With all of the main pieces already off the board, and a few unexpected surprise moves too, several teams still have many holes t-o fill before tipping off of the 2018-2019 NBA Season. I mean let’s face it, if there’s anything that we should have learned from this past season it’s that championships will now be won based on depth. The old mantra “Defense Wins championships,” while still somewhat true, means little now. The key now is to be able to overwhelm your opponent with the number of players that can be unleashed onto the opposing team, and to be able to attack relentlessly on multiple fronts. This is why Golden State continues to win, and why Cleveland and Houston failed. But alas, the new season is just a few months away. And for the right team, with enough assets and/salary cap space, there are still moves to be made towards knock the king (Warriors) off the board. So let’s take a look at what players still remain in play. Some moves will require a lot, and still others are more so based on being a proper fit (chemistry-wise). But any team, serious about winning, has at least considered moving on one or two of these players-still others will make a play to acquire the services of these talents…
With each day it becomes increasingly tough to gauge just where Kawhi Leonard will play next season (or the season after that). Whether a Laker, or elsewhere he brings excellence on both offense and defense-which is rare is this day and age on basketball. No matter where he goes, a healthy Kawhi Leonard can change or elevate the fate of any franchise. This storyline has played out in pretty weird fashion; but I’ve got my popcorn out as I wait patiently to see how this drama ends.
If you watched The Houston Rockets in this year’s NBA Playoffs, then there’s really no need for a bio here. Clint Capela is young, he’s fast, he can score from all over the court, he rebounds over guys much heavier than him, and will swat your shot right back in your face. Still a restricted free agent, The Rockets don’t have to move him at all this year; but knowing that they will not have the cap room to come anywhere near what will be offered to him in 2019, he has to be in play. He’s too much of a talent to let walk away without anything in return.
Carmelo fitting well on any team can be tricky; but in the right situation his scoring ability and experience could be the reason someone, other than The Warriors lift up The Larry O’Brien Trophy next season. And don’t forget he has added an extra wrinkle to his game after playing power forward for most of last season. Coming in at the veteran minimum, or via trade, Carmelo still can can provide 16-20 points and 6 rebounds per game.
Two ACL tears have led to a decline for this former first round pick, after seeing his break-out season in 2016. He can play both forward positions, and can score from anywhere. Still he is no longer a fit in Milwaukee; so consider the restricted free agent to be on the block for a trade or free agent tender offer that Milwaukee may not want to or may not have the cap space to match.
A little over a year and a half ago, Isaiah Thomas lll was averaging 28.9 points per game for the Boston Celtics, and well on his way to a max contract payday. But in March of 2017, he suffered a hip injury and decided to play through it. That injury came back to haunt him, during that year’s Eastern Conference Finals, and still to this day keeps that cloud over his shoulder. Question is, once fully back to health, can he recapture the magic? Clearly no longer as expensive of a hire as in the past, his toughness and play-making ability can lead the right to success at a pretty strong discount.
Hailing from Cameroon, Mbah a Moute can defend against all five positions, but can also score at will. Sacrificing minutes, and shots, Luc Mbah a Moute would post much higher numbers on a team that didn’t already feature two ball-dominant players in Harden and CP3. He is a powerful wing scorer and defender; and his presence was definitely missed when shoulder injuries forced him to miss The Western Conference Finals against Golden State.
Michael Beasley’s earl years were mired in off-the-court issues; but he can still score and rebound with the best of them. After a bit of a resurgence of his career in New York, Beasley may be in line for yet another chance at glory. As a die-hard Knick Fan, I hope he stays put in MSG.
Greg Monroe played for three separate teams last season. Yes, three. But it was on that third stop, in Boston, that he reminded the basketball world of what kind of post player he still is. His scoring, defensive presence and rebounding paid dividends in this year’s playoffs; and could definitely be an team-building asset for the right team this year.
For better or for worse, the current day NBA is all about shooters. And coming off career highs in scoring and three point shooting percentages, Wayne Ellington could prove to be quite the asset off the bench for any team (especially in L.A. for Lebron).
Napier showed strong play-making and scoring ability as he doubled his career highs in both points and minutes per game. His speed and scoring ability can make him a strong asset off the bench for any contender.
Kemba Walker is a wildcard piece that while not a free agent, has been mentioned in a million trade and/or restricted free-agent tender scenarios. A really good player; but on a really bad team; Walker is an electrifying scorer rarely seen because The Charlotte Hornets haven’t been a National TV priority since the nineties. Most-likely worthy of a max contract in 2019, I couldn’t imagine any circumstances that would make him want to stay where he is. So whether now, or as we get closer to February’s Trade Deadline, he and his 22 points per game will almost surely be on the move.