Next to it Ric Bucher
FOX Sports NBA Writer
The NBA Finals do more than be the champion of the coronation. They can also change the way a player is perceived. No one did it this year, a sample of rival scouts and leaders showed a more dramatic than Golden State Warriors’ Andrew Wiggins.
“Andrew Wiggins showed me a level of importance in the finals that I had never seen before,” said one GM at the Eastern Conference. “He was their best defender. He hit the ball well. He didn’t disappear like old Andrew Wiggins did – and it was in the regular season. I was impressed.”
Wiggins entered the league in 2014 with high expectations as the first choice when he went on a draw night with the Minnesota Timberwolves in a three-team shift to triple All-Star and double All-NBA selection Kevin Love. However, Wiggins did not collect another league badge in Minnesota for the next four and a half seasons after the All-Rookie main team. He was only 24 years old when the Warriors acquired him in the middle of the 2019-2020 season, and at that time he was considered a huge underperformer with a steady career.
“There was almost a feeling that Wiggins had been expelled from the league,” said one Eastern Conference scout. “He was such a loser.”
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Wiggins was selected for the first time in his eight-year career in the Star Tournament this season, but even this may have been due to chance rather than pure excellence. Warriors ‘strong start – 42:17, the second-best record in the Western Conference – required more than just the recognition of Steph Curry’s number one, and two of Warriors’ other well-established stars, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, were largely missing. injuries during the first part of the season. The fact that the main players of the Western Conference stars, such as Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis, were all injured also contributed a lot.
However, Wiggins’ status as a champion was fully earned. He was Warriors’ best rebound against the Boston Celtics, second in score and largely responsible for limiting Jayson Tatum’s hit to 36% in the series, well below his 45.3 percent of the regular season and 42.6 overall play-offs. of percent.
Perhaps the greatest testimony to how Wiggins is being held today is the GM of the Eastern Conference that the Warriors must prefer to keep as part of their core between Wiggins, Thompson and Green.
“You have to keep Wiggins,” he said.
Curry and Celtics giant Al Horford also won praise in the finals for raising their profile. Curry needs little explanation as the four-time champion won his first final MVP award. After finishing the longest series of play-off games without reaching the finals – 141 games – Horford advanced as the team’s most famous stars fluctuated.
“He took on the leader’s coat,” said a Western conference scout. “He was a vet who showed that there was something left in the tank after he was written off.”
Thompson, Green and Tatum were at the other end of the spectrum, as the players whose performance in the finals negatively affected their overall reputation. A scout at the West Western Conference said, “For a recognized team player, he too often hurt the team with his selfish outbursts.”
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GM compared the Eastern Conference to Green’s second high basketball IQ, a highly volatile defense specialist: Dennis Rodman. GM attributed Green’s fight in these playoffs in part to Thompson’s, suggesting that while Rodman was an effective player for several teams – leading the league in setbacks, Spurs and Bulls and winning rings in both Detroit and Chicago – Green’s success. may be due to his unique compatibility with Curry and Thompson in terms of both talent and personality.
“Rodman could take his show with you, so to speak,” GM said. “He was such an athlete. Draymond found it perfect for the Golden State. I don’t see him doing what he’s done to anyone else.”
After Thompson missed two and a half seasons with two devastating injuries – a torn ACL and a torn Achilles – it is remarkable that he returned to betting to the level of the championship at all. But after the acclaimed shooter hit Celtics against 35% overall and a three-point throw, GM at the Eastern Conference is questioning how much Thompson will be able to restore from its previous form.
“Right now, Klay has lost a few steps,” he said. “I don’t think he’ll get back to old Klay, but maybe there’s something in between that and the finale.”
The question raised in the finale about Tatumi is not physical, but mental.
“Tatum is a fine player by nature,” GM said. “It’s hard to change. The biggest divider between great and good players is the spiritual part. When you needed to raise him, he was nowhere to be found.”
Translation: The final gave Tatum a chance to prove that he had the mindset of a champion, even if he did not receive a real prize. He did not show that way of thinking. This is a double-edged sword in the finals: when they reach them, the player may reveal that he is not good enough to complete the deal.
Kyrie Irvingis the perfect landing place?
Although the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks and LA Clippers are said to be interested in Booklyn Net guard Kyrie Irving if he doesn’t decide on his current contract last year and tests the free agency, one Eastern conference leader suggested that the Dallas Mavericks offer. best suited. The reasons were pretty clear: their GM, their coach and their star player.
One of Brooklyn’s problems is Irving’s apparent lack of respect for Steve Nash as head coach. While both Nash and Jason Kidd had careers as defenders of the Hall of Fame, Kidd, like Irving, holds the title of champion, while Nash does not. Mavericks’ first-year GM Nico Harrison probably already has a strong relationship with Irving from his previous job as Nike’s vice president of basketball operations in North America, with whom Irving has had corporate shoes.
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And then there’s Luka Dončić, Mavsi’s superstar game manager. “With Luka, Kyrie doesn’t have to be your best player,” said rival GM. “He doesn’t have to lead. But they need another goal scorer and he can handle it.”
A league source who knew Knicks’ reasoning ruled out the possibility that Irving had moved around the city. They do not have the wage restraint required to sign Irving as a free agent and would not be interested in trading with him. It’s hard to imagine owner James Dolan even interacting with a team he considers a bitter rival that he believes invaded Knicks territory, moving from Rutherford, New Jersey to Brooklyn.
“It won’t happen,” the source said.
Possible draft night offers
The intrigue of Thursday’s NBA draft includes not only where the next wave of talent will land, but also how current trading block players may be involved. According to many GMs, Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton is among the players with the greatest potential to participate in draft-night trades; Indiana Pacers Center Myles Turner and counsel Malcolm Brogdon; Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal; Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson; and, of course, Irving.
Ayton, Beal, Brunson and Irving are potential trading materials if their current teams question their ability to contract again and hope to be able to help the player with a higher payday by using their bird rights in exchange for the right to trade and receive assets. in return.
One league source is certain that Ayton will not return to Phoenix despite being a limited free agent. He referred to the Pistons as the most likely landing point, although the transaction that sent him to Nets as part of an exchange that led to Irving’s third team was also ruled out. Pistons currently has a $ 27.4 million salary cap, which is second only to Orlando Magic, and could open up to $ 47 million, meaning Detroit could potentially make an offer to Ayton that Suns simply refuses.
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As in most cases players are waiting for free agents, whether restricted or otherwise, signing and swapping agreements will be included – meaning that transactions will not be officially concluded until after July 1 and the start of a new calendar year.
League leaders are also watching to see if the Warriors are proactive in concluding contracts if they appear to be on the verge of losing one of their free agents, especially center Kevon Looney. Both the Sacramento Kings and the Charlotte Bobcats crave the Looney, the source said, and they’re not alone. “His market is strong,” said one manager.
The Warriors also face difficult decisions in retaining Gary Payton II and Otto Porter Jr., both of whom played important roles against Celtics. Porter started the last two games, and returning from Payton’s injury meant a significant improvement in their defense. Payton, a 30-year-old, is a fan favorite, but it’s probably his best chance at a lucrative deal, and the Warriors are already expecting a luxury tax of nearly $ 75 million.
“It’s very, very difficult to keep them all,” said the CEO. “Especially when many teams think they are close to winning [a title] – or the owners have tried to win it and are looking for the last piece. “
Ric Bucher is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He has previously written for Bleacher Report, ESPN The Magazine and The Washington Post, and has written two books, “Rebound,” a story about NBA striker Brian Grant’s struggle with adolescent Parkinson’s disease, and “Yao: Life in Two Worlds” from NBA Center Yao Ming. He also has the daily podcast “On The Ball with Ric Bucher.” Follow him on Twitter @RicBucher.
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