The NBA All Star Game is just days away meaning players suffocated by the long marathon journey of the NBA Regular season are days away from resting their limbs for a week as their more popular and distinguished colleagues play in the glitzy event. However, at this stage of the season, a host of teams get to reflect on the season gone by and the way forward; little coincidence the trade period is lodged at this time on the calendar. Once trade comes up, Carmelo Anthony’s ordeal with New York Knicks immediately comes to mind as talk of joining friend LeBron James at Cleveland Cavaliers has been rife in recent weeks.
The sacrificial lamb is reported to be Kevin Love who, should the deal happen, will move to the Big Apple with his 2016 Championship ring. Certainly New York President Phil Jackson hasn’t helped matters by uttering unfavorable comments in the media about his star player.
Speaking of the Cavaliers, James’ rant for a Point Guard has caused a few ripples of their own on the reigning champions and Eastern Conference leaders. The team has worked out a few veteran players aiming for a return to the league including former Chicago Bulls Captain Kirk Hinrich and Miami Heat Guard Mario Chalmers. Close to the seasons midpoint, two teams located on opposite ends of the NBA landscape promised great things but have failed to deliver on those promises.
Portland Trailblazers and Orlando Magic offered a lot to believe ahead of the season with a series of moves that pushed the sides up the projected standings. However, neither team has lived up to these expectations with Portland sitting ninth in the Western Conference standings and Orlando faring worse in 13th spot in the East. After beating everyone’s imagination to notch a conference semifinal appearance last season, Portland went all in on repeating the magnificent feat by opening up the cheque book.
Allen Crabbe and Meyers Leonard were retained for $18.5 and $10 million per year respectively whilst Evan Turner and Festus Ezeli were brought in for high similar figures. Leonard and Crabbe have been good but not good enough to warrant such paychecks and Turner looked to have turned the corner as his bad start disappeared with a series of good performances since the start of the year. However, that too has come to an end as the former Boston Celtics man injured his right hand and is set to miss a host of games. Center Ezeli is out for the season due to knee injuries.
Orlando Magic dealt away Domantas Sabonis, Victor Oladipo and Ersan Ilyasova to Oklahoma City Thunder for Serge Ibaka after Kevin Durant’s famous decision to leave for Golden State Warriors in the off season. It also shelled out $72 million for four years to Bismarck Biyombo. Taking out foundation pieces in Sabonis and Oladipo and a shooting Forward in Ilyasova has blown up in management’s face as Biyombo is playing awfully bad.
For the Trailblazers, spending huge amounts of money has limited its ability to bring new players to make up for the losses of Ezeli and Turner just as Orlando needs a three point shooting frontcourt player to open up its clogged offense that features below average shooters in Aaron Gordon and Elfrid Payton. The situation above is what makes the teams good for each other as a simple swap can easily turn around the fortunes of both teams. Portland needs an athletic rim protector like Ezeli and Orlando needs a skilled offensive big man like Meyers Leonard to complement Ibaka’s top defense and impressive three point stroke.
Biyombo thrives in a system that surrounds him with shooters like the one he had at the Toronto Raptors that made him an instant hit. Playing alongside DeMar DeRozan,Kyle Lowry, Patrick Patterson, Terrence Ross among others freed up the lane for Biyombo’s hulking physique to thrive and do damage below the basket. With the long term absence of Jordi Meeks, Orlando’s play is mighty jammed as the side has very few competent shooters outside Evan Fournier rendering Biyombo’s limited offensive repertoire a problem.
Playing in Portland puts the Congolese player around the likes of Crabbe, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum who prioritize offense over defense allowing Biyombo to thrive. He specializes in protecting the rim and the Blazers need him if it wants to improve its 26th ranked defensive rating per teamrankings.com. It also bolsters the blazers bench since Mason Plumlee can anchor the second unit with his passing and rebounding.
In Orlando’s case, the team’s setup hides Leonard’s weak defense behind Ibaka and Gordon’s strong defense yet amplify his offensive input particularly his three point stroke as Ibaka can be a quality diversion on that end. Having two shooting Forward-Centers in the team opens up a lot of lanes for Gordon, Payton and Fournier to wreck havoc inside without giving up a lot on defense. Per oddsharks.com, Orlando’s offense is ranked 29th in the league. For Magic General Rob Hennigan, a trade is key to save job and halt the side’s playoff drought that began in 2011.