NBA insiders on how the wild deal deadline has reshaped the title race
The phoenix sun entered the conversation. The Los Angeles Lakers Not available. And golden empire warriors left it.
Those are the most definitive lessons from sampling NBA scouts, GMs and back-office executives were asked by FOX Sports how a flurry of moves on Thursday’s trade deadline has reshaped this year’s title chase.
Unsurprisingly, every participant named the Sun, with the acquisition Kevin Durant from brooklyn networkin making himself a Finalist candidate for the second time in three years.
When asked specifically which team previously outside of the search had put themselves in the race, a Western Conference GM said, “Phoenix by a mile” and an Eastern Conference GM agreed.
“Phoenix crept in there,” he said. “They haven’t gone anywhere before. They’re going to have a hard time.”
And while everyone agrees that the Lakers have improved their roster with the addition D’Angelo Russell, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley And Mo Bamba to their star parallel to LeBron James And Anthony DavisThe general feeling is that it may be too late for a team sitting in 13th place, 2.5 games away from the last play-in spot which currently holds. Portland Trail Blazers.
“They’re a threat, but time is running out and they’re too far away,” said the GM of the Western Conference. “Plus, their schedule is always being reloaded, so they have a harder time than most. If LeBron and AD miss two weeks, it might even be hard to get into the play-in tournament.”
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There are concerns about how quickly Chris Paul, Booker Devin, DeAndre Ayton and Durant could develop the chemistry needed to make a post-season run, especially as both Durant and Booker are currently sidelined through injury.
“I’m not a believer in big deals happening after deadlines,” said an Eastern Conference executive. “How quickly will that group of Suns combine this season with so little practice time in the NBA today, and isn’t Durant expected to return until after the All-Star break?”
The depth of the Sun is also thinned by sending their two striking young wings, Mikal . Bridge And Cam Johnsonto Brooklyn.
“It’s been a tough deal for the Suns to get rid of two reliable young players,” said an Eastern Conference scout.
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Both he and the Eastern Conference moderator also believe the Warriors didn’t do enough by the deadline to give themselves a chance to defend their title.
They are currently in ninth place in the West and Steph curry, the MVP of last year’s Finals, had to miss at least a few more weeks because of a knee injury. Their only deadline move is to send the center James is wise#2 overall pick in 2020, until Detroit pistons for five picks in the second round onwards Kevin Knoxwho then turned to the Blazers to bring in defensive specialists Gary Payton II, a key contributor off the bench in their title run. Payton, who left Portland last summer as a free agent, should beef up their 18th-place defense but that may not be enough to solve their laning problem , where they are leading 7-21.
“Golden State is done,” said the Eastern Conference scout. “They’re not good enough to win many potential playoff series. They have the same track record as the Pistons. Think about it.”
The Eastern Conference moderator agrees: “I don’t think the Golden State can put the genie back in the bottle.”
The Dallas Mavericks received an honorary mention from an Eastern Conference GM after extracting the mysterious star Kyrie Irving from the destruction of the Nets.
He said: “Dallas with Irving came forward in the void. “The track record of his impact on the pitch is real. But so is his impact on team mentality, so who knows.”
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Two incumbent candidates in the West, Clippers Los Angeles And Denver nuggetspraised for strengthening their chances.
The Clippers overhauled their backyard by moving two of their guard points, John wall And Reggie Jacksonwith the gunner Luke Kennardand put in the guard point Hyland bone from Denver and rocket veteran bodyguard Eric Gordon. They also added a much-needed backup hub, Plumlee Masonfrom Charlotte.
The Eastern Conference scout said: “Clippers got better, adding by subtracting Wall and Jackson out. “Plumlee will be a good piece for them and Gordon will be invigorated.”
Leading Western Nuggets also added a backup hub, Thomas Bryant from the Lakers, but a second Eastern Conference GM remains concerned about the Nuggets’ 14th-ranked defense.
“Thomas Bryant is a good catcher,” he said, “but Michael Porter Jr.. can’t protect me. I’m not sure you can leave him out there to finish the game.”
Despite the migration of talented stars to the West, the common belief is Milwaukee Bucks And Boston Celtics strengthen themselves as lovers. Bucks power forward Jae Crowder from the Suns and Celtics added a pick-and-pop center from Oklahoma City Thunder, Mike Muscalalet the central backup start Al-Horford. A lack of scale is considered the Celtics’ biggest weakness going into the season.
The second GM of the Eastern Conference said: “Muscala is a sneakily good choice. “He’s a big guy who can score and knock Horford in minutes to get into the knockout stages.”
The first GM of the Eastern Conference had a similar feeling about the Bucks adding Crowder: “That could be what gets them back to the Finals.”
All in all, the deadline moves added some intrigue to this year’s race to be the last team standing in June, but not enough to deter anyone from leaving their favorites in. early in the season, including the Eastern Conference’s second GM.
“In the little one GM survey at the beginning of the year I chose Milwaukee,” he said. “I’ll go with it.”
Ric Bucher is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He has previously written for Bleacher Report, ESPN The Magazine and The Washington Post and has written two books, “Rebound,” about NBA forward Brian Grant’s battle with young-onset Parkinson’s disease, and “Yao: A Life In Two Worlds.” He also has a daily podcast, “On The Ball with Ric Bucher.” Follow him on Twitter @Ric Bucher.
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