Mavericks Are Contenders
By Moke Hamilton
When Dirk Nowitzki received Jason Kidd’s pass from the top of the key, he immediately realized that Chris Bosh—the man who he had dominated all series long—was out of position.
With nine seconds on the shot clock and the Miami HEAT desperately trying to salvage the game—and their season—Nowitzki made his move.
He pivoted, drove to his left and picked up his dribble. Udonis Haslem closed in, but Nowitzki gently put his head in the sternum of Bosh and knocked him off balance.
It was a long 13-year wait that Nowitzki decided had lasted long enough.
Six Things to Know: NBA Northwest Division
By EJ Ayala
This week, our team at Basketball Insiders has launched the series of six things to know about each division in the league. We’ve already covered the Southeast, Central and Pacific Divisions, respectively. Today, we are going to take a look at what you need to know about the Northwest Division.
Milestone Watch: What’s Next for NBA Star Veterans?
By Jessica Camerato
There is an elite group of athletes in every sport, a small handful of players who compete at a high level deep into their careers and rise to the top of all-time leaderboards. In the NBA this season, several top veterans are poised to pass significant milestones in their career totals. Take a look at three of the league’s most accomplished players and marks they could surpass this season.
Extenstion Talks Cooling In The NBA
By Steve Kyler
NBA teams and those players drafted in 2011 who are are on their rookie contracts still have until October 31 to reach rookie scale contract extensions or those players will head to free agency in July. Several of the notable players have gotten deals done already – Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, Denver’s Kenneth Faried and Marcus and Markieff Morris in Phoenix – the rest of the class seems to be in a holding pattern as the market has soured somewhat on the rest.
To be fair to the teams negotiating these deals, they are in essence bidding against an artificial market. Agents toss out a number that makes sense to them, or teams offer a number that gives a little bit of a discount to themselves, and then the sides trade scenarios until a deal is reached or not.
Who’s Got Next in 2014-15: Point Guards
By Jesse Blancarte
There is no shortage of talented point guards in the NBA. Currently standing at the top of the point guard totem pole is Chris Paul, Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook. After these three players is a mix of veteran point guards that are still in their prime, and young point guards who are just entering their prime, but have already had breakout seasons. Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo, when healthy, are two of the best veteran point guards in the league, while players like John Wall, Damian Lillard, and Kyrie Irving have already established themselves as stars and are looking to continue climbing the totem pole and reach new heights this upcoming season. But there is another group of talented point guards who enter this season with breakout potential and the opportunity to join the group of star point guards in the NBA. Here, we take a look at a few point guards who could have a breakout season:
76ers’ Tanking Could Lead to Contending
By Alex Kennedy
A few hours after the 2014 NBA Draft concluded, several Philadelphia 76ers fans celebrated outside of the Westin Hotel in New York where players and executives were staying. The fans were excited about Philadelphia’s successful draft and wanted to come face-to-face with their favorite member of the Sixers. No, they didn’t want to meet Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel or Joel Embiid. They wanted to see Sam Hinkie, the team’s general manager.
The fans wore customized No. 76 jersey shirts with Hinkie’s last name. Critics of the 76ers’ rebuilding effort often say that the team’s tanking is unfair for the suffering fans, but many in Philadelphia feel the same way as these Hinkie supporters.
NBA: Father Time is Undefeated
By Cody Taylor
Heading into the 2014-15 NBA season, there are a lot of veteran players who are trying to keep their careers going for at least one more year. Whether the motivation is from being on a good team capable of competing for one last championship, silencing the critics who say they can no longer play or just proving it to themselves, some of the game’s greats are trying to battle Father Time and extend their playing career.
Here’s a look at some players who could be down to their last season or two:
Who’s Got Next in 2014-2015: Shooting Guards
By John Zitzler
Kobe Bryant has set the standard for shooting guard play throughout his Hall of Fame career. Bryant exemplified the type of play expected from the position. He may have lost a step in the latter stages of his career, but he remains a model of what teams look for at the position. He has proven year after year that he is one of the best in the league. Of course, he isn’t the only one. Dwyane Wade has put together a great career, winning multiple rings, and now will be counted on to keep the HEAT in contention. James Harden has proven that he is one of the best scorers, not only at the shooting guard position but in the game today. Still in the prime of his career, Harden will be mentioned among the best at the position for years to come. Other top shooting guards include DeMar DeRozan, Monta Ellis and Manu Ginobli. Those guys have all established themselves as some of the best at their position. Now let’s take look at some younger shooting guards poised for big things.
Is That Kobe Bryant’s Fault Too?
By Yannis Koutroupis
By now, you’ve probably read the ESPN article on Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, where he is portrayed as the overwhelming reason behind the franchise’s recent struggles. Citing multiple sources, the article claims that marquee free agents no longer want to play with Bryant, that ownership is resigned to the fact that they cannot build a contender as long as he is on the roster and that he’s just flat out hurting them more than he’s helping them at this late stage of his career.
Like all controversial things involving Bryant and the Lakers, it has quickly become the talk of the league.
Will Vucevic’s Deal Push The Market?
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Under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement, NBA teams have until October 31 each year to reach extension agreements with former first round picks entering their fourth season. For select guys, it’s a foregone conclusion that a new deal will be offered at a maximum level. For guys in the middle tier, their respective front office may opt to allow the deadline pass in order for the market to set the value for the player in restricted free agency the following summer.
A few of the notable players fitting this criteria have gotten deals done already such as Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, Denver’s Kenneth Faried and Marcus and Markieff Morris out in Phoenix. However, the rest of the eligible group has been playing the waiting game as we’re a little over a week away from the deadline.
Dunc’d On: Lottery Reform Goes Too Far
By Nate Duncan
The biggest league news of recent days is that lottery reform seems all-but assured. Others, including Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, have commented at length on the proposed reforms.
Gone will be a weighted system where the worst team has 25 percent of the ping-pong balls for the No. 1 overall pick and a guarantee it’ll drop no lower than fourth in the draft order. Now, the worst four teams have a 12 percent chance at the first pick, No. 5 has an 11.5 percent chance, No. 6 has 10 percent, and on down. What’s more, the worst team can drop as far as seventh in the draft order, the second worst can drop to No. 8, and so on.
50 NBA Predictions for the 2014-15 Season
By Joel Brigham
As I’ve done every year for nearly as long as I’ve been covering the NBA, I’m making 50 NBA predictions for the upcoming season.
This is a hard column to write because it’s impossible to know how things will play out. That’s the beauty of sports. That said, we will revisit these predictions in the spring and check to see how well (or how poorly) I did. As moronic as some of these predictions are sure to be, at least I hold myself accountable.
That said, here are this year’s predictions:
Overlooked in NBA, Jordan Crawford shoots for Chinese legacy
By David Pick
Jordan Crawford drove up the floor and knocked down a three-pointer from the left wing. He then sliced through defenders and kissed a running right-sided floater off the glass. Crawford also received a pass at center court and accelerated for a wide-open jam.
Relax, the NBA season hasn’t started. Crawford, however, put on a scoring clinic during a pre-season showcase in China.
“I had about 30,” Crawford said via text message.
In case it flew under your radar, Crawford, a former NBA veteran who turns 26 years old today and registered 268 appearances for the Atlanta Hawks, Washington Wizards, Boston Celtics and Golden State Warriors, now suits up for the Xinjiang Flying Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association.
Which NBA Teams Have The Most Dead Money?
By Eric Pincus
On Thursday, the Houston Rockets waived Virginia rookie forward Akil Mitchell. Mitchell will earn $150,000 for his participation in training camp and the preseason with the Rockets.
Why would the Rockets invest $150,000 in a player they clearly had no room for, with 15 guaranteed contracts and room needed to keep at least a 16th and possibly 17th (Patrick Beverley and Tarik Black)?
The answer is the Rio Grande Valley Vipers and the NBA Development League.
Knicks Need to Limit Carmelo Anthony’s Minutes
By Tommy Beer
The Knicks finished the 2013-14 season with a terribly disappointing 37-45 record. However, they may not have been quite as bad as their record suggests. New York was competitive in many losses, losing nine of the ten games they played that were decided by three points or less. And that total doesn’t include three other games they lost in overtime.
If their best player, and one of the game’s greatest scorers, was able to knock down a few more jumpers, the Knicks’ 2013-14 campaign might have had a different feel.
Carmelo Anthony posted incredibly impressive individual statistics last season. Melo became the first player in over a decade to average at least 27 points, eight rebounds and three assists per game throughout a full NBA season. He was also remarkably efficient on the offensive end of the floor. In fact, he became just the fourth player in NBA history to average over 27 points a night while shooting above 45 percent from the floor, 40 percent from the field and 82 percent from the free-throw stripe. The other three members of that incredibly exclusive club are Larry Bird, Michael Jordan and Kevin Durant.
A Breakout Season for Joe Harris
Brooklyn Nets swingman Joe Harris talks to Basketball Insiders about his second chance with the Nets.
The NBA is all about second chances. Sometimes players need a change of scenery, or a coach who believes in them, or just something different to reach their full potential. They may be cast aside by several teams, but eventually, they often find that right situation that allows them to flourish.
Such was the case for Joe Harris. Originally drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the 33rd overall pick in the 2014 draft, Harris rarely saw the court during his time in Cleveland. He averaged about 6.4 minutes per game over the course of about one and a half seasons with the Cavaliers.
During the 2015-16 season, his second in Cleveland, he underwent season-ending foot surgery. Almost immediately after, the Cavaliers traded him to the Orlando Magic in an attempt to cut payroll due to luxury tax penalties. He would never suit up for the Magic as they cut him as soon as they traded for him.
After using the rest of that season to recover from surgery, he would sign with the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2016. He had a very strong first season in Brooklyn, but this season he’s truly broken out.
“I think a lot of it has to do with just the right situation in terms of circumstances. It’s a young team where you don’t really have anybody on the team that’s going out and getting 20 a night,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a collective effort most nights and it can be any given person depending on the situation. It’s one of those things where we’re real unselfish with the ball. A lot of guys get a lot of good looks, so your production is bound to go up just because of the system now that we’re playing.”
Known primarily as a sharpshooter in college at the University of Virginia as well as his first stop in Cleveland, Harris has started developing more of an all-around game. He’s improved his ability to put the ball on the floor and make plays as well as crashing the glass and playing strong defense.
In a relatively forgettable season record-wise for the Nets, Harris has been one of their bright spots. He’s putting up 10.1 points per game on 47.3 percent shooting from the field while playing 25.4 minutes per game. He’s up to 40.3 percent from the three-point line and he’s pulling down 3.3 rebounds. All of those numbers are career-highs.
“My role, I think, is very similar to the way I would be anywhere that I was playing. I’m a shooter, I help space the floor for guys to facilitate,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “I’m opportunistic offensively with drives and such. I’m out there to try and space the floor, knock down shots, and then play tough defensively and make sure I’m doing my part in getting defensive rebounds and that sort of stuff.”
Although Harris didn’t play much in Cleveland, he did show glimpses and flashes of the player he has blossomed into in Brooklyn. He saw action in 51 games his rookie year while knocking down 36.9 percent of his three-point attempts.
He also saw action in six playoff games during the Cavaliers’ run to the 2015 Finals. But more importantly, it was the off the court things that Harris kept with him after leaving Cleveland. The valuable guidance passed down to him from the Cavaliers veteran guys. It’s all helped mold him into the indispensable contributor he’s become for the Nets.
“Even though I wasn’t necessarily playing as much, the experience was invaluable just in terms of learning how to be a professional,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “The approach, the preparation, that sort of stuff. That’s why I learned a lot while I was there. All those good players that have had great, great, and long careers and just being able to kind of individually pick their brains and learn from them.”
When Harris came to Brooklyn two years ago, he initially signed a two-year deal with a team option after the first year. When he turned in a promising 2016-17 season, it was a no-brainer for the Nets to pick up his option. Set to make about $1.5 million this season, Harris’ contract is a steal.
However, he’s headed for unrestricted free agency this upcoming summer. Although he dealt with being a free agent before when he first signed with the Nets, it’s a different situation now. He’s likely going to be one of the most coveted wings on the market. While there’s still a bit more of the regular season left, and free agency still several months away, it’s something Harris has already thought about. If all goes well, Brooklyn is a place he can see himself staying long-term.
“Yeah, it’s one of those things that I’ll worry about that sort of decision when the time comes. But I have really enjoyed my time in Brooklyn,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a great organization with a lot of good people, and they try and do stuff the right way. I enjoy being a part of that and trying to kind of rebuild and set a good foundation for where the future of the Brooklyn Nets is.”
NBA Daily: 2018 NBA Mock Draft – 3/20/18
With most of the major NBA draft prospects eliminated from March Madness, things in the mock draft world are starting to get interesting.
A Lot of Mock Movement
With the race to the bottom in full swing in the NBA and the field of 64 in college basketball whittled down to a very sweet sixteen, there has been considerable talk in NBA circles about the impending 2018 NBA Draft class. There seems to be a more consistent view of the top 15 to 20 prospects, but there still seems to be a lack of a firm pecking order. Arizona’s Deandre Ayton seems like to the prohibitive favorite to go number one overall, but its far from a lock.
It’s important to note that these weekly Mock Draft will start to take on more of a “team driven” shape as we get closer to the mid-May NBA Combine in Chicago and more importantly once the draft order gets set. Until then, we’ll continue to drop our views of the draft class each Tuesday, until we reach May when we’ll drop the weekly Consensus Mock drafts, giving you four different views of the draft all the way to the final decisions in late June.
Here is this week’s Mock Draft:
Here are some of the pick swaps and how they landed where they are currently projected:
The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this past summer. The Brooklyn Nets traded several unprotected picks to Boston as part of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trades in 2015.
The Philadelphia 76ers are owed the LA Lakers’ 2018 Draft pick, unprotected, as a result of the 2012 Steve Nash trade with the Suns. The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers as part of the Michael Carter-Williams three-team trade with the Milwaukee in 2015. The 76ers traded that pick to the Boston Celtics as part of the draft pick trade that became Markelle Fultz before the draft; it has 2 through 5 protections and based on the standings today would convey to Philadelphia.
The LA Clippers are owed the Detroit Pistons first-round pick in 2018 as a result of the Blake Griffin trade. The pick is top four protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Phoenix Suns are owed the Milwaukee Bucks’ first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick only conveys if the Bucks pick lands between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the standings today would convey.
The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the current standings.
The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first-round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Chicago Bulls are owed the New Orleans Pelicans first-round pick as a result of the Nikola Mirotic trade. The pick is top-five protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The LA Lakers are owed the Cleveland Cavaliers first-round pick as a result of Jordan Clarkson/Larry Nance Jr. trade. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Jazz/Wolves Ricky Rubio trade this past summer. The Jazz acquired the pick as part of the Thunder’s deal to obtain Enes Kanter in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors’ first-round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets’ first-round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.
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NBA Daily: Jonathan Isaac Proving to be Key Part of Orlando’s Future
Basketball Insiders spoke with Jonathan Isaac about his rookie season, injuries, areas to improve on, his faith and more.
On January 13, the Orlando Magic were eliminated from playoff contention. This date served as a formality as the team has known for quite some time that any postseason hopes had long since sailed. The Magic started the year off on a winning note and held an 8-4 record in early November. However, the team lost their next nine games and never really recovered.
Many factors play a role in a young but talented team like the Magic having another season end like this. Injuries to franchise cornerstone Aaron Gordon as well as forward Evan Fournier and forward Jonathan Isaac magnified the team’s issues.
Isaac, a rookie selected sixth overall in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft, started the season off reasonably well. On November 10, in 21 minutes of action, he registered an 11-point, six-rebound, one-assist, one-steal, two-block all-around effort against the Phoenix Suns to help the Magic get to that 8-4 record. Isaac then suffered an ankle injury midway through his next game and wouldn’t play again until December 17, by which time the team was already 11-20 with the season quickly going sideways. From November until March, Isaac would only play in three games until finally returning to consistent action in the month of March with the season all but decided.
Basketball Insiders spoke to Isaac recently to discuss how he has pushed through this season, staying healthy, his impressive skill set and more.
“I’ve had a lot of time off from being injured so, I think my body is holding up fine along with how much I’ve played. I haven’t played a full season,” Isaac told Basketball Insiders “I feel good. I feel good.”
Isaac talked about what part of his game he feels strongly about and has improved on.
“I think defensively,” Isaac said. “I didn’t expect myself to make strides defensively like I have. I’ve been able to just be able to just do different things and help this team defensively and I didn’t expect that coming in so, that would be the one thing.”
Magic Head Coach Frank Vogel was effusive in his praise of Isaac’s defense and also focused on the rookie’s great defensive potential.
“His defense is out of this world. I mean it’s really something else,” Vogel said. “Just watch him play and everybody’s getting a taste of it right now. They haven’t seen him a whole lot but he’s an elite defender right now at 20-years old and the sky’s the limit for what he can be on that end of the floor.
While Isaac hasn’t logged a huge number of minutes on the floor this season, he has impressed in his limited action. As Coach Vogel stated, anyone who has taken the time to watch Isaac play this season has noticed his ability to guard other big men and his overall defensive impact.
“I think I’ve been able to do a good job on most of the people that I’ve had to guard,” Isaac said.
Missing Isaac’s defense impact and overall contributions partially explains why the Magic cooled off after their hot start. However, with the playoffs no longer an option, younger players like Isaac now have the opportunity to play with less attention and pressure. While it can be argued that the Magic aren’t really playing for anything, the truth is these late-season games can be an opportunity to develop these younger players and determine what to work on during the offseason.
There is more to Isaac than just basketball, however. Isaac discussed other parts of his life that are important to him, including religion and his faith.
“[M]y faith in Jesus is something that I put a lot of emphasis on,” Isaac told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a part of me.”
Isaac did not hesitate to credit his faith when asked if it helped him push through his injuries.
“I would say definitely,” Isaac said. “Especially with getting injured so early in the season and being out for 40 games. That’s a lot on somebody’s mental capacity and then just staying positive, staying joyful in times where joy doesn’t seem like it’s the right emotion to have. And I definitely [attribute] that to my faith.”
Looking forward, both Vogel and Isaac discussed the future and what the young big man can improve on.
“Offensively, he’s grown in confidence, he’s gained so he’s going to give us a big lift and our future’s bright with him,” Vogel stated.
Isaac gave a hint of his offseason training plans when asked what he looks forward to working on.
“I would say consistency with my jump shot. Really working on my three-ball and I would say ball-handling,” Isaac stated.
When asked if there was anything more he wanted to add, Isaac simply smiled and said, “Oh no, I think I got to get to church right now,” as the team prepared to play later that evening.