Tyler Harris, the Unorthodox Path and Following the Process
By Moke Hamilton
Another hotel room.
According to his father and his older brother, it’s all just a part of the journey.
So in many ways, then, it was fitting for Tyler Harris to wake up on Father’s Day in 2016 in a foreign country, nowhere near his father Terrell.
Only about 500 miles from his home of Long Island, New York, geographically, the neophyte isn’t very far from home.
From where it all began, though, still, somehow, he is worlds away.
Crown Jewel: The King Brings It Home
By Ben Dowsett
The era of the narrative might be dying in some NBA circles.
The information age has changed the game, the analytics revolution ushering in a precision and scientific feel in place of raw swings of emotion. Everything can be quantified now. There’s less space for platitudes like momentum, grit and emotion.
For a night, for a moment, forget about all that.
Nothing about these Finals felt calculable over the last three games, least of all Sunday’s breathtaking finale. Draymond Green’s fiery start, and overall masterpiece of a game as he searched for redemption; Kevin Love’s game-high plus-19 on the floor, deserved, and punctuated by a perfect defensive possession on Steph Curry down the stretch; Kyrie Irving’s ludicrous shot-making, back just in time to sink a juggernaut.
Executives Love Skal’s Potential
By Alex Kennedy
“Potential” is one of the most overused words during the NBA’s draft process, but that’s because executives fall in love with young, high-upside players every single year. These players are typically raw, but they’re ripe for molding and couldsomeday become a star. If you’re a teenager with freakish athleticism, jaw-dropping measurements, some nice game film and the ability to showcase your skill set in workouts, the NBA draft process will be kind to you.
Which brings us to Skal Labissiere, who spent last season with the Kentucky Wildcats. In his lone collegiate season, Labissiere averaged 6.6 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in just 15.8 minutes per game.
A Decade of Drafts: Which Teams Fared Best?
By Eric Pincus
On Thursday, another 60 prospects will be chosen in the NBA Draft.
Every year, the draft can be a minefield as teams hope to find a franchise-altering player, often choosing among under-developed 18- or 19-year-olds. Even the most-heralded prospects may not live up to their “potential.”
Simply landing a starter in the draft can be a win, especially for those teams picking outside of the lottery’s top 14 selections.
A team like the Oklahoma City Thunder is a rarity – drafting all five of its current starters. Having the fortune of landing Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook (as the Seattle SuperSonics) played a big part, but then so did smart decisions in selecting Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams and Andre Roberson. That group was one win away from an NBA Finals berth.
Is Dragan Bender The Next Big Thing?
By Steve Kyler
For most high draft prospects, there is a clear-cut plan: Attend a high-profile college, have a breakout season, showcase all of the great things about your game, generate a lot of buzz and get drafted in the first 10 picks.
For international players, it’s a little harder. For 7’1 big man Dragan Bender, his season for Maccabi Tel Aviv was supposed to be his breakout showcase. After all, Maccabi historically has been one of the best teams in international basketball and routinely plays some of the best talent in the Euroleague. What better place to show the basketball world you are ready for the next level?
The problem is Maccabi wasn’t very good last season; in fact they were a downright disappointment, which in many ways derailed what should have been a promising year for Bender.
What’s Next for the Bulls, Knicks After Deal?
By Cody Taylor
The New York Knicks acquired point guard Derrick Rose on Wednesday from the Chicago Bulls in a five-player deal that figures to set up the Knicks nicely as they try to make a splashy free agency addition this summer.
In the deal, the Knicks also obtained Justin Holiday and a future second-round pick in exchange for Robin Lopez, Jose Calderon and Jerian Grant.
“We will always be grateful to Derrick,” Bulls general manager Gar Forman said in a statement. “He was a great teammate who put winning first, and nobody fought harder through injuries and disappointment. He wowed us all when he was on the floor and at his best. His MVP season was one for the ages. We wish Derrick nothing but the best moving forward.”
Pro and Cons of Knicks’ Trade for Derrick Rose
By Tommy Beer
We all knew the New York Knicks desperately needed to upgrade their backcourt this summer. Phil Jackson decided he’d rather not wait until free agency to address the point guard position.
On Thursday afternoon, the Knicks officially announced they had traded center Robin Lopez, guard Jose Calderon and guard Jerian Grant to Chicago in exchange for guard Derrick Rose, guard Justin Holiday and a 2017 second-round pick.
It’s an interesting and confusing trade, in which there does not appear to be a clear-cut winner – at least not at first blush. Let’s dig into the pros and cons from the Knicks’ perspective.
#3 Boston Celtics: Jaylen Brown
By Jesse Blancarte
With the third overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Boston Celtics selected forward Jaylen Brown.
It’s been no secret that the first two picks would be used on Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram. However, it was not clear what the Celtics would do with the third overall pick, especially since the Boston has been one of the most active teams in trade talks. Reports surfaced that the Celtics were in advance trade talks with the Chicago Bulls to acquire swingman Jimmy Butler, but not deal materialized and the Celtics instead selected Jaylen Brown out of the University of California Berkley.
#4 Phoenix Suns: Dragan Bender
By Jabari Davis
With the fourth overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Phoenix Suns select Croatian power forward Dragan Bender of Maccabi Tel Aviv. The 7’1, 225-pound big man played sparingly for Maccabi this past season, but is just 18 years old and has impressed many scouts with the makings of a well-rounded offensive skill set and a fluidity that is really coveted at his position these days.
Scouts with the most knowledge of him warn against the lazy and somewhat convenient comparisons to last year’s No. 4 overall pick in Kristaps Porzingis. Bender has excellent footwork and agility around the court. He can space the floor as a pick-and-pop shooter and get out on the break in transition. He’s still described as a project (especially on the defensive end) at just 18 years old, but has already shown the type of foot-speed and lateral quickness that should translate to being able to defend or at least help when switched onto perimeter players.
#5 Minnesota Timberwolves: Kris Dunn
By Jonathan Concool
With the fifth pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Kris Dunn (who played his college career at Providence College).
With Dunn sliding to number five, Minnesota was quick to pull the trigger on the 6’4 guard from New London, Connecticut. Dunn averaged 16.4 points per game his senior season at Providence to go along with 6.2 assists, 5.8 rebounds and 2.5 steals. Most scouts look at Dunn as the most NBA-ready guard in the draft because of his age and maturity.
Dunn is a versatile scorer who can explode to the basket and use his strength to finish around the rim as he stands at 220 pounds, but also somebody who has incredible vision on the court and is always looking for his teammates.
#7 Denver Nuggets: Jamal Murray
By Kyle Cape-Lindelin
With the seventh overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Denver Nuggets have selected guard Jamal Murray. After concluding his freshman season at Kentucky, Murray joins a young Nuggets team with the chance to develop into a starter thanks to his skill set that should earn him playing time right away in his rookie season.
The 6’5 guard averaged 20 points per game for the Wildcats in his freshman season, immediately separating himself from his talented freshman teammates with his impressive 45 percent shooting percentage and 40 percent from the three-point line. Murray’s shooting ability will translate easily to the NBA level and fills an immediate need for the Nuggets who only shot 33 percent as a team from the three-point line last season.
Presti’s Moves Show OKC’s Desire To Be Great
By Lang Greene
While chemistry is an underrated aspect of team building, holding on to a particular core group for too long can ultimately lead to stagnation. Because of this, there’s a delicate balance NBA front office executives continually play before making significant roster moves.
Oklahoma City Thunder general manager Sam Presti made one of those decisions, to change, on draft night by dealing long time starting power forward Serge Ibaka to the Orlando Magic, which came as a surprise to some.
The Thunder will reportedly acquire guard Victor Oladipo, forward Ersan Ilyasova and the draft rights to forward Domantas Sabonis from the Magic in exchange for Ibaka.
Correcting Draft Mistakes
By Joel Brigham
It never fails. Every NBA draft, there are a handful of moments that make the people watching shake their heads in disbelief, but this year it seemed as though there were more questionable draft picks than usual. Those surprises are obviously a big reason why this particular NBA event is so entertaining to watch, but thanks to what many considered to be a pretty flat class of potential draftees after the top couple of tiers, as well as the recent success of international stud Kristaps Porzingis, teams felt the need to gamble on a lot of international players in spots that didn’t always make a whole lot of sense.
Hindsight is always 20/20, and anybody who’s ever done a live fantasy basketball or football draft with their friends knows how easy it is to get caught up in the moment and just flat-out pick the wrong guy. Going back over the draft results not 10 minutes after the thing ends, we have zero issues finding holes in our draft results. It’s a whole lot of, “I can’t believe I did that when I could have done this.”
But that’s what we’re doing here, looking at some of the most surprising and questionable picks of the 2016 NBA Draft and making a serious attempt at giving the offending teams a better shot at making the right choice.
NBA Daily: Surging HEAT Must Overcome Adversity
The Miami HEAT have been hit with a number of injuries at shooting guard. Can they stay hot?
The Miami HEAT have surged to fourth in the Eastern Conference on the back of a 14-5 stretch since Dec. 9, including a seven-game win streak that ended with Monday’s 119-111 loss to the Bulls in Chicago. In the loss, shooting guard Tyler Johnson got his legs tangled with Robin Lopez and appeared to suffer a serious injury.
“I was scared,” said HEAT small forward Josh Richardson, who joined his teammates in racing down the court to check on Johnson. “You never want to see a guy, whether it’s on your team or the other team, down like that. I talked to him when he was in here [the locker room] and he said he didn’t know what was up.”
Coach Erik Spoelstra told pool reporters after the game that X-rays were negative. It was initially feared to be a knee injury, but Spoelstra said the knee is okay and the ankle is the area of concern. Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel tweeted that an MRI was not deemed necessary and Johnson will be listed as doubtful for Wednesday’s game in Milwaukee.
Tyler Johnson will be listed as doubtful for Wednesday's game against the Bucks, still with no plans for an MRI on his sprained left ankle sustained Monday in Chicago. He remains with the team, which did not practice Tuesday.
— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) January 16, 2018
Meanwhile, the HEAT is facing a serious shortage at shooting guard, having lost Dion Waiters to season-ending knee surgery, Rodney McGruder to a left tibia stress fracture that will likely keep him out until February, and now Johnson. Miami has applied for a $5.5 million disabled player exception after losing Waiters, according to the Sun-Sentinel. HEAT power forward James Johnson said the team will be looking for other players to step up.
“I think it’s the next guy’s gonna step up like we always do,” said Johnson. “As we have guys going down we also have guys getting back and getting back in their groove [like] Justise Winslow. Hopefully, it’s going to give another guy a chance to emerge on this team or in this league.”
Johnson added that the loss to Chicago came against a hot team and the HEAT didn’t have the right mental approach or defensive communication to slow them down.
“Our communication was lacking tonight,” said Johnson. “I think our brains rested tonight and that’s not like us. Tilt your hat to Chicago. They’re shooting the hell out the ball. They didn’t let us come back.”
Richardson echoed the theme of communication and the inability to counter a hot-shooting team.
“We weren’t communicating very well and we were not giving them enough static on the three-point line,” said Richardson. “They’ve been the number one three-point shooting team in the league for like 20 games now. They ran some good actions that we were not reacting right to.”
Spoelstra referred to a turnover-riddled close to the first half as “disgusting” basketball and agreed that the defense let his team down.
“I don’t know what our record is in HEAT franchise history when we give up 120-plus,” said Spoelstra. “I would guess that it’s probably not pretty good.”
The good news for Miami is that it can try a combination of Richardson and Winslow at the wings, while Wayne Ellington has been shooting the leather off the ball from three this season (40.5 percent on over seven attempts per game). The HEAT is the latest team to attempt to defy history by making a serious run without a superstar player. To make that a reality and remain in the upper half of the East’s playoff bracket, Miami will have to personify the “next man up” credo.
NBA Daily: Is It Time To Cash Out On Kemba Walker?
Should the Hornets get serious about trading Kemba Walker or risk losing him in 2019 for next to nothing?
Is It Time To Sell?
Every professional sports team at some point has to decide when its time to cash out, especially if they have a star player heading towards free agency. The Charlotte Hornets are a team teetering on this decision with star guard Kemba Walker.
Now, let’s be honest for a moment. The Hornets are getting nothing of meaningful value in a trade for Walker if they decided to put him on the trade market—that’s something that will drive part of the decision.
The other part of the decision is evaluating the marketplace. This is where Charlotte may have an advantage that’s easy to overlook, which is the ability to massively overpay.
Looking ahead to the cap situations for the NBA in the summer of 2019, there doesn’t appear to be a lot worth getting excited over. While it’s possible someone unexpected goes into cap clearing mode to get space, the teams that project to have space in 2019 also project to have space in 2018, meaning some of that 2019 money could get spent in July and change the landscape even more.
But for the sake of discussion, let’s assume most of the 2019 cap space teams swing and miss on anything meaningful this summer and have flexibility the following summer. Not only will Walker be a name to watch, but guys like Boston’s Kyrie Irving, Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler, Golden State’s Klay Thompson, Dallas’ Harrison Barnes, Detroit’s Tobias Harris, San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard and Cleveland’s Kevin Love can all hit unrestricted free agency.
That’s a pretty respectable free agent class.
While most of those names will likely stay where they are, especially if their teams shower them with full max contracts as most would expect, there are a few names that might make the market interesting.
The wrinkle in all of it is the teams projected to have space. Based on what’s guaranteed today, the top of the 2019 cap space board starts with the LA Clippers.
The Clippers currently have just Blake Griffin and Danilo Gallinari under contract going into 2019. They will have qualifying offers on Milos Teodosic and Sam Dekker, but that’s about it. If the Clippers play their cards right, they could be looking at what could be close to $48 million in usable cap space, making them the biggest threat to poach a player because of the LA marketplace. It should be noted, though, that DeAndre Jordan’s situation will have an impact here.
The Chicago Bulls come in second on the 2019 cap space list with just $35.77 million in cap commitments. The problem for the Bulls is they are going to have to start paying their young guys, most notably Zach LaVine. That’s won’t stop the Bulls from getting to cap space, it’s simply a variable the Bulls have to address this summer that could get expensive.
The Philadelphia 76ers could come in third on the 2019 cap space list, although it seems the 76ers may go all in this summer on re-signing guard J.J. Redick and a swing at a big fish or two. If the 76ers miss, they still have an extension for Ben Simmons to consider, but that shouldn’t impact the ability to get to meaningful space.
For the Hornets, those three situations have to be a little scary, as all of themff something Charlotte can’t offer – big markets and rosters (save maybe the Clippers) with potentially higher upside.
The next group of cap space markets might get to real salary cap room, but its more likely they spend this summer like say the Houston Rockets or are equal to less desirable situations like Sacramento (similar), Dallas (has Dennis Smith Jr), Atlanta (similar) or Phoenix (likely drafts a point guard).
That brings us back to the Hornets decision making process.
If the Hornets put Walker on the market, historically, teams get pennies on the dollar for high-level players headed to free agency. If traded, its more likely than not that Walker hits free agency and goes shopping. That’s the scary part of trading for an expiring contract unless you get the player early enough for him to grow attached to the situation, most players explore options. That tends to drive down the potential return.
The Hornets can also start extension discussions with Walker and his camp this summer and it seems more likely than not the Hornets will pay Walker the full max allowed under the collective bargaining agreement, which could be a deal north of $150 million and he could ink that in July.
It’s possible that someone offers the Hornets the moon for Walker. That has happened in the past. The Celtics gave the Cavaliers a pretty solid return for Irving, a player the Cavaliers had to trade. So it’s not out of the question real offers come in, especially with the NBA trade deadline approaching, but what’s far more likely is the Hornets wait out this season and try to extend Walker this summer.
League sources at the G-League Showcase last week, doubted that any traction could be had on Walker while admitting he’s a name to watch, despite however unlikely a trade seemed today.
The challenge for the Hornets isn’t as simple as cashing out of Walker, not just because the return will be low, but also because where would the franchise go from here?
It’s easy to say re-build through the draft, but glance around the NBA today – how many of those rebuild through the draft situations are yielding competitive teams? How many of them have been rebuilding for five years or more?
Rebuilding through the draft is a painfully slow and frustrating process that usually costs you a coach or two and typically a new front office. Rebuilding through the draft is time consuming and usually very expensive.
It’s easier to rebuild around a star already in place and the fact that Walker himself laughs off the notion of him being anywhere but Charlotte is at least a good sign and the Hornets have some time before they have to really make a decision.
At some point, Charlotte has to decide when to cash out. For the Hornets, the time to make that decision on Walker might be the February 8 trade deadline. It might also be July 1, when they’ll know whether Walker would sign a max contract extension.
If he won’t commit then, the Hornets have their answer and can use the summer to try an extract a package similar to what the Cavaliers got for Irving.
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Cavs Woes Reason For Concern, But Not Dismissal
Spencer Davies takes a look at the Cavs’ issues and why we shouldn’t count them out just yet.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are the classic case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
When they’re on, they look like the defending three-time Eastern Conference Champions. When they’re off, they look like an old team that’s worn down and, at times, disinterested—and it gets ugly.
Take this past three weeks for example. After going on a tear of 18 wins in 19 games, the Cavs have dropped eight of 11 and are falling fast. Two of those three victories in that stretch were decided by four points or less against bottom-of-the-barrel teams in the East.
So what happened? For one, the schedule got significantly tougher. Beyond just the level of competition, Cleveland has been on the road for a long while. Nine of the games in this recent down period have been away games. The only time they’ve been home was for a quick second in mid-December and a short stay for New Years.
You’ve got to think about how that affects a psyche, not only from an on-court standpoint but also in regard to spending time with loved ones and family. LeBron James brought attention to his own homesickness on Christmas Day while he was in the Bay Area instead of in Northeast Ohio to celebrate the holidays. If it gets to him, you know it’s got to get to the other players as well. These guys are human beings with lives, and the rigors of travel can wear differently on people. Luckily for them, seven of their next nine games will be at Quicken Loans Arena.
With that being said, everybody in the NBA goes through it, so it’s no excuse for how flat the Cavs have been. Anybody on the team will tell you that, too. However, when you’re figuring out rotations and re-implementing players who had injuries, it’s not easy. This is exactly why nobody should envy Tyronn Lue.
He’s being asked to make room in his rotations and adjust on the fly as Cleveland gets guys back. When they went on that month-long run, the reason they had success was that the second unit really clicked. Dwyane Wade found his niche as the maestro of the bench bunch along with any mixture of Kyle Korver, Jeff Green, Cedi Osman, Channing Frye, and Jae Crowder. Lue had found the perfect group to spell LeBron James and company.
But then, Tristan Thompson came back and, with all due respect, it messed with their flow. The spacing is no longer there for Wade or Green to penetrate because the paint is clogged. It makes it easier on opposing defenses to just stick to Korver because there aren’t any other threatening shooters on the floor (besides Osman, maybe). Worst of all, the change basically kicked Frye—who has a plus-14 net rating, according to Cleaning The Glass—out of the rotation completely.
Deciding who plays and when is a tough job. Derrick Rose is set to come back soon. Iman Shumpert is coming along as well. Lue likes a 10-man rotation, but there are at least 12 players who deserve to be on that court. We already know Rose is expected to commandeer the second unit in Wade’s absence on back-to-backs. As for if Shumpert remains in Cleveland, who knows? It’ll be interesting to keep an eye on how this situation is managed moving forward.
Isaiah Thomas, on the other hand, is somebody the Cavs have been waiting on to return since the season started. Despite LeBron being LeBron and Kevin Love having as great of an offensive year as he’s ever had on the team, the starting unit lacks an extra punch. Thomas can be that shot in the arm, and he proved that in his debut at home against Portland and on the road in Orlando. There are two snags that both he and the team are going to hit before the 29-year-old returns to his All-Star form: 1) He’s got to get his legs under him to regain the consistency in his game and 2) His teammates are going to have to adjust to playing with him.
These are not easy things to do. Remember, aside from Jae Crowder, there is nobody on Cleveland’s roster that has played with Thomas before. Add in that he’s trying to re-discover his own game and that makes for a pretty bumpy road, at least out of the gate.
Start here—put Thompson in the starting lineup. As poor of a fit he’s been on the bench, he has shown promising signs of a developing chemistry with Thomas. It’s only been four games, but he loves having a partner in the pick-and-roll game. That’s clearly where you’ll get the most production out of him and how he can thrive. He’ll provide hustle, second chance opportunities, and a semi-decent big that can at least bother some of the competition’s drives to the basket. Sliding Love over to the four might change his game a little bit, but you can still get him going in the post before giving him chances as a shooter to work him outside-in.
The resulting effect helps the second unit as well. They’ll get one of either J.R. Smith or Crowder, depending on who would be relegated there. Both of those guys can use a spark to get them going. Because of Crowder’s familiarity with Thomas, let’s say Smith gets kicked out. Maybe that gets him out of the funk he’s in? It also allows for Frye, who hasn’t seen more than 20 minutes in a game since December 4, to get re-acclimated to a group he truly helped on both ends of the floor earlier in the year.
Outside of the need to make a move at the deadline, the Cavs can figure this out. It’s understood that they’re the fourth-worst defensive team in the NBA, but they’ve gone through these kinds of ruts at this time of year, specifically since LeBron came back. There might not be statistical evidence backing up the claim of any improvement, but the track record speaks for itself.
The panic button is being hit, but pump the brakes a bit. This isn’t anything new. The pieces are a little different and things look as bad as they ever have, but in the end, the result will likely be the same.