Tramel: Feeling a little pity for Russell Westbrook
I was chatting with new Thunder coach Mark Daigneault on Friday, and we were talking about the wild roster changes in the G League, where he coached the OKC Blue for five years.
Daigneault thought that his G League experience could come in handy in the NBA.
“Being able to change with the circumstances of the season and change with the circumstances of who you’re playing, but also be able to build your own team incrementally over that time, that’s a balance,” Daigneault said. “Because if you try to keep up with every injury or change in circumstance, you’re just going to get pulled in a million different directions And the speed of the NBA season, you’ll end up chasing rabbits all year.
“So instead, can you build something that’s sustainable and build a foundation that is strong enough to stay consistent throughout the course of the season and through all the adapting circumstances . But also creates enough space to be able to adapt to changing opponents, changing lineups, changing availability of players and changing rosters. It’s the modern NBA, and rosters change every year. Sometimes within the year.”
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Uh, yeah. Like Monday, about three weeks before the opening of training camp and five weeks before the 2020-21 season tips off.
On Monday alone, the Thunder traded Chris Paul to the Suns, a day after agreeing to trade Dennis Schroder to the Lakers, and the Pelicans traded Jrue Holiday to the Bucks, and the Rockets traded Robert Covington to the Blazers, and news sizzled that James Harden was orchestrating a trade to the Netropolitans.
It’s difficult to even keep up with the news, much less analyze it and write about it. And it won’t stop. The trade moratorium was lifted Monday. The draft is Wednesday. Free agency starts Friday. Here are some initial thoughts about Day 1 of what should prove to be one of the wildest weeks in NBA off-season history:
I feel sorry for Russell Westbrook. A year ago, the Thunder and Westbrook mutually agreed it was time for him to move on after 11 Oklahoma City seasons. The Thunder was rebuilding, Westbrook was aging, it made no sense to carry the partnership further.
Westbrook expressed interest in joining Harden with the Rockets, so Sam Presti pulled off a trade that brought Paul to OKC (along with two first-round draft picks).
Everybody was happy. Until now. Now, the Rockets are disintegrating. They cut ties with their excellent general manager, Daryl Morey, and their cutting-edge coach, Mike D’Antoni, and their superstar wants out. Harden rejected a contract extension that would have paid him $50 million a season starting in three years.
Harden wants to join Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn, and despite a suffocating contract ($132.9 million over the next three seasons), the Nets have enough to offer to make a trade possible. Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen and future draft picks.
That would give Houston a path back to a quick rebuild, much like the Thunder’s Paul George trade to the Clippers.
But that leaves Westbrook back where he was in Oklahoma City, after the PG13 trade. A veteran on a decent team with lots of interesting pieces, but not anywhere near title contention.
Harden and Paul famously butted heads in Houston. Now the Harden/Westbrook tandem seems near an end.
Westbrook compromised his style in Houston to play alongside Harden. Some thought Westbrook was incapable.
But he played off the ball, took a secondary role and changed his game.
And now Harden is abandoning ship. Probably makes Westbrook long for the serenity of Oklahoma City.
PELICANS CHASE THUNDER
In the last 17 months, New Orleans has traded Anthony Davis to the Lakers and Holiday to the Bucks, getting in return Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, George Hill and Eric Bledsoe. Plus three first-round draft picks from the Lakers and two first-round draft picks from the Bucks.
My math has its limits. I tapped out after algebra 2 at Norman High School in 1978.
But by my ciphering, the Pelicans now have 13 first-round picks through 2027. That’s 13 in eight drafts, starting with Wednesday night.
The Thunder has 17 first-round picks through 2027, thanks to those PG and CP trades. Considering New Orleans’ AD trade to the Lakers, it seems like players known by acronyms draw a lot of first-round draft picks.
The Thunder’s not finished, of course. Kelly Oubre, Ricky Rubio and/or Danny Green could be on the trading block. Perhaps one or more draws another first-round pick.
What if New Orleans and OKC keep this up. In some future draft, the Pelicans and Thunder could have like eight of the 30 picks.
Talk about a Presti fantasy camp.
The Holiday trade was fascinating. The Pelicans got for Holiday very close to what they got for Davis.
I love Jrue Holiday. Seems like a capital fellow, and I know he’s a capital ballplayer. Defender supreme. Multi-dimensional guard. Shoot, penetrate, pass. The total package.
An all-star caliber player. But not a superstar.
Davis is a superstar. And the primary difference in New Orleans’ trades with the Bucks and Lakers is one extra draft pick and Ingram’s status as a possible star. Which are significant assets. But enough to make up for the difference between Davis and Holiday?
What it all means is that Milwaukee is all in on winning an NBA title. And surely the Bucks have some assurances from Giannis Antetokounmpo that the superstar will re-sign in Milwaukee.
The Greek Freak can sign a contract extension this off-season. Holiday can be an unrestricted free agent next summer.
If Antetokounmpo leaves Milwaukee, Holiday surely would, too, and the Bucks would be gutted. And oh by the way, they also would have traded three first-round draft picks.
If the Bucks don’t have assurances that Antetokounmpo is staying, the Holiday trade is an all-time gamble.