NBA Rundown 8/31
Ever since the end of the summer league the NBA has entered the most dry part of its calendar. We are about a month away from teams starting training camp and with most of the major free agents already signed the NBA news cycle is in something of a stand still. So in this article instead of focusing on one topic I will be going over everything currently happening in the NBA world.
The Chicago Bulls agree to a three team sign-and-trade that lands Lauri Markkanen with the Cleveland Cavaliers
After a stretch of silence in free agency news a deal was dealt early Friday. In the deal the Chicago Bulls agreed to send 24-year-old forward Lauri Markkanen to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavaliers then sent 28-year-old forward Larry Nance Jr. to the Portland Trailblazers and the Blazers are sending swingman Derrick Jones Jr. and a 2022 lottery protected first round pick to the Chicago Bulls. Markkanen promptly signed a four year $67 million dollar deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
For the Bulls this was a great return for a player they didn’t want to pay as much as he ended up getting. There was supposed interest in Markkanen from many teams like the Celtics, Mavericks, Timberwolves, and Pelicans. The Bulls refused many offers and decided that this three team deal worked in their favor. Getting a first round pick, even if it is lottery protected, is a good return for a distressed asset in Markken. Derrick Jones Jr., while not a great player, gives the Bulls more depth at the forward position and gives them a good wing stopper on defense.
The Cavaliers were able to turn Larry Nance Jr., an older win-now player that doesn’t fit their timeline, into a 24-year-old seven footer who just shot 40 percent from three last season. Markkanen still has a lot to do to become the player he could be but at only 16 million a season he could still be a valuable rotation player for the Cavs. Adding Markkanen gives the Cavaliers another big man in their already crowded front court with recently signed Jarrett Allen and the third overall pick Evan Mobely.
For the Trailblazers this seems to be one of their final attempts to improve the roster around Lillard. Adding a guy like Nance helps this team in a lot of ways. Nance is a good defender who can comfortably guard wings, bigs, and some guards. Offensively Nance is a smart player who is capable of making good passes in the short roll, is a good finisher around the rim, and has developed into a good spot up three point shooter. Nance definitely makes this team better but the question is by how much? The Blazers gave up a lottery protected first in the deal which limits their asset pool greatly. So will the addition of Larry Nance Jr. be enough to keep Lillard around? Only time will tell.
Veteran Guard Rajon Rondo resigns with the Lakers
Earlier this summer Rajon Rondo was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies for guard Eric Bledsoe. A few days after the deal Rondo and the Grizzlies agreed to a buyout making him a free agent. Not even a day passed before Rondo decided to rejoin the Lakers after winning the championship with them during the 2019-20 season. At 35-years-old Rondo is in the twilight of his career so it makes sense for him to sign with a team like the Lakers who will be competing for a championship this upcoming season. With Russell Westbrook being the starting guard and players like Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nun, and Malik Monk coming off the bench, playing time might be limited for the two time champion. Nonetheless Rondo’s playoff experience and basketball IQ will serve the Lakers well even if that is in a role similar to what Jared Dudley has offered the past few seasons.
Ben Simmons informs the 76ers he wants to be traded and will not report to training camp
After a disappointing game 7 loss to the upstart Atlanta Hawks the 76ers and Ben Simmons are both looking to part ways entering the 2021-22 season. Simmons is a three time all-star and averaged 14.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 6.9 assists last season. His play reduced greatly in the playoffs though as he showed an unwillingness to shoot in crucial moments. Even though Simmons' playoff struggles are well documented he’s still a winning player who is only 25-years-old. I say this because Daryl Morey, the 76ers general manager, values star players as the best asset in basketball. So having a star player in his prime Morey isn’t going to just trade him away for any so-so package like we saw when San Antonio traded Kawhi Leonard. Morey has demanded either a star player in return, like Damien Lillard or Bradley Beal, or a package of picks and young players equaling returns for players like James Harden or Anthony Davis. So even though both Simmons and the 76ers are ready and willing to get a deal done, it's being delayed by Morey’s unwillingness to settle. So even if Simmons demands to be moved before training camp I wouldn’t be surprised if he ends up starting the year in a 76ers jersey.