HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto, Yossi Gozlan, and Dionysis Aravantinos discuss the winners and losers of the 2022 NBA offseason and react to the end of the EuroBasket Tournament with potential overseas players to monitor on the latest edition of the HoopsHype podcast.
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1:40 Offseason winners
Scotto: The Cleveland Cavaliers getting Donovan Mitchell was a home run swing for them, and I liked it. What’s being overlooked, I think, is Ricky Rubio’s return. He had a great impact on Kevin Love last year. He also has a good relationship with Mitchell and helped him develop when he was younger. When he’s healthy, he showed what he can do last year for Cleveland by closing out games and was a good backup point guard. As we touched on previously on the HoopsHype podcast with Chris Fedor, Rubio is expected to come back sometime in January or February. I thought the addition of Robin Lopez as a backup center was really good for the contract he got.
I thought the Philadelphia 76ers had a nice offseason. Getting James Harden on the short-term deal while he took less money to allow them to get PJ Tucker, who I think will bring them toughness and three-point shooting while weakening the frontcourt for the Miami Heat, which is underrated right now. Getting De’Anthony Melton added depth to the backcourt. Danuel House is a shooter. Montrezl Harrell coming off the bench as a big man with prior relationships with Doc Rivers and Daryl Morey. They always seem to get a good big man to back up Joel Embiid, and they need to, given his injury history. Great job by Morey overall, in my opinion, cementing them in my opinion as a top-three or top-four team in the East.
I thought Boston getting Malcolm Brogdon was a good move for a relatively low cost. I liked the signing of Danilo Gallinari before he got hurt. It gives them depth behind Marcus Smart and strengthens that team.
The other team that stuck out to me may not be a winner to some people, but I thought the Utah Jazz starting a full rebuild by trading away their two best players was the right thing to do because they peaked. There are more moves to come from this team. A lot of executives around the league are expecting Bojan Bogdanovic to be the next guy for the Jazz to get moved. They (rival executives) are keeping tabs on guys like Jordan Clarkson and Malik Beasley, but Bogdanovic is the next domino that most people think is going to fall for Utah.
Gozlan: As far as the Mitchell trade, I think now it’s gotten to the point with all these trades for All-Stars with draft picks that when a team is ready to make that step into being a much stronger and competitive team, draft picks seem like a means to get to that point. It’s an interesting trend we’re seeing. We’ll see what that looks like 5-10 years from now.
I’d put the Spurs in the same category as the Jazz (winners) for finally entering a rebuild… One other winner we haven’t gotten to is the Clippers. I think they maximized what they were able to do as far as their spending. They brought in John Wall, who I’m really excited to see how he fits there.
15:35 Offseason losers
Scotto: The Charlotte Hornets due to Miles Bridges’ legal incident. That’s a killer for them on and off the court. Obviously, it’s a really unfortunate and disheartening situation. From a basketball standpoint, they’re losing a guy who, you could’ve made a case, was one of the most improved players in the league last year. He fits with LaMelo Ball. Now, that’s all in limbo, to say the least.
Similarly, you can look at the Phoenix Suns and the Robert Sarver situation that has hung over them since last season… I think Deandre Ayton’s restricted free agency and the tensions that built up from last season when they were trying to win a title almost seemed unnecessary because he ended up signing a max offer sheet (with Indiana), and Phoenix matched it quickly. I think losing JaVale McGee hurts them more than people realize. I know McGee is known as a Shaqtin’ a Fool guy, but he’s become quite a good role player on winning teams.
I think Miami losing PJ Tucker is going to hurt. I still think they’re a great team, but PJ brought that extra edge and toughness to them. Defensively, with some of the guys in the East like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, and Jayson Tatum, that’s the guy you’d put on them. Now, you can ask Jimmy Butler to do that, but then you’re burning the candle at both ends at that point. Miami hasn’t been able to replace Tucker.
While the Minnesota Timberwolves improved in the short term by getting Rudy Gobert, I think the picks they gave up were monumental, and it set, in my opinion, unrealistic expectations to compete for a championship. You heard Karl-Anthony Towns talking about that after he signed his extension, and Gobert came. I don’t know if they’re there yet. I don’t think so, to be honest. They’re not on a Golden State or Phoenix level yet. This move makes them better now, but I don’t know how long in the future. We saw Gobert when he was with Utah and how teams would attack him in the playoffs. I’m curious if Chris Finch can draw up anything (defensively) to combat that.
When you talk to executives around the league, they always point to that Gobert trade as a trade that messed up the market. Several executives I spoke to felt that Minnesota overpaid to get Gobert… That’s one of the reasons it took a while with the Donovan Mitchell trade talks. Once the market was set for Gobert, Utah wanted to get equal to that or better for Mitchell.
Gozlan: With the Suns, the off-the-court stuff could play onto the court, but as far as what they’ve done for the roster, I actually think they’re somewhat winners. They didn’t use their mid-level exception on anybody, but they’ll get Dario Saric back, who was important for them in their Finals run… They also have Bismack Biyombo, who can do a lot of the things that McGee has done for them. I feel like they got some of the best minimum signings this year. Every year, the Warriors struck gold with what they did (minimum signings). Phoenix got Damion Lee and Josh Okogie. I feel like those guys might be good enough to get into the Suns’ rotation and make some of the other guys like Landry Shamet, Torrey Craig, or Cameron Payne a little more expendable. Maybe they can use those salaries to make some type of deal. Maybe they can go after some of the guys that Utah has. I feel like a lot of the guys on Utah, like Bojan Bogdanovic, could be some good fits in Phoenix. They set themselves up to potentially make a savvy move. They have all their picks available and Ayton back. We’ll see how that plays out. If a change is needed, he’ll be trade-eligible in January. They could probably get some good stuff in return for him.
Charlotte is probably one of the bigger losers. Losing Bridges is going to hurt them on the court. He was their second-best player. They replaced James Borrego with Steve Clifford. I’m guessing they want him to bring some more defensive intensity, but the roster is still the same for the most part, so I don’t know how they’re going to improve from having a bottom defense last year.
26:35 Team offseason reviews to be determined
Scotto: The Atlanta Hawks with Dejounte Murray. They gave up a decent number of draft picks for him. The question everyone has, and some people in Atlanta, are looking forward to finding out how good he and Trae Young can pair together in the backcourt. They wanted to take some of the pressure off Trae with the ball-handling responsibilities and all the eyes on him. They did that. I think Trae is going to be coming off the ball at times and looking to score, with Dejounte being a playmaker. When Trae has the ball, I’m curious how that’ll work in a halfcourt set because I don’t think of Dejounte as a shooter (33 percent career three-point shooter).
When I look at the Brooklyn Nets, Ben Simmons’ return is going to be crucial. They kept Kevin Durant, but the trade request was made, and there was a lot of noise around it. If the team struggles early on, you know there’s going to be more smoke floating out there around it. Kyrie Irving didn’t get a long-term deal. You’d think he’ll come in motivated more than ever, especially in a contract year. In the frontcourt, they brought back Nicolas Claxton. I still think they need more in the frontcourt to compete with these teams in the East.
I think the Bulls had nice bench additions in Andre Drummond and Goran Dragic, but their season depends on the health of Lonzo Ball. I think DeMar DeRozan is going to come back down to earth a little bit, but Nikola Vucevic should be improved compared to last year. They also have Alex Caruso healthy.
I think the Knicks signed Jalen Brunson for more than I thought he’d get on the open market. They brought in Isaiah Hartenstein and kept Mitchell Robinson while extending RJ Barrett after the Donovan Mitchell trade talks fell through. They’re a “to be determined” team depending on how Brunson does, Barrett looks like, and Robinson.
Lastly, the Denver Nuggets changed their identity a little bit, getting more defensive-minded guys in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Bruce Brown, but lost key rotation guys in Monte Morris, Will Barton, and JaMychal Green.
Gozlan: You’ve got Dallas, who as long as they’ve had Luka Doncic, you’ve questioned who’s going to be that second guy? It wasn’t Kristaps Porzingis. The way Jalen Brunson was playing, he was basically that second guy and played at basically an All-Star level in the playoffs. Say what you will about the contract with the Knicks. The way he played, he was definitely worth it. Losing him had to do with falters along the way when they reportedly had chances to extend him to what would’ve been a team-friendly deal.
36:20 Which players stood out the most during the EuroBasket tournament?
Scotto: Spain’s Willy Hernangomez and Juancho Hernangomez stuck out. Finland’s Lauri Markkanen really put himself on the map with this tournament, and he’s poised to have a potential breakout year in Utah, given all the roster changes. Germany’s Dennis Schroeder played well enough to get a new deal and return to the Lakers. Italy’s Simone Fontecchio will also get a chance in Utah. Bosnia’s Dzanan Musa looked good in the tournament. Franz Wagner also looks ready to take the next step with the Orlando Magic. He looked good taking the ball off the dribble.
Aravantinos: Markkanen averaged 27.9 points per game this EuroBasket, and he got his team to the quarterfinals, where they played against the eventual champions, Spain. He shot the ball well, shooting 54 percent from the field, 40 percent from downtown, and 90 percent from the free throw line. Being in the 50-40-90 club in Europe’s standard is very difficult to do. He also had over 8.1 rebounds per game and 2.4 assists with only 1.4 turnovers per game.
In the EuroBasket Finals, Juancho Hernangomez played like Bo Cruz. He was the MVP of the Finals against France and had 27 points. Willy Hernangomez won the MVP of the entire tournament and was one of the players on his national team. He’s more engaged offensively because everything goes through him.
Schroeder was, by far, in my opinion, the best guard in the tournament. He averaged 22.1 points and 7.1 assists per game.
Wagner, I agree, is ready to take that next step… Through the tournament, we saw him taking the next step and gaining confidence. He was shooting step-back threes and wasn’t scared of the moment. He was taking it to Giannis Antetokounmpo a few times in their matchup.
Simone Fontecchio looks like he’s ready to play in the NBA. He’s ready to give some valuable minutes to his team.
Lorenzo Brown is an American who was a naturalized player who played for Spain. In many people’s eyes, he should’ve won the MVP award of the tournament because he helped Spain with the gold medal, and he put up crazy numbers. If I’m not mistaken, he was the first player in EuroBasket history to finish with a double-double in the Finals since the 1960s or 1970s. He plays overseas in the EuroLeague as well, but he’s a guy to keep an eye on.
Rudy Gobert in the group stage didn’t live up to his standards, but when it mattered most in do-or-die games in the knockout phase with France, he showed up, and in two clutch overtime games, he was instrumental on both ends of the court.
46:30 Which teams were disappointing in the tournament?
Aravantinos: Serbia, Slovenia, and Greece were the teams that underperformed, given the circumstances that all three superstars were there to help their teams. They were on paper, the favorites to go all the way. Serbia got knocked out from the round of 16, while Greece and Slovenia got knocked out in the quarterfinals.
The format in EuroBasket is totally different than the NBA. It reminds me of the NCAA March Madness Tournament. You have the group stage at first, and then from the round of 16 and up, it’s a one-game do-or-die elimination game. Serbia blew a double-digit lead against Italy. Nikola Jokic played only 28 minutes in that game. With Greece, Germany built a wall against Giannis Antetokounmpo. He struggled to hit perimeter shots. There are a few key differences in the EuroLeague and EuroBasket where there’s no three-second violation. It’s easier to build a wall against Giannis. One of the greatest upsets in EuroBasket history was Poland beating Slovenia, where no one expected it.
51:05 Overseas players to watch who can go to the NBA
Aravantinos: The easy answer would be Vasilije Micic. He was good for Serbia and has been the best player in Europe for the past two years. He was the EuroLeague Final Four MVP and EuroLeague MVP. He made the All-EuroLeague Team twice. He’s a guy who definitely deserves to play in the NBA.
Dzanan Musa is another guy to keep an eye on. He signed a contract with Real Madrid. He’s still very young.
Mike James and Shane Larkin are guys that deserve to be playing in the NBA. Lorenzo Brown played well in the EuroBasket.
Aleksandar Vezenkov, who plays in Greece for Olympiacos, is a guy to keep an eye on. He played well for Bulgaria. He was third in scoring with 26.8 points per game and 12.2 rebounds per game, which led EuroBasket. He had a breakout season last year with Olympiacos. His rights belong to the Kings. I wouldn’t be surprised in the Kings pick him up next year if he continues performing well for one of the most decorated clubs in Greece and Europe.