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Valentine’s Day: NBA Match Game

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Happy Valentine’s Day, basketball fans! Cupid’s arrow hit me, once upon a time, and I fell in love with the game. Been happily married ever since. 😉

In honor of that cute lil baby archer, I’m going to attempt to play NBA Matchmaker today. Which teams and players that recently got together will be a good match? And who do I think might hook up this summer. Let’s take a look…

 

Extreme Makeover: Cleveland Edition

NBA.com

After replacing that many players on the roster, at this point in the season, many expected there to be some chemistry complications in Cleveland. But, truthfully, the players causing chemistry issues were largely traded away. Anyways, those concerns will quickly put to rest as the new-look Cavs routed the Celtics in Boston (thwarting Paul Pierce’s much anticipated jersey retirement ceremony).

With Isaiah Thomas and Derrick Rose gone, better ball movement and improved defense are reasonable expectations. The numbers back that up. The incoming players are younger, with the exception of George Hill, and hungrier. Koby Altman hit a home run at the deadline.

Will the new look Cavs mesh together well enough, fast enough, to continue their reign over the Eastern Conference? I think so, but they’ll have to once again do it without the 1 seed.

Lakers’ Dump Some Young Guns

amicohoops.net

Los Angeles was expected to make a trade at the deadline to shed some salary, and get some returns on young players they didn’t envision being a part of the long term core. For awhile, many predicted that would be Julius Randle. In the end, it was Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance that got the boot.

The Lakers dumped the remaining years and salary on the two players contracts, in favor of the expiring deals of Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye. GM Rob Pelinka also got a 2018 1st round pick from Cleveland, which is nice since the Lakers don’t own their own draft pick this year.

Lob City Meets the Motor City

Junfu Han / Detroit Free Press

Many forget, now, that Blake Griffin brought the Lob City moniker to LA before Chris Paul got there. Although, obviously, the team and the nickname soared to new heights with CP3 throwing the lobs to Blake and DeAndre.

But things had gotten stale for the Clippers, Paul was traded in the offseason and now it was time to move on from Blake. Pretty shady, considering the extent they had gone to appeal to Griffin’s “loyalty” when signing him to a max extension last summer. Nevertheless, the Clippers got a good return, and Blake gets to pair with another young, uberathletic big man in Detroit.

Jae Crowder Fits Harmoniously With the Jazz

Getty Images / NBA, Utah Jazz

Utah tried to land Crowder via sign & trade with Boston last summer, but Jae wound up getting shipped to Cleveland instead. Do you believe in love after love? Crowder loved playing for the Celtics, not so much for the Cavs, but I think he’s going to enjoy being with the Jazz. He even got to wear those sweet red rock City uni’s!

Rodney Hood had been involved in trade rumors all season, after the emergence of rookie Donovan Mitchell as a star in this league. But unlike Alec Burks before him, the Jazz were able to find a trade partner for Hood. They also found a way to dump Joe Johnson’s remaining money in the process.

In return for sending Hood to Cleveland, the Jazz received former Celtic Jae Crowder. After being a key part of Boston’s success, Crowder never performed nearly as well in Cleveland. I expect that to change in Utah. Playing in a similar system, for a similar coach, to what he had in Boston ought to pay dividends for Crowder. Let’s see if he can return to form as a valuable role player.

Bye, Bye, Bruno

Cameron Browne / NBAE via Getty Images

The Toronto Raptors have finally moved on from former first round pick Bruno Caboclo. The prospect who was “two years away from being two years away” when he was drafted never turned out to be the next Kevin Durant, as Masai Ujiri boldly predicted. But he did turn out to be a player with the potential to play in the NBA, although that will not be in Toronto, anymore.

The Kings sent fellow former first round pick, and G League veteran, Malachi Richardson north of the border in exchange for Caboclo.

Welcome Back Wade

Pat Riley reportedly flirted with various blockbuster scenarios, but ultimately decided to keep his team intact. And he brought back a local hero. Taking advantage of the roster blow-up in Cleveland, Riley finessed D. Wade back to Miami. The Heat gave up only a 2024 second round pick, reported to be heavily protected.

The crowd reaction in Wade’s first game back tells you all you need to know:

The team seemed excited to have their leader back. Wade is happy to be back. And the city is overjoyed. Win-Win-Win.

What’s Next for LeBron?

Rumors have flown absolutely wild about what LeBron will choose to do this offseason. The recent trend has been implying that he will join the Warriors, solely to get that ring count up.  Before that, everyone assumed he was going to Los Angeles because he purchased a second home out there.  For those who focus on what the King says, rather than what he does, a strong case could be made that he will look to join the Spurs’ championship culture for the final phase of his career.

It’s no secret that James and Cavs’ owner Dan Gilbert don’t exactly see eye to eye.  Even since the return, LeBron’s disdain for Gilbert is brutally obvious.  I think everyone began to assume a split was coming, largely due to how poorly Cleveland played over the first half of the season with no real optimism for the future.  Then, when all was lost, it suddenly wasn’t.

Koby Altman not only saved the Cavs’ season, he may have helped convince the Greatest Of All Time to stay home in northeast Ohio. Brace yourself, because what I’m about to suggest has only happened once , and under vastly different circumstances.

Phil Long/Associated Press

I predict LeBron James will remain in Cleveland, but with the caveat that a pathway to ownership will be presented to him, allowing Dan Gilbert to look to sell and step down.

The only other time that a part-owner also played for the team was when Michael Jordan became a minority owner and President of Basketball Operations for the Wizards in 2001, before un-retiring and playing for the team in 2003.

Barriers to ownership are in place for current players, but its not impossible. LeBron has defied the odds and blazed new trails his entire career.

 

Can OKC Keep Their Two New Stars?

Both the Thunder and the Lakers have been quite clear about their intentions to recruit and sign Paul George in the summer of 2018.  Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka have tampering fines to prove it.  Russell Westbrook has made a point of publicly supporting PG, like when the MVP campaigned for his teammate to make the All-Star game.  Will George go home to LA or stay with brodie and try to wreck the West together?

Getty Images / NBA

While PG’s free agency process has been hotly debated, no such fanfare exists for Carmelo’s looming offseason decision.  Will the Thunder want Melo back? I’d assume yes, if only to appease Russ.  Anthony has real value as a stretch-forward alongside the ball-dominant reigning MVP.  The question will be, how much value.  What size contract offer will Melo command this summer, and how much will OKC be willing to pay him considering their own desire to resign Paul George, as well as the current state of their salary cap.

No New Friends

As the once popular Drake song title featured above suggests, I expect the big players in the 2018 free agent market to stay with their “day ones”.  I think PG and Melo find a way to remain in OKC for a suitable amount of money each.  I think LeBron makes power moves to heighten his reign in Cleveland.

Everyone knows Kevin Durant will stay with Golden State.  That, too, will have huge cap implications.  The Warriors will face massive luxury tax penalties each year moving forward with their “Big 4”.  If KD gets a supermax this summer, it could mean Klay’s days are numbered.

Given how great he’s played in this, his first, season with the Beard, I’d be shocked if Chris Paul signs elsewhere this summer.  I had long speculated, and secretly hoped, that he may sign with San Antonio; but that ship seems to have sailed.

The one big name who could be on the move is DeMarcus Cousins.  Although, honestly, I think Boogie will stay with AD in New Orleans.  Those two are easily the most dominant 1-2 punch in the league.  Whether or not the Pelicans can keep them both will likely come down to how well the front office can navigate the rest of the roster.  The amount of money committed to Jrue Holiday makes it difficult to fill a 12 man roster that can be competitive in the Western Conference.

 

 

Get at me on twitter (@Dubey23) throughout the day and let me know what matches you agree with, and which ones you think I’m dead wrong on.  What summer NBA hook-ups would you like to see happen?

As always, interact with @TLSportsMedia on twitter and IG for all the up to date NBA news and rumors.  We got you covered!

About Preston Dubey

Lifelong basketball fanatic and Bucks' supporter I coach basketball; but I eat, sleep, and breathe the game.

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