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Basketball Insiders Week in Review 11/16

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

Kyle Cape-Lindelin



Steve Kerr’s Warriors Rising

By Moke Hamilton

As Steve Kerr stood on the stage with flashing lights and eyeballs aplenty on him, he beamed.

The seat was hot, the questions were cold and the reception was lukewarm.

A five-year contract for a first-time head coach was almost unheard of, much less one to the tune of $25 million. What made matters even worse for Kerr, was that his predecessor, Mark Jackson, had helped lead the franchise to forgotten success.

He left big shoes to fill, despite being unceremoniously fired.

But Kerr will look at the examples set by Larry Brown in Detroit and Rick Carlisle in Dallas and know what he is attempting to do is quite possible.

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The Other Side of Injuries in the NBA

By Jessica Camerato

There are multiple perspectives to an in-game injury: the player who is hurt, teammates and opponents on the court and, in the case of a contact injury, the other player involved.

Indiana Pacers forward Lavoy Allen knows that well in only his fourth NBA season. On Friday, Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart stepped on Allen’s foot driving to the basket. Smart fell to the ground in pain and was carted off in a stretcher. He suffered a left ankle sprain with bone bruising and is expected to miss two-to-three weeks.

“It was a fast break,” Allen recounted. “I was on the side of him, A.J. (Price) ran in front of him. He tried to split us and then he ended up stepping on my foot. I saw him go down and grab his ankle.”

Allen immediately felt concern for Smart. Given Smart’s reaction, however, Allen removed himself from the area as teammates and staff surrounded the rookie.

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Vučević Living NBA Dream After Unusual Journey

By Mary Stevens

Nikola Vučević recently signed a four-year extension worth $53.4 million with the Orlando Magic, which was the culmination of an unusual eight-year journey that required him to make many sacrifices.

Vučević, a native Montenegrin, moved to Southern California for his senior year of high school to pursue his dream of playing in the NBA. He knew attending a college in the United States gave him his best chance of getting drafted into the NBA, so he left Montenegro and settled in Simi Valley.

“I wanted to play college basketball,” Vucevic told Basketball Insiders. “I felt like that was a good way for me to go to improve, to get better and achieve my dream of making it to the NBA because most guys in the NBA come from college.”

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The Philadelphia 76ers’ Master Plan

By Steve Kyler

Sometimes in sports, the media generates an idea. That idea resonates with the fan base and however unrealistic that idea might be, it becomes fact or at least fact in the eyes of the general public.

It happens with trade rumors. It happens with rumored fights in the locker room, coaches on the hot seat – you name the speculative topic and as soon as it gains an ounce of support from the fans, that’s how it is. True or not.

The Philadelphia 76ers are tanking. They are deliberately losing games. Really?

Is that really what’s happening in Philadelphia or is that simply the narrative that makes the most sense to those on the outside?

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Waiters Accepts Bench Role, Tunes Out Critics

By Alex Kennedy

The Cleveland Cavaliers will obviously take time to jell and realize their full potential as a team. Everyone knew this entering the season and it’s evident five games into the campaign.

However, with the Cavs struggling early on, people are looking for someone to blame. Many have pointed at Dion Waiters – who was recently moved from the starting lineup to a sixth man role – and that’s perfectly fine with the 22-year-old. Waiters is essentially Cleveland’s Mario Chalmers since he’s the top player outside of the Big Three, he’s young and extremely confident, and he’s an easy target for criticism when things go wrong.

“They got to find somebody to point the finger at,” Waiters said with a smile. “I’ve been getting fingers pointed at me all my life, but I find ways to rise up above it and just go out there and play my game.

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2014-15 NBA Defensive Player Watch: Davis Dominating

By Cody Taylor

As players and teams across the league start to settle in on their seasons, there has been plenty to talk about. By now, the rust has been knocked off from the offseason and players are starting to show just what we can expect from them this season. In just a couple of weeks of action there has already been plenty of great defensive performances as well as highlight-reel worthy blocks and steals.

Every week during the season, we’ll keep track of the top candidates for awards. We started by taking releasing our MVP Watch and Rookie of the Year Watch. Today, we’ll look at the frontrunners for Defensive Player of the Year:

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How Can The Cavaliers Improve Their Roster?

By Nate Duncan

The Cleveland Cavaliers have been the league’s most newsworthy team in the first two weeks of the season, sputtering to a 1-3 start before their offense regrouped to lead the team to back-to-back wins against the Denver Nuggets and New Orleans Pelicans. Nevertheless, the first two weeks have removed any hope that this team would play passable defense out of the gate, and cast doubt on their ability to do so even in the long-term with a roster that that is missing a shot-blocker and adequate defenders in the backcourt.

With this backdrop, we turn to four key transactions the Cavaliers have made since the acquisition of Kevin Love.

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10 Players Who Have Raised Their Game

By Lang Greene

While it’s still early in the 2014-15 campaign, there have been a variety of guys who have stepped up their respective games and are headed toward career years. Every season we see guys move into the next tier and likewise we see players fall into a category below their established standard. Some are in different environments, others playing under a new head coach and others who are motivated by securing a new contract.

Whatever the case, here are some guys that are earning respect this season due to their strong play:

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NBA Rookie Of The Year Watch: Parker Still On Top

By Jesse Blancarte

With the second week of the NBA season in the books, Jabari Parker holds onto the number one spot in Basketball Insiders’ weekly Rookie of the Year Watch.

There are some notable shifts from last week’s rankings.  One main reason for that is injuries to Nerlens Noel and Marcus Smart, who have both been sidelined for several games after suffering ankle sprains last week.   Another reason is inconsistent playing time.  One such example of this is Nikola Mirotic, who has seen a significant drop in his minutes and consequently has fallen out of the top-10 for this week.

With that said, let’s jump into this week’s rankings:

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Six Overseas Draft Picks Who Could Contribute in NBA

By David Pick

Contrary to what some fans may believe, there is competitive basketball being played outside of the NBA. The mere fact that a bunch of NBA rotation-caliber players have tested the

overseas waters in China and Europe proves this to be true.

In an era when the roster for the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs features nine non-U.S. born players, foreign talent is becoming highly coveted. Which begs the question, who are the next overseas prospects who will make the jump to the NBA?

Basketball Insiders has decided to focus on six former NBA draftees whose rights are owned by teams across the league, looking at whether these prospects could contribute in the league now and whether they should receive a call-up to the NBA in the near future.

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NBPA, Commissioner Exchange Barbs

By Yannis Koutroupis

The NBA’s current Collective Bargaining Agreement runs through the 2016-17 season, after which both the owners and players have the ability to opt out. It’s become a foregone conclusion that the players will call for the opt out due to the significant increase in the league’s profitability. For those who are hoping for no lockout, 2017 can’t get here slow enough because Michele Roberts, the NBPA’s new director, is already calling for significant changes to be made.

“Why don’t we have the owners play half the games?” Roberts said to ESPN The Magazine. “There would be no money if not for the players. Let’s call it what it is. There. Would. Be. No. Money. Thirty more owners can come in, and nothing will change. These guys [the players] go? The game will change. So let’s stop pretending.

“I don’t know of any space other than the world of sports where there’s this notion that we will artificially deflate what someone’s able to make, just because, it’s incredibly un-American. My DNA is offended by it.”

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Too Early for Many NBA Players to be Traded

By Eric Pincus

NBA franchises typically like to see how their team performs over the first 20 games of the season before making personnel changes.

The trade market starts to move in late December, although deals are sporadic through January and typically heating up as the February 19 trade deadline nears.

Players who were signed over the summer cannot be dealt until December 15, unless they received at least a 20 percent raise (and their team was over the cap upon signing), which creates a trade restriction until January 15.  Additionally, players signed after September 15 cannot be dealt until 90 days from their contract date — and those claimed off waivers must wait until 30 days into the season to be traded.

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Fantasy Hoops: Top Daily Value Plays for 11/14/2014

By Tommy Beer

When compiling a lineup for Daily Fantasy sports contests, the winning combination usually includes a mix of under-priced “fringe” players, solid “mid-tier” producers and a superstar or two rounding out the squad. To play in today’s Draft Kings league with a $40,000 prize pool, click here.

Today, we’ll take a look around the league in an attempt to uncover the best all-around, economical values at each position for tonight’s action. Each player’s Draft King price will be listed next to their name…

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Best Starts in NBA History

By Joel Brigham

The Houston Rockets (9-1) and Memphis Grizzlies (8-1) are off to very hot starts this season, posting the two best overall records in the NBA while playing in the league’s most challenging division. There’s no question that these starts are good ones, but they aren’t anywhere close to the best starts in NBA history.

The easiest way to assemble a list like this would simply to be as a list rattling off the top five winning streaks to start a season. However, the competition and style of play in professional basketball when the 1948-1949 Washington Capitols set the season-starting undefeated record at 15-0 doesn’t really put them in a place to be rated among the better teams on this list.

So, to make it work, we will consider a few different things:

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NBA MVP Watch 11/14/14

By Jabari Davis

We continue our weekly NBA MVP discussion with an updated list that includes some familiar names, but some surprising inclusions as well. As a reminder, this is a season-long, fluid discussion that is not based upon which players we believe are the league’s “best players” or “biggest stars,” but rather which players are producing at the highest level and having the greatest impact on their individual team’s overall success.


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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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Middleton, Bucks Aiming To ‘Lock In’ As Season Comes To Close

Spencer Davies catches up with Milwaukee Bucks swingman Khris Middleton in a Basketball Insiders exclusive.

Spencer Davies



Basketball Insiders had the chance to chat with Khris Middleton about the direction of the Milwaukee Bucks as the season comes to a close.

You guys won three out of four before you came into Cleveland. What was working during that stretch?

Just being us. Doing it with our defense, playing fast-paced offense. Just trying to keep teams off the three-point line. We haven’t done that. We didn’t do that [Monday] or two games ago, but it’s something we’ve just gotta get back to.

With the offense—it seems like it’s inconsistent. What do you think that’s got to do with mostly?

Just trying to do it by ourselves sometimes. Standing, keeping the ball on one side of the floor. We’re a better team when we play in a fast pace. And then also in the half court, when we move the ball from side-to-side it just opens the paint for everybody and there’s a lot more space.

For you, on both ends you’ve been ultra-aggressive here in the last couple weeks or so, does that have to do with you feeling better or is it just a mindset?

I’ve been healthy all year. Right now, it’s the end of the season. Gotta make a push. Everybody’s gotta lock in. Have to be confident, have to be aggressive. Have to do my job and that’s to shoot the ball well and to defend.

Have you changed anything with your jumper? Looking at the past couple months back-to-back, your perimeter shooting was below 32 percent. In March it’s above 45 percent.

I feel like I got a lot of great looks earlier this year. They just weren’t falling. Right now, they’re falling for me, so I have the same mindset that I had when I was missing and that’s to keep on shooting. At some point, they’re gonna go down for me.

Is knowing that every game at this point means more an extra motivator for you guys?

Definitely. We’re basically in the playoffs right now. We’re in a playoff series right now where we have to win games, we have to close out games, in order to get the seeding and to stay in the playoffs. Each game and each possession means something to us right now.

Is it disappointing to be in the position the team is in right now, or are you looking at it as, ‘If we get there, we’re going to be alright’?

I mean, we wish we were in a better position. But where we’re at right now, we’re fine with it. We want to make that last push to get higher in the seeding.

Lots of changes have gone on here. Eric Bledsoe came in two weeks into the season. You had the coaching change and lineup changes. Jabari Parker’s been getting situated before the postseason. How difficult does that make it for you guys to build consistency?

Yeah, it was tough at first. But I think early on we had to adjust on the fly. We didn’t have too many practices. There was a stretch where we were able to get in the film room, get on the court, and practice with each other more.

Now it’s just at a point where we’re adding a lot of new guys off the bench where we have to do the same things—learn on the fly, watch film. We’re not on the court as much now, but we just have to do a great job of buying in to our system, try to get to know each other.

Does this team feel like it has unfinished business based on what happened last year?

Definitely. Last year, we felt like we let one go. Toronto’s a great team. They’re having a hell of a season this year, but I feel like we let one go. This year’s a new year—a little add of extra motivation. We’ve been in the playoff position before, so hopefully, we learn from it when we go into it this year.

Would you welcome that rematch?

I mean, we welcome anybody man. We showed that we compete with any team out here. We can’t worry about other teams as much. We just have to be focused on us.

What has to happen for you guys to achieve your full potential?

Lock in. Just play as hard as we can, play unselfish, and do our job out there night-in, night-out.

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NBA Daily: Raptors Look To Fine-Tune The Defense

The Toronto Raptors’ defense had a letdown against the Cavaliers, but has been outstanding overall.

Buddy Grizzard



The Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors engaged in an offensive shootout on Wednesday that could be a playoff preview. The Cavs protected home court with a single-possession, 132-129 victory. Afterward, the Raptors spoke about the types of defensive adjustments the team needs to make as the postseason rapidly approaches.

“That’s how a playoff game would be,” said DeMar DeRozan, who missed a three at the buzzer that could have forced overtime. “This is a team we’ve been playing against the last two years in the postseason. Understanding how we can tighten up things defensively, how to make things tougher for them [is key].

“[It’s] little small things that go a long way, and not just with them … with every team.”

Raptors coach Dwane Casey concurred with DeRozan that fine-tuning of the defense is needed. He also pointed out that, with young contributors such as center Jakob Poeltl and power forward Pascal Siakam on the roster, defensive experience against the league’s best player, LeBron James, is something they will have to gain on the fly.

“I don’t think Jakob Poeltl played against him that much, and Siakam,” said Casey. “This is their first time seeing it. I thought Jak and Pascal did an excellent job, but there are certain situations where they’ve got to read and understand what the other team is trying to do to them.”

Poeltl was outstanding, leading the bench with 17 points and tying for the team lead in rebounds with eight. Casey praised the diversity of his contributions.

“I thought he did an excellent job of rolling, finishing, finding people,” said Casey. “I thought defensively, he did a good job of protecting the paint, going vertical. So I liked what he was giving us, especially his defense against Kevin Love.”

Basketball Insiders previously noted how the Raptors have performed vastly better as a team this season when starting point guard Kyle Lowry is out of the game. Much of that is due to Fred VanVleet’s emergence as one of the NBA’s best reserve point guards. VanVleet scored 16 points with five assists and no turnovers against Cleveland. It’s also a reflection of how good Toronto’s perimeter defense has been up and down the roster.

According to ESPN’s defensive Real Plus-Minus statistic, three of the NBA’s top 15 defensive point guards play for the Raptors. VanVleet ranks seventh while Lowry is 12th and Delon Wright is 14th. Starting small forward OG Anunoby ranks 16th at his position.

The Raptors also rank in the top five in offensive efficiency (third) and defensive efficiency (fifth). Having established an identity as a defensive team, especially on the perimeter, it’s perhaps understandable that Lowry was the one player in the visiting locker room who took the sub-standard defensive showing personally.

“It was a disgraceful display of defense by us and we’ve got to be better than that,” said Lowry. “We’ve got to be more physical. They picked us apart and made a lot of threes. We’ve got to find a way to be a better defensive team.”

Lowry continued the theme of fine-tuning as the regular season winds down.

“I think we’ve just got to make adjustments on the fly as a team,” said Lowry. “We can score with the best of them, but they outscored us tonight. We got what we wanted offensively. We’re one of the top teams in scoring in the league, but we’re also a good defensive team.”

Lowry was clearly bothered by Toronto’s defensive showing, but Casey downplayed the importance of a single regular-season game.

“We’ve got to take these games and learn from them, and again learn from the situations where we have to be disciplined,” said Casey. “It’s not a huge thing. It’s situations where we are that we’ve got to learn from and be disciplined and not maybe take this step and over-help here. Because a team like that and a passer like James will make you pay.”

While the Raptors continue to gain experience and dial in the fine defensive details, Casey was insistent that his players should not hang their heads over falling short against Cleveland.

“Hopefully our guys understand that we’re right there,” said Casey.

The Raptors host the Brooklyn Nets tonight to open a three-game home stand that includes visits from the Clippers Sunday and the Nuggets Tuesday. After that, Toronto visits the Celtics March 31 followed by a return to Cleveland April 3 and a home game against Boston the next night. With three games in a row against the other two top-three teams in the East, the schedule presents plenty of opportunities for the Raptors to add defensive polish before the playoffs begin.

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NBA Daily: Jaylen Brown Set To Return For Celtics

The Celtics finally got some good news on Thursday. Jaylen Brown’s return is imminent.

Moke Hamilton



Finally, some good news for the Boston Celtics.

Jaylen Brown is set to return to action.

Brown has been M.I.A. since sustaining a concussion during the team’s 117-109 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves back on March 8, but has traveled with the team to Portland and is expecting to return to the lineup on Sunday when the Celtics do battle with the Sacramento Kings.

As the Celts gear up for a playoff run, which they hope will result in them ending LeBron James’ reign atop the Eastern Conference, they’ve picked the wrong time to run into injury issues. Along with Brown, both Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart have each been conspicuous by their absences, and the team could certainly use all of their pieces as they attempt to enter the postseason on a high note.

Fortunately for Boston, with the Toronto Raptors leading them by 4.5 games in the standings and the Celts ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers by a comfortable six games, Brad Stevens’ team is enjoying the rare situation of having a playoff seed that appears to be somewhat locked in.

Still, with the team only able to go as far as its young rotation will carry it, Brown addressed the media on Thursday.

“I’m feeling a lot better. I’m just trying to hurry up and get back,” Brown said, as quoted by

“I’m tired of not playing.”

Stevens is probably tired of him not playing, too.

As we head into the month of April, playoff-bound teams and conference contenders begin to think about playing into June, while the cellar-dwellers and pretenders begin to look toward the draft lottery and free agency.

What’s funny is that in the midst of the Raptors and their rise out East, the Celtics and their dominance has become a bit of a forgotten storyline. When Gordon Hayward went down on opening night, the neophytes from the Northeast were thought to be a decent team in the making whose ceiling probably wasn’t anywhere near that of the Cavs, the Raptors and perhaps even the Washington Wizards.

Yet through it all, with the impressive growth of Jaylen Brown, impressive rookie Jayson Tatum and the rise of Irving as a franchise’s lynchpin, the Celtics stormed out the games to the tune of a a 17-3 record. What made the strong start even more impressive was the fact that the team won 16 straight games after beginning the season 0-2.

Although they weren’t able to keep up that pace, they began the month of February having gone 37-15 and turned a great many into believers. With their spry legs, team-first playing style and capable leader in Irving, the Celtics, it was thought, were a true contender in the Eastern Conference — if not the favorite.

Since then, and after experiencing injuries to some of its key cogs, the team has gone just 11-8.

In the interim, it seems that many have forgotten about the team that tantalized the Eastern Conference in the early goings of the season.

Brown’s return, in one important respect, will signify a return to Boston’s prior self.

With Marcus Smart having recently undergone surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right thumb, he is expected to be out another five weeks or so, meaning that he’ll likely miss the beginning of the postseason.

As for Irving, although reports say that his ailing knee has no structural damage, everything the Celtics hope to accomplish begins and ends with him. FOX Sports 1’s Chris Broussard believes that it’s no slam dunk that Irving returns to action this season, but he’s in the minority. This team has simply come too far to not give themselves every opportunity to compete at the highest level, so long as doing so doesn’t jeopardize the long term health of any of the franchise’s cornerstones.

Make no mistake about it, the Celtics are far from a finished product. With their nucleus intact and flexibility preserved, they will have another offseason with which to tinker with their rotation pieces and plug away at building a champion.

But here and now, with what they’ve got, the Celtics are much closer than any of us thought they would be at this point.

And on Sunday, when Jaylen Brown rejoins his team in the lineup, to the delight of the Boston faithful, the Celtics will be that much closer.

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