Following a dire outlook ahead of this season in the aftermath of Paul George’s trade to Oklahoma City Thunder, things are looking up for Indiana Pacers.
With newly named All Star Victor Oladipo and a handful of bright young talents in Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis on the roster, Indiana holds a luminary future. Despite firing Jason Kidd from his coaching role, Milwaukee Bucks are pretty much in the same spot as Indiana as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Malcolm Brogdon continue to improve.
However, Antetokounmpo is irked by Kidd’s firing and his response to Los Angeles Lakers Manager Magic Johnson should give Bucks management a lot to think about regarding his free agency in 2020. “I would love to have a talk with him and see the way he thinks about the game and I know he’s a guy that’s willing to do that with young guys in the league. I definitely would love to sit down and talk with him” Giannis said.
Looking at Johnson’s history in trying to woo Paul George to Los Angeles, a meet up could be the start of a three year pitch to the Greek Freak to team up with a core that has Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball.
For New Orleans Pelicans that immediate future was about signing DeMarcus Cousins to a full scale contract on the back of a playoff run this season. Settling Cousins with double digit millions for the long haul was primed to be the base of the team since Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday have similar long term deals. However, such plans have been thrown out of the window in the wake of Cousins season ending Achilles injury that will have him go through surgery and miss out for a period close to 10 months.
With DeMarcus out of the picture, New Orleans wish to host postseason games for the first time since 2015 looked to be a difficult task to accomplish in the tough Western Conference. Conversely, the team’s fortunes changed for the better as news came through of Los Angeles Clippers trade of Blake Griffin to Detroit Pistons for Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, Avery Bradley and two draft picks. Clippers duo Willie Reed and Brice Johnson have been added to the trade and will suit up alongside All Star Andre Drummond. Making the trade effectively means Clippers are doing what they had to do last season-rebuild- after Chris Paul moved to Houston Rockets.
Bradley’s contract expires at the end of this season making him a free agent; his situation cripples Clippers management’s chance to trade him to a contender for an impact young player or future draft pick. Ditto Marjanovic, who is in the first of a three year deal worth $21 million; as a 7 foot 3 old school Center with little shooting range outside the paint, he isn’t attractive enough to sway teams to eat up the contract. Harris represent’s the Hollywood team’s best chance of getting a healthy return since the former Orlando Magic Forward is enjoying his best season as he averages 18.1 points and five rebounds. Most importantly, he is demonstrating his fit as a modern “stretch” Forward by recording his best three point shooting percentage (409) of his career this season.
Any postseason talk is fickle since DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams are on the trade block. In the absence of Jordan and Williams, there isn’t much firepower to secure a playoff berth for the side which is good news for New Orleans. While the chance to save its season has been handed a huge boost, the team must make moves to complement it. One of such moves was trying to acquire Chicago Bulls sweet shooting Forward Nikola Mirotic a few hours ago which would have had Chicago receive former player Omer Asik. The move fell through due to an impasse in guaranteeing the Serbian born Spanish player’s $14 million wage in the second year of his contract.
New Orleans need to create a lot of space in the books to sign Cousins hence taking Mirotic’s deal is largely seen as a stumbling block. If Coach Alvin Gentry and Manager Dell Demps want to keep their jobs beyond this season that deal should be sanctioned since Mirotic’s outside threat opens up a lot of room for Davis to operate without double defensive attention. Trusting Davis to carry New Orleans all the way is a daunting task since the 2012 Number One pick has an extensive injury history.
Should Mirotic get on board, the Pelicans can have a fringe All Star player alongside Holiday to steady the boat till Davis returns. Sealing a deal quickly could prove to be the difference in deciding a playoff series or none.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter