Five under-the-radar NBA moves lost in all the craziness of this summer
These players aren't stars, but they'll make a big difference at their new addresses
With so many big-name players changing teams this summer, moves involving the solid role players every good team needs have been lost in the shuffle. On their own, these guys won't make their new teams contenders, but they're the missing pieces. The versatile defenders. The floor stretchers. The low-risk, high-ceiling contributors for clubs looking to the future.
These are five really good under-the-radar moves this summer:
This was such a heady acquisition by Sam Presti, especially when considering the very reasonable three-year, $16.4 million deal Patterson signed. That's a couple million less than Kosta Koufos is making next season and less than half the annual money Sacramento is spending on Zach Randolph, who at this point isn't as valuable as Patterson plugged into OKC's system.
You probably don't realize this, but Patterson and Chris Paul were the only two players among the top 10 of net rating last season who didn't play for the Warriors or the Spurs. Over the past two seasons, the Raptors were 10 points better per 100 possessions with Patterson on the floor. Over the past three seasons, get this stat:
How does a guy who averaged fewer than 7 points and 5 rebounds last season have that kind of impact? Think Andre Iguodala with the Warriors -- always in the right place, doesn't turn it over and a versatile defender. Patterson isn't the overall player Iguodala is (even at this stage of Iguodala's career), particularly as a playmaker, but Patterson is a better shooter and that -- along with his defense -- makes him a serious weapon as a stretch four.
In that mode, Patterson can fill a similar role as Kevin Love has for stretches of the past three seasons in Cleveland. Again, Patterson is not the player Love is when he's a focal point of the offense, but there were times when Love became mostly a spot-up shooter as Kyrie and LeBron controlled the ball. In those instances, Patterson compares favorably, because he can hit the 3-ball with consistency without Love's defensive deficiencies.
In fact, Patterson's ability to guard on the perimeter could make OKC the Warriors' toughest matchup in the West. With Patterson, OKC can leave Andre Roberson -- an elite defender but an atrocious shooter -- in the game during late stretches without completely compromising spacing.
Think about a closing lineup of Westbrook, Roberson, George, Patterson and Steven Adams. That's four guys who can switch just about everything on the perimeter and one of the best defensive centers in the league protecting the rim. Factor in the attention George and Westbrook will draw on offense, and Patterson becomes that keeps-the-defense-honest spot-up shooter.
Had OKC not gotten George, signing Patterson would have fallen into the "Who cares?" category. Basketball nerds still would have told us how valuable he is, and he is valuable, but without those two superstars around him the Thunder wouldn't pose a big enough threat for Patterson's contributions to be fully appreciated. With two legit stars around him, he can absolutely make an impact beyond showing impressive advanced metrics on paper.
Boston couldn't afford to sign Gordon Hayward without moving someone, and Bradley was the odd man out. For so long Danny Ainge seemed unwilling to move assets like Bradley, Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas -- or that 2018 Brooklyn Nets first-round pick. Then in one summer he traded them all, and the receiving teams (Cleveland and Detroit) are very happy.
In the Pistons' case, they landed one of the league's nastiest perimeter defenders and a very capable shooter -- 39 percent from deep last season. That's a remarkable number for a guy who came into the league as something of a brick layer, or at least someone you would gladly leave open. Now he is a 16-point, six-rebound-a-night guy who immediately might be Detroit's best player.
In a contract year and playing for a potential max deal, don't rule out Bradley as an All-Star in the East. Plus, he makes half of what Reggie Jackson makes. Hell, he barely makes more than Detroit is paying Langston Galloway. Add it all up, and this is a great get for the Pistons -- a major upgrade from Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at a bargain price.
Jae Crowder to Cavaliers
All anyone could talk about regarding the monster trade between Boston and Cleveland was the headliners. We wanted to know if Kyrie Irving could lead a championship team. We wanted to know about Thomas' hip. That 2018 Nets pick felt like a bigger piece than any of the actual players. Crowder became an afterthought.
Readby colleague James Herbert. It tells you everything you need to know about what Crowder brings to Cleveland -- which, depending on Thomas' health, is probably better equipped to compete with the Warriors this coming season than last.
This is largely because of Crowder, whose versatile perimeter defense is everything the Cavs lacked last season against Golden State's multiple weapons. Crowder can switch their pick and rolls and spend time guarding Kevin Durant, which frees LeBron James to play safety and conserve energy for offense, made more necessary with Irving's departure.
With the Celtics, Crowder allowed coach Brad Stevens to play small because he is unafraid to bang bodies with bigger players. He defended multiple positions with intensity, stretched the floor and rarely demanded the ball. These are the characteristics of an ideal 3-and-D guy, but that description undersells his rebounding for his size and his ability to finish around the basket. Nobody thinks of him as a star player, but he was fifth among small forwards in real plus-minus in each of the last two seasons; only LeBron, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Paul George (2015-16) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (2016-17) ranked higher than him.
Now more than ever, versatility is a talent. Before Isaiah Thomas turned into a superhero last season, there was a credible argument to be made that Crowder was Boston's best player. He didn't make his teammates better in the Steve Nash sense, but he made their lives easier by bringing all sorts of things to the table and taking nothing away. Until this Irving deal, Celtics general manager Danny Ainge had been reluctant to include Crowder in trade proposals because the five-year, $35 million deal he signed in 2015 turned out to be one of the biggest bargains in the league. It is sort of stunning that Cleveland was able to get him.
Say no more.
D'Angelo Russell to Nets
This deal got some attention when it went down, mostly because it involved the Lakers. And it was a good move for the Lakers, who were able to hand the keys to Lonzo Ball while clearing enough cap space to add two max players next summer. But few noticed what it does for the Nets -- frankly, because nobody cares about them right now.
And that's precisely the point. Teams like Brooklyn don't often land blue-chip talents early in their career unless they're picks. The Nets had to adsorb Timofey Mozgov's salary, but bottom-tier teams do what they must to land potential All-Stars. And yes, Russell can absolutely become an All-Star player -- and maybe more.
Ask yourself this: Has Russell been a disappointment because of the Nick Young fiasco, issues he had with Byron Scott and outsized expectations? Or has he really been a true disappointment as a player? He averaged just under 16 points and five assists last season, and he's only 21.
It wasn't long ago that people were drooling about the No. 2 overall pick in 2015. Now we're sure of his ceiling? We're so quick to jump to conclusions these days. Kris Dunn played 17 minutes a game under Minnesota's Tom Thibodeau, who is notoriously tough on rookies and people are already acting like he was a spare part, at best, in that Jimmy Butler trade.
In Dunn's case, he'll turn 24 this season, and to be fair, he was awful in his rookie year. Russell hasn't been anything close to awful and actually has shown elite potential before his 22nd birthday. The Nets have a legit young player, one who at least provides that hope.
C.J. Miles to Raptors
Patterson leaves, and the Raptors land Miles, who is quietly a perfect 3-and-D guy in today's game. On catch-and-shoots, which is primarily what he'll be doing with the ball in Kyle Lowry's hands, Miles was the rough equivalent of J.J. Redick last season while shooting the same percentage from 3 as Bradley Beal.
- Redick: 6.9 ppg, 44.9 percent from 3, a 61.6 effective FG percentage
- Miles: 6.5 ppg, 42.6 percent from 3, with a 60.2 eFG
For the record, Redick signed a one-year, $23 million deal with the Sixers. Toronto got Miles for an average of $8.3 million over three years. Unlike Patterson going to the Thunder, this deal feels like it's about Miles' production on paper, because the Raptors don't have anyone's attention as a real threat. But listen, the East is still the Least. Toronto is still right there with Washington and maybe Boston fighting for a conference finals berth. Miles, better than a 41 percent shooter from 3 and better than 90 percent from the line, helps a lot on a team that really struggled to shoot last season.
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