2019 Free Agency and Draft Team needs – Detroit Pistons

Photo Credit – Gregory Shamus

The Detroit Pistons enter the 2019 summer none the wiser on their future. They had an improved showing in the regular season where they made the Playoffs for the first time in three years. Though Dwane Casey utilized a rejuvenated Blake Griffin to win 41 games, their meek showing in the Playoffs after Blake was injured showed the holes in the roster. They are over the cap and unless they can dump some salary to get under it, then they will only have the mid-level exception to spend. The Pistons will also have the number fifteen pick in this years Draft.

Of the 16 teams that made the post-season, the Pistons sent teams to the line more than any other and had the worst shooting efficiency in the regular season. They also protected the rim very poorly, allowing the 27% worst percentage in the league. With no real options at Small Forward on the roster after trading away Stanley Johnson they should be looking at the Draft to restock their wing depth. Assuming there are no wild moves to get under the cap, the mid-level and bi-annual exceptions will be all they have to spend this summer. That means this summer they will only have around 12.5 million to spend.

Rim Protection

Backup rim protection should be a priority, so a defensive minded big who can move between center and power forward would be a good start. Power forwards and centers aren’t hard to come by on the open market.

DeWayne Dedmon would be an excellent addition for the Pistons. At seven foot one he is good shot blocker and has a long wingspan. He is also great at disrupting the ball in the pick and roll or on entry passes. Dedmon is an excellent rebounder and also one of the best stretch bigs in the league. Shooting 38% from three in the past season he knocked down 82 three pointers. A late bloomer in the league, the 29 year old Dedmon has played his last two years on the Hawks. As he is a stretch big his asking price will probably be around 7 – 10 million in this market.

JaVale McGee would also be an excellent option for the Pistons as a backup center. Coming off the best year of his career with the Lakers, McGee was one of the best rim protectors in the league. Averaging two blocks a game he is also one of the most efficient centers in the league when it comes to finishing around the rim. He finished in the top 11% of centers in the last season for EFG% and at the rim finishing. Like Dedmon he is also an excellent rebounder. McGee is a prime lob threat and could be an excellent roll man in tandem with Blake Griffin. McGee may command slightly more than last season on the open market, but a deal around $5 million wouldn’t be an over pay.

Forward Options

The Pistons should look to move up in the Draft and take Sekou Doumbouya. If they can dump Reggie Jackson’s expiring contract and bring back some longer term bad salary, they could move up to around the 9th or 10th pick in the Draft. Doumboya is a 6’9 forward playing in France with untapped physical potential. At 18 Doumbouya is one of the youngest draftees, he has an almost seven foot wing span and is a strong 230 pounds. Though he is very raw, he moves fluidly for a big man and has excellent footwork. He struggles from time to time effort wise, but when locked in he could potentially guard all five positions. His jumper isn’t consistent but he has nice form so with time could be a lethal stretch four. Doumbouya has shades of Pascal Siakam, be it the spin move or running the floor in transition. Though he is only 18 he already weighs as much as Siakam and is only one inch shorter than him. If the Pistons could move up in the Draft, taking Doumbouya would be a massive step in the right direction.

2019 Free Agency Team needs – Chicago Bulls

Photo credit Jeff Haynes

With the NBA season concluding in a few weeks, its the perfect time to focus on Team needs for the upcoming 2019 Free Agency. 10 teams have at least one max salary slot, while 13 other teams are over the cap and will only have use of the Mid-Level Exception.

The Chicago Bulls enter 2019s Free Agency in a relatively stable position. They have all their players on rookie contracts bar Zach LaVine, Otto Porter and Cristiano Felicio. This means their cap situation is healthy, with only 81 million on the books for the coming season.

Though its good that they only have long-term money tied up in Zach LaVine, they are still uncertain about their who their future cornerstones are. LaVine is their best player and a piece for the future coming off his best season in the league. Lauri Markannen is the other piece they are building around, he has definite All-Star potential. Outside of these two players they have a need for scoring at the Point Guard position. Management have said they aren’t giving up on Kris Dunn, but have made it clear they need to upgrade at the Point. They also need defense and three point shooting up and down the roster. Otto Porter has two years left on his max deal after coming in at the deadline via a trade for Jabari Parker. Though Porter is overpaid at around 25 million a year he is a strong three and D player in the league. His salary may have some value as an expiring deal next year, but the Bulls should hold off trading him unless they can find an excellent deal. Their strategy should be to build through the Draft then take some low cost flyers on players they can develop.

Point Guard

There aren’t many high upside Point Guards in this year’s Free Agent market. D’Angelo Russell, Terry Rozier and Delon Wright are the best young guards available, but Russell and Rozier will likely command large pay days in other markets. With Ja Morant and Darius Garland likely off the board when the Bulls draft at number seven, they can either try and draft Coby White with the seventh pick or throw an offer sheet at one of the aforementioned free agent point guards. A two way player like Coby White would be the best fit next to Zach LaVine.

Coby White is mocked at number seven currently on a lot of Draft Boards. Though he isn’t an elite passer he has a good feel for the game and makes solid reads in both transition and half court sets. His two way ability is what makes him a strong prospect for the Bulls. Standing around 6’5 his frame isnt huge, so he may struggle to cover large shooting guards. But he moves well from side to side and is only 19 so can still add bulk to his frame. White has a great first step and is very quick across the floor. He is a competent three point shooter at 35%, his mechanics are solid and he has a step back he can use also. His off the dribble game requires some work but he has the physical tools to master it.

If all else fails as far as getting a top level guard through the Draft or Free Agency they should look at signing a stopgap option on a two year deal. A player like Darren Collison or Cory Joseph would fit the bill nicely. Its important the Bulls only roll their cap space over and don’t get caught overpaying in Free Agency.

Three and D options

To preserve cap space for future years the Bulls are smart to look at young guys who can come in and play for their next contract on low value deals.

Glenn Robinson III would be a good low cost option who could have potential upside if he can stay fit. Robinson has improved his teams defense by an average of 2.5 points per 100 possessions each of the last three years. He rebounds his position well, defends without fouling and is a career 41% shooter from corner three spot also. A deal worth around 3 million with an non-guaranteed second year or a team option would suit the Bulls nicely.

If Dorian Finney-Smith isn’t brought back by the Dallas Mavericks he would be an excellent fit on the Bulls. Finney-Smith is a 6’8 wing who has improved his shooting each year he has been in the league. He is an excellent offensive rebounder for his size and has showed on defense that he can defend multiple positions. Though he only shot 31% from three in the last year, he has played under 200 games in the league and is a hard worker off the court.

Jake Layman could be another intriguing prospect to bring to the Windy City. Only used sparingly by the Portland Trail Blazers in his first two years with them. Layman played 71 games this year, impressing plenty of people with his defense and finishing around the rim. At 6’9 he is a big small forward who can guard smaller players on the perimeter too. An excellent offensive rebounder, he finished at the rim at 74% last season. This ranks Layman in the top 10% at his position. An improving three point shooter, he shot 36% on above the break threes this year too. Though the Blazers have his Bird rights, its not a guarantee they bring him back. Layman is only 25 and on the improve, so a two year deal worth four or five million or so a year could be enough to lure him away.

RJ Hampton – NZ Breakers signing

Photo credit – FIBA

This morning on ESPN show The Jump, five star rated recruit and projected 2020 top 10 pick RJ Hampton announced he was signing with the NZ Breakers. This was massive news all around the Basketball world. After some LaMelo Ball rumours, this signing has lived up to the hype. The Breakers lost last years import and star player Shawn Long to a fellow NBL team. With other import signings on the horizon the Breakers have started their free agency with a bang.

Hampton is a legitimate NBA prospect with Star upside. Though the Breakers have generated a ton of hype with this signing, its clear that this guy has come to play. He will be looking to solidify or even improve his projected draft position.

Scouting

Hampton is a 6’5 Point Guard out of Little Elm High School in Texas. He was chosen as the Texas High School Player of the year. He became the first non senior to win it since Justise Winslow, who went on to be a top 10 pick for the Miami Heat. Though Hampton has a good size frame he is skinny and will want to bulk up in the next 12 months. He has just turned 18 though so has time on his side in this regard. In comparison, this years projected number two pick Ja Morant is an inch shorter than Hampton and weighs ten pounds less.

Offense

The first thing that you notice when watching Hampton is his athletiscm. Dunking off one foot he has great elevation and can finish well around the rim with finger rolls or soft touch finishes off the glass. He has nice long fluid strides and uses an array of spin moves and Eurosteps to get past defenders and finish around or through them. Though he sometimes struggles in contact against bigger players, he is crafty enough at the rim to either use an under hand finish or a change of direction to get past these larger opponents.

He has a tight handle and can change direction or stop on a dime. Hampton loves to finish with his right, though he is comfortable dribbling with his left he tends to go back to finishing on his right. At the next level he will need to use his left more but he has the dribble and body control to aid with this development.

He has a nice sweet shooting stroke and is comfortable either shooting off the dribble or the catch. With nice smooth mechanics, his long arms give him a high release . He is comfortable shooting above the break from both sides, and can pull up inside the arc, from the elbow area or the baseline. His use of screens with a dribble to either side is excellent, he can create space to get his shot off easily.

Hampton has a strong basketball IQ and has already shown he can make strong reads to cutters, or skip passes to shooters. Though he is a score first player, he makes good passes in transition also. To be an elite shot creator for others he will need to be able to pass off both hands. With limited open floor video he may have some of these skills in his repertoire. But he will need to show them on a regular basis at the next level to solidify a strong draft position.

On the less glamorous end of the floor Hampton is a good help defender, he has quick reactions and leaping ability to block shots. He has good hands defending the ball on the floor, but does struggle to get through screens sometimes due to his size. Overall though he has good lateral movement and can body up drivers from the outside. In the limited game video that isn’t highlights of him dunking, he shows good overall defensive skills.

The Breakers have a real winner on their hands for the 2019/20 season. A knockdown shooter who has explosive skills in transition, Hampton’s signing is the biggest news in New Zealand hoops since Steven Adams was drafted into the NBA. Here’s hoping he can get consistent game-time in the NBL to show he has what it takes to make it to the NBA.

Stretch Bigs

PlayerG3P3PA3P%eFG%TS%
Blake Griffin752.570.360.530.58
Nikola Mirotic462.56.90.370.550.58
Lauri Markkanen522.36.40.360.510.55
Brook Lopez812.36.30.370.570.60
Danilo Gallinari682.45.50.430.550.63
Karl-Anthony Towns771.84.60.400.570.62
Davis Bertans761.94.40.430.610.63
Luke Kornet461.54.20.360.500.53
Joel Embiid641.24.10.300.520.59
Kelly Olynyk791.440.350.560.61
Mike Muscala641.440.350.530.56
Dario Saric811.540.370.520.56
Dirk Nowitzki511.340.310.440.47
Bobby Portis501.53.80.390.500.53
Marc Gasol791.33.50.360.510.55
Jonathan Isaac751.13.50.320.500.54
Markieff Morris581.23.50.340.490.52
Dewayne Dedmon641.33.40.380.570.60
Nikola Jokic8013.40.310.550.59
Nemanja Bjelica771.33.30.400.570.59
Maxi Kleber711.13.10.350.550.58
Trey Lyles640.83.10.260.470.50
Al Horford681.130.360.590.61
Frank Kaminsky471.130.360.550.59
Nikola Vucevic801.12.90.360.550.57
Giannis Antetokounmpo720.72.80.260.600.64
John Collins610.92.60.350.590.63
Jonas Jerebko730.92.60.370.560.59
Alex Len7712.60.360.550.58
Anthony Davis560.92.60.330.540.60
Myles Turner7412.60.390.540.57
D.J. Wilson4812.60.360.510.52
Jaren Jackson580.92.40.360.550.59
Ersan Ilyasova670.92.40.360.510.55
Thon Maker640.82.40.320.500.53
Serge Ibaka740.72.30.290.560.58
Jonah Bolden440.82.20.350.600.60
Dragan Bender460.52.20.220.500.52

Five players who can emerge as faces of their Franchise

NBA fans have been spoilt for choice this year as exciting rookies and second year players alike have breakout seasons. Fan-bases that have been starved of stars for years now have hope for the future.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has the NBA world at his feet. Picked by many to be drafted inside the top ten, Shai was selected by the Charlotte Hornets with the 11th pick then traded to the Clippers.

Typically, rookie point guards take a year or two to be contributors. Shai has been the exception to this rule, as he is contributing strongly on a playoff team. An excellent shooter coming out of Kentucky, he is shooting 46.8% on the season. So far per game he is averaging ten points three rebounds and three assists. Notably though he is shooting 55% on three pointers since December and has taken on higher usage with Tobias Harris being moved to the 76ers.

The Clippers have their eyes firmly on the future, and Shai is clearly one of the cornerstone pieces. With 62 million in cap space this off-season Shai is the perfect complimentary piece for a heavy scorer like Kevin Durant. Shai even earnt high praise from Durant as he praised the rookie’s confidence and shooting prowess.  

De’Aaron Fox

Fox wax the fifth pick in last years draft, coming out of Kentucky. After a middling rookie season on a struggling Sacramento team, Fox has exploded out of the blocks this year. Not only has he increased in every statistical category this year but defensively he has taken a massive step forward also. He is top ten in the league in loose balls recovered and top 20 in deflections.

He has led his Sacramento team to the seventh seed in the playoffs while averaging 17 points four rebounds and seven assists per game. Not afraid to take a shot when the game is on the line, Fox is exactly the young star that Sacramento fans have been craving. Only just turned 21, Fox’s improvement so far has shown the Kings he is the piece for them to build around for the next ten years

Caris LeVert

LeVert has been a feel-good NBA story this year, a breakout first 17 games were followed by what the league thought was a horrific season ending injury. To the delight of Brooklyn Nets fans LeVert was welcomed back to the team only 40 games later. When the Indiana Pacers drafted LeVert he was recovering from injuries in college that prevented him from being a sure-fire lottery pick. Drafted at 20, the Nets saw the potential in him and traded Thad Young for him.

Three years later the Nets investment in him has paid off. Through 18 games he is averaging 17 points four rebounds and four assists. As a strong secondary play-maker to D’Angelo Russell, LeVert operates well in the pick and roll and is adept at finding cutters and shooters. Though his three-point shot hasn’t been dropping this year, his at rim finishing and mid-range game have been strong. Coming into restricted free agency at the end of next season the Nets have the chance to extend a guy that can be a star in the NBA for years to come.

Jaren Jackson Jr

The son of an ex NBA player, Jaren Jackson Jr has been a lone star on a lottery bound playoff Grizzlies team. Showing defensive skills that have drawn comparisons from Kevin Garnett, Jackson is the real deal on both ends of the court. His offensive game is polished for a guy that was drafted while still 18. Already an elite at rim finisher, he is also shooting the three ball at an impressive 35%. Impressively at almost seven-foot-tall he can defend out to the perimeter. Along with Deandre Ayton he is one of only two rookies to contest over ten shots a game. After trading away Marc Gasol while also trying to re-home Mike Conley, its clear Grizzlies management are going all in on Jaren Jackson.

Dejounte Murray

The only player on this list to have not played this season, Murray sadly tore his ACL prior to this season. Adorned this year as the replacement for all-time spurs great Tony Parker, Murray isn’t going to play at all this season. Named to the all-defensive second team last season at just 21 years old, Murray is the aggressive young point guard that fits perfectly in the Spurs culture. With strong performances in both of the last playoffs it became clear to the league that Murray was maturing quickly. Though this years Spurs team is well entrenched in the playoffs, Murrays effect on the defence especially is clear this year. Last year the Spurs had the leagues best defence, this year they are rated only 16th. Murrays shot needs work, but the success that shooting guru Chip England has had with previous Spurs players suggests this won’t be a problem. Already an excellent passer, Murrays year off will give the Spurs more time to develop young pieces to play alongside him in Lonnie Walker and Bryn Forbes. An excellent draft steal at number 29, Murray is the leader on of the youngest Spurs teams in almost 20 years.

Kyrie Irving – The next landing spot

Posted on 29th Jan 2019 by Stevie Cozens

The immediate future of the NBA will be influenced by several key decisions in the 2019 offseason. Not only are there multiple superstars looking to ink new deals, but there are 11 teams that have max cap space.   

Kyrie Irving is one of the top 5 free agents this summer and at age 26 he is having arguably the best season of his career. Only an average defender in his time in Cleveland, Irving has taken a step up as a man defender. His rebounding, on ball defence and activity in passing lanes has elevated his game to another level. There is no doubt that playing in Brad Stevens’ system has been a large part of this, but Kyrie deserves a lot of credit for his application on this end of the floor.

Offensively it would seem that his fit within the Celtics system is ideal, but their record doesn’t reflect the preseason hype. After being a minute from making the NBA finals last season without Irving and Gordon Hayward, it was assumed by many that they would secure a top seed and claim the Eastern Conference title with a fit squad.

Current frustrations for Irving may mean he looks elsewhere in free agency. The first thing to consider is the money. The Celtics are the only team that can offer a 5-year max worth approx. 240 million.  Also the Celtics can go over the cap to resign him, something that no other teams can do.

Assuming he won’t be traded, let’s have a look at the teams with the best chance of signing him this summer.  

LA Clippers

The Clippers are deep in rebuilding mode and with front office dynamo Jerry West on the payroll they are in the picture for top free agents this summer. With around $50 million in cap space they would have to renounce all free agents bar Tobias Harris to be able to sign Irving. As they have Harris’ bird rights, they could sign Irving and then go over the cap to keep Harris. Their roster would be guard heavy and lacking bigs but if they feel like they can sign Irving they may be able to make some moves to bring in more bigs.

Kyrie likes the idea of playing in a big market like LA, and on the court he would have the ball in his hands. With Danilo Gallinari expiring in 2020 they would have the chance to bring in another star also.

In summary the Clippers could be in play, but its unlikely he would leave the Celtics for a starless franchise unless West can work his magic to bring another big name.

Prognosis – Unlikely

Brooklyn Nets

The Nets are also in rebuilding mode, like the Clippers they have a strong guard rotation, but have a more balanced roster with strong role players in every position.

For the Nets to be in play they would need to make a call on guard D’Angelo Russell. Russell has a cap hold of $21 million for next season and as he is a lead point guard he wouldn’t thrive in a bench role. Moving him prior to the deadline or renouncing him next year would clear the path for Irving to sign. Even then, the Nets would still have to renounce other free agents as their cap holds total $124 million.

The Nets are currently 6th in the East close to pressing for home court in the post season. From Irving’s point of view they are closing in on win-now mode. They are great at developing talent and have potential stars on the roster already. With a big market in New York for Irving’s commercial opportunities they would be seriously in play if they were able to attract one more star.

Prognosis – On the fence

LA Lakers

This one may have seemed a longshot a month ago. However, the LeBron factor and the chance that point guard Lonzo Ball would likely be used as a trade piece in the Anthony Davis sweepstakes, means that they can’t be counted out. Add to that the legendary pulling power of the Lakers franchise and Magic Johnson as the GM and you have an appealing situation for almost any free agent.

The Lakers cap situation is simple and they wouldn’t have any problem renouncing current players.

Normally the presence of LeBron would be a massive drawcard, in this instance he may be the reason Kyrie doesn’t end up there, due to their history on the Cavs. Kyrie left the Cavs because he didn’t want to be around when LeBron left, while also wanting the ball in his hands more. But if he’s looking to clip his ticket to the Finals and the Lakers can nab Davis or another superstar, he has the perfect opportunity to be on a contender.

Prognosis – Watch this space

New York Knicks

The Knicks are an intriguing prospect. 20 years of struggle and inconsistency has led to some confusion around the direction of the franchise. Tim Hardaway was signed a year ago when Phil Jackson was still in town having playoff delusions. Hardaway is a handy player but not worth the 18 million plus being paid to him.  If the Knicks can move him, they are in a prime position for free agents. A fit Kristaps Porzingis is Knicks trump card. If they can get him on a team friendly deal then Madison Square Garden becomes even more attractive. The Knicks roster is a touch confusing but if Kevin Durant or Irving indicated they wanted to sign, Knicks management would do everything in their power to make that happen.

Kyrie would love the New York market, alongside a scoring forward like Durant or a second-tier player like Khris Middleton he would flourish. There may be some concerns about Knicks ownership, but the additions of rookies Mitchell Robinson and Kevin Knox may have shown potential signees that the Knicks have turned the corner.

Prognosis – Likely