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There were a handful of bold-faced moves this offseason, headlined by Rudy Gobert being traded from the Utah Jazz to the Minnesota Timberwolves, which has seismic implications for both teams.
And then there were a handful of moves that didn’t resonate on the basketball loudspeaker, yet may result in positive differences for the teams that landed those players.
Therefore, this isn’t about Malcolm Brogdon going to the Boston Celtics, or PJ Tucker to the Philadelphia 76ers, or Dejounte Murray to the Atlanta Hawks, or Jalen Brunson to the New York Knicks. All of them big transactions, and none of them escaped the spotlight.
But maybe Donte DiVincenzo to the defending champion Golden State Warriors did. That’s just one example of the under-the-radar moves that cost little in terms of money and/or assets and have the chance to become massive bargains.
And so: Here are the five biggest — so to speak — obscure transactions of the offseason so far:
Danilo Gallinari, Boston Celtics
Before we get into the details of this one, how about some applause for Brad Stevens? Has the man made a single mistake in his short yet productive stint as GM? Since moving from the coaching chair two summers ago, Stevens hired Ime Udoka as coach, then brought back Al Horford, acquired Derrick White and now Brogdon, with none of those moves costing the Celtics an important rotational piece.
Getting Gallinari off waivers, from a cost standpoint, is probably even more impressive. He was cast aside by the Spurs after being part of the Murray trade from Atlanta and Stevens swooped in, signing a solid 3-point shooter for a cup of chowdah.
“They both understand what it takes to win.”
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) July 14, 2022
Gallinari hit 38.1% from distance last season in Atlanta and for much of his career he’s been a reliable stretch four. He should work well with Brogdon in the pick and pop, but Gallinari at 6-foot-10 is also a decent post-up player, especially against smaller defenders.
He should fit in a tweaked rotation that’s designed to reduce the load from Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, who struggled with turnovers in the NBA Finals. Gallinari isn’t in his prime but has some tread left, and all the Celtics need is a decent 15-20 minutes from him at night. He’s capable of that.
Otto Porter Jr., Toronto Raptors
It’s not uncommon for players, once they seize the championship ring, to move elsewhere. Happens every year. Happened to the warriors this year as the exodus was led by Gary Payton II, who secured the bag in Portland.
But a much less noticeable exit was Porter going to the Raptors, for far, far less than what Payton cost the Blazers. And it’s possible that, contextually, Porter can be a valued addition for Toronto, too.
The newest Raptor wanted to check in with y’all ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/6l8ybIIM15
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) July 6, 2022
He’s been one of the league’s better shooters in recent years. The issue with Porter has been with his health. He hasn’t played in more than 70 games since 2017-18 and that’s why he fell off the radar.
But he’s a 39.8% 3-point shooter for his career, good for 53rd in NBA history. And he had a rejuvenation last season, especially in the postseason, where he was impactful for the warriors. He even started some games in the NBA Finals while hitting 40.4% of his 3-pointers in the 2022 playoffs.
Porter is only 29 and is also a decent defender as well. Toronto grabbed him on a cheap two-year contract — Porter already made his bag years ago when Washington gifted him a max contract — and will gladly take whatever he has left.
De’Anthony Melton, Philadelphia Sixers
He played in the shadows of Ja Morant last season, but folks in Memphis know how helpful Melton was to the cause. And now that he’s in Philly, Melton still must work behind the likes of James Harden in the backcourt — and the Sixers will discover that he’s an unpolished gem.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) July 12, 2022
Melton is quick, smart and productive off the bench. That’s exactly what the Sixers want from him, along with defense. Last season he shot 37.4% from deep, averaged 10.8 points and was a stabilizing force when Morant missed a chunk of games with injury.
The best part is Melton is just 24 and therefore hasn’t reached his prime yet.
TJ Warren, Brooklyn Nets
You can count on one hand how many players in the 2020 bubble were heads and shoulders above Warren, then with the Pacers. He was that good, averaging 26.6 points and 6.3 rebounds in 10 games and making a name for himself.
Problem: Because of injuries, he hasn’t been heard from since. And that’s why the Nets were able to snag him. Nobody’s quite sure what Warren is capable of doing after missing virtually the last two seasons with a series of left foot injuries that required surgery.
If not for those injuries, maybe the Nets — hampered by the salary cap — wouldn’t have been in the mix for the free agent. So they landed him cheap, and in a best-case scenario, Warren will return to that 2020 level, or close enough, and the Nets will have yet another weapon next to Kevin Durant (assuming he sticks around) and Kyrie Irving (ditto) .
Warren is a mid-range specialist who can create his own shot, and again, if his body is right, the Nets will look wise for taking the small risk.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Denver Nuggets
In the Nikola Jokic era, all the Nuggets are missing is a trip to the NBA Finals. By acquiring KCP in a trade with Washington (they also got Ish Smith in the deal), they at least have someone who has been there and done that — and delivered some big shots for the Lakers in the 2020 Finals to secure it.
Read more about the KCP extension 📰
— Denver Nuggets (@nuggets) July 17, 2022
Caldwell-Pope is an energy guy who can shoot and play defense. He’s not a volume scorer but the Nuggets, with Michael Porter Jr. and Jamal Murray set to return following their injuries, don’t need that from him. They’re hoping that his production off the bench, his calm under pressure and his championship experience will help build a team built for deep postseason runs.
Essentially, the choice was between keeping Will Barton and Monte Morris or getting KCP. Denver feels the former Laker will be worth the gamble, and he’s only 29.
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Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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