This weekend’s most notable bit of basketball journalism came courtesy of Brian Windhorst and the ESPN.com hoops crew, and it detailed the dissolution of the Cleveland Cavaliers. It mentioned, among other things, that Paul George came extremely close to landing with the Cavs.
To repeat, George easily could have joined LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in Cleveland this season, perhaps giving the Golden State Warriors a more substantial run for their money when the inevitable Cavs/Warriors Part IV went down next June.
Instead, Kevin Pritchard pulled the trade for whatever reason, choosing instead to send George to the Oklahoma City Thunder, but it was the almost-trade to Cleveland that not many basketball fans soon will forget.
Of course, it isn’t the first time in league history that a major star came within inches of being traded someplace borderline unbelievable. The following are the most memorable almost-trades in recent league history:
Charles Barkley almost was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers.
This thing where a team agrees to a trade verbally, only to go back and change their mind, is nothing new. In fact, in 1992 Barkley received a phone call from his agent telling him that he had been traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, only to have the offer pulled hours later. Barkley had spent most of the season hoping for a trade, unhappy with the direction the Philadelphia 76ers were heading, so when he received the call that he’d finally been set free and would be moving to L.A. to play for one of the most storied teams in league history, he couldn’t help but celebrate.
“I went to lunch and started drinking,” Barkley told SI in 2015. “I’m f—ing so excited that I am going to the Lakers.”
Barkley didn’t end up playing for the Lakers, obviously, and his agent called him back a few hours later to relay the bad news. Unfortunately, the Sixers had a game that night, and Barkley was going to have to suit up.
“I said, ‘Oh, s—t, I’m feeling pretty good right now,’ so I went out and played that night… I wasn’t blasted, just a couple of drinks at lunch. I mean, I was excited to get the hell out of Philly.”
He would, eventually, that July after the season ended, and his Phoenix team would even play in the Finals in 1993. It’s quite a thought experiment to consider what that Lakers team would have looked like with Barkley in the middle of the paint, though.
Hakeem Olajuwon almost was traded to the Miami HEAT.
That same season, Houston Rockets star Hakeem Olajuwon grew disenfranchised with his own organization, something that eventually led to his agent, Leonard Armato, relaying to the press his client’s desire to play elsewhere.
“If you have a disgruntled and unhappy superstar and there are irreconcilable differences then a trade nearly always happens at some point,” Armato said.
The Houston Post even received a letter from Armato threatening legal action if the Rockets didn’t trade Olajuwon and retract statements the team made about Olajuwon’s injuries the season prior. In 1991-1992, the star center was suspended for missing games with a hamstring injury the team doctors didn’t think was severe enough to require that he sit out. There were some within the organization that were pretty vocal about that.
It all made Olajuwon dream about playing elsewhere, and one intriguing trade with the Miami HEAT reportedly came pretty close to happening. The deal was centered around Glen Rice, Steve Smith and Rony Seikaly, but the HEAT were reticent to “gut their nucleus” for just one player, no matter how good.
Houston later came back at Miami with an offer of Olajuwon and Sleepy Floyd for Seikaly, Grant Long and Harold Minor. This time, the HEAT declined, and it obviously proved for the better, at least for Olajuwon. He’d go on to win titles with the Rockets in 1994 and 1995.
Dennis Rodman almost was traded to the Phoenix Suns.
Rodman was traded to the San Antonio Spurs in 1993, but he easily could have been a member of the Phoenix Suns that fall instead. In September of that season, the Detroit Pistons reportedly had a deal they liked that would send Rodman to the Suns in exchange for Richard Dumas and a couple of other players to make the salary cap numbers work.
The deal was set to go through when the Pistons discovered that Dumas, a player who had struggled with substance abuse in the past and was banned for a full year in 1991 because of drug use, was currently attending an after-care program for the same issue at the time of the trade. Detroit wanted to no part of that noise, so they backed out. The Spurs ultimately took the gamble on Rodman instead and sent Detroit less risky players in return.
Kobe Bryant almost was traded to the Chicago Bulls.
In 2007, Kobe Bryant asked to be traded to the Chicago Bulls. He always had idolized Michael Jordan and had grown fed up with his time in Los Angeles, and all that culminated in one of the most insane what-ifs in NBA history.
He really wanted it to happen, too. There was a video that circulated at the time where a gaggle of Lakers fans approached Bryant and implored that he stay with the Lakers. His response was, ominously, “Get a Bulls uniform, fellas.”
The problem with this potential trade is that in acquiring Bryant, the Bulls would have had to trade essentially their entire roster to bring him in, and Bryant wasn’t particularly keen on playing with a team that didn’t also have Luol Deng on it. However, L.A. asked for Deng, along with Tyrus Thomas, Ben Gordon and Joakim Noah as the main parts of any trade for Bryant, and that wouldn’t have left much for Bryant to work with on his new team.
Eventually the trade just disintegrated, with Bryant realizing he’d have a better shot at more rings with the Lakers. It’s a good thing he stayed, because two more championships would come his way in the next half decade.
Chris Paul almost was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Actually, Chris Paul was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. There really is no “almost” about it. It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost seven years since that trade was agreed to and ultimately vetoed by then-commissioner David Stern, but the whole thing felt like a bad dream then and little has changed in remembering the event all this time later.
For those that have forgotten (or just blocked it from their memories), the agreed-to trade would have sent Pau Gasol to the Houston Rockets and Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Lamar Odom, Goran Dragic and a 2012 first-round draft pick to the New Orleans Hornets. The Lakers, obviously, would have received CP3.
Stern vetoed the deal for “basketball reasons,” something that was especially complicated at the time because technically the league owned the New Orleans Hornets in the midst of a messy sale in 2011. Back in Twitter’s infancy, Paul got wind of the veto and tweeted, famously, “WoW,” while Odom tweeted, “When a team trades u and it doesn’t go down? Now what?”
The “now what?” was L.A. sending Odom to Dallas and Paul getting traded to the L.A. Clippers, where he saw great individual success, but very little of it in the NBA Playoffs.
Stern insists the Lakers still could have landed Paul had the three-way trade extended to include Kyle Lowry from Houston, but he believes Mitch Kupchak “panicked” in moving Odom before the trade could be re-worked. It remains one of the weirdest single occurrences in league history, and certainly the most notable almost-trade the NBA has ever seen.
It’s crazy to think that Paul George could have played alongside LeBron James and Kyrie Irving in Cleveland this year, but it’s no crazier than any of these other near trades that simply weren’t meant to be. Olakuwon and Bryant won rings because their trades didn’t happen. Barkley made the Finals because of his failed swap, and Rodman put himself on a path to more rings of his own because he didn’t end up with Phoenix.
The Basketball Gods work in mysterious ways, and while it’s sad for Cavaliers fans to think what could have been, the stories that sprout forth from this non-trade could end up being even more monumental than the trade itself.
Sources: Milwaukee Bucks Fire Coach Jason Kidd
The Milwaukee Bucks have fired coach Jason Kidd, sources ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Bucks assistant coach Joe Prunty will be installed as interim coach, league sources tell ESPN. He will coach Bucks against Phoenix tonight.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 22, 2018
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN
Defensive Player Of The Year Watch – 1/22/17
Spencer Davies checks into the DPOY race with his latest list of candidates.
It’s a new year and Basketball Insiders is continuing its Defensive Player of the Year watch with sample sizes widening and new players emerging in the conversation.
There were a couple of names knocked out of the list, but that gives more of a spotlight to those who have really stepped up since our last edition ran on December 29. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
6. Hassan Whiteside
After missing nearly a month of action with a knee injury, Whiteside has returned with a vengeance. The Miami HEAT were already a good defensive team before he came back, but he’s really bolstered that reputation even further. Since Dec. 26, the 7-foot center has recorded eight multi-block games. In five of those, he had at least four swats, including a six-rejection performance in a win at Milwaukee. Overall in ESPN’s Defensive Real-Plus Minus, Whiteside owns by far the best rating at 4.73. “Agent Block” is back and daring all comers to try him.
5. Anthony Davis
Slowly but surely, the New Orleans Pelicans are creeping away from the bottom of the league in defensive rating. Once ranked in the bottom five a few weeks ago, they’ve shot up to 18th in the league (108.4) rather quickly. While that’s not the most impressive statistic to provide, the obvious reason for their improved standing on that end of the floor is Davis. He’s been an absolute workhorse for Alvin Gentry in the restricted area as an elite rim protector, with a heavy responsibility and a ton of minutes. Without him on the floor, the Pels are allowing 8.9 more points per 100 possessions, which puts Davis in the 96th percentile according to Cleaning The Glass.
4. Josh Richardson
Notice there are two members of the HEAT on this list. It’s because they are on fire right now, no pun intended, so it’s about time they received some love in the conversation for DPOY. Whiteside was addressed first, but if we’re talking about a greater sample size with consistent evidence, Richardson fits the bill. Opponents are attempting over 11 shots per game against him, yet are only making 38.9 percent of those tries. That’s the lowest conversion rate in the league with a minimum of 10 attempts.
Battling injuries a season ago, Richardson has played in all 46 games for Miami this year. While it’s been a team effort, he is the heart and soul of Erik Spoelstra’s defense, taking on the most difficult assignments each game. For that reason, he deserves long overdue recognition on this list.
3. Kevin Durant
This isn’t a case where Durant is slipping because of his performances. He’s only ranked third this time around because of the job others have done outside of him. The Golden State Warriors are still a juggernaut on both sides of the court. He’s still a top-notch individual defender. The numbers don’t suggest otherwise and the eye test certainly confirms it.
In isolation situations, Durant is allowing only 0.53 points per possession, which is second in the NBA to only Tony Snell. When it comes to crunch time, he’s always locking up. In fourth quarters, he is limiting the competition to shooting less than 30 percent—and his defended field goal percentage and field goal percentage discrepancy is the best in the league at -17.2. He’s got as good of a chance as anybody to take home DPOY.
2. Joel Embiid
Everybody loves to focus on the off-court antics and hilarities that come with Embiid, but the man deserves his due when it comes to his reputation in the NBA as a truly dominant big. The Philadelphia 76ers have won seven out of their last eight games and it has started on the defensive end of the floor.
Take the games against Boston, for example. Al Horford is a crucial part of the Celtics offense and has had problems getting going against the 23-year-old. In the 22 minutes per game, he’s been on the floor along with him, Horford has been held to below 30 percent from the field on an average of nine attempts. With Embiid off, he’s converted nearly 73 percent of his tries.
Another matchup you can examine is with Andre Drummond. The two have had their fair share of words with each other, but Embiid’s had the edge one-on-one. Similar to Horford, the Detroit Pistons big man has had a rough time against him. Embiid has limited Drummond to under 38 percent on five attempts per game in an average of over 23 minutes on the floor together. When he’s not playing, Drummond has had close to a 78 percent success rate.
Regarding centers, Embiid ranks second in ESPN’s DRPM and fifth in Basketball Reference’s Defensive Box Plus-Minus. Citing Cleaning The Glass, the Sixers are allowing 10 more points per 100 possessions when he’s sitting, which slots Embiid into the 97th percentile.
He’s altering shots. He’s blocking shots. He’s forcing kick outs. And that’s a big reason why the NBA gave Embiid its Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors. Trust The Process.
1. Paul George
Basketball Insiders was well represented this past Saturday in Cleveland when the Oklahoma City Thunder decimated the Cavaliers in their own building. The focus was on the “OK3” exposing a terrible defense, but the real story in this game was how in-tune and sound George was on both ends of the court. He was sizzling shooting the basketball, but perhaps more defining was shutting down LeBron James on a day that was supposed to belong to him.
Any time 23 got the ball to try and get the Cavs going, George was there. He suffocated him with pressure, forcing James into bad decisions and contested shots. The talk of the day was the 30,000-point mark, but PG-13 had other ideas.
“I was hopeful that it took two games for him to get to that,” George said after the 148-124 win at Quicken Loans Arena. “I actually didn’t know that stat until right before coming into [Saturday]. They told me he needed 25 to go to 30,000. I’ve been a part of a lot of those baskets that he’s had, so that’s an achievement or milestone I didn’t want to be a part of.”
Thunder teammate Steven Adams spoke to his prowess on that end of the floor.
“He’s a really good defender man,” Adams said. “It was like a perfect matchup, honestly. He played LeBron really well in terms of our system and what we want him doing. He did an amazing job there.”
Oklahoma City head coach Billy Donovan is a huge fan as well.
“He really I think puts forth good effort,” Donovan said pre-game. “He’s long, smart. He’s disruptive. He’s got good feet. He’s a physical defender. He’s hard to shoot over. Certainly, with he and Andre [Roberson] on the wings, that’s certainly bolstered our defense.”
That was one performance, but it’s obvious how much George brings to the table as one of the toughest guys to score on in this league. He’s got a league-leading 188 deflections and is tied with Eric Bledsoe at the top of the NBA with 2.2 steals per game.
Recently, the Thunder have allowed 91 points at most in three of their last four games. They are also in the top three allowing just 104.7 points per 100 possessions and George has been a huge part of that.
NBA AM: Most Likely All-Star Snubs
Damian Lillard seems to top the All-Star snub list every season. It couldn’t happen again, could it?
This year the NBA has famously decided to mix up the way the All-Star rosters work, while rather infamously deciding against televising the draft that will organize those players into teams, but even as some things change, some things remain the same.
Just like every year, there will be snubs when the All-Star reserves are announced on Tuesday night. Oh, there will be snubs.
The starters already have been selected, chosen by a combination of fan votes, media votes and player votes, the latter of which were taken so seriously that Summer League legend Jack Cooley even earned a single nomination from one especially ornery player voter.
For those that missed the starters, they include LeBron James, DeMar DeRozan, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kyrie Irving, and Joel Embiid from the Eastern Conference and Kevin Durant, Steph Curry, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, and James Harden from the Western Conference.
That leaves seven more reserves from each conference and way more deserving players than that from which to choose. These will be selected by the coaches, per tradition, but it’s anybody’s guess who ends up making the team. There absolutely are going to be some massive snubs this year, so let’s take a quick look at the most likely candidates to earn roster spots this winter, as well as who that might leave out of this year’s event in Los Angeles.
The Eastern Conference
Let’s start with the “sure things,” which almost certainly will include with Indian Pacers guard Victor Oladipo. Not only is he putting up a career-best 24/5/4 line, but he’s also averaging two steals per night for an Indiana team that currently lives in the playoff picture despite dismal expectations. That’s almost entirely because of Oladipo.
In the frontcourt, there was plenty of healthy debate when Embiid was voted the starter over Al Horford and Kristaps Porzingis, so there’s a very good chance that those two guys find their way to the roster, as well.
Kevin Love, who also is having a monster statistical season, seems like the most obvious third frontcourt guy, but his defense stinks and the Cavs haven’t exactly proven themselves worthy of two All-Stars. Detroit’s Andre Drummond and Tobias Harris both are having borderline All-Star seasons for a borderline playoff team, but they are the closest contenders to stealing away that third frontcourt reserve slot from Love.
Beyond that, Bradley Beal or John Wall likely will be the “other” guard reserve, but choosing which one is dicey. Wall’s the four-time All-Star, but Beal arguably is having the better year and has been snubbed for this event entirely too many times already. It doesn’t seem likely that both guys will make the team.
The wild cards could be that “other” Wizards guard among Beal and Wall, one of those two Pistons players, Miami’s Goran Dragic (they are fourth in the conference, rather surprisingly), Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton, Toronto’s Kyle Lowry, or Rookie of the Year candidate Ben Simmons.
What seems most probable is that Oladipo and Beal earn the Eastern Conference reserve slots, with Horford, Porzingis and Love earning the backup frontcourt positions. Lowry and Wall feel most likely as reserves.
That means the most likely Eastern Conference snubs will be: Goran Dragic, Ben Simmons, Andre Drummod, Tobias Harris and Khris Middleton.
The level of controversy with this group feels fairly low, though if Dragic or Drummond were to make the team over Wall or Love, the conversation would be a lot feistier.
The Western Conference
Choosing the reserve guards in the Western Conference is a no-brainer. It will be MVP candidates Jimmy Butler and Russell Westbrook, which immediately means that if Klay Thompson, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul and Paul George are not named as Wild Card players, they will be left off of the team. That’s about as “yikes” as “yikes” gets.
The battle for the frontcourt spots are going to be no less brutal, even with Kawhi Leonard effectively out of consideration having missed so much time at the beginning of the season. The Spurs will have an All-Star anyway, though, which makes LaMarcus Aldridge all but a lock.
Towns, who is averaging a 20/12 with over two assists and 1.5 blocks per game on one of the West’s top teams, also feels likely to get in. That means Draymond Green and Nikola Jokic are the two guys expected to battle over that last frontcourt spot, and both deserve real consideration. Green’s importance is less obvious to this Warriors team with Durant on the roster, but he’s no less essential even if his offensive numbers are down. Jokic, meanwhile, has kept Denver in the playoff hunt even without Paul Millsap, and is the best passing big man in the game.
The most likely scenario in terms of Western Conference reserves has Butler and Westbrook getting voted in at guard, Aldridge, Towns and Green voted in as frontcourt players, and Thompson and Lillard voted in as the wild cards.
That means the most likely Western Conference snubs will be: Chris Paul, Paul George, and Nikola Jokic.
Paul has missed 17 games this season, which is just too many when there are so many other great guards from which to choose, and George’s usage has dropped massively in Oklahoma City. As for Jokic, somebody has to get snubbed, and the other reasonable possibility is that he be named a wild card player at the expense of Lillard, and no NBA fan should have to see that happen yet again.
The 2018 NBA All-Star Reserves will be announced at 7:00 p.m. EST on January 23 on TNT.
Tune in Tuesday night to see which players will make the team, and which will inevitably be snubbed.