Three things to know: Does Aldridge to Nets, Drummond to Lakers move championship needle?

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Kurt Helin
·6 min read
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The NBA season is into its second half, and we will be here each weekday with the NBC Sports daily roundup Three Things to Know — everything you might have missed in the Association, every key moment from the night before in one place.

1) Does Aldridge to Nets, Drummond to Lakers move teams’ championship needle?

The rich got richer in the NBA at the buyout deadline. Major market contenders — the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers — added the biggest name players on the cheap on this year’s buyout market. While there is a debate to be had about the equity of the system, we’re asking a different question:

Did adding Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge in Brooklyn, and Andre Drummond in Los Angeles, really move the championship needle for those teams?

For the Nets, not that much.

While Aldridge and Griffin are big names with 13 All-Star Game appearances between them, neither of them has played near that level for a couple of years — they got bought out for a reason — and they are not necessarily better than the guys the Nets have on the roster now. Griffin is a good passer and improved shooter who can still dunk and averaged 9 points a game since coming to the shorthanded Nets. Aldridge is a pick-and-pop threat who also will play a lot of center for the Nets, giving Steve Nash options.

But in a playoff series, the best hope is one of them can help with a specific matchup for a game, maybe two.

Neither Aldridge nor Griffin has the lateral movement left to defend well enough to help Brooklyn on the end of the court the team actually needs help (the Nets have to play more of a drop-back system with them and DeAndre Jordan). The reality is second-year backup center Nicolas Claxton is Brooklyn’s best center off the bench — he has broken out in recent weeks, and he’s the team’s best role-playing defender by a mile. He can switch picks onto guards and not get torched, something Aldridge and Griffin cannot say. If Claxton’s run is cut to get Griffin and Aldridge promised minutes at the five, opponents will celebrate it. Claxton brings a level of athleticism lacking in the Nets frontline that neither Griffin nor Aldridge have at this point in their careers.

When Brooklyn gets healthy and gets Durant back at the four, the minutes for Griffin should shrink. There could be ripple effects: To get Griffin minutes when Durant is playing, KD may have to slide to the three, taking minutes from Bruce Brown, who has played well for Brooklyn.

If Aldridge and Drummond getting run because it was promised and not because of their play right now, Brooklyn gets worse. The Nets’ best lineups this season have been smaller and some have seen Jeff Green at the five. We may see more of that come the playoffs, maybe more Claxton, but if those minutes need to go to Aldridge and Griffin because the minutes were promised, then the Nets did not improve.

The Lakers move the needle a little more with Drummond.

Drummond will be an upgrade over Marc Gasol, who continues to struggle this season and has been slowed as he recovers from COVID-19. In the short term, while LeBron James and Anthony Davis are out, the Lakers can run some offense through Drummond in the post and get a few buckets. When those guys return, Drummond has the chance to show he can thrive in a role — rebound, be a solid drop-back defender in the paint, get a few buckets playing off the stars, keep the ball moving. Lakers coach Frank Vogel said, “I think our team got a lot better.”

Drummond makes the Lakers better now, but he doesn’t really change this team’s championship odds. Not meaningfully.

The reality is by the time the Lakers get to the second round of the playoffs and beyond, Davis is the Laker playing the critical minutes at center. Drummond will be asked to slot into essentially the Dwight Howard role from the last playoffs, and we’ll see how he handles it. Maybe it works, and he helps as a big body in certain matchups (Jusuf Nurkic, Rudy Gobert, in the Finals maybe Joel Embiid or Jordan/Aldridge), but more Drummond is not the Lakers best lineup.

Drummond is a good pickup for the Lakers; he is an upgrade. He just doesn’t move the championship needle a whole lot.

2) Aaron Gordon looks like a comfortable fit in first game with Nuggets

Denver moved its championship needle at the trade deadline picking up Aaron Gordon.

How much and if it’s enough is a question not answered until May and June, but Gordon fit in well in the Nuggets offense on Sunday, scoring 13 points in a Nuggets blowout win and sliding right into a role that fit him as an athletic finisher.

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Gordon was constrained at times in Orlando by the role he had to play — point forward at times — and the talent around him. He’ll get more open looks in Denver as the defenses focus on Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. It helps to have your first game with a new team be the soft landing spot of the bottom-10 Atlanta defense. Still, you can see the athleticism Gordon brings and his ability to finish above the rim, something Denver has lacked.

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Gordon’s biggest role in Denver come the playoffs will be as a wing defender against the West’s elite, a role not truly tested in his first outing. But on Day One, Gordon looked like a good fit.

Also, there was a Bol Bol sighting on Sunday.

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3) Bradley Beal keeps it very real talking to his AAU team.

Sometimes, young athletes need a kick in the….

Bradley Beal delivered it in no uncertain terms trying to get through to AAU players this week in a video caught by SLAM. He lays out the reality for them — if your dreams are about the NBA, you are trying to take my job (and the paycheck of 450 other guys), and I am not giving that up. He keeps it 100 about making the NBA.

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If you’re wondering how that was received, at least one parent of a player on that team said it was needed.

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Check out more on Beal and the Wizards

Winners, Losers from busy NBA trade deadline day Report: Bulls get Daniel Theis in trade with Celtics and Wizards NBA Power Rankings: Nets still on top, Bucks climbing fast, Lakers slide

Three things to know: Does Aldridge to Nets, Drummond to Lakers move championship needle? originally appeared on NBCSports.com