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The NBA offseason saw an unusual amount of movement among stars. But over a dozen recent lottery picks also changed teams through trades and free agency.
Most hadn’t previously appeared to be on the right path toward reaching their potential, making them expendable earlier than expected.
We predicted how a change of scenery will affect the following young players’ careers after they were either dealt to or signed by new teams. Only players selected in the 2014 draft or later were considered.
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Drafted: No. 2 in 2017
Prediction: Revives stock, but not star potential
Injuries haven’t helped Lonzo Ball, but a change of scenery should.
He’ll benefit from playing with a younger core of teammates to whom he can better relate and without the pressure of having to impress or please LeBron James and the demanding, enormous Los Angeles Lakers fan base.
Jrue Holiday, Derrick Favors and JJ Redick are lower-maintenance/profile veterans to develop under. Holiday also adds supplementary scoring and playmaking without being overly ball-dominant, creating a balanced mix of on- and off-ball work for Ball.
His passing and defense will continue to drive his impact, but he should also be feeling looser this season, which should translate to another spike in three-point percentage.
However, I wouldn’t bet on Ball suddenly reaching the star expectations that initially came with being the No. 2 pick. A new team won’t unlock the scoring ability that is typically needed for a guard to reach star status in today’s NBA. He lacks the shooting creativity, dribble-jumper attack and explosion to separate inside the arc.
Ball figures to revive his stock in New Orleans, but as a high-end role player who’ll continue to be valued mostly for his basketball IQ, facilitating, defensive instincts and three-point ability.
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Drafted: No. 6 in 2015
Prediction: Fits, becomes more appreciated
After four seasons, Willie Cauley-Stein’s strengths and limitations are well-defined. They won’t change much over the years since they haven’t dating back to his freshman season at Kentucky.
For the Sacramento Kings, paying for the rim-running and finishing wasn’t worthwhile. That’s different for the Golden State Warriors, who lacked an above-the-rim presence at the 5 and already had plenty of scorers to mask Cauley-Stein’s inability to create or shoot.
He racked up the sixth-most dunks in the NBA last year, and the Warriors’ skill players will also optimize his ability to pick up easy baskets. His stats might fall slightly in Golden State, but he’ll be more valuable than he was in Sacramento.
I wouldn’t bet on Cauley-Stein opting into the second year of his deal, which would pay less than $3 million. He’ll revive his value this season by playing to his strengths on a team that wins games even without Kevin Durant or Klay Thompson.
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Drafted: No. 11 in 2018
Prediction: Finishes the year as starting point guard
It seemed safe to assume the Oklahoma City Thunder would trade Chris Paul after they landed him in the Russell Westbrook deal, which followed the team’s acquisition of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the Paul George trade. Those roster moves signified a change of direction and strategy. But Paul is still on a roster that has a low ceiling, an up-and-coming sophomore point guard and a boatload of draft picks that point to a rebuild.
I wouldn’t expect Paul to start games for the Thunder in March and April, though it’s unclear how his exit or fade will occur. Maybe OKC can eventually facilitate a trade or shut him down early and use load management.
Somehow, Gilgeous-Alexander will finish the year running the team’s offense, assuming a core of a 34-year-old Paul, Danilo Gallinari and Steven Adams won’t be enough to threaten the top teams in the West.
Oklahoma City will eventually want to prioritize its newest long-term cornerstone by giving him lead-guard reps. He averaged 10.8 points and 3.3 assists in 26.5 minutes last year, splitting his time almost evenly between point guard (50 percent of his possessions) and shooting guard (49 percent).
Though Paul will start the season with the Thunder, look for Gilgeous-Alexander to wind up seeing more time on the ball. The Thunder will want him to gain experience making decisions and improve his off-the-dribble scoring and playmaking.
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Mary Altaffer/Associated Press
Drafted: No. 5 in 2015
Prediction: Finds a suitable reserve role
Exciting flashes of athleticism and scoring have kept hope alive for Mario Hezonja, but erratic decision-making and inconsistency have made him expendable to the Orlando Magic and New York Knicks.
He’ll fit in better with the Portland Trail Blazers, a veteran playoff team whose second unit could use some of his potent offense, even it remains volatile.
His playing time will still fluctuate based on which Hezonja shows up that day since the bad one creates frustration with silly shots and turnovers. The good one can lift Portland’s bench and inject the lineup with confident shot-making, slashing and defensive playmaking.
Hezonja will continue to go through highs and lows with his third team since he was drafted No. 5 overall in 2015. But his highs this year will feel more impactful now that his particular strengths are needed by a winning team.
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Drafted: No. 2 in 2016
Prediction: New team, same Brandon Ingram
Nothing about Ingram’s new situation raises concern about his fit. Nothing suggests the game should come any easier, either.
Again, he’ll be featured as a secondary or tertiary scorer, and he should be able to match last year’s 18.3 points per game. Ingram has made subtle strides creating and executing inside the arc, raising his two-point field-goal percentage and total two-pointers made in each of his first three seasons.
Most notably, he appeared to make the biggest jump executing in traffic during the 2018-19 season, going from 23.9 percent to 48.1 percent in the paint from the restricted area to the free-throw line.
A three-ball would take Ingram’s scoring attack to another level, but minimal progress through three seasons doesn’t fuel a lot of optimism. He also might be off to a slower start this offseason while recovering from thoracic outlet decompression surgery to fix an issue that caused a blood clot in his right arm.
Assuming he eventually regains his health and strength, Ingram should still emerge as a key scoring weapon in New Orleans’ rotation and overall rebuild. But it’s difficult to imagine him making that leap to stardom in 2019-20.
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Drafted: No. 4 in 2017
Prediction: Change of scenery doesn’t help
Trending toward bust status through two seasons, Josh Jackson begins a new chapter with the Memphis Grizzlies after the Phoenix Suns traded him in a small salary dump. And sometimes, a change of scenery is needed.
It won’t be enough in this case, at least based on where he wound up.
Jackson goes from one young team to another. The spacing and veteran talent to play off won’t be there in Memphis. He shouldn’t count on more open three-point looks or easier scoring opportunities in the half court.
Jackson hasn’t improved his shooting or decision-making, finishing last year at 32.4 percent from three with 183 ass