The NBA’s trade deadline has officially passed, and we need a “Who He Play For?” segment to figure out where everyone has landed. Parity, especially in the Western Conference, during this NBA season has convinced so many contenders to go all-in and grab as many offensive weapons as possible. Two games separate the fourth and 12th seed in the West. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have moved over to the conference and shifted the balance of power.
Phoenix Suns Are All In
Checkmate, Kyrie | Kevin Durant Traded To Phoenix, And Suns’ Championship Window Just Reopened
Durant is a top 10-12 player all-time. This season before he went down with an MCL injury he was an MVP candidate. He’s sixth in the NBA in EPM with his usual stellar efficiency at 61 eFG% and 68 TS%. He’s shooting an absurd 59 percent in the midrange.
A top four rotation of Durant, Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and Chris Paul will be really difficult to guard with the Suns’ multiple sets and pick and rolls. But losing Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson in the Durant deal will hurt the team defensively.
Ayton is a plus defender, though he hasn’t shown it all season. Durant is having an excellent defensive season, and his length will be a welcome addition. Paul is old and Booker has never been very good on that side, but he competes.
The Suns are hoping to outscore you and get just enough stops.
Mavericks Want All The Offense And Chaos
This was a desperate move by the Mavs. Governor Mark Cuban is worried superstar Luka Doncic will grow unhappy and wield his power in a way that makes things difficult. Doncic has a proven playoff performer in Irving as a co-star who can play both on and off ball. It will be interesting to see how Doncic and the team blends with Irving’s mercurial tendencies.
The Mavs were already playing poor defense, and in this trade they sent Dorian Finney-Smith, their best defender, to the Nets. But Doncic and Irving are supernovas on offense.
In a series against the Sacramento Kings, the Mavs would like their chances. They’d also like their chances against the Memphis Grizzlies.
Lakers Have Shooters Now
Russell Westbrook, Damian Jones and Juan Toscano-Anderson are out the door in L.A. In comes old friend D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt.
DLo is having the most efficient offensive season of his career at 57 eFG% and 61 TS%. He’s also shooting a career-high 39 percent from three.
Beasley is a career 38 percent shooter and he puts up volume. From the start of the 2021-22 season to now, just two players (Stephen Curry and Buddy Hield) have made more threes than Beasley’s 409.
Both are welcome additions to a Lakers team that ranks 26th in three-point field goal percentage and 27th in three-point field goal percentage on wide-open attempts.
Can LeBron James, Anthony Davis and this new lineup produce elite offense?
Will The Offensive Moves Work?
There’s a saying in sports. Offense sells tickets. Defense wins championships. That’s by and large proved to be true over the course of history. Yes, dynamic offenses are important, but you have to be able to string together stops.
Of the past nine NBA champions, eight had defenses ranked in the top 10. The outlier was 11th, and that was the juggernaut Golden State Warriors with Durant in 2018.
None of these offenses is as good as that team, and none of the defenses is remotely close to top 10 in their current constructions.
Eastern Conference teams like the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers will have decided defensive advantages in a potential Finals matchup.
But that’s why we watch sports. To see the unimaginable happen. Perhaps there will be a season where a team built solely to outscore the opponent wins it all.
Doubtful. But some of this year’s contenders are hopeful.