5 Most Impactful NBA Acquisitions for the 2017-18 Season
The 2017 NBA offseason has to rank as the craziest in the history of the league. Since draft night, player movement and drama has been nonstop. The West is as strong as it’s ever been and the two best teams in the East traded with each other, leaving uncertainty at the top of the conference. The league also has a great rookie class, along with a ton of noise surrounding the league’s superstars opinions on social issues and the country’s joke of a president. All of these factors are setting the stage for what should be the most intriguing NBA season in recent memory. Training camp is finally underway and teams across the league are in the process of integrating their new additions. Here are the five that will have the biggest impact this upcoming season.
5. Paul Millsap – Denver Nuggets
After 4 All-Star seasons as the Hawks best player, Paul Millsap signed with Denver for a chance to lead the young Nuggets back to the playoffs for the first time since the 2012-13 season. The Nuggets won 40 games last year despite starters Danilo Gallinari and Gary Harris missing a combined 44 games – with Millsap essentially replacing Gallo, that win total is sure to rise this upcoming season. Millsap is a perfect fit next to rising star Nikola Jokic due his ability to play inside/out and the duo should form the best passing big man duo since Chris Webber and Vlade Divac. Most importantly, Millsap’s presence should improve Denver’s defensive rating which ranked second to last in the league. During the 2015-16 season, Millsap ranked first in the NBA in defensive win shares and with less of a load to carry offensively in Denver, he should return amongst the league leaders this year.
4. Jimmy Butler – Minnesota Timberwolves
The Jimmy Butler trade was the first domino to fall in what would become an insane offseason. The Timberwolves were expected to compete for a playoff spot last season during Tom Thibodeau’s first year as Minnesota’s head coach and president of basketball operations. Despite a monster season from Karl Anthony-Towns and improvement from Andrew Wiggins, the T’Wolves inability to finish games showed that they were a veteran away from being a serious playoff contender out West. With Jimmy Butler in the fold, Minnesota has a two-way All-Star that they can rely on in the clutch on both ends of the floor. Similar to Paul Millsap in Denver, Butler’s addition should help improve the Timberwolves dreadful defense as well. The T’Wolves finished last season ranked 27th in defensive rating – in a conference that’s stacked with scorers on the wing, Butler will be counted on to improve that ranking drastically. Reunited with Tom Thibodeau, Butler and the revamped T’Wolves are a near lock to finally end the 13-year playoff drought in the Twin Cities.
3. Chris Paul – Houston Rockets
James Harden put together one of the greatest individual seasons in NBA history last year while carrying the Rockets to a surprise 55-win season. But once the playoffs arrived, it appeared that Harden had ran out of gas; evident by his atrocious performance and effort in Game 6 against the San Antonio Spurs. Rockets GM, Daryl Morey, acknowledge that there was too much of a burden on Harden, thus the addition of Chris Paul should keep Harden fresh for a deep run in the Western Conference playoffs. Many have questioned whether the two ball-dominant guards can mesh on the court but those concerns should be quelled rather quickly once the season begins.
Rockets head coach, Mike D’Antoni, plans to stagger Harden and Paul’s minutes so that one is always on the court. This will allow both guards time to have full control of the offense as well as improve the Rockets second unit. Reigning Sixth Man of The Year, Eric Gordon, won’t be forced to create offense for others as much and can focus solely on spotting up for three and attacking closeouts. Clint Capela should also benefit from Paul’s arrival as he’ll now be on the receiving end of those CP3 lob passes that helped made Deandre Jordan an All-Star. CP3 may no longer be the best player on his team or the face of a franchise but in Houston he doesn’t have to be. Playing alongside Harden and a strong supporting cast, the Point God may finally get a chance to compete a for conference title and potentially so much more.
2. Kyrie Irving & Gordon Hayward – Boston Celtics
Uncle Drew shocked the sports world when news leaked that he wanted out of Cleveland after three straight trips to the NBA Finals. Weeks later, Kyrie joined fellow new Celtic, Gordon Hayward, as the faces of arguably the NBA’s most historic franchise. Boston comes into the season with just three players that played on last season’s team that won the East’s #1 seed and a spot in the conference finals. That type of roster turnover in the NBA is hard to overcome, but Hayward and Irving alone should guarantee Boston a top-4 seed again in the East.
Brad Stevens is likely to use Irving similar to how he used Isaiah Thomas last season. Kyrie has hit several clutch shots over the past few seasons and Celtics fans will expect him to deliver down the stretch much like IT did for them a season ago. Hayward’s scoring ability and versatility also gives Stevens a chance to throw several different lineups at opposing teams. Those lineups could feature Hayward as the offensive focal point, a decoy or as the facilitator. The new duo will need to mesh quickly because rival teams such as Toronto and Washington cores remained intact and are hoping their chemistry can give them an edge over the new-look Celtics in the standings at the beginning of the season.
1. Paul George & Carmelo Anthony – Oklahoma City Thunder
After a legendary display of finessing this summer, OKC’s Sam Presti continues to his run as one of the greatest GM’s of all time (James Harden trade included). Presti turned Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a second-round pick into Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. The move is a huge risk since Melo, PG and Russell Westbrook could all leave next summer but it shows that OKC is all about winning right now.
Last season, OKC ranked dead last in the league in three-point percentage. Defenses packed the paint, anticipating Russell Westbrook’s penetration (pause) and when he kicked it out his teammates routinely threw up bricks. With Melo and PG on the court, if defenses collapse on Westbrook, he now has two viable options on the wings that can knock down the open shot, attack the closeout or make a play for another teammate. Like most coaches with players on this list, Billy Donovan will have to stagger his new big three’s minutes. This will force opposing teams second unit players to defend Melo, Paul George and Russell Westbrook for extended stretches every night – good luck with that. Melo and George are also two of the best isolation players in the league so the Thunder no longer need to force the ball to Westbrook late in the shot clock.
While Carmelo Anthony’s defense still leaves much to be desired, he joins a team that finish with a top 10 defensive rating last season. That defense also added an all-league defender in Paul George. PG alongside Andre Roberson should form the 2nd best perimeter defensive duo in the league behind the Spurs’ Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard. Therefore, Anthony can focus on bringing Olympic Melo to OKC’s offense while Billy Donovan finds ways to hide him on defense. Ultimately, the new look OKC Thunder’s success will ultimately rest on Russell Westbrook and how much of the offense he’s willing to concede to his new co-stars. If all goes according to plan, OKC and Golden State will be the last two teams standing in a loaded Western Conference, setting up a potential conference finals for the ages.