By Chuck Bayound
The 2018 NBA offseason was one for the books. Lebron James will finally take on the daunting challenge of playing in the West with Los Angeles. Former Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard now plays for Toronto, and All-Pro center DeMarcus Cousins shocked the world by joining the two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors. Outside of these big names, here are three players who could have a significant impact with their new teams:
- Julius Randle, New Orleans Pelicans– Despite breaking his leg in the first game of his NBA career and missing all of his rookie campaign, Randle has steadily improved over the course of his first three seasons in the league. Throughout his career, he has been known for his uncanny ability to finish around the rim. According to NBA.com, Randle was 23 of 35 (65.7 percent) last year from within 5 feet of the rim, and has been over 65 percent from within 5 feet the last 3 seasons. Outside of his dexterity around the rim, he struggled to find his identity on the court over his first two years in the league, but over the course of the previous two seasons under head coach Luke Walton with the Lakers, Randle developed into a ravenous, undersized rebounder who can push the ball up the court with his ability to find open teammates in transition. Coming off arguably the best season of his 4 year career with the Lakers, Randle signed a two-year, $18 million offer sheet with the New Orleans Pelicans. Randle’s playmaking style should fit in smoothly with the Pelicans this upcoming season. Teammate Anthony Davis will now be playing his natural position at the 5 next to the smaller Randle, who should fit the role of the modern NBA power forward next to Davis. In contrast to his great court vision, rebounding, and playmaking, Randle has always lacked a reliable jumpshot. A reluctant 3-point shooter, Randle has never attempted over 70 three-point shots in a season, nor eclipsed over 30 percent from behind the arc in a single season, per NBA.com. Despite his hesitant nature to shoot the ball, rumors from Pelicans training camp indicate that Randle has been putting up jumpers in high volume during 5-on-5 scrimmages. If he is able to develop a somewhat reliable jumper to go along with his already established playmaking skill set, Randle’s 2 year deal could be the steal of the summer for the Pelicans.
- JaVale McGee, Los Angeles Lakers– After being waived by both Denver and Dallas in consecutive seasons, McGee proved in two seasons with the Warriors that he can provide valuable minutes at center on a championship team. A freakishly athletic 7-footer who prides himself on his ability to run the floor, McGee is efficient within the right offense. In his past two seasons with the Warriors, McGee shot 63.6 percent from the field, per NBA.com. Although McGee scored the ball at an exceptionally efficient rate, he only played an average of 9.5 minutes per game over the last two seasons. For a bargain on a one-year deal just under $2.4 million, the Lakers have a cheap, veteran center whose play style compliments guard Rajon Rondo and James. It’s only preseason, but in his preseason debut with the Lakers against the Nuggets on Sunday, McGee had 17 points on 80 percent shooting in just under 20 minutes per NBA.com. Although he is remembered for his quirkiness and questionable decisions at times, things are looking bright for JaVale McGee in the purple & gold.
- Tyreke Evans, SF Indiana Pacers – Coming off arguably the best season of his career on paper, Tyreke Evans joins a Pacers team with a talented young core that could finish as a top-four team in the Eastern Conference. Following countless trade rumors circling Evans throughout the 2017-18 with Memphis, he signed a one-year $12 million dollar with the Pacers. Evans adds to an already deep backcourt in Indiana. Alongside All-Star guard Victor Oladipo- coming off his best season to date, as well as rookie Aaron Holiday, and two savvy veterans with playoff experience- Darren Collison and Corey Joseph- head coach Nate McMillan has a lot of flexibility in the backcourt. Listed as both a small forward and a point guard on the Pacers’ depth chart, Evans could effectively play off the ball with the first team, and split minutes at the point guard position as well. Based on his sole season with the Grizzlies, Evans should work well with Pacers center Myles Turner in the pick and roll offense. Evans ability to navigate space, pull up off the dribble, and get his teammates involved in the pick and roll could be extremely beneficial for Turner’s development. Although his versatility on the offensive end will give Evans valuable minutes this season, his inconsistency when shooting the ball from behind the three-point line could keep him off the court at times. A career 32 percent three-point FG shooter, Evans isn’t great from behind the line, but he isn’t awful either. Nonetheless, he shot nearly 40 percent from three ast season along with a career high 5.5 attempts per game. If he’s able to replicate this form with Indiana. and also provide solid play at the point guard spot, the Pacers will be reaping the benefits from signing a former Rookie of the Year a short-term contract.
Edited by Garrett Jones | firstname.lastname@example.org