Associated Press

51 Questions: How will Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler coexist?


We continue PBT’s 2016-17 NBA preview series, 51 Questions. Between now and the start of the NBA season we will tackle 51 questions we cannot wait to see answered during the upcoming NBA season. We will delve into one almost every day between now and the start of the season (we’re taking some weekends off). Today:

How will Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler coexist?

Usually, when a team adds a player the caliber of Dwyane Wade — three titles, Finals MVP, 12-time All-Star — the first thought is “good move.” This is a guy who averaged 19 points a game last season, is dangerous with the ball in his hands, cuts well off the ball, and showed in the playoffs that he can still dial it up for a stretch and take over games.

But when the Bulls brought him in, along with Rajon Rondo, the reaction around the league looked more like Seth and Amy saying “Really!?!”

The Bulls had finally made the right move — they traded Derrick Rose, let Joakim Noah walk, and moved on from the teams crafted for the Tom Thibodeau era. The Bulls were Jimmy Butler’s team, and they could go out and get players that fit the up-tempo, selflessly share-the-ball style Fred Hoiberg wants to play.

Which is why Wade and Rondo had people saying “really?”

How is this anything but treading water? Given the chance to rebuild and think strategically, the Bulls front office went for a quick fix move that isn’t really a fix.

It’s fair to ask how Rondo, Wade, and Butler can coexist on a playoff team?

Butler, Wade, and Rondo are three guys who work best with the ball in their hands slashing to the rim. Three guys doing the same thing is defendable. Plus, NBA rules still allow just one ball on the court at a time.

Even more concerning, in a league where every team is clamoring for more shooting, more floor spacing, the Bulls core guys now are not dangerous threats from three. Rondo, Wade, and Butler combined to make 133 three-pointers last season — an aging Kobe Bryant made that many by himself (in just 66 games). C.J. Miles made more by himself. Rondo was the most accurate of the three at 36.5 percent, and if he lines up beyond the arc this season, opponents will give him the shot.

It’s not hard to imagine a defensive strategy against the Bulls: Pack the paint, clog driving lanes, go under picks, and if anyone except Nikola Mirotic wants to shoot the three don’t run them off the line.

And we haven’t even gotten to the defensive end of the court. Rondo and Wade are not near their vintage selves on that end, key contributors like Mirotic and Doug McDermott struggle to get stops, and Robin Lopez is solid as a backstop but can only clean up so many messes.

All that said, we may be overestimating the issues with the Bulls. Somewhat. Maybe.

If the Bulls can do what Fred Hoiberg wants and get out and run — get offense before the defense sets — the slashing skills of Wade/Butler/Rondo can be put to good use. Have them slash, have Moritic and McDermott run to the arc, and you have a fairly dangerous offense.

The problem is last year’s Bulls were not built for that, and in this “rebuild” I’m not sure the Gar/Pax front office solved that problem. The Bulls didn’t get much more athletic.

The Bulls have talent on the roster — Butler spent his summer winning a gold medal in Rio, Wade can still get a team buckets, and there is depth with Lopez, Mirotic (who should have a big season), Taj Gibson (unless he’s traded), Tony Snell, McDermott, Bobby Portis, and rookie Denzel Valentine (maybe the player most ready to step in and contribute in the last draft).

The good news for the Bulls is in the NBA, talent wins out most nights.

If Hoiberg can stagger the minutes of his three big names and get more shooting on the floor, if he can find some balanced lineups, the Bulls are going to put up points. We also forget, Wade is a crafty player off the ball who makes smart cuts and will get some buckets that way. There is potential.

There are also many questions. Can player-friendly Hoiberg get enough buy in with his system? Is there a system that Rondo hasn’t pushed back against? Will Rondo stat hunt at the expense of the team? Will the ball move, or will it stick when Wade or Rondo get it and decide to pound it and survey the floor for five-plus seconds? Will set defenses just play back, take away driving lanes, and force the Bulls’ three big names to shoot jumpers? How healthy will Wade’s knees stay, and how what will the Bulls’ Wade maintenance program look like? If the Bulls are scoring, can they get enough stops for it to matter?

Rondo, Wade, and Butler can coexist — these are three competitive guys, two of whom have rings and one who is willing to learn — but not in a “this team can put a scare in the Cavaliers” kind of way. More in a “with those three guys the Bulls could beat out enough of the Miami/Atlanta/Charlotte/Washington kind of teams to make the playoffs” kind of way. Maybe. If the Bulls come together for Hoiberg.

But is that the way that Gar/Pax wanted to rebuild around Butler? Really!?!



LeBron James welcomes Anthony Davis to Lakers

Getty Images

LeBron James got exactly what he wanted — a young superstar to play with him, a guy who can be a force on both ends of the court. The kind of elite player the Lakers needed to not only make the playoffs next season but be a threat to win the West.

Anthony Davis got what he wanted — out of small market New Orleans to the brightest spotlight in the NBA, the Los Angeles Lakers. He will go unnoticed by casual fans no more.

A happy LeBron welcomed Davis to Los Angeles.

The Lakers gave up a lot to get Davis — some Lakers fans would argue too much — but they have landed two of the top seven players in the world (when healthy). Round out the roster wisely with veterans (and get some shooters this time) and the Laker can move into a crowded list of contenders next season (with the Warriors headed for a down year, teams are lining up to take their shot).

Lakers fans should be happy, what is in this Instagram post is going to win them a lot of games.

LeBron, Anthony Davis and… Kemba? What are the Lakers next steps to contention

Getty Images

We have seen this before, the Lakers add a superstar player — Pau Gasol via trade, Shaquille O’Neal via free agency— and instantly vault up to being a title contender.

Of course, we have seen the Lakers add superstars in the offseason — say Dwight Howard and Steve Nash — and watch the whole thing blow up due to injuries and chemistry issues.

Neither of these scenarios is completely off the table with the LeBron James and Anthony Davis Lakers, which is going to be a reality now after the Lakers have agreed to a trade for Davis that sends Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, and three first round picks (including the No. 4 pick in the 2019 Draft) to New Orleans.

The Lakers look like contenders on paper right now, but they have to round out the roster in a smart way.

Two key things will differentiate success and failure with these Lakers.

First is injuries. It’s obvious to state, but Davis has an injury history, and LeBron missed 18 games with a groin injury last season, the most time he has ever missed with an injury, but that’s what comes with age. If either or both miss significant time, this all comes apart.

Second is how the Lakers round out the roster. That is something the core of this Lakers’ front office did very poorly last season, we will see if lessons were learned.

After the trade, the Lakers will have on the roster LeBron, Davis, Kyle Kuzma, Moritz Wagner, Isaac Bonga… and that’s it. They need to add 10 players.

Los Angeles going to try and add a third star.

The Lakers will have $27.7 million available in cap space on July 1 — that is not enough to sign Jimmy Butler or Kemba Walker to max deals. Both of them have been linked to the Lakers on various levels.

Sources have told me that after qualifying for a “supermax” contract extension (five years, $221 million), Walker is leaning heavily toward staying in Charlotte, a city he has grown to love (and his family enjoys). He could even give the Hornets a little hometown discount on the back end of that deal and make more than the max the Lakers or any other team could offer him. The question is, does this trade and the chance to chase a ring alter Walker’s thinking?

Butler, also, reportedly is leaning toward re-signing with the Sixers if they offer him a full five-year, $191 million max deal as expected (with Butler’s injury history, that fifth year only Philly can offer will matter to him). The same question about this deal changing his mindset applies to Butler as well.

The Lakers also could go after Kyrie Irving, although a number of people around the league view that as a longshot.

What the Lakers could do to max out Walker/Butler/Irving, as suggested by cap guru and consultant to NBA teams and agents Larry Coon, is to draft whoever the Pelicans want at No. 4, sign that player July 1, then trade him 30 days later (the first chance he is eligible) as part of the Davis deal where the salaries match up. It would delay the actual Davis trade but the  Lakers would have the $32.5 needed for a max slot for a player with 7-9 years experience.

The Lakers also could go after guys who are not stars but are high level role players and may just be a better fit, such as J.J. Redick. The Lakers could use that $27 million to land three or more quality, solid NBA rotation players. That’s an internal discussion Los Angeles need to have.

Beyond that, the Lakers will have the room exception at $4.8 million and no other space.

Just like last year, the Lakers will need to bring in veterans on minimum contracts — and this time they may want to get some shooting in the mix. The challenge there is guys are taking minimum contracts for a reason, if they could secure longer and more lucrative deals they would. There are far fewer vets willing to take a lot less to chase a ring than fans realize.

These are first world problems for the Lakers, they have so enough elite stars its hard to round out the roster. The art is in doing it right because there are other contenders out there who have done just that.

Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart seem happy with trade; Twitter blows up over deal

Associated Press

The Toronto Raptors got to have the basketball world to themselves for 43 hours…

And then the Lakers traded for Anthony Davis. The deal is Davis to the Lakers for Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, and three first-round picks, including the 2019 pick in this upcoming draft.

There was plenty of bad chemistry with the Lakers after the trade deadline and how an attempt to trade for Davis went down, so maybe we shouldn’t be shocked Ingram and Hart seem just fine with this deal.

LaVar Ball was at the Drew League in Los Angeles, watching his son LaMelo play when the news came down.

Of course, social media blew up around the NBA when the trade was announced.

And this is just awkward…

Report: Anthony Davis traded to Lakers for Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Josh Hart, picks

Getty Images

LeBron James has his second star next to him.

Anthony Davis has landed exactly where he wanted.

Things had been building toward this for more than a week. Boston was holding back — meaning they would not put Jayson Tatum in an offer. The Clippers and Nets couldn’t get any traction. And there were the Lakers with a quality package that was as good as it was likely going to get.

In the end, that deal — one the Pelicans did not take at the trade deadline — got it done.

Anthony Davis is on his way to the Lakers for Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, and three first-round picks including this year’s No. 4, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Here are the details on the first round picks in the deal (and this makes it look even better for New Orleans).

The trade will not be formally consummated until after July 1 for salary cap reasons, but it’s done.

Pelicans’ new president David Griffin came in with an open mind and clean slate. At the trade deadline there was a “we’re not going to send Davis where he wants” mentality from New Orleans. Pelicans management felt put on the spot by the timing and public nature of the trade request by Davis’ agent, Rich Paul, and they didn’t want to feel rushed into a trade they didn’t want.

Griffin, however, saw the big picture — take the best offer, the trade isn’t about where Davis lands, it’s what’s best for New Orleans. That could have been Boston, but with Kyrie Irving having one foot out the door and almost certainly not re-signing with the team, the Celtics couldn’t go all-in on an offer and give the Pelicans what they wanted — Jayson Tatum.

No Tatum offer meant Lakers GM Rob Pelinka had leverage, so he was able to keep Kyle Kuzma out of any trade, something that mattered to Los Angeles. However, this may have been the Lakers only viable path to a star this summer. The top of the free agent market was not — and may still not not — lining up well for the Lakers. Even with this trade. Which is why there was also pressure on Pelinka to get this done, so he threw a lot in the trade. Maybe too much, but he had to get it done.

How the Lakers round out their roster will matter — they may want to add some shooting this time — but this trade vaults them into contender status, especially in a West with an injury-riddled Golden State squad.

This is a big win for a Lakers’ front office that has been maligned and called dysfunctional around the sudden stepping down of Magic Johnson.

Davis will play out his contract and become a free agent, something reported by Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports, but also obvious under the current salary cap rules. Davis’ max extension is two-years, $67 million in addition to his current deal (and it could be less than that if he gave up some of his trade kicker in this deal), his free agent contract will be five-years pushing $200 million. That is a no brainer. He will re-sign with the Lakers.

The Pelicans got a serious haul here that jumpstarts a rebuild: Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram as the forwards, whoever they take with the No. 4 pick (or trade that pick for, a real possibility), Lonzo Ball will play alongside Jrue Holiday, who is primarily a two-guard now (and Ball should thrive in Alvin Gentry’s up-tempo system, it plays to his strengths), Josh Hart is a solid role player. That is a team that could hang around and compete for a playoff spot in the West if things break right for them. Or, the Pelicans could flip those players for guys that they really want.

Just picture Lonzo throwing lobs to Zion. This team is going to be fun.

Beyond that, if Williamson develops into who many think he can be — a top-five kind of player in the league — the Pelicans may be a force in about 2023, right as the LeBron era in Los Angeles winds down.