What if Miami Won the Derrick Rose Lottery?

Derrick Rose Heat

Every Wednesday, Pick and Popovich will dive down the rabbit hole and explore a different NBA “What if.” The only rule is that the scenario must come from a place that is somewhat realistic and grounded in at least somewhat believable rumor or hearsay. Otherwise, anything goes. 

Miami operates with a firm “best player available” rule. Michael Beasley may be a better fit as a forward next to Dwyane Wade, but through the draft process it becomes clear that Memphis point guard Derrick Rose is the better prospect. So when their No. 1 pick comes up in the 2008 NBA Draft, they don’t hesitate to take Rose and figure out the fit a bit later.

That hastiness doesn’t do Rose or the Heat any favors. He looks good when given the chance to attack the rim as he’d like, but with Wade monopolizing the ball those opportunities are few and far between. The tension is so thick that Rose’s hometown team, the Chicago Bulls, eventually calls Miami to make an offer for Rose. The Heat refuse, and Chicago winds up very thankful that they did. After all, had they acquired Rose they never would have entered the 2009 NBA Draft in position to draft a far better point guard, but coach Vinny Del Negro’s frustrating year and Chicago’s roster without scorers gives them the league’s seventh worst record and a desperate need for playmaking. So they grab Davidson’s Stephen Curry and never look back.

Year 2 of the Rose era is more of the same, and by season’s end the team becomes determined to deal him if their lofty free agency goals are met. So to clear the cap space necessary to sign Chris Bosh and LeBron James to join Dwyane Wade, they trade Rose to Minnesota for a future draft pick.

Minnesota is thrilled with the return on their meager investment. Rose turns his career around playing next to Kevin Love and even competes for an MVP award in Minnesota. It is eventually won by James, who goes on to win a total of five straight, but the Rose-Love combination finally gives the Timberwolves some hope in the post-Kevin Garnett era.

As his five MVPs suggest, LeBron wins quite a bit in Miami. They win the Eastern Conference in his first season with the team and the championship in his next two. But eventually, the Curry-Tom Thibodeau combination overcomes the old and worn down Heat in 2014. They lose to San Antonio in the NBA Finals, but in asserting themselves as the new conference leaders they essentially force LeBron’s hand in leaving Miami for Cleveland.

James, Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins on one side, Curry, Jimmy Butler and Thibodeau on the other. No one can imagine a more intriguing Eastern Conference rivalry, especially with the winner likely to take on Rose and Love’s Timberwolves in the NBA Finals.

 

What if Jay Williams Never Got Hurt?

Jay Williams Bulls

Every Wednesday, Pick and Popovich will dive down the rabbit hole and explore a different NBA “What if.” The only rule is that the scenario must come from a place that is somewhat realistic and grounded in at least somewhat believable rumor or hearsay. Otherwise, anything goes.

Young athletes do stupid things. It’s a given. Jay Williams is just lucky that the Bulls caught wind of his plans to buy a motorcycle, because once they did they strongly urged him not to do so and reminded him of the clause in his contract reminding him that he isn’t allowed to do so. Williams relents, and the Bulls breathe a sigh of relief. Their young point guard is safe from at least that sort of disastrous off-court injury.

And he develops into a very nice young player. Williams averages 17 points per game as a sophomore and that number hangs out around 20 for the next few years. He even makes an All Star team in 2006 as the Bulls return to playoff form. But Williams never quite becomes the superstar Chicago expected.

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A point guard who does become a superstar, though, is Derrick Rose. The New Jersey Nets luck into him with the first pick in the 2008 NBA Draft through a gift from the lottery gods: they jumped all the way up from the No. 8 slot to nab the Memphis product No. 1 overall. They immediately start gearing their team towards Rose, trading the veteran Vince Carter and taking Terrance Williams and Paul George in the next two drafts to surround him with the proper wings.

Of course, neither of them stick around for very long. When Carmelo Anthony hits the trade market during the 2010-11 season, the Nets offer both along with a cavalcade of other assets to nab him. Anthony is at first resistant, but the idea of playing with Rose warms him up to waiting for the move to Brooklyn. With a pairing of Rose and Anthony, the Nets feel as though they can compete with anyone in the East, even LeBron James and the Heat.

Of course they don’t get the chance. They lose in back-to-back second rounds to the Tom Thibodeau-Jay Williams pairing in Chicago. It’s hardly a satisfying consolation, as Chicago winds up losing to Miami just as consistently, but hey, there’s no shame in making the Eastern Conference Finals and losing to a better team. At least the Nuggets enjoy their part of the deal. Paul George is looking like the best young Nugget since David Thompson.

Fake NBA Trade of the Day 7/2/16: Rubio to Chicago

Rubio Bulls

Every day, Pick and Popovich will post one fake trade and explain why it makes sense for every team involved to make it. There are no parameters beyond fitting within the salary cap. Sometimes the trades will involve stars, others role players. They are not grounded in actual rumors, they just make sense on paper. 

 

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Chicago Bulls Receive: 

Ricky Rubio

 

 

 

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Minnesota Timberwolves Receive:

Nikola Mirotic

Doug McDermott

 

Why Chicago would make this trade: Because they need a point guard desperately, and while Rubio presents a lot of the same problems playing with Jimmy Butler that Derrick Rose did, his defense and passing are such assets that they could be overcome. After all, what shooter wouldn’t want to play with those two setting him up?

Why Minnesota would make this trade: Because Minnesota needs shooting just as desperately as Chicago needs a point guard, and at the very least Tom Thibodeau knows these two from his days with the Bulls.

Why Joakim Noah Will Sign With the Dallas Mavericks

Joakim Mavs 1

It’s always nice when a team and a player who both need to save face can find each other organically on the free agent market.

The Mavericks have won more games than anyone but the Spurs since the turn of the millennium, but no superstars want to play for them. Joakim Noah is a two-time All Star and Defensive Player of the Year, but no contending team will think about paying him. Both are going to hang out on the side of the dance floor watching their potential partners get snapped up without being able to do a thing about it.

And then hey, the Dallas Mavericks will spy Joakim Noah, two-time All Star and Defensive Player of the Year, sitting alone in the corner. And Joakim Noah will see the Dallas Mavericks, winners of more games than anyone but the Spurs since the turn of the millennium, staring quietly into the bowl of punch.

And neither will nut up and ask the other to dance until the popular players are all making our with the desirable teams in the back of Danny Ainge’s Toyota.

Poor quality of my metaphor aside, the Mavericks are going to realize a few weeks into the summer that nobody wants to play for them, so hey, adding a big name like Joakim Noah wouldn’t exactly be the worst thing. And around the same time, Joakim Noah will realize that playing for a respectable team like the Mavericks would save him from the embarrassment of being ignored for so long, so he’ll be interested. They’ll work out one of those classic one-year “prove it” deals veterans sign so often, and Noah will become a Maverick.

And hey, the basketball fit is intriguing enough. Maybe Noah is healthy and can give Dallas the defensive anchor they missed out on in DeAndre Jordan last summer. His passing certainly makes sense in a Rick Carlisle scheme. And maybe Carlisle revives Noah enough that he gets the multi-year deal he craves next summer, and the Mavericks bring in the next lost soul seeking redemption on a .500 team, as is the way of the league.

Worst case scenario, Deron Williams is probably coming back, Lance Stephenson is more than available, David Lee and Roy Hibbert are going to struggle to find teams and Joe Johnson is just itching to eat into someone else’s cap space again. The Mavericks could form a 2011 super team is 2015, and that’d be pretty neat.

Likely Contract: One Year, $7.5 Million

Fake NBA Trade of the Day 6/27/16: Calderon to Philly

Calderon Sixers

Every day, Pick and Popovich will post one fake trade and explain why it makes sense for every team involved to make it. There are no parameters beyond fitting within the salary cap. Sometimes the trades will involve stars, others role players. They are not grounded in actual rumors, they just make sense on paper. 

 

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Chicago Bulls Receive: 

Hollis Thompson

 

 

 

5312_philadelphia_76ers-secondary-2016 Philadelphia 76ers Receive:

 Jose Calderon

 

 

 

Why Chicago would make this trade: To clear cap space. Getting rid of Calderon puts Chicago in position to offer Mike Conley a max deal. It’s that simple.

Why Philadelphia would make this trade: Calderon, as a passer, is a nice guard to have when developing young big men. He’d be able to get them the ball in spots they actually want it. Think of him as an older and better Ish Smith in that regard.

Fake NBA Trade of the Day 6/24/16: Gallo to Chicago

Gallo Bulls1

Every day, Pick and Popovich will post one fake trade and explain why it makes sense for every team involved to make it. There are no parameters beyond fitting within the salary cap. Sometimes the trades will involve stars, others role players. They are not grounded in actual rumors, they just make sense on paper. During the 2016 NBA Playoffs, each week will feature seven fake trades of one star player. This is Danilo Gallinari Week. 

 

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Denver Nuggets Receive: 

Doug McDermott

No. 14 Overall Pick

 

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 Chicago Bulls Receive:

 Danilo Gallinari

 

 

 

Why Denver would make this trade: McDermott may be limited, but hot damn can he shoot. Oh, and lottery picks are always nice.

Why Chicago would make this trade: Gallinari is the perfect small forward for an isolation-heavy backcourt like Chicago’s, and Jimmy Butler could cover for him defensively assuming the Bulls find a new rim-protector.

What the Derrick Rose Trade Means for the Knicks

Derrick Rose Knicks 1

Let’s pretend for a moment that Derrick Rose never won an MVP.

Let’s pretend that he isn’t a former All Star, that he’s not one of the biggest names in basketball, that this trade was made strictly on basketball terms.

The New York Knicks had arguably the worst point guard play in basketball last season, so they added a point guard who averaged 18 points and five assists on totally respectable .444/.344/.789 shooting splits from February through April of last season. The only player of note they gave up was Robin Lopez, a questionable long-term fit anyway as Kristaps Porzingis is likely a center and Carmelo Anthony will probably need to transition to power forward as his athleticism starts to go. On those terms alone, this was an excellent short-term trade. The inflection point comes in July.

There are two ways that the Knicks can treat this deal. If Jeff Hornacek has his way, the Knicks will look for younger wings to flank Rose on the free agent market. That means names like Kent Bazemore, Harrison Barnes and Evan Fournier. Any additions will be based on the Kristaps Porzingis timeline, they’ll be younger and they’ll shoot three’s, and they absolutely will not need to fit the triangle. Rose will be a short-term gamble and nothing more.

Considering Hornacek’s offensive style, that’s a roster that makes a lot of sense. A team with Rose at the point and Anthony at power forward would play fast and shoot a ton of three’s. It would be highly pick-and-roll based, and the defense would rely on Porzingis growing into a high-end rim protector (possible, though likely a stretch in Year 2). It has the pure fire power to be one of the better offenses in basketball, it has the talent to make a decent playoff run right away, but it also has the roster flexibility to easily be re-tooled for Porzingis in a year or two (especially since a Knicks team making real playoff runs instantly becomes a highly desirable free agent destination).

This is the sensible path. It leans into the direction modern basketball is heading. And then there’s the crazy old man Phil Jackson route.

This involves chasing a big-name center, eschewing shooting and just hoping talent wins out. This treats name value as something of importance in a market that sells games out anyway. This means forcing square pegs into triangular holes.

That’s the biggie. Derrick Rose cannot play in the triangle. He is the absolute worst point guard for that system. Triangle point guards are quick decision makers who shoot three’s and move off of the ball. Rose does none of these.

None of the available centers (except for Pau Gasol, who was drafted before Porzingis’ great grandparents were born) fit the triangle either. Hassan Whiteside has 36 assists in his entire career. He’s not going to be able to make the quick read-and-react high post passes a triangle center has to make. Dwight Howard just wants to post people up so he can convince himself he’s still a relevant offensive player.

Signing someone like Whiteside or Howard, and even to a lesser extent Gasol or Joakim Noah, is exactly the sort of mistake the old Knicks used to make. Then again, the old Knicks never would have used the No. 4 pick on someone like Porzingis. So all bets are off. We’ll know by mid-July which path New York is taking, and for their own sakes, let’s hope it’s the first.