Connect with us

NBA

Cheap Seats: NBA’s Biggest Disappointment

What have been the biggest disappointments of the 2013-14 season? In this week’s Cheap Seats, the Basketball Insiders’ interns discuss.

Basketball Insiders

Published

on

Every season, we welcome in a new group of interns and typically their work is done primarily behind the scenes. But now that the current group has been around for awhile, we’re giving them a platform to voice their thoughts on the NBA. Each week, Basketball Insiders’ interns Jesse Blancarte, Cody Taylor and John Zitzler will discuss a topic related to the league in Cheap Seats.

This week, the interns discuss the biggest disappointment of the 2013-14 NBA season.

Derrick Rose’s Injury and Its Effect on the Bulls:

There have been a few disappointments this season. From the struggling New York Knicks, to the slow-starting Brooklyn Nets, to the never-ending injuries, there have been plenty of letdowns for NBA fans. But the most disappointing story centers around Derrick Rose’s latest knee injury, which ended his 2013-14 season, and forced the Chicago Bulls to seek a new path to contention.

On April 28, 2012, Rose tore his ACL in his left knee in a playoff game against the Philadelphia 76ers. It’s a day that Bulls fans look back on with despair. Adding to the pain of losing their franchise player to major injury was the fact that Rose probably should have been resting on the bench since the Bulls had a 12-point lead with roughly a minute and a half left in the game at the time of his injury.

On May 12, 2012, Rose underwent surgery to repair the torn ACL. With ACL tears, a typical recovery time for NBA athletes is commonly between nine months to a year.

By January 2013, reports out of Chicago were that Rose was participating in full contact basketball activities. The Bulls made it clear that Rose’s return date would not be determined until team doctors had cleared him and Rose was mentally ready. The Bulls wanted Rose to come back once he was 100 percent healthy, and not a second sooner. However, on February 13, for the first time, Rose hinted that he may miss the entire season to ensure that he could make a full recovery. Daily speculation ensued as to when Rose would return. Some fans grew angry, believing that Rose was stalling his return and lacked commitment to the team.

By early March it was being reported that doctors had cleared Rose to play, indicating that the young point guard had made a full recovery. Despite Rose participating in practices without restrictions, the former MVP insisted he was not mentally prepared to return. Derrick’s brother, Reggie Rose, made the situation worse when he publicly stated that the Bulls’ decision to not make any significant deals at the trade deadline would play a role in whether Derrick would return for the remainder of the 2012-13 season. Criticism from fans and the media persisted throughout the remainder of the season.

Without Rose, the Bulls advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals where they lost to the Miami HEAT. Rose never made his anticipated return and missed the entire season. Even if Rose had been able to play, the Bulls still would have been short-handed as they were missing Luol Deng, and the HEAT would have likely still won the series. Still, for Bulls fans, constant reports of a potential return was the dominant storyline of the season.

Fast forward to October 5, 2013, when Derrick Rose made his return to action against the Indiana Pacers in a preseason game. After waiting 525 days since Rose tore his ACL, Bulls fans would get to watch their franchise player on the court once again. Rose was rusty, putting up 13 points in 20 minutes of playing time. It did not matter though; Rose was healthy and all NBA fans had reason to smile.

On October 16, after scoring 22 points in his first game back in Chicago, Rose said he thought he was even more “explosive” than before his injury, and that he had increased his vertical jump by five inches. Browse YouTube clips of Rose’s best dunks before his injury, and you can see why the thought of him adding five inches to his vertical was a scary thought for the rest of the NBA. Greg Oden, Joel Anthony and Goran Dragic, all past victims of vicious Rose dunks, would certainly agree.

The hype surrounding Rose’s return reached its apex on October 31, when he hit a game-winning floater to beat the Knicks, 82-81, in just the second game of the regular season. Rose was not efficient in that game, going 7-23 from the floor and turning the ball over four times. But it didn’t matter. Rose did what superstars are supposed to do in the NBA, which is to take, and make, the biggest shots in the biggest moments.

»In Related:Six Things to Know About the Chicago Bulls

Unfortunately it would not be long before disaster would strike again. After playing in only 11 games, Rose tore his meniscus in his right knee while playing against the Portland Trail Blazers on November 22. After undergoing surgery, the Bulls announced that Rose would miss the rest of the season.

In a season in which point guards have been plagued by injuries (Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Jeremy Lin, Patrick Beverley, Jrue Holiday, Jeff Teague, Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Jordan Farmar, Kemba Walker, Eric Bledsoe, etc.), Rose’s latest injury cuts the deepest. Rose’s injury, compounded by the time he has missed, has changed the course of the franchise. Every point guard listed will return from injury, or already has, and their franchise will continue down the same path it was already on. The Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder will continue to compete for a championship, and teams like the Phoenix Suns will continue to build around young talent with an eye toward the future. But the Bulls are not the Suns, and this was not supposed to be a rebuilding year for them. Coming into this season, the Bulls were thought to be one of three teams in the East that would compete for the championship, along with the HEAT and Pacers. Instead, the Bulls are now grouped with every other team in the East looking up at the top two teams.

This is especially problematic because in today’s NBA, under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, it is widely believed that if you are not a championship contender, then you should bottom out in hopes of landing a young star in the NBA lottery. Good luck convincing head coach Tom Thibodeau or any of the veterans on the team, such as Joakim Noah, that they should be tanking.

This is, in part, where rumors of a disconnect between Thibodeau and Chicago executives stem from. Under Thibodeau’s defensive principles, the Bulls have the second best defensive rating in the league. But the recent trade of Luol Deng suggests that Chicago’s front office has conceded this season in favor of future flexibility. By trading Deng for Andrew Bynum and then waiving him, the Bulls saved roughly $20 million. But no one can argue that trading Deng for purely financial savings makes the Bulls a better team now. Beyond trading Deng, rumors persist that the Bulls will amnesty veteran Carlos Boozer, who is set to make $16.8 million next season.

»In Related: Chicago Bulls Salary Information

If Chicago does amnesty Boozer, it will leave the Bulls with a roster featuring Rose, Noah, Taj Gibson, Mike Dunleavy Jr., promising rookie Tony Snell and Jimmy Butler, a solid foundation to build around. Interestingly, Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that, “Chicago is much more in play for [Carmelo Anthony] than L.A.” Whether through a trade this season or by signing Anthony over the summer, a pairing of Anthony and a healthy Rose would most likely put Chicago back into contention. This is especially true when you consider that Anthony will add much needed offense, while having to commit himself to a proven team defense under the demanding, yet effective Thibodeau.

Though the Bulls are currently the fifth seed in the East with a 22-21 record, it is very unlikely that they can get past the Pacers and the HEAT. Even if Chicago somehow made it to the Finals without Rose and Deng, they would likely have to defeat the Thunder or Spurs in a seven-game series, which is no easy task. It is unfortunate, but without Rose, this is a lost season in terms of competing for a championship.

While the Bulls have a few paths to quickly reload the team, it is undeniable that Chicago fans, and basketball fans in general, have missed Rose’s aggressive style of play that earned him NBA MVP honors at the age of 22. Moreover, it is disappointing to miss out on two seasons of Rose in his athletic prime, and two seasons in which Chicago could have competed for championships.

»In Related: Could a Carmelo Anthony Trade Benefit Bulls and Knicks?

Don’t count out Rose yet though. Players who have suffered ACL injuries have recently returned with greater success rates than ever before, and while a meniscus tear is unfortunate, it is not a career ending injury. Had Rose undergone another operation, such as a microfracture, there would be significant doubts as to Rose’s long-term prognosis. Fortunately, this is not the case for Rose. But Bulls’ fans will have to keep waiting for Rose’s return. The Bulls, and the NBA, will be much better when he does.

– Jesse Blancarte

J.R. Smith’s Awful Season:

Let’s take a look back to Monday, April 22, 2013 – the day New York Knicks guard J.R. Smith received the 2012-13 NBA Sixth Man of the Year award.

His head coach, Mike Woodson sounded like a proud father, quick to offer praise and admiration for Smith and the year he had put together.

“Couldn’t have happened to a better guy,” Woodson said. “I’m so proud of him, in terms of buying in to what we wanted him to do earlier in the season. And it started this summer. I wasn’t going to start him, coming into this year, and I knew that. And he bought in. He didn’t like it, but he bought in. And it couldn’t have happened to a better person, because he put in the time and he worked his butt off to get to this point, and he got rewarded for it. I’m happy for him.”

Carmelo Anthony touched on the noticeable change in Smiths’ maturity, as Smith had seemingly turned the corner in that department.

“I think there comes a point in time in your life where you’re almost forced to grow up, you’re almost forced to mature. You gotta be willing to want to do those things. I think right now, this season, J.R. has done that,” Anthony said. “I think J.R. was forced to grow up, he was forced to be mature and he was willing to take on that challenge, too.”

»In Related: New York Knicks Salary Cap Information

Smith thanked his teammates and coaching staff for their patience.

“I’ve been known to make so many mistakes I haven’t been making recently,” said Smith, thanking his veteran teammates and Woodson for helping him. “Just keeping my head, mentally on the court and off the court.”

Smith was able to parlay his strong season into a three-year contract with the Knicks worth just under $18 million.  The Knicks re-signed Smith, showing confidence that he could be the bench scorer they needed for years to come.

Unexpectedly, just after the contract was signed, Smith would require knee surgery.  The Knicks claimed to be aware of this prior to Smith signing the extension, but just based on the timeline it is easy to speculate that Smith wanted to ink a new deal before going under the knife and risking his health.  Injuries happen, that is part of being a professional athlete, and Smith needed to do what was best for his long-term health.  The injury required that Smith spend the offseason rehabilitating, unable to spend time out on the court working on his game. He didn’t play any basketball until October.

In September of 2013, about a month and a half prior to start of the season, Smith was notified that he must serve a five-game suspension for violation of the NBA’s anti-drug program.  Smith spoke publicly for the first time since the incident on media day; he was very apologetic and was quoted in the New York Post expressing his remorse.

“The worst thing is I feel I let my teammates and coach down,’’ Smith said. “I let Mr. Dolan down. I’m looking to move forward from it. As soon as I’m able to play, I’m hoping to have a good season.’’

Smith has never been known as the most righteous of characters – he has been arrested and has served suspensions in the past – so this incident didn’t come as a total surprise.  The risk with Smith has always been whether his production would outweigh his antics.  Smith went into the season behind the eight ball in that regard, but if he was able to produce at or near the level of last season it seemed all would be forgiven.

Smith may have had a tumultuous offseason but the on-court expectations remained the same.  Smith was signed to provide a scoring punch and to give the Knicks another consistent scoring threat to complement Anthony.  Smith played in his first game back from the suspension against the San Antonio Spurs and got off to a very poor start, shooting 1-9 from the field and scoring only five points as the Knicks were trounced by the Spurs.  Unfortunately, that poor performance would be a sign of things to come.  Granted this was his first game back from knee surgery so it was expected that Smith may be a little rusty and might start the season off slow. And he sure did. Smith put together an undeniably bad first month of the season.  He shot just under 33 percent from the field while scoring 11.7 points per game.  For a guy expected to provide a lift off the bench, he was doing the exact opposite.  Shooting so poorly, he alone made it very difficult for any offensive group he was part to play efficient basketball.  He was singlehandedly anchoring down the Knicks offense.  The Knicks struggled mightily in November, not exclusively due to Smith’s poor performance, but it certainly played a factor in the team’s 2-11 record for the month.

The next month wasn’t much of an improvement for Smith or the Knicks.  At the end of December, the Knicks had only managed nine wins in 30 games and finished the month off with back-to-back losses against division foe Toronto.  Smith was able to marginally increase his production from his pitiful November, his field goal percentage up to 34.5 and his points per game up to just over 12.  He was trending in the right direction as the season progressed, but these were still very disappointing numbers for the reigning Sixth Man of the Year.

What happened in the next couple of weeks can be described as something straight out of the The Onion. On January 8, 2014, Smith was fined $50,000 for “recurring instances of unsportsmanlike conduct.” Or, to be more specific, Smith was fined for multiple instances in which he attempted to untie his opponents’ shoelaces during the course of play.  His childish behavior was the last thing the Knicks needed being in the middle of a fight to salvage their season.  Coach Woodson spoke to ESPN New York 98.7 FM on Smith’s actions.

“I’ve always said I don’t condone things that I know you shouldn’t do,” Woodson said. “No, I’m not happy about this. He was warned, he comes back and he makes the same mistake, it’s not right. … It’s unacceptable. It really is. It’s unprofessional. That’s the only word I can use. … You can’t do that. You just cannot do it. … At the end of the day, he’s got to grow up. These things have got to stop.”

Smith had severely regressed from the maturity level that he just last April was being commended for.  Smith did offer an apology via his Twitter account, “Huge apologies to my team, to the league [and] most of all you the fans.”

You have to ask yourself at what point do Smith’s apologies start to ring hollow? How many times can a guy make selfish mistakes that negatively impact his team and their goals and still be believed as remorseful?

»In Related: Should the Knicks Trade Carmelo Anthony?

Not surprisingly, his relationship with Woodson has begun to sour.  On January 15,2014, it was reported that Smith arrived late for a team meeting the day before so that night when the Knicks played the Charlotte Bobcats, Smith did not see one minute of action.  This was the second time over a four-game stretch that Smith had recorded a DNP-Coach Decision in the box score.  Woodson spoke again to ESPN 98.7 FM about his growing frustration with Smith.

“I think it is a privilege to wear a uniform in this league,” Woodson said. “There’s only 30 teams. There’s [only] so many players on each team. I think every player has a responsibility and has to be held accountable for what they do on a ballclub.”

Smith has since worked his way back into the line-up and has been playing consistent minutes as of late.

It’s hard to believe how poorly this season has played out for Smith.  A player who has been able to score in the NBA since the first day he stepped foot onto the court, his talent is undeniable but it is becoming increasingly more evident that he is a me-first player who refuses to consider the affects his actions may have on his team.  In all fairness, it would be much easier to look the other way if he wasn’t putting up near career-worse numbers in almost every statistical category.  For the season, Smith is averaging 12.2 points, three assists and 4.2 rebounds, with a PER of 11.2.  The number that sticks out most is that Smith is shooting only 37.8 percent from field, a career-low and absolutely unacceptable for a player who was brought in to score.  Smith is not a defensive stopper, he is not a great passer and he is an average rebounder.   Add to that, this season he is an extremely inefficient scorer that has repeatedly made mistakes and supplied distractions for his struggling team.

To call Smiths’ season anything other than a massive disappointment would be a lie.  When you read the quotes from last April, it seemed that everything had finally clicked and that he understood what it meant to be a professional.  For whatever reason, Smith has taken a huge step backwards, his production is miserable and his behavior just as bad.  It has come to the point where you wonder if it is even worth it for the Knicks to keep Smith on their roster (there have been rumblings that the Knicks may look to move Smith).  The surprising surgery, the early season suspension, the shoe-lace untying incidents and most of all his all poor production have all been ingredients that have led to arguably his worst season as a pro.

– John Zitzler

Cleveland Cavaliers Not Living Up to Expectations

The Cleveland Cavaliers shocked many draft experts last summer when they drafted Anthony Bennett with the number one overall pick. It was a move that they hoped would help them make a run toward the playoffs, but instead has many critics describing the pick as a bust.

While half of a season is far too early to label a draft pick as a bust, Bennett’s season isn’t exactly giving the Cavs a reason to be excited for his future. He’s currently averaging just 2.8 points and 2.4 rebounds per game. Bennett’s work ethic has been described as questionable, so it may be no surprise that it took him 33 games to score in double digits.

Work ethic aside, the Cavs haven’t exactly done themselves any favors with Bennett. In his breakout performance on Tuesday, Bennett played 33 minutes, well above his season average of 10 minutes per game. The team should explore more options on how to get Bennett in the game more, and should seriously consider sending him down to the Development League to allow him to regain some of his confidence.

»In Related: Cleveland Cavaliers Salary Information

The Cavs brought in Andrew Bynum in an attempt to help them advance to the postseason and to help resurrect Bynum’s career. The team got the short end of that deal after they traded Bynum to the Bulls after getting just 26 games out of him. Prior to the trade, Bynum was suspended for conduct detrimental to the team after becoming a negative influence on the Cavs. Bynum stated publicly early in the season that he lost his joy for the game, which he continued to battle for the duration of his stay in Cleveland.

In return for Bynum, the Cavaliers received Luol Deng in hopes of trying to win now. Since adding Deng 10 games ago, the Cavs are 4-6 and stand at 16-29, good for 11th in the East. Even though Deng is averaging 15.6 points per game with the Cavs, there is still room to improve on how head coach Mike Brown utilizes him. Brown is neglecting to set up plays that allow Deng to move around and cut toward the basket, arguably the best thing he does.

»In Related: Kyrie Irving’s Uncertain Future

Although the Cavaliers have a much healthier and improved team this season, their record doesn’t reflect it. Anderson Varejao missed the majority of last season with a blood clot and Kyrie Irving missed 25 games due to injury; they have missed four games combined this season. The Cavs also signed Jarrett Jack from Golden State, but are still averaging 96 points per game, the same amount they averaged en route to 24 wins last season.

The Cavs are just three games back of the final playoff spot in the East, but given their additions to the team through the draft, trades and free agency, they should definitely be competing for a much higher seed than just the eighth seed.

– Cody Taylor

What has been the biggest disappointment of the 2013-14 NBA season? Leave your thoughts in the comment section.

Advertisement




Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

NBA

NBA Daily: What We Forgot

With the NBA season now a month old, Matt John looks into no what we have learned, but we had previously forgotten.

Matt John

Published

on

With every new NBA season, we tend to forget a few things here and there; players or teams that go through a down year are often, warranted or not, cast aside for the next best thing, only to resurface in the NBA’s collective conscience later on.

Like last season, for example, Dwight Howard was regarded as a nothing-addition for the Los Angeles Lakers, a gamble that they may have been better off not taking. However, Howard played an integral role in the Lakers’ run to the NBA title and reminded everyone that, when he plays without distractions, he’s one of the league’s fiercest around the basket.

But that’s just one example. So, who or what has been re-discovered this season? Let’s take a look.

Stephen Curry: Still Phenomenal

Nobody’s forgotten that entirely. It’s just been a while since people have seen Curry at the peak of his powers.

Sure, it was easy to be skeptical of what he was capable of coming into this season. But, with Kevin Durant gone, Curry had free reign to score and shoot as much as he desired. And, with that freedom, Curry’s put up his best numbers since 2016, his second MVP season. In 15 games, Curry’s averaged 28.2 points 5.5 rebounds and 6.1 assists and shot 45 percent from the field, 37 percent from three and 93 percent from the line. He’s reminded everyone why he’s one of the games best and that he can accomplish anything or score on anyone on any given night.

Of course, the absence of Durant, as well as the loss of Klay Thompson and others, has led to another atypical season for the Warriors. Their 8-7 has them tied for seventh in the Western Conference and, while they have certainly improved on how they looked to start the season, they have a long way to go before they’re back in title contention.

The Warriors may never again reach the heights they once knew, either before or with Durant. But, until Father Time dictates otherwise, Curry should long remain a nightmare for the opposition.

Tom Thibodeau Can Get It Done

What can you say about the New York Knicks? Unironically, a lot.

Not only have they shown themselves to no longer be the butt of the NBA’s jokes, but, compared to the last decade-plus of Knicks’ basketball, the 2020-21 season might be their brightest yet.

Julius Randle’s transition into more of a point forward-type has generated a career-year and All-Star buzz. RJ Barrett has continued to improve rapidly, while rookie Immanuel Quickley has “quickley” become a fan favorite. Most impressive of all, however, is that New York has allowed the fewest points per game (102.7) and the fourth-fewest points per 100 possessions (106.8) in the NBA.

In other words, they finally look like a competent basketball team. But what’s changed? Two words: Tom Thibodeau.

The players have bought in to Thibodeau’s scheme and, clearly, it’s had a positive effect. Of course, the disaster that was his Minnesota Timberwolves tenure made us forget just what a proven head coach Thibodeau could be, but he’s put it all together in the past and, in New York, he would seem to be doing so once again.

Of course, there is plenty left to do. The Knicks’ spacing is a joke — and a bad one at that. In fact, their entire offense could stand to see some of that energy they bring on defense; the Knicks are dead last in the NBA at 101.3 points per game.

Still, at 8-8, New York is no longer a doormat and, given the last few seasons, that’s probably the best they could’ve hoped for. Rome wasn’t built in a day and the Knicks won’t be either, but the franchise looks like they may have finally turned a corner toward relevance.

Maturity Issues Loom Large

Like the Knicks, the Cleveland Cavaliers have been another NBA-darling this season. And again, like New York, their players have bought in; head coach J.B. Bickerstaff has everyone playing with energy on defense and, while their offense hasn’t quite reached the same level, they’re competing to the best of their ability.

Of course, the progress of Kevin Porter Jr. could have been the cherry on top of it all. But that ship has sailed.

After an outburst directed toward general manager Koby Altman, Cleveland has since moved on from the young forward. Of course, the Cavaliers knew Porter came with baggage when they selected him with the last pick of the first round in the 2019 NBA Draft, but his potential was salivating and Cleveland had hoped they could help him grow — not only as an NBA player, but as a person. There have been success stories in the past, troubled players that have come in and shut out the noise and become both respectable characters and NBA players. DeAndre Jordan, a former lottery talent, dropped in his own draft due to similar concerns, but overcame those issues and has since gone on to play a long career.

Unfortunately, it just hadn’t gone that way with Porter and the Cavaliers, as the noise became too much to bear for a team with a long road back to relevancy. It’s reminded everyone just how hard it can be, both as a player and as their team, to deal with those issues and, regardless of the talent or potential, the headache sometimes just isn’t worth the risk.

Luckily for Porter, it’s not too late; a fresh start with the Houston Rockets should do him wonders. And, hopefully, the Rockets can help him overcome that baggage, his maturity issues and whatever else he may be dealing with.

But even if they don’t or can’t, Porter must wake up and seize his opportunity while he still can; if he sees another falling out in Houston, there’s no telling if he’ll ever get another chance elsewhere.

Continue Reading

NBA

NBA Daily: Three Trade Targets for the New York Knicks

Drew Maresca explores three restricted free agents-to-be who the Knicks should explore adding via trade before the March 25 trade deadline.

Drew Maresca

Published

on

Often the NBA’s biggest flop, the New York Knicks have been significantly better-than-expected to start the 2020-21 season. They’ve won eight of their first 16 games and have surrendered the fewest points per game on the season, placing them squarely in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

That said, they’re not out of the woods yet; with much of the season left to play, the Knicks are devoid of any meaningful offensive weapons. Additionally, the roster features a number of high-quality veterans whose deals are set to expire, the kind of players that contenders like to fill out their rotations with down the stretch, so the roster could look much different at the end of the year than it does now.

So, the Knicks are expected to be active on the trade front, again – no surprise there. But this year could be among the last in which the Knicks are sellers at the deadline. And, while moving some of those veterans for future assets is smart, the Knicks may also want to look at players they can add to bolster that future further.

Of course, New York shouldn’t go all-in for Bradley Beal — they’re not there yet — but there are a number of restricted free agents to-be that would fit both their roster and timeline nicely.

But why give away assets to acquire someone that the team could sign outright in just a few months? It may sound counterintuitive to add a player that’s about to hit free agency, restricted or otherwise, but procuring that player’s Bird rights, an exception in the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement that allows teams to go over the salary cap to re-sign their own players (not to mention offer them an extra contract year and bigger raises), can be key to securing a player’s services and building a long-term contender.

Further, the 2021 free agent market isn’t might not live up to expectation, with many presumed free agents already agreed to extensions. So, with that in mind, which players should the Knicks pursue via trade prior to the March 25 trade deadline?

John Collins, Atlanta Hawks

Collins’ production is down this season, but that has nothing to do with his ability. A 23-year-old stretch-four who’s shooting 35% on three-point attempts, Collins is big, athletic, can score the ball (16.7 points per game this season) and is a great rebounder (7.5 per game). He also connects on 80% of his free-throw attempts.

Despite those impressive stats, Collins was even more productive last season, averaging 21.6 points on better than 40% three-point shooting and collecting 10.1 rebounds per game.

But the Hawks rotation has become increasingly crowded this year. They added Danilo Gallinari and rookie big man Oneyeka Okongwu, the sixth overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, to the frontcourt this offseason, while Collins was already vying for minutes with Clint Capella, who Atlanta added via trade last season. Cam Reddish, a second-year wing who is versatile enough to play some power forward, has also stolen some of Collins’ potential minutes.

So, as much as the Hawks seem to like Collins, he may be a luxury they can do without. He’ll obviously demand a relatively high-priced contract. The fact that Atlanta and Collins failed to reach an extension last summer would also seem to make a reunion less likely; would the Hawks invest so heavily in him now that they have three players at the position signed through at least the 2022-23 season? Further, could they invest even if they wanted to at this point? The Hawks are already committed to more than $100 million next season and, with Trae Young and Kevin Huerter extensions on the horizon, they might be hard-pressed to scrounge for the cash Collins would want in a new deal.

He won’t come cheap, for sure. But, while Julius Randle fans may not love the idea of bringing in his replacement, Collins is simply a better long-term solution.

Lonzo Ball, New Orleans Pelicans

The point guard position has been a sore spot for the Knicks for some time. And while Ball might not be the franchise cornerstone that many hoped he’d become, adding a young player with his upside is clearly a positive move.

Granted, Ball is inherently flawed. His jump shot appeared to be much improved last season and he’s showcased a significantly improved shooting form from years past. But he’s struggled in the new season, shooting only 28% on three-point attempts (down from 37.5% last season). In fact, he’s struggled on the whole on the offensive side of the ball, posting just 11.9 points and 4.4 assists per game (a career-low). He’s also missed some time with knee soreness and moved to more of an off-the-ball role as new head coach Stan Van Gundy has put the ball in the hands of Brandon Ingram more and more.

But, with New York, Ball would step into a significant role immediately. For his career, Ball is a net-positive player and, despite his shooting woes, has posted a positive VORP every year he’s been in the league, save for this season. He’s an above-average defender and, while he does need to ball in his hands, he doesn’t necessarily need to take shots to be effective.

Ball may never become the All-World caliber guard many pegged him as before the 2017 NBA Draft, but he’s better than any other option currently at the Knicks disposal. And, best of all, his trade value is arguably as low as it’s ever been. So, while the Pelicans won’t just give him away, New York should do what they can to acquire him for a reasonable price.

Devonte’ Graham, Charlotte Hornets

Last but not least, the surprise from the 2018-19 rookie class. Graham is possibly the hardest sell on this list, but it’s not for a lack of talent.

Graham burst onto the scene last season, posting an impressive sophomore campaign of 18.2 points and 6.4 assists per game. Unfortunately, those numbers have taken a drastic dip this season with the arrival of Gordon Hayward and the highly-touted rookie LaMelo Ball in Charlotte. Likewise, Graham’s struggles through the Hornets’ first 10 games limited his opportunities further.

That said, he would appear to be done slumping, as he’s connected on 43% of his attempts from deep in the team’s last two games.

But his efficiency wouldn’t be the main challenge when constructing a Graham trade. Instead, some in New York could be concerned with lack of size – Graham is only 6-foot-1 – and his inability to act as a facilitator at the guard spot.

But Graham is talented, plain and simple. In fact, he’s the exact kind of talent the Knicks should be looking to add right now. More specifically, Graham shot 37.3% on three-point attempts last season; the Knicks rank 21st in three-point percentage so far this season.

The Knicks could ultimately sit tight, swap a few veterans for future draft picks and rest assured that they’ve made enough progress by simply adding coach Tom Thibodeau. But they could and should be aggressive while they can. If New York can add one or more the players mentioned, they may not only build a brighter future, but improve on what the team could do this season. Either way, the Knicks look to be on a good trajectory, but every move they make from here on out can and will affect how quickly they make the leap from laughingstock to respectable contender.

Continue Reading

NBA

NBA AM: The Utah Jazz Are Showing Continuity Is Key

Is Utah’s early success an indicator of things to come? Between Donavon Mitchell, a stingy defense and hot three-point shooting, they may just be the real deal.

Ariel Pacheco

Published

on

The Utah Jazz are riding high on a seven-game winning streak, hotter, at this point, than all hell. 15 games into the season, the Jazz have been the third-best team in the Western Conference. The key for them has been continuity as they have 11 guys who were on last year’s team. The only addition they made to their rotation this offseason was Derrick Favors, who was with the team for nine seasons before a one-year departure. 

Quinn Snyder is widely regarded as one of the best coaches in the league, and he’s showing why this season. The Jazz are currently in 7th in both offensive and defensive rating. Beyond that, there are only three teams who can say they are top 10 in both: The Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers and the Phoenix Suns. Often, teams that finish in this select category are historically serious contenders. 

Moreover, the Jazz have been on a shooting tear. Using Gobert’s rolling ability to collapse opposing defenses and find open shooters, Utah’s offense is clicking right now. It’s worked tremendously too, considering the Jazz have attempted and made the most three-pointers of any team this season – and hitting on 40.3 percent as a team. Royce O’Neale, Donovan Mitchell, Jordan Clarkson, Joe Ingles and Mike Conley are all shooting above 40 percent; while Bojan Bogdanovic is almost there at 37.8.

Basically, the Jazz are just shooting the ball at a ridiculously well rate right now and good ball movement has propelled them. 

Mitchell seems to have taken another jump in his development, although it is subtle, and his growth as a playmaker has benefitted everyone. He’s made teams pay for overhelping, often initiating the ball movement that has led to open looks. He’s also taking fewer mid-range jumpers, converting those attempts into three-pointers. The budding star’s play has been more consistent overall, and he’s been effective out of the pick-and-roll. 

Mike Conley’s improved play this season has been needed – now he’s settled and red-hot. Coming off a disappointing season last year, there were questions as to whether he was declining. While it’s safe to say he’s no longer the guy he was in Memphis, this version of Conley is still a good one. He looks a lot more comfortable in his role and the Jazz are reaping the benefits. In a contract year, Conley is averaging 16.3 points and 6.3 assists per game while shooting 41 percent from three.

Jordan Clarkson is a strong candidate for Sixth Man of the Year, fitting in perfectly as the Jazz need his scoring and creation off the bench – even leading the league in such scorers from there. But the Jazz’s bench is more than just Clarkson though, as they’ve gotten strong minutes from Joe Ingles, Georges Niang and Derrick Favors too. They’re a solid group that plays both ends of the court, and all fit in nicely with the starters as well. 

Sorely needed, however, Bojan Bogdanovic’s return has helped tremendously. He gives them another big wing who can shoot and is a scoring threat, and before he got hurt last season, he was averaging 20 PPG. While he isn’t at that level this season, he gives them another reliable scoring option that they badly need. Better, it also allows Ingles to remain on the bench, where his playmaking ability can really thrive.

The Jazz have been playing stylistically a little bit different this year and it has worked. They don’t run often but when they do, they have been potent. Playing at the same pace as last season, Utah is scoring almost five more points per game in transition. Additionally, they are taking six more threes a game too. This all amounts to a 6.1 net rating, which is good for fourth-best in the NBA. 

Lastly, their defense has been impossible for teams to penetrate, inviting opponents to try and finish over Rudy Gobert in the paint. Gobert is a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate for a reason – his presence alone almost assuredly guarantees his team will be a top 10 defense, which the Jazz are. Favors’ addition has helped stabilize the defense when Gobert sits, which was a major issue last season. Overall, they are just a very disciplined defense that makes teams earn their points, rarely committing cheap fouls.

As it stands today, the Utah Jazz are solidifying themselves as one of the best teams in the Western Conference. It remains to be seen if the hot shooting is sustainable, but the way they are generating those open looks seems to be. The defense is legit, and if they can remain healthy there’s reason to believe that this team can continue to compete at this level. The Utah starting lineup has outscored opponents by 58 points, but they’ve also had one of the best benches in the league – needless to say, the Jazz’s continuity has been a big part of their early success.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

ZigZagSport - Best Online Sportsbook & Casino

Advertisement
American Casino Guide
NJ Casino
NJ Casino

NBA Team Salaries

Advertisement

CloseUp360

Insiders On Twitter

NBA On Twitter

Trending Now