Well that was a wild sports weekend, and clawing for our attention as always is the ever-spinning NBA news cycle. Three impactful stories came shooting down the pipeline and they hit the acquisition trifecta in a weird way: a blockbuster trade, a huge waiver claim and a player being released from his contract barely 13 games in to the season.
Butler Trade Moves 76ers to +1300 NBA Championship Odds
The Butler finally did it. After months of moaning and groaning, Jimmy Butler got his wish and was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers. Heading back to the Twin Cities is Robert Covington (a nice 3-and-D player), Dario Saric (a big rotation gap filler) and a second rounder in the 2019 NBA Draft. The return isn’t great – you don’t usually move a superstar without getting a potential star in return – but it was necessary. The locker room in Minnesota was getting tenser by the day.
On paper, Butler is a phenomenal two-way player who instantly fills in a spot of need for the 76ers. Anytime you add an All-Star to the mix, you improve your chances of winning a championship and that’s what Philly has done…sort of. The 76ers have long been in the conversation to emerge from the Eastern Conference, but they’ve always been a third fiddle to the Boston Celtics (+900) and Toronto Raptors (+8500). This trade has gotten them closer to those two teams, but until we see the on-court product, there’s no way to know if Butler is enough to push the 76ers over the proverbial edge.
If you use the spread record of any NBA team to measure how they’re performing against general expectations, the Philadelphia 76ers aren’t doing well. They’re 8-6 SU overall and 5-9 ATS, offering bettors one of the worst returns in the league. A lot of that has to do with lines being overinflated due to hype, but it’s also because the 76ers are not a real contender. At least they don’t feel like one. There isn’t one element in particular that Philly thrives in.
Look at Toronto, and their one-loss record speaks volumes about how good they are, with their 8-5 ATS record proving that they’re exceeding expectations. With and without Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors have morphed in to a perimeter fortress, allowing the fifth lowest field goal percentage (43.5) while boasting a +9.6 point differential. They’re a great scoring team, ranked third in the league, and a top defensive side as well. Right now, with injuries curtailing the Golden State Warriors, you could make the argument that Toronto is the best team in the association.
Boston has been a disappointment out of the gates, but their overall potential is going to keep their NBA futures prices competitive. Boston is a top-5 defensive team overall, boast the best three-point shooting protection in the NBA and have some growing pains to endure while Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving figure things out. There are few things that we worry about, especially with Brad Stevens at the helm.
As for Philadelphia, it’s still up in the air if Butler is really the guy that can push them over the top. Joel Embiid is an absolute stud, and Ben Simmons is a free-flowing phenom who is coming in to his own. But Butler has now emerged as a bit of a pest during his stints in Chicago and Minnesota. Both franchises are in desperate need of star power, yet both decided to move on from Butler for less-than-ideal returns.
This isn’t a killshot to Butler’s reputation, but it does muddy the waters around him. Butler has almost no proven track record when playing alongside other, ball-hungry players. He never really made it work with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. There’s every bit the possibility that he struggles to do the same with Embiid, Simmons and the rest of the Sixers.
It’s also very telling that the 76ers did not seem overly excited to acquire him during interviews, but that’s subjective conjecture at best.
Philadelphia’s needle has moved, but not in the earth shattering way a transaction like this usually shifts things. NBA fans are more educated than they’ve ever been, and most nerds will tell you that Butler isn’t a slam dunk when it comes to playing style and his new team. Simmons needs the ball. Fultz also needs the ball. Covington was a perfect compliment to these two because there wasn’t an iota of ego with the man. But Butler? That guy also, very much, needs the ball.
The remainder of the 2018-19 season will be a case study on Butler’s personality as much as his ability to seamlessly transition in to a team that is reasonable successful on both sides of the ball. Again, on paper he’s an obvious upgrade over Covington and can fill all the gaps that Saric did. But a move like this usually creates a tsunami in the NBA futures market due to excitement and intrigue. That didn’t really happen this time around.
Everyone is cautiously optimistic about the Butler trade. As they should be. He has as much to prove as his new team does.
Tyson Chandler Has Rejuvenated the Lakers
We’ve all batted around the conspiracy theories that ex-Cavalier and Bron Buddy, James Jones, flexed his muscles as the GM of the Phoenix Suns in order to give LeBron James the help he needed. Well, however it happened, it worked. The Lakers have now ripped off two wins against the Kings and Hawks thanks in large part to Tyson Chandler, who had the game clinching block on Trae Young against Atlanta.
The problem with that 107-106 win over the Hawks? The Lakers were 11-point favorites. Yes, you’re on a site about gambling and that’s always going to filter the picture when we’re talking about sports. Chandler is a phenomenal teammate, the perfect type of veteran for this group, and the ideal big man to anchor a young squad. It doesn’t make the Lakers any better of a bet – they’re 4-9 ATS this season – but it does make them even more interesting to watch. Chandler’s presence should improve a defense that allowed 119.1 points against before he arrived.
Offense is never the problem when you have LeBron James. It’s defense, and guys like Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart simply haven’t learned how to play it properly at the NBA level yet. Chandler is by no means the athlete he once was, but he’s still a terrific anchor that’s big, aggressive and smart enough to shore up a big gap in the Lakers’ front court. Walton and LeBron wanted the Lakers to run-and-gun because that’s all they had, but you can’t do that in the NBA against certain teams, especially ones that can do it better. Chandler’s current physical potential almost perfectly slows down the Lakers enough that they can develop in to a real NBA offense with less worry about people attacking the rim.
A slower, savvier Chandler is the perfect addition to a Lakers team that was already must-see television. The acquisition by no means turns the Lakers in to a NBA Championship contender, but it deep-roots the Lakers to the ground a bit more.
Is Carmelo Anthony Done?
We had two big acquisitions over the weekend, and another team in the Houston Rockets trying to do a little addition by subtraction. Carmelo Anthony’s short time with the Rockets appears to be over. There are A LOT of questions, the biggest being where he goes now. Usually a veteran leaves a bad situation to go to a championship contender. But Melo was already on the second best team in the Western Conference. Vintage Melo is the guy we remember as one of the best scorers the game has ever seen. Modern Melo is a lot worse than that.
Not only is Carmelo not the offensive juggernaut he used to be, he seems to be dead weight. It started to happen in New York (and it wasn’t totally his fault), it really happened in Oklahoma City (was only partly his fault) and now it’s happening again in Houston (very much his fault). This is the guy’s legacy we’re talking about.
The only real option Melo has now is if LeBron wants him on his Lakers, and Modern Melo is as bad of a fit on that team as he is anywhere else. Unlike Chandler, Tony Parker, Vince Carter and any other number of NBA veterans that used to be super duper stars, Melo is the only one amongst his peers that hasn’t seemed to change at all. It’s different when you used to be Finals MVP Dwyane Wade and now you’re just a little bit older. Nothing about Melo’s game has adapted. He still can’t play defense. He’s getting worse at scoring. He seems unwilling to learn new systems. He’s arrogant about his status as a starter. He is Patient Zero for the “blackhole player” that slows down ball movement, which is an absolute necessity in the modern NBA.
A lot of that speaks not only to his age, but also to how resistant he is to developing as a player. Melo has never displayed that trait until recently, and it might be too late. His entire career has been a disappointment, and while his fans will want to point at silly things like his Olympic gold medals or his single scoring championship, there’s very little over the scope of his career that’s amounted to much.
It’s different if you’ve been successful and are too stubborn to grow. At least you have proof that what you did worked. Melo doesn’t have that and never has. He has won exactly three playoff series in a career that’s spanned 16 seasons. You can attribute tons of problems elsewhere when it comes to overall success, but a “Future Hall of Fame” player should have more than that on his docket.
The state of the Houston Rockets does not fall directly on to Carmelo’s shoulders, but the state of his career most certainly does.