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July 4, 2017

The Complete Runner’s Guide to: NBA Free Agency

One thing that runners can sometimes get some flack for is being “one dimensional.” Now, I’m not around all runners all the time, but a good example of the “one dimensional runner” is something like this:

Party Goer #1: How about this NBA Free Agency?

One Dimensional Runner: (twitching in panic, then shouting) WITHOUT LIMITS IS THE BETTER PREFONTAINE MOVIE!

Party Goer #1: (Exits stage right)

Here at Citius we’re not just about informing our readers about the running world, but the non-running world as well. Our aim is to create a well rounded and educated population of Citius Nerds. So in order to avoid the pitfall described above, we would like to present to you the [semi] Complete Runner’s Guide to: NBA Free Agency. It’s a series that maybe we’ll start doing weekly and just getting the geeky runner up to speed on things outside the ovals and trails.

Below you’ll find a few important things you need to know about recent NBA trades, along with some talking points, and relevant memes so the next time your boss or loved one lays into you about it you’ll have this cheat sheet as your go to.

Paul George

Background: Paul George is a top-10 player in the league. He’s twice lead the Pacers to the Eastern Conference Finals, both times losing out to Lebron James and the Miami Heat.

Why it’s a big deal: Paul George has been whining about leaving Indiana (who can blame him?) for a while now. Despite being vocal about returning “home” to Los Angeles (he’s from Palmdale. Palmdale is not Los Angeles), a number of teams like the Boston Celtics (and the Lakers) were actively recruiting him this offseason. Then out of nowhere ESPN’s Romona Shelbourne dropped this on us:

Now, Paul George (a Kevin Durant-lite) will be teaming up with the 2017 MVP, Russell Westbrook. George’s contract is up at the end of this season, and Russell Westbrook has yet to sign an extension, and currently has a player option in 2018, meaning he could opt out of his contract and head to a title-contender.

Things to say to your friends: “It’s great that Russ is finally getting some help. Would love to see him and George stick it to Durant and the Warriors this year.”

The Minnesota Timberwolves

Background: The Minnesota Timberwolves have been bad for a long time. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2004. Kevin Garnett left in 2007 and all hope was lost. Kevin Love couldn’t help, and neither could back to back rookies of the year in Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. But with a new coach and an exciting young roster (that still has the two Rookie’s of the year), the Wolves seemed to be on an upswing.

AND THEN THIS HAPPENED:

Why it’s a big deal: Jimmy Butler is a top ten player in the league who has spent a majority of his time in the NBA coached by the now Wolves coach, Tom Thibodeau. He’s an elite defender, which the Wolves desperately need. And if this wasn’t enough, this happened:

This isn’t as significant as the Jimmy Butler signing, but Taj brings veteran defense and big presence in the paint. And then this happened:

Now the Wolves have a point guard that’s as potent of a passer as Ricky Rubio was, in addition to being less of an offensive liability.

Things to say to your friends: “I wouldn’t be surprised if the Wolves finish top 5 in the Western Conference. That’s if Thib doesn’t tear someone’s ACL by playing them 48 minutes a game.”

The LA Clippers

Background: I hate the LA Clippers. I’ve had the opportunity to go to some Clippers games over the last few years. There’s no point in turning down free tickets, but the way the Clippers play basketball would be a good reason. They’re whiny. They’re boring. The fans don’t even seem to like them that much. And despite having one of the greatest point guards in NBA history, an athletic freak at power forward, Duke Legend JJ Redick, an all-star caliber big man, and a fairly potent bench, this line up has never made it to the conference finals.

AND THEN THIS HAPPENED:

AND THIS:

AND THIS:

All of this as reports of Deandre Jordan taking meetings with a handful of other teams, as well.

Why this is important: Mostly this is interesting because the Clippers that have showed so much promise over the past few years are finally dismantling. Here’s another one of Ryan Sterner’s “I’ll eat my show if it happens” bets: if the Clippers make the playoffs this year, I will eat my shoe.

The conversation of the Clippers inevitably leads to a conversation about:

The Houston Rockets

Background: James “the Beard” Harden finished 2nd place in the MVP race this year. Most of this can be attributed to his usage rate going through the roof after 1) Human cess pool Dwight Howard was traded to the Hawks and 2) he shifted to playing point guard.

The problem: Chris Paul is a point guard that thrives with the ball in his hands. What is a team to do with two ball heavy point guards? I have no idea. In my idiot-brain it doesn’t end well. But I imagine 2017 Coach of the Year Mike D’antoni will understand what to do with both of them. If anything it means that Harden will be able to take a rest without his team’s offensive efficiency plummeting to nuclear-winter type levels.

Things to say to your friends: “It’ll be interesting to see how Chris Paul and James Harden can handle playing point guard on the same team. Also, have you ever seen Harden without a beard?”

Gordon Hayward

Background: I haven’t heard about Hayward being upset with the Jazz until this season. But after getting swept from the conference semi-finals by the Warriors, rumors started swirling about where Hayward would go.

Why this important: The Jazz this season were genuinely exciting. They have a good number of roll players as well as a few sure-fired superstars in Rudy Gobert and Hayward. Despite the promise of the Jazz, who have really only entered the playoff conversation this year, Hayward vetting offers from a few other teams in his free agency, most notably teams in the East Coast Conference.

What this would mean: Let’s consider this a Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder and/or Lebron James “The Decision”-esque dilemma. Him leaving the Jazz would be devastating to the franchise and their young coach, but very beneficial to him, as he’d likely go to an Eastern Conference team with a much, much easier path the the NBA Finals.

Relevant tweets:

Things to say to your friends: “It’s just Gordon Hayward. Who gives a shit?”

The Eastern Conference

Background: The only background you need to know on the Eastern Conference in general is that they haven’t been great for a while, as long as we’re overlooking Lebron James. Since 1999, an Eastern Conference team has won the NBA Championship only six times. The disparity in the league is only growing, but the dummies in the NBA continue heading west.

Why it’s important: Well, from the outside, it would seem that the most important thing for NBA players is winning rings. The greatest opportunity to get to a title shot in the NBA is heading East, but with a slew of these off season trades, the trends continues to be players heading west.

Relevant memes:

Things to say to your friends: “I’m pretty sure a slowly deflating bag of garbage could make it to the NBA Finals out of the east coast”.

The Western Conference

Background: Here are a few teams I’ll name from the Western Conference: San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers, Golden State Warriors. What do all of these teams have in common? They’re all in the Western Conference, and they combine for 12 of the last 19 NBA Champions.

Why it matters: It doesn’t. Except that the trend seems to be moving West, when really, as an NBA player you should be moving East if you’re looking to make it to the playoffs. As it stands, it could easily take 50 wins to get even an 8 seed in the west.

Relevant Memes:

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