By Grant Johnson
It seems hard to believe, but the start of the NBA season is under two months away. Starting on Oct. 27, the Warriors will attempt to defend their title, while 29 other teams will try to knock them off their perch. As always, the offseason has been filled with drama, movement and transition. Numerous teams have upgraded their rosters through free agent signings and several big name players have cashed in on their recent production. Here are a few players that have found new homes, and my predictions as to how successful they will be.
LaMarcus Aldridge—After a season that was a disappointment by the Spurs’ lofty standards, the San Antonio Spurs made arguably the biggest free agent signing of the offseason. Aldridge, a four time All-Star, joins a loaded team that includes the still-formidable Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard and Manu Ginobili. He should fit right into Popovich’s offense and will be an exciting new weapon in the paint. Expect the Spurs to return to championship contention.
Greg Monroe—This big man signed a 3-year, 50 million dollar contract with the Milwaukee Bucks, who went 41-41 last year (good for 6th in the East). He’ll pair with the now-healthy Jabari Parker in the post. This is a good fit for both sides, and Monroe will be a key asset for the young, talented Bucks. He should match last year’s numbers, and don’t be surprised if Milwaukee challenges some of the top teams in the East.
Paul Pierce—After a year-long detour in Washington, Pierce, a longtime Boston Celtic, signed a 3-year, 10 million dollar contract to join the Los Angeles Clippers. The 37-year-old proved he had plenty left in the tank last playoffs, averaging 14.6 points for the Wizards during their brief run. He’ll join a Clippers team that once again fell short in the postseason last year. Pierce’s days of being a star are over, but he should be a useful role player for Los Angeles.
Rajon Rondo—The Sacramento Kings signed Rondo to a one-year deal worth $9.5 million. He’ll join Demarcus Cousins in a duo of supremely talented but frustrating players. The Kings hope Rondo’s character issues are behind him, as he wore out his welcome in first Boston then Dallas. Rondo was once considered one of the best point guards in the NBA, but injuries and locker room squabbles have dulled his luster. Unless he finds somethingnew in the tank, it will be an up-and-down season for Rondo and the Kings.
Monta Ellis—Ellis took a four year deal worth $44 million to join the Indiana Pacers. He’ll combine with George Hill and Paul George to form a trio of capable scorers. Ellis averaged 18.9 points for the Mavs last season. He should be able to comfortably fill the scoring void left by the departure of David West. With Paul George healthy, expect the Pacers’ offense to be more potent than it’s been in a while—and return to the playoffs for the first time since 2014.