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FIBA World Cup Report Day 1

Nate Duncan examines some of the more interesting games from day one of the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain.

Nate Duncan

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With day one of the 2014 FIBA World Cup in the books, here’s a look at some of the notable games of the day.

USA 114-55 Finland

The story in this game was the stifling US defense.  Finland certainly was overmatched, but the Americans’ execution defensively was excellent.  It was not just pressuring for steals with superior athletes—USA consistently executed to deny the screen to pick and roll ballhandlers (known as icing, downing or bluing the pick and roll in various systems) and prevent Finland’s guards from getting into the middle of the court.  The most encouraging aspect for Team USA was how well they defended with DeMarcus Cousins on the court as the backup center behind Anthony Davis.  He did well executing the scheme and taking up space inside.

The result of that defense was absolute carnage in the first half for the Finns. At the half they had managed 18 points on 50 possessions, a mere 36 points per 100 possessions.  They had only one less turnover than points, good for a 34 percent turnover rate.  The shooting was no better, at 6/36.  The capper was an 0/17 second quarter in which they managed a mere two points.  It was never expected that Finland would challenge the Americans, but it was still a disappointing result for a team that pulled some big upsets in EuroBasket 2013 with wins against Turkey, Greece, Slovenia and Russia. As many Finns noted, the squad appeared a little starstruck against the US.  They badly bricked many of the few open shots they got, missed layups and fumbled passes out of bounds.

Nevertheless, it was stifling defense from the Americans.  It looks like Tom Thibodeau might be the most important addition the US team has made.  If only he had been an assistant eight years ago against Greece.

  • Cousins played extremely hard and provided solid defense (including getting out on shooters at times), but he is not right physically after the knee injury he sustained a couple of weeks ago in practice.  In addition to his issues finishing passes inside, he was limping around the court and barely able to dunk on one breakaway he had.  Nonetheless, the influence this team could have on him, particularly his defense, means it is probably worth it to the Kings that he keep playing.  This may be damning with faint praise, but he has looked by far the best defensively of the three backup centers on the roster.
  • Team USA’s biggest issue appears to be the offense, particularly the shooting.  They had a healthy 114 points on 90 possessions (127 point/100) for the game, but relied extensively on the Finns’ massive turnover rate to score.  Of particular concern was the three-point shooting, as they were a mere 6-18 from downtown.  That is not enough attempts to really run an efficient halfcourt offense, but playing relative non-shooters Kenneth Faried and Rudy Gay at the four has limited the bombing from outside that made the 2012 team so effective.  It does not help that Stephen Curry continues to pick up bad fouls on the perimeter, limiting his court time.  He also needs to get the ball more often as the handler in pick and roll.
  • Overall the squad has to make quicker decisions, with James Harden, Klay Thompson, DeMar DeRozan and Gay all guilty of holding the ball too long.  Gay in particular needs to just trust his shot and fire away when open or move the ball when he gets it with an advantage on the perimeter.  At one point Derrick Rose drew the defense with a beautiful crossover and hit an open Gay in the corner for a three which he passed up, earning a talking to from the Bulls’ point guard.
  • Rose looked just fine, throwing a number of bullet passes around the floor and flashing explosion to the hoop on a couple of occasions.  He did lose his dribble a few times and also struggled to finish at the rim.  The hope is those are vestiges of rust rather than a new baseline for him.  Nonetheless, it was a bounce back game for Rose after a desultory effort in Tuesday’s friendly against Slovenia, and he finished a team-high plus 45.
  • Davis showed off his burgeoning face-up game, using quick rip-throughs to get to the basket or splashing jumpers when the defense laid off.
  • Davis and Cousins both made concerted efforts to knock the ball off the rim or tip home balls that were already in the cylinder, an encouraging sign under FIBA rules.
  • I still don’t think I’ve seen Erik Murphy make a three-pointer since college.

Brazil 65-63 France

As most would expect, this 71 possession game was a defensive struggle, as neither team eclipsed a point per possession.  French coach Vincent Collet had a rough go at game management down the stretch. His tactics started auspiciously enough, as he properly called for France to foul with 40 seconds left down four.  He got the result he wanted as Brazil made one of two, after which France got a quick two to get within three points with 33 seconds remaining.  The French were then in perfect position to just play defense.  With a stop they could obtain possession with a chance to tie the game, which is the goal of any late-game strategy when trailing.

Instead, Collet ordered an immediate foul of Marcelinho Huertas, who drained both free throws to put Brazil up five.  He then compounded the error by using his last timeout—to call a play for a not very quick two in which point guard Thomas Heurtel (who was awful all game) threw up a very low percentage floater which missed.  Down five, that shot needed to be a three. Game over.

  • Boris Diaw was excellent for the French as their only effective playmaker and best scorer in this game.  But one hilarious moment came when his Spurs teammate Tiago Splitter guarded him in the post.  Splitter knows Diaw goes to his left shoulder every time and just wouldn’t let him get there, resulting in a very rarely seen right shoulder fadeaway from Diaw that clanked.
  • France really missed injured Nando De Colo in this one, not to mention Tony Parker.  Point guards Heurtel and Antoine Diot managed one assist between the two of them all game and Brazil shut down seemingly every pick and roll.  Before a late flurry when the ball was in their hands to just chuck up shots during the comeback, they scored little as well.  Meanwhile, Nicolas Batum, with a great size advantage over the Brazilian wings, took only 10 shots.  Even more unaccountably, Evan Fournier only played eight minutes and took one shot.  He has not played well during the exhibitions, but with the French so clearly hurting for playmaking and shooting he could have gotten more of a look.
  • The French defense was solid though, as Rudy Gobert showed off his ability to move his feet against the pick and roll and protect the rim.  The problem with Gobert though is he still kills the offense due to the lack of spacing, which is why he ultimately sat down the stretch.
  • Brazil coach Ruben Magnano also had a few odd strategic decisions.  Brazil was absolutely shutting down the French pick and roll game with normal coverage, so Magnano decided to change up to a switching defense in the fourth quarter.  It wasn’t totally ineffective, but it at least gave the French a chance to get something going with Diaw postups on guards after the switch.  It did not make much sense.

Slovenia 90-80 Australia

Don’t let the generally slower pace of international ball fool you; this was a high-scoring game.  Slovenia managed 90 points on 74 possessions* (122 points/100), while Australia managed 80 on 73 (110 points/100).  Goran Dragic led the Slovenians with 21 points on only 13 shooting possessions and added four assists.  He and the other Slovenian guards drove to the basket with near impunity, as the Australian help defense was ineffectual.  Slovenia is really a tough guard, as seven players hit three-pointers.**  Aron Baynes led the Australians with 21 points on 15 shooting possessions.

* The US usually plays its games with about 85 possessions, which is usually 10 or so faster than games between other international squads.

**This is why holding Slovenia to only 83.5 points/100 was such an accomplishment for the US.

Australia gave most of the minutes at the four to David Andersen, but he may not be the best fit for what this team needs. He was never an athlete at the best of times, and now at age 34 his help defense is nonexistent.  The Australian scheme also called for quite a few switches on pick and rolls if the ball defender is beaten, after which Andersen proved rather helpless matched up against guards.  Andersen’s main advantage is his shooting, but the Boomers’ system does not seem set up to take advantage of that ability. He spent little time spotting up on the perimeter or running pick and pops from the top.  The majority of his work was performed via side pick and rolls and handoffs which had him rolling to the baseline or posting up afterward.  Neither helped much with floor spacing.  Andersen is a capable if plodding post player, but that is likely not the most efficient option. Andersen had 14 points, but was only 4-11 from the field and took only one three.  He was a team-worst -13, a performance he earned with his defense as Slovenia paraded to the basket with little resistance.

Instead of giving Andersen so many minutes, the Boomers would be better suited to go with more mobility at the four.  Brock Motum played well in his 18 minutes, providing greater activity defensively.  But the Australians should give more of a look to playing Brad Newley and Joe Ingles together at the forward spots.  This was not tried at all, as the Boomers had two traditional big men on the floor at all times.

Going small would facilitate more switching defensively and faster help defense.  Ingles can space the floor with his shooting at the four, while he won’t be any worse defending the rim or defensive rebounding than Andersen.  Unless the opponent features a solid postup four who could punish Ingles on the block (and few do on this side of the bracket) a small lineup should provide better defense and more versatility than playing Andersen at the four.  This alignment would also clear more playing time for ace shooter and former Valparaiso star Ryan Broekhoff.  He is really the only truly dangerous long-range threat on the squad.  This lineup would also give Aron Baynes (a postup monster in this game) more room to work on the block or in pick and roll.

  • Dante Exum did little today, going 0-2 with a turnover and tallying a -9 in only 11 minutes. However, he did not play poorly.  He did not have any huge defensive lapses, had a couple of nice passes and generally did not mess up.  It seems that the edict from the coaches is to take it easy and move the ball, as he eschewed several chances to attack.  But it was not at all a bad performance from him.  The only thing he could stand to work on from this game is throwing passes a little more crisply; that ability should come as he adds core strength.
  • Australians should not necessarily fret about this loss, as winning Group D may always have been a tall order. Instead, they should angle for third place.  First and third place in the group would keep them from the US (the likely winner of Group C) until the semifinal.  If the Boomers can win the rest of their games aside from against Lithuania, that result is likely.  With the Americans’ presence looming, we may see quite a bit of gamesmanship as the group stage winds down. Similar jockeying is likely to occur in Group B to avoid playing Spain, the likely winner of Group A.  First and third place are the prized positions to avoid the top seed in the other group until the semifinals.  Meanwhile, the race will be on for 2nd and 4th places in Groups A and C, which would similarly allow teams in those groups to avoid Spain and the US until the semis.

Nate Duncan is an NBA analyst and attorney. He writes regular features for Basketball Insiders and chats weekly at 11 Eastern on Tuesdays.

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Young Glad To Reunite With McGee, Embracing Chance With Warriors

Spencer Davies chats with JaVale McGee and Nick Young about the sharpshooter’s first year with the Warriors.

Spencer Davies

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You never forget where you started.

As first-round draft picks with only a year apart between them, Nick Young and JaVale McGee began their respective careers in our nation’s capital with the Washington Wizards.

That’s where a bond began. Despite a tumultuous four-year stay with an organization that never sniffed the playoffs and finished dead last in the Central Division three times in the span, the two remained close friends.

Almost a decade later, “Swaggy P” and “Pierre” are reunited. Only this time, it’s with the NBA’s defending champion Golden State Warriors.

“Just shows,” Young told Basketball Insiders. “We’ve both been in this league for a long time and people didn’t think we was gonna make it this far and that’s a blessing. We’ll continue to do it and prove people wrong. From the bottom to the top, you know what I’m sayin’?”

McGee agrees wholeheartedly. Winning his first title with the Warriors last summer, he’s learned quite a few things about the healthy climate within the organization that Young, at first, was surprised by.

“It’s definitely a different environment,” McGee told Basketball Insiders. “Even when he came here, he asked certain questions of stuff he could and couldn’t do just because the environment that we used to be in was real restrictive of things that really didn’t have to do with basketball.

“Here it’s a player’s team, so they do a really good job of catering to us.”

In regards to his on-court fit with Golden State, McGee feels that Young has adjusted accordingly throughout the season.

“I feel like he’s fit in well,” McGee told Basketball Insiders. “Definitely got his conditioning right and he’s pretty good getting in the system, figuring out the screen system that we have here, so he’s doing a pretty good job.”

Though he hasn’t played as much as he’s used to, Young is truly enjoying his transition with the Warriors. He says it’s been the most fun he’s had in his career.

“Just being in the winning circle,” Young told Basketball Insiders. “Being around good teammates, good people and just competing for a championship man. We fightin’ for something big. It’s my first time being a part of something like this.”

As for what’s stood out to him about Steve Kerr’s system, it’s been the unselfishness from everybody on the roster, coaches and players alike.

“They embrace me good,” Young told Basketball Insiders. “That’s the one thing I like is a good team, good teammates. Pretty much just everybody knowing their roles. Nobody’s bringing negative energies to the locker room and it’s just a good vibe.”

Once asked about who the best shooter on the team is, Young went with Kerr as his answer. He told Basketball Insiders that he’s “still going with Steve,” but probably anybody else would have to give Stephen Curry the nod.

Curry’s been playing out of his mind this year. Kevin Durant’s done the same. There have been multiple times where one or the other has been out due to rest or, most recently, nagging injuries. It’s allowed for others to step in and get some extra minutes, and Young’s been the beneficiary of that multiple times.

So with Curry in and Durant out or vice versa, how would he compare and contrast the periods?

“It’s a different game,” Young told Basketball Insiders. “Of course, different styles. Both of ‘em draw so much attention that leaves guys like me open, but when one of ‘em’s out we’ve still got enough depth to keep up with anybody.”

Recently after Curry scored 45 points in three quarters against the Los Angeles Clippers and didn’t even play in the fourth, Young was baffled. His only explanation for the outburst was that he was from another planet.

And yes, Young believes Curry’s “got a shot,” as does Durant, when it comes to the MVP conversation because of where the Warriors are at this point of the season.

The belief goes both ways. Just as Young is ecstatic watching his teammates succeed, so are they for him. McGee recalls his friend’s debut for Golden State at Oracle Arena on opening night.

It was a night of celebration for the Bay Area, as the crowd cheered during the pre-game championship ceremony to commemorate the team. Young ended up dropping 23 points on 8-for-9 from the field in his first game for the Dubs. The Houston Rockets spoiled the party with a win, but the moment was special for the two.

“I was excited,” McGee told Basketball Insiders. “I always get excited when he’s out there scoring and doing his thing. I’m always happy for him. That’s my friend, long-time friend, and it was dope that he could be out here.”

Though you wouldn’t know it by his performance, Young had butterflies in his stomach before it all started.

“Ah man it was unbelievable,” Young told Basketball Insiders. “I was nervous. I didn’t know what was gonna happen. First time playing for the Warriors opening night. Had my family there. It was ring night, so I didn’t think I was gonna play that much, but I got an opportunity and I just took advantage.”

Since that game, Young hasn’t eclipsed the 20-point mark. But to his defense, that first game was his season-high in minutes thus far. Kerr understands the depth of his team makes it difficult for him to get consistent playing time, but he’s taken it in stride and been a good teammate.

But we all know how he shoots the rock when he finds a groove. So how many games like the opener does he have in store for us?

“I don’t know,” Young told Basketball Insiders with a laugh. “I just gotta get hot, so it could be any night.”

And whenever that night comes, expect to see him smiling as he drains those buckets.

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NBA Daily: Things To Watch Heading Into Trade Season

Two of our experts identify four teams and four players to keep an eye on during trade season.

Basketball Insiders

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With memories of DeMarcus Cousins being told that he was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans during his postgame availability at last season’s All-Star game, the NBA moved the trade deadline up.

This season, the deadline falls on February 8, and all there has been a lot of discussion leading into next month’s deadline.

We asked Moke Hamilton and Lang Greene to weigh in on some items to keep an eye on over the next three weeks.

Nikola Mirotic and Derrick Favors

This year’s trade deadline will probably lack big names getting moved, but teams such as the Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks and Denver Nuggets are within sniffing distance of a playoff berth for the first time in years. It will be interesting to see if their respective front offices swing for the fences to achieve the goal.

There are three ways to improve a roster or prepare for the future in the NBA. The methods are free agency, trade and the annual draft. Trade deadline deals are risky. There are a lot of deals each season which involve players on the verge of hitting the free agent market. Teams acquiring these take the risk that they’re only “renting” those guys until the season concludes.

At the end of the day, though, the two biggest names we may see moved are Nikola Mirotic and Derrick Favors.

Mirotic has been plagued by inconsistency throughout his career, but the fourth-year forward is by far having his best season as a professional despite his minutes remaining flat. On a per 36 minute basis, Mirotic is averaging 25.1 points and 9.9 rebounds.

Mirotic and teammate Bobby Portis made headlines before the season for their fight, which led plenty of missed time for the forward. Mirotic’s name has been mentioned on the block ever since this incident, but it’s clear the Bulls have integrated him back into their rotation fully. Still, the team is believed to simply be waiting for the right time and trade partner and that Mirotic’s days in Chicago are numbered.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the Bulls plan to be patient in fielding calls for Mirotic, while the player has deflected all talks to his representatives.

“I didn’t talk to [the Bulls’ front office recently],” he said. “Probably my agents are talking, so I don’t know so far what’s going on, but I know my name is going to be out there. I’m doing my job, and I’m sure they’re doing their job, and we’re both going to do what’s best for the team.”

Mirotic has a no-trade clause built into his contract and would have to waive it prior to completing any deal, unless the Bulls were to guarantee the team option on the final year of his contract for 2018-19. Don’t count on that, though.

With respect to Favors, he battled injuries the past two seasons but has remained relatively healthy to begin this campaign. The forward is shooting a career high from the field, but according to the Salt Lake Tribune, the Utah Jazz have dangled him in trade talks since the beginning of the season.

Favors was one of the central parts of the Deron Williams trade years ago, but could be expendable because of the emergence of center Rudy Gobert in the Jazz’s frontcourt. The forward is on the books for $12.5 million this season and was most recently linked to the aforementioned Mirotic in trade talks between Utah and Chicago.

– Lang Greene

DeAndre Jordan and Paul George

Heading into deadline season, there’s not much out there to suggest that we’ll see any superstar-caliber players moved. With the likes of Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Chris Paul and Kyrie Irving among the players that switched teams over the summer, it seems that most NBA teams that have difference-makers on their rosters are in construction mode—they’re trying to compete with the Cavs or the Warriors.

The two superstar players who merit some discussion, though, are DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan.

With respect to Jordan, the Clippers find themselves in a very peculiar situation. With Chris Paul having defected to the Houston Rockets, it’s easy to conclude that the Clippers are no longer a true contender. Still, they’ve played so well over the past few weeks (including scoring a victory over Paul and his Rockets) that it seems a difficult proposition to proactively pull the plug.

Still, though, as written in this past Sunday’s column, it’s time for the Clippers to trade Jordan, mainly because a team that is heading toward a rebuild can’t afford to lose a player of his caliber for nothing, and that’s quite possible unless the Clippers fork over a max contract to Jordan this summer. The proposition wouldn’t be wise, particularly because it could cost the Clippers a first round pick in one of the upcoming drafts.

He’s definitely a player that should be watched.

Paul George, on the other hand, doesn’t appear likely to be headed out of Oklahoma City. The team is reportedly committed to keeping him for the duration of the season, with the hope being that the Thunder will get their act together and win a round or two in the playoffs. With the team still hovering around .500, it seems a long shot.

There are some, however, that believe that the Thunder should at least see what might be available to them in exchange for George, especially with the team trading Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis for him. That’s especially true with Oladipo closing in on what certainly appears to be his first All-Star selection.

– Moke Hamilton

 

Dallas Mavericks Are Open For Business

The Dallas Mavericks are in a clear rebuild and the prospect of making the playoffs is more dream than reality this season, but the team does have some things going for it.

The Mavs have roughly $13 million in cap space, which puts them in a prime spot to acquire talent at the deadline without giving up any of their players in return. In fact, Mark Cuban went on the record and said exactly that.

“I would say we are looking to use our cap space actively,” Cuban told the Dallas Morning News earlier this week. “We will take back salary to get picks or guys we think can play.”

The Mavericks have the second-lowest payroll in the league, but Cuban has been known to spend money to acquire relevant talent. The team hasn’t had much success in in attracting free agents in recent years, and with the Hall of Fame career of Dirk Nowitzki coming to an end, the team is undoubtedly looking to retool.

– Lang Greene

Cavs and Lakers Each Likely To Do Something

It’s a poorly kept secret that the Los Angeles Lakers have had their sights set on acquiring a superstar or two this coming summer. With Paul George, DeMarcus Cousins and LeBron James among those who could hit the market in July, the Lakers have quite a bit of incentive to try to rid themselves of the contracts of Luol Deng and Jordan Clarkson.

Where things get interesting for the Lakers is with the emergence of several of their young players this season. Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Kyle Kuzma and to a lesser extent Josh Hart have each given the team impressive minutes this season. If the Lakers feel they have a real shot at signing James and, say, DeMarcus Cousins, it may be enough for them to package Deng and/or Clarkson with one of their promising young players and perhaps a future draft pick.

It’s certainly something I’d keep my eyes on.

And speaking of future draft picks, with the Cavs not taking their standing in the Eastern Conference for granted, one can only wonder the extent to which the Nets’ first round pick this coming season is burning a hole in their pockets. Aside from the Nets pick, though, the Cavs do own their own first round pick, which could be enough for them to pry the likes of a player like Mirotic or Favors from their current team.

There has also been some conjecture revolving around the availability of Tristan Thompson, with one interesting scenario having the Cavs and Clippers at least contemplating a trade involving Thompson and Jordan.

The Cavs and Lakers each have too much at stake to not do something.

– Moke Hamilton

Only 21 Days To Go…

With the trade deadline exactly three weeks from today, talks will certainly heat up.

For now, though, the Mavs, Cavs and Lakers appear to be the teams most involved in conversations, with Nikola Mirotic, Derrick Favors and DeAndre Jordan among those most likely to be dealt.

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NBA Daily: Are The HEAT Getting Into The Fray?

Things in the NBA trade world are starting to heat up, and there are some new situations worth watching as the NBA trade market starts to take shape.

Steve Kyler

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The Latest On The Trade Front

With the 2018 NBA Trade Deadline ticking ever so closer, there are a few stories worth watching as teams start to zero in on the changes they may consider making.

Clippers Not Ready To Blow It Up

For most of the season, there has been talk in NBA circles and the media that the Clippers would likely move on from center DeAndre Jordan. While that still seems to be more likely than not at this point, the message from the Clippers’ side of things is they are not ready to blow up the team, and moving off Jordan is far from assured.

The narrative from around the Clippers is they are going to evaluate the team a little closer to the deadline and see what’s really available to them, but until then they seem more than happy to see if this team can actually compete, which they have been doing.

A league source close to the situation said recently that as much as Clipper fans might want to see the team blown up, ownership and senior leadership does not seem open to that concept at all. In fact, they believe that its better to be competitive and one player away than trying to go through the teardown route, knowing that no one is bailing out their $119 million roster commitment.

The Clippers invested heavily into forwards Blake Griffin and Danilo Gallinari this past summer, and the belief is that they will invest even more into guard Lou Williams.

Equally, the prevailing thought on Jordan is that while he does have a Player Option for free agency in July, there isn’t much beleif that he’ll land anything close to the $24.1 million he is owed next season, making it more likely he opts into his deal than walks away.

There are no shortage of teams hovering around the Clippers if they opt to change course. The Milwaukee Bucks and Houston Rockets both have eyes for Jordan if the Clippers opt to deal, while several teams seem keen on Williams, who is on an ending deal and would have Bird Rights for a team with limited cap flexibility. There has been talk that a couple of teams have had introductory talks on Griffin. However, it seems highly unlikely the Clippers seriously consider those situations.

If the Clippers wanted to blow up the team, it seems there are options for them, but the talk from the Clippers side is they don’t seem to be as open to the idea as some would like them to be.

Want A Veteran? Kings Have Some

The Sacramento Kings have told their veterans that they are going to start focusing more and more playing time on the younger players and that as many as three of the proven vets may not see action on a night to night basis.

There has been talk for weeks that guard George Hill is unhappy and seeking an exit from the Kings. However, his injury history and whopper of a salary seems to make it unlikely that he and the Kings will find a trade.

Veterans Vince Carter and Zach Randolph have handled the situation better, but league sources said it very possible both could be moved before the deadline, which apparently was suggested to both when they signed back in July.

The Kings have also been sniffing around for deals involving center Kosta Koufos and guard Garrett Temple; both have Player Options next season, which makes their value tough for the Kings, as most teams don’t value the uncertainty well.

Sources close to the situation said the Kings seem to be trying to help their veterans find better situations, especially as they are falling out of the rotation.

One long-time agent with a player on the roster commended the Kings for being smart about the situation, saying they seem to be going out of their way to try and help resolve the situation. Time will tell if there is a real market for any of those players and their somewhat hefty contracts.

Mirotic Has Veto Power, Sort Of

The Chicago Bulls have had the ability to trade forward Nikola Mirotic for a few days now, as he was one of the players who became trade-eligible on January 15. League sources said the Bulls had gotten pretty far down the road with both the Utah Jazz, on a deal centered on the expiring contract of Derrick Favors, and with the Detroit Pistons.

It’s unclear who the Pistons were really offering; there had been reports that the Pistons were dangling rookie Luke Kennard as the juice of a deal, with possibly Jon Leuer and his $10.4 million salary being the cap dollars included to make it work under the cap.

The Bulls seem to be holding out for a first-round draft pick in a Mirotic deal. However, league sources say the real hold up may be Mirotic himself.

The Bulls did a creative contract structure with Mirotic in that he has a team option in year two of the deal. Unless the Bulls exercise that option, Mirotic has veto rights. If the Bulls pick up that option, something league sources said Mirotic’s camp is pushing for, the veto power comes off the table, and the Bulls can completely control the process.

There has been considerable talk that Mirotic wants out of Chicago, but it seems some business may be holding up a potential deal.

It was never likely that the Bulls were going to immediately trigger a deal for Mirotic, so the timing of this may simply be the poker of deal-making in the NBA.

There is also something to be said about how teams would value Mirotic as a potential ending contract, versus a player with one more fully guaranteed year.

Equally, the Bulls haven’t closed the phones on offers either. While Utah and Detroit seem motivated, the Bulls may be smart to wait a few more weeks and see who is willing to meet their true asking price before they decide to pick up the Mirotic option to control the process.

Moving Whiteside?

Reading what the Miami HEAT will really do is always tough. The HEAT have a long track record of misdirection and clandestine processes. That said there is growing talk that the HEAT are more than open to a trade involving center Hassan Whiteside, especially if would help them clear out his cap dollars.

Whiteside is owed $23.7 million this year and has a fully guaranteed $25.4 million salary next season, plus a $27.09 million Player Option after that. That’s big money for almost everyone in the league.

The HEAT are not fire selling Whiteside, but there is a growing sense that if Whiteside could be moved for the right combination of ending contracts and upside youth, the HEAT would explore it.

This becomes interesting when you consider the Milwaukee Bucks have been after Clippers center DeAndre Jordan and that Cleveland Cavaliers have been linked to Jazz big man Derrick Favors.

Making a deal for a salary of Whiteside’s size would be massively tough for both the Bucks and the Cavs, but considering both ownership groups seem to be looking for a big splashy move, Whiteside could be the consolation prize if neither of the first options works out.

A Milwaukee deal for Jordan was said to be built around John Henson and Mirza Teletovic, who may be forced to medically retire due to a second recurrence of blood clots in his lungs. A Bucks deal would also likely include some combination of rookie scale players such as Thon Maker, Rashad Vaughn or D.J. Wilson, according to sources.

While on the surface none of that seems overly enticing, would clearing that kind of space be appealing to the HEAT? It does not seem to be for the Clippers.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have been sniffing around deals offering up both Tristan Thompson and guard Iman Shumpert. The inclusion of the Cavaliers’ own first-round draft pick was mentioned earlier in the season when the Cavs were linked to Jordan and the Clippers. Is that enough value for the HEAT? Equally, the challenge for the Cavs is they have set up the roster with a ton of expiring players, which makes sense with the uncertainty of LeBron James’ future in Cleveland. Do the Cavs want to be holding Whiteside for two years after a potential James exit?

Of all the things being talked about in NBA circles, this one is interesting to watch, not only because the HEAT seems to be willing to deal, but because Whiteside could be the answer to serious problems for good teams vying for a legitimate shot at the NBA Finals, especially this year.

Dallas Is Open For Business

The Dallas Mavericks are open for business. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban confirmed as much to reporters, saying the Mavericks would be open to leveraging their potential cap space next summer if it returned the right assets.

The Mavericks have several ending contracts they are dangling and seem to be looking for not only a promising rookie scale player, but future draft picks.

The Mavericks have held onto some salary cap holds to technically keep them above the salary cap line, but they could renounce those holds and get under the cap now. That cap flexibility makes them interesting to watch, as they could absorb up to roughly $13 million in salary before including ending deals like Josh McRoberts, Devin Harris, and Nerlens Noel, who has veto rights on a trade.

Historically the Mavericks have done a deal every year at the deadline. With some much flexibility, they could be the centerpiece to a big transaction because they can absorb cap dollars others teams simply can’t.

Keep in mind that trades and trade talks are a fluid thing; what can be a very hard “No” today can turn into a “Yes” quickly, so until something is done, keep in mind, it’s not done no matter how much it may make sense.

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