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NBA AM: Teams Have To Understand Their Window

Not every team is going to compete for a Championship, so going “all-in” may not make sense, especially with the Golden State Warriors not going anywhere for a while.

Steve Kyler

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Understanding Your Window

With the Golden State Warriors championship parade set to get underway this afternoon, the big question circling the NBA is how anyone can beat them?

Let’s address a few things about the Warriors first… They will pay their free agents.

Steph Curry is going to get a brand new five-year $205 million deal. Kevin Durant will opt-out of his Player Option and sign a new one-and-one deal worth 105 percent of his current $26.540 million deal.

Andre Iguodala will get offered a new contract, maybe not at his current $11.13 million rate but something respectable for the Warriors sixth man; he’ll get a new deal. Shawn Livingston will get an offer, but of the bunch, he might get bigger money elsewhere. The Vets like Zaza Pachulia and David West will be asked to come back. JaVale McGee might cost the Warriors their taxpayer exception, but he’ll get asked to come back.

In short, the core of the Warriors will be back — that’s a pretty safe bet.

So the question of how do you beat the Warriors is not an easy one, especially because all of these guys want to be back and they are all still drinking the “team-first” Kool-Aid.

When you talk to executives in the NBA, most have a sense of the timing of things, often referred to as the “window.” That time when your team should be at its best for a chance to compete for a title. This is unlike, say, the NFL, where a really good single season tied to a favorable schedule could get you in the hunt for a Super Bowl in a single season. The NBA, by way of the best of seven playoff format, makes a Cinderella team in the Final a big fairy tale. In the NFL, two postseason wins could put you in the dance; that’s not the case in the NBA.

Because a team must be sustainably good, knowing and understanding when you have a real chance is important. That’s not to say teams are not trying to build and gain experience towards that goal, but the reality of basketball is not everyone is going to be equipped to compete for a title, even if they drafted a great player or swing an amazing trade.

This concept will drive a lot of the thinking in the NBA this summer, specific to older teams that have less road in front of them and a closing window.

For example, the Toronto Raptors have to decide if spending what could be $300 million on free agents Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, PJ Tucker and Patrick Patterson is really worth it to be the second-best team in the East on paper. Is there enough room for internal growth of that group to move into the top spot in a Conference owned and dominated by LeBron James?

There is value in being the second-best team. Boston proved that this year; they hung around long enough to win the East, and for a young team like Boston that’s was a huge step forward for their franchise, and it will help them this summer in Free Agency.

Washington is well situated going forward; they have a very young core of star talent that in the next two years could be positioned to take over the East if things come unraveled in Cleveland. But there is not a likely combination of trades or free agent additions that are going to push Washington into the top seat in the East, let alone overtake the Warriors, so going all in on this next season likely does not make a ton of sense. The Wizards have one or two more seasons to build their winner.

The same is true of Boston, as much as fans want to see the future mortgaged for instant gratification. The Celtics are well positioned for the future, and with their young core and the addition of the top pick in the 2017 NBA draft, the Celtics should be right there in the next two years, maybe with enough firepower to challenge the Warriors.

There is value to a team to just get to the Finals. Coaches and General Managers get a contract extension and add value to their careers. It’s easier to attract bargain free agents when you have a chance to be on the biggest stage. So even if you can’t win against the Warriors, there is a value in getting there.

But for some teams, there is a harsh reality that no matter how much they do, they won’t be there. As much as people bemoan the 76ers’ rebuilding philosophy over the last six years, they knew that no combination of moves was going to get them into the championship hunt. Why not tear down and reset the clock and give yourself a chance to be in a position when the changing of the guard happens?

The Minnesota Timberwolves are well positioned with their talent. The Lakers could be too if they play this draft class right. The Phoenix Suns could be one of those teams too. So, when you wonder why not just trade and get an All-Star, would that really do anything in the grand scheme of winning a championship, especially given that the Warriors are not going anywhere for maybe four of five years?

There are some teams like the Clippers, Raptors, and Spurs that may have no choice but to go all in because of what they have on their roster right now. Those teams have to decide to double down on what they have or sell it off for pennies on the dollar.

That’s the Chicago Bulls dilemma — they have a promising All-Star in Jimmy Butler, but unless one of their young guys really emerges as a second star, is there a future for the Bulls that’s more than just some playoff games and continuing their sell out streak before Butler’s contract is up?

There is value in the NBA in winning 45 to 50 games and getting into the playoffs. For fans that may seem like treading water, but that’s the consolation prize while a team waits for its chance. General Managers are going to spend countless hours figuring out the right sequence of deals for today and tomorrow to trying and line up to when things in the NBA maybe change. LeBron won’t play forever, and you want to be in a position to strike when his star starts to fade or worse yet when he has his first serious injury.

Loading up now might sound fun to fans, but what’s it mean if all you do is run into the Cavaliers or Warriors? Understanding when you have a chance to win is vital in team building. That does not mean it has to be the two extremes of all-in or all-tank. The Rockets seemed trapped in the middle, and then things changed in one season and they got in the hunt; there is value in being right there if you can get there without mortgaging your future. Getting their organically if how the Warriors assembled this group, then augmented it with trades and free agents.

As the Warriors celebrate their championship with their fans today, there is a reality that not everyone will be in a position to compete for a title next season, and maybe that’s a flaw in the NBA. But the rules are what they are, so now it’s about strategic planning and hoping when your young stars start to bloom that your team will be ready to capitalize on it, and that’s understanding when your team has a real window to win.

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, @MikeAScotto, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton , @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @CodyTaylorNBA, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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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2018 NBA Draft Diary

NBA Daily: The Winners Of The NBA Draft

Simon Hannig breaks down the winners from Thursday’s 2018 NBA Draft.

Simon Hannig

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The 2018 NBA Draft has come and gone, and although many teams have improved coming out of this loaded draft, five teams seemed to have walked away as the biggest winners.

The Phoenix Suns Got Their Guy

The Suns made a couple of splashes in the draft, selecting DeAndre Ayton with the first overall pick.

The Suns then drafted Zhaire Smith, but later traded his rights to the Philadelphia 76ers for Mikal Bridges.

In the second round of the draft, Phoenix selected Frenchman Elie Okobo and George King from Colorado, each of whom should be able to contribute right away. Ayton should be the starting center come opening night and Bridges could also start for the team immediately. If not, Bridges will be a valuable weapon coming off the bench for a team who is trying to win games and get back into the playoffs.

Does Mo Bamba Have The (Orlando) Magic?

The Orlando Magic got a stud in Mo Bamba, whom they surprisingly selected with the sixth overall pick in the draft. They later drafted Melvin Frazier in the second round. It was a bit surprising that the Tulane product lasted that long, but the Magic benefitted.

Orlando got a player who can contribute right away and could compete for a starting job. Frazier is a great rebounder and defender and could change the team’s defense all by himself. The club now has two young core pieces they can build around in Jonathan Isaac and Bamba and a young contributor in Frazier.

Although the team’s offense will likely be work in progress, they can be very scary on the defensive end.

Now, we’ll all wait to see if Bamba, the New York product, can carry the Magic back to respectability.

Atlanta Hawks Will Let It Fly

Despite the Hawks trading Luka Doncic, the Hawk drafted players that can help and contribute right away, plus Quavo from the Migos got his wish of Trae Young being selected.

With their second first round pick, the Hawks took sharpshooter Kevin Huerter from Maryland and they took Omari Spellman from Villanova with their third pick in the first round. The Hawks are starting to build themselves like the Warriors, getting sharpshooters in Young and Huerter. It is no surprise they are doing this as their current general manager, Travis Schlenk, worked with the Golden State Warriors before taking the job with the Hawks.

They have the core for their future and I am really excited to see what Young can do in the NBA.

The Rich Got Richer In Boston

The Celtics once again got a steal in Robert Williams from Texas A&M. They get another athletic big man who plays great defense and rebounds the ball very well. I am pretty surprised he fell this far.

He is another rim protector the Celtics can use. He averaged 2.5 blocks per game in college. He will also provide second chance opportunities for the team. Williams averaged 3.0 offensive rebounds per game in college. He is just a monster on the defensive end of the floor and on the boards.

He would have been a lottery pick in last years draft, but he decided to stay in school another year, and I am sure the Celtics are happy about that.

Luka Doncic Found A Good Home

The Mavericks have the best young backcourt duo in the NBA now in Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic. They also drafted Jalen Brunson from Villanova, acquired Ray Spalding from Louisville in a trade with the Sixers and drafted Kostas Antetokounmpo, Giannis’ younger brother, in the second round. I love the Mavs’ backcourt a lot.

It is going to be very scary in a couple of years. It will take time and patience to develop them, but it will be worth it. This is going to be a dynamic duo for years to come for the Mavs. The Mavs have set themselves up not only for the future, but also to compete and to try to get into the playoffs. It also depends if they can bring in a max player in free agency, but I love the core the Mavs are building.

The Mavs should be a better defensive team next season, and will be a better offensive team next season with the weapons they have added to the team.

The Mavs are the clear cut winners of the 2018 NBA Draft.

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2018 NBA Draft Diary

NBA Draft Night Trades

David Yapkowitz breaks down the trades that took place during the 2018 NBA Draft.

David Yapkowitz

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Another NBA Draft has come and gone. With rumors swirling all week about possible pick/player movement, the night remained relatively uneventful. There were a few trades that occurred, however. Here’s a quick breakdown of the movement that happened on draft night.

1. Atlanta Hawks/Dallas Mavericks

The Hawks and Mavericks completed the first trade of the night early on in the draft. Leading up to the draft, there were questions about how high Luka Doncic was going to be drafted. It was widely assumed that he wouldn’t slip past Dallas at No. 5. The Mavericks weren’t going to take that chance as the Hawks drafted Doncic with the intention of trading him to Dallas for Trae Young.

Both teams ultimately get what they need. It’s been reported that the Hawks might move on from Dennis Schroder this summer and they’ll need a point guard to replace him. Young is an explosive scorer who will fit in nicely with Atlanta’s rebuild. He can score from anywhere on the court and he’s a great playmaker as well.

For the Mavericks, they get a guy to add to their own young core with Dennis Smith Jr. and Harrison Barnes. Doncic has the size to play next to Smith in the backcourt. He’s quite possibly the best playmaker in the draft with a solid offensive game as well.

2. Charlotte Hornets/Los Angeles Clippers

The Hornets and Clippers consummated the second move the night by swapping their own draft picks. The Hornets took Shai Gilgeous-Alexander with the 11th pick and then immediately traded him to the Clippers for Miles Bridges, whom Los Angeles selected at No. 12.

For the Hornets, they get a guy who can play both forward positions. Bridges is more of a small forward but in small ball lineups, he can slide over to the four. Offensively he is at his best when he puts the ball on the floor and attacks the rim. He’s a decent shooter too.

The Clippers get a point guard who was rumored to climbing up many draft boards as the night approached. Gilgeous-Alexander is a solid pick for them provided both Patrick Beverly and Milos Teodosic’ injury history. He can also play off the ball if need be. He’s got the physical tools to be a very good defender at the NBA level. It’s not at all far-fetched to imagine him as the future long-term starting point guard for the Clippers.

The Hornets also got two future second-round picks from the Clippers.

3. Philadelphia 76ers/Phoenix Suns

The Sixers and the Suns had the next move of draft night, also swapping their picks. The Sixers selected hometown hero Mikal Bridges with the No. 10 pick and later traded him to the Suns for the No. 16 pick, Zhaire Smith.

Bridges made a lot of sense for the Sixers. Not only is he a local guy, but his mother works for the team as well. He was a talented player who fit their team. He gave a post-draft press conference raving about being a Sixer all the while he had been traded already. But such is life in the NBA. Instead, Phoenix gets a guy that’s ready to contribute in the NBA right away. He’s the prototypical 3&D type guy.

For the Sixers, Zhaire Smith is another guy who was steadily climbing the boards in the days leading up to the draft. He’s a very athletic prospect with good defensive instincts. He probably won’t play much right away, but he does have the potential to end up being one of the better rotation players in this draft.

The Sixers also get a 2021 first-round pick from the Suns via the Miami Heat. It’s highly likely this ends up being a lottery pick and thus giving the Sixers the chance to add a high-end talent to an already potent group.

4. Second-Round moves

There are a few second-round moves that were made as well.

For one, the Hawks selected Devonte Graham with the 34th pick and traded him to the Hornets for two future second-round picks. Graham is another NBA ready guy who can come in and immediately contend for backup point guard minutes behind Kemba Walker.

The Sixers were involved in another deal sending the No. 38 pick Khyri Thomas to the Detroit Pistons for two future second-round picks. Thomas is a player that many projected to go in the first round. For a team that didn’t have a first-round pick coming into the night, the Pistons essentially picked one up. It’s possible he turns out better than Detroit’s most recent first-rounders Henry Ellenson and Luke Kennard.

The Sacramento Kings drafted Gary Trent Jr. with the 37th pick only to trade him to the Portland Trail Blazers for two future second-round picks. Trent was one of the better shooters in the draft and that’s what he projects to the be in the NBA. He’s probably a few years away from earning a spot in the rotation but he was also a possible first-round pick. He’s more NBA ready than Anfernee Simons who the Blazers took in the first-round.

The Orlando Magic and Denver Nuggets swapped second-round picks with the Magic sending the No. 41 pick Jarred Vanderbilt to the Nuggets for the No. 43 pick Justin Jackson and a future second-round pick. Vanderbilt is a project in every sense of the word. He’s extremely raw and probably needed more time in college. But he’s got long-term potential and could pay off in the future. Jackson, on the other hand, was possibly a first-round talent had he entered the draft last year. He’s going to have to make the roster but could be a 3&D guy.

In the final move of the night, the Hornets traded the No. 45 pick Hamidou Diallo to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Diallo is a guy that had he come out last year, probably would’ve been a first-round guy. In any case, he is also very raw and will need seasoning in the G-League. He’s got all the physical tools and skill to be a good rotation NBA player.

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2018 NBA Draft Diary

#28 – Jacob Evans – Golden State Warriors

Jesse Blancarte

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With the 28th overall pick, the Golden State Warriors selected Cincinnati Junior Jacob Evans.

Evans represents a solid pick for nearly any NBA team. Evans fits in the mold of a potential 3-and-D role player. Evans improved in his time at Cincinnati, culminating in his junior year, where he scored 13 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. Evans spent three seasons at Cincinnati and rounded himself into a versatile two-way player who can bring a lot of value at the NBA level.

Evans is a very cognitive player, especially on the defensive end. He has a better grasp of his limitations than most players at this stage of their respective careers and is able to maximize his individual defensive ability within a team concept. Evans generally makes the right rotations, double-teams at the right times and funnels his opponents to where his teammates are when he cannot contain the ball-handler on his own. With the right coaching, he could become a valuable defensive wing in an NBA rotation sooner than some anticipate.

Additionally, Evans is more than just a shooter. He led his team in assists last season and has some skill as a playmaker. Evans will be more of a shooter and finisher in the NBA, but the ability to make the right pass, swing the ball when he isn’t open and take the ball off the dribble when necessary make him an intriguing prospect. This is especially true when you consider how valuable a player like Khris Middleton has become over the years, adding layers to his 3-and-D skill set each season.

The Warriors aren’t in need of an influx of talent but are happy to add Evans regardless.

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