2019-20 Kia Season Preview
NBA Season Preview: Familiar faces in new places
NBA Season Preview: Familiar faces, new places
Jeff Case, NBA.com
The 2019 NBA offseason was one of the wildest in recent memory, with practically every team in the league undergoing a roster makeover in some form or fashion. Like any NBA summer, though, marquee names were in transition from one locale to another.
Here’s a quick look at some of the more prominent (and interesting) player moves of the offseason.
(Editor’s Note: Player moves listed in team-first alphabetical order.)
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D’Angelo Russell, Golden State Warriors
How he got here: Via a sign-and-trade deal with the Brooklyn Nets involving four players.
What he did in 2018-19: Russell appeared and started in 81 games for the Nets, averaging career highs (21.1 ppg, 7 apg) while shooting 36.9% on 3-pointers. Overall, he ranked ninth in the NBA in 3-pointers made (234).
A look ahead to 2019-20: The Western Conference’s most dominant squad of the last five seasons is trying something new for 2019-20. With Kevin Durant now in Brooklyn (via the Russell swap), the Warriors are adding an All-Star to their backcourt in Russell who could spice things up a bit. Given Klay Thompson’s ACL recovery timeline, Russell will get plenty of minutes and shots to fit in alongside resident star Stephen Curry.
Russell Westbrook, Houston Rockets
How he got here: Via a multi-player trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
What he did in 2018-19: Westbrook appeared in every game for OKC last season and was an All-Star and All-NBA performer. He recorded his third straight season averaging a triple-double (22.9 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 10.7 apg) as well as 1.9 spg, too.
A look ahead to 2019-20: In Houston, Westbrook is reunited with former OKC teammate-turned-Rockets superstar James Harden. Those two — along with LeBron James — are the only players over the past five seasons to average at least 25 points, eight assists and six rebounds per game. How Westbrook and Harden mesh (and succeed) together will go a long way in Houston realizing its long-sought dreams of a Finals berth.
Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, LA Clippers
What they did in 2018-19: Leonard led the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA title, all while averaging 26.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 3.3 apg and 1.8 spg en route to winning Finals MVP honors. George had perhaps his best NBA season yet, both in terms of pure stats (28 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 4.1 apg, 2.2 spg) and intangibles.
A look ahead to 2019-20: Last season, each player was: his team’s leading scorer, an All-Star, an All-NBA performer (George on First Team; Leonard on Second Team), an All-Defensive Team performer (George, 1st team; Leonard, 2nd team) and finished in the top 5 in Kia MVP voting. All that symmetry in skill, talent and go-to-guy-ness is now headed to Los Angeles after Leonard signed as a free agent and George arrived via a blockbuster trade.
Anthony Davis, Los Angeles Lakers
How he got here: Via a multi-player trade between Lakers, New Orleans Pelicans and Washington Wizards.
What he did in 2018-19: While Davis’ trade request got much of the spotlight last season, he was an All-Star performer on the court once again. He played and started in 56 games, posting 25.9 ppg, 12 rpg, 3.9 apg, 2.4 bpg and 1.6 spg.
A look ahead to 2019-20: Year 2 of the LeBron James experience in Lakerland will have a decidedly different star flavor to it. Davis sought a trade from the Pelicans midway through 2018-19 and got his wish in early July, landing in L.A. alongside James. Yes, the trade cost L.A. pretty much all of its young talent (in one way or another). Lest we all forget amid the drama, though, that Davis was more than fine stats-wise last season. The last time Davis was fully healthy and locked in — 2017-18 — he was at 28.1 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 2.3 apg and 2.6 bpg.
Lonzo Ball (and others), New Orleans Pelicans
How they got here: Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart arrived via a multi-player trade between the Lakers, New Orleans Pelicans and Washington Wizards. Derrick Favors arrived via a trade with the Utah Jazz. JJ Redick signed as a free agent.
Where they did in 2018-19: Hart was the most healthy of the Lakers’ trio, but essentially delivered the same stats as he did in 2017-18. Ball (9.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 5.4 apg) and Ingram (18.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 3 apg) showed marked improvement in their second and third seasons, respectively. However, deep venous thrombosis limited Ingram to 52 games while an ankle injury ended Ball’s season in mid-January. Favors was solid as usual for Utah (11.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.4 bpg) while Redick ranked seventh in the league in 3-pointers made (240).
A look ahead to 2019-20: Change was the name of the roster game for the Pelicans this summer as only six players from 2018-19 return. Ball, Ingram and Hart provide some young prospect-type depth for New Orleans, while Favors and Redick are the veteran presence in the frontcourt and at the 3-point line, respectively, that should pay off in 2019-20. Those five seasoned veterans plus stalwart point guard Jrue Holiday and rookies Zion Williamson and Jaxson Hayes should make the Pelicans an enticing watch all season long.
Chris Paul, Oklahoma City Thunder
How he got here: Via a multi-player trade with the Houston Rockets
What he did in 2018-19: Paul was limited to 58 games and posted solid enough stats (15.6 ppg, 8.2 apg) as Houston fell in the Western Conference semifinals.
A look ahead to 2019-20: Few players as decorated as Paul find themselves dealt at this stage of their careers. Yet the nine-time All-Star and eight-time All-NBAer faced exactly that this summer in being dealt to an apparent rebuilding situation in OKC. He will be looked upon to help groom Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, one of the key youngsters the Thunder acquired in the Paul George trade, while also being the go-to guy as well.
Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic, Utah Jazz
Where they did in 2018-19: Bogdanovic finished the season as Indiana’s go-to guy, averaging 18 ppg and steadying the Pacers after Victor Oladipo’s injury. Conley had his best scoring season (21.1 ppg) and was mostly healthy for Memphis after injuries sacked most of his 2017-18 season.
A look ahead to 2019-20: The Jazz have been in the Western Conference’s playoff mix for three years running, but have yet to have the kind of postseason runs that marked the John Stockton-Karl Malone era. Enter Conley and Bogdanovic, two additions keying a massive summer makeover in Salt Lake City. The pair should provide the playmaking and 3-point shooting Utah has lacked at times while fellow new additions like Emmanuel Mudiay, Jeff Green, Ed Davis and others make for a much deeper Utah roster overall.
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Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter, Boston Celtics
Where they did in 2018-19: Walker was an All-Star with the Charlotte Hornets, averaging a career-best 25.6 ppg. Kanter split last season between the New York and Portland (13.7 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 1.7 apg). He was crucial at times in the Trail Blazers reaching the Western Conference finals.
A look ahead to 2019-20: Walker and Kanter were two of the most talented players at their position in the 2019 free-agent class. The Celtics had their eyes on both players for a while and struck quick to grab them, adding Walker shortly after free agency opened. Kanter came into the mix less than two weeks later and Boston had its rebuilt roster after Kyrie Irving and Al Horford — the resident starting point guard and center, respectively, last season — moved on over the summer.
Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, Brooklyn Nets
How they got here: Both Irving and Durant signed as free agents.
Where they did in 2018-19: Irving was solid for the Celtics (23.8 ppg, 6.9 apg, 1.5 spg) en route to earning his sixth career All-Star nod. Durant was at times in the Kia MVP chase, made the All-Star team and was a dominant force (26 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 5.9 apg, 1.1 bpg) for Golden State. However, his season ended with him suffering an Achilles injury in The Finals.
A look ahead to 2019-20: In a dizzy and a doozy of an offseason, the Nets bagged not one, but two franchise players in their primes with championship pedigree. Irving and Durant shook the league by arriving in Brooklyn in a package deal through free agency. Aside from those two coming aboard, the Nets also added key veterans (DeAndre Jordan, Taurean Prince, Wilson Chandler) via other offseason moves that give Brooklyn one of the best all-around rosters in the conference.
Malcolm Brogdon and T.J. Warren, Indiana Pacers
What they did in 2018-19: Warren averaged 18 ppg, 4 rpg and 1.5 apg for the Suns in 43 games while Brogdon averaged career-highs (15.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 42.6% on 3-pointers) despite injuries limiting him to 64 games in Milwaukee.
A look ahead to 2019-20: Not content to be passed by in the offseason by other squads in the East, the Pacers added some scoring and playmaking to the roster. Warren has steadily grown as a scorer, but took a small step back in that department last season. Brogdon remains one of the most consistent players in the NBA and should provide solid guard depth as Indiana waits for All-Star Victor Oladipo to heal up.
Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat
How he got here: A four-team trade between the Miami Heat, Portland Trail Blazers, Philadelphia 76ers and LA Clippers moved Butler to the Heat. He officially arrived via a sign-and-trade deal with his old team, the Philadelphia 76ers, that netted the Sixers swingman Josh Richardson.
What he did in 2018-19: Butler spent the first 10 games of last season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, averaging 21.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.4 steals per game. But, pre-training camp discord between he and the team led to him requesting a trade. Butler got his wish on Nov. 12 and was sent to the Philadelphia 76ers. In 55 games there, Butler posted 18.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.0 apg and 1.9 spg while shooting 46.7% and 34.7% on 3-pointers. Playing alongside a stacked starting five in Philadelphia, particularly after the deadline acquisition of Tobias Harris, Butler averaged fewer than 20 points for the first time since 2014-15.
A look ahead to 2019-20: After playing for four teams in the last three seasons, the Heat and Butler hope this is his final transition experience in the NBA. Miami is giving Butler what he always seems to eventually want: the lead role on a team. Dwyane Wade is gone and the departure of Richardson opens up a huge scoring void for Miami, one which Butler has proven in the past to be more than capable of filling.
Julius Randle (and others), New York Knicks
How they got here: New York loaded up on free-agent signings, picking up guards Wayne Ellington, Elfrid Payton and Reggie Bullock along with forwards Taj Gibson, Marcus Morris and Bobby Portis and center/forward Julius Randle.
What they did in 2018-19: Of all the new faces in New York, Randle had perhaps the best season of them all in 2018-19, hitting career highs in scoring (21.4 ppg) and rebounding (8.7 rpg) while upping his 3-point shooting (34.4%) and minutes per game (30.6 mpg) in a borderline All-Star season for the New Orleans Pelicans. On a smaller scale, Portis was also solid last season, netting career highs in scoring (14.2 ppg) and rebounding (8.1 rpg) while splitting the season with the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards. As for the rest of the Knicks’ new faces, they were all solid as veteran contributors to the teams they suited up with.
A look ahead to 2019-20: The NBA has become, by and large, a guards-first league these days. Yet New York chose to go another way in the offseason after it was jilted in trying to land any of (choose one/several) Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Kyrie Irving. In loading up on big men and forwards, the Knicks are hoping, perhaps, that waves of brawn and big men will give it an edge in a department few teams are focusing on anymore.
Al Horford & Josh Richardson, Philadelphia 76ers
How they got here: Richardson arrived via the four-team, sign-and-trade deal that sent Jimmy Butler from Philadelphia to Miami. Horford opted to sign with the Sixers in free agency after spending the past three seasons with the rival Boston Celtics.
What they did in 2018-19: In just his fourth NBA season, Josh Richardson went from second-round pick to leading scorer for a borderline playoff team. He averaged 16.6 points per game for the Heat and had three games of 35 points more more. As for Horford, he maintained his reputation as one of the most solid centers in the NBA. He wasn’t an All-Star last season (as he was in 2017-18), but his overall stats were more or less similar to that campaign.
A look ahead to 2019-20: What to do when you have one All-Star big man in the frontcourt? How about add another one. That’s precisely the approach the 76ers took this summer in picking up Horford. In Philly, he can move over to power forward (alongside All-Star center Joel Embiid) to give the Sixers a frontcourt few in the NBA can match. As for Richardson, he won’t lead the 76ers in scoring. He will, however, be a valued slasher and offensive threat for a starting lineup bursting with talent.