Roughing the Caster Ep. 2: NBA Offseason Edition

An episode featuring FTS Sports’ three Founders: Hank Grzeszczak, Dylan White, and Adam Simkowitz.

In this episode of FTS’s official podcast, we talk about everything the NBA has to offer. In this jam-packed, hour-long podcast, we give some draft reactions, scorching hot trade takes, and free agency predictions. Give it a listen!

Roughing the Caster Episode 2.

NBA Offseason Preview: The End of an Era… and the Beginning of a New One?

As the Toronto Raptors closed out the 2019 NBA Finals, it was widely agreed upon that this has been the most entertaining Finals experience of the 21st Century. I’ve never seen an NBA Finals in which the unrelated subplots were as important (if not more important) than the actual basketball being played in late May and June.

While the Raptors clinched their first ever NBA Championship over the Golden State Warriors, the NBA Rumor Mill couldn’t have been more active. After a playoff run for the ages, speculation of Raptors star and upcoming free agent Kawhi Leonard’s future was at an all-time high, in both importance and ambiguity. The same could be said for Warriors stars and upcoming free agents Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson; until they both suffered catastrophic injuries. In news that was unrelated to the Finals, Kyrie Irving declined his player option for the 2019-2020 season with the Boston Celtics, fired his agent, then signed with a different agency. He signed with Roc Nation, whose President (Michael Yormark) is the twin brother of the Brooklyn Nets CEO (Brett Yormark).

Now, as the age of player empowerment hits its stride, what happens next?

Let’s start with a timeline.

June 20, 2019

  • NBA draft.

June 24, 2019

  • Last day for potential restricted free agents to exercise player options.
  • NBA awards are announced.

June 29, 2019

  • Last day for decisions on player, team and early termination options, unless individual contracts specify otherwise.

June 30, 2019

  • Last official day of the 2018/19 NBA league year.
  • Last day for teams to make qualifying offers to players eligible for restricted free agency.
  • Last day for players eligible for veteran extensions in 2018/19 to sign them.

July 1, 2019

  • Official start of the 2019/20 NBA league year.
  • July moratorium begins. The moratorium allows teams and players only to agree upon deals in principle, no pen-to-paper deals are allowed.
  • Free agents can begin reaching verbal agreements with teams.
  • Restricted free agents can sign an offer sheet.
  • Teams can begin signing players to rookie scale contracts, minimum salary contracts, and two-way contracts.

July 6, 2019

  • July moratorium ends (11:00am CT)
  • Teams can begin officially signing players, extending players, and completing trades.
  • The two-day period for matching an RFA offer sheet signed during the moratorium begins.

Who makes this offseason so important?

Here are some important names of this year’s offseason. These are the players that will in one way or another, change the landscape of the NBA’s next 5-7 years in this offseason. Included are their current team, their age at the beginning of next season, their stat line from this past season (PPG/RPG/APG/SPG/BPG, FG%/3FG%/FT%), their contract status, and my prediction for where they’ll land this offseason.

  • *Kevin Durant, GSW: 31, 26 PPG/6 RPG/6 APG/1 SPG/0.7 BPG, 52 FG%/35 3FG%/88.5 FT%, Unrestricted Free Agent. Prediction: New York Knicks
  • Kyrie Irving, BOS: 27, 24 PPG/5 RPG/7 APG/1.5 SPG/0.5 BPG, 49 FG%/40 3FG%/87 FT%, Unrestricted Free Agent. Prediction: Brooklyn Nets
  • **Klay Thompson, GSW, 29: 21.5 PPG/4 RPG/2 APG/1 SPG/0.6 BPG, 47 FG%/40 3FG%/82 FT%, Unrestricted Free Agent (Eligible for Super Max). Prediction: Golden State Warriors
  • Kawhi Leonard, TOR: 28, 26.6 PPG/7 RPG/3 APG/1.8 SPG/0.4 BPG, 50 FG%/37 3FG%/85 FT%, Unrestricted Free Agent. Prediction: Los Angeles Clippers or Toronto Raptors
  • Kemba Walker, CHA: 29, 25.6 PPG/4 RPG/6 APG/1.2 SPG/0.4 BPG, 43 FG%/36 3FG%/84 FT%, Unrestricted Free Agent (Eligible for Super Max). Prediction: Charlotte Hornets
  • Jimmy Butler, PHI: 30, 19 PPG/5 RPG/4 APG/1.9 SPG/0.6 BPG, 46 FG%/35 3FG%/85.5 FT%, Unrestricted Free Agent. Prediction: Philadelphia 76ers or Los Angeles Lakers
  • D’Angelo Russell, BKN: 23, 21 PPG/4 RPG/7 APG/1.2 SPG/0.2 BPG, 43 FG%/37 3FG%/78 FT%, Unrestricted Free Agent. Prediction: Utah Jazz or Indiana Pacers
  • Nikola Vucevic, ORL: 29, 20.8 PPG/12 RPG/4 APG/1 SPG/ 1 BPG, 52 FG%/36 3FG%/ 79 FT%, Unrestricted Free Agent. Prediction: Orlando Magic
  • Kristaps Porzingis, DAL: 24, 2017-18 Stats: 22.7 PPG/ 6.6 RPG/1 APG/ 0.8 SPG/ 2.4 BPG, 44 FG%/ 39.5 3FG%/ 79 FT%, Restricted Free Agent. Prediction: Dallas Mavericks

*Durant suffered a ruptured achilles in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, sidelining him for the entire 2019-20 season, therefore diminishing his value as a free agent. **Thompson suffered a torn ACL in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, likely keeping him out of the upcoming regular season.

The most important part of this list lies within the two Warriors mentioned. The injuries to Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant will keep both of them out for at least the 2019/2020 regular season. So even if Golden State somehow re-signs both of them, the Warriors won’t be nearly as strong as they’ve been. The Warriors have been a perennial powerhouse of the NBA. The collapse of a superpower seems like it should be accompanied by the passing of the proverbial powerhouse torch, but things haven’t ever worked that quickly in the NBA. After Russell’s Celtics fell, it took about a decade for Larry Bird and Magic to take over the league (Although Kareem just about completely dominated the 70’s). The transition from the 80s’ Celtics/Lakers era to the 90’s Jordan Bulls era was relatively smooth, but it was separated by a buffer called the Bad Boy Pistons. After Michael took six rings, it took a few years for the Kobe/Shaq Lakers to take hold of the league. What I’m trying to say is, don’t expect a new era of the NBA to be ushered in as quickly as the Warriors have fallen.

The Short-Term Future (1-2 Years)

If we’re looking at the next couple years of the league, we have to pay complete attention to Kawhi and Anthony Davis. If the Clippers sign Leonard, they automatically become a contender in the West. If Kawhi stays in Toronto, the West is left wide open. There will be a black hole where content used to spawn in the West naturally, and it could be filled by just about any teams or players. Here are some of the teams from the West that I think could make their case as perennial contenders next year:

  • Dallas Mavericks – It’s hard to think of a team that has a better long-term core than the Mavs. Luka Doncic just had one of the most impressive rookie seasons of the past 20 years, and he’ll only be 20 by the beginning of next year. Kristaps Porzingis has been almost forgotten about since he tore his ACL. He was a borderline All-NBA level player for the Knicks at 22 years old, but, understandably, he lost hype after his knee injury. It’s difficult for a 7’3″ man to rehab a knee injury and return to 100%. Dallas has a ton of cap space, they have over $50 Million free this offseason, but they’ll likely sign Porzingis to a deal worth over $30 Million annually. They still have enough salary cap room to sign a third all-star level player. There are rumors that they’ll offer Kemba Walker. I wouldn’t be surprised if they pursued someone like Khris Middleton, although Dallas hasn’t had a ton of recent success in the free agent market.
  • Los Angeles Lakers – This is an obvious one. Even though it’s premature to crown the Lakers as the favorites to win it all next year, they’ll dominate the NBA news cycle no matter how successful they are as a team. I think they could go one of two ways in free agency this year. They have somewhere from $23-27 million in cap space and five players on their active roster (Lebron, AD, Kuzma, Isaac Bonga, Mo Wagner). The first option is to target a ball-handling star and try to convince him to take a pay cut (i.e., Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving, D’Angelo Russell, Jimmy Butler) then use the veteran minimum to fill out a lackluster bench. The second option is to try and sign a few solid role players to round out a balanced 7-8 man rotation. They could target guys who could take $6-9 million annually, like Patrick Beverly, Danny Green, Paul Milsap, Marcus Morris, or Seth Curry. I like the latter option, but I think it’s more likely that Rob Pelinka will go with the superstar route.
  • Los Angeles Clippers – Sticking with another Los Angeles team, I think this is pretty straight forward. If the Clippers sign Kawhi, they’re the favorites to win the 2020 NBA title. It’s as simple as that. It’ll be a battle in Staples Center for control of the West, and I think that could be the most entertaining storyline of this offseason.
  • Utah Jazz – This is less of a breakout candidate because they’ve already broken out as a contender. However, they’re rumored to be targeting D’Angelo Russell in free agency. I love his fit with Utah, although they already have a slightly inefficient, volume-shooting, ball-dominant guard in Donovan Mitchell. Replacing Rubio with Russell adds an entirely new dimension to their already-solid offense, and their defense will barely take a hit.

There’s a lack of Eastern Conference teams for several reasons. Mainly, everything is pretty much set out there. If Kawhi re-signs in Toronto, they’re defending their title with a good chance to repeat. If they don’t re-sign him, they go into a rebuild. The Bucks are mostly figured out for the next few years, as are the Sixers (Barring a surprise Ben Simmons trade.)

The Long-Term Future (5-7 Years)

  • Boston Celtics – It seems like Danny Ainge’s asset-stacking strategies never really resulted in any notable success, which is bad. I like the Celtics’ long-term roster, though, which is good. Jayson Tatum had a pretty bad sophomore slump this past year, but I think he just completely over-performed in his rookie year. The Celtics are going to be relevant no matter what, but I don’t see a championship window opening for them over the next four or five years. They’re eventually going to have to pay Jaylen Brown and Tatum, and I don’t see either of them ever being the best player on a championship team, and I only see Tatum has potentially being a great number two. It’s going to be tough to build around those two.
  • New Orleans Pelicans – The Pelicans currently have a dream team. More specifically, a dream team if you’re playing Franchise Mode in NBA 2K. They have the greatest abundance of young talent that the league has seen in the past 25 years, and it’ll be exciting to see what happens with it. I love the backcourt duo of Jrue Holiday and Lonzo Ball. They’re two young, extremely intelligent, unselfish, and very defensively savvy guards, and their team-first brand of basketball will be perfect for a budding superstar like Zion Williamson. They also have what seems like every single one of the Lakers’ first-round draft picks for the next four-five years, so if Zion, Lonzo, Jrue, and Brandon Ingram blossom into a cohesive, efficient core, it won’t be hard to surround them with more talent. I don’t love Brandon Ingram’s fit in New Orleans, a pure scorer may be all he amounts to in the NBA, and I don’t know how he’ll develop as a defender due to his thin frame. It’ll be interesting to see what the Pelicans do with their fourth pick. There are reports that they’re negotiating with Washington in a deal for Bradley Beal. Sending the fourth pick, Brandon Ingram, and a future first-rounder for Beal would make sense for both teams. It would free up cap room for Washington, give them two future assets to boost their rebuild, and a potential star in Ingram. For New Orleans, it would introduce a win-now culture while developing their young players, plus it wouldn’t damage their rebuild due to all of the picks they acquired from Los Angeles. I think the Pelicans will be a League Pass must-watch for the next decade.
  • Milwaukee Bucks – I had to include them on this list. Whichever team has Giannis for the next ten years will be a force to be reckoned with. I hope that they can continue building a roster with championship potential around Giannis before his contract expires. They’ve already done a better job of this than how Cleveland and New Orleans treated Lebron and AD on their rookie contracts, respectively.
  • Philadelphia 76ers – I don’t have a great feeling about the 76ers’ future, but what do I know? I think Joel Embiid is a little too fragile, and he already moves like he’s 40. I got some real Greg Oden vibes in the playoffs this year, but he was technically nursing a back injury (and gastrointestinal issues.) Okay, now I have to go out and say it: I don’t think Ben Simmons is a Top 25 player in the NBA, and I will continue to believe this until he either develops a jumper or decides to show up in the playoffs consistently. If I were a GM trying to win a championship, I wouldn’t feel comfortable having him as my second option. I hope he improves, though. I hope he proves me wrong, and I would like to see the Sixers win a title over the next 5-7 years. If things go right for them, they could win a couple.

NBA Award Predictions

Sixth Man of the Year: Lou Williams, SG, Los Angeles Clippers

Coach of the Year: Mike Malone, Denver Nuggets

Most Improved: Pascal Siakam, PF/SF, Toronto Raptors

Rookie of the Year: Luka Doncic, SF, Dallas Mavericks

Defensive Player of the Year: Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF, Milwaukee Bucks

Most Valuable Player: Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF, Milwaukee Bucks

How to Keep Track of Everything:

Keeping up with all of the happenings in the NBA’s offseason is tough. There’s smokescreens, welched deals, false reports, internet trolls, etc. If you need a way to stay connected to all of the news, I suggest following these twitter accounts. Rob Perez of the Action Network, @WorldWideWob, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, @WojESPN, Shams Charania of The Athletic, @ShamsCharania, and Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, @KevinOConnor . NBA Twitter is the best part of twitter, don’t forget that.

2019 Post-Lottery NBA 1st Round Mock Draft 1.0

With the much debated NBA Draft Lottery recently completed, we now know where every team will select, making it possible to do a full 1st round mock draft. While the top few picks might seem like locks, the rest of the Draft could go in many different directions. Here are my projections for the 1st round of the 2019 NBA Draft.

  1. New Orleans Pelicans – Zion Williamson, F, Duke
  2. Memphis Grizzlies – Ja Morant, G, Murray State
  3. New York Knicks – R.J. Barrett, F, Duke
  4. Los Angeles Lakers – De’Andre Hunter, F, Virginia
  5. Cleveland Cavaliers – Jarrett Culver, F, Texas Tech
  6. Phoenix Suns – Cam Reddish, G/F, Duke
  7. Chicago Bulls – Darius Garland, G, Vanderbilt
  8. Atlanta Hawks – Coby White, G, UNC
  9. Washington Wizards – Jaxon Hayes, C, Texas
  10. Atlanta Hawks – Sekou Doumbouya, F, International
  11. Minnesota Timberwolves – Romeo Langford, G/F, Indiana
  12. Charlotte Hornets – Bol Bol, C, Oregon
  13. Miami Heat – Kevin Porter Jr., G, USC
  14. Boston Celtics – Nassir Little, F, UNC
  15. Detroit Pistons – Rui Hachimura, F, Gonzaga
  16. Orlando Magic – P.J. Washington, F, Kentucky
  17. Brooklyn Nets – Brandon Clarke, F, Gonzaga
  18. Indiana Pacers – Cameron Johnson, F, UNC
  19. San Antonio Spurs – Nickeil Alexander-Walker, G, Virginia Tech
  20. Boston Celtics – Keldon Johnson, G, Kentucky
  21. Oklahoma City Thunder – Talen Horton-Tucker, F, Iowa State
  22. Boston Celtics – Grant Williams, F, Tennessee
  23. Utah Jazz – Tyler Herro, G, Kentucky
  24. Philadelphia 76ers – K.Z. Okpala, F, Stanford
  25. Portland Trailblazers – Daniel Gafford, F, Arkansas
  26. Cleveland Cavaliers – Carsen Edwards, G, Purdue
  27. Brooklyn Nets – Ty Jerome, G, Virginia
  28. Golden State Warriors – Admiral Schofield, G/F, Tennessee
  29. San Antonio Spurs – Goga Bitadze, C, International
  30. Milwaukee Bucks – Naz Reid, C, Louisiana State

NBA Lottery Mock Draft 1.0

First round of the 2019 NBA Draft lottery picks. Analysis and projections. Complete first round is coming later.

2019 MOCK DRAFT

  1. NYK – Zion Williamson, Duke, Zion Williamson is a generational player. Someone has not come around since LeBron. He needs to lose weight and trim down to about 250-260 for his body to be able to withstand a 82 game season. Could go down as one of the best/most influential players of our lifetime, NBA Projection: Multiple All-NBA Selections
  2. PHX – Ja Morant, Murray State, Morant is a great scorer of the ball. However, he is an even better floor general/passer/true point guard. His defense and scoring and passing is all there, he just needs to lower the turnovers, NBA Projection: Multiple All-NBA Selections
  3. CLE – RJ Barrett, Duke, Barrett is a great rebounder, scorer, and passer of the ball. For him to be one of the best in the NBA he needs to lower the turnovers, work on his off hand dribbling, and get the free throw percentage up especially if he is going to play the 2, however, expect him to play the 3, NBA Projection: Multiple All-Star Selections
  4. CHI – Jarrett Culver, Texas Tech, An average college 3 point shooter expect that to fall off in the transition to the NBA, Culver is an outstanding defender. A very good guard already, leading Texas Tech to a National Championship game appearance helped Culver’s stock a TON. He has potential to be a top 3 player coming out of this draft. Expect Chicago or Atlanta to take him and I do not see him falling out of the top 5. At 6’6” and and 20 years old Culver is developing into a great rising star, NBA Projection: better Jeremy Lamb, All-Star Selections
  5. ATL – Cam Reddish, Duke, Reddish is a great shooter. Something that the Hawks need, however, he is going to need to step up his defense and his rebounding if he wants to reach his career ceiling, NBA Projection: Ceiling is Multiple All-Star Selections, Floor is Rotation Player like a worse defending but better shooting Andre Iguodala
  6. MEM – De’Andre Hunter, Virginia, I am BIG on De’Andre, but I do not think that he is going to be great. I want him to so bad and I really hope that he elevates his game, I think right now it translates well into the NBA, but there is always room for improvements. If he can get into the right system to start, and get around the right people, expect this guy to be GREAT, UPDATED 4-9-19: EASILY the biggest game of De’Andre’s young career, Hunter proved that nothing was too big for him. Scoring 27 points and grabbing 9 boards, Hunter proved to be the best player on the court. Shooting 50% from the floor and ⅘ from 3, Hunter helped Virginia to its first National Championship. A face up between the legs crossover step-back from the extended free throw line was a clutch shot to make. However it was his corner 3 in regulation with 15 seconds left, helped Virginia force overtime. Hunter is proving himself to be one of the best players in this draft. STOCK RISING, NBA Projection: Multiple All-Star Selections
  7. ATL – Jaxson Hayes, Texas, At 6’11” Hayes averaged 5 rebounds a game for Texas. 5. He’s a young kid and needs to reel back his urges and be comfortable to play solid defense possession after possession and not try to block every shot. He is going to foul A LOT, but, he is good enough that he will block the shot A LOT also. Hayes is a great post player, on defense and on offense and he understand really well where to be and how to run the floor properly. His post moves are solid but I do not think that they are going to translate that well into the NBA. Hayes has a lot of potential and is a good player for the Hawks to pick at 7 ONLY IF they take a smaller 3 and D player earlier. I just do not think that Hayes will be able to find success in the NBA, NBA Projection: Bust, Sixth Man
  8. WSH – Rui Hachimura, Gonzaga, At 6’8”, 225 Hachimura is a little old to be taken with a higher draft pick. Already 21, 8 might be considered a stretch pick for the power forward. An average rebounder in college, Hachimura is a great defender and he understands where to be on the floor. Runs the pick and roll extremely well and can face up on the extended post. With his length he is a very good shot blocker down in the post and can run with a driving guard to block his shot. His post moves are a little weak and need to be worked on to be a great talent in the NBA. He can take it coast to coast and handle to ball fine for a 4, but do not expect that to carry over well into the league, NBA Projection: Slightly smaller Derrick Favors
  9. NOP – Coby White, UNC, I am also VERY big on Coby White. Watching him dominate the ACC and especially that final game at home against Duke, White finally established himself to me. VERY quick guard, extremely fast and agile White needs to take care of the ball just a little better, but that does not mean to much in the NBA. A decent shooter of the ball, White is a very good floor general. Can get his shot off quick and has the NBA range, expect Coby to be one of the better NBA players from this draft, NBA Projection: Multiple All-Star Selection, Potential for All-NBA
  10. LAL – Bol Bol, Oregon, Unfortunately a left foot injury left Bol Bol out for the season after only playing 9 games. Averaging 21-10 and also averaging 3 blocks a game, Bol Bol is one of the better prospects, NBA Projection: Multiple All-Star Selections
  11. MIN – Sekou Doumboya, France, Standing at 6’9″ with a 6’11” wingspan, Doumboya has potential to be a NBA star. Not a great rebounder at his length Doumboya needs to limit his fouls and improve on his rebounding to reach his ceiling. A lot of drive and dump offs after a shot fake move, I do not think most of his moves are going to translate well into the NBA. When he gets into the post, his moves are terrible. Do not expect him to be great in the league, NBA Projections: Average NBA Player, Probable bust
  12. CHA – Brandon Clarke, Gonzaga, In my opinion Clarke is one of the most underrated players in the NCAA and that is probably due to his age. He is 22 and only a junior, this is a major setback for Clarke. However, he’s got the game to be able to make up for it. Does a fantastic job of catching and making a decision to turn and face up, or put a post move on his defender. He is a tremendous finisher at the rim and can go above or below the rim. The first step on the face up is very quick. Expect him to succeed in the league, NBA Projection: Average NBA Player
  13. ORL – Darius Garland, Vanderbilt, A great shooter, and rebounder as a point guard, he needs to up the assists and lower the turnovers. If he can work on his defense as well he can be a multiple time all star. NBA Projection: Ceiling is Multiple All-Star Selections, Floor is Jameer Nelson/Raymond Felton
  14. BOS – Romeo Langford, Indiana, Langford had a lot go hype surrounding him going into college at Indiana. He was not a great 3 point shooter, and will probably be even worse on into the league, he is a young, good defensive guard. Langford played well in a tough Big 10 league, but he needed to show out a little more and lead the Hoosiers a little better than their 19-16 record and a season ending NIT appearance. Expect just a average player to compliment this great Boston team, NBA Projection: Poor Man’s Khris Middleton