2017 NBA offseason moves: Central Division
Adrian Dy on Sep 22, 2017 12:05 PM
Cleveland Cavaliers' Jae Crowder, and Ante Zizic hold up jersey's during a news conference at the NBA basketball teams practice facility, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017, in Independence, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Ahead of the start of the 2017-18 NBA regular season, we’re taking a look back at the major moves each team made, be it re-signing their own guys, free agent acquisitions, or trades.
Second on our list, the Central Division:
2016-17 season: 51-31, #2 in the East, lost in the NBA Finals to Golden State
Biggest move - trading for Jae Crowder
The Isaiah Thomas for Kyrie Irving dominated the past few weeks of NBA headlines, but that makes it easy to forget that in addition to Thomas and Brooklyn’s 2018 first rounder, Cleveland got several other pieces too, in positions of great need.
Prior to parting ways with the Cavaliers, then-GM David Griffin was looking to swing a trade for Paul George or Jimmy Butler, an athletic wing who could put up points, while also defend. The Cavaliers have been searching for someone of that archetype ever since LeBron James returned, beginning with them hoping Shawn Marion still had something left in the tank, to trading for JR Smith and Iman Shumpert, and last season, signing Derrick Williams after he was waived by the Miami Heat.
Some of those aforementioned players contributed stuff, but actually filling that 3DA role proved elusive - until they acquired Crowder. While it’s true he’s not on the level of Butler/George, he’s still a more than adequate defender, someone who will give Kevin Durant fits (as much as you can give KD fits). Then on offense, he will punish you when you leave him open, and won’t need plays called for him to be effective. James hasn’t had someone like him since Shane Battier in Miami. He’s got to be thrilled he’s got Crowder on his team now, instead of facing him in the East Playoffs.
Underrated move - trading for Ante Zizic
Get everything I said above for Crowder, except change 3DA dude into mobile big man. Tristan Thompson inhales rebounds (except in the past Finals), but isn’t a threat to score. Kevin Love doesn’t protect the rim. That’s why the Cavaliers cycled through a ton of players at that spot last season - Chris Andersen, Andrew Bogut, Larry Sanders, Edy Tavares. None really got onto the court and had an impact.
While all of those guys have NBA experience of varying degrees, Zizic is young, a rookie in the Association. That means he might take some time to get in lock-step with what the Cavs want to do on D, but that’s what the regular season is for. If he comes close to sniffing his 2017 Summer League averages - 8.71 points, 7.43 rebounds, 1.86 blocks in 19.9 minutes - Cleveland will have a real gem on their hands.
Other additions: Jose Calderon, Jeff Green, Cedi Osman, Derrick Rose, Isaiah Thomas
2016-17 season: 42-40, #6 in the East, lost in the East Playoffs round one to Toronto
Biggest move - re-signing Tony Snell
The Bucks didn’t make a ton of moves during the offseason, so almost by default, their best one was their re-signing of swingman Tony Snell, who almost a year ago, was picked up by the team at the cost of former Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams.
When Milwaukee made the trade, it was shortly after Khris Middleton got hurt, and so the team was in need of an athletic defender type. Snell had that skillset, but not Middleton’s ability to hit three’s, at least, not at that time. But credit to the guy, he worked at it, and went from shooting 0.9/2.4 (36.1 3FG%) in his last season with Chicago to 1.8/4.4 (40.6 3FG%) with the Bucks. We’ll have to see if he can sustain, or even improve it this season, but props to Milwaukee for keeping a guy they developed, with the first year of his new deal reportedly coming in under $10 million.
Underrated move - signing Brandon Rush
The Bucks didn’t take a lot of triples last season, which clogged up the court a bit for wunderkind Giannis Antetokounmpo. Getting Middleton back in the latter part of the 2016-17 season helped, but Milwaukee definitely could use more shooting. Well the team signed veteran Brandon Rush to a training camp contract recently, and if he makes the final roster, he should be able to contribute in that regard. He shot 38.6 percent on three’s last season with Minnesota, and is a versatile enough wing that you could fit him on the court in various line-ups. It’s probably not going be a game-changer, but odds are, he’ll be a net positive for this squad that’s trying to take another step in the East.
Other additions: James Young
2016-17 season: 42-40, #7 in the East, lost in the East Playoffs round one to Cleveland
Biggest move - trading for Cory Joseph
The Pacers also signed Darren Collison as they looked to revamp their team post-Paul George, but in my mind, the better option for them at point guard might be Cory Joseph, whom they acquired in a trade with the Toronto Raptors.
Joseph has always been an above-average back-up, going back to his days with the San Antonio Spurs, but he’s shown flashes as a starter, averaging 10.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 3.8 assists in that role. What’s more, he’s starred in a lot of two point guard line-ups during his time in The North with Kyle Lowry, so we might even see it with Collison in Indy (though it’s safe to bet that combo won’t be as successful).
Underrated move - trading for Donatas Sabonis
Victor Oladipo was the bigger name in the Paul George trade (swindling?) with the Oklahoma City Thunder. He’s the more veteran player, and he’s had more experience leading a struggling team, thanks to his stint with the Orlando Magic. But odds are, the Pacers are also betting that Donatas Sabonis has more to show than from his brief OKC stint (5.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.0 assists in about 20 minutes per game). If the gamble pays off, then perhaps we can all soften our stance on that PG13 deal (or maybe not)
Other additions: Victor Oladipo, Darren Collison, Bojan Bogdanovic, Damian Wilkins
2016-17 season: 41-41, #8 in the East, lost in the East Playoffs round one to Boston
Biggest move - *squints at the Chicago transactions* trading for Zach LaVine?
*exhale* Okay, what the OKC Thunder gave up to get Paul George seemed to many analysts like highway robbery, and what the Chicago Bulls got for Jimmy Butler wasn’t that far away in most estimations. The biggest role of the dice was having Zach LaVine headline what the Bulls got back in return. Can he still be his high-flying self after his ACL injury? Or maybe it will force him to become a more well-rounded, less reliant on athleticism type of player? Okay, and even if it’s the latter, will that version of LaVine be a franchise cornerstone type of guy?
Lots of uncertainty in Chi-town, that’s for sure.
Underrated move - signing Justin Holiday
After a season with the Knicks (in which he played every game!), Justin Holiday returns to the Bulls. And while he’s not a superstar by any definition, his per-36-minute averages of 13.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.4 steals is solid stuff, especially for a rebuilding Chicago squad. When the Bulls inevitably buy out Dwyane Wade from his deal, Holiday will likely be the recipient of the surplus minutes, and he’s an above-average choice to soak those up.
Other additions: Kris Dunn, David Nwaba, Quincy Pondexter, Diamond Stone
2016-17 season: 37-45, #10 in the East
Biggest move - trading for Avery Bradley
A lot of things went wrong for the Pistons, especially health-wise, last season, so they could have opted to bring the gang back and hope for less guys in the infirmary this time out. However, the one thing stopping that was the restricted free agent status of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who looked like he was in line to get a ton of money.
Instead of breaking the bank to keep Caldwell-Pope though, they instead opted to kick the can down another season, trading Marcus Morris for Avery Bradley, and letting Caldwell-Pope walk. Bradley is more battle-tested than KCP, and a better long-distance shooter, so in the short-term the move makes sense. Of course, Bradley also becomes a free agent after this season, so eventually, the Pistons will have to decide if they’re going to pay up or not.
Underrated move - signing Eric Moreland
With the departure of Aron Baynes and Morris, the Pistons were in need of some additional muscle, and they found someone that fit the description in GLeague veteran Eric Moreland, who had a successful audition for the club on their summer league team. Moreland normed 7.6 points, 8.4 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks in 26.4 minutes during the Orlando Summer League, after putting up a double-double with 2.5 rejections with the Canton Charge. He should provide solid back-up minutes at PF and C for Detroit, and on a cheap contract to boot.
Other additions: Langston Galloway, Anthony Tolliver, Dwight Buycks
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