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Five Power Forwards on the Rise in 2014-15

Basketball Insiders continues it’s on the rise series for the 2014-15 with a look at power forwards, including Kenneth Faried.

Cody Taylor

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The traditional meaning of a power forward in the NBA is a player that typically played with their back to the basket. While that meaning is still true today, there are a number of players that are changing the way the position is being played. The evolution of the power forward position has brought us to a point where some players are now referred to as stretch fours, which are players that are sized like a typical power forward, but can shoot from long distance like that of a guard. Kevin Love, Ryan Anderson, Chris Bosh, Rashard Lewis and Kevin Durant all come to mind when thinking of a stretch four.

The position is quite possibly the most underrated position on the floor. A team that can properly utilize a power forward in either the traditional way or in a stretch four type of situation can really do some damage in the league. A back-to-the-basket power forward can cause issues on both sides of the ball and become difficult to guard, while the stretch power forward can cause even more problems by being able to stretch the floor and allow room for penetration inside.

There a number of young power forwards in the league today that could make the leap into the conversation as the best in the league. Here are five power forwards poised to make a jump this season in the league.

Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets – In just three seasons in the league, Faried has managed to earn the nickname the “Manimal.” While his numbers haven’t necessarily reflected overall dominance, there is no reason to doubt that he won’t one day be there. Faried averaged 13.7 points and 8.6 rebounds per game last season with the Nuggets and thus far has increased his production in each season in the league. His average was helped by an outstanding second half of the season in which he averaged 18.8 points and 10.1 rebounds. It seems like after the All-Star break Faried really started to grasp new head coach Brian Shaw’s offense and his play on the court showed that. As the season progressed, Faried became more aggressive down low, which allowed him to draw more fouls and get to the free throw line more.

Perhaps the biggest thing that will lift Faried to a higher level next season is his time playing with Team USA this summer. Faried has played in and started all four games for Team USA during their exhibition games and is leading the team in field goal percentage at a blistering 72 percent (technically Mason Plumlee is leading the team, but has only six field goal attempts).  Something like that – leading a team in shooting with other premier players on the team – will certainly help his confidence when he returns to the Nuggets this upcoming season.

Mason Plumlee, Brooklyn Nets – If Plumee’s summer is any indication about what kind of season he’ll have this season, he’s in for an immediate rise in the ranks. During his time for the Nets in the Orlando Summer League, Plumlee averaged 18 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game and often looked like the best player on the court. Plumlee dropped 23 points on 8-of-11 shooting during his first game out of the gate in Orlando. Then, following the Summer League, Plumlee was invited to be on Team USA’s Select Team and it only took one practice to be brought on board to the main roster. After practicing and playing with Team USA for about a month, Plumlee was named to the final 12-man roster that begins tournament play in Spain on Saturday.

Plumlee is the type of big man that plays great defense and has the ability to move up and down the court. Plumlee showed exactly the type of athleticism he has when he blocked what would have been LeBron James’ game-winning dunk against the Nets back in April. It also seems that Plumlee will have the benefit of playing next to Kevin Garnett next season as Garnett is reportedly going to return after contemplating retirement. Like Faried, Plumlee will have that same confidence of being named to the final-12 man roster on Team USA heading into next season for the Nets. After establishing himself through his rookie season and throughout the summer, Plumlee will find himself as a guy the Nets will count on often next season.

Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers – While it looks like Thompson will be coming off of the bench with Kevin Love now on the team, the move to the bench could be a benefit for Thompson. His role off of the bench will be to anchor the second team and to do what he does best: use his athleticism to make plays, rebound and clean up shots at the rim. Thompson now won’t be burdened with any unnecessary pressure that came with starting and being on a team with LeBron James – he will now come off of the bench and give the Cavs 20-25 minutes a game. There will be times when James and Thompson will be on the court together and Thompson fits in well with how fast James runs the floor. As simple as it may sound, adding an MVP to your team will improve everyone’s game, Thompson included.

Derrick Favors, Utah Jazz – After signing a four-year, $49 million deal last October, Favors didn’t really perform to that contract’s standards. He certainly elevated his game from the previous season, jumping from 9.4 points to 13.3 points per game last season while improving from 7.1 to 8.7 rebounds per game. Favors is the guy that the Jazz need to help improve its defense and now with the departure of Marvin Williams, Favors can return to his natural position of power forward. The move back to power forward will allow Enes Kanter to start at center and form and impressive young front court. Their play together has already proven to be better defensively than their predecessors in Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap as the Jazz give up fewer points to opponents with Favors and Kanter on the floor than it did with Jefferson and Millsap playing. Favors has great athleticism and immense potential, and should continue to improve in key statistical categories. The Jazz are one of the increasing amount of teams that feature a promising young core of guys and could be a team to watch in the upcoming years.

Ryan Anderson, New Orleans Pelicans – Anderson played in just 22 games last season as he suffered two herniated discs in a scary collision in Boston, but is said to be recovering well and will be ready for Pelicans training camp in October. With a healthy roster and the addition of Omer Asik, the Pelicans should be a team on the rise this season and Anderson will have a big part of that. Anderson is one of a few stretch four bigs that can both ends of the floor effectively and he proved to be effective when paired next to Anthony Davis.

Honorable Mentions

Ed Davis, Los Angeles Lakers – Davis will be entering his sixth season in the NBA with the Lakers come October and could be in a prime position to make a jump. Davis turned down an offer with the Clippers and decided to go with the Lakers where he feels he’ll have an opportunity to be productive. While Davis will be competing against Carlos Boozer, Jordan Hill and Ryan Kelly, he brings experience to the table and that could help him lock into a big role with the team. On a two-year contract worth just $2 million, the Lakers got a steal in the free agency class. Davis has proven that when he sees extended minutes, he’ll produce well so he should be a guy to keep an eye on this season.

Channing Frye, Orlando Magic – Another stretch four that could have a great season is Frye in Orlando. The Magic were able to snag him up in free agency by giving him $32 million over four years. Many have said that the Magic overpaid for him, but it likely took a couple extra million to sway Frye into joining a team in a rebuild when he could have easily signed with a contender. As a team that will be searching for a leading scorer to fill the void left by Arron Afflalo and Jameer Nelson, Frye could step into that role. The main attraction the Magic had with Frye is his ability to shoot the three-ball as the team finished in the bottom half of the league in three-point shooting. The Magic should be able to count on more than the 11.1 points per game Frye scored last season in Phoenix as he will have a large part in the team’s offense.

Who do you think is going to breakout at the power forward position next year? Leave your thoughts below!

Cody Taylor is an NBA writer in his fourth season with Basketball Insiders, covering the NBA and NCAA out of Orlando and Miami.

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NBA Draft Watch: Should You Expect a Flurry Of Trades?

Should you expect a flurry of trades during tonight’s NBA Draft? History says yes!

Lang Greene

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Draft Day. The event that rebuilding teams have been planning months for is finally upon us. The next wave of NBA stars await their opportunity to play under the brightest of all lights on the biggest of stages. But outside of the rising and falling status of the prospects, each year draft week is filled with a flurry of trade activity and there’s no reason to believe things will be different in 2018.

On Wednesday, the trade market kicked off with the Charlotte Hornets shipping former Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard to the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for veteran center Timofey Mozgov. The move isn’t all that surprising considering one of the biggest advocates for the Hornets in acquiring Howard from Atlanta last year, Steve Clifford, was fired back in April. In addition to a new head coach, James Borrego, Charlotte also hired a new president of basketball operations and general manager in Mitch Kupchak.

In the deal, Charlotte was able to avoid paying the luxury tax while also creating immediate salary cap flexibility to be players in this year’s market should they choose. For Brooklyn, the team acquires a veteran presence for their youth movement and a consistent double-double anchor on the interior.

The trade also marks consecutive years that Brooklyn was active on the trade front during draft time. Last year, the team acquired former lottery pick D’Angelo Russell from the Los Angeles Lakers. Since the Nets haven’t had the luxury of prime draft assets in recent years, the team has had to resort to trades (Russell, Howard) and free agency (Allan Crabbe) to reshape the roster.

Transitioning to the defending champion Golden State Warriors, the question can be asked whether this will be the third straight year involving a draft day trade. At the top of the Warriors’ lineup max players reside which means the team has had to find talented gems in the back half of the draft to contribute to their success.

In 2016, the Warriors acquired the rights to the No. 38 overall pick, Patrick McCaw, from the Milwaukee Bucks for cash considerations. In 2017, Golden State acquired the rights to another No. 38 overall pick, Jordan Bell, from the Chicago Bulls for cash considerations.

Notice a trend?

With the Warriors needing to lock NBA Finals MVP Kevin Durant into a long term deal this summer and future free agency looming for All-Stars Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, the franchise will need to continue finding young role players to complement their collection of stars.

There could also be a deal involving All-Star level talent.

The Oklahoma City Thunder traded for Victor Oladipo back in 2016 in a draft week deal with the Orlando Magic. While Oladipo didn’t emerge as an All-Star caliber until the following season (after being dealt to Indiana), there are usually a couple of big names in play come draft night.

Consider the 2017 draft day deal that saw the Chicago Bulls send Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for talented two guard Zach LaVine.

This year, the most prominent name potentially on the market is San Antonio Spurs All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard. The rumor mill reports Leonard is frustrated and wants a trade to the Lakers. The Spurs are, of course, attempting to keep their franchise player with a series of meetings. Leonard could become an unrestricted free agent next summer and his public trade demand limits what San Antonio could demand in return. Teams will be hesitant to give up prime assets for a player that won’t commit to their franchise long term. While San Antonio doesn’t have to make an immediate deal their leverage hasn’t been compromised with Leonard’s specific trade destination request.

The NBA Draft can best be described as a crapshoot with prospects being hit or miss. There are teams that make their bones via draft day acquisitions, or working between the lines, which is a storyline to watch during the draft tonight.

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NBA Draft Watch: Storylines Heading into Thursday’s Draft

With the NBA Draft just one day away, there is plenty of uncertainty on how things will play out, writes Dennis Chambers.

Dennis Chambers

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From now until the conclusion of Thursday night’s NBA draft the landscape is subject to shift and evolve at a moment’s notice.

As of right now, the only thing that we can be most certain about is DeAndre Ayton going first overall to the Phoenix Suns. After that, it’s basically a crapshoot in regards to what might go down.

With media day commencing in New York City on Wednesday, the players that will be present during the draft’s greenroom got the chance to address the droves of media from all over the land about where they might end up, how they might fit in those places, and a few off-the-cuff questions thrown in here and there.

Because of the uncertainty surrounding the league and their selection extravaganza on Thursday night, many people who are usually in the know this time of year seem to be approaching the event erring on the side of caution, more so than in years past.

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer echoed that feeling Wednesday afternoon.

One of the large looming clouds heading into draft night is the Kawhi Leonard situation. As it stands, Leonard appears to want out of his relationship with the San Antonio Spurs and would prefer to wind up in Los Angeles, with an emphasis on the Lakers being his new employer.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Leonard met with Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich on Tuesday night in order to discuss the situation between San Antonio and their franchise player.

While Wojnarowski has also reported that the Spurs are in no rush to move Leonard, draft night could potentially serve as a motivator in the opposite direction should Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford receive a tempting offer that involves some draft capital. With the likes of the Philadelphia 76ers reportedly interested in acquiring Leonard, on the clock with the 10th overall pick, perhaps they can entice the Spurs into sending their star forward packing.

Regardless of if Leonard is traded Thursday night or not, there were certainly be many eyes on his situation over the next 24-plus hours.

Up until about the time a player is selected by their new club, the situation for drafting remains fairly fluid. When the basketball community congregates to New York the day before the event, rumors and confirmation of shifting ideals begin to flourish.

With a lot of the players in this year’s lottery surounded by reasonable question marks, we may see last-minute rising and falling of the prospected hierarchy in prospects. Michael Porter Jr., with questions surrounding his health, and Trae Young having questions about his slight frame and defensive capability, seem to be two subjects of that shuffling just a day before the Thursday night festivities.

Conversely, the final moments leading up to the time to make a selection, teams can shuffle their opinion based off of their need to bring in star power possibilities — especially high up in the lottery.

Real Madrid star Luka Doncic has been the subject for criticism throughout this year’s draft process. While the 19-year-old has posted some of the best numbers for a player his age in the ACB and Euroleague, NBA evaluators are rightfully questioning if his athleticism can hold up in the league.

Originally figured to slip past the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks, who hold the second and third overall picks, respectively, Doncic appears to be gaining last-minute steam within the ranks of the Georgia-based basketball club.

Even though prospects are surfacing Wednesday in the Big Apple to meet and greet with reporters, and get settled for their big moment on Thursday night, some teams and correlating players are having final sit-downs to profess their admiration for each other.

More specifically, New York native and projected high-end lottery pick, Mo Bamba, reportedly met with his hometown Knicks on Wednesday. Corresponding reports tell the story that the Knicks are exploring the option to trade up in the draft, in hopes to acquire a franchise-caliber center to put alongside Kristaps Porzingis.

DraftExpress’ Jonathan Givony added context to further confirm the Knicks’ hope of scoring their first franchise center since Patrick Ewing roamed Madison Square Garden.

Whatever does wind up happening Thursday night, those watching can be assured that this year’s NBA Draft will contain the necessary amount of chaos to continue the conversation throughout the league while free agency quickly approaches.

Although, if you were anticipating being able to see those draft picks come in a few minutes early on Twitter like in years past, think again.

It looks like those draft night Wojbombs will be reserved for any unforeseen trades, and not who your favorite team will be picking 10 minutes later.

Either way, embrace the insanity. Draft night is upon us.

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NBA Daily: What is Cleveland’s Next Move?

Plenty has been made about where LeBron goes this summer, but not much has been made about what Cleveland will do if he leaves.

Matt John

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Usually, when you make the NBA Finals, it’s a good thing. Especially if it was the fourth consecutive time you’ve made it.

For Cleveland though, this season, which would have been deemed a success in any other case, was overshadowed by what can only be compared to a hostage situation. Many speculated that this season was going to be LeBron James’ last as a Cavalier, as rumor had it since last summer that he already has his eyes on his next team.

So the pressure was on in Cleveland, to say the least. They did everything to accommodate LeBron given how shaky the circumstances were. From shipping disgruntled star Kyrie Irving out of town to trading half the team mid-season, this past season has been a bumpy ride. In spite of all the hardship, Cleveland managed to make it to the Finals anyway.

Still, it wasn’t enough. For Cleveland to have a realistic chance at re-signing LeBron this summer, they had to beat Golden State, which wasn’t in the cards. The Cavs may have gotten to the Finals, but the Warriors predictably took them out all too quickly.

All in all, the Cavaliers were so close, and yet so far.

That brings us to now. LeBron’s going to test the free agency waters again. Cleveland will certainly do what they can to bring the King back for another season, and for all we know, LeBron could return to Cleveland, but the odds aren’t in their favor.

Cleveland has to deal with the very real possibility that LeBron will leave this summer, because if and when he does, that leaves the current roster in a flux. Without LeBron, Captain Obvious says that Cleveland’s not going anywhere near the Finals and could also see themselves on the outside of the playoff picture. All signs point to it being time to rebuild, but how exactly do they approach the re-building stage?

It all starts with the Nets pick.

No matter what you think of how Cleveland did when they shuffled half their roster around at the trade deadline, one thing should be universally agreed upon: They made the right move not trading the Nets pick they acquired from the Celtics for Kyrie Irving.

It’s true that the Nets pick this season didn’t pan out as well for the Cavaliers as it had for the Celtics over the last two seasons, but it still wound up being the eighth overall pick in a loaded draft. A valuable asset like that should only be traded for someone who puts you over the top and going to stay long-term. With all apologies to any star who was rumored to be on the market back in February, the Cavs didn’t have that option.

So now, Cleveland has the eighth overall pick, and it’s clear who they should take: The best player available. No matter who that is, the best player available for a team that is most likely starting from scratch is the best option.

Of course, the simpler way of getting young talent is by getting it through the lottery. Getting that Brooklyn pick in the Kyrie Irving deal was a great failsafe for if and when LeBron skips town.

Next is addressing who should be traded.

Cleveland’s uncertain draft pick situation from now until 2020 should also push them towards a rebuild. The team traded their first-round pick this year to the Lakers at the deadline when they acquired Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. Next year, they will have to forfeit their first-round pick to the Hawks if they finish outside of the bottom ten. Those protections will roll over to the next year if the Cavs finish in the bottom ten.

Given that the roster isn’t all that impressive outside of LeBron, that would be the best way to go. While the Cavaliers aren’t going to get any value out of Tristan Thompson, JR Smith, and Jordan Clarkson, there are two players who definitely could: Kevin Love and George Hill.

Let’s start with Love. Love will not get back the same value that Cleveland gave up to acquire him, but he’s still a proven commodity at 29 years old who should fetch something back if Cleveland decides to trade him. Love has made the All-Star team over his last two seasons and has done all that Cleveland has asked of him since being traded to the team back in 2014, like him or not.

How much he can fetch back is another story. Rumor has it that the Cavs have dangled Love along with the Nets pick for a star, but no one has bitten on it. Love won’t fetch a star, but he could fetch young assets from a team looking to make a win-now move. He won’t bring back a King’s ransom, but he can bring back something.

Then there’s Hill. If Hill has any interested parties this summer, it may stem from his contract rather than his services. Hill will be on the books for $19 million next season, but the following season, his contract is only guaranteed for $1 million. Now, Cleveland could just wait until next year then waive him, and no one would fault them for that. It would heavily reduce the payroll for a team that, even without LeBron James, is playing with fire with the luxury tax this summer.

Or, they could get an asset(s) out of him. Teams that may want to avoid the luxury tax next year or go after a marquee free agent would salivate for a contract like Hill’s. If the Cavs play their cards right, they could sell Hill’s contract to the highest bidder.

Whether or not they keep Hill will all depend on how Cleveland sees its roster’s future. The team still has Rodney Hood’s restricted free agency this summer, and the team reportedly hopes to keep Nance Jr long-term. If avoiding the luxury tax is what they want more than anything during the rebuild, then keeping Hill is the best option.

That transitions to the final aspect of Cleveland’s potential rebuild: Organizing the roster for the foreseeable future. Cleveland is not completely devoid of youth. They have Hood, Nance Jr., Cedi Osman, Ante Zizic, and even Clarkson, all of whom are young and may have their best days ahead of them. Hood and Clarkson did not pan out well in their half-season in Cleveland, but perhaps that could change if they’re put in the right situation.

It all starts with coaching. Tyronn Lue has done what he can since taking over as head coach in 2016. However, Lue was made head coach because that’s who LeBron wanted running the show. With the King out of the picture, perhaps it might be best to replace Lue with a coach better-suited to nurture youth.

One such name that comes to mind is David Blatt, who has worked with Zizic. Blatt was originally hired in 2014 because of his reputation as a developmental coach, but once LeBron came back, he and Blatt’s tense relationship led to Blatt’s firing half-way through his second season. If LeBron doesn’t return to the team, Blatt could use the strategy he planned to implement when he first arrived.

That is just one idea. The Cavs could keep Lue or they could look at other options, but Blatt would be intriguing. Skeptics would question why Cleveland would bring him back after such a bitter break-up not too long ago, but consider this: The Cavs hired Mike Brown back three years after firing him following the end of LeBron’s first run in Cleveland, so anything is possible.

Re-building is a bridge that Cleveland will have to cross when they come to it. Koby Altman must have known that it was a possibility when he took the reins as general manager last year. The situation he’s found himself in isn’t as hopeless as many have pegged it out to be, but the young GM will have plenty of work to do this summer.

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