Week 18 NBA Storylines

In this week’s NBA Storylines, we take a look at the top stories from trade deadline week including Magic Johnson taking over in LA, Paul George’s future, Cleveland’s additions and more.

Magic Takes Over in LA + Paul George’s Future

When Magic was brought in as an advisor, it was pretty clear Jim Buss’ reign as Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Lakers was coming to an end — the timing was what was unexpected. Just two days before the trade deadline, the Lakers announced Jim Buss and GM Mitch Kupchak had been fired. The Lakers also fired long-time PR man John Black.

In his first few days on the job, Johnson was very active. The Lakers sent Lou Williams to the Rockets in exchange for Corey Brewer and a first round draft pick. So, if L.A. were to lose their lottery pick this year, they are at least guaranteed to have Houston’s first rounder. The Lakers also received Tyler Ennis from Houston in exchange for Marcelo Huertas, who was waived by the Rockets.

According to multiple reports, Kobe Bryant’s agent Rob Pelinka will take over as General Manager of the Lakers once he is completely divested from his agency Landmark Sports. Pelinka has a lot of experience with the Lakers, having represented both Bryant and Derek Fisher for a number of years. While he’ll have to learn the GM role on the fly, Pelinka is known as an excellent talent evaluator, and knows all the loop-holes of the CBA. Most importantly, as a premier agent, Pelinka knows what free agents are looking for in the pitch meetings. With Magic, Pelinka, and Luke in the room, the Lakers will certainly look more appealing than when they had Jim, Mitch, and Byron in the room.

Meanwhile, it sounds like the Lakers have made some headway on their next potential free agent acquisition already. In the days leading up to the trade deadline, it became clear that Paul George is committed to either winning a title in Indy or going to the Los Angeles Lakers in free agency.

With Indiana not making any moves to upgrade the talent around George at the deadline, their superstar can’t be thrilled. How the rest of the season goes could determine George’s future, as the questions about his situation will become a major storyline over the summer. If the Pacers miss the playoffs or get knocked out in the first round, the noise about George’s 2018 free agency will only get louder.

Cavs Take Advantage of Buyout Market

The reigning champs were arguably the biggest winner of the trade deadline. None of the teams in the East made any major upgrades for them to worry about, and they took full advantage of the buyout market.

After being waived by the Mavericks, Deron Williams is expected to sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers today. While Williams is no longer the elite point guard he once was, he’s still a high quality point guard in this league. Williams is still an efficient shooter and can run the pick and roll extremely well, and that’s exactly what Cleveland needs.

The Cavs are also expected to add Andrew Bogut once he reaches a buyout with the Sixers. The Australian big man will also reportedly speak with San Antonio, Houston, and Boston.

If the Cavs can add Bogut, he would give Cleveland a much needed rim protector and should add a little more juice to the Cavs-Warriors rivalry if the two meet in the Finals.

LeBron can’t complain about the lack of help anymore. If those two deals go through, David Griffin will have added three starting level players in Williams, Bogut, and Korver over the past few weeks. If that’s not enough help for James, I’m not sure what is.

Celtics Stay Silent

The Boston Celtics were in more rumors leading up to the deadline than anyone could have possibly imagined. With the best assets in the NBA, the Celts were linked to Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Philly’s big men, Denver’s frontcourt players and more, but Danny Ainge ultimately decided to stand pat.

You can look at this scenario from a few different angles. On one hand, the Celtics were probably smart to hold on to their assets. The big names like George and Butler will likely hit the market again this summer, and the asking price for those two will probably drop after the season.

On the other hand, why didn’t Boston make any smaller moves? After they realized Butler and George weren’t coming, Boston could have went after a Gallinari, Okafor, or someone else that was on the market.

Either way, I think we were all relatively surprised to see Ainge do nothing after all the talk over the past few weeks.

Philly’s Big Men

It seemed inevitable that Jahlil Okafor would be moved before the trade deadline, with Chicago seeming like the most likely destination. Surprisingly, the former Duke center is still in Philly. According to a report, the Sixers will revisit trading him this summer, so he’ll have until the end of the season to build up his trade value.

The Sixers did end up trading Nerlens Noel, but the return for him was extremely underwhelming. Part of the issue with dealing Noel was that teams interested in trading for him will have to pay him big $ in free agency this summer. Considering how long they’ve been looking to trade him, you have to wonder if Colangelo waited too long to move his big man.

For Dallas, they finally got a big man for the future. They’ll have to re-sign Noel in restricted free agency this summer, which could be pricey, but for what they gave up, this seems like a home-run deal for the Mavs.

As for the rest of their big men, 2016 number one overall pick Ben Simmons has been ruled out for the remainder of the season. Unfortunately for Philly, the bad news continues to pile up.

The Sixers announced today that Joel Embiid is out indefinitely after there was swelling in his left knee. Embiid hasn’t played in a month, and it appears we may not see him for a while. The big man’s swelling is reportedlydue to his normal workouts, which can’t be a good sign for a player with an extensive injury history.

Rockets Add Depth With Williams Acquisition

On Tuesday, the Rockets traded Corey Brewer and first round pick for Lou Williams. This was another great move by GM Daryl Morey.

Williams is an excellent scorer, having one of his best seasons yet. In his first game in Houston, the former sixth man of the year showed exactly why they traded for him. Lou is a gifted scorer, and he’s the kind of player who can win you a playoff game on a night where Harden isn’t scoring well.

The Rockets are in full pursuit of Golden State in the West, and while the Dubs certainly have the advantage, adding Lou makes them a bit more of a threat.

Knicks Updates

The Knicks inked Joakim Noah to a massive four-year, $72 million deal to open free agency this summer. The former Bulls center has been an enormous disappointment and is now expected to miss the remainder of the season. According to reports, Noah will reportedly undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee — the same knee that gave Noah trouble in 2014.

This should push Willy Hernangomez into the starting lineup. Pairing him and Porzingis in the frontcourt together should be an interesting partnership for the Knicks, and could very well be their starting front line down the road.

Noah isn’t the only one who will be out of the lineup though. The Knicks decided to waive veteran PG Brandon Jennings today. Jennings was reportedly frustrated with the situation in New York, and his desire to compete for a playoff team led to his being waived.

According to ESPN, the Washington Wizards are considering adding Jennings to bolster their bench for a playoff push. However, it looks like the Charlotte Hornets will add Jennings.

After waiving Jennings, the Knicks signed Chasson Randle from the D-League.

In the next few days, the Knicks roster could look very different than it did to start the season. Apparently, the team is considering waiving Derrick Rose, who they traded for this summer.

Re-signing Rose never seemed like a serious option for the Knicks, who attempted to ship him elsewhere at the trade deadline.

What all of these Knicks roster moves signal is that Phil Jackson has been quite a disappointment putting together what was supposed to be a win-now playoff team.

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