Teams like Memphis Grizzlies, Los Angeles Clippers and Orlando Magic should correct delayed rebuilding projects and dive straight deep into it. A blistering start from all three franchises camouflaged the obvious need to start over.
However, reality-low talent level and injuries- has bitten the trio hard and forced them to seriously reconsider their choice. Memphis need to trade Marc Gasol for draft picks and budding stars while Mike Conley’s $30 million contract should be swapped for a young Point Guard to grow with fellow young players.
The Clippers need to move DeAndre Jordan and find a taker for Blake Griffin and Orlando should sign Aaron Gordon to a massive contract to star alongside Evan Fournier and free space for the likes of Mario Hezonja by moving DJ Augustin and Marresse Speights. Not all teams can be in the upper echelons of the league and not all teams can be at the bottom fighting for spots on the draft boards.
A healthy number of teams are stuck in the middle where they are strong to feature in the postseason yet are limited to actually make a run for the title. One of the main reasons why such teams cant compete late in the season is talent and this is the reason behind Chicago Bulls Forward Nikola Mirotic’s appeal in the trade market.
With an in demand three point shooting skill set, it isn’t surprising to have a host of playoff teams lining up for the Spanish international’s services.
As a Power Forward with three point shooting ability, Mirotic’s production this season-17.4 points, and seven rebounds in 17 games-will be welcomed by such teams. Detroit Pistons and Utah Jazz are forerunners to sign the Montenegro born Spanish player and it is easy to see why. Detroit ranks 16th in offensive rankings while Utah rank three places lower in 19th; by adding Mirotic, either team’s offense is bound to jump. More importantly, having Nikola around eases stress on Coaches Stan Van Gundy and Quinn Snyder since both teams have spacing issues to address constantly.
Pistons have had to rely on Tobias Harris’ steady improvement shooting from deep to stay in the hunt for a playoff spot after missing last season. Starting Mirotic next to Andre Drummond or bringing him off the bench as he does in Chicago is a win win for the club. With a deep threat by his side, Drummond will have less attention to deal with in the paint and make him more dangerous than ever.
In Utah, Snyder has performed very well to generate points while playing Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors in the starting unit. Both players shoot very few shots outside the painted area and this makes it easy for opposing teams to defend them. Replacing Favors with Mirotic instantly turns Gobert into an MVP Candidate and a frontrunner for Defensive Player of the Year in the open system.
Primed for great feats this season following the addition of Carmelo Anthony and Paul George to Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder has fallen short of such expectations. The team is ranked sixth in the conference and is yet to fully convince free agent to be- George- of big title potential in Oklahoma. This is largely down to its wretched bench; in OKC’s 106-117 loss to Portland Trailblazers who played without Damian Lillard, Raymond Felton was the only player in the second unit to score in double digits.
Grant leads OKC’s bench in scoring with 7.5 points this season; compared to Mirotic’s 17 point mark for the season, the Thunder’s best bench scorer is way off. OKC’s starting unit has little trouble beating opponents with its sterling cast but the team ‘s production bar defense craters when two of its three stars move to the bench. This is a major cause of concern as starters can’t log heavy minutes in the playoffs against top Western Conference sides like Houston Rockets, Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs.
Should rankings remain same at season’s end, OKC will play Houston in the first round in a repeat of last season’s matchup at the same stage which Rockets won. Without a valuable three point shooter on its roster, the same outcome is likely to happen again.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah @YawMintYM on Twitter