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Mike's Mind

Armenian National Team & L.A. Clippers

Grading Lou Williams to Houston

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

        It didn't take long for Earvin "Magic" Johnson to put his stamp on the Los Angeles Lakers franchise by dealing away veteran impact bench scorer to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Corey Brewer and the Rockets 2017 unprotected first round selection, which is slated to be the 27th pick. It didn't affect just these two franchises, however, as the Orlando Magic and Philadelphia 76ers are keeping a keen eye on the moves made by the Lakers.

Grade for Houston: B+/A-
         When Mike D'Antoni took the Rockets over, everyone expected a team that played minimal defense while being a juggernaut on the flip side. That is exactly what the Rockets have become and Lou Williams gunning mentality should fit right into the coaches system. His matador defense as well should have a seamless transition, allowing him to contribute in all ways right off the bat.

         However, what makes me iffy about this trade is the Rockets biggest need is size up front for a playoff run. A position which would be harder to fit as they dealt away a solid trade asset with majority of scouts agreeing that the 2017 draft is as deep as one could be. Another reason for doubt is the Denver Nuggets (reportedly) have dropped the asking price for both Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari to just one lottery protected first round selection. Now, Denver most likely would have wanted more (Sam Dekker?) in the move, but both Chandler and Gallinari would have provided the Rockets with a good sized three, that could slide over to the four. Chandler would give a defensive boost, while Gallinari is a better all-around offensive option than Lou Williams. 

Grade for Los Angeles: C+

          The Lakers wanted a pick for Lou Williams, and they got it. Williams was one of the few bright spots for a franchise that is used to greatness, however, his age just didn't fit in with the Lakers plans for the future. Dealing away an instant scorer is also going to help the Lakers chances of increasing ping pong balls to keep their pick in the top-three and preventing it from going to the 76ers.

         And that is the beginning of my dislike for the Purple & Gold in this move. If Los Angeles' pick ends up out of the top three, Philadelphia will receive it AND Orlando will receive the Lakers 2019 selection. If the Los Angeles pick ends up in the top three, then, Philadelphia will receive a 2018 first round selection, that is unconditional, while the Magic will have to settle for two second round selections. 

         Now, of course, the Lakers losing as much as possible this year could be the difference between giving up an extra first round pick or not, which is why this deal makes sense. Might as well give up one unconditional first, than a mid lottery and another one that could be lottery.

        However, in that scenario, the Lakers are going to be up against the ropes trying to clinch a playoff slot in 2018 to prevent Philadelphia from getting a top pick then. With D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram, Ivica Zubac, Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson all being relatively young, and a top three pick (Lonzo Ball anyone?), they have the pieces that could inch towards a perennial contender. Potential is a scary thing, as the Chicago Bulls (Ben Gordon-Kirk Hinrich-Luol Deng), Oklahoma City Thunder (Russell Westbrook - James Harden - Coward Durant) and the Portland Trail Blazers (Brandon Roy-LaMarcus Aldridge)  had potential dynasties ruined for various reasons.

        Giving up the extra ~$7.5M in cap space due to Brewer could cost a reliable role player, which could make the world's difference, despite the last front office blowing cap space on Timofey Mozgov & Luol Deng.




Barnes Return To Clippers Imminent?

       With the Cousins drama finally over, as the stud big man was dealt to New Orleans, the Sacramento Kings have continued the overhaul of the roster by waiving veteran swing man Matt Barnes to clear the needed roster space. The (soon-to-be) 37-year old swing man is expected to receive a lot of attention from teams that are in the playoff picture and need a fiery defensive presence off the bench to complete a push to the promised lands, from the Toronto Raptors to the Houston Rockets.

        Speculation, however, has it that Barnes will be returning to the City of Angels for the fourth time in his career, to bolster the Clippers bench, the third stint he would have with the franchise. Barnes was an integral part of the Clippers defeat of the San Antonio Spurs during the 2015 playoffs and had formed a solid bond with his teammates, often being recognized as the enforcer to anyone who gave Blake Griffin a hard foul.

        With the Clippers roster standing at 15, if they do have plans to bring back Barnes, a trade or cutting one of its own players would be required, with the most likely victim being Alan Anderson, a fellow veteran swing man. 

Rapid Reaction: Cousins Will Stay in New Orleans

       After spending time on convincing the Sacramento-faithful that DeMarcus Cousins is not on the trade block, the Sacramento Kings have agreed to trade their disgruntled franchise player, along with Omri Casspi, to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway, Tyreke Evans, the Pelicans 2017 first-round selection and the Philadelphia 76ers second-round selection.

          Cousins, who was in New Orleans for the All-Star festivities, was limited to just two minutes of action as Vlade Divac, and the Kings, requested he be limited to prevent injury, ensuring the completion of the deal while telling the fans the opposite. Kings forward, Matt Barnes, even went on Instagram Live to affirm the fans to dismiss rumors and speculation as well. 

Sacramento Kings Grade: B-
          Sacramento was clearly not going anywhere with Cousins, despite the enormous talent possessed by the big man and they had spent a good portion of the 2016 NBA Draft trying to move up and acquire Hield, who I'm higher on than most out there. Granted, Hield may never end up being a franchise changing two-guard, or a top option on a contender, he is a solid building block and could be an exceptional second-option.

            Keeping Cousins in the same conference is a major head-scratcher. Not very often do teams trade a guy that is in the top echelon of his respective position to a foe to a side they will face three-four times a year. In fact, I can only think of Pau Gasol and Chris Paul in recent history where such a trade went down. Not even dumping a bad deal is a bit of a concern as well.

          My biggest gripe with the deal on the Kings end is the fact their own first round pick could be headed to Chicago or Philadelphia, making tanking a concern. If it falls outside of the top 10, the pick will be conveyed to the Bulls without anything coming to Sacramento. However, if it falls in the top 10, the Philadelphia 76ers will have the option to swap first rounders, which would leave the Kings with a lottery pick (76ers are 5.5 out of the eight and final playoff slot), but could take them from a top three selection, if they get the right bounce of the ping pong balls, to something around eight. 

               Follow-up trades will be pretty entertaining to look out for as well, since the Kings have a plethora of veterans teams that are in the playoff picture may be looking for. Evans could be flipped right away, while the Kings could make Matt Barnes, Arron Afflalo, Darren Collison, Ty Lawson, Rudy Gay and Anthony Tolliver available for any sort of future compensation. 

New Orleans Pelicans Grade: A+

             Pelican fan have to be ecstatic. Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins may be the best front-court the NBA has had since Timothy Duncan and David Robinson, which worked out pretty well if I recall correctly. Cousins has another year remaining as well, giving the Pels an extended opportunity to take the next step.

           With 25-games remaining, the Pelicans are two and a half games out of the eight slot, needing to leapfrog the Portland Trail Blazers, Kings and Denver Nuggets, a task that can be doable, which would set up an entertaining first round match-up against the Warriors, who like to go small with Draymond Green at the five for extended spurts.