Houston: The Offseason
- By Kyle Kappe, Day 1, 2024
The Lightning entered the 2024 offseason with some major questions; the biggest being how will the team look for the new year. A failed offseason in 2023 saw the team reconstructed in a way that was doomed from the start. A roster full of solid players gave them hope for the first ⅓ of the year, ended up getting them the #8 pick. So this offseason had a lot of questions to be asked and 2nd year GM Kyle Kappe was going to have to be creative in getting those questions answered.
The Moves: The Lightning were able to strike a deal that sent longtime PG, Hood to the Mustangs for the Randall Dozier, some filler, and the 33rd overall pick in the draft. Some eyebrows were once again raised as a talented player in Hood was dealt, but Dozier was younger and has long been touted as a player with potential, so it was understood. The next move was sending Dozier and the #8 to the Colonels for the 5th overall pick. But the move was made to ensure that GM favorite, Spencer Allen, would land with the Lightning. There was some nervousness that Allen could go sooner, but the attributes brought in by Greely were enough to where Allen would still be the second SG taken in the draft and available at 5.
A second move we made was to acquire a third first round pick, the 20th overall, for the privilege of taking on salary from the Vipers. We acquired Mirko Blazevic, Dimitri Karacic, and Tyree Chappell (who has since moved on for a second round pick). We dealt veteran SF, Pace LeGarde in that move.
The Draft: Everything else was quiet leading up to the draft. Once the draft hit, there were a flurry of surprises that saw the draft fall into a positive light for the Lightning. The first 5 players went as most prognosticators believed would go and then it all went...curious, for lack of a better term. The Lightning tried as best they could to grab DeVonte Hale, but were unable to and saw him exiled to Oklahoma City. As more players went off the boardm we arrived to #19 and there was the player next on the Houston draft board in Montreal Cleveland, but another player, one who expected to be taken near the top 10 sat, Keiron Worthington. As the divisional foes took our pick of Cleveland, so Houston was ecstatic to take the forward out of USC. He wasn’t a need at all with Harrison and Hall already manning the front court, but he was too good to pass up. Morgan was the next player on our draft board and he went the pick after, to Kansas City again, before we took the next guy on our board, defensive whiz, Carter Barlow, out of the University of Oregon. He’s a defensive post who is able to guard all five spots on the court, but with almost no ability to score the ball. The rest of the first round went smoothly and went it came to our pick at 33 (really 34, but the Thunder didn’t have their first), we took Jakeen Sanders, an offensive Center from Indiana. We held our collective breathes for the next 20 or so picks, hoping our diamond in the rough pick would fall to us. As Chris Rainey went off the board at 52, we quickly grab PG Daryl Caldbeck at 53. Our scouts liked him as a top 3-4 PG and we had hopes he could develop into a starter going forward
Free Agency: We did not have much we felt like going for. With some obviously flaws and a look towards next years draft, we settled on two players. The recently released second rounder, SF Omari Flatten and SF/SG Luke Williams. Flatten was a guy we liked in the draft but didnt have a pick around the middle of the second round. Luke Williams emerged as a sort of mentor to Spencer Allen. Both are similar molds of players and both attended the University of North Carolina. At the time of us signing Williams, we were deathly short on SF’s and could use a veteran guard. Allen had been doing offseason training before the draft with Williams, so it was a fortunate match for us to take him. It was highly doubtful that Williams had much of a future left in the JBL, so it was a worthwhile investment all three parties made into each other.
Post FA Transactions: We made a move to trade Tyree Chappell for a second rounder. We probably sold low on him, he’s been a solid contributor wherever he went, but we wanted to do the veteran a solid one and deal him to a team that was going to utilize him properly. We are trying to prepare for the future and get our kids up to speed and Chappell would not have gotten much playing time as we did not want to impede the kids we have. We also made a move to switch second rounders and in the process acquired SG/SF Eric Dawson. He’s a limited upside player, but with not a strong wing rotation (mostly young bodies), we felt like we would throw him into the fire and see what happens. He’s a true 3&D player as all he does is play perimeter defense and shoot 3 pointers. If anything, he’s a prospective depth player in the future.
The Blow: They say a moment of time can be etched in your head forever. I doubt this moment qualifies as such, but that fateful training session certainly gives pause. Classified as “damaged knee cartilage”, Lightning fans are quiet to cite the return to full strength at 79% of such cases. Why his knee buckled the way it did, we won’t know, it was a simple jumping exercise, but it will likely cause Spencer Allen to miss the first 5-6 games of the season. Coming out of college, the descriptions of Allen were “Elite athlete” and “Explosive first step”. How will this injury affect his performance on the court? Stayed tuned, but any sort of drop will seriously hamper his and Houston’s fortunes going forward.
Up Next: The 2024 Outlook