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NBA AM: An Early EuroBasket 2017 Preview

Eurobasket 2017 will feature upcoming NBA talent against a higher level of competition than NBA Summer League.

Buddy Grizzard

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The reason NBA Summer League is a poor predictor of future NBA success is that rosters include many players auditioning for a spot on a team’s G-League roster with almost no chance of playing rotation minutes on an NBA roster. For this reason, international tournaments such as EuroBasket 2017—starting August 31 and hosted by a combination of Romania, Finland, Israel, and Turkey—have become among the greatest resources for scouting current and future NBA talent. In this article, we’ll take a look at several top teams prepping for EuroBasket 2017 and the current players on NBA rosters who will compete.

EuroBasket is a qualification tournament for the FIBA Basketball World Cup, an international championship normally held every four years and generally considered to be of similar stature to the Olympic basketball tournament. In order to de-sync the FIBA World Cup from soccer’s FIFA World Cup—both tournaments formerly happened in the same year every four years—FIBA has moved the next Basketball World Cup back to 2019. This will come five years after the United States defeated a surprising Serbia team for the title in 2014. That tournament included one of the largest collections of players on guaranteed NBA contracts ever assembled outside the NBA itself.

Serbia

With its performance in reaching the FIBA championship game in 2014 and earning silver at the Rio Olympics—and with Nikola Jokic’s ascension as an NBA star—Serbia has announced itself as a basketball powerhouse. Serbia’s prospects for EuroBasket 2017 took a hit when Jokic announced that he will not compete and will instead spend the summer prepping for the 2017-18 NBA season. Nonetheless, EuroBasket will be the first opportunity for many to get a look at a pair of pending NBA rookies who received significant contracts this summer.

Point guard Milos Teodosic is often called the best player in the world who hasn’t played an NBA game. As a passer, he has a flair for the spectacular. The Clippers signed Teodosic to a two-year, $12.3 million contract in July to back up Patrick Beverley at point guard. International basketball fans are obviously familiar with his extensive body of work in EuroLeague and international tournaments, but EuroBasket 2017 will have a lot of more casual NBA fans tuning in to see what the hype is about ahead of the impending rookie season for Teodosic.

But Teodosic isn’t the only Serb NBA fans will be tracking. The Sacramento Kings signed Serbian shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic to the largest rookie contract in NBA history at three years and $36 million. Kings GM Vlade Divac—also Serbian—traded the pick Phoenix used to select Marquese Chriss for a pair of later picks and the rights to Bogdanovic. Because Bogdanovic was drafted in the first round in 2014 but never signed with an NBA team, he is no longer bound by the rookie salary scale. Thus, he signed the massive offer from Divac rather than the team-friendly deals rookies are normally limited to.

The biggest beneficiary of Jokic’s absence could be Miroslav Raduljica, a journeyman center who averaged 14 points and eight rebounds per 36 minutes in 53 appearances for the Bucks and Timberwolves from 2013 to 2015. Coach Aleksandar Djordjevic told Serbian website Blic Sport that his team will continue to play through the center position even with Jokic unavailable for EuroBasket. Djordjevic further stated that Raduljica didn’t have similar opportunities at his last club stop at Emporio Armani Milano prior to signing with the Jiangsu Dragons in China. This could be a chance for Raduljica, a bruising, multi-talented player, to showcase himself to a wider audience.

Spain

Long considered second only to the United States among international sides, Spain has a lengthy tradition of exporting talent to the NBA. The latest EuroBasket addition hasn’t been cut down to the final squad yet, but one player to watch will be Thunder shooting guard Alex Abrines. In 68 games as a rookie last season for Oklahoma City, Abrines shot 38 percent on nearly four three pointers per game. Abrines told Spanish website AS.com that coach Sergio Scariolo has told him he will have an opportunity after several injuries at the forward positions.

“Sergio has not talked much individually with the players, but he told me that this was my year and that I had to take a step forward,” said Abrines.

Pending final cuts and availability, Spain should still sport multiple players familiar to the NBA audience. Brothers Marc and Pau Gasol, along with Spanish mainstay and new Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio, are expected to appear. One notable absence will be Bulls restricted free agent Nikola Mirotic, who could not commit to the tournament with his contract status unsettled. Spanish site FEB.es reported a week ago that Mirotic is out for EuroBasket.

Joining Abrines among up-and-coming NBA players who should have a chance to grab the spotlight at EuroBasket is yet another pair of Spanish brothers—Knicks center Willy Hernangomez and Juancho Hernangomez of the Nuggets. Willy was among the most productive rookies in the NBA last season, averaging 8.2 points and seven rebounds in 72 appearances that included 22 starts. Knicks president Steve Mills told Newsday’s Al Iannazzone that the team intends to build around Kristaps Porzingis, newly-signed free agent Tim Hardaway, Jr., newly-drafted French point guard Frank Ntilikina and Hernangomez (with no mention of Carmelo Anthony). Among Knicks with at least 1000 minutes last season, only Justin Holiday posted a higher net rating. Center Juancho Hernangomez was less productive as a rookie for the Nuggets but was still promising with five points and three rebounds per game in 62 appearances and 13.6 minutes per game.

France

The French team at EuroBasket will be missing a lot of firepower with Tony Parker, Rudy Gobert and Nicolas Batum unavailable. Once again, this will create opportunities for other players including Magic shooting guard Evan Fournier, Bulls forward/center Joffrey Lauvergne and 76ers wing Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot. Joining them among featured players for Les Bleus is former Spurs shooting guard Nando de Colo, who replaces Teodosic as both a guard for CSKA Moscow and possibly the best guard not currently playing in the NBA.

Greece

If you needed one simple reason why EuroBasket 2017 could be the most watched edition in history, here’s two words for you: Greek Freak. While so many other stars will sit out, EuroBasket will be a showcase for one of the NBA’s transcendent talents. Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo won’t enjoy nearly the depth of NBA talent that Spain and France can field, but all eyes will be on the player who is somehow making Wisconsin cool.

Rosters for EuroBasket 2017 are not set and players mentioned could still withdraw ahead of the tournament. But for NBA-starved fans dealing with the dog days of the offseason, Europe’s premier international basketball showcase provides something to look forward to ahead of training camps and the preseason. And with the combination of competition level and key absences of experienced players, EuroBasket will surely be the coming out party of as yet unknown NBA prospects.

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NBA Daily: Spurs Enter New Territory After Moving Parker To Reserve Role

The San Antonio Spurs are seemingly entering a new phase as Tony Parker has been moved to a reserve role.

James Blancarte

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San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg made a significant change to his rotation earlier this week. On Sunday, January 21 Popovich placed guard Dejounte Murray into the starting lineup in place of Tony Parker. The Spurs went on to lose the game at home to the Indiana Pacers. The result was the same as a losing effort in Friday’s matchup against the Toronto Raptors in Toronto.

The San Antonio Spurs came into the 2017-18 hoping to bounce back from last year’s playoffs where the team suffered injuries to Kawhi Leonard and Parker and eventually lost to the Golden State Warriors. This season started off with the Spurs surviving without Leonard and Parker as the two continued to rehab from lingering injuries. As of now, Leonard is once again taking time off to rehabilitate after playing in nine games while Parker has been able to stay healthy so far. Unfortunately, being healthy enough to play doesn’t make up for the inevitable decline that comes with age and injuries.

On the season, Parker is averaging a career low in minutes (21.6), assists (4.0) and points (8.2), as well as free throws made and attempted per game. His usage rate, player efficiency rating (PER) and shooting percentages are also all at or around career lows. It’s hard to argue against the notion that Parker, at 35 years old with 17 years of pro basketball under his belt, is in the twilight of his impressive career.

Parker has acknowledged his demotion but seems to be handling it like a true professional.

“[Popovich] told me he thought it was time, and I was like, ‘no problem.’ Just like Manu [Ginobili], just like Pau [Gasol], you know that day is going to come,” Parker said recently. .

Before Sunday’s game, Parker had started 1151 of 1164 games played, all with the Spurs of course.

Popovich was asked specifically if the plan was either to start Murray at point guard moving forward or if this switch in the lineup was a part of some kind of injury management program for Parker. Never known for being overly loquacious, Popovich responded with little detail or insight.

“We’ll see,” Popovich stated.

In the starting lineup, Murray logged eight points, four assists, seven rebounds, three steals and one block in nearly 28 minutes of action. Murray had previously started before Parker returned from injury earlier this season but eventually relinquished that spot to career reserve guard Patty Mills.

Parker also spoke of the benefit of coming off the bench and potentially mentoring Murray’s growth in his new presumed role as the starter.

“If Pop [Coach Popovich] sees something that is good for the team, I will try to do my best,” Parker said. “I will support Pop’s decision and I will try to help DJ [Murray] as best as I can and try to be the best I can in the second unit with Manu [Ginobili] and Patty [Mills].”

If nothing else, this move will allow the Spurs to see if Parker can be more effective in limited minutes against opposing bench units. Additionally, Parker will hopefully benefit from playing alongside his longtime running mate, Ginobli.

Parker’s willingness to mentor Murray may come as a relief to Spurs fans watching the ongoing dismantling of San Antonio’s former Big-3, which began with the retirement of future Hall-of-Famer, Tim Duncan. At 6-foot-5, Murray benefits from greater size and athleticism than Parker, although Murray failed to keep the starting job when given an opportunity earlier this season. Coach Popovich gave another straightforward answer when asked which areas he thinks Murray can improve in.

“He’s 21-years-old,” Popovich declared. “He can improve in all areas.”

After asking for a trade in the offseason, the Spurs have benefited from focusing their offense around LaMarcus Aldridge, who is having a bounce-back campaign. However, Leonard is now out indefinitely and the Minnesota Timberwolves have now caught the Spurs in the standings. The pressure is on for this resilient Spurs team, which has again managed to beat the odds despite an injured and aging roster.

Parker became a starter for the Spurs at age 19 and never looked back. Now all eyes are on Murray to see how well he performs in his second stint with the starters at a crucial point in the season.

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Sources: Milwaukee Bucks Fire Coach Jason Kidd

Basketball Insiders

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The Milwaukee Bucks have fired coach Jason Kidd, sources ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Source: Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN

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Defensive Player Of The Year Watch – 1/22/17

Spencer Davies checks into the DPOY race with his latest list of candidates.

Spencer Davies

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It’s a new year and Basketball Insiders is continuing its Defensive Player of the Year watch with sample sizes widening and new players emerging in the conversation.

There were a couple of names knocked out of the list, but that gives more of a spotlight to those who have really stepped up since our last edition ran on December 29. Without further ado, let’s get into it.

 6. Hassan Whiteside

After missing nearly a month of action with a knee injury, Whiteside has returned with a vengeance. The Miami HEAT were already a good defensive team before he came back, but he’s really bolstered that reputation even further. Since Dec. 26, the 7-foot center has recorded eight multi-block games. In five of those, he had at least four swats, including a six-rejection performance in a win at Milwaukee. Overall in ESPN’s Defensive Real-Plus Minus, Whiteside owns by far the best rating at 4.73. “Agent Block” is back and daring all comers to try him.

5. Anthony Davis

Slowly but surely, the New Orleans Pelicans are creeping away from the bottom of the league in defensive rating. Once ranked in the bottom five a few weeks ago, they’ve shot up to 18th in the league (108.4) rather quickly. While that’s not the most impressive statistic to provide, the obvious reason for their improved standing on that end of the floor is Davis. He’s been an absolute workhorse for Alvin Gentry in the restricted area as an elite rim protector, with a heavy responsibility and a ton of minutes. Without him on the floor, the Pels are allowing 8.9 more points per 100 possessions, which puts Davis in the 96th percentile according to Cleaning The Glass.

4. Josh Richardson

Notice there are two members of the HEAT on this list. It’s because they are on fire right now, no pun intended, so it’s about time they received some love in the conversation for DPOY. Whiteside was addressed first, but if we’re talking about a greater sample size with consistent evidence, Richardson fits the bill. Opponents are attempting over 11 shots per game against him, yet are only making 38.9 percent of those tries. That’s the lowest conversion rate in the league with a minimum of 10 attempts.

Battling injuries a season ago, Richardson has played in all 46 games for Miami this year. While it’s been a team effort, he is the heart and soul of Erik Spoelstra’s defense, taking on the most difficult assignments each game. For that reason, he deserves long overdue recognition on this list.

3. Kevin Durant

This isn’t a case where Durant is slipping because of his performances. He’s only ranked third this time around because of the job others have done outside of him. The Golden State Warriors are still a juggernaut on both sides of the court. He’s still a top-notch individual defender. The numbers don’t suggest otherwise and the eye test certainly confirms it.

In isolation situations, Durant is allowing only 0.53 points per possession, which is second in the NBA to only Tony Snell. When it comes to crunch time, he’s always locking up. In fourth quarters, he is limiting the competition to shooting less than 30 percent—and his defended field goal percentage and field goal percentage discrepancy is the best in the league at -17.2. He’s got as good of a chance as anybody to take home DPOY.

2. Joel Embiid

Everybody loves to focus on the off-court antics and hilarities that come with Embiid, but the man deserves his due when it comes to his reputation in the NBA as a truly dominant big. The Philadelphia 76ers have won seven out of their last eight games and it has started on the defensive end of the floor.

Take the games against Boston, for example. Al Horford is a crucial part of the Celtics offense and has had problems getting going against the 23-year-old. In the 22 minutes per game, he’s been on the floor along with him, Horford has been held to below 30 percent from the field on an average of nine attempts. With Embiid off, he’s converted nearly 73 percent of his tries.

Another matchup you can examine is with Andre Drummond. The two have had their fair share of words with each other, but Embiid’s had the edge one-on-one. Similar to Horford, the Detroit Pistons big man has had a rough time against him. Embiid has limited Drummond to under 38 percent on five attempts per game in an average of over 23 minutes on the floor together. When he’s not playing, Drummond has had close to a 78 percent success rate.

Regarding centers, Embiid ranks second in ESPN’s DRPM and fifth in Basketball Reference’s Defensive Box Plus-Minus. Citing Cleaning The Glass, the Sixers are allowing 10 more points per 100 possessions when he’s sitting, which slots Embiid into the 97th percentile.

He’s altering shots. He’s blocking shots. He’s forcing kick outs. And that’s a big reason why the NBA gave Embiid its Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors. Trust The Process.

1. Paul George

Basketball Insiders was well represented this past Saturday in Cleveland when the Oklahoma City Thunder decimated the Cavaliers in their own building. The focus was on the “OK3” exposing a terrible defense, but the real story in this game was how in-tune and sound George was on both ends of the court. He was sizzling shooting the basketball, but perhaps more defining was shutting down LeBron James on a day that was supposed to belong to him.

Any time 23 got the ball to try and get the Cavs going, George was there. He suffocated him with pressure, forcing James into bad decisions and contested shots. The talk of the day was the 30,000-point mark, but PG-13 had other ideas.

“I was hopeful that it took two games for him to get to that,” George said after the 148-124 win at Quicken Loans Arena. “I actually didn’t know that stat until right before coming into [Saturday]. They told me he needed 25 to go to 30,000. I’ve been a part of a lot of those baskets that he’s had, so that’s an achievement or milestone I didn’t want to be a part of.”

Thunder teammate Steven Adams spoke to his prowess on that end of the floor.

“He’s a really good defender man,” Adams said. “It was like a perfect matchup, honestly. He played LeBron really well in terms of our system and what we want him doing. He did an amazing job there.”

Oklahoma City head coach Billy Donovan is a huge fan as well.

“He really I think puts forth good effort,” Donovan said pre-game. “He’s long, smart. He’s disruptive. He’s got good feet. He’s a physical defender. He’s hard to shoot over. Certainly, with he and Andre [Roberson] on the wings, that’s certainly bolstered our defense.”

That was one performance, but it’s obvious how much George brings to the table as one of the toughest guys to score on in this league. He’s got a league-leading 188 deflections and is tied with Eric Bledsoe at the top of the NBA with 2.2 steals per game.

Recently, the Thunder have allowed 91 points at most in three of their last four games. They are also in the top three allowing just 104.7 points per 100 possessions and George has been a huge part of that.

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