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NBA PM: Is Evan Fournier The Missing Piece?

After a rough start to the season, the Boston Celtics traded for Evan Fournier – but is he the guy that will get the team back to the Eastern Conference Finals this year?

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Heading into the Mar. 25th trade deadline, it was clear that the Boston Celtics needed to make a move if they wanted to be a competitive playoff team. The Celtics were once thought to be an NBA Finals contender when this season first started, but after a rocky first half where they couldn’t consistently show up to games, something had to change. Many people began to question the leadership and true abilities of All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, but was it due to them? That’s up for debate, but not having starting guards Marcus Smart and Kemba Walker for numerous games played a big role, as well as a lack of scoring outside of the team’s nucleus. 

To attempt to regroup and try to challenge the Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets and Milwaukee Bucks, the Celtics had to make a move. While most people around the NBA believed Boston would swing a trade for Orlando Magic forward, Aaron Gordon, they instead acquired Evan Fournier for two second-round picks and Jeff Teague. Fournier’s salary didn’t require much, if any, maneuvering by Celtics general manager Danny Ainge because it fit into the traded player exception the team had from the Gordon Hayward sign-and-trade.

Since being elevated to a consistent starting role in the 2015-16 season, Fournier had been one of the best players on the Magic besides, of course, Nikola Vucevic. Since then, Fournier has averaged 16.8 points per game to go along with a 37.6 percent clip from behind the three-point line. These are very good numbers and, for the Celtics, it fills a severe need that the team has lacked length, shooting and bench scoring.

While Fournier very well may permanently start over Marcus Smart or Kemba Walker depending on the matchup, the team likely utilizes him more as a sixth-man/rotational. He will be a much better fit to fill the starting spot left by Kemba Walker on back-to-backs where he’s not in the lineup, while players like Grant Williams, Semi Ojeleye and Tristan Thompson struggled as starters. Fournier is on the books for $17 million this season, according to Spotrac, but the thing that stands out is that his contract ends this season and he can enter unrestricted free agency. 

Celtics general manager Danny Ainge went into the press conference on Mar. 26th with high hopes for the team following the trade deadline. According to The Athletic, Ainge wanted to make an impact move but this past Thursday happened to be the perfect time to pull the trigger. He also went on to say that he expects Fournier to re-sign with the Celtics even though he is slated to enter free agency following this season. Ainge had made it publicly known that the Celtics were looking for another wing with length and consistent shooting as players like Grant Williams, Semi Ojeleye and Javonte Green were just not getting the job done. The good thing: this is exactly Fournier’s game.

In 26 games for the Magic this year, Fournier was in the midst of a career-year 𑁋 he was averaging highs in points, 19.7, and assists, 3.7 while also shooting the three at a 38.8 percent clip. In almost one-third of his games, he scored 25+ points – with his best games coming right at the end of his time in Orlando by dropping 31 points on the Brooklyn Nets and Denver Nuggets, respectively. Fournier is a volume shooter that can score at a high level when given the opportunity, something that the Celtics could use as they so often depend on Brown and Tatum to carry the offensive load.

Does Evan Fournier take the Celtics to the next level and make them into an instant contender? No, that doesn’t seem to be the outcome here. But Fournier does add a much-needed piece for Boston post-Gordon Hayward. If Fournier can come in and provide the scoring and playmaking he is known, everything is gravy. 

However, one knock against Fournier is his defense. This year, Fournier has had a lowly defensive rating of 114.9, per NBA Advanced Stats. This puts him in 109th out of 131 qualified starters, so it’s safe to say that his defense is nothing to write home about. It was rumored that the team was looking for 3- and-D specialists or playmaking forwards that’ll hold it down on the defensive side of the floor. While they failed to get such traits in a trade, the team still has great situational defenders already on the bench. 

Rumors were thrown around about Harrison Barnes and Aaron Gordon being the team’s top trade targets. Ultimately, a deal never came to fruition as the Celtics likely would have had to part with their longest-tenured player in Smart. The addition of Fournier was somewhat of a last-resort option for Danny Ainge to pull, as he wasn’t ideally what the team was looking for on the trade market.

Fournier isn’t a make-or-break option for Ainge and the Celtics as the highly-spoken of TPE was used on him – but it sure feels like it – so expect pressure to succeed in his new role. If he can come in and contribute as soon as he is out of the health and safety protocol, then the Celtics will be a better team.

Naturally, the rest of the season doesn’t ride on Fournier fitting in and producing – but with his past accomplishments, this might just be a rare win-win for everybody involved.

Dylan Thayer is a Contributing Writer for Basketball Insiders, and a Sport Management student in the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst.

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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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