Good afternoon, folks. EMERGENCY MEETING! Let’s talk NBA offseason.
Before NBA teams could even officially make trades, the #TradeSZN doors were cracked open. And on Monday afternoon, the league swung them wide open. Chris Paul is teaming up with Devin Booker, Eric Bledsoe was sent to New Orleans in an inevitable move by the Bucks, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander lands his perfect backcourt partner in Ricky Rubio. Keep in mind, the 2020 NBA Draft hasn’t even happened yet (set for Wednesday night), and the landscape of the league has already been knocked off its hinges.
Let’s quickly breakdown what this means for the BBNBA.
CP3 and Book: a match made in basketball heaven
If the Phoenix Suns wanted to avoid the current media disaster consuming the Milwaukee Bucks and its superstar player Giannis Antetokounmpo, the front office needed to be proactive after years of not doing so. And with one franchise-altering move, the Suns have bought themselves some time on Devin Booker’s timeline and they did so in the form of one of the NBA’s all-time greatest point guards.
Bringing in Chris Paul, who will slide comfortably into the point guard position next to Booker, has immediately elevated the team’s preseason expectations to heights not seen in over a decade. The Western Conference is still loaded with talent–all 15 teams could expect to contend for a 2020-21 playoff spot on opening night–but Phoenix now has two bonafide All-Stars in its backcourt. Judging the transaction on the surface, losing Kelly Oubre, Ricky Rubio, Ty Jerome, Jalen Lecque and a 2022 first-round pick in the process isn’t all that bad. Oubre has somewhat high potential but Paul will effectively replace and expound upon Rubio’s production. The Oklahoma City Thunder receive another first-round pick that they add to its treasure chest of assets in a year they could tank if they want to. It’s a win-win for both sides.
While not be widely known, Devin Booker is one of the most competitive and fiery players in the NBA. The combo of Book and Chris Paul from a competitive, talent and basketball IQ will make the Suns not only a playoff team but scary. CP is also an amazing mentor to young players.
— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpears) November 16, 2020
The pairing of Paul and Booker should produce a backcourt that can complement itself better than almost any other in the NBA. Even at age 35, Paul was excellent a season ago on both sides of the court, making his 10th All-Star appearance (his first since 2016) while unexpectedly leading a brilliantly entertaining Thunder squad to the playoffs. The three-headed dragon of Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Dennis Schröder posted insane numbers when they shared the court together. In the closing minutes of tight contests, those three outperformed every other trio of teammates in the entire league, with Paul orchestrating the offense.
Now, a new and improved trio will step on the floor in Phoenix; Paul, Booker, and budding center Deandre Ayton. The Suns were also able to keep Mikal Bridges away from the Thunder, a personal favorite player of mine and a rising two-way force. In reality, the Suns’ scheme on offense might not change all that much from a season ago despite the change. Paul can do all of the things that Rubio does but at a higher and more consistent level. Booker was dropping over 26 points per night on impressive efficiency despite being the main focus of defenses. Rubio isn’t a good enough shooter to force opponents to stretch the defense; Paul is.
Imagine what Booker can do playing off of Paul’s gravity as a scorer?
To the surprise of very few, Eric Bledsoe is out of Milwaukee
After three consecutive lackluster performances in the playoffs, it was inevitable that Eric Bledsoe’s time with the Milwaukee Bucks was coming to an end. It became even more apparent when you consider that the point guard Milwaukee chose Bledsoe over, Malcolm Brogdon of the Indiana Pacers, had an outstanding season in his first year with Indy. The Bucks front office has been feeling the pressure of the ‘Giannis-wanting-out-rumors’ for over a year now and they had to make moves that would at least satisfy him until they can sign him to a maximum contract extension. And if we take a look at what Milwaukee sent out along with Bledsoe, you can get a sense of that hint of desperation.
Bledsoe was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for veteran point guard Jrue Holiday, one of the more underrated players in the league and a dominating two-way presence, although not exactly a steady All-Star. Bledsoe, along with fellow point guard George Hill, three future first-round picks, and the rights to swap two future first-round picks were shipped to New Orleans. Essentially, Milwaukee gave up an Anthony Davis/Paul George-esque haul (although not quite as lopsided) in order to land a player well below that level of caliber. Was it necessary? We’ll just have to wait and find out. Milwaukee also executed a sign-and-trade deal overnight that brings in a promising player, Bogdan Bogdanovic, who was a fan-favorite with the Sacramento Kings and played well next to De’Aaron Fox. The Bucks did everything they needed to do to keep things fresh and Giannis on a title-contender.
David Griffin flipped Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday into:
– Six first-round picks
– Brandon Ingram
– Lonzo Ball
– Josh Hart
– Eric Bledsoe
– George Hill
– Two pick swaps pic.twitter.com/X6vJGPSW0r
— StatMuse (@statmuse) November 17, 2020
But Bledsoe is the one who came out as the “scapegoat”, if you’d like to call him that. Sure, his last three playoff outings have been objectively terrible, but he was hardly the Bucks’ main issue. Head coach Mike Budenholzer was famously ridiculed throughout the course of the most recent postseason down in the Orlando Bubble after consistently refusing to play his star players the most minutes. He returns again at the helm this season, but with a new-look roster.
The fit in New Orleans should be exciting for Bledsoe though. The Pelicans will plan on making a run for the playoffs as they anticipate a healthy start to the season from second-year phenom Zion Williamson. Playing alongside Lonzo Ball at the same time might not be the best fit, so there might be more moves coming from NOLA, but Bledsoe should expect to come in and compete for the starting point guard job right away. It could be the fresh start that Bledsoe needs to revamp the back half of his career.
SGA’s improved role next to Ricky Rubio
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander already led the Thunder in scoring a season ago, but with Ricky Rubio running the offense, 19 points per game could jump into the 20s for the former Wildcat as he embarks on his third year as a pro. In the same way that Paul will create more opportunities for Booker, Rubio can do the same for SGA–although through slightly different means.
Paul’s presence should help take away the scoring pressure from Booker, while Rubio’s will open up the path for SGA to score more often. For no other reason than out of necessity, Gilgeous-Alexander will have to score more for the Thunder to have immediate success. If OKC continues to tear down its foundation, SGA could be the team’s most prolific scorer by the time it’s all said and done. Having Rubio around to put him in the right position is a bonus. It’s beginning to feel like SGA’s preferred role in the NBA is playing at the two or three as a score-first player who can defend multiple positions as opposed to a pass-first game manager. Playing next to Paul a season ago gave us a look at that potential, and teaming up with Rubio should let us know for sure what Gilgeous-Alexander’s path as an NBA playing is going to look like. An All-Star appearance shouldn’t be out of the question for the 22-year-old.