Jennings Looks Like Jennings
Detroit Pistons guard Brandon Jennings played 18 minutes last night in the Pistons 115-89 win over the Orlando Magic. While the sample size for Jennings was small in terms of minutes, the production on the floor was solid with Jennings posting 17 points on 5-for-9 shooting and 3-for-4 from the three-point line. Jennings was agile and aggressive and looked every part of the NBA starter he was before his Achilles tear this time last year.
Jennings’ name has been floated around in NBA trade rumors mostly because the Pistons have found gold in guard Reggie Jackson, who they gave an enormous contract to this summer. As a result, the team does not have a very big role left for Jennings. Factor in Jennings’ pending unrestricted free agency and there has been a sense that Jennings could be the best point guard obtainable as the February 18 trade deadline approaches.
Pistons president and head coach Stan Van Gundy has tried to quell the notion that his point guard was available, and said as much again last night.
“Our plan, right now, is that Brandon can help us make a playoff push, and that’s what we’re going to do,” Van Gundy said to David Mayo of MLive.com. “That’s our plan right now. If something happens in the next five weeks, we’ll look at it. But right now, he’s a very good player who can help us, and that’s the only way we’re looking at him.”
League sources that have tried to engage the Pistons on a Jennings trade label the Pistons as lukewarm, at best, on moving Jennings primarily because Van Gundy likes the depth and change of pace Jennings provides and that the team has eyes for improvement through free agency in July and is unwilling to take on any money that would impact their 2016 salary cap position.
The belief from some around the league is that eventually the Pistons would explore moving Jennings, rather than risk losing him for nothing to unrestricted free agency. However, it seems unlikely that a deal will be made unless the offer is a knockout in favor of the Pistons. Van Gundy seems more concerned about breaking the Pistons’ six season playoff drought than getting an ending contract or draft pick in return for Jennings.
Things in the NBA change and change quickly, but what Van Gundy is saying publicly mirrors what the team is saying privately.
As things stand today the Pistons are 19-16 and have won five of their last 10 games. If the Playoffs began today, the Pistons would make the cut as the 8th seed.
There is little doubt that Jennings has trade value, especially if he continues to post games like he did last night, but it does not seem that the Pistons are nearly as interested in moving Jennings as other teams are in acquiring him.
The Elton Brand Signing
In case you missed it yesterday, the Philadelphia 76ers agreed to a deal with veteran forward Elton Brand. In a piece Brand penned for The Cauldron, he explained that he chose to return in part because he wanted to finish his NBA career on his terms, but that he also felt that he had an obligation to help some of the younger players, specifically the 76ers, find their way in the NBA in ways he had to find out on his own.
Philadelphia has been desperately searching for a few veterans that would agree to come in and mentor the younger 76er players and help them evolve into professionals. Brand was identified very early on as a prime target. Brand took his time in making a decision, ultimately deciding to sign.
The narrative here is interesting because it’s commonly believed in fan circles that pairing up a young rookie with a proven veteran should happen all the time. However, what’s neglected in this thinking is that not every veteran is willing to share their experiences and play the mentor role, especially as they get to the twilight of their career and the end of their playing days becomes more imminent.
The other part is that not all young guys are open to veterans coming in and playing big brother.
Putting two guys together does not always equal chemistry and the connections that are required to foster the learning and development that a mentor-relationship requires.
Adding Brand sounds great on paper and based on what he wrote about his reasons for returning to the NBA, he is approaching it with the right attitude. The question is will the young guys in Philly truly connect with Brand enough for him to make a difference? That’s the burning question.
Some have criticized the 76ers for not bringing in players like Brand at the start of the season, and that might be a fair criticism. The problem is when you are a team that’s going nowhere this season (like the 76ers) how desirable is that situation to a free agent?
As Brand explained in his piece, deciding to join the 76ers required some significant soul searching. It’s not easy to put your career in your pocket to play wet nurse to first and second year players. Joining the 76ers, even in training camp, would have amounted to exactly that given their desire to play the young guys and get them experience.
Hanging around for one more season in the gym isn’t always as appealing as it may sound on paper, especially if you won’t play.
It’s admirable that Brand decided to sign on, however, keep in mind the number of players that would be willing to do it and that have a resume like Brand’s is pretty small.
You Won’t Like This
It’s almost without question that Laker Nation is the loudest most vocal fan base in the NBA, especially on social media.
No trade rumor is too small; no trade combination is too outrageous. Lakers Nation is loud, proud and ready to pounce.
The problem is that’s not at all how the organization works.
As much as fans would like to see change from the franchise, whether that’s firing head coach Byron Scott, trading away all of the veterans or cashing in the young guys for a proven star. The Lakers just are not that engaged on any of those topics.
League sources labeled the Lakers stance as “looking”; they are doing the normal due diligence teams do as the deadline approaches. They apparently are not actively shopping anyone on the roster. If the right deal fell into their laps they would look at it, but it seems that the Lakers are more than ready to let this season play out and re-tool after Kobe Bryant retires.
Lakers head coach Byron Scott is safe by all accounts. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said the team would look at his situation in the off-season but that a change now simply wasn’t being considered or even deemed necessary to consider.
You were warned at the start of this that you wouldn’t like this piece.
As much as Laker Nation wants to see change, it does not look like the Lakers are nearly as interested in making a move as their fans are.
The vibe from the Lakers has been this is a transition year. It’s the swan song for Kobe Bryant and that unless something special falls their way, they’ll play out the season.
The Lakers are not concerned about their draft pick, which is top-three protected (if it falls outside the top-three it goes to the 76ers). Kupchak admitted recently to season-ticket holders that he vacillates on that situation but that the team has been instructed to compete as hard as they can and if the pick lands with them, it lands with them.
There are two names that other teams talk about. One is Metta World Peace, who has played pretty well for the Lakers. The other is Brandon Bass, who has a very team friendly deal worth $3 million this year with a $3.13 million Player Option for next year.
The idea of moving off Nick Young, Roy Hibbert or even Lou Williams has been labeled as unlikely from teams that have talked to the Lakers.
You never say never in this business because the right phone call tomorrow can turn a resounding “no” into an overwhelming “yes” depending on what’s offered, but the stance from the Lakers seems to be one of holding the line and that’s not going to make many in Laker Nation happy.
As things stand today, the Lakers have $23.126 million in firmly guaranteed salaries for the 2016-2017 season. That number does not include Bass’ option, the $2.155 million Qualifying Offer on Ryan Kelly, or the $1.18 million Qualifying Offer on Jordan Clarkson and Tarik Black.
Assuming the Lakers issue all the offers they can and Bass stays in his current deal, the Lakers have $31.851 million against what’s expected to be a $90 million salary cap, giving the Lakers roughly $58.149 million in cap space.
As much as fans may want to see change, preserving that cap position seems to be priority number one and that’s likely why the Lakers are sitting out of the trade market.
That could change as the deadline approaches, especially if the Lakers could offload some salary for an ending deal or two, however, today that does not seem to be very likely.
Told you, you wouldn’t like this.
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G-League Watch: 10-Day Contracts
David Yapkowitz looks at five potential G-League callups for 10-day contracts.
Since Jan. 10, NBA teams have been able to sign players from the G-League to ten-day contracts. A few have already been signed, such as DeAndre Liggins with the Milwaukee Bucks and Kyle Collinsworth with the Dallas Mavericks.
Once a ten-day contract expires, teams have the option of signing that player to another ten-day contract. After the second ten-day, teams must either sign the player for the remainder of the season or release that player.
Some players have used ten-day contracts to essentially jump-start their careers. Bruce Bowen was once a ten-day contract player before becoming a key piece of multiple championship teams in San Antonio. Famed New York Knicks enforcer Anthony Mason also got his first chance in the league off a ten-day contract.
With a few guys already being called up via ten-day as well as the NBA’s new two-way contracts, here’s a look at some of the remaining names who might be next in line.
1. Christian Wood
Christian Wood was once a highly touted prospect coming out of high school. He played two college seasons at UNLV before declaring for the NBA draft in 2015. Despite being projected to be drafted late in the first round or early second round, he did not hear his name called on draft night. He’s spent some time in the NBA since then, with the Philadelphia 76ers and Charlotte Hornets, but he currently plays for the Delaware 87ers, the Sixers G-League affiliate.
His 22.0 points per game are tied with James Young for top scorer on the team. He’s shooting 53.9 percent from the field, and he’s also displayed a nice outside touch for a big man at 35.2 percent from three-point range. He leads the team in rebounds at 9.6, as well as in blocked shots with 2.0. He’s very mobile and could certainly help a team as a stretch big man who can play defense and crash the glass.
2. Jameel Warney
Jameel Warney has been a candidate for an NBA call-up for quite some time. The former Stony Brook standout had a big summer with Team USA basketball. He was the tournament MVP of the 2017 FIBA Americup and was named USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year for 2017. He got as far as training camp/preseason with the Dallas Mavericks in 2016, and he’s currently playing for their G-League affiliate, the Texas Legends.
With the Legends, he’s fourth on the team in scoring with 19.4 points per game. He’s second on the team in rebounding with 10.4, and he’s tied with Johnathan Motley leading the team in blocked shots with 1.5. He’s shooting 52.5 percent from the field. What could be hindering his NBA chances is his lack of an outside shot, especially with the way the game is being played today. Nonetheless, he’s still one of the G-League’s top players and he deserves a shot in the big leagues.
3. Melo Trimble
After a solid three years at the University of Maryland, Melo Trimble was one of the best players not selected in this past summer’s draft. He played well for the 76ers’ summer league team in Las Vegas, which in turn earned him an invite to training camp with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He ended up being one of their final cuts at the end of preseason, and he went on to join their G-League affiliate, the Iowa Wolves.
He’s third on the Wolves in scoring with 18.5 points per game. He’s shooting 44 percent from the field, and a decent 34 percent from beyond the arc. He’s also leading the team in assists per game with 5.7. He’s got the potential to be a decent backup point guard, and if he can get his shooting numbers, especially from three-point range, up a little bit, there’s no question he’s NBA caliber.
4. Joel Bolomboy
Joel Bolomboy is a name that should be familiar to Utah Jazz fans. He was drafted by the Jazz in 2016, and although relegated to mostly end of the bench duty, he showed a bit of potential and flash here and there. The Jazz cut him after a year, and he ended up in Milwaukee before they too cut him to make room for Sean Kilpatrick. He’s currently playing for the Wisconsin Herd, the Bucks G-League affiliate.
At the recent G-League Showcase that took place from Jan. 10-13, Bolomboy had one of the best performances of the event. In the two games played, he averaged 25.5 points per game on 73 percent shooting from the field and 13.0 rebounds. He was named to the All-Showcase First Team. He’s had eight double-doubles so far in the G-League this season. He’s already gotten his feet wet in the NBA, and if he continues putting up similar production, it won’t be long before he finds himself back on an NBA roster.
5. Jeremy Evans
Jeremy Evans is a name that should be somewhat familiar to NBA fans. He’s spent six years in the league with the Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks. He also participated in two dunk contests in 2012 and 2013. Unfortunately for him, dunking was probably the one thing he was known for. It might be why he found himself out of the league after only six years.
With the Erie Bay Hawks, the Atlanta Hawks G-League affiliate, his 15.9 points per game are good enough for fourth on the team. His 62.3 percent shooting from the field is a team-high, as is his 10.3 rebounds per game, and 1.4 blocks. Not known as a shooter during his time in the NBA, he’s only shooting 25.6 percent from three-point range in the G-League. If he can get his outside shooting percentages up, he has a shot at getting an NBA call-up and keeping that spot permanently.
Although there’s no guarantee that any of these guys get NBA call-ups on ten-day contracts, they have some of the best shots out of anyone in the G-League. Don’t be surprised if, by the end of the season, all of these guys finish it out on an NBA roster.
NBA Daily: Potential Trade Targets to Get the Sixers to the Playoffs
On the cusp of a playoff appearance for the first time in six years, the Philadelphia 76ers could cement their postseason status with a move at the trade deadline.
At times this season, the Philadelphia 76ers look like they’re capable of going toe-to-toe with some of the league’s best teams. With Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons at their disposal, along with capable three-point shooters, the Sixers have shown flashes of being a force to be reckoned with.
And at other times, well, they look like a discombobulated young team, with serious flaws in the construction of its roster.
Despite the lapses they display, the Sixers are still right in the thick of the playoff race. Currently, at 21-20, they hold a half-game advantage over the Detroit Pistons for the No. 8 spot in the Eastern Conference.
While they await the return of top overall pick Markelle Fultz, who has still yet to hit the court after being shut down earlier this season with a shoulder injury, the Sixers will continue to miss depth on the wing and a particular skill set that holds them back from winning games they seem to have locked up with double-digit leads. For all the greatness that is Embiid, and all of the promise that is Simmons, when the former isn’t on the court, the latter struggles to shoulder the scoring load due to his inability to shoot jump shots.
Initially, that’s what Fultz was drafted for. A player that head coach Brett Brown has said many times before, has the talent to tie everything together with the Sixers’ roster. What he means by that is Fultz represents a scorer from multiple levels of the court who forces the defense to lock in on, potentially leaving the teams’ shooters open on the wing.
Without Fultz, and when Embiid is on the bench, the team lacks a player who can put the ball on the floor, create and knock down jumpers. Although long-term success is still very much the attention for Philadelphia, that doesn’t discount the fact that a team that finished with 10 wins just two seasons ago is on the verge of making a playoff appearance for the first time since 2011-12 with a core of young, promising players.
Because of that possibility, and because of the clear holes in team’s makeup that could prevent this from happening, the Sixers could become an interesting player at the trade deadline — especially considering the names that appear available, according to reports.
It’s no secret that Sixers’ president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo wants to keep financial flexibility heading into this summer, that’s the main reason players like J.J. Redick and Amir Johnson were signed to one-year deals last offseason. Before the team has to start signing their own players to big extensions, the Sixers are in a unique position where they not only have elite homegrown talent, but the money to complement those players the best they can. Because of that, any deal that would return a player with money on the books past this season seems unlikely.
That being said, it just so happens that two players potentially on the trading block right now fulfill the Sixers’ most crucial need, and also aren’t on the hook for money past this year. Marc Stein of The New York Times reported that Rodney Hood could be moved before the Feb. 8 trade deadline, and that multiple teams are expressing interest in his services.
Along with Hood, Stein also reported that Lou Williams, who’s been the center of many trade talks around the league given his career-year and impending free agent status, was involved in specific discussions that would send him to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
What should intrigue the Sixers about these two players is not only their ability on the court but also their flexibility off of it.
Let’s start with Hood. Before the rise of Donovan Mitchell this season, Hood looked to be in a position to assume the role as the dominant scorer on the Utah Jazz following Gordon Hayward’s departure. At just 25 years old and in the final year of his rookie contract, Hood may not be worth the price tag for Utah this summer considering their find with Mitchell.
Should the Jazz actually move on from Hood, it’s unclear what they would ask for in return at this point. Yes, Hood his an impending free agent, which could diminish his value. But the team trading for him would assume his Bird Rights, therefore giving them a better shot at retaining him this summer should they choose to do so.
The best part about his potential fit in Philadelphia is that he fits the timeline of the rebuild while also addressing a need in the present. Being just 25, Hood fits alongside the core of Embiid, Simmons, Fultz, Dario Saric and Robert Covington as a young player. If the Sixers were to miss out on whoever they were planning to target with their financial flexibility this summer, Hood would still be there to plug in for years with a contract extension.
Shooting 38 percent from beyond the arc this season, and displaying the track record of being able to fill up the score sheet, Hood could become the go-to-scorer for Philadelphia when Embiid isn’t on the court, or late in games when they need to stop an opposing team’s run.
While he appears to at least be on the table as of now, Hood is certainly worth checking in on from the Sixers’ standpoint.
Now, onto Williams. Drafted by Philadelphia all the back in 2005 with the 45th overall pick, Williams is enjoying the best season of his career for the Los Angeles Clippers. At 31, he doesn’t represent the long-term upside that Hood does, but for this season alone, bringing Williams on to this current Sixers’ roster could be that extra jolt to get them cleanly into the postseason.
Averaging 23 points per game and shooting 41 percent from downtown, Williams fits the role as an iso-scorer better than any player on the Sixers’ current roster. Alongside Simmons and Embiid, Williams could assume the role Fultz was supposed to this season.
Another interesting ripple to the potential Williams fit is that he was on the last Sixers’ roster to make the playoffs. Adding him to this roster would bring his career full circle. This summer, Williams is most likely going to test the market and given his age and potential price tag he may not fit so well into the Sixers’ plans moving forward. But with his history with the club and city, getting him on board for another playoff run with an exciting young team could arguably help in the negotiation process this offseason.
Neither of these potential trades are slam dunks, and it remains to be seen if either player will even be moved. But for where the Sixers stand currently, coupled with their growing postseason expectations, checking in around the league on trade targets that can fulfill obvious needs should be at the forefront of Colangelo’s agenda for the next few weeks.
Payton Blocking Out Trade Talk, Believes Magic Will Turn It Around
Spencer Davies sits down with Elfrid Payton to discuss his fourth year, trade rumors and a trying season for Orlando in a Basketball Insiders exclusive.
It’s hard for a team to look for positives when it’s living in the basement.
The Orlando Magic have had a rough go of it this year. They’re 13-32 at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, they’ve have had a ton of setbacks, and they currently rank 29th in the NBA in defensive rating.
There is a bright spot hidden in there, though, and head coach Frank Vogel sees it growing as the season progresses.
“We’re frustrated with our record, but we’re encouraged with the development we’ve had with our young players,” Vogel said before Thursday’s game in Cleveland. “Aaron Gordon, Mario [Hezonja], and [Elfrid Payton] have all had strong individual seasons and continue to get better. All those guys are improving individually and at some point, it’s gonna lead to more Ws.”
While Gordon stands out more to some than the others because of his star appeal, Payton is right up there with him as far as making the next step goes.
“Elfrid’s shooting the ball better from the perimeter and at the rim,” Vogel said. “He’s worked on his left hand. He’s worked on his floaters. Shooting 52 percent from the field and that’s pretty darn good for a point guard, and the 39 percent from the three as well.”
Those are your more traditional statistics that don’t address the leap he’s taken in efficiency. Sure, Payton’s scoring the same amount of points per game, but it’s the way he’s been getting that’s been most noticeable.
According to Basketball-Reference and NBA.com, he’s making nearly 70 percent of his tries between 0-3 feet and ranks third among point guards in restricted field goal percentage (min. four attempts).
But Payton doesn’t like to evaluate himself using numbers, so he doesn’t know how to feel about how he’s played for Orlando this year.
“It’s tough to say because I like to measure my success by winning and we haven’t been doing that,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “So tough to say.”
He’s not kidding. Since starting out the season 8-4, the Magic have taken a hard fall, only winning five games since November 10. In this stretch, there have been three hefty losing streaks—two 9-game slides and most recently a 7-game skid.
“Not to make excuses—we had a lot of injuries,” Payton told Basketball Insiders of what happened. “Haven’t really been playing with the group of guys that we started the season with, so kinda derailed us a little bit.”
As the losses pile up, so does the chatter. Indicated by multiple recent reports, Orlando has made it clear that many players on the roster are available on the trade block. Evan Fournier, Mario Hezonja, and Payton were recently brought up as names who could possibly on the move if the right deal presents itself.
When asked about the rumblings, Vogel claimed he doesn’t have a message for his guys.
“They understand it’s part of the business,” he said. “Just focus on playing the game.”
Like his coach, Payton doesn’t have a reaction to the noise.
“I don’t get caught up into the things like that,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “Today I’m an Orlando Magic. I play for the Orlando Magic and I’m gonna give them 100 percent of me. I’m somebody that likes to finish what I started, so I definitely would like to see this through and try to turn this organization around.”
So who does he see on this team that can help jump-start the process in flipping the script?
“Everybody,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “I like Vuc. I like AG. Evan [Fournier] is somebody who can fill it up. T Ross is somebody who can fill it up when healthy. I think we have a lot of talent on this team. Even the rookies—Wes [Iwundu] plays well for us in stretches. Jon [Isaac] when he was playing he’d do well.
“You could see the potential there. So I think we have a lot of weapons on this team. I’m very confident in the group we have here. I think we have a lot of talent, we just have to do it.”
Saying you’re going to right the ship is one thing. Actually doing it is a whole other challenge. With where the Magic sit in the standings currently, their work is cut out for them. That being said, Payton isn’t giving up.
In fact, he’s still got his eyes on making it to the postseason, and it starts with him.
“Definitely trying to get a run going,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “Make a playoff push. It’s definitely not out of sight right now, especially with the way the East is. We win a few games and we right back in the thick of things.
“Do whatever I can to help us to get more wins, man. I think that’s what it all boils down to. I figure if I’m playing well, that means we’re winning for the most part.”
Defense matters the most, and it’s something Payton and his group know they need to get better at if they have a chance to play past mid-April.
“Just be tied in together a little bit more,” Payton told Basketball Insiders. “I think sometimes we have too many breakdowns on the backside. So just being more in-tune with each other.”
One thing is for sure—Orlando is going through this difficult time as a team, but refuses to fold. Payton says Vogel has constantly stayed in their ears with uplifting advice.
“Keep fighting,” Payton told Basketball Insiders of his words. “Don’t feel sorry for yourself. No one’s gonna feel sorry for you, so just keep fighting.”