Intra-division trades are fairly rare. They happen when teams are desperate for a change, or have eyes for a player they can’t pass up, but otherwise, teams are generally reluctant to face the possible consequences of divisional dealings four times a year. It’s one thing to see one of your former players find prosperity elsewhere, and another thing entirely to have that prosperity rain down on you several times a season.
That’s what made the Bucks’ acquisition of John Salmons from the Bulls much more interesting than the players and salary relief involved. The early returns make Chicago look absolutely foolish, as Milwaukee has clearly supplanted them in the Central Division hierarchy. But the long-term picture could be far different, as the cap space opened up by trading Salmons could help the Bulls to swing a big-name free agent this summer. From Bob Wolfey of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
Hammond was asked if in trading for Salmons he was helping set up the Chicago Bulls to land a top free agent, hence making life tougher for the Bucks in the division.
“We talked about it over and over and over again before we made the decision what to do with Chicago,” Hammond said. “That was a concern for us, but you know what? At the end of the day, we had to do what was going to be right for us. We needed a piece like John. He’s fit in for us. It’s been worthwhile for us. I’m not going to tell you it was not a concern. It’s still a concern. If Chicago can sign one of these major free agents, it’s going to be a concern for us and we will have to live with it.”
It’s hard to say that the Bucks made the wrong move. Milwaukee’s spectacular brand of defense has vaulted them up the Eastern Conference standings, and while they’re unlikely to jump into the cream of the conference crop anytime soon, Salmons is exactly the type of two-way player that has solidified their place as a playoff contender. The Bucks aren’t reaching for a title just yet, but their success is at least concrete.
Meanwhile, the Bulls only benefit from the possibility of improvement. If the cap space gained by ditching Salmons is never properly utilized, then it’s the Bulls who were had. It’s so difficult to evaluate trades on a one-year time frame because the outlook of each involved franchise is altered beyond that. So while the Bucks may be one of the teams of the moment, keep in mind that they may have facilitated the Bulls’ rise to prominence as a team of the future.
Watching Monty Williams back on the court at the USA basketball camp/practices in Las Vegas, you could see he was at home. He’s easily the best 44-year-old defender on the planet — he went toe-to-toe with Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, and the rest, was physical, and made them work for buckets. Then he’d instruct. He’s just a natural.
Back in February, Williams’ wife was killed in an auto accident. It devastated the devout family man, in ways it’s hard for us to understand who have never experienced it. He walked away from coaching the rest of the NBA season with the Thunder, and nobody questioned it for a second.
Now, after getting his feet wet with Team USA (where he is an assistant to Mike Krzyzewski), he told Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman he is ready to get back on the sidelines.
“I wouldn’t even think that if I didn’t know, one, my wife would want me to; my kids talk about it all the time. And there have been some things that have happened in my life lately that have allowed me to get that back. I’m so juiced up and ready to get back into it again.”
He is one of the better respected assistant coaches in the league, and a guy who will get another shot at a top spot someday. Soon. Can’t wait to see him back on the sidelines.
The leap from college — even high-level college programs — to the NBA can be hard to describe. Now everybody is bigger, longer, and far more athletic — the guy at the end of the bench barely getting any burn was one of the best players on his college team.
Players get their first taste of that at Summer League. The Sixers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons looked pretty good when he got that taste, but you can see the development that needs to go on as well.
He’s spending the time between now and the start of training camp working on his shooting and getting stronger, among other things, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.
“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”
All good things. Handles and shooting in particular — he’s about to start seeing much better defenders nightly. It’s going to take time, and we’ll see how far he can go, but Simmons unquestionably brings a lot of skill and potential to the table. That he’s putting in the work is a good sign — that was one of the concerns about him heading into the draft.
New GM Bryan Colangelo is going to benefit from Sam Hinkie’s process. So long as he doesn’t screw it up.
JaVale McGee is getting another shot in the NBA.
He played just 34 games off the bench for Dallas last season. He played 23 games the season before that due to injury.
But the Golden State Warriors are thin up front — Zaza Pachulia will get the bulk of the minutes at the five (when the Warriors use a traditional center), and there is the often-injured Anderson Varejao behind him. The Warriors could use another big. So they are giving McGee a look, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.
This is a low-risk move by the Warriors, and it’s worth the gamble. Vintage McGee, for all his Shaqtin’ a Fool flaws, is far more athletic and a better rim protector than any of the guys the Warriors now have at the five. If it doesn’t work out — and the odds are it will not — they cut him, if it does they pay him a minimum deal.
I hope he makes it, just because the league is more fun when McGee is in it.
At some point, Russell Westbrook will sit down with members of the media and discuss Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder, how he felt about the move, and how it impacted him both personally and professionally.
But not right now. He remains silent.
This Vine making its way around, where Westbrook laughs — probably at the question, although read into that whatever you want — when asked about Durant sums up where we are.
In the full Facebook clip, Westbrook walks away, too. It’s his right. He can talk about it on his schedule.