Quick note: Newsletters will be sent weekly on Thursdays starting next week. We’ll be diving deeper into free agency, news, and delivering feature stories with players until training camp starts back up.

I will also be writing columns on our site TheAssociation.com. Follow @APooch on Twitter for more updates.

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Quick note: Newsletters will be sent weekly on Thursdays starting next week. We’ll be diving deeper into free agency, news, and delivering feature stories with players until training camp starts back up.

I will also be writing columns on our site TheAssociation.com. Follow @APooch on Twitter for more updates.

New-Look Lakers

Tommy Gilligan/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

LeBron James may have to share his throne — the triple-double king is joining the Lakers.

Hours before the draft, the Los Angeles Lakers and Washington Wizards came to an agreement to send Russell Westbrook to L.A. in exchange for Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Montrezl Harrell, and last night’s 22nd pick.

The Lakers now have a three-headed monster of Westbrook, James, and Anthony Davis, who have a combined 34 All-NBA selections. This puts them in elite company: The 2003-04 Lakers’ Shaquille O’Neal, Karl Malone, and Gary Payton are the only other trio with 30 or more.

Los Angeles’ shiny new toy looks great on paper, but they have a ton of holes to fill, starting with spacing and depth. 

They lost Danny Green to the Sixers last season, and now they’re losing two of their best perimeter shooters in Kuzma and KCP. Additionally, Dennis Schröder and Wesley Matthews are free agents.

The Big 3 doesn’t pose much of a threat from deep with their combined career three-point shooting average of 32%. Plus, they’re owed $121 million in 2021-22 — leaving L.A. with a little over $10 million before reaching the luxury tax threshold.

Despite the concerns, the Lakers have three of the best players in the NBA — two who rank in the top five for most triple-doubles in league history. Nobody is going to want these guys in the postseason.

They have the second-best odds to win the 2022 NBA Finals (+400*). Brooklyn remains the favorite at +200*.

Cleveland’s New Block Parties

Ken Blaze/Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Cleveland Cavaliers selected 7’0” big man Evan Mobley with the third pick in last night’s draft, days after tendering a qualifying offer to 23-year-old big Jarrett Allen.

It’s a new era for a team that’s been searching for direction and respectability since LeBron left for the Lakers in 2018. Mobley is viewed as a generational big who can run the floor and protect the paint. He averaged 16.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks at USC.

He’ll be a centerpiece in a rebuilding process that includes Collin Sexton, Darius Garland, and an intriguing frontcourt partner in Allen.

GM Koby Altman said coach J.B. Bickerstaff is “salivating” over having “7-foot rim protection for 48 minutes a night.”

One of Mobley’s strong suits is his ability to switch onto Defenders 1-5. This enables Allen to rove the paint and help from the weak side, where he’s come up with most of his electrifying blocks.

“I feel like I can learn a lot from [Allen],” Mobley said on Thursday. “He’s been in the league for a while… We can definitely do damage in the league in this coming season.”

The red carpet is already out, too — the Cavs unveiled a billboard welcoming him to Cleveland.

The Biggest Surprise of the Draft

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone anticipated the Toronto Raptors would select Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs at No. 4 — but they went with Scottie Barnes.

The FSU product is an intriguing fit in Toronto: The 6’7” guard/forward has the capability to bring up the ball or play off the ball, though his 27.5% three-point shooting clip needs to improve if he wants to partner Fred VanVleet.

His biggest upside is defense. He has a 7’3” wingspan — crucial for defending smaller guards and seeing over defenders in the pick-and-roll.

With veteran guard Kyle Lowry likely headed elsewhere, Toronto has a strong infrastructure for the future. VanVleet, O.G. Anunoby, Gary Trent Jr., and Pascal Siakam all can defend and hit the three-ball.

“I fit in perfect,” Barnes said on Thursday. “With what their whole gameplan is, they start off with a defensive mindset, a defensive mentality… I feel like I fit right in.” 

FSU coach Leonard Hamilton continues to breed a collection of lanky guards/forwards with a defense-first mentality. 

Terrance Mann is a 6’7” guard who contributed on both ends for the Clippers, especially in the playoffs. Patrick Williams is a 6’8” guard who impressed this past season in Chicago. And Malik Beasley averaged roughly 20 points for the Timberwolves.

Call it a rebuild in Toronto (or Tampa?) if you will, but they already have several young defensive-minded pieces in place for Nick Nurse to mentor.

Around The Association: 75, Favors, Ignite

NBA

  • The NBA announced that it will release its “top 75 players in league history in October.” The league is celebrating its 75th anniversary next season and will honor those players at the 2022 All-Star Game in Cleveland. Twitter should be, uh, interesting that week.
  • The Utah Jazz have agreed to send center Derrick Favors and a future first-round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for a future second-rounder. The deal puts Utah $13 million under the luxury tax.
  • Three G League Ignite players were selected in last night’s draft. Jalen Green was taken by Houston (2nd), Jonathan Kuminga was chosen by Golden State (7th), and the Bucks picked — then traded — Isaiah Todd (31st).

*Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.

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