with another season of getting to the rim and only taking threes when nothing else is open. They likely would have tried to sign other snipers, but waited too long in the Kawhi sweepstakes and struck out.
Green is also a really solid defender, even at this point in his career, so his acquisition – coupled with the Davis pickup and Avery Bradley signing – will make the Lakers a better team defensively. LeBron is a great defender when he needs to be, but with his ever-increasing age, it is always a smart idea to surround him with talent on that end.
Big Losses: Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart
Is Anthony Davis better than the above three players combines? Probably yes. Does he give LeBron a better chance at winning a championship? Definitely yes. That’s why losing the above three via trade was a necessary evil.
LeBron is getting older, and he only has so many good years left, so getting Davis even just a year early is worth losing a bulk of the young core.
They were able to hang on to Kuzma, so that in essence was a big win, but the versatility of Ball, the scoring ability of Ingram and the toughness and hustle of Hart will be missed to some degree.
Ingram was one of the few players last season that could create his own shot outside of LeBron. He did steadily improve throughout the season as well.
Hart was a late selection in his respective draft and provided pretty high value for how late he went. The lack of his scoring presence off the bench will be felt for sure.
Lonzo is one of the more versatile players in today’s NBA. His shooting still hasn’t come to fruition, but his defense, passing and fast-break tendencies are all elite. He is crazy athletic and likely has the most upside of anyone involved in the trade. He still has plenty of room to improve, and he never grew into full-form with Los Angeles, but he’s the kind of player that the Lakers could end up feeling major regret for letting go.
The Lakers upgraded their starting five, downgraded their depth and didn’t really do anything to significantly improve their outside shooting. Their success this upcoming season will be largely based on how much better their starting unit became.
With no clear upgrade to their outside shooting, we’ll be able to see if that is still a glaring issue or if the Davis and Green acquisitions were enough to do away with that notion. Either way, the champion at the end of the season is not based on who shoots threes the best, so the Lakers can definitely find a way to win without it.
Overall, Los Angeles did what they could this offseason. The Davis trade was imminent, but it still needed to be done in order for them to increase their championship odds. Losing most of the young core was going to happen as well, so the Lakers did what they could to fill in those empty roster spots.
Waiting on Kawhi could end up being a big deal, as they were only fortunate enough to pick up Danny Green – one of the few players that was waiting on a Leonard decision, too.
Will the moves the Lakers made this offseason be enough to hoist the Larry O’Brien? Only time will tell.
But one thing is certain. LeBron – although still incredibly talented – is human. His time is running out. If Los Angeles can’t find a way to piece things together this season, the window will only get smaller moving forward.
Grizzlies trade Jonas Valanciunas to Pelicans for Eric Bledsoe, Steven Adams
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Andrew Lopez, the New Orleans Pelicans are shipping guard Eric Bledsoe, center Steven Adams, the Nos. 10 and 40 picks of the 2021 NBA Draft, and two future first-round picks to the Memphis Grizzlies for center Jonas Valanciunas and the Nos. 17 and 51 picks of this week’s upcoming draft. So, the Pelicans are giving up the Lakers’ 2022 first-round pick. Valanciunas, the 29-year-old veteran center, averaged 17.1 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game in 62 games played throughout the 2020-21 season. He also shot 59 percent from the field. The seven-foot Lithuanian also ranks fourth overall in true shooting percentage (.616) among active players. On July 11, 2019, Valanciunas signed a three-year, $45 million contract with the Grizzlies. He is set to earn $4 million next season.
Additionally, in 71 games played last season, Bledsoe averaged 12.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. The six-foot-one guard also shot 42.1 percent from the field in the 2020-21 season. On November 23, 2020, as part of a four-team trade, Bledsoe and Adams were traded to the Pelicans from the Oklahoma City Thunder, along with two future first-round picks and the right to swap two additional first-round picks. Last season, in 71 games played, Bledsoe averaged 12.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. His field goal percentage was 42.1 percent as well. The 11-year veteran is set to earn $18,125,000 in the 2021-22 season. Before he was traded to New Orleans, on March 4, 2019, the guard signed a four-year, $70 million extension. He earned his first All-Defensive second-team selection in the 2019-20 season.
The Grizzlies and Pelicans have agreed on a trade to send Jonas Valanciunas, 2021 Nos. 17 and 51 picks to New Orleans for Steven Adams, Eric Bledsoe, 2021 picks Nos. 10 and 40 and a protected 2022 first-round pick via the Lakers, per @wojespn pic.twitter.com/q7ZoqzpJjt
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 26, 2021
Moreover, in 58 games played last season, Adams averaged 7.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. The six-foot-eleven center ranks fifth among active players for effective field goal shooting percentage (.591). The eight-year veteran also ranks third in offensive rebounding percentage, with an active statistic of 14 percent. On November 23, 2020, the same day Adams was traded to the Pelicans, he signed a two-year, $35 million extension. For next season, he is projected to earn $17,073,171. To add to this trade news, the Grizzlies and Pelicans are swapping second-round picks in this year’s draft, too. Referencing NBA.com’s “Consensus Mock Draft” article, with the No. 10 pick of the draft, the Pelicans were originally expected to draft either Josh Giddey or Davion Mitchell at this number. However, plans have now changed.
From ESPN’s Bobby Marks, the trade will not be finalized until August 6th, and this is because of the annual salaries of these said players. Free agency will begin on August 2, 6:00 p.m. (EST). Furthermore, per Spotrac’s 2021-22 NBA salary cap table, next season’s luxury tax threshold is $136,606,000. The team’s current available luxury tax space is $22,555,195. The Pelicans and Grizzlies have a salary cap maximum of $112,414,000. Brandon Ingram, Bledsoe, and Adams had a combined cap percentage of 39.2 percent. Considering that Bledsoe and Adams are traded away, this will clear up $35,198,171 of dead cap space.
Yesterday, CBS Sports reported the news pertaining to Lonzo Ball’s desire to remain in New Orleans. With extra cap space, the team is expected to re-sign the 23-year-old guard. Likewise, for the Grizzlies, the teams has a luxury tax space of $37,019,952. Their current cap space is $8,321,229. As stated before, the transactions have not yet been finalized. The Grizzlies’ outgoing cap is now $14 million, but from the contracts of Adams and Bledsoe, they are bringing in $35,198,171.
NBA Trade Rumors: Jazz considering trade offers for Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Ingles, Royce O’Neale, and No. 30 pick of the 2021 NBA Draft
Per one interesting announcement from Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, the Utah Jazz are open to trading forward Bojan Bogdanovic, forward-guard Joe Ingles, small forward Royce O’Neale, and the No. 30 pick of the 2021 NBA Draft. Fischer stated, “The Utah Jazz are known to be one of the few teams actually searching to move playoff-tested talent. Retaining Mike Conley is an offseason priority, sources said, and the Jazz have held numerous discussions with teams around the league about offloading salary to create for Conley in free agency.” Point guard Mike Conley is set to become a free agent this offseason. Though, general manager Justin Zanik will aim to re-sign the 33-year-old guard in the coming weeks. Conley earned $34.5 million in the 2020-21 season.
“League personnel most often mention Joe Ingles as the Jazz wing to watch, and Bojan Bogdanovic and Royce O’Neale are also considered available for trade as Utah narrows its focus towards building a contender around Donovan Mitchel. The Jazz are also open to discuss trading their No. 30 pick, sources said.” In the 2020-21 season, in 72 games played, Bogdanovic averaged 17 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. On May 1, 2021, in the team’s 106-102 victory over the Toronto Raptors, the six-foot-seven Croatian scored a season-high 34 points, shooting 12-for-22, and he finished his performance with four rebounds and four assists as well. On July 7, 2019, he signed a four-year, $73 million contract with the Jazz.
In 67 games played last season, Ingles averaged 12.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game. The six-foot-eight forward is set to earn $14 million in the 2021-22 season. Plus, among the mentioned players, Royce O’Neale has contributed the least. In 71 games played last season, he averaged seven points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.5 assists. On January 19, 2020, the forward signed a four-year, $36 million extension with the team. He will earn $8.6 million next season. According to The Athletic, in the team’s seventh workout for draft prospects, they viewed Quentin Grimes, David Duke, Matt Mitchell, and a few other players. In the first round, if the team chooses not to draft any of the players they are holding workouts for, the organization will trade the No. 30 pick.
Just for a reminder, retrieved from Spotrac, the 2021-22 NBA luxury tax threshold is $136,606,000. Utah’s active roster cap is $133,284,695, the maximum cap is $112,414,000, and the current cap space is $72,990,215. Furthermore, center Rudy Gobert currently has the highest guaranteed contract on the team. On December 20, 2020, Gobert signed a five-year, $205 million extension with the organization. Gobert is set to earn $35.3 million in the coming season, whereas Donovan Mitchell will earn $28.1 million. Gobert and Mitchell combined consume 47.6 percent of the team’s salary cap. For the upcoming 2021-22 season, the Jazz have a guaranteed total of $129,719,453. Based on the team’s future outlook, the Jazz will have to make a trade or two in order to retain their star players. This should go without saying.
NBA Analysis Network reported a few days ago that a potential Jazz-Knicks trade target is Bojan Bogdanovic. Greg Patuto proposed the Knicks receiving Bogdanovic, while the Jazz would receive Kevin Knox II, and the Nos. 19 and No. 32 picks of the 2021 NBA Draft. Now, this could still happen at some point during this draft week, but then again, sports bettors and fans alike understand that these news reports could be just rumors. The most intelligent, unforthcoming general managers know not to leave bread crumb trails for the media, especially leading into the offseason. They will do everything necessary to protect their foolproof plans.
Raptors, Pacers, Timberwolves, Kings, and Cavaliers among teams showing interest in Ben Simmons
According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, five teams have shown interest in pursuing Ben Simmons from the Philadelphia 76ers. Fischer reported, “Cleveland, Indiana, Minnesota, Sacramento, and Toronto all showed interest in acquiring the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year.” Furthermore, the teams are wanting Simmons to change position from point guard to forward. “Multiple executives from those teams, when contacted by Bleacher Report, mentioned their excitement at incorporating Simmons as a play-making forward—not at the point guard position he’s played in Philadelphia.” The six-foot-eleven guard averaged 14.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 6.9 assists in the 2020-21 NBA season. This might sound fine for a young rookie, but as a five-year player, these aforementioned statistics were career lows.
However, the 25-year-old also earned his third NBA All-Star selection and second All-Defensive first-team selection last season. After a less than mediocre performance in his third postseason of his NBA career, the majority of 76ers’ fans would agree that it’s now time for Simmons to have a change in scenery. With a regular season record of 49-23 (.681), the No. 1 ranked 76ers in the Eastern Conference entered the conference semifinals as favorites over the Atlanta Hawks. Leading into this series, some NBA analysts were predicting Philadelphia to prevail four games to two. The 2016 first overall pick was expected to limit Trae Young in scoring and rally his team from point deficits, but none of this ever manifested.
Raptors, Wolves, Cavs, Pacers and Kings have all showed interest in acquiring Ben Simmons, per B/R's @JakeLFischer
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 25, 2021
Pertaining to postseason averages, Simmons had a playoff series-low of 9.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in the conference semifinals against the Hawks. This lackluster showing proved to be a more significant downfall for the superstar, considering Simmons had only five points, eight rebounds, and 13 assists in Game 7 versus the Hawks. In the 2019-20 season, he averaged 2.1 steals per game, leading all other players in the league. Moreover, Simmons currently ranks sixth in the NBA for active player triple-doubles (32). With a total of 32 career triple-doubles, he ranks 13th on the all-time list, tied with Clippers’ guard Rajon Rondo.
On July 16, 2019, Simmons signed a five-year, $169.65 million contract extension with the 76ers. He is set to earn $30.5 million in the 2021-22 season. Among these teams interested in Simmons, Cavs’ Kevin Love has the fourth largest contract guarantee of $91.4 million. Love is due to earn $31.3 million next season, and the 13-year veteran’s contract consumes 26 percent of the team’s salary cap. He could be traded this offseason. Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns has a contract guarantee of $130.8 million. The 25-year-old Wolves center will earn $31.6 million in the upcoming season.
Plus, Kings’ 2017 first-round pick De’Aaron Fox has a guaranteed contract of $171.1 million. Fox will earn $28.1 million next season. To add to that, Raptors’ Pascal Siakim has a contract guarantee of $131.4 million. Not to mention, reported by Yahoo Sports via trade rumors yesterday, the Golden State Warriors are a potential trade partner for Toronto. The Warriors could make a move on Siakim, clearing up space on the Raptors for Simmons. Per Spotrac, the 2021-22 season cap maximum is $112,414,000. In the coming weeks, one of these said five teams might make a substantial trade offer to the 76ers’ organization that they cannot refuse.
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