NBA Preseason Roundtable
As the 2021-2022 NBA Season tips off tonight, Jack Weiss, Jonas Jacobson, Lucas Widerka, Ethan Oliner, John Paul Spak, and Bryan Chan share their opinions on the offseason and upcoming season. Bryan Vicente wrote the roundtable questions.
1. Since the start of last season, we have had eight head coaches fired and replaced. What does this high level of turnover mean for players? The NBA is a very results-based business; does this help players reach their full potential or hinder their growth?
Jack Weiss: I believe the turnover not only helps player development, but is actually necessary for it. As stated in the question the NBA is a results-based business, so when coaching changes are made they are often justified. We have seen this work out on multiple occasions. Giannis took a huge step forward when the Bucks hired Bud, Trae took a huge step forward when the Hawks hired McMillan, even Steph took a huge step forward when the Warriors hired Kerr. Obviously in recent years there have been some counterexamples with the Cavs, Timberwolves, and Pelicans struggling to win games and find stability at the coaching position, but I believe this to be an indictment of poorly constructed rosters, and an array of improper coaching fits. There is no evidence to suggest that sticking with one of the coaches would have helped anything. In fact, as evident by the Knicks, the proper way to go about it is to have a lot of turnover until you find the guy.
Jonas Jacobson: I think there are two perspectives when it comes to the high level of turnover for players. In one view, the constant changing of a coach could negatively affect a team’s culture, player development and leadership. On the other hand, switching coaches could help your star player by catering to their needs and instilling a new culture. Since 2014, the Knicks have had six different head coaches. Do I think their failure is due to those coaches? Partially. But I also think it takes time to find the right organizational fit. As seen with a coach like Tom Thibodeau, the Knicks just had to find the right guy to lead their organization out of the depths of bottom five finishes. Going back to what it means for players, switching coaches every couple of years doesn’t help their mentality or morale at all. Firing a coach can be seen as a cop out for continuous losing seasons and can lose a player’s trust in an organization. But sometimes you just have to switch it up. A great example of this was when the Raptors fired Dwayne Casey in favor of Nick Nurse. Although it didn’t hurt that the Raptors acquired Kahwi Leonard, Nurse looked like the promising leader he turned out to be, leading the Raptors to a title. Dwayne Casey couldn’t get the job done so they made a bold (but evidently good) decision to move on.
Lucas Widerka: It’s a bit crazy to think that 8 teams, more than a quarter of the league, changed their head coaches this past offseason. It’s even crazier to think that this was a drop-off from the prior season, where a whopping 10 teams handed over the reins of their coaching staff. However, the league’s landscape is ever-changing, and with more power being put into the hands of superstars, there is much more pressure on front offices to recruit, retain, and develop high-level talent. As such, it is pertinent for teams to ensure that they have the right man (and hopefully soon woman) at the helm. Ultimately, in this star-driven, results-based climate the NBA currently finds itself in, it’s pointless to retain an ill-fitted option at head coach for the sake of continuity.
We saw this evident last season throughout the league. The two top coaches in Coach of the Year voting were both first-year head coaches in Tom Thibodeau and Monty Williams, both of who brought their teams, led by emerging superstars, to heights unthought of prior to the season. One clear example of the right coach making all the difference is the Atlanta Hawks, and their midseason coaching change from Lloyd Pierce to Nate McMillan. 34 games into his third season with the team, with a meager 14-20 record, Lloyd Pierce was relieved of his duties in favor of current assistant coach and former Pacers head coach Nate McMillan. After a high-spending offseason, the Hawks expected their mix of a developing core and offseason acquisitions to allow the franchise to make a leap. However, accompanied by a subpar record, poor defense, and rumblings of conflict in the locker room, especially with PF John Collins and his role, Pierce fittingly got the axe. After McMillan assumed control, the team propelled themselves to an astounding 27-11 record, and advanced all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. In that span, the young core of Trae Young, John Collins, Kevin Huerter, and De’Andre Hunter developed immensely, displaying that teams should not be afraid to make coaching changes when their current situation is unsatisfactory, especially in the name of continuity. With young players, teams should want to make sure that they have the right person, not the same person, developing and coaching their squad.
Ethan Oliner: There are different reasons why teams bring in new coaches. Some of the teams with new coaches went very far in the playoffs, but ultimately weren’t able to get over the hump and reach the finals. Other teams underperformed for years and did not show any upward trajectory. The Mavericks, for example, were a top tier team over the last couple seasons and fired their head coach Rick Carlyile because he didn’t get the team to a championship level. He also didn’t deal well with feuds inside the team locker room, mainly between Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, their top two players. The owner, Mark Cuban, believes that new coach, Jason Kidd, will bring comradery in the locker room and build final adjustments so that they can get to the next level. On the other side of the spectrum are the Pelicans. They have a lot of young talent but were not able to do much with that talent over the last couple of seasons. With a new coach, Zion Williamson might be able to take the next step to becoming a superstar, and also all the young talent can be harvested so that they reach their full potential.
John Paul Spak: I think this may have a negative impact on players in the middle of their development, as they will have to adjust to a new system. The change in coaching staff will force an adaptation to new schemes and the evolution of a new synergy between coach and players. However, for rookies with no prior league experience and thus no previous experience with an NBA head coach, I think that the effect will be minimal. These rookie players will already have to grow into a role in the NBA, and the novelty of the coach will just be another step in that adjustment. However, that amount is a minority of the whole. Therefore, we may see many hiccups and early mistakes from players who had previously showed great improvement under previous coaches.
2. If you’re a GM, would you rather be the Nets/Lakers or the Thunder right now and why?
JW: This one is easy for me, it's the Nets/Lakers. Obviously you have to give Thunder GM Sam Presti credit for the amount of draft picks he has been able to acquire in recent years, but all of this effort is in hope to get to be favorites in their conference like the Nets and Lakers are today. Additionally, even though Sam Presti is a great drafter, (drafted Durant, Westbrook, and Harden in his first three years in the position) there is no guarantee that these picks hit in the lottery, and that Presti then drafts the right guy. We have also seen this situation play out before. After the famous Paul Pierce trade, the Boston Celtics had an overabundance of picks which all ended up amounting to nothing. The most valuable asset they got is Jayson Tatum who, while great, has not yet shown that he can be the Lebron, Durant, level superstar to be the best player on a championship team. The reality is to be a true contender in the NBA you need that level of player, and since it's unlikely that the top free agents will want to go play in Oklahoma City, they need to draft someone like the Bucks did Giannis which is a long shot. With that said, SGA is a nice piece, and I would rather be the Thunder than all of the other rebuilding teams, but I would much rather be an already established championship threat.
JJ: The Nets and Lakers’ positions would be at the top of my list if I was a GM. Although the Thunder’s future draft capital looks very promising, there is no guarantee in the draft. In the long run, the Thunder would only hope that their situation eventually ends up to be where the Lakers and Nets are right now. Although the Nets and Lakers’ championship window might be getting smaller as their stars get older, the high chance that one of them takes home the trophy this year can’t be passed up.
LW: Although both of these situations present two completely different challenges, I would much rather be in the Nets or Lakers situation over the Thunder right now, and I would insist that this should not even be debatable. Not only do both the Nets and Lakers have arguably 3 of the top 10 players of this generation, but they also play in the two largest markets in the league, and are given a complete green light by their ownership to do what’s necessary to consistently contend. In OKC, not only are you at a significant disadvantage being in one of the smallest markets in pro sports, but you also have to contest with salary and resource restraints, meanwhile the vast majority of their assets are complete unknowns. While I love Shai Gilgious-Alexander’s game, and think they might have some solid pieces in Dort, Maledon, and Moses Brown, there are so many burdens that lay ahead of them. While there is immense pressure on the Nets and Lakers to win, there is a lot more that can be actively done to alter and provide success. I personally love working in high-stakes and challenging environments, but the potential payoffs and immediate restrictions that the Thunder face make the Nets and Lakers’ situations much more desirable.
Bryan Chan: I would rather be the Thunder right now. The Lakers have a very old team age wise, with several veterans who are past their primes. Injuries are a concern for this team. We will also have to see if Russell Westbrook can play effectively with LeBron James as both of them are very ball-dominant players. The Nets have three bonafide superstars in Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving but the trio played together in only thirteen games last season. This season, it is still a question of how many games Kyrie Irving will play this season with his unresolved issues off the court. The Nets do not plan to offer a contract extension to Irving, and there is speculation that the team is also exploring trade destinations for the All-NBA point guard.
The Thunder have a very bright future ahead of them. They currently have 36 draft picks over the next seven years. Most likely, not all 36 picks will become top-10 picks in the first round of the draft, but it only takes a few valuable picks to turn around the franchise. For example, when the Boston Celtics traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets, they received a haul of draft picks. The trade ultimately allowed the Celtics to draft Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the two cornerstones of their franchise today. In this year’s draft, the Thunder selected Josh Giddey with the sixth pick. He has the potential to be a franchise point guard with his unique size and skillset. The Thunder have a lot to look forward to in the coming years with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander leading the charge.
EO: As a GM in the league right now I would definitely want to be in the Nets/Lakers position and specifically the Nets. First, the reason one would want to have the Thunder’s position is that they have a plethora of draft picks in the future, with some young talent already in the system. While having a great number of picks is important, they most definitely do not correlate to superstar players. The draft system is quite risky and there are countless busts every year. I would advocate to be the GM of the Nets because they have the talent now to win the NBA Finals, even without Kyrie Irving. Kevin Durant and James Harden, along with all the talent behind them have enough to win. The way the Nets are constructed is that they have a championship window for at least 4 years. Kevin Durant signed a contract extension, and by the way James Harden has been talking, it seems like he would also sign one. The additions of Cam Thomas and Patty Mills can take over the role Kyrie would have had. Also a championship in this league is so coveted, so winning one championship is worth the expensive salaries and also uncertain futures, with the lack of draft picks.
JPS: As a GM, I’d much rather be the Thunder. The Lakers have a win-now mentality and certainly are championship contenders on paper, but with an aging core older than that of the Chicago Bulls in the ‘98 season, their time is limited. The Nets are in a similar position, albeit with a slightly younger core. However, with the current debacle over Kyrie Irving’s vaccination status, there are far too many question marks surrounding this team. Kevin Durant is an incredible playmaker, but he wasn’t able to carry his team past the Bucks last season. They are in a win-now mode, but they still have too many internal issues that will hinder their chances. The Thunder are the opposite as a young team with a lot of potential to grow. Their case is one where GM’s have the most opportunity to grow and show their skill as their players develop into a championship caliber team with multiple years of contention available.
3. One hot take for this season:
JW: My hot take for this upcoming season is that the rule change of the elimination of the foul on the unnatural shot will have far more of an impact than we are anticipating. On the good side I think we will see massive improvements in pace and quality of play as free throws obviously slow the game down and it is always frustrating to see games determined by the refs. This takes them out of the game. However, I think we may see some of our favorite perimeter players such as James Harden, Trae Young and Steph Curry whose games revolve around drawing fouls on this move struggle just a little bit, causing a re emphasis on the big man. Don’t get me wrong they will still be some of the best players in the league, but the fact that defenders will not have to worry so much about staying on the ground when guarding them, it may be difficult to be quite as dominant.
JJ: My (maybe biased) hot take is that the Knicks will finish as a top three team in the East. But honestly, I don’t think that this is as “hot” of a take as people think. Last year, the Knicks were the 4th seed, standing only behind the 76ers, Nets and Bucks and were followed by the Hawks, Heat, Celtics, and Bulls. And out of these teams, only a couple definitively got better: the Heat acquired Kyle Lowry in a sign and trade and the Bulls added Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan. The Bucks have kept a very similar roster, the Nets are handling their situation with Kyrie Irving, the 76ers have their chemistry struggles with Ben Simmons and the Hawks and Celtics made minimal moves in the offseason. On the other hand, the Knicks assessed their offensive woes by signing both Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier. By no means am I saying the Knicks are one of the best three teams in the eastern conference, but they have a shot to have one of the best records in the conference.
LW: RJ Barrett will be an all-star this season. After an up-and-down rookie season, riddled by injuries and streaky performances, RJ Barrett emerged in his sophomore season as a top-three player on the eventual fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. Over his last 40 games, the Canadian went nuclear from range, shooting 44.8% from three, while also averaging 18.6 points, 5.4 boards, and 3.1 assists as a 20-year-old. With this progression, and an improved cast around him, it’s not only feasible, but likely, that those counting stats will improve, as he’ll have more space and experience to navigate and devastate through NBA defenses with gusto. This preseason has already provided a glimpse as to what’s to come, with improved defense and passing. If Barrett is able to improve his shooting around the rim, and sustain his already elite shooting from beyond the arc, fully expect to see the 21-year-old’s name littered across all-star ballots this season.
BC: LaMelo Ball will make an All-NBA team this season. I have always been a believer in the youngest Ball brother, going all the way back to his days in Lithuania. He is already the face of the Hornets franchise and he will only continue to ascend. Ball’s vision and basketball IQ, skills that are almost unteachable, rank at the top of the league. This year, Ball has even more weapons to his disposal with the signing of Kelly Oubre Jr. and the Hornets drafting James Bouknight this past summer. With an improved Hornets team, Ball has the chance to take his team into the playoffs and make some noise in the Eastern Conference. The second-year point guard has the potential to put together a 20pt-8reb-8ast season this year which is more than enough to make an All-Star team and better yet, an All-NBA team.
EO: A hot take I have for this season is that the Clippers will regress as a team and even may miss the playoffs. I do believe they will sneak in as a low seed but they will not be as good as last year. The first reason is the uncertainty with Kawhi Leornard. He is recovering from at least a partial tear of his ACL. He is the best player on the team and without him they will be in trouble. Paul George being the leader by himself may not work so well because he is a highly streaky player. They also did not make a big splash in free agency, as they did not sign any star players or even pieces that will help them get to the next level.
JPS: The Mavericks will miss the playoffs this year. With a coaching change underway and Luka still an incredibly young player, there are still a lot of questions that need to be worked out between the players and the front office. Porzingis has been largely underwhelming in Dallas and will continue to digress. Overall, the year will still contribute towards positive growth for the team, but in the short term, the team won’t succeed.
4. Who is your MVP and finals champion pick?
JW: Preseason MVP: Steph Curry
When Kevin Durant is not there to cancel his stats and the Warriors are competitive, prime Steph Curry wins MVP. Kevin Durant is a Brooklyn Net, and I expect the Warriors to be near the top of the west with the additions of Jonathan Kuminga, and Moses Moody, the return of Andre Igoudala, and most importantly eventually a healthy Klay Thompson. With Steph showing no signs of leaving his prime, give me a huge season from him this year.
Finals Champion: Lakers
There are two modern day athletes I have learned never to doubt: Tom Brady and Lebron James. Everytime I think they may be done they have proven me wrong time and time again. I am going to say that his poor performance in last year's playoffs was because of the injured ankle until we have hard evidence that it wasn’t. Working under this assumption, we have a healthy top 2 player of all time with an elite supporting cast, give me them to win the chip. Obviously you have to credit the talent of the Nets (they are the vegas favorites), but to me the Kyrie situation is a huge issue, I am not sure I trust Harden in the playoffs, I still have concerns about their defense, I don’t think Nash playing his stars the entire game will work over a long playoff run, and we haven’t seen Durant carry a finals team outside of the overpowered Warriors teams. I don’t think they get out of the east.
JJ: Preseason MVP: Giannis
Coming off a championship, I expect Giannis and the Bucks to keep the pressure on the rest of the NBA and I see no reason why they won’t have the best record in the NBA. Last year, Giannis was 4th in voting and he has been in the top 7 of MVP voting every year since the 2016-2017 season. Luka Doncic, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant were the three other players I would have considered picking for the award.
Finals champion: Nets
Just off of the Nets’ talent in Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn should be one of the favorites in the NBA this year. The Nets also have some solid role players in Joe Harris, Patty Mills, Paul Millsap and Blake Griffin. The only thing stopping the Nets this year is their injury history, off the court issues and the Bucks.
LW: Preseason MVP: Stephen Curry
My MVP choice going into this season has been in a bit of flux so far, but as of now, I’m most tempted to pencil in Steph Curry. After watching him last year, you could reasonably make the claim that the former unanimous MVP had his best individual performance. After losing fellow Splash Brother Klay Thompson for the year, it was expected for Steph and the Warriors to have another effectively lost-season. However, Curry was able to carry near-single-handedly bring the Warriors from the worst record in the league the season prior, to the eighth seed in a fierce Western Conference. Averaging 32 points a game, Curry was a consistently devastating force in a rather wildly inconsistent offence in San Francisco. With the hopeful addition of a healthy Klay Thompson, and the development and addition of other young talent, including rookies Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga, Steph will be able to lead an improved Warriors squad, strengthening a potential MVP case compared to last season.
Preseason Finals Pick: Brooklyn Nets
I have the Nets winning it all this year. I’ve watched LeBron play for too long now that it’s nearly impossible for me to doubt him when he’s healthy. With Davis finally moving to the five, and getting the athleticism of Westbrook and Monk, the Lakers will be able to pose many extremely difficult situations for opposing teams. Luckily for the Nets, they play on the other side of the playoff bracket. Although Kyrie’s availability is in question, Harden and Durant together were electric, with Harden playing possibly the most beautiful brand of basketball he’s ever played. Now, with an entire offseason and 45 games as a Net under his belt, Harden and the rest of this explosive Nets roster should be seen as the team to beat going into the season. Although Joe Harris had a rough playoffs, he’s still one of the better shooters in the league, and with more development from guys like Nic Claxton and Bruce Brown, supplemented with the veteran presences of Blake Griffin, Patty Mills, and Paul Millsap, the Nets look like an absolute force. The question is if they can stay healthy, and Steve Nash can get out of his own way with rotations.
BC: Preseason MVP: Luka Doncic
I think this is the year Luka Doncic gets it done. If Doncic can be on the court for at least 70 games this season, there is no reason why he should not be top three in MVP voting. It is very possible that Doncic averages a triple double in his fourth season. I also strongly believe that he will figure things out with Kristaps Porzingis after a disappointing season last year. With one year of the European duo under the Mavericks’ belt, they have the chance to make some noise in the Western Conference this season.
Final Champions: Los Angeles Lakers
I know this is an easy answer, but how can you not believe the Lakers are going to be NBA Champions this year? LeBron James did not take an early exit in the playoffs last season lightly, and this offseason, the Lakers bolstered their team with veterans who had major success in their primes not too long ago. Barring any injuries, naming the Lakers as the favorites to win the championship is a no brainer. Not to mention, the Lakers also have some young talent coming off the bench this season in Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn, and Malik Monk.
EO: Preseason MVP: Luka Doncic
Luka was a heavy favorite to win the award last season. He averaged All NBA quality numbers but he wasn’t able to reach the MVP level. I think the improvement in his shooting over the offseason will catapult Luka to win the MVP. He has a career 3 point percentage of 33.1 percent, but last season he was up to 35%. This is a small sample size, but Luka has shown to have the determination to improve, and I believe he will take the next step and become the MVP. Additionally, The Mavericks' new coach is Jason Kidd, who was a former NBA point guard who is a Hall of Famer. He will be able to effectively give Doncic proper advice and critiques that will help him improve.
Finals Champion: Brooklyn Nets
The Nets were by far and away the best team in the league last year. Going into the playoffs they were the heavy favorites and the only reason they did not have the most wins in the regular season was due to countless injuries. Despite all the improbable injuries, they coasted through the first round. With a healthy James Harden, they probably win the next series in 5 games. Even with all the injuries, the Nets were one foot on the 3 point line away from winning the series. Also James Harden and Kevin Durant were not able to build much if any chemistry because they were barely on the court together in the regular season. This season they will be able to play together, along with new additions of Paul Millsap, Patty Mills, and rookie Cam Thomas.
5. This rookie class has been one of the more hyped in recent history. Who’s your favorite player at the top of the class and do you think any team got a major steal?
JW: This may be kind of a vanilla pick, but my favorite guy at the top is Cade Cunningham. Besides the fact that he is a 6’8 point guard who shoots, defends, and has a great basketball IQ, what impressed me most about him was his ability to lead a mediocre Oklahoma St team to the championship in a LOADED big 12. That impact on winning is hard to find.
As for a steal I like Nah’shon “Bones” Hyland who got drafted number 26 by the Nuggets. Bones led a VCU team to the championship in a surprisingly competitive A10, and his game translates great to the NBA. He is a long lanky defender who can guard on the perimeter, and protect the rim if necessary. He is also a great shooter and scorer. The ability to space the floor and defend are essential skills for him to fit on a competitive Nuggets team where the offense obviously won’t revolve around him. Look for him to be an impact guy right away. Oh and he also finished as the rookie preseason points leader.
JJ: My favorite player at the top of this year's draft class is James Bouknight. The Hornets got an absolute steal when they selected Bouknight at the 11th pick. In his last year at UConn, Bouknight was an electric scorer, averaging 18.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. In the summer league and preseason, Bouknight kept his production up, averaging around 17 points. Bouknight and Lamelo Ball have the potential to be one of the most exciting backcourt duos this year.
LW: After the 2021 NBA Draft took place a mere 7 months after the 2020 Draft, the hype surrounding the incoming rookie class surmounted to unbelievably high levels, and deservedly so. Now, we will finally be able to witness what these neophytes can bring to their new teams. At the top of the draft, the player I’m most interested in watching the progression of is Scottie Barnes, chosen fourth overall by the Toronto Raptors. When the Raptors return to Toronto for their first regular season game since February of 2020, they will have a very different look and feel from when they left. Gone is the face of the franchise in Kyle Lowry, and then-budding star Pascal Siakam seemed to regress mightily last season. Three years removed from a championship, Nick Nurse will lead this young core into the grind of an 82 game season, where it will be interesting to see how Barnes fits into the roster. The 6’9” rookie plays more like a point guard than a true forward, and flashed true all-around potential and lockdown defense in his lone year with the Noles. I’m fascinated by how his skills will translate to the NBA level, and if he can improve his shooting, the sky’s the limit.
As the draft progressed through the wee hours of the night, it perplexed me how Jared Butler’s name kept falling and falling and falling. The guard out of Baylor has the skills that the NBA seems to covet right now, and while I never thought he was a top 15-ish player, falling all the way out of the first round to 40 was quite a surprise. With that 40th pick, the rookie goes from one champion to another, as the Milwaukee Bucks acquired a 6’2”, 225lb guard who plays elite defense both on and off ball, and possesses a natural feel for the game offensively and defensively, accompanied by a great long range jumper. Shooting 41.6% from three in his final season at Baylor, while also posting the third-highest steals per game out of power-five teams, Butler’s skill set should provide an immediate boost to the Bucks rotation.
BC: My favorite player in this year’s draft class is Jalen Green, who was selected with the second pick by the Houston Rockets. Green is a three level scorer and has the most potential in his class. Green is also very athletic and has the ability to create his own shot. Green is expected to be the primary ball-handler on a Rockets team that is still in the early stages of their rebuild process following the departure of James Harden. This will leave Green plenty of opportunities to show that he should have been the number one pick in the draft. From what I saw from him last season with the G-League’s Ignite and in the Summer League, Green has the potential and raw talent to be the primary scorer on a championship team, making him my favorite to win Rookie of the Year.
A major steal in the draft is Cam Thomas who was drafted 27th overall by the Brooklyn Nets out of LSU. The rich just got richer. Thomas is one of the best scorers in the class averaging 23 points per game last season for LSU. He showed out in the NBA Summer League as well, averaging 27 points per game, where he was named co-MVP alongside Sacramento Kings’ guard Davion Mitchell. This season, Thomas will be the scoring spark plug off the bench for the Nets. Thomas will have the chance to learn from superstars in Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving which will only make him better. I was surprised Thomas fell to the end of the first round and the Nets made the most out of their lone first round pick.
EO: The best pick in the draft was Josh Giddey. He was picked 6th overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder, out of Melbourne Australia. He played in the NBL, the same league as Lamelo Ball, and almost put up triple double numbers. I think he has very similar passing skills to Lamelo ball. He is around the same size and he might even have greater shooting ability. He averaged 13.5 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists in limited minutes in the preseason. He will also have a lot of freedom while playing with the Thunder. The Thunder don’t have a lot of expectations and Josh will be able to learn on the job and get extensive minutes. EO
Even though Davion Mitchell was selected 9th overall by the Sacramento Kings, he could be the steal of the draft. With unbelievable two way ability, Davion could become a perennial All Star as well as All NBA Defense ability. Davion continuously locked up star players in college and he will continue to do that in the NBA. He has an extremely high motor and will give the team 100% every time he touches the floor.
6. One year after signing his supermax, Ben Simmons has requested a trade and his value is near rock bottom, partly due to his huge contract. Should this situation lead teams to be more wary of giving out supermaxes in the future?
JW: I am going to do the unthinkable in today’s NBA, and defend Ben Simmons. I think we are all overreacting to what can only be described as a playoff meltdown. Obviously the drama in the offseason is unideal as well, but I believe that eventually boils over. With that aside, Simmons has still been an all star the past 3 seasons, all defensive first team the past 2, and was all NBA third team in 2020. Is he on the same level as the NBA’s true elites? No. Is his game flawed? Yes. But is he still a max player? Absolutely. As for the max contracts, I feel like most of them are actually pretty good; the only really awful one right now is Kristaps on the Mavs. With that said, the strategy of teams with superstars, such as the sixers and mavs, giving max contracts to their second best player is one that makes sense, even if it doesn’t work everytime. The teams that get in trouble with the max are teams such as the Twolves who give it to guys who are not good enough to be the best player on a championship team.
JJ: In hindsight, we can all agree that Ben Simmons did not warrant a max contract. But at the time of the signing, Simmons looked like a future star and cornerstone of the 76ers franchise. Now, Simmons’ ego has gotten in the way of the 76ers chemistry and has made his contract look like a managerial embarrassment. Should teams be more wary in giving out supermax contracts? Yes. But that doesn’t mean teams should be deterred by paying their young stars. Simmons’ case is also specific in that his play-style is very unique. In all honesty, I’m not sure if this situation could have been avoided, the 76ers put their trust in Simmons and maybe should have been more reluctant to cough up their money.
LW: After the Sixers’ season came to a crashing halt in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the combination of Ben Simmons and the city of Philadelphia appeared to be on its last leg. The former first overall pick had a playoffs to forget, a pattern all too similar, as multiple costly mistakes and mental errors rendered Simmons almost unplayable late in games. Now, a couple days from Opening Night, Simmons has absolutely no leverage in being traded, as his massive contract, and a big asking price in return by Sixers brass, makes a deal difficult to imagine in practice as things currently stand. The question marks surrounding Simmons reasonably render uncertainty of how successful Simmons can be for a contending team, especially if so many assets are devoted to acquiring and paying him.
However, I think that this specific situation should not make teams weary of giving players super-mex deals. The main things front offices should be worried about is player empowerment as it relates to free agency and roster construction on a yearly basis. In its current climate, multiple stars are needed for a team to contend, thus it is of the utmost importance to be able to retain superstar talent. Being stuck in mediocrity is a death sentence in this NBA, as it’s rare to develop non-lottery picks into superstar players, and superstars, or big markets, are usually a necessity in recruiting more superstars, which is the only true path to a ring right now. Thus, I see the Ben Simmons situation more as an isolated incident, as there were already clear indications that Simmons and Embiid might not be the most compatible duo, and that Simmons’ limitation could prove costly in playoff runs. Teams need to be smarter about evaluating their current situation when considering to supermax a player, but if they see their window in the present, superstar talents are a necessity.
BC: I will say it here: Ben Simmons is a jump shot away from being a top-5 player in the NBA. Obviously, developing a jump shot is a big “what-if”, but many teams who are potential trade partners should consider this hypothetical scenario. Simmons was deserving of a max contract. He made an All-NBA team from the 2019-20 season, is a multi-time All-Star, and is an elite defender and facilitator.
However, Simmons handled his situation with the 76ers very poorly. Head coach Doc Rivers and Joel Embiid told the media how it was about Simmons, and the former first overall pick did not take the criticism lightly. Just because one player was irresponsible and stubborn about his situation, that does not mean teams should be more cautious with signing players to max extensions. Being more cautious will only hurt the players. Players would be losing out on tens of millions of dollars just because GMs are afraid that a player may want to part ways in the future. These players are working extremely hard during the season and offseason to receive the credentials to be eligible for a max extension.
EO: The Ben Simmons situation is not the norm of how players react when receiving Supermaxes. However, the main reason why teams should continue to hand out rookie level max contracts is because it builds trust in the organization and will lead free agents to that team. A lot of high level free agents look at the stability of the organization and other players’ likeability with the front office. The players on the team will have more trust with the team if they financially reward their players. Also, small market teams especially need to give out these max contracts because otherwise the players would leave and go to big market teams. That is another discussion but there still isn’t market equality within the salary cap for small market teams. It is still much harder for them to maintain a star.