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Memphis Grizzlies 2016-17 Season Preview

Basketball Insiders previews the 2016-17 season for the Memphis Grizzlies.

Basketball Insiders

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The Memphis Grizzlies were decimated by injuries last season. That isn’t being overly dramatic; over the course of the season, the Grizzlies shuffled through an NBA record 28 players. We should acknowledge what an incredible achievement it was for last season’s team to make it to the playoffs despite losing its top players to injury. Of those 28 players, 10 will return this upcoming season and the majority of them are recognizable veterans who can make a real impact.

The problem is that the Western Conference continues to be dominated by the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and, perhaps to a lesser extent, Los Angeles Clippers. The Grizzlies have a team that is designed to win now, but after years of falling short in the postseason, the core is past their respective prime and is more likely to regress than make an internal leap that will bridge the gap between them and the teams at the top of the conference. The Grizzlies will likely be a tough opponent on any given night, but there is also a ceiling to what they can achieve this season.

Basketball Insiders previews the 2016-17 season for the Memphis Grizzlies.

FIVE GUYS THINK

Memphis opened up their wallet and invested nearly a quarter of a billion dollars this summer in free agency deals to Mile Conley and Chandler Parsons – two guys never selected to an All-Star team in 14 combined professional seasons. But don’t get it twisted: Conley and Parsons are proven veteran producers that won’t back down from a challenge. The Grizzlies have reached the playoffs for six consecutive seasons and this veteran-laden unit is built for another run in 2017.

2nd Place – Southwest Division

– Lang Greene

The Grizzlies certainly spent like they want to contend for a championship, doling out just shy of a quarter of a billion dollars to bring aboard Chandler Parsons and keep Mike Conley in town. This roster really is starting to look its age, though, and could be due for a small step backward rather than a step forward. Still, they’re huge, incredibly experienced and practically unguardable for the ever-increasing number of NBA teams looking to play small ball. These guys are still bruisers, and they’re still one of the toughest defensive teams in the league. David Fizdale should have some fun with this roster in his first year as head coach, as it looks like the Grizzlies, though built unconventionally for today’s NBA, still will be a force in the Western Conference in 2016-2017.

2nd Place – Southwest Division

– Joel Brigham

It’s much easier to rationalize the Grizzlies paying Mike Conley a maximum contract than it is Chandler Parsons. Parsons is a nice player, though, and he will likely help the Grizzlies win a few more games this season. As has been the case since the days of Lionel Hollins, the Grizzlies are a team whose collective strength exceeds the perceived value of their individual pieces. The main question for this bunch will be whether or not they are able to stay healthy. An absence from Marc Gasol or Mike Conley for any long stretch of time could doom them. It seems that the Grizzlies were a legitimate championship contender in the not so distant past, but unfortunately for them, I think the window has closed a bit. They seem to be one of the teams that are stuck in the middle the same way the Atlanta Hawks were with Joe Johnson. In the Southwest Division, the Grizzlies should be able to compete with the likes of the Dallas Mavericks for the second seed, though that’s not saying much since the two teams each finished with 42 wins last season. On paper, I think that the Mavericks have done more to improve themselves than the Grizzlies have, but if the Grizzlies can stay healthy, they’ll battle. Tough call to make but I think I’d sooner bet on Harrison Barnes thriving in Dallas than I would the Grizzlies keeping their aging bodies in good health all season long, so I’ll take the Grizzlies as my third favorite in the division.

3rd Place – Southwest Division

– Moke Hamilton

The grit-and-grind Grizzlies are still here, but are adding a new piece in Chandler Parsons. Parsons is a nice player, though I would not have given him a max contract. Parson had a “minor hybrid” microfracture operation on his knee in May of 2015, which would have made me think more than twice about offering a four-year, $94.8 million contract. Having said that, if Parsons can stay healthy and provide three-point shooting and consistent defensive effort, he should help the Grizzlies bounce back into the mix in the Western Conference. But considering the team’s collective age, their recent struggles with injuries and the fact that Dave Joerger is now in Sacramento lead me to believe they will have an up-and-down season.

4th Place – Southwest Division

– Jesse Blancarte

I wasn’t crazy about the addition of Chandler Parsons. I’m not a big fan of Parsons’ game and I don’t think he’s the kind of player who puts a team over the top and into contention. It’ll be interesting to see what impact David Fizdale has as the team’s new head coach. I was a big fan of what he did with the Miami HEAT, but there’s always an adjustment period when a guy becomes a head coach for the first time. If Memphis can stay healthy, they have a solid group that should be able to win a lot of regular season and be a tough out in the playoffs, but it’s hard to imagine this team being a legitimate contender since they’re a notch below elite squads like the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs.

3rd Place – Southwest Division

– Alex Kennedy

TOP OF THE LIST

Top Offensive Player: Marc Gasol

Gasol suffered a broken right foot in February and has been recovering ever since. Fortunately, the 31-year-old will reportedly be cleared to play by the time training camp starts. When healthy, Gasol is one of the most well-rounded centers in the NBA. He has the size and footwork to clear space and get off his slow but accurate jumper. He can back opponents down in the post, spin either direction effectively and can lean back to get off an almost unguardable turnaround jumper. Additionally, Gasol is a very good passer and unselfish player, which means the Grizzlies can run their offense through him. Most centers these days work mostly out of the pick-and-roll, but Gasol is a throwback kind of center who can get his shot off at will and can also find open shots for his teammates.

Top Defensive Player: Mike Conley

There are a lot of good options to choose from here, but we are giving top defensive player to point guard Mike Conley. Don’t be fooled by the fact that Conley has never been selected as an All-Star and doesn’t make flashy plays. Conley is one of the most underrated points guards in the league (though he’s not being paid like that anymore), and is much better as a defender than many assume. Conley is an intelligent defender and works extremely hard to slow down his opponents. Whether fighting over screens, funneling opponents to his weak side defender or jumping a passing lane, Conley makes life difficult for opposing point guards on a nightly basis, which is very important considering how many dominant guards there are in today’s NBA.

Top Playmaker: Mike Conley

No question Conley is the Grizzlies’ best playmaker. He may not average double digits in assists each night, but he is a selfless player and a pass first point guard. Conley has continually improved over the years at playing at a pace that lulls his defenders to sleep temporarily, giving him the opportunity to blow by his defender, draw in weak side defenders and find an open teammate for a wide open shot. Conley’s game isn’t flashy, but it’s effective.

Top Clutch Player: Marc Gasol

Both Conley and Gasol have hit some game winners over their careers, and the latter gets the nod. Gasol is one of these players who can shed even the fastest, longest and most athletic defenders to get his shot off. Whether it’s DeAndre Jordan or Rudy Gobert trying to keep a hand in his face, Gasol has an array of moves to generate just enough space to get his shot off in any situation. He may not be the most clutch player in the league, but Gasol gives the Grizzlies a chance to hit a last second shot in just about any situation – especially since he can often draw double teams and has the vision and skill to find open teammates.

The Unheralded Player: Brandan Wright

Brandan Wright only managed to play in 12 games last year because of a knee injury that ultimately required season-ending surgery. However, when Wright is healthy, he is a long and active big man that can crash the boards, create extra possessions, move well on defense and partner up in the pick-and-roll effectively. Durability is obviously a concern with Wright, but if he can stay healthy this season, he should offer nice production off the bench. Oh, and he’s a great bargain as he’s set to make just $4.7 million this season and $5.9 million next season.

Top New Addition: Chandler Parsons

Parsons scored a big payday this offseason, signing a max contract with the Grizzlies to take over the starting small forward position. Parsons brings something the Grizzlies have needed more of for several seasons: shooting. He shot an impressive 41.4 percent from distance in 61 games last season with the Mavericks. Parsons is also a capable defender, so he should fit in on that end of the court as well. The big concern with Parsons is his knee injury that required surgery. If he is completely past that injury, this could be a nice signing for the Grizzlies. But if Parsons is hampered by this injury over the course of his contract, this contract will weigh the Grizzlies down and limit their ability to make moves for other players.

– Jesse Blancarte

WHO WE LIKE

1. Mike Conley

As previously stated, Conley is one of the most underrated point guards in the league. He competes on both ends of the court and is the engine that makes the Grizzlies go. Gasol and Randolph are instrumental in the post, but Conley is irreplaceable on this team. Let’s all hope we get to see a full, healthy season out of Conley in 2016-17.

2. Zach Randolph

Randolph may not be as dominant in the post as he once was, but he can still make life difficult for opposing defenses. His slow, calculated approach on offense has given opponents headaches for years, along with his physical and underrated defense. However, Randolph is getting up there in age, so while he will still be handful for opponents, we may start to see some slippage from him moving forward

3. Vince Carter

At age 39, Carter is not the player he once was. However, unlike many other former All-Star players, Carter completely embraced limiting his role and finding a niche where he could still be useful over the last few seasons. His three-point shooting can fall off the rails every so often, but he’s one of the few Grizzlies teams have had to consistently respect out to the three-point line over the last few seasons. Whether he can still make a real impact on the court or is looked to simply as a leader in the locker room, Carter has been a key figure in Memphis for some time now.

4. Marc Gasol

As stated above, Gasol is an extremely well-rounded player that makes the Grizzlies better on both sides of the court. His game isn’t flashy, but it sure is effective. He may not be the best center in the league at this point, but he’s still up there with the best of them.

5. Tony Allen

Allen isn’t the premier defender he once was, but when he is motivated, he is still a handful to deal with. At age 34, Allen is also getting up there in age. Injuries have always been a concern with him as well, so he may have to play less minutes than he has in past seasons – especially with Parsons around to help out with the perimeter defense. While Allen may not be the player he once was, he embodies the spirit of this hard-nosed team and is a key part of their collective identity.

– Jesse Blancarte

SALARY CAP 101

The Grizzlies were significant spenders this past summer, going under the NBA’s $94.1 million salary cap to sign Chandler Parsons to a four-year, $94.4 million contract – then going over to give Mike Conley a massive five-year, $152.6 million deal. Memphis triggered a hard cap at $117.3 million by acquiring Troy Daniels in a sign and trade from the Charlotte Hornets. With $107 million invested in 13 guaranteed players, the team isn’t close to the upper limit.

Vince Carter’s $4.3 million salary is $2 million guaranteed. Other players fighting for the Grizzlies’ two remaining open roster spots include Tony Wroten, JaMychal Green, D.J. Stephens, Troy Williams and Wayne Selden. Memphis cam get below next year’s $102 million projected salary cap, but not significantly (roughly $7 million). That assumes the team picks up the rookie-scale options on Jordan Adams and Jarell Martin. While Tony Allen’s contract is eligible to be restructured and extended, the Grizzlies don’t have the necessary cap room.

– Eric Pincus

STRENGTHS

Defense and resiliency. The Grizzlies ranked 19th in the NBA last season in defensive efficiency. That may seem like a poor rating, but considering they were without most of their key players and had to go through 28 different guys throughout the season, we can safely say last season was an aberration. In 2014-15, when the Grizzlies weren’t decimated by injuries, they had the fourth-best defense in the league. While their players are getting older, it’s fair to say this team has a shot at being one of the ten best defenses this upcoming season.

– Jesse Blancarte

WEAKNESSES

Shooting. Adding Chandler Parsons should help somewhat, but the league continues to put a premium on shooting and the Grizzlies are simply a step behind most other teams in this department. The Grizzlies shot 33.1 percent on the fifth-fewest three-point attempts per game in the league last season. Unless the Grizzlies make some midseason moves to add more shooting, this will likely be another season where Memphis struggles from the three-point line.

– Jesse Blancarte

THE BURNING QUESTION

Can this core truly contend in the Western Conference under a first-year head coach?

The Grizzlies’ front office opened up the checkbook by bringing in Parsons and retaining Conley. In doing so, this team is going all in on this season to compete for a deep playoff run. However, an ongoing rift between the front office and Joerger led to his departure and the hiring of David Fizdale. Fizdale is a long-time assistant with the Miami HEAT who has drawn high praise for his impact in the LeBron James years. Fizdale is well experienced, but getting this team to the next step, which Lionel Hollins and Joerger failed to do, will be a new sort of challenge. If he can integrate Parsons and has better luck with injuries, it’s possible for this team to make some noise in the Western Conference this upcoming season.

– Jesse Blancarte

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NBA DAILY

NBA Daily: Pelicans Might Be Better Off Without DeMarcus Cousins

Without DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis has excelled. It might not be a coincidence.

Moke Hamilton

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Forget Kawhi Leonard, the most interesting storyline of this NBA summer is going to be DeMarcus Cousins.

By now, if you’ve wondered whether the New Orleans Pelicans would be better off without the talented big man, you’re certainly not alone.

Just ask the Portland Trail Blazers.

On Saturday, the Pelicans pulled off an improbable sweep of the third-seeded Blazers in the first round of their best-of-seven playoff series. And while the immediate question that comes to mind is what to make of the Blazers, a similar question can be (and should be) asked of the Pelicans.

Without question, Cousins is one of the most gifted big men the NBA has sen in quite some time, but it shouldn’t be lost on any of us that Anthony Davis began to put forth superhuman efforts when Cousins was absent.

Ever heard the saying that too many cooks spoil the brew?

That may be pricisely the case here.

Sure, having good players at your disposal is a problem that most head coach in the league would sign up for, but it takes a special type of player to willingly cede touches and shots in the name of the best interests of the team.

We once had a similar conversation about Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, mind you. Those that recognized that Westbrook’s ball dominance and inefficiency took opportunities away from Durant to be the best version of himself once believed that the Oklahoma City Thunder would have been wise to pitch Westbrook to New Orleans back when Chris Paul was still manning their perimeter.

For what it’s worth, with Cousins in the lineup, he averaged 18 shots per game. In the 48 games he played this season, the Pelicans were 27-21. With him in the lineup, Davis shot the ball 17.6 times per game and scored 26.5 points per contest.

In the 34 games the Pelicans played without Cousins, Davis’ shot attempts increased fairly significantly. He got 21.9 attempts per contest and similarly increased his scoring output to 30.2 points per game.

Aside from that, Cousins’ presence in the middle made it a tad more difficult for Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday to have the pace and space they need to be most effective. With both Davis and Cousins, the Pelicans struggled to consistently string together wins. Without Cousins, they improbably became the first team in the Western Conference to advance to the second round.

That Cousins tore his achilles tendon and is just a few months from becoming an unrestricted free agent combine to make him the most interesting man in the NBA.

* * * * * *

With Chris Paul having decided that the grass was probably greener with James Harden and Mike D’Antoni than it was with Doc Rivers and Blake Griffin, the Clippers fulfilled his request to be trade to the Houston Rockets and re-signed Griffin to a five-year max. deal. In doing so, they both gave Griffin a stark reminder of what life in the NBA is like and provided a blueprint for teams to follow when they have a superstar player with whom they believe to have run their course.

The glass half full perspective might be that Davis has simply become a better, healthier, more effective player and that with Cousins, he would have another weapon that could help catapult the Pelicans ever further toward the top of the Western Conference. But the half-empty glass might yield another conclusion.

At the end of the day, although he still hasn’t appeared in a single playoff game, Cousins is regarded as a game-changing talent and is one of the few players available on the free agency market this summer that could justify an annual average salary of $30 million. In all likelihood, the Pelicans will re-sign him for a sum that approaches that, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best move.

In the end, the Clippers traded Griffin for Avery Bradley, Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic, a first round pick and a second round pick. All things considered, it was a great haul for the Clippers when you consider that, just a few months prior, they could have lost Griffin as a free agent and gotten nothing in return.

Remarkably, after seeing Griffin dealt to Detroit, in the Western Conference, the Pelicans are on a collision course with the Golden State Warriors. Their health a constant concern, the team will have to deal with the pesky perimeter defense of Holiday and Rondo and versatility and two-way effectiveness of Davis.

Nobody gave New Orleans a chance against Portland, and for sure, not many people are going to believe in their ability to score an upset over the defending champions. But believe it or not, New Orleans has become a different team. And they’ve done so without Cousins.

Indeed, believe it or not, the Clippers gave us a blueprint for what a team should do when it has a superstar who might not be the best long-term fit for their program.

And if the Pelicans were wise, they’d be smart to follow it.

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NBA Daily: Rookie Contributors Lifting Playoff Teams

This year’s impressive rookie class has translated their regular season performances to the playoff stage.

Dennis Chambers

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This past NBA season had the luxury of an incredibly entertaining and high-powered rookie class. Every other day it seemed like the feats of either Donovan Mitchell, Jayson Tatum, Lauri Markkanen, Dennis Smith Jr., Kyle Kuzma, or Ben Simmons were dominating the discussion about how advanced the league’s crop of newbies appeared to be.

As a result, the 2017-18 Rookie of the Year race was a much more heated discussion than the year before.

With the impressive campaign these NBA freshmen put together, it should come as no surprise that on the on bright stage of playoff basketball, three of the aforementioned crop are helping lead their team’s in tight first-round battles.

Donovan Mitchell has been the leading scorer for the Utah Jazz through two games in their series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Jayson Tatum is stepping up for the Boston Celtics to help fill in the void of Kyrie Irving as they take on the Milwaukee Bucks. Ben Simmons is nearly averaging a triple-double through three games for the Philadelphia 76ers in their matchup with the Miami HEAT.

Lottery pick talents are expected in today’s NBA to come in and have some level of impact for their clubs. Usually, they play the role as a foundational building block that shows flashes of promise with an expected up-and-down first season. While these three playoff contributors haven’t been perfect all year long, under the pressure of the postseason, they’ve stepped up their play and appear to be avoiding the learning curve.

With that, let’s highlight further what Mitchell, Tatum, and Simmons have been able to do thus far in the postseason.

Donovan Mitchell, Utah Jazz

All season long Mitchell threw the entire scoring load of Salt Lake City on his back for the Jazz and helped carry them to a 5-seed in the Western Conference when early season projections suggested they should head towards in the wake of Rudy Gobert’s injury.

However, the 13th pick out of Louisville had no intentions of missing out on the postseason. And from the looks of his production so far, who can blame him?

Through the first two games of the Jazz-Thunder series, Mitchell yet again placed his name in the same breath as Michael Jordan. Mitchell’s 55 points in his first two playoff games broke Jordan’s record of 53 for most points scored by a rookie guard in that scenario.

Mitchell’s 27 points in Game 1 and 28 points in Game 2 led the Jazz to even the series and steal home court advantage from the Thunder. While he hasn’t been responsible for setting up the team’s offense, tallying just five assists through those two games, Mitchell is fulfilling the role of Gordon Hayward as the team’s primary scorer.

In a series against a team that features the likes of Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony, Utah needs Mitchell to go out there and get as many buckets as he possibly can.

So far, he appears to be welcoming the challenge.

Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

When it was announced that Kyrie Irving would be lost for the entire postseason due to injury, the Boston Celtics’ hold on the 2-seed seemed a lot less intimidating than it once was in the Eastern Conference.

However, three games into the first round series against the Bucks, the Celtics hold a 2-1 lead. A lot part of that has to do with the role Tatum has been able to step in and play right away with the Celtics down their main scorer and playmaker.

Throughout the first three games of the series, Tatum 12.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 2.3 steals. The third overall pick in the 2017 draft started the series off with 19 points, 10 rebounds, and three steals to help Boston start off the matchup with a 1-0 lead.

At just 20 years old, Tatum is matching his age number with his usage percentage thus far against Milwaukee. For some perspective, Jaylen Brown managed just 12 minutes a night for the Celtics last season as a rookie when the playoffs rolled around.

Granted, injuries and missing players are helping in Tatum being on the court as much as he has, but the rookie is earning his time out there on the court.

Ben Simmons, Philadelphia 76ers

The perceived frontrunner for Rookie of the Year, Ben Simmons has taken control in his first ever playoff series.

For starters, Simmons is averaging nearly a triple double over his first three games against the HEAT; 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 9.7 assists.

On top of his triple double ways, Simmons has upped arguably his biggest weakness so far in the playoffs, shooting 75 percent from the charity stripe. During the regular season, Simmons struggled from the line, hitting only 56 percent of his attempts.

With the offensive prowess of Simmons obvious, it’s the job he’s doing on the defensive end of the court against an aggressive and tough Miami squad that’s elevating his play to the next level.

Simmons’ ability to switch all over the defensive end of the court has placed his responsibilities from Goran Dragic to Justise Winslow to James Johnson, and seemingly everywhere in between.

Now with Joel Embiid back in the fold for the Sixers and Simmons, the rookie point guard has his defensive partner on the floor to help ease the workload on that end. A two-way performance each night will be imperative for Simmons in helping lead the young Sixers past the experienced HEAT team.

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Pelicans Role Players are Key to Success

The supporting cast in New Orleans is a big part of their playoff surge, writes David Yapkowitz.

David Yapkowitz

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The New Orleans Pelicans have taken a commanding 3-0 lead in their first-round playoff series again the Portland Trail Blazers. While surprising to some, the Pelicans only finished one game behind the Blazers in the standings. The Pelicans have the best player in the series in Anthony Davis and the defensive duo of Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday have stifled Portland’s backcourt.

The truth is, the Pelicans have been a good team all season long. A lot of attention and recognition has been given to Davis, Rondo and Holiday this season and playoffs, and rightfully so. But New Orleans wouldn’t be where they are without the important contributions of some of their role players.

Take E’Twaun Moore, for example. Moore bounced around the NBA early in his career, with stops in Boston, Orlando and Chicago before finding long-term stability contract wise with the Pelicans. He’s primarily been a bench player with them before this season, his second in New Orleans, his first as a full-time starter.

He’s given the Pelicans a huge boost, especially from the three-point line. He’s put up 12.5 points per game on 50.8 percent shooting from the field, both career-highs. He’s shooting 42.5 percent from three-point range.

“I think it’s just our style of play,” Moore told Basketball Insiders. “We play fast and open. Coach [Gentry] gives us a lot of freedom, a lot of confidence. That’s why my game is up, my shooting is up.”

It’s not just offensively though. Moore has always been one of the more underrated defensive guards in the league. Paired up alongside Rondo and Holiday, the trio form a solid wing defensive unit. They’re a big reason for Portland’s offensive struggles.

Moore is the type of role player that every playoff contender needs to succeed. He knows that his role may change from game to game. Some nights he may be asked to score a little more. Other nights his defense is going to be called upon. Whatever it may be, he’s always ready to do what’s asked of him.

“I bring the energy. I bring a spark,” Moore told Basketball Insiders. “It’s knocking down shots, playing defense, getting out in transition. Just trying to be a spark.”

The Pelicans bench has also been a huge factor all season long. Their depth took a major hit early in the season with the injury to Solomon Hill. Hill has since returned to the lineup, but his absence paved the way for other players such as Darius Miller to step up.

This is Miller’s second stint with the Pelicans after spending two years overseas. Drafted 46th overall in 2012, he didn’t play much his first three years in the NBA. In 2014, he was cut by the Pelicans only about a month into the season. This year was different, he was thrown into the rotation from the get-go.

“This is a huge opportunity,” Miller told Basketball Insiders. “I just come in and try to work every day, try to get better every day. My teammates have done a great job of putting me in situations where I can be successful.”

Miller has given the Pelicans a capable stretch four in the second unit who can slide over to small forward if need be. He’s averaging a career-best 7.8 points per game, the most out of any of New Orleans’ reserves. He’s their best three-point shooter off the bench, connecting on 41.1 percent of his long-range attempts.

While he acknowledges that he’s enjoying his best season yet as an NBA player, he’s quick to praise his teammates for allowing him to flourish.

“I just try to bring a spark off the bench. I come in and try to knock some shots down,” Miller told Basketball Insiders. “My teammates do a great job of finding me when I’m open, I just try and knock down shots and compete.”

Sometimes time away from the NBA helps players grow and mature. The NBA game is fast paced and it can take awhile to get used to it. While some players have begun to use the G-League as a means of preparing for the league, Miller took an alternate route of heading to Germany.

For him, it’s a big reason why he’s been able to make an easier transition back to the NBA. His contract for next season is non-guaranteed, but he’s probably done enough to warrant the Pelicans keeping him around. He’s a much different and much-improved player. If not, he’s sure to draw interest from other teams.

“It was a lot to learn for me personally,” Miller told Basketball Insiders. “I had to learn a lot of different things like how to take care of my body, how to manage my time, a whole bunch of stuff like that. The time overseas really helped me to mature and grow up and learn a few things.”

These Pelicans have most certainly turned quite a few heads since the playoffs began. We shouldn’t deal too much with hypotheticals, but it’s interesting to wonder what this team’s ceiling would’ve been had DeMarcus Cousins not been lost for the season due to injury.

This is a confident bunch, however. They’ve beaten both the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets during the regular season. They’ve already shattered a lot of expert predictions with their performance in the first-round. The Pelicans feel like they can hang with anyone out West.

“As far as we want to go,” Miller told Basketball Insiders. “I feel like we’ve competed with all the best teams in the league this whole season. We just got to come out, stay focused and do what we do.”

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