The NBA featured two relatively large, oddly timed trades this past week, both involving teams that are competing with the Jazz for the Western Conference’s limited playoff spots.
First and foremost, the San Antonio Spurs traded superstar Kawhi Leonard to the Toronto Raptors, along with Danny Green, for DeMar Derozan and former ute Jakob Poeltl. Regardless of whether the Spurs added a star in Derozan in return, who is likely just entering his prime, this move is good for the Jazz, at least for this year. Superstars going East has been rare over the past several seasons, so the chance the fact that the Jazz will see Leonard only twice this season, and not at all in the playoffs, rather than four times during the regular season, and potentially in a first round match up, is a win. Leonard, when healthy is unquestionably a top five player in the NBA.
This move also may signal the end of the Spurs dynasty which started 20 years ago with the addition of Tim Duncan. While it appeared far fetched that the Spurs were a contender with Golden State running the West, the Spurs were likely just one star piece away from finding themselves on the Houston Rockets tier of teams competing with the Warriors. They’re significantly further from that spot now.
With that said, San Antonio may very well be equally as good as they were last season when Leonard played only 9 games, and may very well be better. Derozan was the best player on a team that won 59 games last year, and is coming off three consecutive all-star appearances. Though he’s not quite a modern wing in the NBA, doing most of his damage from the midrange, he still gets to the line with ease, and can scary a big scoring load. With he, and LaMarcus Aldridge, the Spurs have two top 25 players on their roster, and the league’s best coach. That formula will make the playoffs next year, so don’t expect San Antonio to drop in the standings. In a 7 games series, their lack of shooting may doom them, but they’ll compete for 50 wins next season in the West.
The second trade sent Carmelo Anthony to the Atlanta Hawks, and saw Dennis Schroeder moved to the Oklahoma City Thunder. This move is pretty much all bad for the Jazz. Not only is Schroeder a better fit for OKC than was Melo, its highly likely Melo signs with the Rockets, and gives them another option to spread the floor in Mike D’Antoni’s system.
Schroeder gives the Thunder another ball handler, and a scoring option off a bench that could use more firepower. He isn’t much of a shooter, converting just 29% from the three point line, but at just 24 years old, there is room for him to improve. He’s not perfect, but long term, every team in the NBA would take him over Melo.
Melo going to Houston may not work, as it certainly didn’t work in OKC, but he won’t be asked to be a part of a “Big 3” with the Rockets, even though he’s teamed with James Harden and Chris Paul, that role is likely reserved for Clint Capela. Melo can focus on being a three point shooter, and little else, a la Eric Gordon, and will fit in well receiving passes from Harden and Paul, who are two of the five best passers in the league.
Houston got worse this offseason with the loss of Tervor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute, but this is an idea landing spot for Melo.
Houston was a better team than the Jazz last year, and OKC finished with an identical record, I would expect little to change this upcoming season. OKC should continue to compete for home court advantage with the Jazz in the West by retaining Paul George, and adding Schroeder. Houston took a step backwards, and may not finish with the best record in the west next year, but I would be surprised to see the Jazz overtake them in the standings.