Not Everybody Can Make the Playoffs:Eastern Conference Edition
The NBA Superstar is a difficult person to really understand. They are great basketball players, but they become so much more than that to their teams. Despite their flaws, the hometown fans believe that they can get it done. The hometown fans know that as long as they have their superstar everything’s going to be okay and there is a chance to turn it around. Unfortunately, the superstars sometimes want to make a change, sometimes they want to play in a different city or play with different guys and it is a tough time because there is so much riding on them. Most fan bases turn on their superstars, but some understand that it’s time to make a change. I present two case studies in regards to superstar players leaving teams, the Indiana Pacers and the Atlanta Hawks (yes, Paul Millsap is a superstar and Dwight Howard is...Dwight Howard).
This image has to hurt Indiana Pacer fans. They believed that this was their guy and Paul George said as much the past few years, but that all changed over the summer when it was let out that he wanted out of Indiana and told the franchise that he would not re-sign come next summer. Here is the link to the Woj bomb when he still wrote for Yahoo, https://sports.yahoo.com/sources-paul-george-tells-pacers-plans-leave-franchise-prefers-joining-lakers-191520531.html
This gave the Pacers a choice, call his bluff and play it out or try to get something for him. The Pacers chose the latter and shipped the franchise off to Oklahoma City in exchange for Victor Oladipo, former Indiana University star, and Domantas Sabonis, a big man that is the son of the great Arvydas Sabonis. Seriously, if his dad was put into the deal as well, I would not mind. Take four minutes and watch this:
Not only did they lose Paul George, they also lost their starting point guard in Jeff Teague to free agency. The franchise looks to be going through a rebuild and it is hard to tell how good they might be this coming season.
The Pacers made some moves this offseason by adding some veteran role players like Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collison, and Cory Joseph. Joseph and Collison should make up for the play of Teague and Joseph will help defensively for the Pacers at that position. The wing is what concerns me for the Pacers. It is unclear what Oladipo can do as a go to option on the wing. I’m not sure he remembers what the basketball feels like after playing with Westbrook last year, but he should become Indiana’s number one scoring option on the wing. There is hope for Oladipo, he averaged 16 points per game on 13 shots a game, but shot a career high 36% from 3. Bogdanovic provides shooting and my guess is that he will come off the bench for the Pacers. I am not sure how effective he will be when he is not getting all the open looks that John Wall created for him in Washington.
The Pacers are going to count on the growth of Myles Turner and I am just not sure that he is ready to be a consistent number one option on offense. He shows flashes and there is a reason the Pacers felt okay to let go of Paul George. They feel like Turner can become the next superstar for them. Turner’s game has room for growth, but he is already a solid player. He upped his scoring, rebounding, minutes, and shot attempts last season and shot 35% on over 100 attempts from 3. With the added offensive burden that he will face night to night I think his shots and scoring will go up, but it is hard to see the Pacers winning 42 games again, even in the East.
The Atlanta Hawks did not have a bad season last year. They won 43 games and finished 5th in the Eastern Conference taking Washington to a game 6 in what was a competitive series. They seemed to have just put it on cruise control for the last two months of the season and did not seem to have much fight in the playoffs. Dwight Howard looked disinterested and everyone knew that Millsap was going to leave. Millsap ended up joining the Denver Nuggets and Howard was traded to the Charlotte Hornets for Marco Belinelli and Miles Plumlee. The Hawks seem to be preparing for a rebuild and I’m not sure if that is the case, but any time you allow two of your best players to leave via free agency or trade it signals something.
The Hawks have to feel that their young guys showed something and there was no point in keeping together a team that could only go so far in the East. The Hawks have a good backcourt in Kent Bazemore and Dennis Schroder. Schroder had a breakout season as the starting point guard for the Hawks and although he does have his flaws, he is a solid player and is going to have to do more for the Hawks to be successful. He also plays for keeps…prison rules for sure.
Bazemore is a good two way player that is not going to give much more to you offensively and that means you are going to need someone to score those points that Millsap took with him to Denver. The Hawks have some versatile players to round out their team including 2nd year man Taurean Prince. Many people in the league are high on Prince and I am not sure he is going to make a huge leap in the next two seasons, but he is a good player. The Hawks have some versatility amongst their bigs and Mike Budenholzer will get something from Miles Plumlee, Ersan Ilyasova, Dewayne Dedmon, and Mike Muscala. In addition, they drafted John Collins, a big man from Wake Forest with the 19th pick and he has fans buzzing after a great summer league performance. I am not sure how much of Howard and Millsap’s production can be replaced by these players, but they are skilled big men, some with the ability to shoot, others the ability to screen and roll hard to the rim. It is a nice mix of bigs.
The Hawks have a strange mix of talent and it is an interesting case because I love Coach Budenholzer and think that he is going to get the most out of this group. I would not be shocked to see the Hawks being competitive, but talent rules the day in the NBA and the Hawks just do not have enough. This is an opportunity for the Hawks to develop young talent and prepare themselves for the future.