Palawan, it has been a full week past the National Basketball Association (NBA) trade deadline and it is that time when we can assess early wins (and struggles) of players in their new uniforms.  Let’s talk about good fits, questionable deals, and strategies being employed by the teams toward crunch time.  Read on, Palawan…

Process Improvement

The strong just got stronger.  The “process” continues in the City of Brotherly Love.  The Philadelphia 76ers added more depth by trading for Tobias Harris and the results are good thus far.  As of this writing, the Sixers are 2-1 with Harris for a 67% win percentage.

It is still too early to judge how far the Sixers would go in the playoffs this season but based off the few games he’s played, Harris looks like a good fit.  He can help space the floor by adding another 3 – point threat, a void that was left open when they sent stretch 4 Dario Saric to the Minnesota Timberwolves for All Star Jimmy Butler a few months back.

The Sixers’ starting unit can now match every team, pound for pound, in every position.  Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Joel Embiid, Harris and Butler can dominate an opponent at any given night.  With Simmons’ height and court vision, he is a match up nightmare for the smaller guards and with Butler, Harris, and JJ Redick capable of shooting lights out, that only frees up more space for All Star center Joel Embiid to dominate the lane.

Sixers head coach Brett Brown has a roster that every NBA coach would envy. Wait until Simmons learns to knock down the 3-ball.  If that happens, I don’t think any NBA team would match up well against them.  Even the Golden State Warriors juggernaut would have a hard time.

Another Eastern Conference Powerhouse

The addition of Nikola Mirotic adds more height and depth to the already formidable Milwaukee Bucks roster.  A starting unit of Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, Brook Lopez, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton is complete in every position.  Adding Mirotic, who can play all three frontline positions gives the Bucks a reliable 6th man off the bench.

The league leading Bucks are well positioned for the playoffs and barring injury to key players, is well in line in making the NBA finals this year.

Chasing the league leaders in the East are the Sixers and the Boston Celtics.  I personally believe that any of these three teams will make the NBA finals a unique experience since the past few years, the East has been dominated by the Cleveland Cavaliers then led by the King Lebron James.

LA to LA

After showing glimpses of promise, the Los Angeles Lakers shipped out 7’0 center Ivica Zubac to the Los Angeles Clippers.  Granted that the Lakers have a log jam at the center position with Javale Mcgee and Tyson Chandler in the fold, I believe letting go of a powerful, young and fundamentally sound big man will work against them.  The gamble to acquire All Star Anthony Davis did not materialize and General Manager Earvin “Magic” Johnson would have to wait for the summer to give his “best” offer to the Pelicans.  If the summer does not yield Davis, a game changing player, the future of the center position for the Lakers would be bleak…. Unless they win some other key free agent big (do I hear DeMarcus Cousins coming over?) in July.

No Changes, Just Comebacks

Some other teams decided to stay put over the trade weekend but I would like to mention the fact that the Golden State Warriors and the Denver Nuggets are still 1 and 2 respectively in the West despite being quiet on the trade deadline.

Both teams, however, welcomed All Stars back from injury.  The Warriors now have Demarcus Cousins manning the slot and his first games off the injury show he still has what it takes to mix it up well down low.  It’s just what all Warriors opponents need, an in-shape Boogie in their line up.  Imagine the combinations they can put on the court at any given time.  They can play four guards with Cousins manning the slot and still be dominant knowing that Boogie can protect the lane and get the rebound

I was also able to witness some flashes of good in Isaiah Thomas’ return from injury playing 13 mins with 8 points for the Denver Nuggets against his former team, the Sacramento Kings.  He was a step slow as expected but his debut with the Nuggets is quite successful despite the limited minutes.  Although just 5’9,  I.T. still showed the heart of a giant in this game.  I am quite certain he will only get better and earn more minutes as we wind down the NBA season.

Yours truly feels it’s going to be a Milwaukee Bucks – Philadelphia 76ers final in the East and a Golden State Warriors – Denver Nuggets match up in the West.  After a series 6 games each, I am predicting a Bucks – Warriors final and since I root for the underdogs, I am betting on the Greek Freak to take Milwaukee past the Warriors in a seven game series upset.  A hard task considering the championship experience and the depth of the Warriors roster but hey, we know it’s the NBA.  It’s a league wherein 20 point leads can be wiped out in a span of minutes, Palawan.

 (The writer is a senior leader of the only Business Process Outsourcing Contact Center company in Puerto Princesa. He also is the current Puerto Princesa Underground River Festival Foundation President)

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