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Basketball Insiders Week in Review 10/12

Basketball Insiders looks back at some of the articles from last week in case you missed them the first time around.

Kyle Cape-Lindelin

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Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony’s Looming Legacies

By Moke Hamilton

The horn sounded. The third quarter ended. Chris Paul sat on the bench, forlorn. His bright red jersey, now burgundy and drenched in sweat, clung to his frame.

He took a deep breath and looked up at his head coach. Searching and hoping for a diatribe that would light a fire under his listless teammates, he got the opposite.

“We’ll regroup for Game 2,” his coach said, mentally forfeiting.

“We’ll be ready,” he said.

But alas, this was Game 1 and there were still 12 minutes remaining.

And as he sat down and looked up at the scoreboard, he saw the 85-64 score. He didn’t need an abacus to tell him that his team faced an insurmountable deficit. That this was Game 1 on the road made the task of accomplishing the impossible all the more daunting.

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Marquis Daniels Exploring NBA Coaching Career

By Jessica Camerato

As his NBA playing career hinged on uncertainty, former Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers offered Marquis Daniels advice he is pursuing three years later. After suffering a terrifying injury mid-game in 2011 due to spinal stenosis, Rivers made a suggestion for Daniels’ future during his rehab process.

“He said, ‘If you don’t come back and play, you could come back and be a good coach,’” said Daniels. “It kind of stuck with me.”

Daniels did return to the game and last played for the Milwaukee Bucks during the 2012-13 season. On Sunday, he visited his old stomping grounds at the Celtics’ training facility to explore a new career on the sidelines. The 10-year veteran has already made stops with the Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio Spurs.

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Will Kenneth Faried’s Deal Be The Domino?

By Steve Kyler

Denver Nuggets big man Kenneth faired reached a deal with the Denver Nuggets on a new five-year, $60 million deal, which according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports is guaranteed to pay out $52 million, as the final year is a partial guarantee.

Faried was one of several 2011 Draftees negotiating terms on a rookie scale extension. Last week the Phoenix Suns reached multi-year deals with both Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris, who agreed to a four-year, $32 million and a four-year, $20 million deal, respectively.

Several other member of the ’11 draft class are at the table. Here is what we know about most of them:

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Fantasy: Anthony Davis Over LeBron James at No. 2

By Joel Brigham

People who play fantasy basketball know that Kevin Durant is, without question, the best player in the game today. Nobody else is so well-rounded and so dominant in so many categories, even though as recently as a year ago there was a real debate over whether he or LeBron James should be drafted with the top selection in fantasy drafts.

Not that James had a bad year last season; it’s just that Durant pushed himself ahead. In some ways, New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis did, too.

Now entering his third year, Davis has made it clear that, for the first time in a long time, the top three picks in this year’s draft will carry massive value rather than just the top two. In fact, there’s even a pretty convincing argument that Davis should be the second pick of your fantasy basketball draft instead of James.

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New Faces in New Places: Southeast Division

By Cody Taylor

In Basketball Insiders’ new series, we’ll take a look at the new players in every division. We start with the Southeast Division.

Atlanta Hawks:

Thabo Sefolosha: The Hawks stayed mostly quiet on the free agent front, but did add Thabo Sefolosha to the mix. The Hawks have been desperately seeking a player to lock up opposing teams’ best players and seem to have finally added that player in Sefolosha. While Sefolosha will provide the biggest impact on the defensive side of the ball, the Hawks are hoping that he’ll be able find some of his stroke from behind the arc. Sefolosha shot 42 percent from three-point range with the Thunder two seasons ago, but regressed from that number last season hitting just 32 percent of his shots from long distance.

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New Faces in New Places: Central Division

By John Zitzler

In Basketball Insiders’ new series, New Faces in New Places (click here to read the first part of the series on the Southeast Division), we take a look at some of the more impactful offseason moves made throughout the league. This installment focuses on the Central Division and what new acquisitions figure to be most valuable to their new teams.

Chicago Bulls:

Pau Gasol – The Bulls made a strong push to land Carmelo Anthony in free agency, doing everything in their power to lure Anthony away from New York. When those efforts fell short their attention quickly turned to the veteran big man. Gasol, at 34 years old, is entering the latter stages of his career, but still appears to have plenty of gas left in the tank. Despite playing on an undermanned Lakers squad this past season, Gasol was very productive averaging 17.4 points per game and 9.2 rebounds per game. He showed he still has what it takes to be one of the top post players in the game today. Gasol will step right in as the Bulls’ starting power forward position and play alongside Joakim Noah. The two will give the Bulls arguably the top power forward/center tandem in the Eastern Conference. Both players not only have the ability to score the ball, but are skilled passers as well. With the return of Derrick Rose and the addition of Gasol down low, look for the Bulls to have a much easier time scoring the ball this season.

 

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Next Road Ahead Tougher for Noel

By Yannis Koutroupis

Twenty months. That’s how long Nerlens Noel’s Philadelphia 76ers debut was in the making. He finally took the court last night for Philadelphia’s preseason game against the Boston Celtics. For Noel, though, it was much more than just his first game back from a major injury. It was the realization of a lifelong dream, made bittersweet by serving as a sharp reminder that the toughest part of his career is just beginning.

“I don’t think I played well at all, but I was proud of the fact that I was able to shoot tonight in a Philadelphia uniform and finally start playing an official NBA game,” Noel said after accumulating  six points, four rebounds, four turnovers and six fouls in 21 minutes of action in a 98-78 blowout loss.

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No Hard Feelings Between Bledsoe, Suns

By Lang Greene

Entering the offseason, point guard Eric Bledsoe was thought to be one of the most attractive options on the market. However, the guard didn’t sign a new contract until September, right before the start of training camp after a contract negotiation stalemate lasted months.

The Suns held firm on a four-year, $48 million offer throughout the summer. Bledsoe held firm with the belief he was worth a near-max deal. In the end, Bledsoe re-signed for five years and roughly $70 million.

Despite the tense negotiation period, which also saw the Suns sign point guard Isaiah Thomas as insurance, Bledsoe maintains that stuff is now in the rear-view mirror.

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New Faces in New Places: Northwest Division

By Jesse Blancarte

After taking a look at the Southeast and Central Divisions, Basketball Insiders continues its New Faces in New Places series with a look at the Northwest Division.

Minnesota Timberwolves:

Andrew Wiggins – It’s not often that a number one overall draft pick gets traded before ever playing for the team that drafted him (in fact, Chris Webber is the only other such player), but that’s exactly what happened this offseason when the Cavaliers traded Wiggins to the Timberwolves for Kevin Love. Wiggins brings the Timberwolves a new hope for future success as many view him as a future superstar. Wiggins certainly has the physical tools and skillset to become one of the best two-way players in the league, and a superstar, but it’s far from a given that he will reach that ceiling. It’s almost a certainty that Wiggins will become one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, but who he will become as an offensive player is still in question. He has the skill to be a 25 points per game scorer in the NBA, but he will need to take on a more aggressive mindset and embrace his role as the number one option for the Timberwolves. With Love gone, point guard Ricky Rubio takes over as the leader of the team. But long-term, Wiggins is Minnesota’s franchise player.

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Gasol, Bulls Confident Entering Season

By Alex Kennedy

 

When Pau Gasol was weighing his free agency options over the offseason, the two-time champion kept coming back to the Chicago Bulls.

The Bulls have a ton of talent, one of the best head coaches in the NBA in Tom Thibodeau and championship aspirations, which were several things that Gasol was looking for in his next team. After giving his decision much thought, the 34-year-old ultimately settled on Chicago because he felt it was the perfect landing spot for him.

Gasol turned down other interested teams like the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, signing a three-year deal worth $22 million with the Bulls. Chicago had just won 48 games in the previous year despite losing Derrick Rose just 10 games into the season and, entering the 2014-15 campaign, they are once again considered an elite team now that they’ll be back at full strength. Gasol wasn’t the only marquee free agent who found the Bulls to be an attractive suitor; Carmelo Anthony also strongly considered Chicago before deciding to re-sign with the New York Knicks.

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New Faces In New Places: Pacific Division

By Eric Pincus

After taking a look at the Southeast, Central and Northwest Divisions, Basketball Insiders continues its New Faces in New Places series with a look at the Northwest Division.

Golden State Warriors:

Steve Kerr – The biggest change for the Warriors this season is on the bench.  Kerr won’t be hitting crucial jump shots deep into a championship run like he did with the Chicago Bulls and San Antonio Spurs during his playing days.  Instead, he’ll get his first chance to coach at a professional level, replacing the departed Mark Jackson.  While Jackson’s emphasis was on the defensive end, the Warriors hope Kerr brings a greater balance between offense and defense.  Kerr comes in having played for Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich, the top two coaches of the last 20 years.  It’s an important year for Golden State, after two straight playoff appearances.  The team is looking to do more than just qualify or win a series – this is a franchise hoping to be a contender in the Western Conference.

 

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2014-15 NBA Fantasy Preview: Atlantic Division

By Tommy Beer

With Fantasy drafts on the horizon, we take a quick look around the Atlantic to determine which players qualify as potentials busts and which should be considered underrated value picks…

All-Fantasy First Team:
PG: Kyle Lowry – Toronto Raptors
SG: DeMar DeRozan – Toronto Raptors
SF: Carmelo Anthony – New York Knicks
PF: Nerlens Noel – Philadelphia 76ers
C: Brook Lopez – Brooklyn Nets

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Kyle Cape-Lindelin is based out of Portland, OR covering the NBA while being one of the newsline editors and contributor to "Out of Bounds."

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NBA Daily: Danuel House Optimistic About Future

David Yapkowitz speaks to Danuel House about life as a two-way player for the Houston Rockets & what he hopes comes out of his time in the G League with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

David Yapkowitz

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Opportunity is everything in the NBA. Last season’s implementation of two-way contracts gave a lot more players potential opportunities in the league that may not have been previously available.

One player who has used two-way contracts to showcase himself and really prove that he belongs in the NBA is Danuel House Jr.

House actually began his career two years ago as an undrafted rookie with the Washington Wizards. However, he suffered a wrist injury only about a month into the 2016-17 season.

He was subsequently cut by the Wizards and used the summer to heal up before joining the Houston Rockets for training camp prior to the start of last season. He ended up being one of the final cuts in camp, and he joined the Rockets’ G League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

His strong play earned him a two-way contract with the Phoenix Suns after only two months of G League play. This year, he rejoined the Vipers, only to earn another two-way contract with the Rockets. Having had some experience now with a two-way, it’s something that House sees as being beneficial.

“It’s got its good perks and its bad perks. But then the NBA is just trying to open more doors for more guys to be seen and have an opportunity,” House told Basketball Insiders. “I think it’s a good idea, it’s gonna work the kinks out so it can be more beneficial to the players. It’s still new and it’s still trending and working itself through the NBA.”

This season has been a bit of a whirlwind for House. He initially joined the Golden State Warriors for training camp, only to have them cut him before the start of the season. After spending about a month with the Vipers, the Rockets called him up, only to cut him and then eventually re-sign him to a two-way deal.

Due to injuries in the Rockets lineup, House saw meaningful minutes right away, even being placed in Houston’s starting lineup. He had some solid performances down the stretch of last season with the Suns, but this season he really looked the part of a legitimate NBA rotation player.

When a player signs a two-way deal, they are allotted a maximum of 45 days of NBA service, meaning that the rest of the time they must remain in the G League. If a player exceeds the 45-day limit, they must be sent back down to the G League unless they’re able to reach an agreement on a standard contract with the NBA team.

Because of the Rockets’ necessity of House in the rotation, he used up his NBA days last month. He and the Rockets were unable to agree on a contract, so he returned to the G League with the Vipers. While there haven’t been many updates as of late, he’s still hopeful that something can work out with the Rockets.

“Hopefully I can go back to Houston and compete for a title. There’s nothing like learning from James [Harden] and Chris Paul, Gerald Green, Eric Gordon and those guys,” House told Basketball Insiders. “And now with the additions of [Iman] Shumpert and Kenneth Faried, I’m just excited to hopefully get something done so I can be out there and competing with those guys.”

Initially, House wasn’t playing with the Vipers upon returning to the team. But he made his return to the court a few weeks ago on Feb 8. In that game, House shook off some initial rust and ended up having a solid performance including hitting the game-winning free-throws.

In the past, the G League was often times seen as a punishment for NBA players. The league didn’t have that great of a reputation, but over the past few years that image has started to change. The competition has gotten a lot stronger, and according to House, there are plenty of guys who are that close to making it to the NBA.

“The competition here is real. There’s a lot of dudes out here that got a lot of talent that they can showcase. They just want their one opportunity, their one chance that I was so fortunate and blessed with,” House told Basketball Insiders. “I know not to come out here and take it for granted, that’s why I’m playing hard and of course still trying to be a student of the game and learn.”

Recently, during a media availability session, Rockets star and perennial MVP candidate James Harden expressed hope that the Rockets and House could work something out. Harden told reporters that they all know how good House is and what he brings to the team.

In 25 games for the Rockets this season – including 12 starts – House put up nine points per game while shooting 45.8 percent from the field and 39 percent from the three-point line. He’s in the mold of a three-and-D type player, but he also moves well without the ball on cuts to the rim and can attack the basket as well.

“My role was to play defense and make the right read,” House told Basketball Insiders. “Shoot when I’m open, drive, attack the rack, and run the floor. Of course, defend and rebound and make good reads. It was easy.”

As it stands, the Rockets have 12 players on their roster, and a pair of two-way deals for House and Vincent Edwards. House is not eligible to rejoin the Rockets until the G League season concludes. Even then, he won’t be eligible to play in the playoffs as per two-way deal restrictions.

The Rockets will need to add at least two players to get up to the league-mandated 14 players on the roster. House would appear to be a good candidate for one of those spots, but that remains to be seen. But regardless of whether or not it works out in Houston, House is confident that he’s done enough to prove he belongs in the NBA.

“It gave me the utmost confidence, but my hard work, my passion, and my faith in the man upstairs gave me the ability. I asked him to guide me through the journey and he’s been taking care of me,” House told Basketball Insiders. “I’m so grateful that the opportunities and I used my ability to perform and do something I love to take care of my family.”

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PODCAST: Checking In On Clippers & Lakers, East Arms Race, Warriors’ Challengers

Basketball Insiders Deputy Editor Jesse Blancarte and Writer James Blancarte evaluate the L.A. teams after the trade deadline, break down the Eastern Conference contenders, and look for the Warriors’ biggest challengers.

Basketball Insiders

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Basketball Insiders Deputy Editor Jesse Blancarte and Writer James Blancarte evaluate the L.A. teams after the trade deadline, break down the Eastern Conference contenders, and look for the Warriors’ biggest challengers.

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NBA Daily: Ujiri Leading Golden Era of Raptors Basketball

Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri has taken big risks in going all in for the 2019 season and – with a potentially shortened window – it’s the right move, writes Lang Greene.

Lang Greene

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The Toronto Raptors (43-16) are on pace for their fourth consecutive 50-plus win season and barring a collapse of epic proportions will shortly secure their sixth straight trip to the playoffs.

Make no mistake, this is the golden era of Raptors basketball. Period.

The easiest thing in the world to do is play a situation safe. Minimize risk and accept the near certain outcome. Heading into the season, as previously constructed, the Raptors were already on a trajectory to reach 50 wins and secure a playoff berth. However, Raptors president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri made the risky decision to turn off cruise control and go all in on a championship this season.

The reason was simple – five straight trips to the Eastern Conference playoffs netted only one trip past the second round and some seriously embarrassing postseason eliminations. So sure, the franchise could have stayed the course with the previous roster framework, but realistic title aspirations were a stretch at best.

To begin the roster reconstruction, the Raptors traded All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan, big man Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first round pick to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for 2014 NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and veteran guard Danny Green.

Green and Leonard immediately provided Toronto with championship heart and grit, something lacking from the team in year’s past. The trade was a huge risk for Ujiri with free agency looming this summer for Leonard (and Green) and having to say goodbye to DeRozan, a homegrown talent and the franchise’s all-time leading scorer.

Toronto rolled early this season and have remained near the top of the Eastern Conference standings, but Ujiri doubled down at the trade deadline by acquiring former Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol in exchange for Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, C.J. Miles and a 2024 second-round draft pick.

In just over six months, Ujiri was able to acquire two former Defensive Player of the Year award winners while gutting his roster of familiar faces fans came to know during the team’s recent run to prominence.

The Raptors currently sit one game out of the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The moves are driving results and most believe the Raptors are legitimate title contenders. But the risk for the franchise is most definitely real. Gasol, Leonard and Green are all expected to hit the unrestricted free agency market this summer which could leave the franchise facing a real possibility of losing all for nothing in return.

The prospect of losing Leonard and Gasol would undoubtedly take Toronto from the top of the East to a club scrapping to even make a playoff run in 2020. Ujiri went all in for a title this season. Leonard’s future is uncertain and so is Gasol’s. But the prospect of truly competing for a title was too tantalizing to pass up after years of setbacks around playoff time.

Inevitably all teams must go through a time of rebuilding or reloading. Despite Toronto’s previous success, their window was limited in nature and closing rapidly, so you have to admire Ujiri’s daring to be great mindset.

For reference, the Atlanta Hawks reached the postseason 10 consecutive times from 2008-2017 but the franchise’s front office played it relatively safe during their run devoid of any major moves. The Hawks watched All-Star performers Al Horford and Paul Millsap ultimately leave for nothing in return. Atlanta’s rebuild is in good shape with guard Trae Young, big man John Collins and an additional lottery pick this season.

However, the team never swung for the fences during their run – something Ujiri wouldn’t let happen – despite the huge risks needed to be potentially a champ.

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