Nobody can deny that the 2017 draft may have been one of the most talented classes since 2003. We have scores of energetic young rookies, brimming with potential, and ready to help their teams win a ring. Experts and writers have spent hours discussing, and debating over Ball, Fultz, Tatum, Jackson, and Fox. In this rush of new talent, I feel like we may have overlooked an active offseason.
From surprising trades to free agent signings that have us scratching our heads, quite a bit of talent has changed teams. Everyone else is gushing about the summer’s big movers and how they strengthen their championship aspirations. The big trades and signings forced some quality moves to fly under the radar. So without further ado, These five, will make an immediate impact on their new squads.
5. Ben McLemore - Memphis Grizzlies
One of my favorite rookies out of the 2013 draft, Mclemore signed a 2-year $10.7M contract with Memphis, but most importantly of all, he got out of the mess that is, the Sacramento Kings. His talent was held back by a... for lack of a better phrase, prima donna center with a temper hotter than Bella Hadid. (Bella if by some means you’re reading this, call me).
McLemore has potential to be a quality “3&D” guy for the Grizzlies. The kid shot 38% from behind the arc last season so there is potential for him to become a knockdown dead eye. The problem really is that he didn’t get enough minutes in Sactown.
He is now surrounded by veterans, real and mature leaders like Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. McLemore has a coach who is young, scrappy and hungry as well one that stands up for his team. Memphis is surrounded by a mix of hardened veterans and young guys brimming with power. Take that for data.
4. JJ Redick - Philadelphia 76ers
(As a disclaimer, I may or may not have started to trust the Process). JJ Redick flies under the radar often, often overshadowed by Paul and Griffin. Even with two other stars on his squad, he still manages to make an impact, averaging around 16 points per game in his career in the City of Angels. Nobody really saw Redick leaving the Clippers, but for one year, he is staying in the City of Brotherly Love, joining one of the NBA’s most promising and exciting young cores.
JJ has become the perfect piece for the Sixers to acquire. With Simmons and Fultz sharing ball-handling duties, they will be looking for Redick out behind the arc to knock down those 3’s all game long. When Joel gets double teamed down in the low post, who is he gonna see, wide open for an easy shot? JJ, a 12-year veteran, who knows the game well, and after playing with one of the top point guards of all-time, he knows how to score off the ball, how to do the little things that help the team win.
He can be a guiding source for the young core and the glue that will keep them together. Some may doubt this team, but I for one, Trust the Process.
3. Avery Bradley - Detroit Pistons
As a local Bostonian, this was news that nobody wanted to see flash across their screen. Avery Bradley traded to Detroit. It felt a bit like your girlfriend leaving you and moving to another country for work. You don’t want to see her go, she has to go, so you hope that she is happy and that other country values her like you did. This is how I feel about Avery Bradley, one of the last guys to play with the Garnett and Pierce Celtics, the kid who quietly became a lockdown defender and severely underrated scorer. Even when primary scoring duties were handled by Thomas, he still managed to put up 16 points per game.
So now you’re in Detroit Avery, it is gonna be awkward seeing you back in the Garden, it may get ugly, we may say something that we don’t really mean, it is only because we love you so much. So thank you for the memories, Avery, I wish you the best of luck setting up Drummond for easy dunks, popping off shots from Jackson passes, and locking down the perimeter for Motor City.
Maybe someday you and I can get back together in Boston, but for now, it is goodbye.
2. Dwight Howard - Charlotte Hornets
So I may be a New Englander, but my basketball heart belongs in the Queen City of Charlotte. Oh my, this whole trade was a rollercoaster ride of emotions for me. The initial reaction was a level of joy, only surpassed by Buddy the Elf, however that joy quickly turned to disappointment when I started to remember Superman’s tumultuous years with the Lakers and Rockets.
I had forgotten he had even played for Atlanta last year, so I took some time and watched some Hawks highlights, and checked out some stats and to my disbelief, I found something that I never thought I would find, Dwight Howard had a quality year in Atlanta. 13 and 12 while shooting a career-high 63% from the floor as well as grabbing his highest amount of boards since his Orlando days. Dwight’s may not be Superman anymore, but scoring down low and grabbing boards is what Charlotte desperately needs (they were 16th in total rebounds last season 27th in offensive boards per game).
Dwight gets to reunite with his former coach from his Magic days in Steve Clifford, he gets himself Kemba Walker coming off his first of many All-Star campaigns. Howard also has Cody Zeller as a frontcourt partner who was one of the best pick and roll big men in the game, which spreads the floor for Dwight to tear the rim off the backboard. (Sidenote here, I wish that backboards were still breakable, watching Dawkins dunk hard enough to shatter the glass, falling like hail as everyone else runs for cover. It was a simple more beautiful time. Plus can you imagine guys like Embiid, Nance Jr, and even Westbrook shattering backboards with two-handed power dunks).
1. Ricky Rubio - Utah Jazz
Being a Hornets fan I decided to not let my biases tempt me into putting DH12 at number one, I thought about making Millsap going to the Nuggets be my top pick. I think it is a time that we stop calling Paul Millsap underrated, after four straight All-Star campaigns you really can not be considered underrated anymore. Start calling him what he really is, undersized (6’8” is the height of some SG’s today). He is a modern more skilled, less athletic Charles Barkley.
Ricky Rubio has quietly become one of the best pure point guards that the NBA has seen in quite some time. The Spaniard has finished in the top 5 for assists per game since 2013. He can run an offense and distribute the ball as well as Utah’s past point guards, probably even better than anybody since the days when Deron Williams was a top guard and not a benchwarmer for Cleveland.
His shooting has steadily been increasing along with his free throw shooting. He has been attacking the basket more and more each season while his shots are coming from farther and farther out. He has more shooters than he did back in Minnesota, guys like Hood, Ingles, Thabo, and the Jazz’s unlikely playoff hero, Joe Johnson, all ready to knock down shots.
On the inside, he has weapons like Favors and Gobert himself locking down the paint. This Jazz team is ready to make some sweet music this season, and the crooner blending them all together is a suave Spaniard.