It was a relatively busy trade deadline in the National Basketball Association (NBA) as teams jostled and dealt with either upgrade their rosters for a playoff run or simply shed salary to position better in free agency. One of the keenly anticipated events of an NBA regular season, the trade deadline (set February 7th this season) almost always comes out with a list of surprises, winners and losers. I see a couple of teams that boosted their stock for a deep playoff run, and potentially even a run for the NBA Finals.
The Miami Heat
Back in the NBA ’80s, I liked the Boston Celtics more than the Los Angeles Lakers but when I noticed the winning formula current Miami Heat General Manager Pat Riley brings to every team he led, I became a Riley fan.
Already known as the author of show time in LA with the likes of Ervin “Magic” Johnson, James Worthy, Byron Scott and Michael Cooper running the fast-paced Laker offense and with the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, down low to bail them out on half-court sets, Riley has also built playoff teams in New York (with Patrick Ewing and the Knicks) and now the Heat.
Riley also showed that he is the best in getting the best out of the composition of his rosters. He played different systems and styles in different eras with one common denominator: his teams are always playoff bound.
From showtime in Los Angeles, Riley adapted to bully ball with the Knicks as he put together a team of tough players to help Ewing. Rugged and tough players like John Starks, Anthony Mason, Charles Oakley, Larry Johnson, and Allan Houston were good enough to help Riley and Ewing bring the Knicks to as close to one win away from winning it all in 1994, losing game 7 to the Hakeem Olajuwon led Houston Rockets.
After his Knicks tenure, Pat Riley built consistent playoff teams in the Heat starting with the pair of Tim Hardaway and Alonzo Mourning beefed up by forwards PJ Brown and Jamal Mashburn in the late 90s. The Heat’s first championship came with the pair of Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal in 2006 beating Dallas Mavericks as Riley, then General Manager of the Heat, took an unprecedented move to take over coaching reigns off Stan Van Gundy late in the regular season to turn things around for the franchise. Call him talented, smart or really lucky, the Heat bested the rest in 2006.
After that championship, Riley also authored another would be NBA trend by putting the first Big 3 teaming up Wade with Lebron James and Chris Bosh. This core was good enough to win 2 more championships together in 2012 and 2013. When Lebron left Miami, the Heat still were contenders but this season seems to be special yet again.
Why? The team was able to secure the services of a defensive juggernaut and playoff veteran Andre Iguodala along with veterans Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill. The Heat didn’t lose much on this deal as they likely benefitted from losing Dion Waiters and his personal issues, James Johnson and Justice Winslow.
The net impact is a deeper, playoff wise roster. I project a starting line up of Kendrick Nunn at the point, franchise player Jimmy Butler and Iguodala at the wings, and Kelly Olynik and first time all-star Bam Adebayo alternating down low. The bench is very high quality with Goran Dragic, Crowder, Hill, Derrick Jones, Jr., Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson and back up big Myers Leonard. That’s deep enough for a very deep playoff run.
Personally, I feel this team can match very well with Philadelphia and Milwaukee as they aim to bag the Eastern Conference crown.
The Los Angeles Clippers
Already an intimidating defensive team full of blue-collar two-way players, the Clippers added yet another multi-position two way big as they traded for Marcus Morris from the New York Knicks for Mo Harkless and a first-round draft pick. The Clippers also received Isaiah Thomas from Washington on this deal but there are stories circulating that he may well be waived when the dust settles.
The net impact to the Clips?
They receive a bonafide 4-5 scorer and defender in Morris, who may well fit the starting power forward role blending with starters Patrick Beverley, Ivica Zubac, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.
The bench has always been steady for the Clips with Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, Jamychal Green, Rodney McGruder, Patrick Patterson, and Landry Shamet. That’s an eleven-man deep roster.
People say the team needed a back up big to close the game and Andre Drummond’s name has floated around as a potential add on but that did not materialize… but the Clips got the next good option here.
Head coach Doc Rivers will most likely finish games with the combination of Williams, George, Leonard, Morris, and Harrell. This is a solid defensive unit even if undersized compared to the western powerhouses. They won’t be pushovers on the rebounding end but there is a question of rim protection. The answer to that is, they may not need it if the offense couldn’t push the ball near the perimeter anyway.
It will be exciting times as the NBA nears the playoff run so just sit down, relax, and enjoy the rest of season, Palawan.
(The writer is a senior leader in the Business Process Outsourcing industry managing Philippine countryside operations)