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 Few Good Free Agents Left
David Yapkowitz looks at several free agents still remaining on the market ahead of the season.
The start of the 2017-2018 NBA season is finally here, and teams are required to have their 15-man roster (plus two possible two-way contacts) finalized. Every year there are players that are left off a roster. Some are younger guys who maybe haven’t proven they belong in the league just yet. Some are older veterans looking for that one final hurrah.
A few of these players might take open gigs in the G-League or overseas in hopes of attracting the attention of NBA front offices as the year goes on. Others remain at home, working out and waiting for that call that might never come. And sometimes, the waiting and anticipating pays off as playoff teams come looking for veteran help and tanking teams are on the hunt for unrealized potential.
For most of the veteran guys, their opportunities will likely come later in the season when teams gear up for the playoffs. Here’s a look at a few of the top veteran free agents left that could certainly help a team at some point during this season.
Since being traded from the Golden State Warriors to the Boston Celtics three year ago, Lee has adapted to his new role as a veteran big man helping to anchor second units. He is no longer the automatic double-double machine and borderline All-Star he once was, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have anything left in the tank.
He didn’t really fit quite right in Boston, but in his stops with the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs, he still showed he can be a solid contributor off the bench. In 25 games with Mavericks in the 2015-2016 season, Lee put up 8.5 points per game on 63.6 percent shooting while pulling down seven rebounds per. With the Spurs last year, he averaged 7.3 points on 59 percent shooting to go along with 5.6 rebounds. For a playoff team that needs a little big man depth, he is a solid option.
Much was made about Williams’ disappearing act in the Finals last year, and rightfully so, but lost in all the chatter was the actual solid job he did with the Cleveland Cavaliers leading up to that point. Once in the conversation for best point guard in the league, injuries and poor play in Brooklyn sort of made Williams a forgotten man. The Nets bought out his contract and he joined his hometown Dallas Mavericks.
After a so-so first year in Dallas, Williams looked rejuvenated last year to the point that he actually drew some interest around the trade deadline. With the Mavericks looking to get younger and head closer to that rebuilding path, they cut Williams and allowed him to join a contending team. Over the final 24 games of last season, including four starts, he averaged 7.5 points per game on 46.3 percent shooting, 41.5 percent from the three-point line, and 3.6 assists. Of course, his Finals performance is all anyone cares to remember, but if a team needs a veteran backup point guard, they could do a lot worse.
Last season in Indiana, Ellis posted some of the lowest numbers of his career since his rookie season. Heading into a rebuilding year, the Pacers waived Ellis and his name barely came up in free agent rumors during the summer. At his best, Ellis was a borderline All-Star talent who could put up points in a hurry. Despite his reputation as a gunner, Ellis was a bit of an underrated playmaker and was never as bad defensively as most made him out to be.
He never really seemed to find his groove in Indiana. In his first year with the Pacers during the 2015-2016 season, he posted 13.8 points per game, down from 18.9 the previous year in Dallas, and his shooting dropped from 44.5 percent from the field to 42.7 percent. His playoff numbers with the Pacers were down even more than his regular season numbers, despite exploding in the postseason a few years before with Dallas. His starting days are almost assuredly behind him, but as a sixth man type scorer bringing energy off the bench, he’s probably better than a lot of the players currently in that role.
The Brazilian Blur’s best days are behind him, but similar to Ellis, he can still help a team in need of additional scoring punch off the bench. It was only two years ago that he was a key contributor off the Warriors bench. Firmly on the rebuilding track, the Suns waived Barbosa during the summer. Despite still being a capable player, his name also rarely came up in the free agent rumor mill.
He didn’t play all that much last season for a Phoenix Suns team that is clearly rebuilding, but he still was able to average 6.3 points per game in only 14.4 minutes per. His role on a rebuilding team would be a veteran mentor, but for a playoff team, he’s not a bad option. He showed that he can still play at the NBA level despite losing a step or two. Perhaps later on in the season when teams start looking for playoff help is when he may find his phone starting to ring.
The former No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 draft hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations that come with being drafted that high. He’s only averaged double figures (12.0) in scoring once in his career and that was during the 2012-2013 season. When he came into the league, he didn’t really have much of a set position. He was a tweener, somewhere in between small forward and power forward. That was prior to the changes occurring in today’s NBA with more of a premium on stretch big men.
During Williams’ time in Cleveland last season, he played in 25 games and averaged 6.2 points per game. What stood out most, however, was his shooting. He shot 50.5 percent from the field, including 40.4 percent from the three-point line, both career-highs. Shooting from long range was always a bit of a weakness for him and prior to last season, he had never shot higher than 33.2 percent from downtown. He also didn’t register much chatter by way of free agent rumors, but if he can reproduce shooting percentages like that, he fits right in with the direction of the league.
With league rosters pretty much set, there likely won’t be much roster movement, if any at all, for the next few months. Teams are looking to see how their new summer acquisitions work out. But after a few months of real game action, other roster needs start to become more apparent. Don’t be surprised if come the new year, teams start knocking on a few of these player’s doorsteps.
NBA PM: The Wizards Are “More Than Ready” For A Big Year
Washington Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal says his team is “more than ready” for the start of the NBA season.
With several teams in the Eastern Conference taking a step back, the Washington Wizards will be one of the beneficiaries due to roster continuity. Shooting guard Bradley Beal, one of several key Wizards signed to a long-term contract, said the team is “more than ready” for the season and has large expectations.
“This is going to be a big year for us,” said Beal after a Monday practice. “We’re healthy. There’s no excuse for us [not to] get off to a good start.”
Beal added that, while health is a key for the entire roster, it’s especially important for him after struggling with injuries in the past.
“It’s really a confidence booster, realizing my potential, what I can be, the type of player I can be when I had a healthy season,” said Beal of last year’s campaign. “That’s probably what I was more proud of than anything, playing 70-plus games and then playing in the playoffs every game.”
In Basketball Insiders’ season preview for the Wizards, we noted that Beal was Washington’s most efficient ball handler in the pick and roll last season. Beal said that creating for teammates is something he’s worked on in the offseason and will continue to be a point of emphasis.
“That was great for me and the strides I made throughout the year, working on my ball handling, working on creating for other guys and getting my own shot,” said Beal. “Those are the primary things I’m focused on … being able to create better, getting guys easier shots than before, getting more assists and improve everywhere.”
Wizards coach Scott Brooks said after Friday’s preseason finale in New York that he’s been encouraged by the ball movement he has seen since the start of camp.
“I thought a lot of good things happened in training camp,” said Brooks. “The ball movement was outstanding. Guys were sacrificing for one another on the offensive end.”
One thing that should help the ball movement of the second unit is the arrival of backup point guard Tim Frazier, who missed most of the preseason due to a strained groin. Frazier had nine assists and no turnovers in his preseason debut against the Miami HEAT.
“I feel very comfortable with Tim,” said Brooks. “He finds corner threes, which we like.”
Beal added that one area he hopes to improve, both individually and as a team, is rebounding.
“I think I only had like three rebounds [per game] last year,” said Beal. “I obviously love scoring the ball. That’s something I never worry about. I want to continue to fill up the stat sheet a little bit more and contribute to the game in different areas. I think rebounding was something that hurt us a little bit last year.”
The Wizards host the Philadelphia 76ers to open the season Wednesday, and Brooks said it will take a team effort to defend emerging star Joel Embiid.
“He’s a problem,” said Brooks after Sunday’s practice. “His athleticism is off the charts. We’re going to have to do a good job of staying in front of him. You’re talking about a guy that can put the ball on the floor, that can get to spaces and spots that normally a 6-10 guy doesn’t.”
With a revamped bench, roster continuity and good health entering the season, the Wizards look like a team that could challenge the Cavaliers, Celtics and Raptors for supremacy in the East. Beal certainly seems to think so.
NBA Opening Night Storylines
Hours before the 2017-18 season gets set to tip off, here are some storylines to follow for Tuesday’s games.
The long summer is over. We finally made it. NBA opening night is upon us.
Rejoice, hoop heads.
Because the NBA is a perfect concoction of chaos at all times, Tuesday’s opening night slate has some can’t-miss built in headlines that the entire league is going to be glued to.
With a new year set to begin, everyone is on the same page. Whether that page includes the likes of Kevin Durant and Steph Curry or Doug McDermott and Tim Hardaway Jr. is a different story. But still, Tuesday marks day one for all teams and as it stands they’re all equal.
As we get set to sit down and dissect these opening game matchups on Tuesday, let’s highlight the most intriguing storylines that will be followed for the rest of the season. There’s nothing like watching a story grown in the NBA from its inception, right?
Boston Celtics vs. Cleveland Cavaliers — 8 p.m. ET (TNT)
This is the game we’ve all been waiting for since late June, when Kyrie Irving let it be known to Cavs owner Dan Gilbert that he wanted out from under LeBron’s shadow.
Three years of NBA Finals appearances, the greatest comeback in basketball history, and a ring to show for was all Irving wanted to walk away from. For him, he felt it was his time to shine.
And because the NBA is the perfect mix of beautiful insanity, it would only make sense that Irving would get dealt to the very team that is jostling for position to unseat the Cavs and King James.
The Irving-led Boston Celtics will have to wait a grand total of one second in the new NBA season to begin their matchup with their point guards old teammates and the team that stands in between them a Finals appearance. With Gordon Hayward and Irving together for the first time against meaningful competition, there’s no better way than to check their fit from the jump than by challenging the conference champions in their building.
But Irving’s homecoming isn’t the only storyline heading into the first game of the season. There are some changes on Cleveland’s end as well.
While the main return for Irving — Isaiah Thomas — won’t be suiting up for the Cavs anytime soon due to injury, there are still plenty of new faces to keep an eye on Tuesday night. First and foremost, Flash is in town. After having his contract bought out by the Chicago Bulls, Dwyane Wade joined forces with his buddy in The Land in hopes of recapturing some of the magic that led them to two championships in South Beach.
By teaming up once again, James and Wade provide some of the best chemistry in the league. Yes, Wade isn’t the player he once was when he and James were winning rings. But something is to be said for knowing exactly where someone will be on the court at all times, and that’s the trait exactly that Wade and James share.
Along with Wade, James and the Cavs are hoping to get some type of resurgence from Derrick Rose and Jeff Green off of the bench. Once Thomas returns to the court for Cleveland, this is arguably the deepest team James has ever been around in Cleveland.
Even with Irving and Hayward on board, Boston will be relying on some role players of their own — namely Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The back-to-back third overall picks will occupy most of the time at the forward spots opposite of Hayward. As the season moves on, the development of both of these wings will be crucial to how dangerous the Celtics can be past their two star players.
Tuesday night will be must-see television at Quicken Loans Arena. New eras for the Eastern Conference heavyweights are about to begin.
And as James told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, “The Kid” will be just fine.
Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors — 10:30 p.m. ET (TNT)
On the Western side of the basketball landscape Tuesday night, the potential conference finals matchup will see its first act when the revamped Rockets head to the Bay Area.
Last season at this time, the basketball world was bracing for what the Warriors would look like after adding Kevin Durant to a 73-win team. And as expected, they dominated. Not even LeBron James could put a stop to them, managing just one win in their finals bout.
This year brings in more of the same questions. Can anyone stop the Warriors? Will Golden State just steamroll their way to another championship, effectively sucking the fun of competition out of the entire league?
Well, a few teams this offseason did their best to try and combat that narrative. One of them being the Rockets, who they added perennial all-star point guard Chris Paul to their backcourt.
Putting Paul in the same backcourt as superstar James Harden has the potential to create some of the biggest headaches for opposing teams. The constant ball movement and open looks the two star guards can provide are nearly endless.
While the league swoons over the Warriors’ ability to hit shots from well beyond the arc, it should be noted that it was Houston last year that led the NBA in three-point shooting, not Golden State. It’s certainly not wise to try and go toe-to-toe with the Warriors at their own game, but if there’s ever a team equipped to do it, it’s Houston. Tuesday night will provide a nice preview look at how things in the Western Conference could shake out in the coming months.
Aside from the barrage of scoring that will take place in this matchup, what would a big game be for the Warriors without a little Draymond Green trash talk?
After Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni told ESPN that, “You’re not gonna stop them. It’s just not gonna happen. They’re not gonna stop us, either,” Green clapped back with a comment of his own, as he always does.
“I don’t know how serious they take defense with that comment,” Green said. “But they added some good defensive players.”
It’s true, the Rockets aren’t considered a defensive stalwart by any means. Last season, Houston was 26th in points allowed, compared to second in points scored. Green may be onto something when it comes to questioning how serious his opponents take defense.
That being said, last year’s Rockets didn’t feature Paul. Even at the age of 32, Paul is still one of the league’s best on-ball defenders. And no matter his age, he’ll always possess that competitive fire he’s been known for over the last 12 years.
Going up against the Warriors at Oracle is usually nothing short of impossible, but if there’s going to be a team to challenge their supremacy this season, we’ll get a good look at how they stack up on night one.
With all of this in mind, let’s not forget that the world’s best league is finally back in action. Give yourself a pat on the back, you made it. Now, go enjoy some basketball.