In Season 2020 of the Chemist Warehouse WNBL, the games are being played in a North Queensland Hub. Eight teams from all over Australia are currently competing for the national Championship.
University of Canberra Capitals
Sydney Uni Flames
It’s a huge change for both players, coaches, team support staff and supporters. But for most it’s proving to be a very positive experience. Here is an article from the WNBL website…
Life in the Hub with Jade Melbourne
During the 2020 Chemist Warehouse WNBL season, avid followers of the league’s digital and social media channels will get to enjoy insights and interviews with leading women’s basketball reporter and broadcaster, Megan Hustwaite.
With thanks to the league’s naming-rights partner, Chemist Warehouse, Megan is based in the North Queensland hub and is bringing fans along for the journey with a series of feature interviews.
In Part 3 of “Life in the Hub”, Megan catches up with University of Canberra Capitals rising star Jade Melbourne.
Jade Melbourne is having the time of her life The UC Capitals teen sensation is six games into her Chemist Warehouse WNBL career, has earned a spot in the starting line up and even top scored for her side against perennial finalist Deakin Melbourne Boomers in Mackay last week.
The 18-year old guard from regional Victoria, with the wide grin, cheeky giggle and perfect country manners, has just completed her year 12 exams and is loving every minute in the Far North Queensland WNBL hub.
“I’m absolutely loving it. I’m super fortunate to be in such a good team, staying in a pretty cool hotel and I’m just loving playing basketball to be honest,’’ she said.
Just like Melbourne’s lightning quick rise to prominence.
A phone call from Caps coach Paul Goriss and an invite to Canberra pre-season training quickly lead to a contract and packing for six weeks away in the hub.
Weeks later, Melbourne earned a spot in the starting five for the season-opener against Adelaide Lightning.
“I was in the starting group at training and started in a practice game against Sydney. Goz (coach Paul Goriss) called me into his room and told me he was going to start me against Adelaide and I was like ‘oh!’.
“It was crazy and a cool feeling. To hear that I’d be starting in my first WNBL game I was nervous, excited all in one. I’m just loving it.”
In just her fourth game, Melbourne scored a game-high 20 points in Round 2 as the Caps disposed of the Melbourne Boomers.
She already averages 10.7 points, 2.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists and has scored in double figures four times including 14 points against the Villawood Properties Bendigo Spirit and Jayco Southside Flyers plus 12 on the JCU Townsville Fire.
“It was pretty cool (top scoring in her fourth game). I’m just super fortunate I play in such a great team,’’ Melbourne added.
“In our team, there’s so many players who can light it up on any night and I was just able to find some gaps in that game. Everyone has confidence in me which has given me confidence as well. I’m trying to make the most of those opportunities.”
Melbourne is enjoying life in the hub, the Caps are currently in Cairns after launching their campaign in Mackay. She says its like tournament play, similar to competing in last year’s Under-18 Australian Junior National championships for victorious Victoria.
“I’m learning new things every day,’’ she said.
“Everyone is willing to help and share their knowledge. They (Caps) have won two championships in a row, so I’m making the most of every training, every video session, playing every second or third day, staying in hotels with the girls, I’m just soaking it all up.”
Goriss first saw Melbourne last year training at Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence at the AIS in Canberra.
“Being in Canberra I get to see those (CoE) girls, pop in and have a look. Jade’s improved greatly in the past 12 months,’’ he said.
“I was taken back by how much she’s improved physically, her game, skill wise and when the opportunity came up for us to have a development spot I worked with (CoE coach and Caps assistant coach) Kristen Veal, Basketball Australia and the CoE to see if we could get her on a contract before she goes to college and what that would look like around finishing year 12.”
Goriss has coached some of Australia’s best young male and female talent throughout his career and believes Melbourne’s potential is limitless.
“Jade’s an exciting player, I think she’s a future Opal. She has the skill level, the game, toughness – she’s just fearless. She has all the attributes of being an international player.”
Melbourne aspired to play in the WNBL and now wants a championship. Her goals are as big and exciting as her future.
“Ever since primary school I’ve wanted to play in the WNBA and play at an Olympics for the Opals. I’m working hard every day to try and achieve those goals and hopefully one day I can make it happen,’’ she said.
Following the season in North Queensland, and hopefully championship success, Melbourne will return to Traralgon in Victorian for Christmas and a long-awaited reunion with parents Brett and Sharon, and her two younger sisters.
“I’ll get to see the family for the first time in May, it will be good to see everyone and have some downtime.”
‘Life In the Hub’ by Megan Hustwaite thanks to WNBL naming-rights partner, Chemist Warehouse
Stadiums completed by Nellakir include the State Basketball Centre, Wantirna, Bendigo Stadium, Eagle Stadium, Casey Stadium and many more.
For premium service and thorough annual maintenance and scheduled professional court cleaning, call Nellakir now on 03 9467 6126 or leave your details here for a prompt reply. Schedule a free no-obligation inspection by our trained technicians and ensure an absolutely premium playing surface for all levels of competition as restrictions are eased and competition resumes.
Nellakir – Champion floors for present and future champions.
It’s the off season for the NBA and the NBL, the Super Netball is in recess and local competition is just re-commencing, so we thought it a good opportunity to share some all-time action. this week we feature “The Top Ten NBA Dunks of All Time”. Sit back, relax and be amazed!
Of course, real on-court action is entirely dependent on the provision of a premium playing surface. From the humble beginnings in fruit packing sheds and church halls, to the blacktop courts of New York City and Philadelphia, the real preferred playing surface has always been timber – Sprung Timber Sports Flooring.
Timber Sports Flooring provides give and bounce in a way that asphalt and concrete simply can’t – which is why all premier league games worldwide are now played on FIBA approved Timber Sports Flooring.
In Victoria, the State Government has funded multipurpose timber sports flooring in all new schools, both primary and secondary. As well many older schools have also been provided with such multipurpose facilities.
In addition, both Federal and State Governments have funded Community and Regional Indoor Sports Stadiums with FIBA approved Sports Flooring, enabling high level competitions.
Essentially this means that community participation in sports like Basketball, Netball, Volleyball and Gymnastics has increased exponentially over the last 20 years, with participation in both Basketball and Netball representing the fastest growing sports in Australia.
With further relaxations on competitive sports activities announced on Nov 8th, it’s time to get ready for a summer of Sport. Indoor facilities such as Basketball and Netball stadiums will soon re-open for competition – with some limitations. Schedule a consultation now with Nellakir to ensure your Timber Sports Flooring is in premium shape for re-opening. Call 03 9467 6126 or leave your details here [https://www.nellakir.com.au/contact.html] to schedule an appointment with one of our technicians.
For your interest, here are the latest Press Releases for participants from both Basketball Victoria and Netball Victoria…
Basketball Victoria Return to Sport Update Monday 9 November
Basketball Victoria welcomes yesterday’s announcement from the Victorian Government in regard to the easing of COVID-19 restrictions with the current (as of November 9) ‘Third Step’ aligning Regional Victoria and Metropolitan Melbourne, plus the roadmap to the ‘last step’ (as of November 23).
However, we are still awaiting clarification regarding the number of people allowed per venue or facility or per space from DHHS and Sport and Recreation Victoria (SRV) for both the ‘Third Step’ and ‘Last Step’.
Please note: The current DHHS guidelines stipulate that a ‘facility’ is capped at 20 people only, regardless of the number of courts or separated areas within the venue.
We remain hopeful this refined definition of a “facility” by DHHS can be resolved in the coming days, as we have advocated via SRV and VicSport again this morning along with a number of other indoor sports and facility operators.
From November 23 (the Last Step), there is positive news that both adult and junior participants can return indoors in a ‘contact’ or ‘non-contact’ scenario for either training or competition.
However, a venue limit of 100 ‘patrons’ has been set for indoor community sport and a group limit of 20. This is in addition to large sporting venues being able to open with a 25 per-cent venue patron cap, with each space subject to the density quotient. We have asked for clarity on the definition of ‘patron’ as well as further detail on venue definitions and approved capacities.
We appreciate our community’s patience and support throughout these difficult times as we aim to plan to reactivate the sport in its entirety alongside our associations and clubs in upcoming weeks. We will continue to discuss the issues and advocate for basketball with the Victorian Government on a daily basis. Basketball Victoria and your associations will make further updates as soon as they’re available.
From 11:59pm on Sunday 8 November
Please refer to Basketball Victoria’s Return to Sport Guidelines for further detail
FOR 18 YEARS OLD AND UNDER:
Outdoor (contact) Competition and/or Training – ORANGE-20
Indoor (non-contact) training only – ORANGE-20
FOR 19 YEARS OLD AND OVER:
Outdoor (non-contact) training only – RED-10
From 11:59pm on Sunday 22 November
Outdoor (contact or non-contact) Competition and/or Training – ORANGE-50
Indoor (contact or non-contact) Competition and/or Training – ORANGE-20*
NB: Further clarity to come*
Patron cap of up to 100 people*.
Group size up to 20 people*.
Density quotient of 1 per 4m ²*
Large sporting venues will be able to open with a 25 per–cent venue patron cap, with each space subject to the density quotient*.
We have been overjoyed watching the steady return of community netball across Victoria and we look forward to seeing more associations and leagues commence in the coming weeks.
Effective 11:59pm Sunday 08 November, the 25km travel limit will no longer be in place and the boundary between Metro Melbourne and Regional Victoria will come down. There will be some changes to indoor community sport venues across metro Melbourne, unfortunately this does not include netball competitions and programs. Non-contact training may occur at indoor venues with a maximum of 20 people, but only if participants can maintain 1.5 metre physical distancing.
There are no changes to community netball in regional Victoria. There is no change to community sport for adults across Victoria.
Netball Victoria’s Return to Community Netball guidelines have been updated, you can find the latest resources here.
We look forward to the further easing of restrictions on 23 November and will provide further detail once it is available.
Meanwhile the NBA Draft period jockeying for position is in full swing, and unsurprisingly another young Aussie is front stage with strong interest.
Aussie gun Josh Green set for huge NBA Draft day. One team is his ‘perfect fit’
He comes from The Land Down Under but has made his mark in the Valley of the Sun.
With all the media focus on the Knicks’ lottery pick at No. 8 in the Nov. 18 NBA draft, the front office has worked just as diligently on their second first-round pick at No. 27 and their second-round pick at No. 38.
“They are trying to find the diamond in the rough,’’ one NBA source said.
One player of particular interest is Arizona freshman Josh Green, a shooting guard who moved from Sydney, Australia, to Phoenix when he was 13.
Green is listed at 6-foot-5 but has a 6-10 wingspan. Scouts have classified him as the prototypical 3-and-D.
“He’s an NBA athlete,’’ one NBA scout said of Green. “He excels in transition and has potential as a defender with good awareness. He probably still needs to improve his outside shooting.’’
In his one-and-done, COVID-19-shortened college season, Green averaged 12 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 30 games. He shot a decent 36.1 per cent from 3, but there’s been criticism of his shooting mechanics.
“He’d be the perfect fit for the Knicks,’’ another talent evaluator said.
Some NBA officials believe the Knicks may have to trade up a few slots to snare Green because he may not last until No. 27.
Green, who turns 20 next week, is represented by the preferred Creative Artists Agency, which Knicks president Leon Rose ran until March when owner James Dolan chose him to lead the franchise.
“He can shoot and defend, but he could still be a project,’’ ESPN’s draft guru Fran Fraschilla said. Green is the only Australian predicted to be selected in the first round.
The Knicks obtained the 27th pick from the Clippers at the February trade deadline in exchange for Marcus Morris, now a free agent who could still re-sign with the Knicks if they want to pursue him.
Because of the parity in this year’s draft that extends all the way to the middle of the lottery, the Knicks have no idea who might be there at No 27.
In a perfect world, the Knicks prefer to select a scoring point guard with their lottery pick and a deft outside-shooting swingman with their second first-rounder.
Besides Green, other players who fit that shooting-guard description are Duke swingman Cassius Stanley, 6-7 Robert Woodward II of Mississippi State and Texas Christian’s Desmond Bane.
At 27, the Knicks could be staring at two other Duke players besides Stanley — point guard Tre Jones, RJ Barrett’s former teammate, and freshman centre Vernon Carey Jr.
Indications are the intriguing Carey is higher on their list. Knicks GM Scott Perry viewed Carey, son of former Dolphins offensive lineman Vernon Carey, as a sure-fire first-round pick last season.
Carey is hurt by the perception that he’s a low-post, old-school centre akin to Duke draft-bust Jahlil Okafor. Carey has lost 30 pounds since the Duke season ended in March, and he’s shown an ability to hit from the outside in recent workouts.
In fact, there’s talk he will go higher than 27 because of his weight loss and dispelling the myth he’s only a back-to-the-basket big. That was essentially the role in which Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski employed him.
“I like Carey, and I think people undervalue him,’’ the NBA scout said.
If the Knicks don’t take a point guard at No. 8, San Diego State’s Malachi Flynn and France’s Theo Maledon could be point possibilities at 27.
Some of these names might still be around in the early second round at No. 38.
Adding three rookies to the roster will have its disadvantages this season, with no summer league and almost no time to get acclimated before a potential Dec. 1 training camp.
To boot, there may not be a traditional G-League season to develop rookies.
“In this draft, there’s no difference between 20 and 40,’’ Fraschilla said. “A good player will be there at 27 and 38.”
For the Under 18’s in Victoria, Outdoor Competition is back on the table in Metro Melbourne and Regional Victoria. It’s only a matter of time before indoor competition begins again. Now is the time to make sure your Court Surface indoors is in premium shape along with your stadium’s portable seating.
Meanwhile the movement in NBA ranks has started post play-offs. Here’s an article to give some insight into the possible moves…
Trades to Get Every Eliminated Playoff Team to 2021 NBA Finals
Losing an NBA playoff series is never fun, and wound licking only provides so much relief.
But never fear, fans of the 14 teams dispatched from the 2020 postseason, we have discovered your club’s path to the 2021 Finals. It will take a trade to get there, and in some cases, it must be a pretty gargantuan change.
Since we’re free to focus on a one-year window, we’re also more willing to put top assets into trades than teams might actually be, but even then, we aren’t just giving top picks and prospects away. It’s just that if the potential prize is a championship, there are certain sacrifices clubs should be willing to make.
Boston Celtics receive: Myles Turner, Jeremy Lamb, Doug McDermott
The Al Horford-less Celtics had a functional collection of 5s until they didn’t. Once Bam Adebayo stood in their path in the Eastern Conference Finals, their lack of serviceable size became a fatal flaw.
Turner could help correct it. He’s not only a major defensive deterrent at the rim (career 2.6 blocks per 36 minutes), and he moves well enough to handle most perimeter switches. He also doesn’t gunk up the offensive spacing, since he’s a career 35.7 percent shooter from distance.
He’s not a star, but the Shamrocks are covered in that department by Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the latter two of whom are still working toward their peaks. Boston just needs more role players Brad Stevens can trust, and the club would get three back in this exchange. A sniper like McDermott is always useful, and Lamb could scratch an itch for second-team scoring whenever he’s recovered from a torn ACL.
The Pacers do this deal for two reasons. First, they’re ready to finally move away from the double-big lineup and hand the frontcourt keys to Domantas Sabonis. Second, they want to build a big winner ahead of Victor Oladipo’s journey to free agency and see Hayward, a former All-Star who hails from the Circle City, as their vehicle to get there. If Hayward is fully healthy, Indy gets the best player in the deal, plus two first-round picks.
Brooklyn’s search for a third star could take it several different directions—or none at all, if you share Kevin Durant’s belief that LeVert can handle the role—but Beal is the ultimate target.
He has the three-ball to prevent teams from overcrowding Durant and Kyrie Irving and the potency to power the attack on his own whenever needed. Since Beal won’t have to do everything on offense, he could have the energy to reverse his recent decline on defense, too. Basically, he’s the best-case scenario of LeVert and more, and Beal is only a year older.
The Wizards decide they’ve played hard ball long enough and pounce on a package with both present and future assets. Competing for a playoff berth is not out of the question with LeVert, Allen and Temple—whose $5 million team option must be picked up for this to work—alongside John Wall next season. Then, the two firsts and possibly early second all brighten the club’s long-term outlook, which should be the organization’s biggest focus.
Dallas Mavericks receive: Rudy Gobert
Utah Jazz receive: Tim Hardaway Jr., Maxi Kleber, Jalen Brunson, No. 18 pick, No. 31 pick (via GSW)
The Mavs might have a championship-quality duo in Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, but they need a third star to push them into full-fledged title contention. The problem is they don’t have the richest asset collection to use in their star search. They can only trade the No. 18 pick on draft night, and after that they can’t move another first-rounder until 2025.
They need a discounted star in other words, and maybe Gobert’s future uncertainty has lowered Utah’s trade demands. The 7-footer is approaching his final season under contract, and the Jazz might not want to break the bank (he is supermax eligible) to keep him. He’s already 28 years old, and his offensive limitations aren’t going away.
But the Mavs and their most efficient offense in NBA history can work around Gobert’s limits. They have enough shooting to keep the runway clear for Gobert to crush lobs on the back end of pick-and-rolls with Doncic. Gobert, in turn, could get their 18th-ranked defense where it needs to be for them to contend.
Kleber increases Utah’s versatility as a stretch 5 who can defend away from the basket. Hardaway either shares the spark-plug role with Jordan Clarkson or takes control of it if Clarkson departs in free agency. Brunson addresses a quietly pressing need for a backup point guard. The picks can either bring new prospects to town or be used in separate transactions for more immediate assistance.
Denver Nuggets receive: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
Oklahoma City Thunder receive: Michael Porter Jr., Monte Morris, No. 22 pick (via HOU)
Rocking the boat on the heels of a Western Conference Finals appearance might seem excessive, but the Nuggets seem one piece shy of a true championship threat. Rather than waiting for Porter to become that player, they could flip the young scorer for Gilgeous-Alexander, who might be the ideal backcourt mate for Jamal Murray.
Gilgeous-Alexander blends primary-option scoring with versatile, disruptive defense, high-level distributing and off-the-dribble attacking. He can play within a system and complement the likes of Murray and Nikola Jokic or divert from it to relieve some of the pressure on the Nuggets’ stars.
Adding Gilgeous-Alexander potentially sets up Denver’s Big Three and positions it for sustained success. He’s just 22 years old, so the idea of joining him with the 25-year-old Jokic and 23-year-old Murray should terrify the Nuggets’ aging competition in the West.
The Thunder take the calculated risk of betting that Porter’s ceiling stretches even higher than Gilgeous-Alexander’s. It’s a gamble given how accomplished SGA already is, but it would hardly be an outlandish wager. If Porter hits his full potential, he could be basketball’s next matchup nightmare as an athletic, 6’10” three-level scorer.
The upside is too great for the Thunder to overlook, and they also bring back a rock-solid 25-year-old floor general in Morris and yet another first-round pick.
Orlando Magic receive: Eric Gordon, Danuel House Jr., Ben McLemore, 2022 first-round pick (top-five protected), 2024 second-round pick, 2024 second-round pick (via GSW)
The Rockets are light on needle-movers beyond James Harden, so they need help to make an impact deal, Here, they receive it in the form of the Magic being desperate for offense and potentially ready to accept that it just isn’t working with Aaron Gordon.
If this deal is on the table—and if Tilman Fertitta wouldn’t recoil at the idea of elevating next season’s payroll—the Rockets should pounce in a hurry. Even if Gordon and Aminu aren’t the most reliable shooters, they can hit enough threes to not destroy the offensive spacing, and they could fit right into a switch-heavy defensive scheme.
Barring a major systematic change for the post-Mike D’Antoni Rockets, Gordon and Aminu should get all of their minutes as small-ball 4s and 5s. Gordon, in particular, could be a position change away from finally putting all the pieces together and proving why he was the fourth player taken in 2014. He should be a dynamic pick-and-roll screener with his explosive finishing at the basket and ability to find (and feed) open teammates.
The Magic, meanwhile, decide they’d rather not pay Gordon or Aminu when Jonathan Isaac, Nikola Vucevic, Mo Bamba and Chuma Okeke can handle all the 4 and 5 minutes. Instead, Orlando gets busy trying to fix its 23rd-ranked offense. If Eric Gordon can ever stay healthy, he can be a dynamic scorer, shooter and off-the-dribble creator. House and McLemore buy this offense some breathing room by scratching an itch for more spot-up sniping.
The Pacers already started the shake-up process with the dismissal of coach Nate McMillan, and that could be the first of several dominoes to drop.
Their interest in Mike D’Antoni, as reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, signals a willingness to retool the roster. The small-ball enthusiast has little use for a frontcourt featuring Myles Turner, Domantas Sabonis and Goga Bitadze, so splitting with at least one of the three seems inevitable.
This deal not only helps balance Indiana’s roster, but it also brings back a two-way difference-maker in Jrue Holiday. He’s a two-time All-Defensive selection who is serviceable or better at everything on offense. That makes him an easy fit with any kind of supporting cast, and in the Circle City, he could form a do-it-all perimeter trio with Victor Oladipo and Malcolm Brogdon, giving Sabonis a bounty of impact receivers.
The Pelicans swap out the 30-year-old Holiday for players who better fit the time lines of Zion Williamson and Ja Morant. Turner, 24, is a near ideal frontcourt partner for Williamson with his floor-spacing and rim protection. Aaron Holiday, 24 on Sept. 30, gives the offense another off-the-dribble scoring threat. McDermott, 28, keeps defenses honest as a career 41.2 percent three-point shooter.
Los Angeles Clippers
Los Angeles Clippers receive: Derrick Rose
Detroit Pistons receive: Landry Shamet, Mfiondu Kabengele, 2022 second-round pick
This isn’t time for the Clippers to panic. Despite all the (deserved) heat they’ve taken for blowing a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets in the second round, this is still one of the league’s heavyweight title contenders. L.A. finished the season fourth in winning percentage and second in net efficiency rating.
But this isn’t the time to practice patience, either. Both Kawhi Leonard and Paul George can enter free agency next offseason, and even if they stick around, it’s not like their primes will last indefinitely. Leonard’s 30th birthday is coming next June, and George is already on the wrong side of his.
L.A. needs to aggressively attack its deficiencies, and adding an actual floor general like Rose could be the key to unlock this offense’s full potential. Bring his 18.1 points and 5.6 assists to town, and defenses can no longer overload on Leonard and George. Rose may not be a top-shelf focal point anymore, but he’d be incredibly hard to handle as the Clippers’ third option.
The Pistons’ decision to keep Rose at the deadline may have torpedoed their chances of bringing back a first-round pick, but this isn’t a bad haul. Shamet is a 23-year-old sharpshooter with some off-the-dribble wiggle, and 23-year-old Kabengele offers an intriguing blend of length, athleticism, shot-blocking and some outside shooting. And on the off chance Leonard and George leave next summer, that 2022 second-rounder could be an early one.
Milwaukee Bucks receive: Chris Paul
Oklahoma City Thunder receive: Eric Bledsoe, Ersan Ilyasova, Donte DiVincenzo, Robin Lopez, D.J. Wilson, 2024 first-round pick (top-five protected)
This seems like the most obvious move of the season, at least from Milwaukee’s standpoint. The offense has stalled out in back-to-back postseasons, and the Bucks have extinguished their margin for error. Barring a supermax commitment from Giannis Antetokounmpo this offseason, the two-time reigning MVP will be an unrestricted free agent in 2021.
The time for Milwaukee to make an all-in move is now, even if The Athletic’s Sam Amick and Eric Nehm are hearing a CP3 pursuit is “highly unlikely.” Hopefully that’s posturing, because if you sketched out the Bucks’ needs list, you’d end up drawing a picture of Paul—or at least Alfonso Ribeiro.
“Rival executives expect the Bucks to prioritize acquiring a playmaker and more shooting in the offseason to retool the roster around Antetokounmpo,” The Athletic’s Shams Charania wrote.
Paul has the second-highest career assist percentage in NBA history (45.6) and a 37.0 career three-point percentage. If the Bucks are after table-setting and splashing, it’s check and check with this deal.
The Thunder accept the inevitability of their rebuild and do well to get out of Paul’s remaining contract ($41.4 million next season, $44.2 million player option for 2021-22) without taking any bad money back. In fact, they get two assets in DiVincenzo and the pick (which would convey two years after Milwaukee sends a protected first to Cleveland), add a 24-year-old wild card in Wilson and potentially prepare for future trades if contenders take a liking to the incoming veterans.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Oklahoma City Thunder receive: Victor Oladipo
Indiana Pacers receive: Dennis Schroder, Darius Bazley, Terrance Ferguson, No. 25 pick (via DEN)
Between last summer’s trades of Paul George and Russell Westbrook and this offseason’s parting of ways with former coach Billy Donovan, all signs are pointing to the Thunder needing and embracing a full-scale rebuild. But since our focus has narrowed to chasing next season’s crown, OKC instead cashes in a few assets to reunite with Oladipo and foster his return to stardom.
His first stint in the Sooner State was wholly unremarkable, as he never found his niche with Westbrook and was traded for George after just one season. But Oladipo found his All-Star form in Indiana, and he’d find better fitting backcourt mates in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Chris Paul in a move back to Oklahoma.
Oladipo, Paul and Gilgeous-Alexander all do a little (or, in some cases, a lot) of everything at both ends of the floor, so the on-court bond should be easily formed. They can run offense, spot up, create shots, attack the basket and defend multiple positions. It’s a souped-up, bigger version of the Schroder-Paul-Gilgeous-Alexander trio, which blitzed opponents by 28.6 points per 100 possessions this season.
The Pacers, meanwhile, decide they’d rather not cover the costs of Oladipo’s next contract, so they flip him for pieces who can help now and later. Schroder is the best incoming player for next season, but Bazley is the real needle-mover beyond. The 20-year-old is raw, but there are flashes of do-it-all brilliance from the athletic forward.
Orlando Magic receive: Bradley Beal
Washington Wizards receive: Evan Fournier, Jonathan Isaac, No. 15 pick
Orlando needs an offensive focal point, and Beal is on a short list of the league’s very best.
The 27-year-old scoring guard has almost perpetually increased his production ever since arriving in the District as the No. 3 pick in 2012. Most recently, he became just the 12th player ever to average 30 points and six assists. The rest of the list is populated by current and future Hall of Famers.
Beal and Nikola Vucevic could work two-man magic together, and Beal’s long-range shooting would help open the floor for Markelle Fultz’s drives and Aaron Gordon’s rim runs. If the Magic maintain their 11th-ranked defense while Beal launches the offense into the top 10, they could finally have their two-way formula for a title.
The Wizards won’t move Beal for anything but an elite prospect, and Isaac fits the bill. The 6’11”, 230-pounder is practically a top-five defense by himself, as his length and athleticism lets him blanket scorers of all sizes and styles. Once Fournier picks up his $17.2 million player option, he matches money in this deal and helps replace some of Beal’s shooting and scoring.
Philadelphia 76ers receive: Chris Paul
Oklahoma City Thunder receive: Al Horford, Matisse Thybulle, Zhaire Smith, 2022 first-round pick (top-10 protected)
Perhaps it will prove impossible to correct Philly’s roster imbalance without sacrificing either Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons, but the Sixers aren’t competing for next year’s title without them. They also aren’t contending without addressing series deficiencies in shooting and shot-creating.
Enter CP3. The Point God would scratch several of this squad’s biggest itches and answer some of its half-court questions that have plagued recent playoff runs.
“He would get the ball to Joel Embiid in his preferred spots,” The Athletic’s Rich Hofmann wrote. “He can spot up off the ball and make threes, which is key around Embiid and Simmons. And perhaps most importantly, he could take the Jimmy Butler role at the end of games.”
There aren’t many teams who would give up multiple assets to get Paul, since he’s a 35-year-old with $85.6 million headed his way over the next two seasons. But if he’s the missing piece of the Sixers’ championship puzzle, the trade and the contract all become small prices to pay.
The Thunder pounce on the chance to snag another long-limbed, athletic defender in Thybulle, who offers more shooting upside than their typical stopper. They also bet on their developmental staff to bring the best out of the 21-year-old Smith, and they throw another future first onto the pile. Finally, they add Horford in the hopes of getting him back on track and flipping him to a win-now shopper at some point.
Portland Trail Blazers
Portland Trail Blazers receive: Ben Simmons
Philadelphia 76ers receive: CJ McCollum, Gary Trent Jr., No. 16 pick
The championship-or-bust scale isn’t often affixed to the Trail Blazers (not by anyone outside the organization, at least), but that should be how they evaluate themselves. With Damian Lillard’s 30th birthday behind him, they only have so many cracks at the crown left before their superstar ages out of his prime.
That increased urgency could be what finally convinces Portland to split up the defensively problematic combo of Lillard and McCollum, especially if it means bringing back a dynamic talent like Simmons. Even if it takes coach Terry Stotts a bit to find the right distribution of touches, Simmons could shine as a Swiss Army knife defender, transition attacker and pick-and-roll partner for Lillard.
Portland wouldn’t be the favorite entering next season, but it would certainly rank among the heavyweight class of contenders. It would have two stars on the top and potentially a wealth of depth behind them, assuming health for Zach Collins and Rodney Hood, possible re-signings of Carmelo Anthony and Hassan Whiteside, and the chance for Anfernee Simons and Nassir Little to either crack the rotation or be traded for players who will.
Philly admits that its roster is broken beyond repair, so it stomachs the gut punch of trading away Simmons on the hope that McCollum’s creation and Trent’s shooting can position Joel Embiid to thrive. The 16th pick is either a way to lengthen the rotation or an asset to help chase win-now talent.
Toronto Raptors receive: LaMarcus Aldridge
San Antonio Spurs receive: Norman Powell, Terence Davis, No. 29 pick
The Raptors won’t add money to their future ledger this offseason so they can make their ambitious run at Giannis Antetokounmpo next summer.
Luckily, Aldridge is approaching the final year of his contract. Not to mention, this exchange actually increases Toronto’s buying power, since Davis and the pick help incentivize the Spurs to take on the remainder of Powell’s contract ($10.9 million next season with an $11.6 million player option for 2021-22).
With finances effectively removed from the equation, Toronto doesn’t have to worry about Aldridge’s declining production or fight with Father Time. The Raptors just need him to stay above water next season, when he’d team with Pascal Siakam, Kyle Lowry and perhaps a re-signed Fred VanVleet to keep this club among the league’s elite at both ends.
The Spurs shift their focus forward but stop short of demolishing their win-now competitiveness. Powell plugs in as a three-and-D swingman for as long as the Alamo City wants him around, and Davis offers two-way versatility that will make him an easy fit with this young nucleus.
Utah Jazz receive: Chris Paul
Oklahoma City Thunder receive: Mike Conley, 2021 second-round pick (via GSW), 2023 first-round pick (top-10 protected)
Despite Donovan Mitchell’s ongoing ascension, the Jazz are trending the wrong direction. A Western Conference semifinalist in 2017 and 2018, Utah has now been knocked out of the opening round each of the past two years.
Granted, the Jazz had to blow a 3-1 lead to do it this year and did so while playing without Bojan Bogdanovic, but they can’t just count on their returning roster to lengthen their postseason stay. They were only ninth in net efficiency during the regular season, a significant drop from fourth the year prior. This was also Conley’s first season in Salt Lake City, and while he played his best ball in the bubble, he rarely looked like the difference-maker they still need.
Paul could be that player.
He’d be a dream pick-and-roll partner for Rudy Gobert, who’s already a 72nd percentile pick-and-roll screener without him. Paul’s ability to run offense (career 9.5 assists against 2.4 turnovers) and make long-range looks (37.0 percent) would both make life easier on Mitchell and the supporting cast. Paul could even play a part in re-establishing the Jazz as a defensive powerhouse after they finished just 13th in efficiency on that end.
The Thunder go from owing $85.6 million to the 35-year-old Paul to being on the hook for just $34.5 million to the 32-year-old Conley. More importantly, they put two more picks onto the road map that will eventually guide them through this rebuild, although the first-rounder could take some time to get there, as the Jazz owe the Grizzlies a protected pick either in 2021 or beyond.