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NBA AM: No Brad Beal Deals Being Considered

The Wizards not interested in deals involving Brad Beal… Is LeBron James gearing up for change?… The Mavericks are looking, but not shopping for a trade.

Steve Kyler

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No Beal, No Way:  The unfortunate part of talking about trade rumors is that inevitably someone gets mentioned in passing that creates a stir that was not intended.

Yesterday in this space, we talked about the Washington Wizards having interest in making a trade, but that they have been unable to find a trade they would do. We classified them as “on the fence” regarding a deal at the trade deadline.

In describing the situation, the names of Wizards players mentioned by league sources included Wizards guard Brad Beal, and while the point of the piece was that Washington was unwilling to break up their core to make a significant trade, it seems a lot of people hung on to the idea that Beal was mentioned.

Wizards’ sources were fairly adamant yesterday that Beal is a non-starter for them in trade talks, which lines up exactly with what teams talking with Washington have said. As we covered yesterday, the Wizards are unwilling to break up their core to make a deal and while other teams may covet Beal as part of a deal, the Wizards simply are not going to entertain that. They view him as a key and core part of what they are building and anything involving him is being turned away.

How the trade world works is often one team will call and ask about a specific player’s availability and a counter offer is made. That’s usually where trades die.

The reason the Wizards have not made a trade or are not significantly involved in a trade proposal is that what teams are asking for is more than Washington will do.

»In Related: The Washington Wizards Team Salary Page.

Trades and trade scenarios are always a fluid situation, but one thing that was made abundantly clear is that Beal is not someone the Wizards would entertain talks around, which lines up completely with the points made yesterday.

The Wizards like where they find themselves and are not overly interested in making change. They are not sitting out the trade deadline, but equally they are not one of the teams trying to make something happen in the next 14 days.

If the right kind of transaction surfaces they are open to looking at it, but what they have found is that there is not anything out there they would do, mainly because of their belief in their core..

» Are You Ready For The 2014 NBA Trade Deadline? Basketball Insiders has you covered. Later this week our first Digital Magazine issue will drop, featuring the most comprehensive look at the NBA Trade Deadline you will find anywhere. The magazine will be available on your smartphone, tablet or desktop. If you are an Apple user, you can grab the Digital Magazine app here. For our Android users you can grab the Digital Magazine app here. When the issue is ready it will automatically appear in your App for purchase. If you do not want to download the App, we will have a web-based solution for you that works great on smartphones and tablets as well as other computing devices. The links for that will drop when the issue is available. We have made the pledge to keep our content free from annoying auto-play ads and content lockers, so buying the magazine is how we’ll keep up our end of the deal. Download the app today and get ready for 110 pages of trade deadline knowledge, exclusively from Basketball Inisders.

LeBron On The Move?:  Before we dig too far into this, let’s be really clear on something; ESPN’s Brian Windhorst is as good as they come when it comes to LeBron James. He’s literally written the book on Miami’s uber star.

So when a report penned by Windhorst suggests that LeBron James is already considering his options for free agency, there is substance and truth to the idea.

What is likely to happen in Miami this summer is that the vaunted “Big Three” of James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all opt-in to their contracts for one more year. That’s been the word around the team for most of the last 12 months.

There has been talk that maybe all three opt-out and sign new long-term deals. There has been speculation that all three could opt-out and try and recruit a fourth star to Miami – which could happen if all three agreed to take something in the neighborhood of $14 million a year like they did in 2010 when they assembled together in South Beach.

»In Related: The Possible NBA Free Agents For 2014-2015.

There are variables that open the door for a James exit, and until those variables are closed the idea of James leaving, as absurd as it may seem at times, is very real.

Wade is hobbled and no one knows how much more basketball he has left or how much of an impact he can really provide. At some point his ailing knees are going to be a real problem.

It’s unlikely that Wade is going to retire or opt-out of his contract unless it’s to get more guaranteed money down the road and that becomes risky business for the HEAT to continue to lock in major contract dollars into Wade’s knees.

Then there is Bosh. There is no doubting that Bosh’s brand has taken the biggest hit since joining the HEAT. Prior to arriving in South Beach, Bosh was one of the elite big men in the game and a cornerstone player in his own right. In Miami he has been something of a role player, although his contributions especially in the postseason have been massively understated and underrated. There has been speculation that Bosh might look at his own situation again next summer especially if the “Big Three” fail to win another championship.

Bosh could find himself as one of the top free agents in July if he opts out and looks for his own team again.

If the HEAT buckle under their own weight or they fail to win another championship, there is a belief that a breakup of the “Heatles” could get serious consideration not by the front office, but by the players themselves.

Windhorst’s report basically paints James as doing his due diligence in case things have to change at some point in the future, suggesting that James won’t just be talking to teams with cap space, understanding that he has the power and the leverage to force a move anywhere if he wanted to.

What still remains the most likely scenario is that they give this one more year beyond this season. Staying together through July of 2015 has been their personal plan from the beginning. The HEAT have made three straight NBA Finals appearances and believe they will make it four this season; unless that goes tragically wrong the odds of a break up this summer are fairly small.

That does not mean all parties involved haven’t pondered what that means for the future, especially because of the personal variables that are out of the their control.

James has been pretty clear that’s he’s really happy in Miami and that he can’t envision himself anywhere else, but if you recall he said the same thing about Cleveland because that’s what you do when you are under contract and competing during the season.

When things turn to the offseason, how the HEAT finish and what his teammates decide to do with their contracts will weigh heavy in what LeBron’s ultimate decision will be.

The one thing that’s being made clear and public is James won’t be surprised by anything, he’ll be ready to make decisions and those decisions won’t be limited just to who has cap space.

» ICYMI: Lang Greene touches on the situation with the Phoenix Suns, and what they are trying to do at the trade deadline… Alex Kennedy hits on the Charlotte Bobcats who look like buyers at the deadline… Jabari Davis takes a look at the NBA Coach of the Year race, and who is leading the pack.

Mavs Like Who They Have:  The Dallas Mavericks are not exactly taking the Western Conference by storm, but they are continuing to find ways to stay in the mix in the playoff picture. Last night’s win puts them at 29-21 on the season which is good enough for the eighth seed in the West if the playoffs started today. It’s also almost two full games ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies.

As we covered in the space yesterday, the Mavericks, who have historically been one of the more active teams at the trade deadline, seem to be sitting this trade deadline out despite some ending contracts that could return value.

One source close to the Mavericks admitted that adding a big man or another player with scoring punch would be attractive, but that the Mavericks really liked the construction of this team as it stands now, pointing to the fact that the team added nine new players this season and that’s a key reason to be somewhat patient.

The Mavericks are not out of the market completely; virtually no team in the NBA is as the trade deadline approaches in just 14 days.

»In Related: Who Owes A Draft Pick? The Complete NBA Draft Pick Debt.

The Mavs, however, are not nearly as aggressive in trying to shake loose a major deal as maybe a minor one. With the Mavericks apparently looking for a value-type deal for a big man names like 76ers big man Spencer Hawes or Lakers big man Jordan Hill. They could have, but passed on signing Andrew Bynum, who they had preliminary interest in this offseason, after he was waived by the Chicago Bulls.

The Mavs don’t seem like they are eager to do anything, but they are surveying the landscape, which is pretty common at this time of year.

The Mavericks do have some young guys on the roster that might return some value and they do have some ending contracts.

The posture from the Mavericks isn’t overly aggressive, as we covered yesterday, they might sit this one out, but the Mavericks are looking and that’s the first step towards making a deal.

The Mavericks know they need help up front if they want to really challenge in the West, but they do not seem willing to do anything that’s going to massively shake up the chemistry of the team or part with assets that are currently playing a significant role.

More Twitter:  Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @TheRocketGuy, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @SusanBible @TommyBeer, @JabariDavisNBA , @NateDuncanNBA , @MokeHamilton , @JCameratoNBA and @YannisNBA.

Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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NBA Saturday: Kuzma Is The Main Attraction In Los Angeles

Kyle Kuzma, not Lonzo Ball, is the rookie in L.A. that is turning heads around the NBA.

Dennis Chambers

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Out in Los Angeles, there is a dynamite rookie first-round pick lighting it up for the Lakers, invoking memories of the days when the purple and gold had homegrown stars.

That’s Kyle Kuzma. He was the 27th pick in the NBA Draft. Twenty-five picks after Lonzo Ball, the rookie that first sentence would have presumably been about had it been written three months ago.

Ball’s early season struggles are well-noted. He’s missing shots at an all-time bad clip for a rookie, his psyche seems a bit rattled, and he isn’t having the impact most Lakers fans would have hoped he would from the jump.

All of that has barely mattered, though, in large part to the show Kuzma has been putting on just 16 games into the 2017-18 season. In Friday night’s loss to the Phoenix Suns, Kuzma put up 30 points and 10 rebounds for the Lakers, the most by an NBA freshman so far this year. That performance was Kuzma’s sixth 20-point game of the young season, another rookie best. And to top it all off, Kuzma was the first rookie to reach the 30-point, 10-rebound plateau since none other than Magic Johnson, back in February of 1980.

Kuzma’s path to the NBA was much different than Johnson’s, though, along with his rookie counterpart Ball. Those two prospects were highly-touted “superstar potential” guys coming out of the college ranks. Kuzma? Well, he was a 21-year-old junior out of Utah who didn’t make the NCAA Tournament his last year and was a career 30 percent three-point shooter as an amateur.

The knocks on Kuzma began to change during the NBA Draft process and came to a head for the Lakers when long-time scout Bill Bertka raved about his potential.

“He got all wide-eyed,” Lakers director of scouting Jesse Buss told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. “And he said, ‘If this guy isn’t an NBA player, then I don’t know what the f— I’m looking at.'”

The Lakers took a chance on the 6-foot-9 forward who had a rare combination of a sweet shooting stroke to accompany his low-post moves that seemed to be reminiscent of players 20 years his senior.

Fast forward from draft night to the Las Vegas Summer League, and everyone could see with their own two eyes the type of player Los Angeles drafted. The numbers were startling: 21.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 1.1 steals, and 48 percent from beyond the arc out in Sin City for Kuzma, all capped off by a Summer League championship game MVP.

Summer League stats should be taken with a grain of salt, but what Kuzma did in July was proved he belonged.

Through the first month of Kuzma’s rookie campaign, when the games are actually counting for something, all he’s continued to do is prove that his exhibition numbers in Vegas were no fluke.

After his 30-point outburst, Kuzma now leads all rookies in total points scored (yet still second in scoring average), is fourth in rebounds per game, third in minutes, and third in field goal percentage.

By all accounts, Kuzma is outperforming just about every highly-touted prospect that was taken before him last June, and sans a Ben Simmons broken foot in September of 2016, he would be in line for the Rookie of the Year award if the season ended today.

Following Wednesday night’s loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, head coach Brett Brown had more than a few nice things to say about Kuzma.

“He’s a hell of a rookie,” Brown told NBC Philly’s Jessica Camerato. “That was a great pick by them.”

Brown went on to commend Kuzma for being “excellent” Wednesday night, when prior to his game Friday against the Suns, Kuzma set a career-high by scoring 24 points.

For all of the praise and the scoring numbers Kuzma is bringing to the Staples Center, his Lakers team sits at just 6-10 on the season, and has been on the wrong end of a number of close games so far this year.

While that’s good for second in the Pacific division right now, behind only the Golden State Warriors, it isn’t likely that type of success (or lack thereof) will get the Lakers to the playoffs. So, despite all of the numbers and attention, Kuzma isn’t fulfilling his rookie year the way he had hoped.

“It is cool, but I’m a winner,” Kuzma told Lakers Nation’s Serena Winters. “I like to win, stats don’t really matter to me. I just try to play hard and I want to win.”

Few projected the type of impact Kuzma would have this early on in his career, and even fewer would have assumed he’d be outperforming the Lakers’ prized draft pick in Ball. But surprising people with his game is nothing new to Kuzma.

From Flint, Michigan, to Utah, to Los Angeles, Kuzma has been turning heads of those that overlooked him the entire time.

With one month in the books as the Los Angeles Lakers’ most promising rookie, Kuzma has all the attention he could’ve asked for now.

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Kelly Olynyk Strengthens the HEAT Bench

David Yapkowitz speaks to Kelly Olynyk about his early showing in Miami.

David Yapkowitz

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The past few years, Kelly Olynyk carved out a nice role for himself as an important player off the Boston Celtics bench. He was a fan favorite at TD Garden, with his most memorable moment in Celtic green coming in last season’s playoffs against the Washington Wizards in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

With Boston pushed to the limit and finding themselves forced into a Game 7, Olynyk rose to the occasion and dropped a playoff career-high 26 points off the bench on 10-14 shooting from the field in a Celtics win. He scored 14 of those points in the fourth quarter to hold Washington off.

He was a free agent at the end of the season, and instead of coming back to the Celtics, he became a casualty of their roster turnover following Gordon Hayward’s decision to sign in Boston. Once he hit the open market he had no shortage of suitors, but he quickly agreed to a deal with the Miami HEAT, an easy decision for him.

“It’s awesome, they got a real good culture here,” Olynyk told Basketball Insiders. “The organization is great, the city is great, the staff from the top down they do a good job here.”

Olynyk was initially the HEAT’s starting power forward to begin the season. In their opening night game, a 116-109 loss to the Orlando Magic, he scored ten points, pulled down five rebounds, and dished out three assists.

The very next game, however, he found himself back in his familiar role as first big man off the bench. In that game, a win over the Indiana Pacers, Olynyk had an even stronger game with 13 points on 50 percent shooting from the field, including 60 percent from three-point range, eight rebounds, and four assists.

Throughout the first eight games of the season, Olynyk was thriving with his new team. During that stretch, he was averaging a career-high 11.4 points per game on a career-high 55 percent shooting from the field and 60. 8 percent from downtown.

“I’m just playing, I’m just playing basketball,” Olynyk told Basketball Insiders. “They’re kind of letting me just play. They kind of let us all just play. They put us in positions to succeed and just go out there and let out skills show.”

For a HEAT team that may not be as talented on paper as some of the other teams in the Eastern Conference, they definitely play hard and gritty and are a sum of their parts. Night in and night out, in each of their wins, they’ve done it off the contributions from each player in the rotation and Olynyk has been a big part of that. Through Nov. 16, the HEAT bench was seventh in the league in points per game with 36.6.

In a win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Nov. 5, Olynyk was part of a bench unit including James Johnson, Tyler Johnson, and Wayne Ellington that came into the game late in the first quarter. The score at that point was 18-14 in Miami’s favor. That unit closed the quarter on a 16-6 run to put the HEAT up double digits. After that game, head coach Erik Spoelstra recognized the strength of the HEAT bench.

“Our guys are very resilient, that’s the one thing you’ve got to give everybody in that locker room, they’re tough,” Spoelstra said. “This is all about everybody in that locker room contributing to put yourself in a position, the best chance to win. It’s not about first unit, second unit, third unit, we’re all in this together.”

In Boston, Olynyk was part of a similar group that won games off of team play and production from every guy that got in the game. They were also a tough, gritty team and Olynyk has recognized that same sort of fire in the HEAT locker room.

“It’s a group of hard-nosed guys that can really grind it out and play tough-nosed basketball,” Olynyk told Basketball Insiders. “We can go a lot of places. We just got to stick together and keep doing what we do. We can compete with anybody and we just got to bring it every single night.”

At 7-8, the HEAT currently sit outside the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference. Olynyk has seen a bit of a decrease in playing time, and likewise in production. He’s right at his career average in points per game with 9.5, but he’s still shooting career-highs from the field (54 percent) and from three-point range (47.4).

It’s still very early, though, and only one game separates the 11th place HEAT from the 8th place Magic. The HEAT are definitely tough enough to fight for a playoff spot, especially with Olynyk around helping to strengthen their bench.

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Defensive Player Of The Year Watch – 11/17/17

Spencer Davies updates the list of names to keep an eye on and who’s in contention for DPOY.

Spencer Davies

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We’re exactly one month into the season now, as the NBA standings have started to take shape headed into winter.

A couple of weeks ago, Basketball Insiders released its first Defensive Player of the Year Watch article to go in-depth on players that could compete for the prestigious award. Since then, there have been injuries keeping most of the household names out of the picture.

Guys like Rudy Gobert (knee) and Al-Farouq Aminu (ankle) have been or will be sidelined for weeks. Kawhi Leonard has yet to make his season debut recovering from a bothersome right quad.

While that isn’t the best news for fans and the league at the moment, it’s likely that those players will be just fine and return with the same impact they’ve always made. In the meantime, there are opportunities for others to throw their names in the hat as elite defenders. With new names and mainstays, here’s a look at six healthy candidates.

6) Joel Embiid

Trusting the Process in Philadelphia was worth the wait. As polished as the seven-footer is with the ball in his hands on offense, he might be even more dangerous as an interior defensive presence.

One of ten players in the NBA averaging at least a block and a steal per game, Embiid makes a world of a difference for in limiting opponents. Through 14 games, the Philadelphia 76ers are allowing just 96.4 points per 100 possessions with him playing. Furthering that, he’s the only one on the floor who dips the team’s defensive rating below 100 and has the second-highest Defensive Real Plus-Minus rating (3.03) in the NBA.

5) Kristaps Porzingis

Like Embiid, it’s been an incredible season for the one called The Unicorn. Before the season started, Porzingis stated it was a goal of his to accomplish three things—an All-Star game appearance, Most Improved Player, and Defensive Player of the Year.

So far, he’s on the right track. Outside of being the league’s third-highest scorer (28.9 points per game), the Latvian big man is hounding and deterring shot attempts nearly every time inside. According to SportVU data, Porzingis is allowing his opponents to only convert 35.1 percent of their attempts at the rim, which is the lowest by far among his peers seeing at least four tries per game. Oh, and when he’s off the floor, the Knicks have a 112.4 defensive rating, which is 9.3 more points per 100 possessions than with him on.

4) Nikola Jokic

At the beginning of the season, it looked like the same old story with the Denver Nuggets defense, but their intensity has stepped up on that end of the floor for the past couple of weeks. Playing next to new running mate Paul Millsap has taken some getting used to, but it seems like the two frontcourt partners have started to mesh well.

Though it might not have been the case a season ago, the Denver Nuggets are a net -12.4 per 100 possessions defensively without Jokic on the court as opposed to a team-best 100.1 defensive rating with him on. A huge knock on the Serbian sensation last year and before then was his inability to defend. He’s still got things to work on as a rim protector with his timing, but the progress is coming. He’s seventh in the league in total contested shots (168) and has been forcing turnovers like a madman. Averaging 1.6 steals per game, Jokic has recorded at least one takeaway in all but two games.

3) Draymond Green

In the first DPOY watch article, the Golden State Warriors had been better off defensively with Green sitting. That right there should tell you how much we can really put into data in small sample sizes. It’s changed dramatically since that point in time.

Without Green playing, the Golden State Warriors have a defensive rating of 105.4 as opposed to 98.4 on the same scale with him on the floor. His matchups are starting to grow weary of driving on him again, as he’s seen less than four attempts at the basket. Currently, in DRPM, he ranks eighth with a 2.60 rating.

2) Al Horford

The Boston Celtics are still the number one team in the NBA in defensive rating. Horford is still the straw that stirs the drink for Brad Stevens. If you didn’t see that watching that knockdown, drag-it-out game against the Warriors on Thursday, go back and watch it.

He has the highest net rating on the team among starters and is leading the team by altering shots and grabbing rebounds with aggressiveness we haven’t seen since he played for the Atlanta Hawks. Ranking fourth in Defensive Box Plus-Minus and in DRPM, Horford is continuing to make his presence felt.

1) DeMarcus Cousins

Dominance is the word to describe Cousins’ game. With a month-long absence of Gobert, he has a real chance to show fans and voters that his defensive side of him is no façade.

Next to his partner Anthony Davis, Boogie has kept up the physicality and technique of locking up assignments. The third and final member of this list averaging at least a block and steal per game, Cousins is at the top of the mountain in DRPM with a 3.13 rating.

The New Orleans Pelicans significantly benefit with him on the hardwood (102.3 DRTG) as opposed to him on the bench (112.7 DTRG). He’s one of six players in the league seeing more than six attempts at the rim, and he’s allowed the lowest success percentage among that group. He’s also contested 193 shots, which is the second-most in the NBA.

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