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NBA AM: Pistons to Lock up Monroe, Trade Smith?

Stan Van Gundy says Pistons have already made decision on free agent to be Greg Monroe. What does that mean for Josh Smith?

Lang Greene



Pistons contemplate locking up Greg Monroe long term, potentially looking to deal Josh Smith?

The top of the 2014 NBA Draft is widely believed to be one of the best in recent memory. Barring a trade, the Detroit Pistons will be on the outside looking in as the lottery picks come off the board Thursday night. The Pistons sent their first round pick to the Charlotte Hornets two years ago in the Ben Gordon for Corey Maggette swap. The pick was top-eight protected, but the Pistons fell to ninth in last month’s draft lottery causing the forfeiture to the Hornets.

While the Pistons may be missing from the top of the draft this season, the franchise has huge decisions looming this summer regarding their future.

Emerging big man Greg Monroe is headed toward restricted free agency and there will be plenty of teams lining up ready to pounce on the 24 year old standout who averaged 15.2 points and 9.3 rebounds this past season.

Newly crowned pistons team president Stan Van Gundy says the decision has already been made regarding Monroe’s future with the franchise based on every possible scenario that may arise when free agency opens.

“We’ve been through basically every million-dollar increment of an offer sheet he could get, and what will we do if he takes the option of signing an offer sheet and this is what he comes back with, what will we do,” Van Gundy said according to Ashley Dunkak of CBS Detroit. “To me there’s not going to be any drama in it. We’ve already made that decision. We’ve already talked with ownership, so we know down the road, if July 11, let’s say, he presents us with an offer sheet at whatever dollar, we’ve made the decision already, so we know where we’re going, so there’s no anxiety for us in that.

“Whatever decisions we make in that regard, we know what the implications are for those decisions. We know the advantages and the disadvantages … We’ve got a strategy moving forward.”

The Pistons currently have $33 million in guaranteed salaries on the books next season. Monroe is obviously the biggest priority for the club this summer, but guard Rodney Stuckey is also headed to the land of free agency.

How the Pistons ultimately decide to handle the Monroe situation will speak volumes on the direction of the franchise moving forward. Last summer, then president Joe Dumars locked up versatile forward Josh Smith to a four-year $54 million pact in free agency in a move most felt stunted Monroe’s long term growth. Smith struggled through arguably the most disappointing season of his career and the club recorded another sub .500 campaign.

MUST READ: The 2014-15 NBA Free Agent List

With center Andre Drummond’s continued developments, Van Gundy readily acknowledges Detroit may have a pricey logjam in the frontcourt in the near future.

“If we got three years down the road, Josh would be in the last year of his contract at $13.5,” Van Gundy said. “If Greg went out and got a max offer this year or something close to a max offer and we matched it, then that’s the year that Andre [Drummond] becomes a max player. You could be in a situation where you have three guys who are over $13 million a year on your roster, and there’d be a good chance just because of the duplication and the makeup that one of them is coming off the bench.

“So that’s an interesting scenario and we have looked down the road at that. It’s hard to say that’s the ideal situation because certainly if you’ve got $40-some million in your two front line spots, it really affects what you’re able to do on your perimeter, and you would like a balance on your roster, but we have also come to the conclusion of, again, if that’s what it comes to, that we can deal with that for one year, so I think we’re comfortable with however things go that we’ll be okay.”

But Smith may not be in Detroit long enough for this scenario to fully materialize. An ESPN report surfaced on Tuesday implying the Sacramento Kings would be interested in dealing for Smith.

While nothing is imminent, it does speak volumes the Pistons are eager and willing to listen to overtures for Smith, who was the team’s marquee free agent signing last summer.

Detroit’s only pick in this year’s draft will be the eighth selection in the second round, No. 38 overall.

Are the New York Knicks trying to buy into the first round of the draft?

Flexibility, or the lack of it, is something the New York Knicks will have to work through this summer. The Knicks do not own a pick in this week’s NBA Draft and whether free agent Carmelo Anthony returns to New York or not, the team is still over the salary cap.

However, the team’s current predicament hasn’t stopped the organization from being ambitious in its attempt to become a draft night player.

According to Marc Berman of The New York Post, Knicks president Phil Jackson is working the lines trying to buy his way into the draft or use one of his current roster assets for a trade.

New York has roughly $1.8 million in cash to use in order to buy into the draft, while guard Iman Shumpert remains arguably the club’s most attractive asset on the trade circuit.

One player who has reportedly garnered interest within the Knicks’ front office is former University of Florida standout Patric Young, who is projected as a late first round or early second round pick.

The Knicks are reportedly high on guard prospects P.J. Hairston (UNC) and Tyler Ennis (Syracuse) as well.

While Young’s offensive game may not translate to the next level, his value as a low post banger and defender is what have pro team intrigued on his potential.

“Big, strong body,’’ ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said according to the report. “Obviously he can hold his position and he’s an excellent post defender. His rebounding numbers won’t wow you. I have him later in the second round, but [he’s a] a guy that you can put in and be physical, set screens.’’

With Anthony headed toward free agency, the Knicks still has close to $67 million in guaranteed salaries on the books for next season. Close to $50 million of this figure is tied to three players – Amar’e Stoudemire ($23,4m), Andrea Bargnani ($11.5m) and Tyson Chandler ($14.6m).

We Have You Covered! NBA Draft Day isn’t just another day on the calendar, it’s Christmas Day for us. And we’ll have everything you need to stay up to date on all the happenings around the draft starting with the 2014 NBA Draft Day Diary featuring up-to-the minute news, notes and rumors; all on one page and all in one place. The diary drops on Wednesday morning and will be updated all the way through the 2014 NBA Draft. Need some more Mock Draft action? A new draft day 60-Pick Mock Draft will drop Wednesday morning as part of the Final Consensus Mock Draft of the season. Want more? Basketball Insiders will have reporters on the ground in New York, posting and tweeting the latest news and interviews with the players invited to the draft, and our first ever Video Mock Draft. As the draft unfolds, we’ll have instant reaction to all of the first round picks including quotes and reaction from the players themselves. If you want to know everything that’s out there – be on Basketball Insiders all day on Draft day.

Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons


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Middleton, Bucks Aiming To ‘Lock In’ As Season Comes To Close

Spencer Davies catches up with Milwaukee Bucks swingman Khris Middleton in a Basketball Insiders exclusive.

Spencer Davies



Basketball Insiders had the chance to chat with Khris Middleton about the direction of the Milwaukee Bucks as the season comes to a close.

You guys won three out of four before you came into Cleveland. What was working during that stretch?

Just being us. Doing it with our defense, playing fast-paced offense. Just trying to keep teams off the three-point line. We haven’t done that. We didn’t do that [Monday] or two games ago, but it’s something we’ve just gotta get back to.

With the offense—it seems like it’s inconsistent. What do you think that’s got to do with mostly?

Just trying to do it by ourselves sometimes. Standing, keeping the ball on one side of the floor. We’re a better team when we play in a fast pace. And then also in the half court, when we move the ball from side-to-side it just opens the paint for everybody and there’s a lot more space.

For you, on both ends you’ve been ultra-aggressive here in the last couple weeks or so, does that have to do with you feeling better or is it just a mindset?

I’ve been healthy all year. Right now, it’s the end of the season. Gotta make a push. Everybody’s gotta lock in. Have to be confident, have to be aggressive. Have to do my job and that’s to shoot the ball well and to defend.

Have you changed anything with your jumper? Looking at the past couple months back-to-back, your perimeter shooting was below 32 percent. In March it’s above 45 percent.

I feel like I got a lot of great looks earlier this year. They just weren’t falling. Right now, they’re falling for me, so I have the same mindset that I had when I was missing and that’s to keep on shooting. At some point, they’re gonna go down for me.

Is knowing that every game at this point means more an extra motivator for you guys?

Definitely. We’re basically in the playoffs right now. We’re in a playoff series right now where we have to win games, we have to close out games, in order to get the seeding and to stay in the playoffs. Each game and each possession means something to us right now.

Is it disappointing to be in the position the team is in right now, or are you looking at it as, ‘If we get there, we’re going to be alright’?

I mean, we wish we were in a better position. But where we’re at right now, we’re fine with it. We want to make that last push to get higher in the seeding.

Lots of changes have gone on here. Eric Bledsoe came in two weeks into the season. You had the coaching change and lineup changes. Jabari Parker’s been getting situated before the postseason. How difficult does that make it for you guys to build consistency?

Yeah, it was tough at first. But I think early on we had to adjust on the fly. We didn’t have too many practices. There was a stretch where we were able to get in the film room, get on the court, and practice with each other more.

Now it’s just at a point where we’re adding a lot of new guys off the bench where we have to do the same things—learn on the fly, watch film. We’re not on the court as much now, but we just have to do a great job of buying in to our system, try to get to know each other.

Does this team feel like it has unfinished business based on what happened last year?

Definitely. Last year, we felt like we let one go. Toronto’s a great team. They’re having a hell of a season this year, but I feel like we let one go. This year’s a new year—a little add of extra motivation. We’ve been in the playoff position before, so hopefully, we learn from it when we go into it this year.

Would you welcome that rematch?

I mean, we welcome anybody man. We showed that we compete with any team out here. We can’t worry about other teams as much. We just have to be focused on us.

What has to happen for you guys to achieve your full potential?

Lock in. Just play as hard as we can, play unselfish, and do our job out there night-in, night-out.

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NBA Daily: Raptors Look To Fine-Tune The Defense

The Toronto Raptors’ defense had a letdown against the Cavaliers, but has been outstanding overall.

Buddy Grizzard



The Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors engaged in an offensive shootout on Wednesday that could be a playoff preview. The Cavs protected home court with a single-possession, 132-129 victory. Afterward, the Raptors spoke about the types of defensive adjustments the team needs to make as the postseason rapidly approaches.

“That’s how a playoff game would be,” said DeMar DeRozan, who missed a three at the buzzer that could have forced overtime. “This is a team we’ve been playing against the last two years in the postseason. Understanding how we can tighten up things defensively, how to make things tougher for them [is key].

“[It’s] little small things that go a long way, and not just with them … with every team.”

Raptors coach Dwane Casey concurred with DeRozan that fine-tuning of the defense is needed. He also pointed out that, with young contributors such as center Jakob Poeltl and power forward Pascal Siakam on the roster, defensive experience against the league’s best player, LeBron James, is something they will have to gain on the fly.

“I don’t think Jakob Poeltl played against him that much, and Siakam,” said Casey. “This is their first time seeing it. I thought Jak and Pascal did an excellent job, but there are certain situations where they’ve got to read and understand what the other team is trying to do to them.”

Poeltl was outstanding, leading the bench with 17 points and tying for the team lead in rebounds with eight. Casey praised the diversity of his contributions.

“I thought he did an excellent job of rolling, finishing, finding people,” said Casey. “I thought defensively, he did a good job of protecting the paint, going vertical. So I liked what he was giving us, especially his defense against Kevin Love.”

Basketball Insiders previously noted how the Raptors have performed vastly better as a team this season when starting point guard Kyle Lowry is out of the game. Much of that is due to Fred VanVleet’s emergence as one of the NBA’s best reserve point guards. VanVleet scored 16 points with five assists and no turnovers against Cleveland. It’s also a reflection of how good Toronto’s perimeter defense has been up and down the roster.

According to ESPN’s defensive Real Plus-Minus statistic, three of the NBA’s top 15 defensive point guards play for the Raptors. VanVleet ranks seventh while Lowry is 12th and Delon Wright is 14th. Starting small forward OG Anunoby ranks 16th at his position.

The Raptors also rank in the top five in offensive efficiency (third) and defensive efficiency (fifth). Having established an identity as a defensive team, especially on the perimeter, it’s perhaps understandable that Lowry was the one player in the visiting locker room who took the sub-standard defensive showing personally.

“It was a disgraceful display of defense by us and we’ve got to be better than that,” said Lowry. “We’ve got to be more physical. They picked us apart and made a lot of threes. We’ve got to find a way to be a better defensive team.”

Lowry continued the theme of fine-tuning as the regular season winds down.

“I think we’ve just got to make adjustments on the fly as a team,” said Lowry. “We can score with the best of them, but they outscored us tonight. We got what we wanted offensively. We’re one of the top teams in scoring in the league, but we’re also a good defensive team.”

Lowry was clearly bothered by Toronto’s defensive showing, but Casey downplayed the importance of a single regular-season game.

“We’ve got to take these games and learn from them, and again learn from the situations where we have to be disciplined,” said Casey. “It’s not a huge thing. It’s situations where we are that we’ve got to learn from and be disciplined and not maybe take this step and over-help here. Because a team like that and a passer like James will make you pay.”

While the Raptors continue to gain experience and dial in the fine defensive details, Casey was insistent that his players should not hang their heads over falling short against Cleveland.

“Hopefully our guys understand that we’re right there,” said Casey.

The Raptors host the Brooklyn Nets tonight to open a three-game home stand that includes visits from the Clippers Sunday and the Nuggets Tuesday. After that, Toronto visits the Celtics March 31 followed by a return to Cleveland April 3 and a home game against Boston the next night. With three games in a row against the other two top-three teams in the East, the schedule presents plenty of opportunities for the Raptors to add defensive polish before the playoffs begin.

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NBA Daily: Jaylen Brown Set To Return For Celtics

The Celtics finally got some good news on Thursday. Jaylen Brown’s return is imminent.

Moke Hamilton



Finally, some good news for the Boston Celtics.

Jaylen Brown is set to return to action.

Brown has been M.I.A. since sustaining a concussion during the team’s 117-109 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves back on March 8, but has traveled with the team to Portland and is expecting to return to the lineup on Sunday when the Celtics do battle with the Sacramento Kings.

As the Celts gear up for a playoff run, which they hope will result in them ending LeBron James’ reign atop the Eastern Conference, they’ve picked the wrong time to run into injury issues. Along with Brown, both Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart have each been conspicuous by their absences, and the team could certainly use all of their pieces as they attempt to enter the postseason on a high note.

Fortunately for Boston, with the Toronto Raptors leading them by 4.5 games in the standings and the Celts ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers by a comfortable six games, Brad Stevens’ team is enjoying the rare situation of having a playoff seed that appears to be somewhat locked in.

Still, with the team only able to go as far as its young rotation will carry it, Brown addressed the media on Thursday.

“I’m feeling a lot better. I’m just trying to hurry up and get back,” Brown said, as quoted by

“I’m tired of not playing.”

Stevens is probably tired of him not playing, too.

As we head into the month of April, playoff-bound teams and conference contenders begin to think about playing into June, while the cellar-dwellers and pretenders begin to look toward the draft lottery and free agency.

What’s funny is that in the midst of the Raptors and their rise out East, the Celtics and their dominance has become a bit of a forgotten storyline. When Gordon Hayward went down on opening night, the neophytes from the Northeast were thought to be a decent team in the making whose ceiling probably wasn’t anywhere near that of the Cavs, the Raptors and perhaps even the Washington Wizards.

Yet through it all, with the impressive growth of Jaylen Brown, impressive rookie Jayson Tatum and the rise of Irving as a franchise’s lynchpin, the Celtics stormed out the games to the tune of a a 17-3 record. What made the strong start even more impressive was the fact that the team won 16 straight games after beginning the season 0-2.

Although they weren’t able to keep up that pace, they began the month of February having gone 37-15 and turned a great many into believers. With their spry legs, team-first playing style and capable leader in Irving, the Celtics, it was thought, were a true contender in the Eastern Conference — if not the favorite.

Since then, and after experiencing injuries to some of its key cogs, the team has gone just 11-8.

In the interim, it seems that many have forgotten about the team that tantalized the Eastern Conference in the early goings of the season.

Brown’s return, in one important respect, will signify a return to Boston’s prior self.

With Marcus Smart having recently undergone surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right thumb, he is expected to be out another five weeks or so, meaning that he’ll likely miss the beginning of the postseason.

As for Irving, although reports say that his ailing knee has no structural damage, everything the Celtics hope to accomplish begins and ends with him. FOX Sports 1’s Chris Broussard believes that it’s no slam dunk that Irving returns to action this season, but he’s in the minority. This team has simply come too far to not give themselves every opportunity to compete at the highest level, so long as doing so doesn’t jeopardize the long term health of any of the franchise’s cornerstones.

Make no mistake about it, the Celtics are far from a finished product. With their nucleus intact and flexibility preserved, they will have another offseason with which to tinker with their rotation pieces and plug away at building a champion.

But here and now, with what they’ve got, the Celtics are much closer than any of us thought they would be at this point.

And on Sunday, when Jaylen Brown rejoins his team in the lineup, to the delight of the Boston faithful, the Celtics will be that much closer.

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