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To be clear, Boston lost a lot of talent this offseason, but made solid moves to fill out the roster. The hope is with more opportunity, young players like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown can take a step forward in their development and fill the void. Jaylen Brown is eligible for a contract extension until the start of the season. In his two seasons in Boston and with Brad Stevens , Irving posted some of the best numbers of his career. Now, in a similar role, Kemba Walker is set to do the same.

Already a potent offensive weapon, Walker averaged Irving, in arguably his career-best stretch, posted similar numbers Boston has multiple versatile defensive weapons, but Marcus Smart is the best among them. Smart finished eighth in the vote for Defensive Player of the Year and was a first-time member of the All-Defensive first team.

Smart also finished third in the NBA in total steals and sixth in steals per game 1. His defensive instincts are impeccable, as is his tenacity — ala Patrick Beverley, Smart is never one to give up on a play. Smart also has a knack for making plays when the team is desperate for one. Whether a deflection, forced an errant pass or an outright block or steal, Smart can often be found in the thick of it late in games.

Walker would be the obvious candidate, as his 5. Smart, who thrived as a secondary playmaker last season, would also seem like an easy choice here. The most likely scenario? Boston can and probably should look to Frankenstein their abilities together. Walker has long been regarded as clutch. Still, Walker finished the regular season with the third-most field goals in those situations 52 , just five behind Irving 57 and ahead of Stephen Curry 31 , Kevin Durant 31 , James Harden 47 , Damian Lillard 36 and others.

Plenty of his teammates — Brown, Hayward, Tatum, etc. Brown regressed in , but not nearly as much as some would make it out to be. He struggled early on due to a hand injury and, by the time he got back Boston was in the midst of a meltdown.


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Stevens moved him to the bench and it took some time for him to adjust but, once he did, he took off. Only Paul George, T. Warren, Curry and Irving posted those numbers while playing more than 40 games last season. With a chunk of the offense production gone from last year, expect Brown to not only take on a greater role with the team, but another step forward, career-wise, in the last year of his deal. Of course, Walker would fit the bill as the best new addition. There is a lot to like about the big-man out of Tennessee. At 6-foot-7, Williams has the size to play at either the power forward or center spot and should hold his own against most players, small or large, defensively.

He can score efficiently, pass effectively and can even step out and make an impact on the perimeter. Williams would seem to fit the mold of the do-it-all front court chess piece. Depending on where he is at, development-wise, he could seize a large role relatively early in his rookie season as the Celtics look to fill the Horford-sized hole left in the roster. If not, Williams should develop into a solid player, and one the team can build with, as the Celtics look to turn their team around after last season. To reiterate, there is a lot to like about Williams and what he could do at the NBA level.

He was exceptional in nearly every phase of the game at Tennessee — he can shoot, pass and defend at a high level — and he has the motor that any team would want to see in a rookie. In his third year with the team, Williams averaged Williams has also shown to be a team-first player, an attitude the Celtics sorely lacked last season, and should go a long way in bringing the locker room together. Carsen Edwards can flat out score. Boston struggled to score points off the bench last season, so they added the diminutive guard in the second round of the draft.

Edwards scored easily and often during his time at Purdue, and even stepped up his game in the NCAA tournament and shined with the Celtics in the Summer League. That confidence should bode well, both for Boston and Edwards. Even as a second-round rookie, expect some big nights out of him in his first season. Two seasons removed from his gruesome leg injury, this may be the year Hayward looks like himself again. Many thought Hayward would take that step last season, but he struggled with his confidence and often looked lost on the court.

Stevens tried to force-feed him the ball, but he only struggled further and the team worse for it both on the court and in the locker room. But now, with two years and an injury-free offseason between him and the original injury, Hayward may be able to take that massive step back toward the player he once was. If Hayward can make that triumphant return to the court, it could completely change other teams view Boston and their place in the NBA hierarchy. At Indiana, Langford made the game look easy as he averaged While he struggled in his efficiency — The future of the NBA is positionless basketball — teams want players that can play and defend a multitude of positions.

And, when it comes to versatility, the Celtics have it in spades. Meanwhile, Edwards and Walker can play either spot in the backcourt. Stevens has always been one to shift players around the court, and he should have a multitude of lineup options at his disposal for almost any in-game situation. Should he and the team take advantage of that, it could give Boston a leg up on more than a few teams as they look to win games. With Horford gone, the Celtics project to start Enes Kanter at the five. With the number of players that can switch defensively, Boston should find few issues defending the perimeter.

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However, there is a distinct lack of defensive anchor on the Celtics roster. Second-year big Robert Williams flashed but played limited minutes — is he ready for a bigger role? Likewise, Daniel Theis has shown promise, but has played relatively little during his two seasons with the team. But where do they go from here? If the two of them can push everyone to be their best, Boston could find themselves where we thought they would be a season ago. Can the Thunder make it back to the promised land of contender status, or will this season be what the next decade of basketball in Oklahoma City looks like?

That, of course, is the sudden, unexpected departure of Russell Westbrook, the undeniable top dog in Thunder-era franchise history. Onto Houston — reuniting with former teammate James Harden — to forge a new path ahead, leaving Oklahoma City — for the first time since the franchise moved cross-country in — without a bonafide superstar. That show-stopping occasion came just weeks after the Oklahoma City traded Paul George, one year after signing him to a large deal in free agency, to the Los Angeles Clippers. Sure, Chris Paul will fill the hole as the rostered icon and future Hall of Famer, but the swap leaves the Thunder in limbo — hampered by a few remaining contracts, but steadfastly dedicated to their young assets and a newly-found treasure trove of draft picks.

The Thunder finally folded their hand entering free agency. They traded Russell Westbrook and Paul George for a windfall of draft picks — six unprotected first-round picks, one protected pick and four pick swaps — along with Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari. While they still have a solid — albeit a mismatched — core, there is lots of competition out West.

The Thunder possess nice pieces like Steven Adams and Dennis Schroder, but it seems more likely like the Thunder will be sellers come the trade deadline. After all, odds that they make the playoffs are incredibly slim even if they play their vets. And either way, the Northwest Division is ultra-competitive, and the Thunder will struggle to finish ahead of any of its teams regardless of the moves it makes. The Thunder officially hit the reset button with their decision to trade Russell Westbrook and Paul George. They did get a nice haul picks though from the Clippers in the George deal, as well as promising young point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Rebuilding should be the sole focus. Gallinari could be an attractive piece for a team looking for that missing piece for a deep playoff run. Adams has been one of the franchise cornerstones, but is his presence really necessary for a rebuilding team? Yet as they say, the show must go on. Unfortunately, their playing time is to be determined until veterans such as Dennis Schroder and Danilo Gallinari are booted from the top of the pecking order.

Those two, and Steven Adams, may be trade bait at some point of the season. Chris Paul could be the veteran playmaker that brings all this youth and upside together. Credit Sam Presti for understanding the limitations of his roster and salary cap situation and making bold moves to rebuild.

Presti got a historic haul of assets from the Clippers in the Paul George trade. The Thunder received Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a Miami HEAT first-rounder, a first-rounder, first-round swap rights, a protected Miami first-rounder, a first-rounder, first-round swap rights and a first-rounder. Gallinari played at near All-Star levels last season and Gilgeous-Alexander is one of the best young point guard prospects in the league. Presti managed to completely reload the team with future draft assets and quality players as well.

With the remaining talent and the additions of Gallinari, Gilgeous-Alexander and Paul, I think Oklahoma City is poised to beat expectations this upcoming season. The Thunder have gone through an obvious transformation since last season. In losing Russell Westbrook and Paul George, via trade, the franchise added significant draft resources for the future. The perpetually underrated and once forever-injured Italian can often be a one-man show on offense. At Gallinari was virtually tied with Tobias Harris and Lou Williams in the scoring department for Los Angeles and offered the upstart Clippers a versatile, efficient weapon at multiple positions.

At 6-foot, Gallinari is adept both inside and out, in isolation or on the block. Given both his mobility and height, defending him can be a nightmare-ish version of picking-your-own-poison, often just rising up-and-over at a standstill should the opposition sag off at all.

George finished in third place in Defensive Player of the Year voting last spring, while Roberson missed an entire season as he continued to rehab from his brutal injury. Of course, in January , Roberson ruptured his left patellar tendon and missed the remainder of the year. On the comeback trail the following autumn, Roberson suffered through setback after setback before an MRI in November found a small avulsion fracture that shelved him once more — eventually, that turned into a lost season as well.

In that season, Roberson was one of 11 players to finish with at least a block and steal per game. The 6-foot guard is a nine-time All-Star, four-time assist champion, six-time steal champion, eight-time All-NBA Teamer and a nine-time member of an All-Defensive team.

In any definition of the term, Paul is a playmaker, even at his older age. Better, his two thefts per game put him at No. The one thing that has slowed down Paul, unfortunately, is an injury. During his final season with the Clippers, CP3 reached just 61 games; over two campaigns with Houston, that total ended at 58 both times.

Without question, plenty of Thunder players could lay claim to this title, but Mr. Reliable, Steven Adams, deserves more shine. In his career-best , Adams tallied During clutch-time minutes, Adams shot at 52 percent to boot — a high-percentage, no-nonsense clean-up option around two top-five MVP candidates. Known as one of the hardest pick-setters in the NBA, Adams notched 3.

When you put Adams as a foil around those two aforementioned volume shooters that need every possible inch of space — very few are as good as long-haired, joke-cracking New Zealander. But with Westbrook and George out and Paul leading the charge, Adams could have a bigger role than ever — will his efficiency take a dip? Either way, the reliable center will be there to do whatever it takes to win.

Although that means fewer touches overall, Paul undeniably puts teammates in a position to succeed. And for a talented contributor that has always looked to put the ball in the bucket, learning from a legend like Paul can only serve to benefit.

The former No. Gilgeous-Alexander will be just 21 years old for the entire season — but he already looks ready to become next big star in Oklahoma City. Although moving on from Westbrook and George were heartbreaking, franchise-altering decisions, Gilgeous-Alexander — and their bounty of future draft capital — will make it worth it eventually, if not immediately.

As a should-be top dog in a well-accepted rebuild, expect Gilgeous-Alexander to soar even higher than last season. Get prepared, Thunder fans. Just before the season started, Bazley changed course entirely, deciding to skip college altogether and play in the G League for a season instead. At 6-foot-9 and plus pounds already, to call Bazley a physical specimen would be nearly understating the premise.

Armed with an impressive 7-foot wingspan, Bazley represents the type of multi-faceted, multi-positional athlete that more and more franchises search for every draft season — and this time, the Thunder got their target. Although he may spend most of the season in the G League, Bazley, armed with the camaraderie and power only harnessed by LeBron James and company, could be somebody worth keeping an eye on. Like Bazley, Diallo had an interesting journey to the NBA, too, first redshirting a season at Kentucky before surprisingly returning for a sophomore year.

That year, Diallo started all 37 games for the Wildcats and tallied 10 points, 3. Although it was not the breakout season most had anticipated from Diallo, he played an important role for a Kentucky roster that reached the Sweet 16 as a No. As a bouncy, sky-scraping athlete, Diallo finally has room to breathe in a rebuilding Thunder side. In his best-yet showing as a professional, Diallo scored 18 points on 7-for-7 from the floor in a November loss against Sacramento. But if you want to see his next-level potential, look no further than his Slam Dunk Contest reel. Say less, man.

Unlike Bazley — who did nothing — and Diallo — who went back — Ferguson jettisoned the country altogether, this time in favor of Australia. At No. But with more experience came the minutes in year two, so Ferguson saw his points, rebounds and assists rise in tandem. During , the 6-foot-7 leaper scored 10 or more points in 21 different efforts, all while hitting at a very respectable Now given a clearer path to playing time, Ferguson could be an injection of scoring and highlight-worthy amp-ups that the Thunder bench sorely needs.

After all, the former No. Two weeks later, he underwent a procedure to continue strong healing of that pesky left foot. That, of course, worked well until he broke his other foot five months later instead. Traded alongside Jimmy Butler once again — as he was from Chicago the night he was drafted — Patton was shipped to Philadelphia. In April, after appearing in just three games for the 76ers, the 7-footer was waived.

With two sturdy, defensive-minded veterans ahead of him — Nerlens Noel, Adams — Patton can grow at his own pace and this time, hopefully, stay healthy for the first time in his career. Often, franchises are forced to rebuild. Take the New Orleans Pelicans, for example, who were forced to burn their plans to the ground and start anew without warning.

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In other instances, whether by injuries or free agency — Kemba Walker, Kawhi Leonard, take your pick — circumstances can send franchises hurtling in the wrong direction all at once. But to find a front office that can see the writing on the wall, move on from the best player in franchise history and a second MVP-worthy candidate and capitalize on their sky-high valuable assets within a few weeks is a truly remarkable achievement.

The Emerson College alum was once questioned for his return in the trade that sent eventual MVP James Harden even further south — however, those will resurface less after this summer. Between now and , the Thunder have a flat-out stunning 15 first-round draft picks. Although they have plenty of young assets — as mentioned above — that number alone should have Oklahoma City fans excited, even if they must wait a few more years to regain relevance.

On the scoring side of things, Westbrook and his history-making usage levels will have to go elsewhere — all those shots, passes and isolation moments, gone. Their athleticism is through the roof thanks to Diallo, Ferguson, Bazley, Noel and Gilgeous-Alexander, thus making the Thunder a daily highlight-maker — particularly so with a court general like Paul pulling the strings.

Adams will play hard and make a difference, while Gallinari, if healthy, can carry the offensive load on most nights. Not likely. Replacing George with Roberson — talented but with injury history — and Westbrook with Paul — talented but with injury history and, well, old — should serve to see Oklahoma City plummet here. With an offense with plenty of questions left to answer, that may be a death knell on any potential playoff dreams in the Western Conference. The defense will be serviceable, make no mistake. But the Thunder made a living last year as a complete, overwhelming unit in Elsewhere, Oklahoma City was a middle-of-the-pack franchise in three-point makes, attempts and percentages; while their assists tally, surprisingly, ranked in the bottom The Thunder have a full and compelling roster, but no overwhelming standouts either.

For too long, aspiring talents were shifted aside to make room for Westbrook, George and whatever other veteran-ready contributors came to town for the win-now franchise. Gilgeous-Alexander is a shoo-in — but what about Diallo? Or Ferguson? Behind Adams and Noel, will Patton get a fair shake? Will Bazley spend much of the season in the G League?

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On the other hand, if Gallinari stays healthy, he could be a movable asset on an expiring contract come the trade deadline in February. The Indiana Pacers had an amazing offseason, but will that be enough to move them into the upper tier of the Eastern Conference? The Indiana Pacers have boasted tremendous continuity over the past few years, going from inevitable rebuild to genuine darkhorse. That continuity will be put to the test again this season following a smorgasbord of moves over the summer.

After losing four of their five starters from last season, Indiana will have plenty of new faces that will need time to gel. Even with All-Star guard Victor Oladipo returns from his torn quad, the team chemistry will be rigorously challenged. On paper, the fit looks fantastic but until we see it on the court, no one can be sure how it will all work out.

In terms of returning players, the Pacers rank 28th in both minutes played and points scored from last season. That will be key for them if they expect to secure one of the top four seeds in the Eastern Conference. Indiana is coming off an incredibly impressive But instead of resting on their laurels, the Pacers went in for a face-lift of sorts — and allowed Darren Collison, Bojan Bogdanovic, Thaddeus Young and Cory Joseph to leave as free agents.

But the departing players were replaced by Malcolm Brogdon, T. McConnell, Jeremy Lamb and T. A returning Victor Oladipo should add another level to the Pacers and their backcourt will be among the most versatile and dangerous in the NBA. Rookie Goga Bitadze should add something to the team with an incredibly efficient offensive game and great rim-protecting instincts. The Pacers have a high ceiling this year — but they will be thoroughly tested by the likes of the 76ers and Bucks in the Eastern Conference.

The Pacers, despite losing Victor Oladipo, still had a great year. They finished just shy of 50 wins as the rest of the team came together and showed a lot of fight. McConnell and Justin Holiday, also adding a good trade for T. Each of these players should add to the Pacers depth, but they already must find players that can replicate the contributions of Bojan Bogdanovic, Thaddeus Young and Darren Collison.

Exceptions

The next step for them is not only reaching the postseason but perhaps securing a top-four seed and possibly even winning a series — it could happen this season. You can throw a wrench into their plans and they just come out with a new blueprint. This time, Indiana lost Bojan Bogdanovic and Thaddeus Young to free agency; two valuable pieces on the court and in the locker room. The team still has dynamic, versatile big men in Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis, who, according to Nate McMillan, will be playing together.

If this altered version of the squad works and Oladipo comes back as the Vic everybody knows, this is going to be a dangerous group to reckon with. The Indiana Pacers might be the best team no one is giving credit to. If Victor Oladipo comes back after the All-Star break, the Pacers could be set up to secure home-court advantage in the first round. Indiana had a solid offseason by netting Malcolm Brogdon in a sign and trade, plus they even hung on to their young guys too.

So if Oladipo is back to his All-Star form, the Pacers could be really good. I think that at some point this season the Milwaukee Bucks are going to second-guess not doing everything in their power to retain the services of Malcolm Brogdon. Brogdon will bring a lot of value to the Indiana Pacers on both ends of the court and could form a dynamic duo with Victor Oladipo.

Indiana also made other savvy moves, adding quality players like T. Warren, Jeremy Lamb, T. McConnell and Justin Holiday. Between Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner and now Goga Bitadze, the Pacers have a lot of depth at the center position as well and may need to make a decision on what to do between Sabonis and Turner. I think Indiana can make a strong push this season and exceed expectations but I am not convinced that they have quite enough to make it to the Finals.

The Pacers used their cap room to bring in players like Malcolm Brogdon, T. Warren and Jeremy Lamb. Having used their room exception on Justin Holiday, the team can only add players via minimum contracts or trade. Before November, the Pacers need to pick up team options on T.

The J-Notes

Leaf and Aaron Holiday. Domantas Sabonis is eligible for a contract extension before the start of the season. Since acquiring him in the high-profile trade for Paul George, Victor Oladipo has been the engine that runs this team. The energy, hustle and clutch performances have invigorated this Pacers team and their fan base. His days in Orlando and Oklahoma City were about learning and applying that knowledge to his game.

Oladipo burst onto the national scene during the season where he was named to the All-NBA third team. That same season, he made his first All-Star game appearance and was named to the All-Defensive first team after leading the league in steals. Not only has he lifted the Pacers franchise, but he has been carrying the offense quite well as indicated by his 17th-ranked player efficiency rating from two years ago.

First reported by The Athletic. Gobert can sign a supermax extension next summer. After shooting just The Rockets win ugly, , in Game 5 to eliminate the Jazz and advance to presumably get a rematch against the Warriors. After a 1-of start, James Harden finishes with 26 points on of shooting. Donovan Mitchell, the Game 4 hero: 12 points, 4-of shooting. Since his point first half in Game 2, James Harden has shot of He went scoreless on 0-of-6 shooting in the first quarter, which ended in a tie.

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