The 3 Players that Could Benefit the Most From Staying Put
I am once again straying from the conventions of sports journalism. Will I come back, who knows? The trade deadline is upon us and at the moment NBA media is swirling with rumors. Like a high school hallway on Valentines day, there’s a lot of senseless chatter, misdirected emotions and a whole lot of stagnancy. In fact, if you were to log onto twitter.com and delve into what the NBA “reporters” are tweeting, you would be hard pressed to find any cold hard facts. It is a lot of the triple i’s: Innuendo, Insinuations, Intimations. The grape leaves that are so close, but you just can’t bite, the cold, refreshing water at your feet that you crane for, but cannot touch. We thirst and we hunger without any kind of movement during this deadline season. If you are questioning just how bored these NBA heads are, Brian Windhorst used the words “lurking around” when describing the Pistons’ interest in Victor Oladipo. We have heard every rumor in the book, effectively pulled from the ethers of another galaxy to draw clicks. From Marcus Smart, to Drummond, to Kyle Lowry and beyond. The talk and chatter can be exhausting. Therefore, rather than speculate on inside sources, that in reality are the guy who delivers Oladipo’s mail, or the dude who shovels Marcus Smart’s driveway, I’d rather focus on the here and now and the moment. So here are the three players that could benefit the most from staying where they are.
I am choosing not to rank these, because this isn’t something that metrics or statistics can easily judge. This is a feel thing. Lonzo has been on the block effectively since he’s been in the league. Following his #2 overall selection, The Lakers, obviously underwhelmed by his output, were more than happy to involve him in the package that brought AD to their doorstep. Lonzo, since being moved has evolved into an even better on ball defender and has significantly improved his three point shot (39% now). He has made leaps as a scorer and has even improved his free throw by 25% showing an advancement in not only skill, but composure on the big stage. After what seemed like a super dormant period, Lavar Ball went on the record last week claiming that the Pelicans don’t suit Lonzo’s play style and that he needs to get out. This has been amidst the constant hypothetical trades he’s been mentioned in for months. Lonzo, also is about to hit the free agency market, so any team that deals for him will have to consider the dollars it will take to retain him.
The issue here is that Lonzo has shown true and steady growth with the Pels. We see how damaging it can be when a young player changes scenery too much. The lack of fluidity can derail an otherwise brilliant trajectory. Yes there’s always a chance he would prosper elsewhere…there always is that possibility. But the reality is that this Pelicans team can do big things if he continues to grow around the two all-stars Brandon Ingram, and HOF talent Zion Williamson. The Pels have lost every close game imaginable this year, but they aren’t far off of being a playoff level team. I hope they don’t let a talent like Lonzo get away. Him leaving will have ripple effects to their other pillars.
This one might be a bit more complicated than the Lonzo one. The reason being that John Collins has been so engrained not only in the trade talks themselves, but in the rumors of issues with team chemistry and ideas that he is disgruntled with Trae Young or the coaching staff and the list goes on. From Collins’ perspective some of that is understandable. One of the main rumors was that Collins was unhappy with the idea that Trae Young should have the reins on their whole offense. The truth is John Collins is a stud, a walking double double machine, with bounce that can ignite any offensive scheme. He is going to be highly coveted on the market there is no doubt. Prior to just a few weeks ago, I might have thought different here with Atlanta seemingly stuck in the mud. Yet, Since Nate McMillan took over for Lloyd Pierce, the Hawks have been one of the best teams in the league. This has been without one of the most promising young talents Deandre Hunter, who just returned last game. Collins has a point guard who throws lobs to him, young pieces around him, and a new head coach with a history of making the playoffs. If the Hawks can come close to meeting his financial terms, I think Collins is part of the future in Atlanta. A Mutually beneficial situation.
Now don’t call me a fool here, because I think this is purely speculation. But Jerami Grant leaving the place where he has risen to stardom, seems unwise on several fronts. Firstly, for the Pistons. When they signed Grant for a 3 year 60 Mil deal, they became more the recipient of mockery than praise. Partially because, well, they are the pistons…and pushing the right buttons is hardly something they do often. Grant’s market was largely diminished because on the teams he played for, especially in Denver he was primarily utilized for his defensive prowess. With the likes of Jokic and Murray around him, there was no need to score. But while his volume wasn’t there, he did show growth on the offensive end, and in a situation in Detroit this season, with no more Drummond, and a Blake Griffin that’s a shadow of himself (now in Brooklyn), Grant had the stage set for him to play the alpha role. One he could have succumbed to, but instead welcomed. And while he was never going to lead his team to success, he has vastly improved his reception around the NBA, no longer a plus d man with length and high energy, Grant is a lethal and confident scorer who can affect all dimensions of the game. When a player booms like this after being tossed from team to team, you’d like to see what they can do with continuity and consistency. Grant’s best shot at continuing this pace and evolving further is in the motor city.
Next week, we will have all sorts of trade reactions, maybe even some stuff on one or more of these guys if they do end up getting moved. Let’s hope for some injury free NBA basketball the rest of the campaign.