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On Thursday night, two notable names found themselves in new homes during this wild NBA offseason. Per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, point guard Isaiah Thomas signed a one-year deal with the Denver Nuggets, while guard Jeremy Lin was traded to the Atlanta Hawks from the Brooklyn Nets.
There is sure to be more action around the league in the coming days and weeks, whether it involves players changing cities or others signing long-term deals to remain with their teams.
Here’s a look at some recent news from around the league.
The Cleveland Cavaliers must find a way to move on without LeBron James, who has left for the Los Angeles Lakers. Brian Windhorst of ESPN dropped some interesting information on The Insiders podcast (h/t ESPN Cleveland) regarding a few of their current players:
ESPN Cleveland @ESPNCleveland
Windhorst: I think the #Cavs would trade Kevin Love and Kyle Korver but aren't out there peppering teams for trade offers. I don't think the Cavs want to trade them, its just that they aren't untouchable. The only untouchable is Collin Sexton.
Former Alabama guard Collin Sexton was drafted with the eighth overall pick in the NBA draft and has looked good in summer-league play, averaging 18.8 points on 48 percent shooting in his first four games. He’s going to be a big part of the Cavs’ core as the team advances into a new era.
Forward Kevin Love and guard Kyle Korver, who have been integral parts of the team’s runs to the NBA Finals in recent years, could be headed elsewhere.
At this point, the Cavs should shift gears and focus on rebuilding with young talent and draft picks. Love and Korver are best suited playing key roles for teams in playoff contention, something that might be out of reach for Cleveland this year without James.
Love, who will be 30 when next season begins, is a near-automatic double-double machine who posted 17.6 points and 9.3 rebounds last year. The 37-year-old Korver still has a sweet outside shooting stroke, as he knocked down 43.6 percent of his three-pointers last season.
Both could be key assets for playoff teams, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them headed elsewhere before the 2019 trade deadline.
Brooklyn Nets guard D’Angelo Russell joined the team after an offseason trade from the Los Angeles Lakers. He missed almost half of the season due to injury following arthroscopic knee surgery, but in 48 games the second overall pick of the 2015 NBA draft posted 15.5 points on 42.4 percent shooting.
“Conversely, Brooklyn and Russell’s camp have not discussed an extension yet, a league source told The Athletic. The 22-year-old guard is owed $7.02 million this upcoming season and is eligible for a $9.16 million qualifying offer and restricted free agency next summer if he doesn’t agree to a rookie scale extension before the start of the regular season in October.“
The Brooklyn Nets’ primary problem is that they have a bunch of solid, tough players but not nearly enough people who can be counted to put the ball in the basket on a consistent basis. As a team, the Nets shot just 44.1 percent, which was the second-worst mark in the league.
Russell isn’t a particularly efficient scorer at this stage of his career, but he’s clearly the Nets’ top offensive option, as he led the team in scoring last year.
It may be in the team’s best interest to extend Russell in the hopes he continues developing and can become a 20-plus point-per-game scorer.
A few players have found themselves in limbo this offseason as they potentially join new teams. One of those is Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart, who is a restricted free agent.
Per Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald, there may not be an end to this saga any time soon: “Sources indicate this may drag on for quite a while. Smart determined his worth to be more than what is out there in this summer’s market, and the Celts are in no rush to bid against themselves.”
Smart has a ringing endorsement from Celtics guard Jaylen Brown, who had this to say (among other positive remarks) about his teammate, per Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe:
Adam Himmelsbach @AdamHimmelsbach
Jaylen Brown on Marcus Smart: "There’s two types of players. You have guys that kind of sit back and let the game develop and wait for the game to come to them, and then there’s guys that take it to you, and throw the first punch. And me and Marcus throw the first punch."
The Celtics had a tremendous season last year despite losing Gordon Hayward for all but part of one game and Kyrie Irving for the end of the regular season and all of the playoffs. They took the Cavaliers to the limit in the Eastern Conference finals but lost in seven games.
With Hayward and Irving back, the C’s are the clear front-runners for the conference title. However, Smart plays such an integral part of the team’s success, most notably on defense. They were first in defensive efficiency last year, per ESPN, and the 24-year-old ranked seventh among point guards in defensive real plus-minus.
Although the C’s would be stacked at guard without Smart next year thanks to Irving, Brown and Terry Rozier, he would still be a tough loss due to his defensive efforts. He’s the heart and soul of the team, and his intangibles would be hard to replicate if he signs elsewhere.