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5 Great Under the Radar NBA Off-Season Moves
By: Khaqan Khan
The overlooked aspect of team building is making moves that won't make headlines and will make fans of the team scratch their heads in the moment. It's easy to point to the acquisitions of stars, but it's the moves you make that go under the radar and pop up deep in the playoffs like Woah, look how smart this team is a year after the move was made. Whether it's two 2nds' to the Cavaliers for Jordan Clarkson, taking a chance on Nic Batum, or making this complicated trade to acquire Landry Shamet and Bruce Brown to add to bench depth:
"(Bruce Brown) As part of a 3-team trade, traded by the Detroit Pistons to the Brooklyn Nets; the Brooklyn Nets traded Saddiq Bey, Jaylen Hands, Dzanan Musa, and a 2021 2nd round draft pick (JT Thor was later selected) to the Detroit Pistons; the Brooklyn Nets traded Jay Scrubb to the Los Angeles Clippers; the Detroit Pistons traded Luke Kennard, Justin Patton, a 2023 2nd round draft pick, a 2024 2nd round draft pick, a 2025 2nd round draft pick, and a 2026 2nd round draft pick to the Los Angeles Clippers; the Los Angeles Clippers traded Reggie Perry and Landry Shamet to the Brooklyn Nets, and the Los Angeles Clippers traded Rodney McGruder and cash to the Detroit Pistons. 2023 2nd-rd pick is POR own 2024 2nd-rd pick is DET's own 2025 2nd-rd pick is DET's own 2026 2nd-rd pick is DET's own 2021 2nd-rd pick is TOR own."
These are moves GM's probably brag about when they meet up with each other during Summer League or something, but as they should. Everyone knows you should trade for James Harden when you can, but what you do to fill out your roster when the majority of your cap is tied to three players is the difference between an early playoff exit and a championship. That is what separates a Great GM from a good GM. How they use the back end of the roster and how they get creative to manipulate the cap in order to improve the team within the margins. These are five moves from this past off-season that didn't get much buzz, but I think will pay dividends in due time.
1. Patty Mills signs with the Nets
Patty Mills is a baller. People that have seen him play, especially on the Australian National team, know that. The 6'1" guard heading into his 12th season may not seem like a splash signing, but come playoff time, you are going to hear pundits talking about the impact Mills has had on this team as a stable presence. You will especially hear that if the worst-case scenario plays out with Kyrie Irving. Mills is an intelligent playmaker that knows how to play off other stars as he did with those Spurs teams that made back-to-back final appearances. He is someone Durant and Harden can feel good about being out there in crunch time if Irving, for whatever reason, can't go. Mills has never been afraid of the moment. His experience and 3pt shooting round out this Nets roster in a way that will become clearer come playoff time.
2. Malik Monk signs the minimum with the Los Angeles Lakers
One of the many luxuries of having Lebron James on your team is that other players will take less money to play with him. Malik Monk's decision to take the minimum shows character and wisdom. He could have easily taken a deal that would make him $10 million a year and given him a bigger role, but Monk saw this opportunity to bet on himself and perhaps double, maybe even triple that money and elevate his place in the league. Drafted 9th overall, Monk was a fan favorite coming out of Kentucky, but after his first three seasons stalled for one reason or another, he carved out a role for himself last season and showed glimpses of what he can do in the NBA. A 23-year-old athletic guard who can shoot 43% from 3pt range will find minutes on any team. By signing with the Lakers, Monk puts himself in a situation to show he can contribute to a winning team and puts himself in an environment where he will be pushed by some of the best players the league has ever seen. The Lakers are going to need that shooting with spacing concerns with Russell Westbrook as the new point guard. If Monk can play within himself and contribute to a Lakers championship, he's going to double the money he could have gotten this past off-season. This move also gives the Laker a promising talent going forward, which grants them flexibility and a trade asset.
3. Aaron Holiday traded to the Washington Wizards
One of the acquisitions that got lost on draft night was the Wizards trading the 22nd pick from the Lakers to the Pacers for Aaron Holiday and the 31st pick. The Wizards added four solid role players from the Westbrook deal, including Aaron Holiday, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, and Montrez Harrell. Along with the signing of Spencer Dinwiddie, the Wizards quickly built a solid foundation around Bradley Beal without giving up their young pieces. Holiday provides much-needed depth to this Wizards team that required Westbrook and Beal to do a lot of heavy lifting last year just to stay in games. Holiday is a 25-year-old point guard who should generate playmaking opportunities for the second unit of a Wizards team trying to make it back to the Playoffs and hopefully convince Bradley Beal to stay.
4. Grayson Allen traded to the Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks sent Sam Merril and two future second-round picks to the Memphis Grizzlies for Grayson Allen. The Grizzlies have an abundance of depth at the guard position, which made Allen tradable. The Bucks get a key role player who can keep Donte DiVincenzo's place in the starting lineup warm as he rehabs from injury. Allen is a fearless player who shoots 38% from the three, plays decent defense, and has enough athleticism to punish defenses for laying him off in favor of the three other all-stars on the team. Once DiVincenzo comes back, the Bucks will have a solid bench rotation with Pat Connaughton, Jordan Nwora, and now Grayson Allen. An underrated aspect of acquiring Allen is the tenacity he brings, which fits in well with this roster and team culture. That is going to be crucial for the Bucks in their internal fight against complacency coming off a Championship.
5. Kelly Olynyk Signs with the Detroit Pistons
Detroit had cap space to use, so they signed veteran Kelly Olynyk to a three-year, $37 million deal. Everywhere Kelly Olynyk goes, he finds a way to contribute to his team. His goofy appearance and lack of explosiveness might make people overlook how skilled he actually is. A solid locker presence, Olynyk is filling in for the Mason Plumlee role and serves as the swingman back up to Jerami Grant at the 4 or Isaiah Stewart at the 5. You can count on Olynyk playing with energy and hitting 3s with the ability to get hot. His flexibility should make the lives of the young Pistons easier. As the Play-In Pistons ascend to competitiveness, I anticipate Olynyk playing a crucial, underrated role in helping them get there. If for whatever reason it doesn't work out, Olynyk's contract doesn't hold back the Pistons and their future. His contract should be easily moveable or included in a trade to get an all-star level player.
Other moves to keep an eye out throughout the season:
- Eric Blesdoe back on the Clippers
- Kelly Oubre Jr. signs with the Hornets
- Josh Richardson traded to the Celtics
- Otto Porter Jr. to the Warriors on a veteran minimum.
- Thaddeus Young acquired by the Spurs
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