When next season will begin remains undecided, with the NBPA pushing back on the reports that the league would like to get things going just before Christmas. NBPA executive director Michele Roberts told Shams Charania of The Athletic that “the overwhelming response” that she had received from the players regarding a possible December 22 start date was negative. The 2019-20 season ended on October 11, meaning that the Lakers and Heat (NBA Finals participants) would have a little over two months to not only recover from that lengthy campaign but also prepare for the next one.
Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon suggested a start date of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day (January 18), and while the league’s desire to begin the next season as soon as possible in order to recoup some of the revenue lost is understandable a mid-January date may make more sense when it comes to player fitness. The league and its players association still need to address the collective bargaining agreement, and the official salary cap for next season remains unknown.
Going with a January start date would give all involved more time to solidify their situations, and that’s especially important from a free agency standpoint. But money talks, so it wouldn’t be a shock if the NBA was back by Christmas. Now let’s take a look at some of this week’s headlines.
76ers: Daryl Morey is back! (Reportedly)
It didn’t take the former Rockets general manager a new project to dive into, as it was reported on Wednesday that he will be the 76ers’ new president of basketball operations. Morey, who will reportedly sign a five-year deal, will have the final say on all personnel decisions. As of right now general manager Elton Brand will remain in Philadelphia, but it’s only natural to wonder if he decides to move on at some point.
Morey will be entrusted with the task of figuring out a roster that was more awkward than anything for much of last season. And there isn’t much room financially for Philadelphia to make any major additions with four players (Tobias Harris, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Al Horford) all due to make at least $27.5 million next season. Will Morey, working in close concert with Brand and head coach Doc Rivers, look to make a major move? And if he does, will the transaction be made with the desire to replicate the “micro ball” look that the Rockets had?
There has been no lack of speculation with regard to what Morey’s arrival means for Embiid and Simmons, with the former likely having to fit in a system that places high value on a shot that he has avoided throughout his NBA career. But keep in mind that the 3-pointer isn’t the only shot that has high value within the system that Houston employed; paint touches are also important, and according to the NBA’s tracking stats nearly 93 percent of Simmons’ field goal attempts last season were within ten feet of the basket.
I think Simmons can be effective in a system that’s heavily influenced by Morey’s philosophy, provided Philadelphia surround him with players that can provide consistent perimeter shooting. Embiid should be fine as well, even with the lack of a “traditional” center in those Houston offenses. Because with all due respect to Clint Capela and Isaiah Hartenstein, neither one has the offensive tools that “The Process” brings to the table. Someone may have to go in order to satisfy Philadelphia’s need for perimeter shooting, but it probably won’t be Simmons or Embiid that moves on.
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Rockets: Stephen Silas named head coach
One more team filled its head coaching vacancy this week, with Houston hiring Silas to fill the void left by Mike D’Antoni. The former Mavericks assistant, who along with his father Paul is now the fifth father/son tandem to be NBA head coaches in league history, was a big reason why Dallas led the NBA in offensive rating last season. Luka Doncic, Kemba Walker and Stephen Curry are three high-level guards that Silas has worked with in the past, and now he’ll collaborate with James Harden and Russell Westbrook.
Houston finished last season ranked sixth in offensive rating and second in points per game, and Harden should be fine regardless. He’s been one of the top options in fantasy basketball in both eight- and nine-category formats, and that shouldn’t change under Silas. What will be interesting to watch is what the new head coach and his yet-to-be-completed staff can do with Westbrook.
He wasn’t himself in the bubble, as a bout with COVID-19 robbed him of valuable workout time before the restart, and he injured his quad once cleared to play. Westbrook getting back to full strength will be a big part of the equation for him next season. What will also be worth watching are his shooting percentages, especially when teams manage to keep him away from the basket. Westbrook led the NBA in drives per game and ranked second in drive points per game, but he shot just 37.6 percent on pull-up jumpers. That number was actually an improvement on his percentage during the 2018-19 campaign (31.4 percent).
Nets: Steve Nash reunites with a couple old friends
According to multiple reports the new head coach has made three additions to his coaching staff, with the aforementioned D’Antoni and 76ers assistant Ime Udoka joining as assistants and Amare Stoudemire as a player development assistant. Given the prior connection between Nash, D’Antoni and Stoudemire, it’s natural that some would look to reminisce over those “seven seconds or less” days in Phoenix and wonder if Brooklyn will employ a similar system. That is certainly enticing to think about, especially with two offensive weapons as talented as Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant leading the way.
Given past comments about both I consider Durant to be Brooklyn’s best fantasy option, especially if Nash makes good on his desire to use KD at all five positions depending upon the matchup. And Irving wouldn’t be chopped liver as the Nets’ second-best fantasy option, either. Both will be first-round selections, regardless of league format.
Where I’d be most intrigued with these assistant coaching hires is how Stoudemire can help develop Jarrett Allen. With DeAndre Jordan not playing in Orlando due to COVID-19 the Nets’ young center played 34.1 minutes per game in Brooklyn’s seeding games, posting averages of 15.7 points, 11.0 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 0.5 steals and 1.2 blocks per with shooting percentages of 67.3 percent from the field and 72.7 percent from the foul line.
Allen’s fantasy value will take a hit with Irving, Durant and Jordan all in the rotation, but not to the point where he’s unusable. And if Stoudemire’s arrival results in Allen’s post game becoming a bit more polished, that would serve both he and the Nets well.