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2014-15 Golden State Warriors Season Preview

Is Steve Kerr the right man to guide this team to contention?

Basketball Insiders

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At one point this offseason, it appeared almost certain that Kevin Love would be a Golden State Warrior.  The holdup was whether Klay Thompson would be in the deal, but it was presumed with the dearth of other suitors that the deal with Minnesota would eventually be done.  Ultimately, whether the Warriors would have relented on Thompson or not became irrelevant when LeBron James signed with Cleveland, suddenly rendering the Cavaliers a more desirable franchise for Love–and one that possessed much better trade assets than the Warriors.

So, an offseason of turmoil ultimately resulted in some of the least personnel turnover in the league for Golden State.  With head coach Steve Kerr replacing the deposed Mark Jackson, the question is what will and can be different for a squad that garnered the sixth seed in the West and lost a bitter seven-game series to the Los Angeles Clippers a season ago?

Five Guys Think

It will be interesting to see what kind of head coach Steve Kerr will be, particularly since his first opportunity has afforded him a lot of toys with which to play. Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry are the deadliest three-point shooting tandem in the league, and they shouldn’t be any less exciting than they have been the last couple of seasons. Defensively, standout veterans like Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut hopefully will anchor a more stalwart D than we’ve seen in the recent past. If Kerr succeeds, the Warriors will remain in the postseason conversation, but if mismanaged, the Warriors are the kind of team that could fall off a little. They’re aren’t likely to miss the playoffs, but upstart teams will be clawing at them. That combined with the new coach should make for some intrigue in the Bay Area this year.

2nd Place – Pacific Divisoin

-Joel Brigham

With the versatile Shaun Livingston added to their already impressive core, the Golden State Warriors may be closer to competing for winning all of the marbles than anyone thinks. If Andrew Bogut, David Lee and Andre Iguodala were all able to play 75 games alongside Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry, one would be hard-pressed to argue that the Warriors had one of the most talented starting fives in the entire league last year. With Livingston, Marreese Speights, Harrison Barnes and Brandon Rush on the bench, the team does have a concern with size off the bench, but that is an issue that can be addressed with a late signing or two or a trade at deadline time. For the Warriors, what it all hinges on is Steve Kerr. Kerr is universally regarded as a brilliant basketball mind, but how well he handles the transition to the bench will obviously make all the difference in the world for the Warriors. If Jason Kidd serves as an example, the Warriors are in good hands. This is one of the more compelling story lines heading into the season, though, since the man that Kerr is replacing—Mark Jackson—was mostly loved by his locker room and his star players. Still, at the end of the day, it is difficult to believe that with Cury and Thompson, a healthy Warriors teams would not be among the cream in the conference, even if not first out in the Pacific.

2nd place – Pacific Division

– Moke Hamilton

Two decisions made by the team’s front office during the summer will ultimately shape the future direction of the franchise – for better or worse. The first decision was to fire head coach Mark Jackson due to philosophical issues and hire Steve Kerr for the position. Kerr has no head coaching experience but meshes better with the team’s management structure. The second decision was the club’s refusal to include shooting guard Klay Thompson in a potential trade for All-Star forward Kevin Love. Those are two huge decisions with their own set of ramifications – positive and negative. The playoffs are a certainty for Golden State, but the team made those two decisions with grander visions in mind. It will be interesting to see if they can get over the hump.

2nd Place – Pacific Division

– Lang Greene

Warriors fans have a lot to be excited about entering this season. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are incredibly talented and are coming off of an excellent FIBA World Cup experience. New head coach Steve Kerr should come in and be more creative than Mark Jackson on the offensive end. The additions of Shaun Livingston, Brandon Rush and Leandro Barbosa among others should improve their depth. David Lee and Andrew Bogut should enter the season healthy, and will hopefully stay that way. Golden State has all of the pieces to be a top-tier team in the West. Expectations will be high, especially since the team decided to part ways with Jackson due to behind-the-scenes drama, but the Warriors should be able to live up to them.

2nd Place – Pacific Division

– Alex Kennedy

When I think of the Golden State Warriors, the first thing that comes to mind is professionalism, because this is a team that has a lot to be frustrated about with their front office. Mark Jackson had the ear of that locker room. They loved him, played hard for him and did not want to see him go. Yet, because of differences with ownership and management, Jackson was replaced with a first-time head coach (at any level) in Steve Kerr. Then, after flirting with the idea of trading Andrew Bogut to create room for Dwight Howard last summer, much to Bogut’s distaste, they also shopped Klay Thompson this summer in hopes of acquiring Kevin Love. While they publicly denied it on plenty of occasions, Thompson knows that there were members of that front office willing to trade him, and it’s going to be interesting to see how that carries over to contract negotiations. A team loving their front office has never been a necessity for success – in fact disliking them could fuel it – but I can’t help but wonder what the mental state of the team is like, and how close they are to having some of those frustrations pour over onto the floor. Until they do, this is one of the best teams in the West on paper.

2nd Place – Pacific Division

– Yannis Koutroupis

Top of the List

Top Offensive Player: Stephen Curry.  Curry made headlines when he called himself a better offensive player than LeBron James, but he might well be close.  No player in NBA history has combined Curry’s accuracy and volume from beyond the arc, and he changes entire defensive schemes with his shooting ability.  Defenders guarding the screener in pick and roll must have their heels on the three-point line to prevent a three, pushing them far out of their comfort zone and opening up the floor for everyone else.

Top Defensive Player: Andrew Bogut. While Curry is the most irreplaceable player in the Warriors’ lineup, Bogut is a close second.  His absence during the Clippers series proved how indispensable he truly is, as L.A. played volleyball on the offensive backboards and got to the rim with impunity at times.  Bogut generally hangs back on the pick and roll, but with Klay Thompson generally guarding the other team’s point guard it is an effective strategy because his length bothers a potential midrange jumper from behind.  Bogut is one of the league’s greatest deterrents at the rim and picks up David Lee on the defensive backboards as well.  If he is not healthy for the playoffs, the Warriors almost certainly cannot win a round.

Top Playmaker: My esteemed editors cautioned against picking the same player for more than one category, but one cannot credibly slight Curry by passing him over here.  He averaged 8.5 assists per game a year ago, easily a career high.  Curry was the sole engine that powered the Warriors offense, and the team has become very dependent of Curry.  They scored at a rate that would have led the league with him on the floor last year, 109.7 points per 100 possessions.  With him off the floor they were a miserable 15.9 points/100 worse.  Curry has developed into one of the league’s most spectacular passers, whipping one-handed lasers with either hand off the pick and roll to shooters on the weak side, dropping dimes to the roll man, or connecting on alley oops with Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala.  The next step for Curry is to reduce his turnovers.  He turned the ball over on 16 percent of his possessions during the year, well above the league average. These were a particular problem in the playoffs, as Chris Paul (admittedly one of the league’s best thiefs) often had Curry’s hook passes timed out.

Top Clutch Player: On December 9, 2013, I wrote a post outlining Curry’s struggles as a primary option in the clutch to that point in his career.  I theorized that it was not because Curry was somehow “unclutch,” but because he was more dependent upon defensive lapses to score than other superstars.  Therefore, it was harder for him when teams really locked in during crunchtime. Two days later, he hit the game-winner against the Mavericks and never looked back.   He had two other game-winners against the Celtics and the Mavericks (again), a game-tying shot in the last few seconds against Houston, and late heroics against Miami in a game LeBron James ultimately won with a crazy three. Overall he was a very solid 5-11 on field goal attempts in the last 10 seconds when tied or trailing by up to three points, a situation in which the league shoots much worse than on normal attempts. The 11 attempts was second in the league behind Damian Lillard. He added two assists and two more free throws in such situations.  So much for my theory.

The Unheralded Player: Draymond Green.  This space had long been Iguodala’s province, and he would again be a worthy choice as he ranked third in Real Plus/Minus in 2013-14 despite pedestrian traditional statistics. But Iguodala makes eight figures.  Green is now on the third year of a rookie minimum contract that may be the best value in the league now that Chandler Parsons has signed a maximum deal. The Michigan State product possesses even more defensive versatility than Iguodala because of his ability to guard power players in addition to smalls.  To improve even further, Green must become more consistent from three-point range.  If he can speed his release and up his accuracy to establish his chops as a pick-and-pop threat from beyond the arc as a four man, he could supplant David Lee as the closer if not the starter.

Best New Addition: The three additions to the roster as of this writing were Shaun Livingston, Brandon Rush, and Leandro Barbosa.  The latter two are essentially replacement-level players at this point, although Rush could conceivably return to his roots as an effective three and D wing if he can slim down a bit from last year as he continues to recover from a torn ACL.  So the choice here is obviously Livingston, inked to the full mid-level exception.  He is the latest in the Warriors’ revolving door at backup point guard, a position that killed them last year.  The hope is Livingston can distribute the ball when Curry is not in the game and play on the wing when he is, providing the Warriors with yet another rangy perimeter defender.  Ironically for a team that is theoretically trying to get away from isolations, Livingston is perhaps the league’s best postup guard.  Unfortunately, he is a miserable shooter outside of 15-feet, and shooting is a weakness for Golden State outside of Curry and Thompson.

– Nate Duncan

Who We Like

1. Klay Thompson: It has certainly been a newsworthy summer for Thompson.  The Warriors refused to surrender him for Love, after which he was a stalwart for a dominant Team USA at the World Cup.  With the inflated market for wing players at the moment, a solid defensive wing with Thompson’s shooting gravity will likely merit a maximum contract in the summer of 2015 if he is not extended before the season.  But it should also be noted that Thompson only managed a 14.2 PER last season because he does nothing but shoot jumpers on offense.  To really be live up to a max contact, Thompson must improve his abilities to operate in the pick and roll, finish at the basket, get to the foul line and rebound.  He made strides in some of these areas during the latter third of the season in 2013-14, so the hope is that can continue.

2. David Lee: Lee has long been maligned for his poor defense, including in a famous presentation at the Sloan Conference in 2013.  But Lee really improved defensively a season ago, losing weight and getting in better cardio condition to execute in pick and roll and help defense.  He even improved his defense at the rim.  The problem as Lee ages is he really lacks the athleticism and strength to score against top defenders, and he was not a particularly effective option against the Clippers’ athletic frontcourt.  His jump shot strangely abandoned him last year, although he has been working to improve it this summer and even add a modicum of three-point range.While  many have called for Green to start ahead of him (and maybe he should), Lee will remain an essential part of a team as clearly the second-best offensive player unless Thompson improves.

3. Andre Iguodala: Iguodala (don’t call him Iggy, he rightfully dislikes the terrible moniker) signed a four-year, $48 million contract last summer in a transaction that also cost the Warriors two first-rounders.  That seems a pretty penny for a player with a 13.7 PER and 13 percent usage rate, but as noted the Warriors consistently played far better with the Arizona product on the floor, even after adjusting for the quality of his teammates and the opposition.  While he has slowed a bit as an individual stopper, Iguodala is still a masterful help defender who excels at moving the ball on offense and never takes bad shots.  For last year, at least, he was worth his contract.  Hopefully for the Warriors, he maintains that in his age-30 season.

4. Steve Kerr: Kerr was lured away from the clutches of Phil Jackson’s Knicks with what seemed an astronomical 5-year, $22 million contract for someone who had never coached before.  Such is Kerr’s reputation around the league.  After the constant palace intrigue of the Mark Jackson era, Kerr should be a breath of fresh air for Warriors fans and the front office.  He will need to win over a locker room in which Jackson was largely (though not entirely) popular, but few have doubts that a man of Kerr’s esteem can accomplish it as long as the Warriors play well.

5. The Assistant Coaches: Kerr’s transition as a first-time head coach will be eased by perhaps the best assistant coaching staff in the NBA.  Renowned defensive teacher Ron Adams was Tom Thibodeau’s right-hand man in Chicago before moving on to Boston last year.  There, he performed a similar role for first-year head coach Brad Stevens, an experience which should help with Kerr’s first year as well.  Adams helped Boston to a mid-pack finish in defense that was borderline miraculous considering their limited frontcourt talent on that end. Alvin Gentry has extensive head coaching experience, most recently as Kerr’s coach when he was the GM in Phoenix from 2008-10.  Gentry annually presided over some of the league’s best offenses before moving on as Doc Rivers’ lead assistant with the Clippers a season ago.

– Nate Duncan

Strength

The Warriors have started to get their due as one of the best defenses in the league, ranking third last year by giving up only 99.9 points per 100 possessions per NBA.com.  The Warriors have perhaps the most defensive talent in the league, as Bogut, Iguodala, and Thompson are all among the best at their positions.  Green is likewise one of the most versatile defenders, one of the few who can legitimately say they guarded every position effectively throughout the season.  Barnes is a solid individual defender who should continue to improve in his third season.  Livingston is good. And while Curry and Lee lack the athleticism to truly excel, in 2013-14 they both improved their conditioning and execution of the defensive scheme, which should remain similar under the tutelage of Adams.  This year, the Warriors and Bulls are the two leading candidates to pace the league on defense.

– Nate Duncan

Weakness

For a team that ostensibly had the best-shooting backcourt in NBA history per Jackson,* Golden State’s 12th-ranked offense was a massive disappointment.  Jackson, the player for whom the league instituted the rarely-called five second backdown rule, was much-derided for his stagnant isolation-heavy coaching style and desire to attack mismatches as he once did in his playing days.  As a result, the Warriors threw the second-least passes per possession in the league last year, per NBA.com’s SportVu data.

*Warriors executive Jerry West might have something to say about that regarding his partnership with Gail Goodrich on the 69-win 1971-72 Lakers.

Early indications from summer league are that Kerr will strive for the opposite, and institute a motion-heavy hybrid of the triangle offense and the Spurs system.*  Those offenses are both famous for helping less talented players find shots on system plays rather than relying on individuals to create an advantage.  In theory, this will be a particular boon when Curry is out of the game.  The Warriors scored three points per 100 possessions less than the league-worst Sixers without Curry on the floor, so improving the bench offense is essential.  Indeed, this one aspect could make the difference in attaining a coveted top-four playoff seed. Until we see the effects of Kerr’s system, this remains a relative weakness for the Warriors.

*Kerr has stated a desire to get Curry the ball more in situations other than high pick-and-roll.  While this may be desirable to save him wear and tear, it was by far the Warriors’ most effective play last year.  When they went away from this construct (admittedly many times to low-percentage isos) they most often struggled.

– Nate Duncan

The Salary Cap

The Warriors locked in a hard cap of $80.8 million when they signed guard Shaune Livingston via the team’s $5.3 million Mid-Level Exception.  Golden State has 13 fully guaranteed players, along with five hoping to battle out for the team remaining roster spots.  Aaron Craft, James McAdoo, Mitchell Watt and Justin Holiday each have $35k guarantees – all candidates to join the Santa Cruz Warriors as affiliate players in the D-League.  Leandro Barbosa just inked with the team on a deal that isn’t fully locked in, with guarantees (if any) to be determined. Golden State used their Bi-Annual Exception last summer on Jermaine O’Neal, who may still be a candidate to return.  The team has a pair of small traded player exceptions ($1.2 million and $789k, with some room to work with under the $76.8 million luxury tax threshold.  The Warriors will presumably stay below the tax, without nearing the hard cap – barring an unexpected and unlikely trade opportunity.  Klay Thompson is eligible for an extension (until Halloween), otherwise he’ll be a restricted free agent next summer.

– Eric Pincus

Dunc’d On

Best Case

59-23

The old guys avoid a step back, and the young guys improve. Everyone stays healthy all year.  The defense holds up under Kerr, while the ball movement gets much better as players like Bogut and Iguodala become more involved in the offense and the bench finds it easier going. Curry takes another step as he moves into his prime by increasing his free throw rate and reducing his turnovers.  Thompson builds on his improvement passing and dribbling to become a true secondary pick and roll playmaker.

Worst Case

47-35

Curry appears over his injury concerns and Thompson never gets hurt, but Bogut, Lee, and Iguodala all miss 20 games.  The Warriors regret not going after backup centers like Ekpe Udoh, Miroslav Raduljica, or Gustavo Ayon, as Festus Ezeli proves he is more of a third center even when healthy.  Livingston’s toe injury lingers into the season, and minimum signings Rush and Barbosa prove why they were available for the minimum.

– Nate Duncan

The Burning Question

What can make this team better than last year?

The most obvious answer is Kerr, but he will have a challenge ahead of him.  Other teams are litmus tests for how much coaching can affect defense, but Kerr’s hiring will provide the same on offense for a team many believe has way too much talent to finish 12th in the league.  But defense is generally more susceptible to coaching improvement than offense, which depends more on individual talent.  After this year, we will have a good idea of whether the Warriors’ offensive struggles were due to Jackson, or the offensive talent being overrated.  Was Iguodala reduced to spot-up shooting and a tiny usage rate because that’s all he has left, or because of the system? Did Thompson fail to score efficiently despite his obvious talent as a shooter because he lacks the ability to create efficient scoring opportunities, or because he was constantly isolating for long twos?  Can Andrew Bogut function as more than just a garbageman at the rim, or did his 2010 elbow injury permanently excise scoring from his game?  Does Harrison Barnes lack the natural shake to be an effective scorer, or was he used improperly? Was the bench ineffective because of a lack of talent, or because the scheme did not get them enough easy looks?

Aside from the impact of the coaching change, a key question is whether expected improvements from the younger guys (Curry, Thompson, Barnes, and Green) can exceed declines and/or injuries to the older guys (Iguodala, Lee, and Bogut).  With positive answers to these questions, the Warriors are a darkhorse contender to come out of the West.

– Nate Duncan

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NBA DAILY

NBA Daily: Rockets Might Be Formidable Challenge For Warriors

If nothing else, the Rockets gave everyone, including the Warriors, something to think about by beating the champs.

Moke Hamilton

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For those that had any lingering doubt as to the authenticity of the Houston Rockets, Saturday afternoon’s win over the Golden State Warriors should serve as a bit of a wakeup call.

Sure, championships aren’t won in mid-January, but by virtue of the win, the Rockets won their season series against the Warriors, 2-1.

Since the beginning of the 2014-15 season—the year the Warriors won the first of three consecutive Western Conference Finals—they’ve lost a season series to just one other team: the San Antonio Spurs.

A review of the tape suggests that those that believe that Gregg Popovich and Kawhi Leonard are truly the team that has the best shot of beating the Warriors is founded in some fact. In the last three seasons, the Warriors have lost a total of 39 games.

In total, during that span, seven teams have failed to beat the Warriors even once, while 12 teams have beaten them one time. Four teams have beaten the Warriors twice and only the Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies have beaten them thrice.

The Spurs, though, have managed to beat the Warriors five times, with Popovich leading his team to a 2-1 regular season series win over the Warriors during the 2014-15 and 2016-17 seasons.

It’s safe to say that they have been the only team worthy of calling themselves anything near a worthy adversary to Stephen Curry and company.

At least, that was the case until Saturday night.

* * * * * *

With all due respect to Michael Jordan, if the Warriors win the NBA Finals this season, they can legitimately claim to be the best team in NBA history.

Two titles in three years is nothing to sneeze at, but the claim holds no weight whatsoever without ever having won two in a row, especially when scores of other teams have been able to accomplish the feat.

Aside from the two championships, the Warriors can claim the best regular season record in the league’s history and the distinction of being the only team to ever win 67 or more games for three consecutive seasons.

It is true that the Warriors have been almost invincible since the 2014-15 season, but things have changed now that Chris Paul has joined forces with James Harden.

This season, the Mike D’Antoni coached team ranks 12th in points allowed per 100 possessions, a marked improvement over last season’s rank of 18th.

With Trevor Ariza, P.J. Tucker, Clint Capela, Luc Mbah a Moute, they have four defensive stalwarts, one of whom (Ariza) who wasn’t able to suit up due to being suspended.

At the end of the day, beating a team in the regular season doesn’t really count for much, especially when you consider the greatest irony: in each of the seasons the Spurs beat the Warriors in their season series, the Warriors won the NBA Finals. The obvious asterisk there is that the Warriors didn’t play the Spurs in the 2015 NBA Playoffs and only managed to sweep them once the Spurs lost Kawhi Leonard in 2017.

Still, beating the defending champs in any game, much less a season series, has got to feel good. Whether they want to admit it or not, Saturday’s game against the Warriors was one that the Rockets wanted to get, that’s probably why Mike D’Antoni opted to reinsert James Harden into the game after he surpassed his 30-minute playing restriction.

In the end, Harden logged 35 minutes and ended up making what was the game’s clinching three-pointer.

Poetic, indeed.

* * * * * *

With the season a little more than halfway over, the Warriors still appear to be head and shoulders above those competing for their throne. Of the other contenders, the Rockets and Boston Celtics, at least for now, appear most formidable.

At the end of the day, what the Warriors have to fear more than anything is their own arrogance. As a unit, the team believes that it’s the best at playing small ball and that no other team can beat them as their own game. While that may be true, there have been a few instances over the past few years where that belief has ended up costing them.

What the Warriors seem to struggle with is understanding that not every possession can be played the same way, and as some possessions become more and more valuable, it would be wise for the team to play more conservatively and traditionally.

For example, when the Cavaliers beat the Warriors in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals, Kyrie Irving made one of the most incredible shots we’ve ever seen, but it was Stephen Curry who helped leave the door open for the Cavs with a pitiful final five minutes of the game.

Among the worst atrocities he committed was an ill-advised turnover that came as a result of an off target behind the back pass to Klay Thompson. In such a situation, any second grader could have and would have known that a simple bounce pass to the flashing Thompson would have sufficed.

Steve Kerr’s message to his team, though, is to play like themselves and not overthink their execution.

While that’s fair, it does at least leave room to wonder if the Warriors will have the humility to play conservatively when the game is on the line.

Curry himself admitted to playing too aggressively and making poor reads and decisions down the stretch versus the Rockets. The team passed up wide-open two-point shots for three-pointers that didn’t fall, and those botched opportunities play a direct role in causing the loss.

Fortunately, for the Warriors, not much was at stake, but their performance and decision-making in those tight minutes leave us to wonder what will happen if and when they find themselves in another tight moment or two…

And by virtue of the Rockets becoming just the second team to take a season series from the Warriors since the beginning of the 2014-15 season, we can also fairly wonder whether they truly have what it takes to take down the Golden Goliath.

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G-League Watch: 10-Day Contracts

David Yapkowitz looks at five potential G-League callups for 10-day contracts.

David Yapkowitz

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Since Jan. 10, NBA teams have been able to sign players from the G-League to ten-day contracts. A few have already been signed, such as DeAndre Liggins with the Milwaukee Bucks and Kyle Collinsworth with the Dallas Mavericks.

Once a ten-day contract expires, teams have the option of signing that player to another ten-day contract. After the second ten-day, teams must either sign the player for the remainder of the season or release that player.

Some players have used ten-day contracts to essentially jump-start their careers. Bruce Bowen was once a ten-day contract player before becoming a key piece of multiple championship teams in San Antonio. Famed New York Knicks enforcer Anthony Mason also got his first chance in the league off a ten-day contract.

With a few guys already being called up via ten-day as well as the NBA’s new two-way contracts, here’s a look at some of the remaining names who might be next in line.

1. Christian Wood

Christian Wood was once a highly touted prospect coming out of high school. He played two college seasons at UNLV before declaring for the NBA draft in 2015. Despite being projected to be drafted late in the first round or early second round, he did not hear his name called on draft night. He’s spent some time in the NBA since then, with the Philadelphia 76ers and Charlotte Hornets, but he currently plays for the Delaware 87ers, the Sixers G-League affiliate.

His 22.0 points per game are tied with James Young for top scorer on the team. He’s shooting 53.9 percent from the field, and he’s also displayed a nice outside touch for a big man at 35.2 percent from three-point range. He leads the team in rebounds at 9.6, as well as in blocked shots with 2.0. He’s very mobile and could certainly help a team as a stretch big man who can play defense and crash the glass.

2. Jameel Warney

Jameel Warney has been a candidate for an NBA call-up for quite some time. The former Stony Brook standout had a big summer with Team USA basketball. He was the tournament MVP of the 2017 FIBA Americup and was named USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year for 2017. He got as far as training camp/preseason with the Dallas Mavericks in 2016, and he’s currently playing for their G-League affiliate, the Texas Legends.

With the Legends, he’s fourth on the team in scoring with 19.4 points per game. He’s second on the team in rebounding with 10.4, and he’s tied with Johnathan Motley leading the team in blocked shots with 1.5. He’s shooting 52.5 percent from the field. What could be hindering his NBA chances is his lack of an outside shot, especially with the way the game is being played today. Nonetheless, he’s still one of the G-League’s top players and he deserves a shot in the big leagues.

3. Melo Trimble

After a solid three years at the University of Maryland, Melo Trimble was one of the best players not selected in this past summer’s draft. He played well for the 76ers’ summer league team in Las Vegas, which in turn earned him an invite to training camp with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He ended up being one of their final cuts at the end of preseason, and he went on to join their G-League affiliate, the Iowa Wolves.

He’s third on the Wolves in scoring with 18.5 points per game. He’s shooting 44 percent from the field, and a decent 34 percent from beyond the arc. He’s also leading the team in assists per game with 5.7. He’s got the potential to be a decent backup point guard, and if he can get his shooting numbers, especially from three-point range, up a little bit, there’s no question he’s NBA caliber.

4. Joel Bolomboy

Joel Bolomboy is a name that should be familiar to Utah Jazz fans. He was drafted by the Jazz in 2016, and although relegated to mostly end of the bench duty, he showed a bit of potential and flash here and there. The Jazz cut him after a year, and he ended up in Milwaukee before they too cut him to make room for Sean Kilpatrick. He’s currently playing for the Wisconsin Herd, the Bucks G-League affiliate.

At the recent G-League Showcase that took place from Jan. 10-13, Bolomboy had one of the best performances of the event. In the two games played, he averaged 25.5 points per game on 73 percent shooting from the field and 13.0 rebounds. He was named to the All-Showcase First Team. He’s had eight double-doubles so far in the G-League this season. He’s already gotten his feet wet in the NBA, and if he continues putting up similar production, it won’t be long before he finds himself back on an NBA roster.

5. Jeremy Evans

Jeremy Evans is a name that should be somewhat familiar to NBA fans. He’s spent six years in the league with the Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks. He also participated in two dunk contests in 2012 and 2013. Unfortunately for him, dunking was probably the one thing he was known for. It might be why he found himself out of the league after only six years.

With the Erie Bay Hawks, the Atlanta Hawks G-League affiliate, his 15.9 points per game are good enough for fourth on the team. His 62.3 percent shooting from the field is a team-high, as is his 10.3 rebounds per game, and 1.4 blocks. Not known as a shooter during his time in the NBA, he’s only shooting 25.6 percent from three-point range in the G-League. If he can get his outside shooting percentages up, he has a shot at getting an NBA call-up and keeping that spot permanently.

Although there’s no guarantee that any of these guys get NBA call-ups on ten-day contracts, they have some of the best shots out of anyone in the G-League. Don’t be surprised if, by the end of the season, all of these guys finish it out on an NBA roster.

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NBA Daily: Potential Trade Targets to Get the Sixers to the Playoffs

On the cusp of a playoff appearance for the first time in six years, the Philadelphia 76ers could cement their postseason status with a move at the trade deadline.

Dennis Chambers

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At times this season, the Philadelphia 76ers look like they’re capable of going toe-to-toe with some of the league’s best teams. With Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons at their disposal, along with capable three-point shooters, the Sixers have shown flashes of being a force to be reckoned with.

And at other times, well, they look like a discombobulated young team, with serious flaws in the construction of its roster.

Despite the lapses they display, the Sixers are still right in the thick of the playoff race. Currently, at 21-20, they hold a half-game advantage over the Detroit Pistons for the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference.

While they await the return of top overall pick Markelle Fultz, who has still yet to hit the court after being shut down earlier this season with a shoulder injury, the Sixers will continue to miss depth on the wing and a particular skill set that holds them back from winning games they seem to have locked up with double-digit leads. For all the greatness that is Embiid, and all of the promise that is Simmons, when the former isn’t on the court, the latter struggles to shoulder the scoring load due to his inability to shoot jump shots.

Initially, that’s what Fultz was drafted for. A player that head coach Brett Brown has said many times before, has the talent to tie everything together with the Sixers’ roster. What he means by that is Fultz represents a scorer from multiple levels of the court who forces the defense to lock in on, potentially leaving the teams’ shooters open on the wing.

Without Fultz, and when Embiid is on the bench, the team lacks a player who can put the ball on the floor, create and knock down jumpers. Although long-term success is still very much the attention for Philadelphia, that doesn’t discount the fact that a team that finished with 10 wins just two seasons ago is on the verge of making a playoff appearance for the first time since 2011-12 with a core of young, promising players.

Because of that possibility, and because of the clear holes in team’s makeup that could prevent this from happening, the Sixers could become an interesting player at the trade deadline — especially considering the names that appear available, according to reports.

It’s no secret that Sixers’ president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo wants to keep financial flexibility heading into this summer, that’s the main reason players like J.J. Redick and Amir Johnson were signed to one-year deals last offseason. Before the team has to start signing their own players to big extensions, the Sixers are in a unique position where they not only have elite homegrown talent, but the money to complement those players the best they can. Because of that, any deal that would return a player with money on the books past this season seems unlikely.

That being said, it just so happens that two players potentially on the trading block right now fulfill the Sixers’ most crucial need, and also aren’t on the hook for money past this year. Marc Stein of The New York Times reported that Rodney Hood could be moved before the Feb. 8 trade deadline, and that multiple teams are expressing interest in his services.

Along with Hood, Stein also reported that Lou Williams, who’s been the center of many trade talks around the league given his career-year and impending free agent status, was involved in specific discussions that would send him to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

What should intrigue the Sixers about these two players is not only their ability on the court but also their flexibility off of it.

Let’s start with Hood. Before the rise of Donovan Mitchell this season, Hood looked to be in a position to assume the role as the dominant scorer on the Utah Jazz following Gordon Hayward’s departure. At just 25 years old and in the final year of his rookie contract, Hood may not be worth the price tag for Utah this summer considering their find with Mitchell.

Should the Jazz actually move on from Hood, it’s unclear what they would ask for in return at this point. Yes, Hood his an impending free agent, which could diminish his value. But the team trading for him would assume his Bird Rights, therefore giving them a better shot at retaining him this summer should they choose to do so.

The best part about his potential fit in Philadelphia is that he fits the timeline of the rebuild while also addressing a need in the present. Being just 25, Hood fits alongside the core of Embiid, Simmons, Fultz, Dario Saric and Robert Covington as a young player. If the Sixers were to miss out on whoever they were planning to target with their financial flexibility this summer, Hood would still be there to plug in for years with a contract extension.

Shooting 38 percent from beyond the arc this season, and displaying the track record of being able to fill up the score sheet, Hood could become the go-to-scorer for Philadelphia when Embiid isn’t on the court, or late in games when they need to stop an opposing team’s run.

While he appears to at least be on the table as of now, Hood is certainly worth checking in on from the Sixers’ standpoint.

Now, onto Williams. Drafted by Philadelphia all the back in 2005 with the 45th overall pick, Williams is enjoying the best season of his career for the Los Angeles Clippers. At 31, he doesn’t represent the long-term upside that Hood does, but for this season alone, bringing Williams on to this current Sixers’ roster could be that extra jolt to get them cleanly into the postseason.

Averaging 23 points per game and shooting 41 percent from downtown, Williams fits the role as an iso-scorer better than any player on the Sixers’ current roster. Alongside Simmons and Embiid, Williams could assume the role Fultz was supposed to this season.

Another interesting ripple to the potential Williams fit is that he was on the last Sixers’ roster to make the playoffs. Adding him to this roster would bring his career full circle. This summer, Williams is most likely going to test the market and given his age and potential price tag he may not fit so well into the Sixers’ plans moving forward. But with his history with the club and city, getting him on board for another playoff run with an exciting young team could arguably help in the negotiation process this offseason.

Neither of these potential trades are slam dunks, and it remains to be seen if either player will even be moved. But for where the Sixers stand currently, coupled with their growing postseason expectations, checking in around the league on trade targets that can fulfill obvious needs should be at the forefront of Colangelo’s agenda for the next few weeks.

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