Welcome to the 5th edition of, Around The League! In today's article, our three guests discuss the Kevin Durant press conference, where he called out a reporter, and give their thoughts on the winners and losers of the NBA Trade Deadline.
Our guests this week: Tommy Dee (Fan Sided and SNY), Rohan Katti (Behind The Buck Pass) and Warren Shaw (Shaw Sports and Close Up 360)
Photo Credit: Sportingnews.com
Question: Over the last few days, which team made the biggest move(s) to help their team for the playoffs? Explain your reasoning.
Tommy Dee: "I played against Elton Brand in high school - he was a tremendously smart and gifted player and is really off to a great start early in his career as an executive after incredible success as a player. To me, the 76ers have done well in basically upgrading at the wing spot with Harris and Simmons and adding depth overall. That's what you do when you think you're close, you get aggressive. Guys like Elton are great for the league in that he just showed he knows when it's time to step on the pedal to win a ring. His move made Masai react in getting Gasol, who they gave a lot for my mind being that he's only 26. But the reality is the Raptors had to keep pace and got the best big not named Anthony Davis available. Sixers also did well to add Jame Ennis and Malachi Richardson. I like what the Bucks did in adding 3-Kola. I've said for a long time now that what they are building, starting with length, which was a strategy led by former GM John Hammond, should really be talked about more as being a great model for this "modern NBA." Mirotic's 7.2 three pointers attempted per game fits in perfectly with what Mike Budenholzer wants to do offensively. They are the best team defensively in terms of rating and are a top 5 offense offensively and now they have depth. That recipe keeps you playing late into the springtime."
Rohan Katti: " The rich got even richer when the Milwaukee Bucks traded for Nikola Mirotic. The team with the league’s best record managed to get a player who will seamlessly integrate into their system without giving up any rotation pieces. Thon Maker and Jason Smith were not close to sniffing playing time with the Bucks, so sending them away for Mirotic was a as good of as a trade that one could ask for. One of the potential concerns for Milwaukee come playoff time was that if Brook Lopez got played off the floor, there was no one who could truly take his spot. Ersan Ilyasova and D.J. Wilson are capable of playing small ball five but not for long stretches, and Wilson has little experience. Now with Mirotic, that concern has been mitigated as he can perfectly fit into Lopez’s role of being a gunner and Mirotic is even more mobile than the lumbering Lopez. With the Pelicans last season, Mirotic showed exactly how deadly he can be at the five, and this move just provides more versatility for Mike Budenhozler and more spacing for Giannis Antetokounmpo to dominate."
Warren Shaw: "While it's easy to point to the 76ers due to their myriad of moves, I need to see the fit of so many new personalities before crowing the trade deadline winner. I believe it's Toronto who helped their case for stability the most with the addition of Marc Gasol who aids them on both sides of the ball. His ability to post up, pass and screen give Toronto added dimensions offensively as the Raptors nurse Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry along through "load management" and nagging injuries. Gasol can carry a team with his scoring (for short instances) and facilitate from the post or elbows. Defensively he's smart and should fit nicely with Leonard as they are both active communicators on that side of the ball. Toronto also created roster spots in the deal for Gasol which will allow them to be active in the buyout market where veteran bigs and shooters should be available to fill out their team. We the North hopes to be singing We are the champions at season's end and the addition of Gasol puts them in a better position than before."
Photo Credit: NJ.com
Question: Did the 76ers give up too much for Tobias Harris?
Tommy Dee: "I don't think so. Talk about depth. Mike Scott is an underrated stretch 4. Simmons per minute is terrific. Yes, they gave up two first round picks, but you can't just build a sustainable championship caliber team on just picks. Their core is set now that they've figured out the Fultz distraction and moved away from Okafor. While Tobias is a risk because of free agency, I don't see him wanting to leave before they see what they have, which could be special and will take time. I just think it's a wise move by Brand as it relates to leveraging those draft assets."
Rohan Katti: "If Tobias Harris had at least one year left on his deal, this would be a fantastic deal for the 76ers. Unfortunately, Harris is a free agent this summer and Philly emptied their remaining draft capital and some depth to get the deal done. Landry Shamet was a great shooter for the Sixers, who need all the shooting they can get, and Mike Muscala provided lineup versatility, though he wasn’t playing that well. The four first-round picks that Elton Brand sent away is obviously a lot, and it means that Philly cannot make any more big deals. If the Sixers want to vault into the top tier of the East with Milwaukee and Toronto, they’ll need to add some depth to their bench on the buyout market, which will be difficult with both Wes Matthews and Wayne Ellington already deciding to sign with the Pacers and Pistons, respectively."
Warren Shaw: "We thought rookie GM, Elton Brand pushed all of his chips in on this season after the addition of Jimmy Butler. But he decided to double-down on his bet after the addition of Harris before the deadline. Philly was "pick rich" and channeling his inner Danny Ainge didn't sit right with Brand who sees an opportunity for his process-driven squad in a LeBron-less Eastern Conference. Trepidation about surrendering Miami's 2021 first-rounder in the deal with Harris is fair. However, securing Harris to form arguably the best starting five in the conference, was a risk worth taking. Harris is already thinking about staying, which eases the loss of a player to be named later. Brand's shrewdness in flipping Markelle Fultz to Orlando recouping two picks, including a first-rounder, along with Jonathon Simmons, also puts a band-aid on the cut created to acquire Harris."
Photo Credit: Sports News
Question: What team did you expect to make a move before the deadline, but didn’t? Why did you think they would/should make a move?
Tommy Dee: "It's tricky because there will still be moves because the buyout market has become so previlent recently. That said, I thought the Nets would be more aggressive. They have momentum, but I get why they didn't gamble on trying to get a top 4 seed at this point with the Bucks, Raptors and Sixers all being assertive first. That's where it really helps that you play in Brooklyn. No one was pressing Sean Marks to make moves. What a luxury."
Rohan Katti: "Even though there were rumblings that they were close to acquiring Marc Gasol, I am very surprised that the Charlotte Hornets did not make a move. Currently sitting at seventh in the East, Kemba Walker’s free agency this summer is looming over this team. If Walker decides to leave, the Hornets are stuck in a bad spot with no sure-fire talent for a full rebuild. Their best shot to staying relevant is to retain Kemba, and making a move at the deadline that could help move up the standing and possible have a hard-fought first round series would help the Hornets’ case."
Warren Shaw: "Blame NBA Twitter for this, but the Utah Jazz had been linked to guys like Mike Conley and Nikola Mirotic before the deadline. Instead, the Jazz are left with their palms face up hoping to hold on to their spot in the very deep Western Conference. Memphis proved unwilling to deal (or at least not for Utah's offer) Conley and the Bucks sneakily struck a deal for Mirotic. The Jazz were left without a viable backup plan to secure shooting or improve their point guard situation. As all teams will, they'll monitor the buyout market but a trade could have been beneficial especially knowing free agents aren't clamoring to visit Salt Lake City in the summer."
Photo Credit: NBCDFW
Question: How would evaluate the Mavericks/Knicks trade that ultimately landed Kristaps Porzingis in Dallas for Dennis Smith Jr. and cap space?
Tommy Dee: "Mark Cuban is a calculated risk taker. It's simply who he is and he's rolling the dice big time here. He traded for a player with unparalleled potential coming off a knee injury that wants to control trade leverage against him moving forward. The Knicks understand they've rolled the dice as well, albeit with less risk, and are happy with the cap space outcome. Frankly, I can't believe they were able to clear space AND land an unprotected 1st round pick. History may highlight this trade as the greatest in Knicks history. I watched every second of Porzingis' career and spent brief time with his group. There's a lot to the idea that he's not getting the best advice in my opinion. Plus, the biggest red flag for me was that he got hurt making an extraordinary play, which tells me that his body may not be able to handle heavy exertion. That's what big time basketball is. That worry is something that the team had when they drafted him."
Rohan Katti: "In a trade that shocked the NBA community, the New York Knicks traded their most talented player since Patrick Ewing for a dream. Initially, I was not that shocked at the trade because it’s a no-brainer for Dallas to acquire a tremendous talent for picks and a player that wanted to be traded and the Knicks will always make terrible deals. However, now that some time has passed, I’m flabbergasted that New York actually traded Porzingis. Unless they have a commitment from two top free agents to sign with them this summer who did not want to play with Kristaps, there was no reason to trade the unicorn. They could’ve created cap space in other ways, but instead used Porzingis as a sweetener in a salary dump. If the summer doesn’t go the way the Knicks want, they are stuck in a worse rebuild than what they started with."
Warren Shaw: "This is a trade with various angles but in the end, both teams are happy--even if the fan bases aren't. Dallas couldn't pass on the opportunity to deal a malcontent in Smith Jr. and couple Porzingis up with Luka Doncic for what should be a European duo for the ages. Dallas also creates cap space while mortgaging picks, but if the Unicorn can return healthy, they should be able to add a third viable piece sooner than later. The Knicks acted hastily and we'll never know if they could have gotten a better deal for Porzingis. The important aspect of this deal is the belief that they may have a subsequent "wink wink" agreement with a pending free agent. It also allows them to fuel the tank for this summer's draft. On another note, if Scott Perry and company have any inclination that it could take Porzingis a while to regain form, it might have been wise to get out when they did. Again, as I said, many angles to this deal. We won't know the full ramifications until next season."
Photo Credit: NBC Sports
Question: What are your thoughts on Kevin Durant’s blowup, where he told a reporter to “grow up”?
Tommy Dee: "I like to think that I'm am the pied piper of anti Zero Sum thinking, but happen to agree with Durant 100% in this particular situation. Look, the NBA needs the media in a lot of ways, but what players don't need are opinion hit pieces, which this was. (Look at what the writer inferred via a link regarding what KD said about the Scott Brooks firing for example.) He said KD approved of the firing when what he actually he said was that he supported his organization 100%. He was being a team player, while showing respect for Brooks. There's a very obvious difference from what was inferred and to pretend otherwise is disingenuous. I have no idea how the editors didn't pull that out of the piece. That, to me, is negligent. There was a time where columnists actually made efforts to build relationships with players. It's a slippery slope, but that's what made great writers great. Durant handled it very well and what bothered me was that reporters got offended that he didn't talk to them. Talk about entitlement. We live in a crazy world as it relates to media nowadays. I'm all for player empowerment against agenda and click-bait. Their jobs are stressful enough as KD pointed out. I think a lot of people in media need to grow up and understand that it should never, EVER be about them."
Rohan Katti: "Kevin Durant has no idea how to handle the media, which is going to make life very difficult for him if he does indeed sign with the Knicks this summer. Part of the job of playing in the NBA is interacting with the media, and it is part of the media’s job to interact with players. The reporters are just doing their job and it is frankly childish for Durant to have acted like that. KD avoided media for the longest time after the Porzingis trade and it would’ve been easier for him to just act normal instead of acting in a manner that raises questions."
Warren Shaw: "It has to be unsettling to answer questions about something that is months away and probably even more unsettling to know questions about him are being asked to his teammates. Still, Durant's battle within himself at times and with the media can be exhausting. Unfortunately, the business of the league cares not for his feelings but rather the clicks and page views generated from his frustration. It's a vicious cycle where media members could, in turn, ask him to "grow up" as well. This is a world where everybody seemingly wants things both ways but inevitably, peace will only come when we accept things for how they truly are. Durant nor the media have reached that middle ground yet. Hopefully, KD can block out the noise and just play ball but something tells me the Slim Reaper will try to snatch the souls of more media members before the season is out."
Written and Arranged by: Alex Golden