Fixing the Phoenix Suns
By Eric Saar
The 2015-16 Phoenix Suns season was marked by turmoil, injuries and one bright spot – Devin Booker.
The offseason started it all as Phoenix was “very close” to signing marquee free agent LaMarcus Aldridge according to his conversation with Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro. Aldridge went on to say, “It came down, neck and neck, between Phoenix and San Antonio. It wasn’t overplayed. That was accurate.”
Two factors came into play that made it a close decision between the Spurs and Suns, who after a disappointing season have missed the playoffs six seasons in a row. These factors included adding Earl Watson, who had a strong connection with Aldridge, and the surprising signing of Tyson Chandler for four years, $52 million. The signing was huge for Aldridge as he let it be known that he wanted to play with a true center like Chandler.
First Step to Fixing the Knicks: Find a Head Coach
By Tommy Beer
It’s sometimes unwise to read too much into Phil Jackson’s often cryptic comments (as he has been known to say one thing and do another), but his season-ending press conference this week was worrisome.
When asked about who he might bring in to interview for the Knicks head coaching gig, Jackson intimated he would only consider those candidates he’s familiar with and those that are as enthusiastic and dedicated to ‘The Triangle’ as he is.
Gauging Al Horford’s Value
By Moke Hamilton
Earlier this week, the NBA notified its franchises that it was expecting the salary cap for the 2016-17 season to fall somewhere in the realm of $92 million. That would represent a cap increase of $22 million from this season’s $70 million cap. That works out to a 31 percent increase, which is very good news for this summer’s crop of free agents.
By rule, the league’s teams are required to spend 90 percent of the salary cap on their payroll, meaning that each team will have to find a way to spend at least $83 million.
For Al Horford specifically, that may mean a payday in excess of $23 million in year one.
Jameel McKay Hoping for Combine Invite
By Cody Taylor
As some of the nation’s top prospects turn their attention to the NBA draft, many are trying to show off their game as much as they can in order to build their draft stock.
NBA hopefuls are now working hard around the clock in order to be in the best shape that they can be with the draft a little over two months away. For many, this means training on the hardwood and hitting the weight room as many as three times a day.
NBA teams and scouts got their first look at some of the top seniors in the country over the past week at the 2016 Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. The annual basketball tournament brings in 64 of the top seniors in the country as prospects participate in 12 games designed to show off their skills in front of representatives from NBA teams and international teams.
Who Goes Third in 2016 NBA Draft?
By Joel Brigham
For months, all we’ve heard about in terms of the forthcoming NBA is draft is that Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram are going to be the top two players selected in some order, which makes a ton of sense considering both players’ talent and upside, but there are a heck of a lot more than two draft picks in an NBA Draft. Knowing that whichever two teams draft No. 1 and No. 2 are going to end up with those guys, it leaves a very interesting conundrum for the team tasked with selecting third overall. Which of the remaining field is most worthy of that No. 3 overall selection?
It’s a legitimate debate and not an enviable position from which to be selecting prospects this summer. There are a handful of possibilities that exist for that spot, each of which offers its own unique combination of risk of reward.
Here’s a look at the players who, as of now, find themselves in the mix for that third overall selection:
Larkin Needs Opportunity, Stability
By Alex Kennedy
Shane Larkin has played for three teams in his first three seasons in the NBA, and that number could easily become four teams in four seasons depending on what happens this July. That’s because Larkin has a $1.5 million player option for next season, meaning he can become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Larkin, the 18th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, has played for the Dallas Mavericks, New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets. He signed with Brooklyn last offseason because he loved New York and wanted an opportunity to play. With the Nets, he delivered the best season of his NBA career thus far.
The 23-year-old point guard averaged 7.3 points, 4.4 assists, 2.3 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 22.4 minutes for Brooklyn, and his per-100-possessions numbers were 16.3 points, 9.8 assists, 5.2 rebounds and 2.7 steals. In his 17 games as a starter this season, he averaged 9.5 points, 5.8 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 29.4 minutes. Larkin also shot a career-high 44.2 percent from the field and 36.1 percent from three-point range in Brooklyn.
The End Of Memphis’ Grit And Grind?
By Lange Greene
In an era of floor spacing, up-tempo and finesse basketball, the Memphis Grizzlies have reached the playoffs in six consecutive seasons by going the exact opposite direction the league is trending.
Memphis basketball is about Grit ‘n’ Grind. A defense-first, bring-your-lunchbox-to-work, hard-nosed mentality. In the team’s six-season playoff streak, the franchise has recorded a Western Conference Finals appearance and two trips to the second round.
At the time of this column, the club is currently down 0-2 to the San Antonio Spurs in their first-round playoff matchup. Memphis has been outscored by 58 points in those two contests and appears to be over-matched in every facet of the game. The team is playing without former Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol and co-star Mike Conley, who would undoubtedly close the gap some, but right now the franchise is up against it.
Fixing The New Orleans Pelicans
By Jabari Davis
The 2015-16 NBA season was particularly disappointing for these New Orleans Pelicans (30-52) since, for the first time in years, this was a team that entered the season with heightened expectations. Not just from eager fans of the team, but also from pundits seemingly and understandably in a rush to promote franchise player Anthony Davis as the league’s next great player.
Only two players, Dante Cunningham and Alonzo Gee, played in 70 or more games this season. Davis, as talented as he truly is, has never missed less than 14 games over his first four seasons in the league (including 21 missed this year), so the idea of adding to his workload and responsibilities was a bit optimistic in itself, but that’s precisely what the Pelicans attempted to do. Davis did appear to finally settle into his adjusted role as the season wore on, but no true progress could be made as a team with so many of the rotation pieces routinely going in and out of the lineup.
Fixing the Utah Jazz
By Ben Dowsett
Set against the backdrop of Kobe Bryant’s final NBA appearance, an event that more closely resembled a circus than a basketball game, the ending to another Utah Jazz season felt extremely surreal. It wasn’t just the hysterics of the moment, though watching a legend cap off a splendid career with a whirlwind come-from-behind performance as players, fans and referees alike temporarily forgot the traditional framework of basketball only heightened the strangeness. There was something more, though, a sense of abruptness most close to this team are unaccustomed to in recent years.
The players were informed just before tip that a Houston Rockets win had sealed their elimination, a fact that made subsequent events possible (sorry, Lakers fans, but that game goes a lot differently if the Jazz are playing for anything). At the same time, it put a sudden stop to a playoff chase that not even a week prior had seemed like nearly a sure thing.
Shaun Livingston Stepping up for Golden State
By Jesse Blancarte
Arguably no player in the NBA has had a career with peaks and valleys as dramatic as Shaun Livingston. Drafted fourth overall in the 2004 draft, Livingston was pegged as the NBA’s next superstar point guard. Standing 6’7 with a huge wingspan, great hands, a versatile skillset and superior court vision, Livingston was supposed to one day change the way we think about point guards.
In the 2005-06 season, Livingston started scratching the surface of his potential. However, we all know what happened on February 26, 2007, when Livingston suffered one of the most gruesome injuries in modern professional sports history. After going up for a transition layup, his knee buckled on the landing. Livingston tore his ACL, PCL, lateral meniscus, severely sprained his MCL and dislocated his patella and tibio-fibular joint.
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