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10-Day Contract Candidates

Teams can now sign players to 10-day contracts. Cody Taylor looks at some 10-day candidates.

Cody Taylor

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Beginning today, teams may begin signing players to 10-day contracts. These contracts are most commonly used as a tryout period for respective players. Most players that sign a 10-day contract originate from the NBA’s Development League.

Teams may sign a player to a maximum of two 10-day contracts. Following the end of the second 10-day contract, teams must decide if they want to sign that player for the remainder of the season or cut ties with that player.

Last season, 32 players received 42 call-ups while an all-time high 63 call-ups occurred two seasons ago. Players like Sean Kilpatrick, Tim Frazier and James Ennis were some of the players called up to the NBA last season who still remain on an NBA roster today.

This week also represents the deadline in which non-guaranteed contracts become guaranteed, with teams needing to cut those players by Saturday in order to allow for the two-day waiver period before those contracts become guaranteed on Tuesday. As more roster spots open up, this could free the way for more prospects to earn their way onto NBA rosters.

With teams now able to sign players to 10-day contracts, here are 10 prospects to keep an eye on (in no particular order):

Keith Benson, Sioux Falls Skyforce:

For teams looking for an extra rim protector, Benson should be at the top of the list. On the season, Benson is averaging 19.1 points, 11.2 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per game. He currently ranks 11th in the D-League in total points, first in total rebounds and first in total blocks. He leads the D-League in blocks by a wide margin, too. Benson has 62 total blocks this season. The next highest player on the list has 38.

As his blocks indicate, Benson has become a defensive force for the Skyforce this season. He also ranks seventh in the D-League with a 95.2 defensive rating. He leads all players in double-doubles with 12 and is coming off of his best game of the season, recording a career-high 33 points, 17 rebounds and five blocks.

Lamar Patterson, Reno Bighorns:

After splitting time between the Atlanta Hawks and the D-League last season, Patterson is having his best season to date and he seems to have gotten even better as the season has progressed. He’s averaging 22.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.4 steals per game and is fifth in total scoring over the past month. He currently ranks ninth in points and fourth in steals among all players. Patterson turned in his fourth game of the season on Tuesday in which he scored at least 30 points.

Perhaps the biggest improvement in his game has come in his shooting. He told Basketball Insiders over the summer he really wanted to improve his shot and his three-point percentage has improved from 26 percent last season to 34 percent this season. As his averages indicate, he’s been able to make an impact in many facets of the game. His best game of the season came on Dec. 9 when he recorded 35 points, eight rebounds, seven steals and four assists. His seven steals tied a season-high for any player in the D-League this season.

Quincy Acy, Texas Legends:

Acy has the most NBA experience of these candidates and is said to be among the most likely to earn a call-up. Acy was waived by the Dallas Mavericks back in November to make room for point guard Jonathan Gibson after the team suffered injuries to Deron Williams, Devin Harris and J.J. Barea. Had it not been for those injuries, Acy would likely still be with the Mavericks as he was a favorite among players and the coaching staff.

Acy has appeared in 12 games for the Legends and is averaging 17.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, two blocks, 1.6 steals and 1.2 assists. His best game of the season came back on Dec. 14 when he recorded 28 points and 14 rebounds. Acy has proven that he can be a solid rotation player during his four seasons in the NBA so it seems likely he’ll be back in the league once the right situation opens up for him.  

Briante Weber, Sioux Falls Skyforce:

With Pierre Jackson earning the sixth call-up of the season last week, Weber takes over as the No. 1 prospect, according to the D-League’s Prospect Watch list. Weber earned a pair of call-ups last season with the HEAT before finishing out the season with them. Weber is perhaps one of the most exciting players to watch given his ability to impact the game all over the floor. While he isn’t the best shooter, he can contribute in many other areas.

He is averaging 13.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 2.9 steals per game. His defense has been arguably one of his biggest attributes this season. He’s known to be a pest on defense and currently has the fifth-best defensive rating in the D-League. Weber currently leads all point guards in rebounding and leads all players in steals. There have been nine triple-doubles recorded in the D-League this season and Weber has three of them. Perhaps his most impressive triple-double was when he had 24 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists on Christmas Day.

Quinn Cook, Canton Charge:

Cook has been one of the most consistent scorers in the D-League this season. His 25.1 points per game currently ranks fifth among all players and his 49-point outing on Dec. 7 is tied for the second-highest point total this season. In addition to his 25.1 points, he’s also averaging 5.8 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game.

Of the nine triple-doubles recorded in the D-League this season, Cook has one of them after he had 15 points, 12 assists and 12 rebounds on Nov. 18. Cook’s game seems to have improved even more on the offensive end this season. His points per game are up from 19.6 last season to 25.1 this season. In addition, he’s earning more trips to the line as well. He averaged 3.6 free throw attempts last season and is up to 6.4 this season. He’s fun to watch as the primary ball handler, as he’s shown he can make a number of different hesitation dribbles and embarrass defenders. Given his abilities offensively, it shouldn’t be surprising to see Cook in the NBA sooner than later.

Cory Jefferson, Austin Spurs:

Jefferson is another candidate that has prior experience in the league. He appeared in 50 games two seasons ago with the Brooklyn Nets and was with the Phoenix Suns last season for eight games. In 19 games this season with the Austin Spurs, Jefferson is averaging 15.7 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.

Jefferson is coming off of his best game of the season after scoring a career-high 25 points and 11 rebounds for his seventh double-double. Jefferson can be a solid contributor for a team to add some size off of the bench. He has great athleticism at 6’9 and is a great option in the pick-and-roll as well. He’s improved his shooting, as he’s converting on 50 percent of his three-point attempts. Given his prior NBA experience, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Jefferson receive a call at some point.

Manny Harris, Texas Legends:

In terms of the best scorer in the D-League, Harris could be the guy. He’s currently averaging 26.6 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game for the Legends. He’s second in total scoring and owns two of the top four scoring performances in the D-League this season with outings of 49 points and 47 points, respectively.

Harris is a guy that has played virtually everywhere in his professional career. He has spent three seasons in the NBA, four seasons abroad and several others in the D-League. Harris could be a guy that decided to stay in the United States until call-ups start and then go overseas if he doesn’t receive one soon.

Chasson Randle, Westchester Knicks:

Randle’s first season in the D-League has been a good one. In 16 games for the Knicks, he’s averaging 21.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game. Randle has established himself as a great three-point shooter who can get hot and put up a lot of points. He’s shooting 41 percent from three-point range and is 10th in the D-League in three-pointers made. On Dec. 16, he made nine three-pointers and followed up that outing by knocking down seven triples.

Randle was close to making the New York Knicks’ opening night roster after a strong preseason, but suffered a fractured orbital bone in training camp that ultimately hurt his chances at sticking around. The Knicks are said to like his defense and could opt to bring him up at some point in the near future should a roster spot open up.

*****

As the window to sign players to 10-day contracts is officially now underway, keep an eye on these players who could get a chance. Of course, there will be others that will get an opportunity as well. These players have all shown at various times throughout the season that they could be a valuable addition to a prospective team.

Did we leave someone out? Hit the comments and let us know! 

Cody Taylor is an NBA writer in his fourth season with Basketball Insiders, covering the NBA and NCAA out of Orlando and Miami.

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NBA Daily: Boston’s Potential Crisis

The Kyrie drama may finally be over in Boston, but some tough decisions could be on the horizon for the Celtics, writes Matt John.

Matt John

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It’s hard to get a read on what exactly the Boston Celtics are going to be this upcoming season.

Losing a talent with the rap sheet that Kyrie Irving has at only 27 years old would usually spell misery for any fanbase. Yet, after all that transpired this season, there may not be a fanbase happier to see an NBA superstar in his prime walk than Celtics Nation was when Irving bolted.

Besides, the sting of his departure was mitigated by the arrival of Kemba Walker. Kemba is a slight downgrade from Kyrie, but his consistent improvement, as well as his reputation as a team player, has some believing that he may be able to produce more effectively than Kyrie did as a Celtic.

The most damaging loss the Celtics suffered from the summer is Al Horford. Horford’s all-around game was the perfect fit in Brad Stevens’ system. His floor-spacing, vision, defense, and unselfishness benefitted the team in so many ways that it would be almost impossible to replace every dimension he brought to the Celtics by himself.

Instead of finding a replacement for Horford, the Celtics thought outside of the box by bringing in Enes Kanter. Kanter can’t do everything that Horford does – comparing those two defensively alone is downright laughable – but Kanter still commands double-teams, is one of the league’s best rebounders and is joining a team that ranked 22nd in rebounds per game. It’s definitely a downgrade, but Enes has proven he can be a solid contributor.

That’s not even factoring in the other unknowns facing the Celtics this season. Jayson Tatum in year three; Jaylen Brown in year four; Gordon Hayward being two years removed from his leg injury. After a down year so difficult that pretty much everyone involved took a step back, it’s hard to say where the bar should be set for this team.

Presently, Boston’s ceiling is drastically lower than it was at this exact time a year ago. But when you consider that they won 49 games, is it delusional to think they’ll be able to exceed that win total with a seemingly lesser roster?

That will depend on whether they can solve a possible crisis that their roster as constructed could produce.

In basketball, it’s common sense that if you want to win, you put your five best players on the court when things matter most. As long as those best players can actually play together on the court. That’s the Celtics’ problem right there.

Boston’s five best players are slated to be the following:

-Kemba Walker
-Jayson Tatum
-Gordon Hayward
-Jaylen Brown
-Marcus Smart

With Kanter designated as the starting center – this may change as the season progresses – one of these five is going to start the season coming off the bench, which Brad Stevens will figure out with due time. Hayward, Brown, and Smart have all played significant minutes with the second unit recently so it shouldn’t be much of an adjustment there.

The problem is, if all five of those players play to the best of their abilities, all of them are too good to be wasting away on the bench in crunch time. But if they all are on the court to close out games, who plays center? The only one out of the five who has any experience playing the five position is Hayward, which came last year and he only played one percent of his minutes there.

Brad Stevens has always been one to experiment. He’s never been hesitant to thrust players who aren’t usually the center type into the role of the small-ball five. From Brandon Bass to Jonas Jerebko to Semi Ojeleye, Stevens can really commit to the small in small-ball.

There’s just one problem. The Celtics’ top competitors for the crown this season sports some of the best centers in the league, which include Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid, and Nikola Jokic among others. Should Boston try to use its projected best players in its crunchtime lineup, they won’t stand much of a chance. Gordon Hayward and Marcus Smart are good defenders, but they’re not that good.

Boston right now isn’t really considered a contender by most people who follow the NBA but adding the 29-year-old Walker, who is now entering the prime of his career, signaled that they aim to be one. Say Boston tries the Walker-Smart-Brown-Tatum-Hayward lineup, and it does not pan out, they may have to trade one of them in order to balance out the roster and crunchtime lineup.

Who they would ship out is the real mystery. They’re definitely not trading Kemba after they just added him. Jayson Tatum’s trade availability expired the second Anthony Davis was traded to the Lakers. Many fans are clamoring for it after a not-so-stellar comeback, but Gordon Hayward is unlikely to be traded. His contract at this moment is an albatross, and when teams trade the star free agents they lured to them shortly after said luring, it’s not a good look for the franchise, especially after what Hayward has gone through.

For better or worse, Gordon Hayward is remaining a Boston Celtic. That leaves Smart and Brown. This is where this hypothetical crisis gets interesting. If Danny Ainge’s hand is forced to choose between the two, who does he trade?

If Ainge wants to keep the one with the highest ceiling, it’s Brown. Jaylen did not have the easiest start last season. He was so bad in fact that they benched him for Smart. Over time, Brown found his game again off the bench. As good as he was, a man of Brown’s talents should not be relegated to the bench.

If that’s not enough, remember that just the year prior, Brown was one of the most vital contributors on a team that was within inches of the NBA Finals. Eighteen points on 46/39/64 splits in 18 of what had to be the most important games of his life as a 21-year-old cemented Brown’s status as a high-upside, possible star player.

Between Brown and Smart, Brown has a higher ceiling.

If Ainge wants to keep the one who solidifies the team culture, it’s Smart. Smart may never have the scoring prowess or the reliable jumper that Brown has, but ask anyone who sets the tone for the game more, and it’s Smart.

Ever since he first walked on the court, Smart’s been one of the most intense, high-energy players in the league. His playmaking and defense inspire the Celtics to play at their best. When the Celtics’ 2018 playoff run comes up, people talk about how impressive the youngsters were, but they forget that their fortunes may not have turned out so well if Smart had not come back in time from injury.

It’s true that his love for the game puts his flaws on display, but Marcus Smart is what helped catapult the Brad Stevens era and establish a successful culture in Boston. His efforts probably won’t lead to any All-Star appearance, but they solidify him as an impact player for a championship team.

Between Brown and Smart, Smart brings more of a winning culture.

Some other components at play – Brown is in a contract year, and he should have suitors next offseason, while Smart is currently being paid $12 million (salary that could be used in a possible trade for a star player).

Now there’s the chance that none of this happens. The Celtics may go forward with the core they have right now, and maybe they have something up their sleeve that nobody knows about. There’s also the chance they may trade both Smart and Brown for an upgrade or trade someone else.

There’s obviously no way to tell what will happen at this point. However, these are the pertinent questions that the Celtics need to ask themselves as we approach the upcoming season.

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High-Performance Mindfulness: Incorporating The Mental Health Resource Into The NBA

Jake Rauchbach outlines best practices and working parameters for integrating a mental health/Mental Performance resource into the coaching staff. 

Jake Rauchbach

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As NBA teams begin to integrate mental health resources into the overall working structure of their organizations, several key points should be taken into consideration so that practitioners can be most effective when working with players.

Before we dive in, it is important to note that, within the mental health spectrum, there are generally two avenues.

There is the clinical side, which focuses on diagnosing and treating behavioral disorders like depression, substance abuse and learning disabilities. There is also the applied/performance-related side, where the end goal is to improve on-court performance through techniques such as High-Performance Mindfulness.

Let’s jump in and break down some of the best practices and key considerations for successfully installing this resource within your staff:

Best Practices & Key Considerations

Player Buy-In

Player buy-in should be the number one priority. All other considerations should directly feed into facilitating and supporting this. With any sort of coaching, trust and rapport with the player are vital. The same thing holds for mental health resources/High-Performance Mindfulness coaches. Credibility and strong rapport with the player must be built.

This responsibility lies on the shoulders of the interpersonal skill-sets of the High-Performance Coach. However, much more of this responsibility resides with the decision-makers, who define the working parameters for the resource. If players do not like, trust or see value in the resource and the services offered, it is going to be very tough to make much headway. Before any substantial progress, this foundation must be in place first.

Staff Buy-In (Cooperation)

If a player senses that staff members, especially decision-makers, surrounding that player do not support or are sending mixed messages regarding the value, effectiveness, and acceptance of the mental health work, it can derail or block the initiative. When leaders within the organization outwardly support the role of the practitioner and initiative, it makes it that much easier to effectively serve the player.

In a perfect world, all levels of the organization are sending the same message to the player(s) regarding the role, value and implementation of the mental health practitioner. More realistically, outward support and clear definition of the practitioner’s role goes a long way.

  • Defined Role: Clearly defining the role, will properly position the resource. It will also put players and staff members on notice regarding working parameters.
  • Embed Resource in Coaching Staff: The highest probability for success is by having the resource sit on the bench during the game, ideally right between the player rotation. This is ultra-effective in improving performance and halting performance issues straight away as they arise during the game.
  • Direct Line of Communication: A direct line of communication from the mental health resource/performance coach to the decision-makers within the organization is vital. The mental and emotional responses of athletes are illogical and often unpredictable. So is the performance improvement of the player. It is very rarely a straight line up. A clean and clear feedback loop from the mental health expert to the decision-makers make this job much easier.
    • Expert feedback presented consistently is a must, ideally in weekly or bi-weekly meetings. Confidentiality is always a major consideration. However, performance results and projective performance trajectories of a player are different than confidential information. When it comes to player performance, results, trajectories and player progression can be shared and must be put into context.

Measurable Success

In High-Performance Mindfulness, there should be measurables, or metrics, showing the improvement for the player. Performance coaches should be judged by the tangible production they can facilitate for a player or set of players. In a results-based business such as professional basketball, showing the value add via statistical improvement is important. This is especially true in a growth space such as Mental Performance.

Finding a way to do this so that it does not infringe upon the domains of other coaching staff members is also a consideration. However, not acknowledging that Mental Performance has the potential for improving statistical on-court performance would be missing the point.

Time

There is a gestation period that exists in High-Performance Mindfulness Coaching. Just like any other type of coaching, there is a period between the implementation of the work and the actual production improvement results. Understanding this will provide clarity and context.

There are just some of the best practices for helping jump-start your mental health and High-Performance Mindfulness initiatives at the NBA and professional basketball level.

The application of the mental health and High-Performance Mindfulness resources within the NBA and professional basketball is a little like the wild west right now. Through trial and error, organizations will see what works and what doesn’t within the context of their given situation.

One thing is for sure, though: This space is growing and growing fast, and decision-makers better have foundational understanding for how to give this initiative the best probability for success.

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NBA Daily: Grading The Offseason – Denver Nuggets

James Blancarte continues Basketball Insiders’ “Grading The Offseason” series by examining the Denver Nuggets’ deep roster.

James Blancarte

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James Blancarte continues Basketball Insiders’ “Grading the Offseason” series analyzing the Denver Nuggets.

Throughout the offseason, Basketball Insiders has been taking a look at each respective franchise’s roster after the draft, offseason signings and trades. In doing so, we look to analyze and determine how each team did as they prepare for next season and beyond.

There are numerous strategies teams can take when it comes to the future. Some teams look to acquire various assets in exchange for taking on players with undesirable contracts. Having cleared up cap space, other teams use the offseason targeting free agents with the hope of making a big leap going forward. This offseason was one for the ages with a few teams willing to take huge risks and spend a treasure trove of assets to build an instant contender. Successful teams oftentimes resist the urge to make any major additions or subtractions and take a bet on internal growth and continuity.

And that leads us to the Denver Nuggets. Denver is fresh off a playoff run that nearly saw the franchise return to the Western Conference Finals. Some teams in big markets seem to come away with the biggest free agents. This offseason, Denver mostly did not come up with any top-tier acquisitions. However, with the talent and youth of their key players, the Nuggets shouldn’t be concerned. A year older, more mature and with the benefit of continuity, the Nuggets again enters the upcoming season as a Western Conference contender.

Overview

Last year, the Nuggets jumped up to second place in the west after finishing in ninth the prior two seasons. With that jump, Denver finally returned to the postseason, ending a five-season playoff drought. Jumping up seven seeds is an impressive season-to-season jump not often seen in the NBA. However, many Nuggets followers would argue that the team had been better than their prior results and the jump shouldn’t come across as a major surprise.

Credit the Nuggets’ investment and patience in their core players for last year’s results. The team has allowed their franchise star Nikola Jokic to fully explore his talents as his minutes, effectiveness and usage have increased year-to-year. Alongside Jokic, the team has seen significant development and improve play from Gary Harris and Jamal Murray.

Last year saw the two-man game between Jokic and Murray take off to a new level. Their intuitive and fluid two-man game created a foundation on offense that the team thrived on. Throw in a full season of Paul Millsap and the team became that much more dangerous. The year prior, the Nuggets acquired the multi-skilled Millsap but an injury kept him out much of the year and prevented the team from gelling fast enough to get back into the playoff picture. With a full season of Millsap in addition to the team’s young core, the Nuggets were able to hit another level.

The Nuggets should be lauded for their ability to draft, acquire and develop young talent. This past season saw second-year guard Monte Morris join the rotation and establish himself as another key contributor. Malik Beasley, a first-round pick for Denver in 2016, also had his best year so far and started in 18 games. Longtime mainstay Will Barton did struggle with injury last season. With his explosiveness somewhat limited, Barton didn’t have the same overall impact he has had in year’s past.

The Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers matchup in the semifinals produced fireworks. Denver came out of the wrong end of an unbelievable quadruple-overtime game. Losing that marathon game could have easily been the kind of loss that a team doesn’t recover from in a close matchup. Instead, the Nuggets came back and even led the series 3-2. Despite going toe-to-toe, the Nuggets came up just short in the final quarter of game seven.

Offseason

Unlike a few other teams this year, there is no splashy star acquisition and that is just fine. Having come so close to making the Conference Finals and having already seen year-to-year growth from multiple key contributors, slow and steady may still win the race for the Nuggets. Jokic is arguably a top-10 player and is a realistic MVP candidate entering this upcoming season. Also, Jamal Murray was signed to a five-year, $170 million extension. Murray is an emerging talent and has the skill to be a dynamic offensive force in the future.

Just because the Nuggets didn’t sign or trade for a top-tier free agent doesn’t mean they would never consider it. There have been murmurs at times about whether Denver would or should pull the trigger and use their wealth of young talent to acquire a potentially available star like Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal. That speculation never seemed to amount to much and the team opted for a few smaller transactions.

On June 29, Denver exercised their team option to keep Millsap for $30 million for the 2019-20 season. Again, Millsap played well last season and helps make the Nuggets more versatile on both ends of the floor.

The Nuggets also acquired forward Jerami Grant by jumping into the Thunder fire sale of assets that started with the Paul George trade. In exchange for a 2020 first-round pick, the Nuggets picked up a versatile and capable defensive forward to help round out their deep roster.

There are a few other minor transactions to take note of. The Nuggets closed the book on Trey Lyles, who has been in the team’s big man rotation for the past few years. In spot play, he contributed at times but didn’t make an overall impact sufficient to justify the continued investment.

Denver has a deep roster and will need to stay flexible and figure out their best rotations next season. Barton will be looking to re-establish himself. Juan Hernangómez, who can play on the wing or as a small-ball four, will again be trying to find a permanent place in the rotation. Center Mason Plumlee formed a towering two-man front-court tandem that allowed Jokic to play from the perimeter, in addition to his backup center minutes. Plumlee may be wary of Jerami Grant, who could usurp some of those frontcourt minutes alongside Jokic.

PLAYERS IN: Jerami Grant, P.J. Dozier, Tyler Cook, Vlatko Cancar

PLAYERS OUT: Isaiah Thomas, Trey Lyles, Tyler Lydon, Brandon Goodwin, Thomas Welsh

What’s Next

Finishing second in the west, being a quarter away from the Conference Finals and bringing back the same squad of up and coming players should make the Nuggets a near lock to be a top-shelf team again. Continued development from many of their young players and an MVP season from Jokic could easily place them in the top-tier of the Conference again.

Unfortunately, the Nuggets will have to contend with newly minted contenders in the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers. Add a stellar offseason for the Utah Jazz and the possibility that the James Harden-Russell Westbrook experiment could succeed and there are at least four other realistic contenders for the top two spots in the west.

Simply holding the two spot will be quite the challenge. However, the Nuggets have the benefit of youth, player development and continuity. Few teams can tout continuity as a major asset the way Denver can. This upcoming season will be an interesting test to see how important continuity is in an always-improving Western Conference.

Offseason Grade: B+

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