Hi, I’m Jamie. I’m thrilled to be on board as a new writer here at Three Up, Three Down. I know nothing about what’s going on in baseball (is Ken Griffey Jr. still playing?). I do, however, know a thing or two about basketball. Yes, I’m a chick who religiously follows the NBA, and not just because my boyfriend does.
This is me laying peacefully next to a giant cardboard cutout of Blake Griffin. This is me befriending a complete stranger on the jumbotron at a Clippers game I went to alone.
Now that I’ve gotten my virtual introduction out of the way, can we talk about this offseason? I mean, what even happened? I began following basketball closely about four years back, and this summer has been the most eventful NBA offseason by far. Superstar players I couldn’t imagine leaving their teams have uprooted and traded in their jerseys. Here are the top five offseason moves I can’t wait to see play out this season.
Jimmy Butler reunited with Thibodeau in Minnesota
Reunited and it feels so good…or nah?
The Minnesota Timberwolves were a team I really enjoyed watching last season. Between Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, Karl-Anthony Towns, Kris Dunn and Ricky Rubio’s passing, the team was full of raw, young talent and top-10 offense…and not a whole lot of defense or veteran experience.
Enter: Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Jeff Teague and Jamal Crawford. Exit: Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, and Ricky Rubio (or as my boyfriend calls him, the COAT – cutest of all time).
Butler worked his ass off to become the leader he was in Chicago for six years, four of which were spent coached by Thibodeau. The two of them reached the playoffs all four years together in Chicago, and Butler even earned the Most Improved Player of the Year Award under Thib’s coaching.
As a determined veteran who has worked with Coach Thibodeau before, Butler will be able to fill that leadership role the Wolves were lacking last season. In addition to providing leadership, Butler is going to contribute some beastly defense, something the Timberpups desperately need. The Wolves are also gaining experience with the additions of Taj Gibson, Jeff Teague, and Jamal Crawford. The last time the Wolves made the playoffs was in 2004, but I have a feeling that may change this season.
Chicago, you f***ed up.
Chris Paul joins James Harden and the Houston Rockets
I don’t want to accept this.
Alright, I’m butthurt about this one. I live in Los Angeles and have had the pleasure of seeing Chris Paul play a number of times and he is just damn good. Watching he, Deandre Jordan and Blake Griffin play together was always so fun and now that’s GONE. It seems unfair that Paul, a 9-time All-Star, is going to be playing alongside James Harden. Yeah, James Harden, the MVP runner-up and the guy who literally had the best offensive year ever last season. The Rockets won 55 games last season with a single “superstar”. That’s pretty damn good if you ask me, considering we are now in the, how do you say, superteam era.
People’s main concern about this move is whether the two ball-dominant guards will be able to play well together or not. Remember, Harden left a team with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant so he could have his own team. My thoughts? The Rockets are going to be able to have either Chris Paul or James Harden (or both) on the floor for 48 minutes per game – that’s the whole game, by the way. They are both great players, and will be able to modify their roles and figure out their chemistry on the court.
Chris Paul is the best defensive point guard in the league – he’s incredibly physical, quick and smart, and has one of the best steal percentages in the league. Let’s just say James Harden is not even close to being elite defensively. Paul is also going to add mid-range scoring to the Rockets’ already impressive offense. The Rockets will still rain 3’s on their opponents, but the addition of Paul will make their offense a little less predictable.
Paul and Harden haven’t been able to perform well with their respective teams in the conference finals, but maybe they’re just what the other needs.
Just dudes hangin’ out.
I found myself rooting for the Cavaliers a lot the past two seasons. LeBron James stopped being a villainous heathen to me when he returned home to Cleveland, and I loved watching him play with Irving. Also, I do NOT like the Warriors (though I will try to put my feelings aside and be unbiased in my pieces, but seriously, f*** Kevin Durant and Draymond Green) so I was happy to root for the Cavs. Watching them come back from a 3-1 deficit to win the 2016 finals was incredible.
Irving choosing to leave Cleveland for Boston wasn’t entirely surprising to me, though – if he stayed in Cleveland he would always be second to James, and really, how much can you actually trust someone who thinks the Earth is flat?
I’ll get more into Irving later. I’m curious to see what Ty Lue decides to do with the current Cavs roster. I’m a sucker for Isaiah Thomas, so I’m happy to see him in Cleveland, though he’ll most likely be out until at least Christmas with his hip injury. That leaves Derrick Rose likely to start at the point. Rose has been plagued by injury, but is currently healthy. Rose had a pretty good season last year with the New York Knicks – a definite improvement from the previous season. People weren’t paying much attention to that because, well, the Knicks were a mess. But will Rose’s hopeful resurgence be enough to fill the void left by Irving and his offensive magic? He doesn’t have the same play-making instinct Irving has that worked so well with James, nor is he the shooter Irving is, but let’s not count out this former MVP.
In the absence of Irving and Thomas, Kevin Love needs to be the player he was in Minnesota. He’s a big who shoots a mean 3, passes extremely well, and can get boards. Without Irving last season, Love was averaging 27.4 points and 14.5 rebounds, so it’s definitely possible. Love will be starting at center, and Jae Crowder will be starting as power forward. Crowder is another game-changer for the Cavs this season. Let us not forget that Crowder shot 39.8% from beyond the arc last season. He shot 41% on catch-and-shoot 3’s – the two players on the Cavs roster who shot a better percentage are Channing Frye and Kyle Korver, so yeah…that’s pretty good. Not only is Crowder a talented shooter, but he’s a fantastic defender. He’ll be able to guard their threatening opponents, giving James a chance to rest. 3-and-D, baby.
Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are reunited? *collective AWW* Wade will most likely be playing backup to Rose once the season starts. Wade has proven himself to be a fantastic playmaker, and he’ll be given great opportunities to make plays because the Cavs team is so deep. There are so many possibilities for lineups with this team, which I think is going to be huge.
Also, LeBron James.
Hayward and Irving to Boston
Find yourself someone who looks at you the way Kyrie and Gordon look at each other.
A “very much woke” Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward (and his picturesque coif) will be leading the Boston Celtics this season. Irving wanted a change, he wanted his team. Irving is one of my absolute favorite players to watch. His ability to finish at the rim is unparalleled and he has proven himself to be one of the best one-on-one players in the league. That is, when he’s on a team with LeBron James. James is the best all-around player in the game for many reasons – one of them being his ability to elevate his teammates. Irving excelled when he played alongside James and Love, but the team had a net rating of minus-8 last season when Irving was on the court and James was on the bench. He is an efficient scorer and offensive weapon, no doubt – but can he deliver without a partner in crime like James?
Hayward is reunited with his old (I mean, young) college coach, Brad Stevens. Hayward has great versatility in his game, and has proven himself to be a star in Utah. His strength allows him to get to the rim and finish or get to the free-throw line. He’s productive on the glass, plays aggressive defense and is an unselfish player. I like this move for Hayward, and am excited to see how his game continues to improve under Stevens’ leadership.
Where I think the Celtics may struggle is on defense. They lost Jae Crowder, whose defensive praises I’ve already sung, Amir Johnson and Avery Bradley. That’s a huge loss for Boston, considering that with them Boston was the third worst defensive rebounding team. Horford leaves much to be desired on the glass, though he does a great job defending the rim. The addition of Aaron Baynes will help rebounding, but I’m not sure if it’ll be enough. Marcus Smart is going to have to work a lot harder defensively without Bradley to back him up. Jaylen Brown has all the attributes of a great defensive player, I think he’s just going to need some time.
Paul George and Carmelo Anthony join Westbrook in OKC
I’M HERE FOR THIS.
These are the moves I’m most excited for, as I’m sure is true for many NBA fans. Watching Russell Westbrook in his MVP season was magical. I’ve been a Westbrook fan for a while, and watching him carry OKC on his shoulders was incredible, but there was no way he could carry that team, as it was, to the finals. THIS NEW TEAM, THO?!
George joining OKC is going to be huge. He will no longer need to carry an entire team, and will be able to really shine as the fantastic two-way player he is. I feel like George is the best two-way player after LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard. He can play on and off the ball and will provide the shooting power and support that was lacking last season, relieving Westbrook of sole responsibility on offense. George shot 39.3% from beyond the arc last season, which will be major for OKC, as they were last in the league last year at 32.7%. George is also a defensive threat, as he’s able to guard different positions. In combination with Andre Roberson, also a fantastic defender, particularly in the perimeter, and Steven Adams protecting the rim (and rocking a very impressive stache), Westbrook will be able to do what he does and score.
Carmelo Anthony is also coming from a position where he was his team’s top scoring option. Remember when Anthony went nuts in last summer’s Olympics? That was because a) he’s awesome and b) he was playing with incredible defensive players – Jimmy Butler, DeAndre Jordan, Paul George, Draymond Green. Playing alongside George, Westbrook, Roberson and Adams is going to get Anthony more open looks than he got playing in New York. I eagerly await Olympic/Hoodie Melo’s debut in OKC.
This is a superteam I can get behind.