Cleat Geeks

Goin’ to Work: Opening Night Takeaways For The Detroit Pistons

The Detroit Pistons managed to win their fourth straight home opener on Wednesday night, narrowly outlasting the Brooklyn Nets in a 103-100 slugfest at Little Caesars Arena.

We saw some of the good and we saw some of bad.

Good: Blake Griffin

When healthy, the Pistons knew what they were getting when they dealt for Griffin last February. And it was on full display as he shouldered a brunt of the load for the Pistons, putting up 26 points (8-17 from the field), eight rebounds, and six assists while registering a +9 rating. He was unafraid to take the ball to the basket and found himself on the free throw line 11 times. Griffin’s awareness of the floor was also on display with his passing and vision of the floor.

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The Pistons offense was always going to rely heavily on Griffin going into this season. They now see that, with him, it is in hands that are more than capable.

Bad: Reggie Jackson

Don’t let the 19 points fool you. Jackson did not look great on opening night.

There were multiple instances of Jackson holding onto the ball for too long, thus melting the shot clock away and forcing himself into a highly contested, poor shot. And he’s got the 7-20 from the field line to prove it. And nine of those shots came from beyond the three-point arc, where he made only two of them. Many of these came in the fourth quarter when he clearly did not have his rhythm from outside and created more possessions for the Nets to get back into the game. If he can learn to quell the “hero ball” mentality, the Pistons and Jackson would be a much happier marriage.

Good: The bigs

Andre Drummond did what he does best, cleaning up 20 rebounds (including nine on the offensive glass) and recording 24 points, including his first three-pointer of the new campaign. This is the kind of production the Pistons will need from their all-star center.

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As well, the Pistons received a solid showing from backup center Zaza Pachulia, who finished the night with six points, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals, and a block. In addition, he brought defensive toughness and grit that has been missing from Detroit for some time. If he can keep that toughness in check, in the light of his track record, he could be a valuable asset going forward.

Bad: Defense

Most troubling was the lack of defense.

Most notably there was weakness defending in the paint, where the Nets scored 66 of their 100 points. Of Caris LeVert’s 27 points, 20 came from shots made inside of the key. Likewise, Spencer Dinwiddie’s 20 points from the field all came from the paint, while Davis and Joe Harris added a combined 18 more. The Pistons have the bodies in Drummond, Griffin, and Pachulia to defend the rim.

But a large part also comes from the lack of defense on the perimeter that allowed so many baskets on the drive. This was due, in part, to the absences of typical starters Stanley Johnson and Reggie Bullock. But the lack of defensive depth is a slight concern that coach Dwane Casey would do well to address as he can.

At the end of the day, a win is a win. And the Pistons are off on the right foot as they look to make their return to the playoffs.

 

 

Will The Chicago Bulls Make A Large Leap This Season?

I evaluated historical data, roster and performance last season in actual wins and made my over/under pick for the Chicago Bulls in 2018-19.

The Bulls’ rebuild got off to a promising start, winning 27 games, more than anyone expected. Rookie forward Lauri Markannen flashed some star potential, shooting guard Zach LaVine got his feet wet after recovering from ACL surgery and point guard Kris Dunn surged when healthy.

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Signing Chicago native Jabari Parker, the No. 2 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft can be risky because he’s torn the ACL in his left knee twice but the Bulls hope he can return to his 2016-17 form, when he averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and shot 49 percent from the field, all before suffering the second ACL tear.

Now that the Bulls added Parker and first round pick Wendell Carter Jr. they’re planning to move forward just one year of trying to be bad. The Bulls have some pieces in place and it’s time to turn them loose and see what happens. The biggest question marks are defense on the wings, whether Parker can play full-time small forward and the overall chemistry but if this team is still trying to win games late in the season, it will be progress.

The front office went all-in for at least one more year of a young and intriguing roster that has immense offensive potential but too many obvious defensive deficiencies. This decision will shape the season but there’s a lot to like.

Jazz Sports set the season win total for the Bulls at 28.5. Playoff contention in the Eastern Conference is not out of the question and it could be a fun year in Chicago so my pick is Bulls Over 28.5 wins at -140 NBA odds. Chicago won 27 games last season while tanking, with Dunn and LaVine injured for long stretches and without Parker and Carter Jr., so winning at least 29 games will be no problem.

Bulls Officially Win The Jimmy Butler Trade

Last season Jimmy Butler averaged 22.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.9 assists in 59 regular season games and the Timberwolves were 37-22 with him in the lineup and 10-13 without him but chemistry issues with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins and Butler’s desire to sign a lucrative extension prompted him to seek a meeting with head coach and team president Tom Thibodeau and although Butler is very close with him, he just requested a trade from Minnesota and has given them a very short list of teams he would be willing to consider a long-term extension with if he’s traded there.

Butler can opt out of his current contract after this season and become a free agent and it’s been reported that he will consider re-signing with the Knicks, Clippers or Nets.

The Timberwolves made Butler the centerpiece of their rebuild after trading Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen to the Bulls for him in the NBA Draft on June 22, 2017 but the team barely made the playoffs and fell short of expectations. Now Butler is on his way out after just one season in Minnesota, so the Timberwolves basically gave up Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen for 59 games of Jimmy Butler.

As for the Bulls, head coach Fred Hoiberg declared training camp, which starts on September 25, to be an “open competition” for starting jobs, though a lineup of Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Jabari Parker, Lauri Markkanen and either Robin Lopez or Wendell Carter Jr. is a given, barring injury, so it’s hard to argue that the Bulls won this trade.

The media and Bulls fans still talk about it, I wasn’t happy about the Butler trade, I really wanted him to win an NBA Championship in Chicago but LaVine, Dunn and Markkanen won me over with their play and the team is heading in the right direction.

Jimmy Buckets

Minnesota Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler reportedly will not report to training camp if the team does not trade him. Training camp starts on September 25 and according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, there are three teams that he prefers to go to: New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Clippers. At the same time, Wojnarowski notes that there is no guarantee he will be traded considering team owner Glen Taylor “has become fully engaged in the decision-making process on a potential Butler trade and is far more open to the idea of orchestrating a deal than president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau and GM Scott Layden.”

Thibodeau and the Timberwolves are sending mixed messages on whether the team wants to trade Butler. “The owner’s trading him,” one board of governors attendee told ESPN on Friday. “That was made clear. It’s just a matter of when.” Many board attendees at the board of governor’s meeting in New York are convinced that the team and Taylor do not want prolonged internal fighting with Butler, preferring to trade him sooner than later.

With the help of Butler, the Timberwolves ended their 13 year playoff drought, and to some, the news that Butler wants to be traded got some people off guard. However, Andrew Wiggins brother, Nick responded with jubilation with a Twitter post that said “Hallelujah,” which has since been deleted.

A report came out saying that star Karl-Anthony Towns told the team he could not co-exist with Butler along side. Furthermore, Towns reportedly will not sign his rookie extension until the team resolves the issue with Butler according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN.

There are three teams that Butler would like to end up with but according to ESPN, the top team he wants to join are the Clippers. “Butler’s ability to partner on the Clippers with a second star player in a deep summer free-agency market holds a strong appeal to Butler, league sources said.” The Clippers have two max contract slots available for next July and are emerging as the favorite to land Kawhi Leonard when he is slated to be a free agent next summer, per league sources.

In his first year with the Timberwolves, Butler averaged over 22 points a game, had a career best two steals a game and averaged nearly five assists a game. The Wolves have some outstanding talent, but Butler is the best player on the team. The team does better with him on the court compared to when he is not playing. The biggest issue Minnesota has to deal with is, do you take a player who makes a difference on the court in key stats but has an issue co-existing with other players? Or does the team get rid of a player who is not considered a great teammate but lose points, assists and rebounds without his presence on the court? It would depend on what the Wolves would get in a trade.

ESPN.com ranks Butler at NO. 14 in best players in the NBA, he was previously at NO. 11. His ability to ignite the home crowd at important moments are what makes him a legit star. Last season, Butler and LeBron James went at it back and forth in Cleveland and he is one of the most exciting players to watch in the NBA. Wherever he plays this upcoming season, Butler will surpass 10,000 points in the regular season. He doesn’t leave anything on the court, if he was a power forward, he may not be what Shaq was, but he would impose his will on defenders close to the way Shaq did in his prime years.

If he ends up in a big market either in New York or L.A. how will he adapt from a smaller one in Minnesota? Yes he had his best season with the Bulls, but would he replicate 2016-2017 many times? His talent on the court is limitless, he can play the small game and can dunk over taller defenders. Yes he has been in the NBA for 7 years, but he has the ability to mark his place as a top 10 player in a league filled with well established super-stars and rising stars that could be the next great NBA players. It would be in the best interest of Butler and the team to get this chaos resolved as soon as possible so that the news will not be the friction among his teammates but his ability to be a super star. As a Bulls fans that saw him play some epic games, the best word to describe Jimmy Butler is swag. As Bulls TV color commentator Stacey King would say, “Get up or get out of the way.”

Jimmy Butler Requests Trade from Timberwolves

Note: This is still a developing story so information is still coming out.

This off-season has been a disaster for the Minnesota Timberwolves. It was capped by star player Jimmy Butler requesting a trade from the Timberwolves. In the meeting, which took place Tuesday, Butler gave the T-Wolves a list of three teams of which he would re-sign with if he were traded to. That list included the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers. ESPN’s chief basketball reporter, Adrian Wojnarowski dropped another nugget of information later Tuesday by saying Butler will try to work his way out to the Clippers any way he can. It came out today from Woj as well that Minny has been declining trade requests from other teams, saying they are going to keep Butler. Ugh, it always seems (as a Timberwolves fan) once we get a star player, drama occurs. Can’t we enjoy success for once?

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It has been well chronicled the tenuous relationship between Butler and the “Timberpups” (AKA Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns). Information has been leaking all summer about how Jimmy is not in good favor with the front office of the T-Wolves as well. In fact, in early July, the T-Wolves handed Jimmy a contract extension, and he declined. Jimmy said he wants to be dealt by Monday, which is the Timberwolves media day. As of right now, it does not look like he will be dealt by then. This saga drags on, and it will be interesting to see if Jimmy is dealt by the start of the regular season, and if not, will he play?

Follow me @hawkjanosick on Twitter for up to date news on this story, as well as many other stories around the sports world

Ray Allen sees great potential in Jabari Parker

The Chicago Bulls signed talented forward Jabari Parker to a two-year, $40 million contract on July 14 and the move has plenty of excitement and buzz around it because of Parker’s potential to become a key part of a surging Bulls team.

There were questions about Parker’s health because he already dealt with two torn left ACLs in his first four seasons in the league but at the beginning of the summer he worked out with Ray Allen, who was recently inducted into the Hall of Fame, for four days and according to Gery Woelfel, journalist and editor for Woelfelspressbox.com, Allen praised Parker.

“He’s a very good, humble, down-to-earth guy,” Allen said. “As a player, he reminds me of Paul Pierce but bigger. His potential is so great.”

Parker has been a capable scorer, averaging 15.3 points on 49.0 percent shooting in 183 career games but his injury struggles raised concerns about his long-term future. Allen comparing him to Paul Pierce speaks volumes about Parker’s potential, as Pierce was one of the best players in the league during his 19-year career. Pierce won an NBA Championship, an NBA Finals MVP award, made several All-Star games and he owns Celtics records in 3-point field goals (1,823), free-throws (6,434) and steals (1,583).

The Bulls will meet the media on September 24 and have their first practice the following day. The team has the option on the second year of Jabari Parker’s deal so next season is crucial for him. Ray Allen complimenting him and working with him on his shooting form can really help his development.

NBA.com’s Matthew Blum believes that playing alongside 2018 All-Rookie First Team selection Lauri Markkanen will help Parker shine.

With Markkanen stretching out to the perimeter, Parker has room to operate in the midrange — an area of the floor he’s comfortable in but was often clogged in Milwaukee. If Parker can increase his efficiency around the rim, he and Markkanen should complement each other very well and develop a promising inside/out scoring tandem.

Markkanen and Parker are part of the young Bulls core along with Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and 2018 first-round pick Wendell Carter Jr. Look for the Bulls to go far this season as long as all of them are healthy and gel together.

NBA Top 10 Thursday: Top 10 Weirdest Mascots

You know as a kid, clowns were always really creepy? Well, clowns have a bit of competition these days. Mascots are a fun and time honored tradition in sports, but in the NBA, some teams have gone the extra creepy, Five Nights at Freddies route. Here are my top 10 weird NBA mascots….

 

 

Number 10: Clutch The Bear: Houston Rockets

This guy right here is somewhat disturbing. For one, he doesn’t look anything like a bear, and another thing is that creepy smile he has on his face. When you think of sports mascots, you don’t think of a reject from Disneyland. Plus his name, what exactly is he going to clutch? Hmmm?

 

Number 9: Go the Gorilla: Phoenix Suns

This one is bad, very very bad. It looks like a $20 Halloween costume you buy at one of those temporary costume shops that springs up in old super market buildings. What’s even worse is the creepy look that is permanently adorned on his face, a look of that no matter how cheesy, still can send chills into the souls of every person who sees it.

 

Number 8: Franklin the Dog: Philadelphia 76ERs

Oh the harmless dog, why would this be creepy? Well, if you have vision you can see why.

From his awkwardly shaped face, to his eyes that seem to look right into your heart, the 76ers mascot is one that we could do with out.

 

Number 7: Jazz Bear: Utah Jazz

When your team name is a style of music, finding an appropriate mascot is a challenge. Whoever came up with this one though hit a sour note. He looks like a possessed Chewbacca. Mascots should not look like something they chase on Monster Quest.

 

Number 6: Slamson: Sacramento Kings

I’m starting to get the feeling that some of these are just recycled movie costumes. Gorilla looks like an extra from Planet of the Apes, Jazz Bear is Chewbacca and this guy would be an evil Lion from the Wizard of Oz. The lack of visible eyes and the odd expression on it’s face are the things of nightmares. Imagine running into this walking home at night…….

 

Number 5: Sir CC: Cleveland Cavaliers

You can speculate why LeBron left Cleveland, but we know the real reason. This insanely creepy mascot. I mean look at it. I don’t know what circle of hell this thing came from but I’m sure most Cavs fans would like it to return there. As if they aren’t going to suffer enough this year.

 

Number 4: Coyote: San Antonio Spurs

For those of you who understood the Five Nights At Freddie’s reference from the beginning of this article, this one fits it perfectly. Those glowing green eyes look like something you would see in a cheap horror movie, cheesy enough to laugh at yet still terrifying. Being the Spurs mascot, you can’t help but wonder what he does with a set of spurs in his off time……maybe we shouldn’t.

 

Number 3: Bango the Buck: Milwaukee Bucks

Picture if you will, you’re walking through the Wisconsin woods, clouds obscure an already dim sun… You hear a rustling in the black trees, you stop and look around, already you have made a fatal mistake. As you stand there in fear, he pounces on you…..congratulations, you have just entered the twilight zone…..

I think Rod Serling would approve.

 

Number 2: Mavs Man: Dallas Mavericks

There is so much wrong with this, I could do a whole article on it. From the scary face, to the basketball skin, in the immortal words of the internet, “this ain’t it.”  We all know the Mavericks gave up on winning a long time ago, but now we know where they put that energy….into scaring the life out of their fans.

 

Number 1: Benny the Bull: Chicago Bulls

Out of the fires, he arose, this mascot looks like he should be hell’s mascot, not Chicago’s. From the fiery red hair, to the look of murder in his eyes, and the blood tipped horns that have probably ended many way before their time, Benny had no choice but to be number one on this list. If you see him coming for you, say your prayers……

 

Having trouble sleeping now? I don’t blame you, so why don’t you hit me up on twitter @GeeksportJosh and let me know what you’re thinking. If not, sweet dreams……

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NBA Top 10 Thursday: Top 10 Point Guards

As we head into the Final month of no basketball, ranking players is going to get more and more fun, so today I go through and rank who I think are the top 10 point guards heading into the season…..

 

Number 10: Jamal Murray: Denver Nuggets

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Murray is heading into his 3rd season as a pro, and he is still trending upwards. He made significant gains in almost every stat from his rookie year to last year and will look to improve even more. Nearly doubling his ppg average, (9.9 in 2016 to 16.7 in 2017) and taking up his FG, Rebound, and assist numbers, Murray is a super star on Denver’s offence and will likely get that same recognition this year league wide.

 

Number 9: Eric Bledsoe: Milwaukee Bucks

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Like Murray, Bledsoe saw some major improvement in the 2017 season, taking many of his stats up (17 ppg, 47% FG.)  In 2017, he moved cities, leaving the Suns after 5 years. As the Bucks start off a new coaching regime, Bledsoe will likely shine even brighter.

 

Number 8: John Wall: Washington Wizards

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If not for injuries, Wall would be much higher on this list. He has been to 5 All-Star games and has the skills to rank much higher. But missing 41 games will no doubt take some kind of toll on him. If he can get back to numbers like we saw in 2016 (23 ppg, 10 assists, and 45% FG shooting) then Washington is bound for a good run in the East.

 

Number 7: Ben Simmons: Philedelphia 76ers

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The reining NBA Rookie of the year, Simmons will only get better. Simmons averaged 15.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, 8.2 assists per match-up. While Philly didn’t go as far in the post season as many thought they would, they have a very dangerous squad that includes Simmons, and star center Joel Embiid.  (If you want to see where the Top NBA Centers rank, click here!)

 

Number 6: Jrue Holiday: New Orleans Pelicans

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After almost a decade in the league, Holiday had one of his truly best seasons last year. He threw up career high scoring numbers (19 ppg) and also chipped in 6.0 assists, 1.5 steals, 1.5 triples and nearly a full block every game. Playing along side star Anthony Davis no doubt helped his numbers as well.

 

Number 5: Damian Lillard: Portland Trailblazers

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Lillard had one of the best season overall of his career in 2017-18 and received 1st Team All-NBA honors. As the face of the team, Lillard came up clutch so many times and helped Portland reached the number 3 seed in the West. Even though Portland, came up short in the playoffs, getting swept by Utah and Lillard’s numbers looking far worse then they had all year, the Blazers are in prime position to make another run with Lillard at the helm.

 

Number 4: Chris Paul: Houston Rockets

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Oh man, the bad luck Chris Paul had when so close to the Finals. An injury in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals was a turning point in that series. Health played a role in Paul’s less then spectacular season in Houston. Once know as the “Point-God,” Paul missed a career high 24 games and the last 2 of the WCF. He averaged just 7 assists, the lowest number since his rookie year. That said, a return to health, plus playing on the same team as currant MVP James Harden, and his still elite level skill set should have him see a major up swing in 2018.

 

Number 3: Russel Westbrook: Oklahoma City Thunder

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Say what you want to about Russell Westbrook, bu you can’t knock his game on many levels. He has averaged a triple-double over the last 2 years with 25.4 points, 10.1 rebounds and a league-best 10.3 assists per contest. His main flaw is his selfish play sometimes, but with another year playing with Paul George coming up, and the team getting better by releasing Carmelo Anthony, you can expect Westbrook to become more of a team player.

Number 2: Kyrie Irving: Boston Celtics

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If Kyrie had stayed healthy and played like we know he would have, many things would be different right now. One, the Celtics would likely have been in he NBA Finals, and two, he would be number 1 on this list. After having surgery to repair his knee, an infection is what ended up finishing his season. The time he did play though, he was great. He racked up 24 ppg, shot 49% from the field, and averaged 6 assists. Next year returning health and with one of the best young teams in basketball should make Boston the team to beat in the East.

 

Number 1: Steph Curry: Golden State Warriors

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Streph shows few of slowing down. Playing on a team of all-stars, Curry is free of having to carry a team and is therefore likely to have many more years of success. He racked up 26 ppg, shot 46% from the field and an amazing 42% from downtown. The thing to watch with him is the lingering ankle issues that have plagued him his whole career and cost him 31 games. The Warriors were able to go on that stretch fine with all star Kevin Durant leading the charge, that said, Curry is still the most important member of this franchise. With out him, the offence slows down quite a bit, and while still able to win, Curry makes it all so much easier. He’ll likely get a shot at a 4th ring this season.

 

Thank you for reading!  Hit me up on twitter @GeeksportJosh and let me know what you thought!

Making The Mercury Sunny For Fans

The Phoenix Sun’s Devin Booker is trying to make the Mercury in Phoenix a little mare bearable, especially for their fans. In a really nice gesture toward the WNBA Phoenix Mercury and the fans of basketball in Arizona Booker bought 500 tickets to their game this Friday night.

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The question may be, does Booker have that many friends? Well, I guarantee you he has that many fans, and they are the ones who are going to benefit in this gesture of kindness and support. Kindness because he is going to give them to fans free of charge at the Fry’s Plaza just outside of the Talking Stick Resort Arena. Support, because with the tickets being free Booker hopes to pack the house with Mercury fans as they play in a must win game this Friday at 7:00pm with the free tickets being given away starting at 5:00pm with a limit of 4 per person on a first come first serve basis.

The game is game 3 in a 5 game series in which the Mercury have drooped the first 2 games by the same score of 91-87. In game 2 the Mercury were actually down by 18 points at one point and forced the game into overtime only to take the tuff luck loss to the Seattle Storm. The Mercury were very competitive during the season and were rewarded with a 6th place finish in their league. They have already had one series win in these play-offs and are vying to get another at home Friday night.

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The NBA’s Phoenix Sun’s have supported the Mercury all season long with Booker being seen enjoying the action at multiple Mercury games and fellow Phoenix Sun’s star, Deandre Ayton bought 300 tickets to afore mentioned series win against the Dallas Wings. The Phoenix Mercury are in the WNBA semifinals for a sixth consecutive year.But they haven’t won a game at this stage since 2014, going a combined 0-8 against Minnesota (2015-16) and Los Angeles (2017).

This is a very nice classy move by these two Sun’s players twards their fans. It is one of those things that is not reported a ton, but we here at cleatgeeks wanted to share this story and invite you to the game even if you have to buy your ticket, it is still cost friendly. To buy tickets for the game visit here and find tickets from just $9.00, if the free ones are gone.

Suns Are Close On A Trade With Rockets

Phoenix and Houston are reportedly close to a four player swap.The deal would give the Suns a starter at a position of need yet leave them with a void at another position of need.

The proposed deal would send forward Ryan Anderson to the Suns and point guard Brandon Knight to the Rockets. Phoenix also would send former first-round pick forward Marquese Chriss to Houston and the Suns would get guard De’Anthony Melton in return from the Rockets.

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Photo by; Mug The Bookie

If the trade goes through as expected, Anderson would essentially be the starting power forward that Phoenix needs. He averaged 9.3 points last season and has two years left on a four-year, $80 million contract he signed with the Rockets in 2016. The Suns, provided no money changes hands along with the players would leave Phoenix on the hook for the remaining salary. According to sportrac.com Ryan Anderson signed a 4 year / $80,000,000 contract with the Houston Rockets, including $80,000,000 guaranteed, and an annual average salary of $20,000,000. In 2018-19, Anderson will earn a base salary of $20,421,546, while carrying a cap hit of $20,421,546 and a dead cap value of $41,686,183.

Knight, looks to be the biggest loser in this particular trade. Brandon, who missed all of last season with a knee injury was on track to be fully healthy by the start of the season. So much so, that he was pegged to be the starting point guard for the Suns. Now, he figures to see time as a backup to Chris Paul in Houston.

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Sports Spectrum Magizine

The trade does give the Suns a starting power forward but it would also leave Phoenix searching for a starter at the point guard position with no one on the roster ready to assume that responsibility.

Honestly, more than anything this may be a dump of a trade to get rid of a disappointing player. That player would be the 6-foot-10 Chriss, the eighth overall pick out of Washington in 2016. The Suns had high hopes when they drafted him. He also gave them reason to continue those hopes with his first year production. But sadly his average dropped from 9.2 points as a rookie to 7.7 points last season. But he is just 21 years old and a change of scenery may do the young man good.

Melton was a second-round pick out of USC this year who had some good moments in Summer League play.

This almost has the feeling that the Suns are working on another trade to accompany this trade that when it is all said and done will make more sense than this current trade does with the way it leaves the roster

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