A Few Names Need to Come Off the Board
The 2015-16 NBA trade deadline gets closer – 24 days and counting if you are keeping track at home. The trade market has been relatively quiet, and that does not look to be changing any time soon. However, with the lack of trade chatter around teams, fans eager to see movement have started flooding social media with speculation and trade combinations that are simply not based in reality. They also continue to include names that are not going anywhere.
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
When Carmelo Anthony opted to stay in New York with the Knicks, one of the things his camp pushed for was a no-trade provision in his contract. Anthony wanted control of his future, and the Knicks were willing to give him that in exchange for his signature on a deal. As a result, the Knicks have zero influence on trading Anthony, and unless he made it clear he’d want a change, the Knicks can do very little about it going forward.
Knicks sources were adamant that there have been zero conversations internally about trying to convince Anthony to consider a trade, and that as things stand the Knicks are pleased with where they are with Anthony and with the emergence of rookie Kristaps Porzingis. There is a growing sense that adding the right point guard either in trade or in free agency could turn the team in the direction they want to go and that’s competing in the playoffs and maybe competing for a championship.
Anthony has a large number of the off-the-court business ventures in New York, and given how much his side pushed for the no-trade clause, no one in the equation believes Anthony would consider a trade. Until that changes, there is no point in even contemplating what Anthony could return in trade as he isn’t going to agree to a trade anyway.
That might change at some point in the future, but as things stand today Anthony is about as unobtainable as they come.
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
The Sacramento Kings have won five straight games, seven of their last 10. So far in 2016, DeMarcus Cousins is averaging 32.5 points, 13.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game, logging arguably some of the best basketball of his career.
If that’s not enough reason for the Kings to laugh at incoming trade calls involving Cousins, let’s add this: Ownership, specifically majority owner Vivek Ranadive, has made it clear internally that Cousins is untouchable in trade.
As the Kings continue to move toward the opening of their new downtown arena the Golden 1 Center in October, Cousins is a central figure in their marketing and sales plans around the new building.
League sources continue to say that Kings president Vlade Divac shuts down conversations about Cousins at ‘hello,’ and that a Cousins deal is a complete non-starter in Sacramento.
Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets
As much as Dwight Howard’s name was kicked around earlier in the season, league sources continue to say that Houston is not looking at Howard trades and that the odds of Howard being moved are so incredibly small it’s not worth exploring.
Let’s be clear if the Oklahoma City Thunder showed up with a Kevin Durant deal, the Rockets would move Howard in a heartbeat, but that deal is not coming and neither is a Howard trade.
The Rockets have known since the day they landed Howard that he would be a free agent this July, and they have been planning for a new contract for Howard since they acquired him. That does not mean the Rockets will give Howard the expected $30 million maximum salary that he is eligible to receive as a free agent, but the Rockets are prepared to do a new long-term deal with the big man this summer.
Trading Howard at this point is not in the plans. There is a risk that Howard could walk away for a more lucrative package elsewhere, but there continues to be a sense around the Rockets that Howard wants to remain a Rocket and that there is a deal to be reached in July.
Trading Howard now ensures the Rockets take a step backwards, and league sources say because of the huge financial commitment it will take to secure Howard in July, his value in trade is extremely low and that’s before you consider his team-high $22.359 million salary.
Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks
Like Howard, Al Horford will be an unrestricted free agent in July. Horford also becomes eligible for a salary starting at what could be north of $25 million per season, which becomes a tough decision for the Hawks.
As things stand today the Hawks are the four seed in the East, but not nearly the dominant and cohesive team they were this time last year. Horford is posting reasonably strong numbers this season, but is off his career averages in a pretty significant way, posting 14.4 points and 7.5 rebounds so far in 2016; not exactly max-contract type numbers.
Hawks sources found the notion of trading Horford laughable, pointing to how important he was to the team dynamic in Atlanta and that he’s a core guy in Mike Budenholzer’s system.
There is a sense among NBA insiders that a hefty offer could steal Horford away from the Hawks, especially if the team continues to regress from their record setting form from last season.
As things stand today, the Hawks have $52.717 million in 2016 salary cap commitments, which means they could have $38 million in useable cap space in July. Horford’s salary cap hold is $18 million, so the Hawks could have roughly $20 million in cap space to spend and then exceed the cap to retain Horford.
The question facing the Hawks is do they want to pay market value for a long-term max level contract with Horford in July? As things stand today, it seems the Hawks are staying to course with Horford and believing they have the means to retain him in July – making him a name you can take off the board.
While historically there have been some franchise-changing deadline deals, most of the deals that have gotten done over the last five years have been more cap management in nature. It’s possible a big-name player hits the trade market, but the general consensus from league sources is that if there are a flurry of deals, they will be smaller in nature and that the odds of a franchise-level player becoming available are fairly small.
It’s Not Us
If you watched the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls game on Saturday (and based on ratings many of you likely didn’t – 1.4 rating in adults 18-49 for 3.69 million viewers), during the second quarter ESPN commentators Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson took issue with the editorial coverage of fired Cavs coach David Blatt.
The jist of the rant was that unnamed sources are bad, and that when coaches get fired reports try to gain favor by blasting the outgoing coach.
“Nothing is more predictable than after a coach is fired that soon after, sportswriters who are trying to curry favor with those people and trying to gain more access and more information that they immediately attack that coach’s character and competence,” Van Gundy said.
If you have followed Van Gundy’s broadcasting career, he has made a big name for himself speaking outlandishly about subjects he knows very little about. Van Gundy is a heck of a basketball coach, but listening to him talk about subjects outside the realm of basketball coaching, he often makes comments that are at best half-baked and are usually massively uninformed. That’s his broadcasting shtick and it’s worked out well for him.
The point in this space is not to try and comment on the mindset of an individual writer or reporter, but to explain – as Van Gundy does about coaching – what really happens in the process.
Let’s start with sourced materials.
Every writer in the world would love to name their source. Doing so would end debate on the veracity of a news piece and close the door on any challengers to the material being discussed. The problem is it just does not work that way.
Let’s say for example that a writer prints, “LeBron James told me he wanted David Blatt fired.” What happens next?
James gets surrounded by reporters looking for a comment on his comment. Then there are reporters who will surround James looking for a comment on the comment about the comment and the next month is about a single statement.
People with information are usually willing to share it, if they don’t have to deal with the horde that follows.
What’s amusing about Van Gundy’s chastising of the media is as a head coach, he would often share his thoughts about things in an off-the-record setting, so it is curious to see him blasting a process he himself has been part of.
There are a large number of people who talk on what is called “background,” that’s non-sourceable material to help the writer understand the dynamics of something they are writing about.
As a writer, you sometimes need to have things explained to you so you get the details right and a large number of people in the decision-making process want the details right, without being a “character” in the story.
“Background” is where a lot of the inside politics come out. The writer is not having things explained to create gossip or to be a focal point of a story, but rather to help ensure that what’s being put out there is accurate.
There are two options for people with information. They can help shape the story or they can let the story run wild. Most understand that helping shape the story on background is better than getting hit with something that’s not accurate.
So let’s get to the rumor portion of the program.
By and large rumors, do not originate from the teams that are directly involved. That’s not to say it never happens, but for the most part rumors come from sources around the process, whether that be teams that are trying to get in on a deal, agents that have players in a deal or league sources that are talking to the people making the deals.
Most credible news outlets require two independent sources before they will allow someone to run a trade rumor. Over the last few years, that process has relaxed a lot in major media because rumors are fun and they draw fan attention and the mentality is, ‘In a page view world, what’s the harm if it’s coming from a credible place?’
Van Gundy and Jackson’s criticism of sourced materials is partly fair. It would be great if every writer could name the people they are talking to, but if that happened fewer and fewer people would talk. As a writer you have a choice: You can withhold the names and get the information, or you can print names and get no information.
It’s pretty safe to say that most people want the information, assuming it was gathered in a credible and responsible way and by and large that’s exactly what the bulk of writers do. There are always outliers, voices that have a track record of not being credible, but for the most part, especially as it pertains to the Cavaliers and David Blatt, the voices involved in explained the firing are as credible as they come, as informed as they come and as connected as they come.
There were no vendettas being settled and no agendas being served, and nothing said was done to curry favor. Sometimes what’s unflattering is what happened, and if you think about it, the Cavaliers paid David Blatt roughly $10 million to go away, while having the top record in the East coming off an NBA Finals appearance. Something like that does not happen without a lot of thought and some pretty serious issues that the team felt could not be resolved. That’s unflattering. That does not make it any less true, whether it was sourced or unsourced.
That’s simply the nature of the news business.
As they say, don’t hate the player, hate the game. If more people were willing to stand behind their words, more people would be quoted.
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Life After Philadelphia is Just Fine For Turner
Evan Turner goes 1-on-1 with Basketball Insiders to explain how life in Philadelphia shaped the rest of his career.
Once upon a time, Evan Turner was the second overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft, and the next man in line to save the Philadelphia 76ers.
After finishing his junior year at Ohio State University, Turner declared for the draft and eventually was taken directly after John Wall by the Sixers. Turner joined a team that won just 27 games the year before, but had more than a few promising young pieces.
Andre Iguodala, a former Sixers top-10 pick in his own right, was the oldest of the core bunch, at just 27. After him, the likes of Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams, Thaddeus Young, and Spencer Hawes were all under the age of 24. All in all, adding a No. 2 pick to that mix looked to set up the Sixers for years to come.
For the most part, the beginning of Turner’s career was successful. After making the playoffs his rookie season and losing in the first round to the Miami HEAT four games to one, the Sixers pushed the Boston Celtics to seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals during the 2011-12 season.
Turner started 12 of those 13 playoff games during his second season, averaging 11.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.5 points per game.
Just as Turner seemed to be coming into his own, though, the tides in Philadelphia began to turn, and turn quickly.
His third year in the league, and first year as a full-time starter, came and went for Turner. He posted decent numbers. His 13.6 points per game were second only to Holiday. He was third on the team in assists and sixth in rebounds. In the midst of his fourth season, while averaging a career-high 17.4 points, Turner was traded to the Indiana Pacers.
Newly hired president of basketball operations, Sam Hinkie, had a plan in place that didn’t include Turner. It didn’t include Holiday either, as he was shipped off during the 2013 draft for Nerlens Noel and future first-round pick.
Just as the Sixers were becoming “his” team, Turner was sent packing to a new zip code. In his mind, he never got a fair shake at trying to the be the guy he was drafted to be in Philadelphia.
“I don’t think I really ever had a chance to shoulder it, to tell you the truth,” Turner told Basketball Insiders. “I didn’t start my first two years, but numbers wise I thought I did well. Nobody averaged more than 13 or 14. We were a great unit. My third year, my first year starting, I thought I did pretty well for a first-year starter. We missed the playoffs, which is always tough. Within the next year, it got blown up.”
Turner reiterated that in his mind, he wasn’t allowed the leash to become a franchise guy. But it wasn’t all for naught in Philadelphia.
“Honest opinion, I don’t think I ever fully got the chance,” Turner said. “But I got the chance to do a lot of great things. Learn how to win, learn how to defend, learn how to prepare.”
Since leaving Philly, Turner’s role in the NBA has shifted from a potential franchise player to a serviceable role man on a playoff caliber team.
Last summer, Turner inked a four-year, $70 million deal with the Portland Trail Blazers after his stint with Indiana, and then two years with the Boston Celtics. Beyond the years in Philly, Turner’s life in the Association has been kind to him.
“It’s been fine,” Turner said. “On the up and up, I was fortunate to make the playoffs every year since leaving Philly. I made the playoffs two out of three, or three out of the four years that I was here. It’s cool, it’s a blessing. Healthy, stable, and living the dream.”
On Wednesday night, Turner returned to Philadelphia and the Wells Fargo Center to square off against his old team. Nowadays, this version of the Sixers is much different than the one he left behind. A process that nearly began with jettisoning Turner to the Pacers feels near completion, and the energy Turner once felt on the court in a Sixers uniform is returning in full force.
When walking around the building, this time as a visitor, Turner takes appreciation in seeing some old faces. The guys “behind the scenes” as he put it, always are welcoming. Brett Brown, Turner’s former coach, never fails to show him love, and the arena in South Philly, Turner says, is always a great reminder of where he came from.
Turner thinks the process that was kicked off with getting rid of him and his core teammates is promising, though.
“It’s turning around,” Turner said. “Just off the first eye glance, I know Coach Brown can coach his butt off. Even the fact that they’re getting up a real practice facility says a lot. Obviously on the court, the energy. You see on tv before, it’s more sold out. When you see the Sixers sometimes it would be a joke, in regards to how many games they lost, or whatever. But now it’s kind of like you’re going to see some great highlights, you’re watching a lot of energy from the crowd and things. I’m happy for them. It seems like it’s trending in the right direction.”
It wasn’t always rainbows and sunshine for Turner in Philadelphia; he would be reminded of that as he was greeted with boo’s from the crowd when he checked into the game for the first time Wednesday night. The city of brotherly love has a reputation that doesn’t necessarily precede its name.
“Much is given, much is expected,” he said. “One thing is, when you get kind of labeled as whatever, you kind of get tagged for the most critical stuff. I saw how sometimes Iguodala would get blamed for everything, and then I kind of moved into that. I went from the cute little kid, to moving into that responsibility. Then MCW (Michael Carter-Williams) went from that position. It’s just kind of, you know, part of the game.”
The harshness of the city, and Turner’s situation particularly, helped guide him through his career after Philadelphia. In Turner’s words, “The only way to go from here, in a certain sense, is up.”
Portland’s sixth man has lived a long, lucrative life in the NBA, even if it didn’t go exactly how it was initially planned to. Turner was quick to point out that any time he heard someone complain during his travels around the league, at least they weren’t facing the wrath of Philadelphia.
“Going into new situations, people are like, ‘Hey they do this or they do that,’ and I’m like are y’all serious,” Turner said with a smile. “Go to Philly and see what they’ll do to y’all.”
Maybe his time spent in Philadelphia didn’t turn out the way fans had hoped, but Turner found out quickly there was a spot for him in the league as a former second overall pick, and that his career has gone just the way it was supposed to.
“I’m a firm believer in everything is supposed to happen how it’s supposed to happen,” Turner said. “Regardless of which, it’s a blessing.”
NBA AM: The First 2018 NBA Mock Draft
With College Basketball getting underway and things starting to get interesting in the standings of the NBA, what better time to drop a 2018 Mock Draft than on Thanksgiving.
The Thanksgiving 2018 NBA Mock Draft
With College Basketball getting underway and things starting to get interesting in the standings of the NBA, what better time to drop a 2018 Mock Draft than on Thanksgiving.
So with that in mind here is my first Mock Draft of the 2018 Season, look for more of these are we march on (and hopefully you like the new Mock Draft table design.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this summer.
The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the current standings.
The Phoenix Suns are owed the Milwaukee Bucks first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick only conveys if the Bucks pick lands between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the standings today would convey.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Ricky Rubio trade this summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves first round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors first round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets first round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.
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NBA PM: Lopez Leading On And Off The Court
Brook Lopez has been a valuable addition to the Los Angeles Lakers, both on and off the court.
In spite of the ongoing media circus, an inherently tougher conference and a roster that features just five players with more than three years of NBA experience, the Los Angeles Lakers are 8-10. Naturally, that won’t be good enough to reach the postseason in the West, but it’s better than most expected the young Lakers to fare. Their early season successes can be chalked up to their glut of budding talent — Julius Randle, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, among others — but there’s one other major driving force at hand here and his name is Brook Lopez.
Following years of will-they, won’t-they rumors, Lopez was acquired in a shocking blockbuster trade with the Brooklyn Nets just prior to this year’s draft. The Lakers were eager to get out from under Timofey Mozgov’s lengthy, albatross-sized contract, so they packaged him with the once-troubled D’Angelo Russell, shipping the pair off for Lopez and the No. 27 overall pick. The deal was largely made with financial implications in mind, but the initial returns on Lopez have been a massive win for the Lakers as well.
Although Lopez is currently logging a career-low in minutes (24.3), he still often leads the way for Los Angeles — like the night he effortlessly dropped 34 points and 10 rebounds on 6-for-9 from three-point range against his former franchise. Through 18 games, Lopez is averaging just 14.8 points and 5.1 rebounds — a scoring mark that ranks only above his rookie season with the New Jersey Nets in 2008-09 — but his statistical impact is key on this inconsistent roster nonetheless.
But beyond that, it seems as if some of Lopez’s biggest contributions this season have come off the court — just ask Kyle Kuzma and Ivica Zubac.
“[Lopez] has taught me how to be a professional,” Kuzma told Basketball Insiders prior to their game against the Boston Celtics earlier this month. “He’s one of the first guys in the gym, one of the last ones to leave.”
Lopez, who has carried his fair share of incredibly poor teams in the past — and often with a smile — is in the final year of the contract he signed back in 2015. His expiring deal worth $22.6 million made Lopez the perfect acquisition for a Lakers team hoping to shed cap space before the upcoming free agency period — where, allegedly, LeBron James and Paul George are both targets.
For a 7-foot center that just added a three-point shot to his game and knocked down 134 of them last season alone, Lopez may be one of the greatest trade afterthoughts in recent memory. The Lakers will likely finish in the lottery rather than the postseason, but Lopez — along with veterans Andrew Bogut, Corey Brewer and Luol Deng — have been a helpful presence for the slew of young Lakers as they adjust to professional basketball.
“They’re all great — they’ve been there, done that,” Kuzma said. “They have a lot of experience in this league, so it’s good to learn from those guys because they’ve played 10, 13 years and that’s what I want to do.”
Kuzma, of course, was selected with that No. 27 overall pick that the Nets sent to Los Angeles in the trade, and he’s been red-hot ever since. Following an impressive combine, summer league and preseason, Kuzma jumped into the starting lineup after Larry Nance Jr. fractured his hand just eight games into the campaign. Although the Rookie of the Year battle has been dominated by the Philadelphia 76ers’ Ben Simmons so far, Kuzma — averaging 16.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game — has emerged as a strong runner-up candidate.
For Zubac, however, it’s been a slower start to his NBA career but with Lopez, he says, things have gotten easier.
“The whole summer, I worked on my three-point shot,” Zubac told Basketball Insiders. “But also [I worked on my] post offense too, that’s what [Lopez] is good at. I’m really focusing my game around the post, so that’s where I’m trying to learn.”
Last year, Zubac was a popular late-season member of head coach Luke Walton’s rotation and he finished his rookie year averaging 7.5 points and 4.2 rebounds in just 16 minutes per game. Unfortunately, the new arrivals and recent emergences have limited Zubac to just 10 total minutes over four appearances in 2017-18. Still, Lopez gives Zubac a mentor worth modeling his game after, even if it’s at the expense of real experience this season.
To get Zubac on the floor, the center has spent time with the South Bay Lakers, Los Angeles’ G-League affiliate, as of late. In two games, Zubac has averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds on 73 percent shooting from the field. Despite the lack of playing time, Zubac was more than happy to praise not only Lopez but the efforts of the other aforementioned veterans too.
“I can learn a lot from them and they help me play my game,” Zubac said. “Whoever’s on the court, whoever I’m playing with, I just try to learn as much as I can from them.”
Ultimately, though, it all comes back to Lopez.
Again, Lopez has averaged a career-low in minutes, but his contributions have been crucial in the Lakers’ overall standing thus far. In the games that Lopez has played less than 21 minutes, the Lakers are 0-5; but when he plays more than 30, the team is 3-1. On top of that, the Lakers are 5-1 when Lopez hits two or more three-pointers in a game as well. That sample size is still certainly small, but it’s nice indicator of Lopez’s inherent on-court impact, even when he’s not carrying the team on his shoulders.
“[He makes life] a lot easier for me,” Kuzma said. “He’s one of the most established scorers in the league and his career average is, like, 20 [points] a game. You can always count on him to be there every single night.”
While the Lakers can plan for a dream offseason haul involving James, George and others, they’ll have a tough decision facing them in July. Whether he’s efficiently stretching the floor, finishing off assists from Ball or setting the tone in an inexperienced locker room, Lopez has been quite the addition for Los Angeles.
This summer, Lopez enters unrestricted free agency and will likely garner offers outside of the Lakers’ pay range considering their big plans. If the Lakers decide to focus elsewhere, another team will reap the rewards. Until then, the youthful core in Los Angeles will benefit from having Lopez train and educate them each day.
“[Lopez] takes care of his body, he stays low-key and is never in trouble,” Kuzma said. “He’s the type of professional I want to be.”
Whether this is just a one-year detour in his extensively underrated career or the start of a great, new partnership, Lopez’s arrival in Los Angeles has been a huge success already. But as far as role models go for both Kuzma and Zubac, there are few choices better than Brook Lopez — both on and off the court.