Just a week after the 2016-17 NBA season concluded, the NBA’s silly season has officially gone off the rails. The dysfunctional Knicks & their willingness to trade Kristaps Porzingis stole the initial headlines, with me sitting there refreshing NBA Twitter like this:
The actual news of the day though came from a trade between 2 franchises looking to rebuild in very different ways. The Lakers are rebuilding the way they always have, targeting the biggest stars. LA usually gets their man, and this time around Paul George has told the Pacers he intends to sign with the Lakers next offseason. In an instant, Magic Johnson has excitedly began clearing the books so he can pair George with another big time free agent in 2018. Essentially the Lakers traded the 2015 #2 overall pick to get rid of Timofey Mozgov’s contract & the 27th pick because if they plan on signing another stud free agent they’ll have to renounce the rights to Brook Lopez. That’s a huge price to pay just to have the potential to sign LeBron but if they do sign him this trade is absolutely worth it. Magic will probably swing another deal to rid the Lakers of Luol Deng’s contract too, which would give them the flexibility to sign banana boat buddy D-Wade or resign Lopez.
The Nets on the other hand are the unheralded winner of this trade. They are attempting to rebuild without having much value to bargain with or reaping any of the rewards from being the worst team in the league over the past 2 seasons. It seems impossible, but GM Sean Marks might just be up to the tallest task in sports. Since coming onboard he has made high upside moves and given Brooklyn maybe, just maybe, a way out of the doldrums. Trading Thaddeus Young for the rights to Caris LeVert was a great start as the Michigan guard just needs to stay healthy to realize his tremendous potential. Sniping a 1st round pick out of rotation piece Bojan Bogdanovic was a nice 2nd act. Then he took his only player of any value in Lopez and maximized his value in receiving D’Angelo Russell; one of the most enigmatic and polarizing players in the league. Marks had to give up a late 1st round pick & take on a bad contract to complete the deal, but that is well worth the risk for a potential franchise Point Guard who makes plays like this:
All of a sudden Brooklyn boasts a young, playmaking backcourt with Russell & LeVert. Jeremy Lin also features as a nice piece off the bench that could fetch the Nets a late 1st round pick at the next trade deadline. To speed up this unenviable rebuild Marks needs a few of these late round 1st rounders to pan out and that continues with the 1st rounder they still have at #22.
Semi Ojeleye, SMU
Semi Ojeleye is that high upside type of player that Brooklyn should be targeting. Ojeleye transferred from Duke to SMU and while scoring 18.9 ppg he carried the Mustangs to an outstanding 30-5 season. Ojeleye is being projected at the bottom of the first round because he is a tweener at 6’7″ with a 6’10” reach. However, we’ve seen these tweeners excel in recent years and Ojeleye has that kind of über athleticism to quell any concerns about his size. I mean, check out this BOUNCE:
Semi should also stand for semi truck because this dude is built like a fuckin’ tank. He might not be as tall as some of the 4s in the league, but his 235 lb base is going to be sturdy enough to stand up to anybody on the block. Ojeleye possesses great lateral quickness as well, which should allow his versatility to shine and defend both 3s and 4s. Teaming up with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson would greatly increase Brooklyn’s athleticism and thus defensive acumen.
Clearly I don’t think Semi’s lack of height will affect him on defense, and his offensive game will mesh nicely with Brooklyn playing the fastest pace in the league. Ojeleye will run the floor and look to finish D’angelo lobs or crash the glass aggressively as he averaged 2.6 offensive rebounds per game in college. He has the range to become an effective stretch 4 and has great strength to finish in traffic around the rim.
D.J. Wilson, Michigan
Just like the rest of the Michigan basketball team, D.J. Wilson’s game grew exponentially as the season wore on. Where he first looked like a raw overmatched Sophomore, he turned into the best pro prospect on a devastating Michigan offense. Wilson fits the versatile stretch 4 mold that is all the rage in today’s NBA, but pretty much has the opposite build from Ojeleye. Where Semi is short & stocky, Wilson is long & rangy. Wilson may not possess the lower body strength as Ojeleye but his length should allow him to overcome any bullying he’ll face in the post. D.J. is a great help side defender and at 6’10” with a 7’3″ wingspan he has the potential to become an elite shot blocker (avg. 1.5 bpg last season, but 3.5 bpg in the tourney ).
D.J. may get exposed early in his career on the defensive side, but his offensive game should help him make an immediate impact at the next level. Wilson handles the ball nicely for a man of his size, possesses a beautiful stroke, and isn’t afraid to mix those together and shoot off the dribble.
Wilson’s fluidity is extremely enticing when it comes with that kind of length, and again he’d contribute to improving the athleticism of a team that plays at the fastest pace in the league.
Caleb Swanigan, Purdue
Swanigan again fits into this stretch 4 mold as Ojeleye & Wilson. Again, he is being devalued at the draft not because of his skill set but because of his body type. Where Ojeleye is too short, and Wilson is too thin, Swanigan is too slow (sometimes I think these draft workouts are done on runways and not on the basketball court).
Swanigan also is a tad undersized standing at 6’9″ and shows slow foot movement stemming from his obese past (he used to weigh over 400 pounds). He has already slimmed down tremendously though in his 2 years at Purdue and figures to grow more into his body as he gets more used to his current weight. Swanigan has a 7’3″ wingspan which should also allow him to make up for some limited quickness.
Like Wilson, Swanigan may get exposed on defense early in his NBA career but his offense should translate quickly. He had elite production at Purdue averaging 18.9 ppg & 12.5 rpg with the ability to score in a variety of ways. Swanigan has a refined post game and shows the dexterity to finish with either hand. He will stretch the floor effortlessly as he shot 44.7% from behind the arc last season. While Swanigan may have the lowest ceiling of these 3 prospects, he probably has the highest floor. If Brooklyn goes with any of these 3 bigs to pair with new PG Russell, they’ll be on their way to a rebuild that no one thought was possible.