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NBA AM: Philadelphia’s Winning Move?

Philadelphia may have missed out on the opportunity to bring Kyle Lowry home but all is not lost. Chad Smith details why the acquisition of George Hill just might be a better move for the 76ers now and moving forward.

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Minutes before the NBA trade deadline came to a close, it appeared as though Kyle Lowry would be heading home to Philadelphia. The final buzzer sounded without a deal. Now that the dust has settled, the 76ers may have actually gotten the veteran point guard they needed after all.

While more high-profile names like Nikola Vucevic, Victor Oladipo, Aaron Gordon and Rajon Rondo captured the attention of the basketball world, it was George Hill that slid under the radar on Thursday. Hill was traded to the 76ers as part of a three-way deal that involved the Oklahoma City Thunder and New York Knicks. Several other names and draft picks were exchanged in this deal, but the headliner was the two-way guard heading back to the Eastern Conference.

Hill has been out for two months after undergoing hand surgery in late January, but the 34-year old is another reliable difference-maker for Doc Rivers to utilize in his closing lineups. Having spent the majority of his professional career playing off the ball, the Indiana native is the ideal backcourt fit next to Ben Simmons.

Philadelphia currently holds the top spot in the East, even with their superstar Joel Embiid still sidelined. President of basketball operations Daryl Morey said he feels really good about their roster after the trade was announced.

“I think we upgraded ourselves a lot today,” Morey said. “And we’re going to be one of the top few teams to win the title.”

Morey has a solid track record since arriving in Philadelphia. He essentially swapped Al Horford for Danny Green, Josh Richardson for Seth Curry, and Zhaire Smith for Tony Bradley. Bradley, who had been playing very well, was part of the deal to acquire Hill. Toronto’s asking price for Lowry was reportedly very high, as they wanted Mattisee Thybulle, Tyrese Maxey and two first-round draft picks from Philly.

Both Lowry and Hill are terrific defenders at their positions, essentially the same age and add valuable playoff experience. While Lowry does have a championship to his credit, Hill has appeared in more playoff games and been far more consistent. They share many similarities but there is a stark difference in one particular area.

Lowry is making $30 million this season and will be a free agent this summer. Not only would Philadelphia have to negotiate a new contract if they wanted him back for next season, but they would also have had the difficult task of matching the salary to make a trade for the longtime Toronto Raptor.

Going forward, Philadelphia has some flexibility with this trade. Hill has a lightly guaranteed contract (only $1 million of his $10 million price tag) for next season. The organization could guarantee that and keep him, use the veteran in a trade or just waive him to reduce their payroll. This is where the acquisition of Hill instead of Lowry truly comes to light.

According to a report last week from the Daily Thunder, Hill is close to returning to the floor. With his cast now off, it is only a matter of time before he makes his 76ers debut. Not surprisingly, that will start with some spot minutes off the bench as he ramps up his conditioning and familiarity with the rest of the team.

Last season in Milwaukee, Hill led the league in three-point percentage as he shot 46 percent from deep. He is shooting 39 percent this season in just 14 games for the Thunder, a team that had absolutely no spacing at all. Sharing the floor with Embiid, Simmons, Tobias Harris and either Curry or Green, Hill will no doubt increase that percentage even more.

But Hill is more than just a spot-up shooter from distance. Only five players have a better percentage on drives to the basket this season as he is finishing 61.5 percent of those.

While his offense is valuable, Hill’s greatest impact will come on the defensive end of the floor. The 6-foot-4 combo guard has the ability to switch, stay in front of his man and use his length and athleticism to his advantage. Hill ranks eighth among point guards in terms of Defensive RPM this season. His steady presence in tight situations will provide dividends for Rivers and the team as they navigate through the postseason.

Another benefit of this deal for Philly is the continued development of their young guards like Maxey and Shake Milton. They now have an established veteran that they can learn from as they progress through the rest of the season, through the playoffs and even into next season.

Hill also provides Philadelphia to experiment with pick-and-pop sets with Embiid and pick-and-roll opportunities with Simmons that will be tough to stop down the stretch of games. Hill is a better ball handler than Curry and is not as one-dimensional. Ultimately, it is just one more tool that Rivers has at his disposal to go along with their top three players.

Philadelphia’s Big Three will be making a combined $99,2 million next season. It’s difficult to fathom the organization being able to commit another high-level contract to Lowry in free agency when they a trove on the books already for their top three players. Hill’s contract situation and ability to provide much of the same value on the floor should allow Philly some flexibility for next season.

You don’t always get what you want. Philadelphia was longing for Lowry but sometimes things have a funny way of working out. The championship window for the 76ers is clearly still open. Clearly, it actually could be open for longer with this move.

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Jazz agree to trade Derrick Favors, first-round pick to Thunder

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First reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Utah Jazz are trading power forward/center Derrick Favors and a first-round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder for a future second-round pick. The goal here was to help reduce their tax bill. While the six-foot-eight Georgia native does not have any notable NBA awards or honors on his basketball résumé, in the 2020-21 NBA season, Favors averaged 5.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, and a field goal percentage of 63.8 percent. The 11-year NBA veteran also recorded a free throw shooting percentage of 73.8 percent last season.

The 2020-21 Thunder finished 27-50 (.306), ranking 14th overall in the Western Conference. They could use another first-round pick. Plus, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks, this trade will put Utah $13 million below the luxury tax. On November 24, 2020, Favors signed a three-year, $29.2 million contract with the Jazz. Favors is set to earn $9,720,900 next season. This is the second time in his career he has left the Jazz.

He played with them from the 2010-11 season to the 2018-19 season, before he was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans on July 7, 2019 for a 2021 second-round pick and a 2023 second-round pick. For the 2022-23 season, he has a player option of $10,183,800. The Jazz plan to also re-sign Mike Conley, so this was somewhat of a drastic move to help clear up cap space. On July 6, 2019, Conley was traded by the Memphis Grizzlies to the Jazz, in exchange for Grayson Allen, Darius Bazley, Kyle Korver, and a 2020 first-round pick.

Moreover, scoring-wise, the 33-year-old point guard has not lived up to his performances from his last few seasons on the Grizzlies, but the Jazz need all the help they can get. Jazz general manager Justin Zanik will make it a top priority to re-sign Conley here soon. Conley earned $34,504,132 in the 2020-21 season.

According to Spotrac, Conley has a cap figure of $39,344,900. Center Rudy Gobert and shooting guard Donovan Mitchell have a combined percentage of 47.61 percent of Utah’s total salary cap. On December 20, 2020, Gobert signed a five year, $205 million extension with the team. He will earn $35,344,828 next season.

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Wizards, Lakers agree to Russell Westbrook and Three-Player Trade Deal

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The Los Angeles Lakers have agreed with the Washington Wizards to acquire Russell Westbrook in a three-player trade, sending Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and the No. 22 pick in Thursday’s 2021 NBA Draft to the Wizards. According to ESPN, the Wizards are also giving up their 2024 and 2028 second-round picks as well. During last night’s draft, at pick No. 22, the Lakers sent Wildcats’ center Isaiah Jackson to the Pacers via the Wizards. At pick No. 15, the Wizards drafted Gonzaga forward Corey Kispert. In the second round, at pick No. 31, the Milwaukee Bucks traded NBA G League player Isaiah Todd to the Wizards via the Pacers.

On Thursday, Harrell decided to pursue his $9.7 million player option for next season. Yesterday, rumors surfaced across social media regarding a possible Lakers-Kings trade involving Harrell. Despite the outlandish predictions and mindless speculation from fans over these last couple of days, this trade move could work out great for both teams.

After all, Westbrook is a 9-time NBA All-Star and three-time assists leader. In his MVP season back in the 2016-17 season, over the course of 81 games, he averaged a career-high 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, 10.4 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. On Twitter, Westbrook tweeted, “I’m blessed to have been a part of such a stand up organization. It didn’t take long to make a home in DC, and I will forever be grateful and appreciative of my experience with the organization. Thank you!”

In the 2020-21 NBA season, Caldwell-Pope averaged 9.7 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game in 67 games started for the Lakers. The 28-year-old shooting guard will make $13 million next season. As for Kuzma, in 68 games played last season, he averaged 12.9 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. Kuzma is set to earn $13 million next season. For Harrell, in 69 games played last season, he averaged 13.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game. The six-foot-seven power forward/center is also a six-year player. Instead of having one or two notable super stars, the Wizards having several contributing players might work out better in their favor.

Last season, in 65 games played in his only season spent on the Wizards, Westbrook averaged 22.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 11.7 assists. The 32-year-old point guard finished the 2020-21 season with 38 triple-doubles, ranking first in the league and second highest in his own playing career. Westbrook also surpassed Oscar Robertson last season for the most all-time assists; Robertson accumulated 181 triple-doubles in 14 seasons. Now, the two-time NBA scoring champion has 184 career triple-doubles, the most all-time for any player. Furthermore, this is Westbrook’s fourth team in his NBA career.

He is the fifth former MVP in league history to play on four different teams over the course of four seasons or less, adding to the existent list of Bob McAdoo, Allen Iverson, Shaquille O’Neal, and Derrick Rose. Moreover, on December 2, 2020, Westbrook was traded by the Houston Rockets to the Wizards for John Wall and a 2023 first-round draft pick. He is set to earn $44.2 million in the upcoming season. His player option for the 2022-23 season is $47 million. This trade deal will not be official until August 6th.

Per Bovada’s NBA Futures odds, the Lakers now have +300 odds of winning their eighteenth championship in the 2021-22 season. This is a move from 4/1 odds before the trade, leaping the Milwaukee Bucks and Golden State Warriors, and they now have the second best odds behind the Brooklyn Nets (+250). Westbrook also has the best odds of leading the league in assists next season, with first place odds showing EVEN. He is ahead of James Harden (+150), Trae Young (+450), and Luka Doncic (+600). With +6600 odds, he also ranks 19th in the NBA for next season’s MVP odds, trailing Lakers’ teammates such as James (+1200) and Davis (+2800).

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Russell Westbrook joins L.A. Lakers in One of the biggest trades in NBA History

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(Image courtesy of AP)

In one of the biggest NBA Draft trades ever, Los Angeles Lakers acquired the services of Washington Wizards’ former MVP, Russell Westbrook, last night!

As a result of the trade, the Lakers can now boast a holy trinity of attacking talent in Westbrook, Anthony Davis, and, of course, Lebron James, unlike anything seen in recent memory. Assuming this new contingent clicks into gear, it might just be the most frighteningly talented trio to play together in NBA history, rivaling the Bulls triple horn of Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman, or that great Lakers team of the late 80s with Magic Johnson, James Worthy, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

In exchange for their star man, the Wizards received three players and what was the No 22 overall pick in last night’s NBA Draft. The former Lakers tasked with replacing Westbrook in Washington will be Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Montrezl Harrell.

Washington then spent the Lakers No.22 pick on Kentucky’s Isaiah Jackson, but immediately traded him on to the Indiana Pacers in a deal that saw the Wizards acquire pick No.31 and point guard Aaron Holiday. Wizards then used pick No.33 to draft Isaiah Todd to bolster their ranks at power forward.

 

(Image courtesy of AP)

The effervescent Westbrook had another great year in 2020-21, averaging 22.2 points, 11.7 assists, and 11.5 rebounds per game in his first season with the Wizards.

In joining the Lakers star cast, which already boasts the likes of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, Westbrook, a 9x NBA All-Star & 2016-17 MVP, will now be hoping to end his NBA championship drought.

Westbrook has since taken to social media to thank the WashingtonWizards franchise for a great year spent in the capital, tweeting:

“Thank you DC! You welcomed my family and I with open arms from day one,” he wrote. “Everyone from the front office, to the training staff, the coaches, my teammates, and the fans. I’m grateful y’all took a chance on me and supported me every step of the way.”

“I’m blessed to have been a part of such a stand up organization. It didn’t take long to make a home in DC, and I will forever be grateful and appreciative of my experience with the organization. Thank you!”

With a legendary point guard now fixed among the ranks, 2020 NBA Championship winners the Lakers have all the talent required to wrestle back the title from the freshly-crowned Milwaukee Bucks.

So, get yourselves ready for an influx of NBA betting lines on Antetokounmpo, Holiday, and Middleton vs. LeBron, Davis, and Westbrook for next year’s championship games!

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