Ya Boi Is Back Plus NBA Recap Going Into December

“Life sucks, and then you die.”

I was told that when I was in high school by one of the greatest teachers and men I have ever known. Boy was he right. Since me posting that Soft 7 was back, I was let go (company was bought out), hired somewhere else (making less money than anticipated), started a weekend job to make more money (love serving), started volunteering to give back, and still maintain a full class load. So yeah, have not had the freest schedule recently.

However, with me finally now getting a scheduled break a few days a week to get back into writing, i can now finally get back to what I really love: writing about the NBA.

We have had some huge headlines break in the NBA world. Adam Silver wants to completely change the league. Ratings took a nose dive. Giannis dropped 50, then James Harden dropped 60 (in 3 quarters). Luka looks like he is the MVP. Rookie of the Year talks mirror MVP talks in how wild they are. Zion is STILL gaining weight. The Kings shit the bed in a Western conference that lowkey sucks. Andrew Wiggins looks like he deserves the nickname “Maple Jordan”. Carmelo is back and somehow better. The Raptors look like a repeat worthy team.

Lemme take a breath cause these are just the major headlines, and this is without mentioning any of the major market teams (that exist in, say, Boston, New York, LA, etc.)

I’ll be picking up my writing starting next week. Thought I’d take a break during my studying for finals to let you all know. I shall see you all soon.

An Open Letter: The Content is Coming…

Dear Soft Sevens,

As is the case with most 20-somethings out of/in college, the whole Soft 7 staff was no different: we got busy as shit. A lot of us were extremely fortunate and got to go on summer vacations. Unfortunately, that is not the only issue. Some had summer classes drag their attention away, while others had 9-5 work weeks axing a lot of free time. Some were in rec leagues, some traveled for work. Some had family issues rise up, some had relationship issues rise up. It sucks that the content took a hit, since we all love writing. As I’m sure you saw from other sport’s content sites, the summer months are a tough time for content as it is anyway. Life getting busy didn’t help this, and it sucked for most of us having to take a step back and put our hobby to the side.

You didn’t come here to read excuses. You came here for the plan ahead.

We at the Soft 7 staff are extremely fortunate in announcing a new model and schedule going forward. We all feel like we have gotten a grip on our new schedules as they stand currently, and any issues in our personal lives have been resolved. I have a few articles I am working on. Wic is putting together some, and I believe Juice may have a few Morning Juice’s in the works for this upcoming college football season. Expect big things from the staff. We hope to break many of the milestones we set before us this year. Who knows, maybe a long-awaited addition to our website gets added around Christmas time.

On behalf of the entire staff, we are sorry for the lack of content. However, get ready for a wild season up ahead.

Stay Soft Sevens,

Buck

Sam Presti Isn’t Done Yet

Thunder twitter and Westbrook stans couldn’t be further apart at this point, and I have thoroughly enjoyed watching from afar as long time allies turn on each other. Sam Presti might not be able to win GM of the Year since all these trades are occurring in the offseason, but he is setting the Thunder up to make a score of moves come the season’s start date. The amount of players he’s been able to get off of while acquiring assets and keeping the future of the team bright is something only done once before with this magnitude, and said team (the Los Angeles Clippers) was someone Presti traded with to make all of this happen.

I said in my reaction piece that Presti was able to flip two broken All-Stars on bloated contracts for 11 first round picks, and I stick by that statement. Sure, it is just 7 true first rounders and 4 pick swaps, but this is monumental for the Thunder going forward. Kawhi and PG might both leave the Clippers in two years, and the Rockets may soon realize that the aging, athletic, slashing point guard isn’t a better option (long term) the aging point guard they had that made less for a shorter time. Having the best pick (between those teams) for those 4 years may have them in a better situation, especially when coupled with the other 7 picks.

The more you analyze the trades, the more in awe you should be of Sam Presti. He was able to flip two players on long contracts without giving up other assets, acquires multiple picks and a nice young asset, get an expiring contract back, and get an All-Star. Tying in as well that the players he traded had multiple surgeries on multiple places in their body only helps build Presti’s credibility as one of the best GM’s in the league, and he still has more moves to make…

There are only four large contracts remaining on OKC’s books that are over $10 million, making them the desired ones to move. Two belong to players that will expire at the end of this year. SG/SF Andre Roberson (1 yr/$10 million) and SF/PF Danillo Gallinari (1 yr/$22.6 million), if the Thunder wished to trade those players immediately, easily could have a a pick attached to them and be on a new team by tomorrow. The Thunder could target some young players they want to put around Shai, and even use those guys to acquire them. However, if the Thunder just bid their time and wait, many teams (like, say, any player on the Knicks, Hornets, or Suns) would be willing to attach picks to their own bad contracts, and their own players to the Thunder to clean their books heading into next season. On the flip side, the Thunder could easily just keep the players themselves. Wiping off $32.6 million from your caps is absolutely amazing, and the Thunder have more than just those two expiring contracts on their books. The Thunder have five expiring contracts totaling (roughly) $40 million, which is the perfect amount to target an enormous salary dump player for another enormous asset return.

The other two contracts are more pressing, going out for more than two years each. C Steven Adams will be tough to move, seeing as he is making about $25 million a year for the next two years. Only being known as a defensive, rebounding, iron-man center is slightly bad when you factor in the money he is making. While many teams want that in a center across the league, most will not pay a garbage player and second-round pick for Adams. Bad money for long years is tough to get off of, and Presti may see that he has to unload some of his warchest to move Adams. I personally wouldn’t want to, seeing as he is an amazing teammate and locker room presence. It’d really be helpful to have a stabilizing presence around during this rebuild process, and it’d be better than giving up assets to get off of that. You’re in rebuild mode; you need good guys in the locker room to help “reach these kids”.

Now, the biggest and hardest challenge ahead of Sam Presti is flipping Chris Paul. Apparently, there is no market for a solo Paul trade, which only makes sense. Paul is making roughly $40 million a year for the next three years, making a whooping $44.2 million in the last year of his contract (contract is back-loaded). The veteran point guard just turned 34, meaning he will be 37 when this deal is over.

…yikes right?

Thankfully for Presti, Chris Paul is still viewed as a fringe All-Star to many teams, particularly in those lacking quality, starting point guards. Many teams, like the Suns and Hornets, have decided to overpay decent options to come to their teams, hoping that they workout. Some, like the Heat and Timberwolves, have positioned themselves in order to pursue a guard via trade. While both will be viewing D’Angelo Russell and Bradley Beal with heart eye emojis in the coming weeks, Chris Paul will be the backup option should one strike out as the other succeeds. I mean, let’s look at the facts around those two aforementioned stars:
(1) The Warriors will be super selective with who they send D-Lo to, so they will 100% want an amazing haul back
(2) The Wizards still do not have a GM, so the direction of their franchise is completely unclear.

The Thunder, on the other hand, have painted themselves as a perfect money dump, and having already gotten incredible assets via other trades. While I can count of Presti to try and get as much as possible, the situation the Thunder are in means that they will not be trying to extract everything from either team. Sure, there is no market for CP3 right now, but you think the Thunder won’t do everything in their power in order to get CP’s value as high as possible before the trade deadline? Sure, the Thunder will be focusing on the development of the young guard duo of Shai and Ferguson, but they want to rebuild, not contend. With that in mind, let’s see what Sam might do tradewise with his three most likely trade partners…

MIAMI HEAT

Pat Riley must be the most called person for Sam Presti this past month. First he was trying to send Russ there, now he is trying to send CP3 to South Beach. You may be asking, “Buck, if Pat didn’t want an old point guard with injury issues once before, what makes you think he will take this one?”

Well, a few reasons.

This season has shaped out to be the “Dawn of the Dynamic Duos”, with every team in contention to make the Finals being comprised of no “Big 3”. No matter how you view Hassan Whiteside now, he was still an All-NBA Defensive Team player. Without another star with him in Miami, all the blame and fame will rest on Jimmy Butler’s shoulders. Yes, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro are intriguing young assets to have next to Jimmy. However, Kelly Olynyk, James Johnson, Dion Waiters, Meyers Leonard, and Justice Winslow are not the most inspiring group of players to surround those three with. Only one out of the five (Kelly Olynyk) is decent from three, while three of them (James Johnson, Meyers Leonard, and Justice Winslow) cannot shoot effectively, and the final one (Dion Waiters) is an inefficient ball hog. So answer me this: if the Heat were able to make the playoffs, could that eight compete/beat any team in contention for the East playoffs?

With a Kawhi leaving the East, the mantle of “Beast of the East” now needs to pass to a different team. While the Bucks are certainly the frontrunners, the Pacers, Nets, and Celtics all improved in the offseason. Hell, the Raptors aren’t dead just yet; the Magic and Pistons even slightly improved their roster. That is seven out of the eight slots taken, leaving only a few teams in contention to take it. I mean, will the Bulls be able to figure out their young roster and a hardass, defensive-focused coach? Or will the Knicks 7 power forwards help them make the playoffs? Maybe it’ll be the Hornets, led by their new, young, overpaid, franchise point guard.

Get the point I’m making?

The Heat have a great opportunity to make the playoffs in the East, and there are no real people in their way. A CP3-Butler duo would be infinitely better than a Ross-Vucevic Magic or Griffin-Drummond Pistons, and the team would be in perfect position to pivot and acquire other quality players via trade with minimal assets sent out. A few seconds could easily acquire one of the Knicks 7 power forwards, and the Mavs are looking to move on from Courtney Lee and Tim Hardaway, Jr.

However, role players don’t win championships, and Pat Riley knows this. Hence why Sam Presti can capitalize on any of this, and could easily move CP3 to the Heat. There are a few iterations of the trade, and I will try and list the pros and cons of each…

TRADE #1 (Easiest To Do)
Thunder Receive:
PG Goran Dragic (1 yr/$19.2 million); PF James Johnson (2 yr/$32million); two lottery protected first round picks
Heat Receive: PG Chris Paul (3 yr/$120 million)

This trade is one that I like for both teams, especially the Heat. They can keep a majority of their assets, get off of Johnson and Dragic’s contracts, get Chris Paul, and only have to give up a couple of picks in the process. They get Butler’s friend on the team, and have a better starter at point guard than Dragic.

TRADE #2 (Best Option)
Thunder Receive:
PG Goran Dragic (1 yr/$19.2 million); PF James Johnson (2 yr/$32 million); SF/PG Justice Winslow (4 yr/$52 million); two lottery protected first round picks
Heat Receive: PG Chris Paul (3 yr/$120 million); SG/SF Andre Roberson (1 yr/$10 million)

This one hurts the Heat a tad more than they may like, but it is worth it. Dragic and Johnson need to go, but flipping Justice Winslow for Roberson? Sounds like a deal really. Roberson is supposed to play next year, and he will wipe off the books after the season is over. He is a cheaper defensive wing that can’t shoot, and you aren’t dedicated to him for the next four years. You still only give up two picks since Winslow is a young asset. Money all matches, so the trade works. Also gives the Heat a roster spot (and less money on their books) to pursue the buyout market or someone else via trade.

TRADE #3 (Most Complicated and Most Unlikely)
Thunder Receive:
PG Goran Dragic (1 yr/$19.2 million); PF James Johnson (2 yr/$32 million); SF/PG Justice Winslow (4 yr/$52 million); SG Dion Waiters (2 yr/$25 million); 4 lottery protected first round picks
Heat Receive: PG Chris Paul (3 yr/$120 million); SF/PF Danilo Gallinari (1 yr/$22.6 million)

This one is solely something I thought of while finishing this up, and I liked it a lot. People forget that after Gordon Hayward turned down the Jazz to go to the Celtics, the Heat (having struck out on Gordon themselves) began pursuing Gallinari hard before he turned them down to join the Clippers. There is still mutual interest between the two, seeing as the young forward could easily slide in and give a much needed offensive boost to a Heat offense that may stagnate at times, since much of what the team will do will run through two guards over the age of 30. High price to pay though, but I could see it happen due to the fact that Dion Waiters and James Johnson will require a pick each to move off of.

MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

Besides having a few criminal contracts on their books, the Timberwolves are in a dicey situation. Why? Well, they are stuck between a timeframe of trying to appease KAT by creating a contender OR creating a young core to build around. They messed up in the draft (again), and are now severely lacking a point guard. Jeff Teague is not capable of running a playoff offense, and Towns NEEDS someone else to help him on offense besides Robert Covington. The Twolves struck out on D-Lo, refusing to trade for him like the Pacers did for Malcolm Brogdon. They smartly didn’t pursue the Westbrook contract, but Chris Paul is different. The contract is a year less, CP3 passes more, and he is a significant upgrade defensively than Jeff Teague. The Wiggins, Dieng, and Teague contracts need to get moved for the team to have a better chance to compete. Having an All-Star (even an aging one) that can help coach your players is great, and CP is an upgrade over Teague. Let’s see what a trade could look like…

TRADE #1 (Easiest)
Thunder Receive:
SG/SF Andrew Wiggins (4 yr/$117 million); C Gorgui Dieng (2 yr/$31.4 million); 2 lottery protected first round picks; 1 unprotected first round picks
Timberwolves Receive: PG Chris Paul (3 yr/$120 million); PF Patrick Patterson (1 yr/$5.7 million)

I really think that the Thunder would have a tough time turning down this offer if the Twolves, Heat, and third team (further down) all made their easiest offers. Wiggins is a bust, and everyone BUT the Timberwolves owner (Glen Taylor) knows it. Hell, Kevin Garnett called him out on national TV for “not knowing shit” about basketball. This offer is solely there for a dump of Wiggins/Dieng, and the picks reflect that. The signing of Naz Reid means that the Twolves are already looking to move on from the veteran center from UofL, just like the drafting of Culver meant that the team was looking for a wing to start taking minutes away from Wiggins. Patterson gets you a stretch 4 to put next to Towns, and CP3 is a significant upgrade over Teague in the short term.

TRADE #2 (Best)
Thunder Receive:
SG/SF Andrew Wiggins (4 yr/$117 million); C Gorgui Dieng (2 yr/$31.4 million); PG Jeff Teague (1 yr/$19 million); 2 lottery protected first round picks; 3 unprotected first round picks
Timberwolves Receive: PG Chris Paul (3 yr/$120 million); SG/SF Andre Roberson (1 yr/$10 million); PF Patrick Patterson (1 yr/$5.7 million)

This one has a lot of moving parts, but I really like this trade. The Thunder get off all of their bad players (money and actual play wise), get $16 million wiped off their books next year, and get a star to run the point. Sure, there might be some leeway in who is better between Roberson and Wiggins, but Roberson can at least play defense and make layups. That sounds like a perfect bench defender to lock down LeBron, PG13, or Kawhi when Robert Covington needs a breather. Roberson is also young, so he fits the rebuild timeline that the Timberwolves are on. Sure, CP3 going down could hurt since you don’t have that many guards, but it’s worth getting off Wiggins and Dieng to do so.

SAN ANTONIO SPURS

TRADE
Thunder Receive: PG Patty Mills (2 yr/$25 million); SG Demar DeRozan (2 yr/$60 million); two lottery protected first round picks
Spurs Receive: PG Chris Paul (3 yr/$120 million); PF Patrick Paterson (1 yr/$5.7 million)

I came up with the Spurs kind of by accident. I remembered that CP3 had some interest in playing for Pop back when he hit the market (aka when he went to the Rockets). I also remembered that Pop loves having smart point guards to help mold young ones. With how the Spurs seem to be making moves to be in title contention, it would be intriguing to see them try and make some moves in order to maximize their roster. Currently, the Spurs have 7 guards on their roster in Patty Mills, Marco Belinelli, Demar DeRozan, Dejounte Murray, Bryn Forbes, Derrick White, and Lonnie Walker. Four out of the seven are under the age of 25, and making $10 million collectively. The other three are 30 or older, and roughly making $46 million. Marco Belinelli comes off the books next year, but DeRozan and Mills are on the hook for another two apiece. With the length, age, and money factored into the short contention timeframe due to Pop’s age, a dynamic duo of Aldridge and DeRozan will not go far. DeRozan is the worst player efficiency wise. He is worse than Westbrook. The Spurs looked better against the Nuggets last playoffs when he was on the bench, and that was with Mills (one of the other bad efficiency players for the Spurs) being on the bench with him. If the Spurs could flip their two horrible efficiency guys for CP3 and a forward who comes off the books next year, their lineups almost get fixed overnight. There is no more logjam at the guard positions, where the Spurs sometimes had DeRozan and Belinelli playing small forward. I know I might be the weird one for saying this, but flipping Mills and DeRozan for CP3 might be the best move for the Spurs, and that’s why I think I am rooting for this trade to happen the most.

…of course, this all requires teams to actually want to acquire Chris Paul and his contract. It is looking kind of bleak right now, but we will see what happens come trade deadline time.

BREAKING: Russell Westbrook Traded to Houston

For Chris Paul, two first round picks, and an additional two first round pick swaps, Russell Westbrook will be playing in Texas next year wearing that Rocket red. This brings Sam Presti’s acquired picks via trade up to 12 following the PG, Grant, and (now) Russ trades. If you’re keeping track, Sam Presti has now traded two All-Stars on bloated contracts (with two good shoulders and one good leg between them) for 11 first round picks, an expiring contract, an All-Star, and an amazing young asset that has the potential to be an All-Star.

Wish I had a media vote to give Sam Presti for GM of the year.

Dear Sweet Baby Jesus Kawhi…

My mouth is still open. The back-to-back Woj bombs that were dropped on us early in the AM have rocked East Coast NBA Twitter, and I cannot wait to see what happens when all of West Coast NBA Twitter wakes up. The implications of these two moves are monumental. Worst part about all of this?

I decided to go to bed at 1:30 AM.

The first thing that jumps off the page from Kawhi’s decision is the fact he chose the Clippers. The All-Star small forward, fresh off of winning the Finals and Finals’ MVP, decided to go to the “little brother” of LA. Kawhi has officially signed a 4 year, $142 million dollar max contract with the team. This signing, apparently, came off the heels of the Clippers being able to acquire a second star player, and it is the player that Kawhi had been recruiting the entire free agency: Paul George.

Much to my chagrin, every single “analyst” and “reporter” from a major news outlet that had “sources and inside information detailing where Kawhi was going” was lying through their teeth. And I absolutely love it. The moment FA started, Kawhi has spent every day recruiting PG to come to LA and have PG join him on the Clippers. He never was considering the Raptors. He 100% was not considering the Lakers. Kawhi was able to play those teams in order to keep his true destination a mystery, and provide them the cover needed in order to acquire Paul George under the radar.

What did it cost the Clippers to acquire the the DPotY and MVP candidate? Well, to quote 21 Savage, “A lot”…

Thunder Receive: three, unprotected, first-round picks (Clippers own – 2022, 2024, and 2026); two additional first-round picks via Miami (2021 unprotected and 2023 lottery protected); rights to swap Clippers’ 2023 and 2025 first round picks; SF/PF Danilo Gallinari (3 yr/$64.8 million); PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2 yr/$7.3 million + 1 yr/$5.5 million team option)
Clippers Receive: SF/PF Paul George (3 yr/$106.3 million)

SEVEN FIRST ROUND PICKS?!?!?!?! SGA?!?!?!!?

Yes, I can see how many Clips fans and other fans around the NBA may be sitting there, like I did, and say that this deal is bankrupting level. And you’d be right in saying so looking it at surface level. Mortgaging your future is a tough thing to sell to a franchise, especially when you give up your possible point guard of the future. However, viewing this only as a trade for PG13 is short-sighted. Kawhi insisted that the Clippers acquire PG, and with that acquisition he said he would come. Trading seven first round picks, SGA, and an aging/hurt matching contract in Danilo got them two All-Stars. Many GMs would make a trade to acquire two DPotY/MVP caliber players in a heartbeat, and I would have too. I mean, think about what Kawhi meant to the Raptors and PG to the Thunder. Here is a graphic to demonstrate it somewhat…

Having two guys that are capable of taking (and making) a last second shot is great. Adding them to a team that already has “Sweet” Lou Williams? Sounds unstoppable on the offensive end of floor. Sure, losing SGA will hurt since this means that Patrick Beverley and Landry Shamet are now the real point guard-ish players on the team. Doesn’t matter though, since a Beverley-Shamet-Leonard-George-Zubac lineup will destroy teams defensively.

Of course, I cannot forget to mention the fact that Pacers drafted both of these guys in back to back years, and then promptly traded both away. RIP the Pacers possible dynasty…

…but at least the Lakers are still the worst team in LA.