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            Monday, July 17, 2017

            Which upcoming NBA draft/free agent signings/trades could help the also-rans challenge golden state warriors for NBA title.

            The Golden State Warriors sit atop the throne, almost imperious in their position. Almost but not quite. Winning the NBA finals was something that they had to do. Having blown 2016 so spectacularly, there could be no repeat a year later against the same opposition.

            Going 3 - 1 up against the Cavaliers brought memories flooding back. If disaster struck once again, the Warriors would have been bracketed with the greatest sporting chokers of all time, putting the ‘86 Red Sox and Greg Norman at the ‘96 Masters to shame; they would become the NBA’s Cubs.

            Instead, as with all great champions, they took their setback on the chin, turned up for game 5 of the finals and duly won the series 4 - 1. There had been an authority about their play throughout the post-season and delivering the title had an air of inevitability.

            The gap to their rivals seems large. but with the draft, the opportunity arose to see if it was insurmountable yet. We look at which of the franchises came away happier with their business.

            LA Lakers

            With a win percentage of just .317 in 2016-17, one of the most globally recognizable of sporting franchises needed a good draft and overall, their front office delivered. They had a plan and kept to it. With the number 2 pick, they had an opportunity and it was off-limits in every discussion about trades they had.

            Not only that, they used it well with Lonzo Ball, the UCLA Point Guard. Later picks included Villanova shooting guard, Josh Hart, and, Indiana center, Thomas Bryant. The interesting addition to their roster is Utah’s Kyle Kuzma, with his 7’6” arm span has vultures looking on enviously.

            Perhaps the best business is offloading Timofey Mozgov but the drafts are the future. Ball is expected to be the future face of the franchise but the highest hopes for the coming season are surely the play-offs.

            Boston Celtics

            Losing the Eastern Conference final to the Cavs suggests that the Celtics are not far off being genuine contenders. A couple of judicious trades, perhaps pick up a pick. According to ‘sources’, they chased Paul George but they are set to lose out to the Cavs once more.

            They lost out to the Timberwolves as well, with Jimmy Butler joining Minnesota on the Thursday night. It left them with Jayson Tatum whose strengths will be fed by Brad Stevens There’s a distinct possibility that the off-season could be underwhelming but Danny Ainge, while not the messiah some claim, is nowhere near as flimsy in planning as his critics believe.

            Free agency is their interesting time for the Celtics. With the Cavs and others improving their rosters, can Boston afford not to do well in the remaining deals? Maybe the draft was a big tease and the powers-that-be have a couple of tricks up their sleeve? This may yet be an interesting summer.

            Minnesota Timberwolves
            Trading Jimmy Butler from Chicago for the number 7 pick, Zach Lavine and Kris Dunne, as well as receiving the number 16 pick, is a formula for a lot of fun. Not necessarily into the finals but the playoffs are a distinct possibility.

            Dunne needed a change of scenery after failing to live up to the expectations but Lavine is a costly element in the trade. His departure is something they still need to address; that, they hope, is a future problem when age catches up with him.

            The Wolves added Justin Patton from the draft and will be busy with free agency as well. There are still weaknesses to address but one thing seems safe to say: a repeat of last season’s .341 win percentage is not on the cards.

            Cleveland Cavaliers & Golden State Warriors

            Between the pair of them, last season’s NBA finalists managed one pick in the draft. Golden State bought pick 38 from Chicago and left with Oregon’s Power Forward, Jordan Bell. Cleveland will argue that they are tied up working on a deal to bring Paul George from Indianapolis.

            George has been linked with all and sundry but at the moment, is going nowhere. It’s expected that he will move to the Cavs soon, giving an air of respectability to the front office’s work. The two clubs have monopolised the regular and post seasons in recent years. The bookies see no reason why that will change with bookies offering odds , as of June 29.

            When the regular season begins, there is a lot of interest focussed on how the draft picks will fare. Until then, it’s all about deals to be done.