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NBA PM: Finding Your Suit Game

Steve Kyler meets the man who made Skal Labissière’s draft suit to get one of his own and see how the process works.

Steve Kyler

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It’s not often in life when one of the top fashion and suit designers for athletes says, “Hey, I want to make you a suit.”

At first, the notion of a 40-something sports guy trying to pull off the fashion looks you see on draft night seemed a little laughable. But, hey, it’s a once in a lifetime thing, right?

During Summer League, and by random chance, I got introduced to Andrew Jang – the brains behind one of the more creative sports fashion and design teams in the business, Adriaen Black.

As we exchanged pleasantries about the businesses we are both in, he again declared that he wanted to make me a suit and asked, ‘When can we get together for measurements?’

Last weekend, I made my way over to Orlando to get measured. See, unlike your typical Men’s Warehouse, the Chicago-based Adriaen Black comes to you.

So how does one become a top suit and fashion guy for more than 60 sports stars?

AndrewJang_Suit1a“A referral,” Jang said when asked about his start in the business. “I was at a party. The next day, I got a phone call from some guy and he was like, ‘I was at a party, you met my wife…’ I was like, ‘Oh, OK?’ She had said I was the best dressed person she’d ever met and he asked if I could style him. I threw out some outrageous number. He took it. He literally said, ‘Can you come today?’ I showed up. He wrote a check. We cleaned out his whole closet and I really helped him with styling.  He referred me some clients, and it just kind of went from there. Next thing you know, athletes are calling, agents are calling.

“I think it’s because I focus more on styling than clothing design. It’s not just giving you a suit, it’s what is a suit doing for you right now? Next month? In the next year? How do I combine it with things I’d like to continue to produce for you? It’s just always being very thoughtful and thought out.”

Walking into this process, I had no real frame of reference for what to expect. Like most people, I am an off-the-rack clothes guy. I value comfort and usability over fashion. Was this going to be a painful process? Would I open a bottle of wine and have my feet rubbed? Honestly, I had no idea what to expect.

I can tell you now, the process was thorough. I think they took fewer measurements when building my house. We talked quite a bit about my personal interests. It was a strange process, but one that helped Jang understand who I was as a person, so he could help find a style that suits me.

It seemed strange, but that level of detail is what makes custom-built clothing special and unique.

For Adriaen Black, those meticulous details are the foundation of how they developed their process for fitting and working with athletes.

“So one, I have a really good team,” Jang explained.  “There is styling, fitting, design and construction; those are basically the things I believe goes into making the perfect outfit for somebody. Styling just comes so naturally for me. We kind of talked about how the individuality comes out: I see it. I see it in you and I want to bring it out. Then we I go to fitting and measuring. That takes a lot of time. It took a lot of times getting it wrong, and then working with some seasoned vets that we really worked with.

“When I measure and I am talking to the tailor, I use very big adjectives when I am describing what I want. ‘This guy is this, and here is what I want. I want this kind of in between Euro and Slim fit type of thing.’ We’ve built algorithms that allow us to make that construction almost seamless.

“You’ll feel it. Every person I have put a blazer on, it has literally fit perfect. And it that’s smile on their face that tells me that’s true.”

FullSizeRenderIn total, the measuring process took more than 45 minutes – partially because of the conversations in between measures, but also because of the number of measuring points used to get that perfect fit Jang is so proud of.

Fortunately for me, Jang scheduled enough time between clients that new Knicks guard Courtney Lee only had to wait a few minutes.

Working with athletes can be a very lucrative business, but for Adriaen Black the ability to work with so many daring and creative personalities defines the business a lot more than the price tags.

“In a lot of ways, I think I can relate just to them as people,” Jang explained. “You know athletes; there is a misconception about who they are. I never have really followed sports, but everything everyone had told me or everything you’d hear. You put this guy on some pedestal, or hear they’re an awful person, or that they have all this money. And what I liked as I met them is they are all great people. Super Ffunny, super fun and chill.

“I guess I get excited because they are in a place in their career doing something very special that they are dedicated to that I think all of us as young boys or girls looked up to at some point. I remember that every one of the people that I loved and looked up to were athletes. So even though I am not following sports, the fact that I get to work with them and help them in some way, it does make me really happy.”

This year, Adriaen Black designed the suits and fashion for Sacramento Kings big man Skal Labissière, one of the more commented on suits of the draft class. Surprisingly, it was also the first time one of Adriaen Black’s suits was prominently featured on national television.

“Usually everybody is like, ‘Hey, I am going to a wedding,'” Jang said of why his work hadn’t be on TV before. “Literally every other client was, ‘I’m just going to some event,’ and I would make it for them for that or build out a year-long wardrobe and they just wear it for everyday wear. The draft was the first one like that and it was kind of big.”

Normally, a small handful of designers do the custom suits players wear for the draft, so this was no small endeavor for Adriaen Black.

“It was kind of daunting,” Jang admitted.  “I really didn’t get into it for any of that.

Skal_Suit_1“One, I was so happy for Skal. Everyone couldn’t stop talking about how great he looked. There is a big badge of honor. I think any designer, our biggest goal is to have someone, at least one person, wear our clothes. That was a real cool thing to have it on him, and on such a big stage. I really liked it when people were calling and saying he was so well dressed.”

Having a hit suit during the NBA Draft did open a lot of new doors.

“A lot more than I was used to, which was really cool,” Jang said.

While Jang and Adriaen Black have worked with countless players across many sports, the chance to do a draft-day suit never materialized until now. So the chance to work with Labissière was something of chance timing.

“I finally made the decision to work with some other people and my team; I was going to stop being just so secluded and only working with a handful of people,” Jang explained. “We wanted to do something more special. So we had actually reached out to one agent and he ended up referring us to a couple more. That is when Travis King called and said, ‘I have this guy, he’s kind of unknown but he is really cool, would you mind meeting him?’ I met him and just fell in love with the kid. So we had kind of been talking about it, and I remember saying, ‘If we do this, one of my goals is to be at a draft.’ And then literally it happened like three or four weeks later. I think it was a bit of luck and just really great timing that we had planned it out and suddenly it all happened.”

CamPayne_ESPYSuit1In addition to Labissière, Adriaen Black is also working with Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Cameron Payne, who wore an Adriaen Black original to the ESPYs a few weeks ago.

“Skal is awesome. Cameron Payne is another one,” Jang said. “Mookie Betts, who is over at the Red Sox. If you look at three of those, they look great in clothes, although some of them didn’t know it, especially the type of clothes I make. But their personalities are so uniquely different.”

It’s the personality part that Adriaen Black really focuses on.

“Skal is amazing,” Jang said with a smile. “Such a vibrant soul. When you are around him, you feel such a good presence. When I was near him, I’m like, ‘I know what types of clothes I want to make for you. I want to make you so fashionable.’ To me, there is fashion and there is style. Then there is mixing fashion and style. That’s how I work with everybody; it’s one of those three combinations.

“With Skal, it is just going to be fashion all day long with me. You have got that height, got that charisma and it’s going to show. [With Skal], people are going to look at you even if you have a bright fuchsia blazer on and you are just going to kill it. And he did.”

So how did Labissière respond to his suit game being such a hit at the draft?

“Even guys like Cam who have never really worn suits, when I put it on him, there is this desire now where it’s like ‘Oooh.. I want to look this good all the time,’” Jang said. “With Skal, we actually have an endorsement agreement with him, so we’re going to be creating a custom line of clothing for guys like Skal. When you come to the new Adrien Black site, it’s going to show off six to nine professional athlete personas. So new clients can come there and be like, ‘I want to dress like Skal, I have that same personality.’ Then, we’ll design we’ll design a custom line around a persona like Skal.”

Outfitting a draft pick is one thing, but competing with the likes of Thunder guard Russell Westbrook is another thing entirely, which is why signing Cameron Payne was so interesting to Jang.

ANdrewJang_Suit2a“Russell is considered one of the most fashionable, because he wears so much crazy and outlandish [stuff] – but it works for him,” Jang explained. “With Cam, I told him I want to do a couple of things: I want to graduate him a little bit as far maturity of understanding what fashion and style is, but then I do want to put him in that best dressed category. So when they talk about Westbrook, it’s also Westbrook – Payne.

“I think anytime Russell Westbrook shows up; I am going to have Cam show up, but in slightly something a little different. They’ll look at Westbrook and say, ‘Wow, did you see what he is wearing?’ But then, ‘Did you see what Cam is wearing?’ Equally, competing, but in this completely graduated way; we’re going to have a ton of fun.”

Jang and his team have already started working on designs and ideas for Payne, and are hoping to put him on the map with his own style and fashion.

“It’s going to be this whole line of slacks that you didn’t know you could put rips through them,” Jang said. “We’re going to do these custom sport blazers; we’ve already designed out a bunch for him. But have them under a beautifully designed button-up shirt with a beautiful pattern. It’s things that are going to really challenge who we are as a group, but then be able to put him right next to Russell Westbrook.”

While my suit won’t be ready until mid-August – photos will be supplied at a later date – Adriaen Black is ramping up some creative ideas around more than a dozen players, and they are not exclusively working with athletes.

“Primary, I do work with athletes. I do really well with their body figures. I do really well with their personalities,” Jang said. “But we do have clients that reach us that are just Regular Joes, or as I call them ‘Regular Mes.’ We base most of what we try to do on a membership model, so they can sign up for a monthly membership and then we’ll ask them, ‘Who do you want to dress like?’ and literally they can say, ‘I want to look similar to this,’ and we’ll make the wardrobe for them.”

Jang and his team have been incredible to work with, and their passion for the process and the looks they have generated are exciting.

The idea of a suit like Labissière pulled off on draft night sounded too good to pass up, and being able to share the process seemed like a great offseason project. We’ll see if I can pull it off as well as he did.

Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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NBA

2020 NBA Draft and Free Agency Roundable

Drew Maresca, Matt John and Steve Kyler discuss winners and losers of the NBA Draft and free agency.

Drew Maresca

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ALERT. ALERT. ALERT. The NBA’s 2020-21 season is scheduled to begin in less than a month.

If it feels like we just crowned the 2020 NBA Champions, that’s because we did. The Los Angeles Lakers secured their 17th championship on October 11, just over a month ago. Still, the new season kicks off on in less than a month, on December 22; and the preseason could start almost two weeks earlier (December 11). And while there is much to look forward to pertaining to the new season, there is also much to assess.

November brought us trade season, the 2020 NBA Draft and a flurry of free agent moves – all of which kicked off within days of one another, beginning on November 16. Basketball Insiders begins its 2020-21 coverage with Drew Maresca, Matt John and Steve Kyler assessing the abbreviated 2020 offseason:

NBA Draft Winners:

The draft had its share of surprises, but nothing outdid Tyrese Haliburton slipping to 12th. Haliburton shot up draft boards since the NCAA season came to an abrupt stop in March. His size and versatility were highlighted over and over again, and he was billed as an ideal running mate to pair with a score-first point guard. It seemed all but certain that he’d be a top-6 pick, with the Pistons at 7 being his assumed floor.

Well, this one was a mind bender. Not only did he fall past the Atlanta Hawks — who he was linked with in the lead up to the draft surprisingly — he was passed up by Detroit (who took another point guard in Killian Hayes) AND New York (who selected the 2019-20 Naismith Player of the Year, Obi Toppin) — both of whom were in the market for a point guard of the future.

But while it’s surprising that he fell to Sacramento, it’s far from a bad thing for Haliburton. He’ll line up next to point guard phenom De’Aaron Fox, who just inked a 5 year max extension. The Sacramento backcourt will look to move the ball up the court (FAST), and Sacramento could have found its backcourt of the future.

And it looks like Sacramento will give Haliburton more responsibility than originally assumed as they opted to pass on matching an offer sheet for shooting guard Bogdon Bogdonovic (who will head to Atlanta). Further, guard Buddy Hield has a notoriously tumultuous relationship with head coach Luke Walton, making it look as though Haliburton can begin leaving his mark on the NBA immediately. Keep an eye on the rookie from Iowa State as a dark horse in the rookie of the year race.

  • Drew Maresca, Staff Writer

If we’re being completely honest, the fact that this draft wasn’t renowned for its upfront talent and more renowned for its deep pool of solid players makes it difficult to determine who really are the big-time winners of this go-round. So for this year, I think I’ll label the teams that usually get maligned for their draft decisions that definitely made the right choice.

Let’s start with the Charlotte Hornets. Michael Jordan has been routinely made a laughingstock for the moves he’s made for the Hornets, but instead of playing it safe, he went with the high upside pick. Out of all the prospects in this draft, LaMelo Ball arguably has the highest ceiling. There are definitely red flags to his game but the Hornets swung for the fences here because Ball may very well have the best chance at becoming a star. If he flops, he flops but that’s not relevant here. For the Hornets, drafting him at the very least signifies that they really do want to change their fortunes.

Then there’s the Cleveland Cavaliers. Cleveland has made some… interesting draft choices with their lottery picks over the past decade, most recently with their 2019 pick, Darius Garland. This time, however, they actually picked the guy who actually fit with what they needed. Cleveland’s been sporting a piss poor defense over the last few years, so they brought in one of the draft’s most talented defenders. Isaac Okoro’s probably not going to be a star, but he definitely aids a big weakness of Cleveland’s. There just might be a light at the end of the post-LeBron tunnel.

Finally, as Drew pointed out, the Sacramento Kings made the perfect selection with Tyrese Haliburton. The do-it-all guard should be an excellent backcourt partner with De’Aron Fox, and his selection eases the pain of the recently departed Bogdan Bogdanovic. No one exactly knows what to make of the Kings’ current roster makeup with all the personnel and roster shakeups, but Haliburton should be another step in the right direction for them.

  • Matt John, Staff Writer

They say the true test of a NBA Draft is not known for two maybe three years, and that likely will be true of the 2020 NBA Draft class. To that end, there were a couple of picks that jumped off the page, so let’s start with LaMelo Ball to Charlotte.

From a talent perspective, Charlotte may have gotten one of the best players in the draft. When you combine Melo’s natural ability with having Michael Jordan in his ear, the Hornets could end up with the top player in the class when it is said and done. The risk on Melo is two part – first, durability, which we have seen with his brother Lonzo’s NBA career. Melo has played a lot of high-level basketball and his body does not reflect high-level physical development, and that could catch up to him as it did with Lonzo.

There is also the side-show factor.  There are enough things going on in an NBA season, but to have the side show that comes with the Ball family in Charlotte is a risk. James Borrego has built a strong foundation for Charlotte’s youth — will the spotlight and the bully pulpit Melo’s father Lavar Ball receives be a distraction? Time will tell, but the pick was an excellent one.

With the 15th pick the Orlando Magic selected Cole Anthony, and while on the surface Anthony had an underwhelming season at North Carolina, its easy to forget he was one of the top scorers coming out of high school and was, by his own account, playing at 70 percent at UNC. If that’s true and Anthony can rebound to his stature coming out of high school, Orlando may have nabbed exactly what they were looking for — namely, an impact scorer. Time will tell if Anthony can be that guy at the NBA level, but getting Anthony’s offensive punch with the 15th represents incredible value.

With the 20th pick the Miami HEAT selected Precious Achiuwa out of Memphis. Talk about the prototypical HEAT player. Achiuwa checks so many boxes for the HEAT; they now have interchangeability with Bam Adebayo, as they have similar physical styles of play. Achiuwa is a quality defensive presence that can guard four positions. To get such a perfect fit at 20, is uncommon and for Miami, it could be a nice selection.

  • Steve Kyler, Editor and Publisher

NBA Draft, Losers:

Most teams drafted pretty well this year, or they strategically swapped their pick(s). But the Hawks selection of Onyeka Okongwu was curious for a few reasons. Before I get into the downside of the pick, let’s make one thing clear — this is no way means I think Okongwu wasn’t deserving of the 6th pick. On the contrary, Okongwu is a long and athletic big man who will probably effect the NBA game beginning on day 1. But the Hawks didn’t need him. They just completed a trade for an athletic, shot blocker in Clint Capela in February. Regardless of Okongwu’s upside, the Hawks simply don’t need another starting-caliber center. But they could have used a big, versatile forward like Deni Avdija.

The NBA is moving toward a positionless game. Avdija fits that mold to a T. He is a 6’9″ point forward who can score and create for others. Further, he’s a high IQ player who competes hard, plays on and off the ball and possesses strong defensive fundamentals.

Ultimately, the Hawks set themselves up for the future in free agency, so a wonky – but still productive – draft pick won’t set them back too much. But Avdinja’s upside is substantial. And he could have been inserted into the rotation immediately without stealing too many minutes from major players  (whereas Capela will obviously lose minutes to Okongwu).

  • Drew Maresca, Staff Writer

As I said earlier, a draft like this makes it hard to decide who are the winners, and the same goes for the losers. For example, the Bulls definitely reached when they picked Patrick Williams, but a draft like this was the perfect time to reach for a prospect if you really liked him. In a case like this, if the other prospects aren’t good enough to make you think they’ll come back to haunt you, then go for the guy you like the most no matter what anyone else thinks.

In an offseason where pretty much everything uncharacteristically went their way, the Suns made an odd choice when they selected big Jalen Smith seeing how they already have a talented front court and were perhaps better off with a guard like Kira Lewis or a swingman like Haliburton. However, if they think that developing DeAndre Ayton’s backup is the way to go, then go right ahead! We also have to remember that everyone thought that the Cam Johnson pick was terrible last year, and he made the whole NBA world eat their words.

There are definitely guys picked later in this draft who might wind up being better overall than Aaron Nesmith, but the Boston Celtics needed someone who can help them now. The Celtics’ second unit was desperate for a shooter and that’s exactly what Nesmith brings to them. The guys who could wind up being better than Nesmith will need time to develop, and Boston’s not waiting anymore. Maybe in previous years, but not now.

  • Matt John, Staff Writer

There were not a lot of crazy questionable picks in the 2020 NBA Draft. Maybe we had too much time to micro analyze the class, or maybe teams just went more with popular opinion  That said there was one pick that sort of stood out as something of a reach – Patrick Williams at four to the Chicago Bulls.

To be fair, Williams is a quality NBA prospect and he could go on to have a fruitful NBA career; but at four with Killian Hayes and Tyrese Haliburton still on the board (and able to solve more pressing needs), Williams seems to be a stretch.

Every year there is a pre-defined order that most believe the draft will go in, so Williams going several spots higher isn’t out of the ordinary. The question is will Williams be a game changer for a Bulls team desperate for a player in the draft that really moves the needle?

They say the draft should never be about solving positional needs, rather grabbing the best player available. I’m not sold on the idea that Williams was the best talent available at the four spot, so time will tell.

  • Steve Kyler, Editor and Publisher

Free Agency, Winners:

The rich seemed to get richer in the NBA this offseason. Very few elite teams lost marquee players, and many actually added one or more. But one outlier is the Atlanta Hawks.

Atlanta had an impressive offseason, first adding elite prospect Onyeka Okongwu in the draft, and then adding Danilo Gallinari, Bogdon Bogdonovich Kris Dunn and Rajon Rondon in free agency. That’s an impressive haul for any team, but the Hawks just sped up their rebuild considerably, placing themselves squarely in the playoff discussion. Their new additions join an incredibly young core of Trae Young, Cam Reddish, Kevin Huerter, De’Andre Hunter, John Collins and Clint Capela. Rondo will be especially important for Young’s development, as Rondo is known to be an incredibly high-IQ player and cut-throat competitor. Gallinari and Bogdonovich add versatility and shooting to a team in need of it. The Hawks were probably going to take a step forward and fight for one of the final playoff spots in the East prior to these signings. They’ll be even better now.

  • Drew Maresca, Staff Writer

It’s tough to decide who really are among the biggest winners in free agency because it depends on what the team sought out to do and also because this free agency class was so weak that it was seen as basically the calm before the storm that will be next year’s class. If even. It honestly wasn’t too impressive.

Keeping what goals they had in mind, more teams won than lost. Atlanta got the best pool of players in free agency by a landslide. Houston got the best economic value for the players they added in the offseason. Utah and Miami for the most part ran it back while adding some new faces that should serve to make them better. Those guys were among the biggest winners, but not the winner of free agency. That belongs to the reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers.

Not a lot of NBA champions can brag that they got better after winning a title, but the Lakers have definitely been the exception. While it was not perfect, free agency went as fantastically as they could have hoped. Signing Wes Matthews was their most key signing of the summer because a. the Dennis Schroder trade makes even more sense now and b. Matthews will do everything Danny Green did for the Lakers at basically 1/5th of the price. Coming in at a close second was re-signing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who was brought back at a reasonable deal after an awesome playoff performance.

Honestly, they didn’t have to bring in Marc Gasol, but getting him for chump change, even on the back end of his career, was a steal. They were better off keeping Markieff Morris than letting him walk so they did just that. The one head-scratcher was giving Montrezl Harell the full mid-level exception. On the one hand, Harell’s better than the no-show he put up for the Clippers when they got spanked by the Nuggets, so that might be good value for the reigning sixth man of the year. On the other, it’s hard to see Harell play in their closing lineups alongside LeBron and Anthony Davis. They learned that the more spacing they had during their title run, the better.

At best, Harell adds second unit scoring to a team that didn’t exactly have a whole lot of that last season, and at worst, he’s an expendable asset to dangle at the deadline. No matter what happens, the Lakers have had one of the best offseasons a reigning champion can have to the point where it’s really not a hot take to say that they are a considerably better team now than they were back in October.

  • Matt John, Staff Writer

Free agency winners? The Lakers.

Seriously, to see the 2020 NBA Champions deepen their roster with Dennis Schröder, Montrezl Harrell, and Marc Gasol without giving up anything that truly mattered to their core? That is incredible front office work.

Here are a couple of other situations worth mentioning:

The Atlanta Hawks have completely remade their team and did so without doing anything break the bank silly. The veteran additions of Danilo Gallinari, Rajon Rondo, Solomon Hill and Tony Snell are solid pick-ups and nabbing Bogdan Bogdanovic will be a great get, maybe on the high side money wise, but given his talent so far, it was a solid signing and what you have to do to steal another team’s player.

The Miami HEAT running it back with functionally the same core is smart, too. The HEAT are just scratching the surface of their potential given how young so many of their core guys are. They wisely structured their deals to remain flexible, although the Bam Adebayo extension takes them out of direct free agent market next summer, they won’t be tied to long-term boat anchor type deals and could always trade into a free agent they covet because of how many great assets the HEAT have.

Overall, all three teams did a really good job in such a compressed chaotic timeframe.

  • Steve Kyler, Editor and Publisher

Free Agency, Losers:

To Matt’s point above, winners are tough to crown without seeing a finished product on the hardwood. Losers are a little easier. And there are a few clear losers. But the team that hurt itself the most is the Charlotte Hornets. It’s a weird pick because I do actually like their roster, and I think it’s significantly improved from last year’s team. And the guy that’s most to blame for the Hornets’ hate will probably be their best player in 2020-21, but the Hornets also grossly overpaid to get him.

The announcement that Gordon Hayward was signing with the Hornets took most of the NBA universe by surprise. Hayward waited until (essentially) the last minute to announce he would opt out of the final year of his contract, which would have paid him $34.2 million. It was widely assume he did so to secure more long-term money, not to essentially duplicate his salary AND stretch it. But that’s exactly what he did.

Hayward ultimately announced his intention to sign with the Hornets for 4 years/$120 million. Now, signing a 30 year old, former all-star is usually celebrated, but Hayward hasn’t been able to re-establish himself after suffering a brutal foot injury in the first game of the 2018-19 season. He did mange to 17.5 points per game last season, and he averaged a career high in rebounds (6.7); but he averaged only 2.8 free throw attempts per game (down considerably from what he tallied in Utah). He also suffered more injuries last season, breaking a bone in his hand in November and suffering nerve pain in his foot during the playoffs. So exactly what player are the Hornets getting? And worse still, what will he be in 2023-24?

Numerous reports state that the Hornets and Boston Celtics are still working on a sign-and-trade deal, which could improve the Hornets future cap situation. But either way, they’re still on the hook to pay Hayward the entirety of this massive contract — and that’s not ideal.

  • Drew Maresca, Staff Writer

If they manage to win the championship anyway, then the following won’t matter, but man oh man, the Bucks really missed out on such a golden opportunity when their sign-and-trade for Bogdan Bogdanovic fell through.

For a couple of days there, it really felt like Milwaukee had added the last piece of the puzzle. Bogdanovic’s abilities as a combo guard felt like such a perfect fit for what the Bucks are all about. His abilities as a scorer would have taken more pressure off of Khris Middleton, and his abilities as a shooter should have complemented Giannis’ game like a glove. As an added bonus, his 6’6” frame and his playmaking abilities would have further strengthened the Bucks’ motion offense and positionless basketball. This was it. The Bucks were going to be better than ever.

Until the rug got pulled right out from underneath them. The tampering debacle canceled everything, and the Bucks at this point can only wonder what could have been. Failing to acquire a superstar is one thing. Having a superstar then failing to get the guy that definitely would have made your championship aspirations the strongest they’ve been in years is another. That’s why they are my pick for the biggest loser in free agency.

In all fairness, their offseason wasn’t a total failure for them. In fact, props to them for not stubbornly trying to run it back when it was clear that something had to be done. Jrue Holiday is definitely an upgrade over the likes of Eric Bledsoe and George Hill. Getting a haul of buy-low additions like DJ Augustin, Bobby Portis, Torrey Craig, and Bryn Forbes will help fill out the bench, but none of those guys compare to what Bogdanovic could have done for them. With what’s at stake, it could very well haunt Milwaukee knowing that Bogdan Bodganovic slipped through their fingers. Like getting a bogey on the final hole. Or, in the Bucks’ case, a “Bogi”.

  • Matt John, Staff Writer

There were a few head scratchers in free agency…

Not sure what the Detroit Pistons were thinking. They let their best free agent walk in Christian Woods, then turned around and gave a big deal to a slightly average guy. Jerami Grant is a quality player, but three years and $60 million is a ton.

If the motivation was to go all in for one more run with Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose, mission accomplished; but I’m not sure that means anything, even in the East.

The Orlando Magic stayed largely quiet in free agency, which was surprising given that it seems the current squad has run its course. The Magic have long valued the idea of growing youth in an environment built around trying to win, but it’s clear that Evan Fournier who opted into a massive final contract year worth $17 million, is primed to be moved and looks to be in camp next week.

The Magic do have some injury concerns specifically Jonathan Isaac who is recovering form an ACL tear and the questionable outlook of Mo Bamba, who had to leave the Orlando bubble unexpectedly back in August, due to physical struggles related to the Coronavirus.

With so much uncertainty around the Magic’s youth, their lack of movement in free agency was a surprise.

  • Steve Kyler, Editor and Publisher

One move we’d like to see:

Kevin Love to the Portland Trail Blazers. Portland enters 2020-21 with a bit to be excited about. They’re looking forward to a full season with Jusuf Nurkic in the middle, they re-signed Rodney Hood and they added a high-ceiling youngster in Harry Giles (as well as Derrick Jones Jr.). But even if they also bring back Carmelo Anthony, they’ll still need help at the forward spot. Enter Kevin Love.

Love is badly mismatched with the rest of Cleveland’s roster. He is 32, whereas nine of their players are 25 or younger. Further, Love is a five-time all-star and NBA champion, whereas the Cavaliers are in a full-on rebuild. It’s not an ideal match, and the Cavs should cash Love in before it’s too late.

Love to Portland makes perfect sense. He hasn’t been seen as a primary option in a number of years, but he still adds incredible value as a scorer, rebounder and passer. And that works perfectly considering Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum appears poised to stick in Portland for at least the next few seasons. Portland could sit tight, but adding Love would put them in the conversation with teams like the Nuggets and Clippers who hope to knock off the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers.

Even if Portland can’t make a deal for Love, they should look to add a versatile power forward like Julius Randle. They can’t rely on Anthony and Giles to hold down the four spot and expect to compete for a championship. But if they maneuver correctly, Dame-time could translate to championship time in the Rose City.

  • Drew Maresca, Staff Writer

DeMar DeRozan/LaMarcus Aldridge to the Charlotte Hornets. By drafting LaMelo Ball and maxing out Gordon Hayward, the Charlotte Hornets are out to prove that they really want to be… not subpar! There will be no argument here that Charlotte paid above and beyond for Hayward’s services, but his contract is in the same ballpark as Tim Hardaway Jr’s- As overpaid as he is, he’s not going to take the money and run. He’ll do his best to live up to the deal Charlotte gave him even if it’s not very likely.

Alas, adding Hayward and Ball only puts Charlotte in discussion for one of the lower playoff seeds, and in no way does it guarantee that they’ll get one of them. If MJ and co. truly are serious about getting the Hornets back to the playoffs, what harm could it do to go all in and pry DeRozan and Aldridge from San Antonio? They have the expiring and near-expiring deals to make it work, like Nicolas Batum, Cody Zeller, and Terry Rozier, as well as appealing enough young talent without sacrificing the most appealing assets like Miles Bridges Malik Monk to pull it off. Aldridge’s and DeRozan’s names aren’t as sexy as they were three years ago, and that, along with their contracts expiring, is what makes a possible trade for them feasible. All signs are pointing to San Antonio moving on from both of them, so Charlotte needs to strike while the iron is hot- er, lukewarm in their case if we’re being really honest here.

Those two don’t make Charlotte a contender in the east – again, if it was 2017, it would be a different story – but they do make the Hornets more formidable as a playoff team. If there aren’t many better options for Charlotte, and from the look of things, there really aren’t, acquiring those two at least puts Buzz City back in the postseason, and might just complete the most talented Hornets teams we’ve seen in ages.

  • Matt John, Staff Writer

Let’s go Houston…

When Mike D’Antoni and Daryl Morey left the Rockets, you knew the clock was ticking. It really hasn’t stopped, the question is when is Houston going to pull the trigger on a Russell Westbrook trade, and how soon after will James Harden follow?

The talk in NBA circles is Westbrook could be headed to Washington in a package for John Wall. Wizards president Tommy Sheppard has said that deal is not happening – that does not mean it couldn’t resurface later.

There was talk of James Harden wanting to be in Brooklyn with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but Houston at this point seems set on waiting out the process and seeing if they can get both Harden and Westbrook back on board… How frequently has that worked out? Typically, when guys ask for the door, they usually get it, and the return usually goes down before it goes up.

Trying to move some $82 million in committed salary during the season is nearly impossible. Which is why if Houston wants all the Nets and Wizards cookies, they need to make the move now or risk the offers or even the opportunity to dwindle away fast.

  • Steve Kyler, Editor and Publisher

The 2020-21 NBA season could end up just as chaotic as last season; but looking past the many challenges facing the league’s schedule, player movement has once again shifted the balance of power. There are new favorites this season, and more importantly, there will be surprise teams to look forward to, also. But regardless which team you root for, NBA fans have much to be thankful for right this holiday season.

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Legacy

Looking For A Few Great Voices!

From time to time we have open chairs at Basketball Insiders for writers looking to gain experience, grow their brand and to be part of an aggressive up-tempo content team.

Basketball Insiders

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From time to time we have open chairs at Basketball Insiders for writers looking to gain experience, grow their brand and to be part of an aggressive up-tempo content team.

We are considering adding new voices for the 2020-21 NBA Season, and what we are looking for is very specific.

Here are the criteria:
– A body of professional work that reflects an understanding of the NBA and basketball.
– Must live within 30 minutes of an NBA team.
– Must be willing to write two to three times per week on various topics as assigned.
– Must write in AP style and meet assigned deadlines.
– Be willing to appear in Podcasts and Video projects as needed and scheduled.
– Have a strong understanding of social media and its role in audience development.
– Be willing to work in a demanding virtual team environment.

Some things to know and consider:
– We are not hiring full-time people. If you are seeking a full-time gig, this is not that.
– This will be a low or non-compensation role initially. We need to understand your value and fit.
– We have a long track record of creating opportunities for those that excel in our program.
– This will be a lengthy interview and evaluation process. We take this very seriously, so should you.
– If you are not committed to being great, this is not the right situation for you.

If you are interested, please follow these specific instructions, Drop us an e-mail with:

Your Name:

The NBA Market You Live Near:

And Why We Should Consider You:

We do not need your resume, but a few links to work you have done under the above information would be helpful.

Please send all of this to: openings2021@basketballinsiders.com

 

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#17 – Aleksej Pokusevski – Oklahoma City Thunder

David Yapkowitz

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With the 17th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, the Oklahoma City Thunder select Aleksej Pokusevski from Serbia. The Thunder completed a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves to acquire the pick.

Pokusevski is a long term project, but one that has has an intriguing skillset. A 7-footer with good speed and quickness, Pokusevski plays like a wing and can pass like a guard. But, to truly thrive at the next level, Pokusevski will need to put on some serious weight.

Again, he’s a project. But Pokusevski’s ceiling is sky-high. And, with a rebuild ahead of them, the Thunder have more than enough time to work with him and ensure he reaches it.

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