The dominoes continue to fall in NBA free agency, but the dust has settled a bit. LeBron James returned home to Cleveland, Carmelo Anthony flirted with Chicago and Los Angeles before staying put in New York, and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh decided to keep their talents in South Beach.
A few former Duke players decided to come and join a new look Miami Heat team in Josh McRoberts and Luol Deng. Now that the deals are in place, how will a Lebron-less team look with these new additions?
McRoberts signed a four-year deal with the Heat, and he provides a new weapon on offense as a high post passer. He averaged more than four assists per game and was second in the entire league in assist-to-turnover ratio, trailing only Chris Paul.
McRoberts also has the ability to spread the floor as a three-point shooter. He actually shot at a better percentage (36%) than Bosh (34%). Having two forwards that opposing teams must defend out to the three-point line will allow guards like Wade, Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole, and rookie Shabazz Napier to get penetration into the paint and finish or dish out for open looks.
Deng fills the small forward spot left by James, and clearly he will not be winning the MVP award any time soon. He struggled after being traded to Cleveland last season, but then again… who would have been pumped to leave the Bulls to go to the Cavs?
Deng is still a solid two-way player when healthy, and he averaged 16 points and nearly 6 boards per game in a down year by his standards. He can defend the wing and is a competent enough outside shooter to keep opposing teams honest. Deng can be a threat without the ball in either corner, although not quite to the level of a Ray Allen.
He also presents a low risk option considering the deal is only for two years, with a player option for 2015-16. If Deng does not resign with the Heat, that loss still clears up cap space for big free agent names in the future, like another certain small forward that plays in Oklahoma City. I’m sure Pat Riley already considered all of this.
Back up north in Cleveland, Lebron will join former Duke guard Kyrie Irving, who inked a five-year, $90 million extension with the Cavs. Irving should excel next to James after being forced as the main option since his rookie year.
Irving’s shooting numbers have dipped each season since he entered the league and his defense leaves a lot to be desired, but both of those should improve alongside Lebron and Andrew Wiggins (or will it be Kevin Love?).
Mentally knowing you have capable players and defenders on the floor can be a huge boost. Throw in the fact that you no longer need to live up to the expectation of replacing a four-time MVP, and you might have a little less weight on your shoulders. It means Irving will not need to manufacture buckets from nothing, like this.
If you want some proof of the “Lebron Effect,” look at Wade’s numbers in Miami. Wade never shot better than 50 percent from the field prior to playing with James. In the four seasons he played with James, Wade shot 50 percent or better three out of those four years. Irving should get cleaner looks at the basket and see his field goal and three-point percentages go up.
Then there’s the Los Angeles Lakers. Prior to the NBA Draft and free agency frenzy the Lakers would not have been able to field a starting five. Los Angeles has since filled in the vacant roster spots, and among those players signed are former Blue Devils Carlos Boozer and Ryan Kelly.
Boozer is no longer the All-Star he was back in Utah, but he can still provide some scoring and good work on the glass, something the Lakers seriously need. Boozer averaged nearly 14 points and a little more than eight rebounds per game even at this stage in his career. He is a nice offensive outlet, able to face up and create his own shot from the post.
Not only will Boozer provide on the floor production, he could help in the development of young forwards Ed Davis and rookie Julius Randle. Neither of the two has experience logging major NBA minutes, and Boozer could help with that transition in a deep Western Conference.
Kelly stepped up nicely for the Lakers last season, averaging eight points and nearly four rebounds in 22 minutes per game. He can spread the floor with his shooting as a stretch four, and he is a good enough passer to keep the offense moving when he does not have a scoring opportunity.
He could still stand to improve his rebounding and defense, and ideally, you would like to have a center behind him in the lineup to protect the basket. Unfortunately, the Lakers situation is far from ideal, but Kelly should only get better with more game experience. Whether or not he plays those minutes may depend upon who is hired as the next head coach (looks like Byron Scott) and what system that coach will employ.
It will be interesting to see how the NBA rosters slowly begin to take shape, and how old Blue Devils fit in with their new pieces.