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NBA AM: Upcoming NBA Milestones

Kevin Garnett is on a ton of all-time stat lists, but others are looking to climb this year too.

Joel Brigham

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With a new season approaching, it’s always fun to see which active players have a chance to climb up the all-time statistical ranks. The 2016-17 NBA season presents several of these opportunities for players. While few actual all-time records will be broken in the coming year, quite a few active players will rise up the all-time stat list before the end of the season. The following is a look at which players will move up the career statistics lists, though it’s certainly worth noting that should Kevin Garnett retire instead of playing one more season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, this list grows considerably less interesting.

However, assuming another season of Garnett is still in play, it would mean he’s in line for a whole lot of movement on some of the most important career statistical categories:

Seasons Played: Kevin Garnett

Even if Garnett walks away from basketball, his 21 seasons played in the NBA will leave him in a tie for the most seasons played all-time. Adding a 22nd season, which would only require a single game out of him at some point in 2016-17, would give him sole control of the record.

Career Games Played: Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, Vince Carter

At the start of this season, Garnett currently sits fifth all-time in career games played, only 14 games behind Karl Malone for fourth place and 42 games behind John Stockton for third place. He can’t catch Kareem-Abdul Jabbar for second place unless Garnett goes two more full seasons, as Kareem is 98 games ahead of Garnett. And Robert Parish has 149 games on Garnett, leaving his record safe for now. Garnett played 38 games last season and 47 games the season before, so there is real drama as to whether he’ll catch Stockton this year.

Nowitzki, meanwhile, is currently 12th in games played with 1,340, only six games behind Kobe Bryant for 11th and 40 games behind Clifford Robinson for a spot in the top 10. If he plays 53 games or more, he’ll slide into seventh place, just ahead of Tim Duncan. He wouldn’t rise any higher than that without playing at least another full season after this one.

Pierce (15th) is 62 games away from a top-10 appearance. Jason Terry (23rd) could jump to as high as 11th with a perfectly healthy season, and Vince Carter (26th) is only four games away from cracking the top-25.

Career Minutes Played: Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, Vince Carter, Joe Johnson

While it doesn’t look like Garnett (rhird) will move much on the list of career minutes played as he sits almost 4,500 minutes behind Karl Malone, Nowitzki is only 119 minutes behind Tim Duncan for 10th place on the list. In fact, if he plays his usual 2,000 or so minutes this year, he’ll end up in sixth place, just a shade behind Elvin Hayes. Another full season after that could easily see him leapfrog Garnett for third.

Pierce, meanwhile, is only 101 minutes behind Parish for 15th place, and with another season of 1,200-1,500 minutes he could potentially jump a few more spots. Carter (23rd) and Johnson (24th) are only 150 minutes apart, but both guys could easily find themselves among the top-20 by the end of the season.

Career Three-Pointers: Jason Terry, Paul Pierce, Vince Carter, Jamal Crawford, Kyle Korver, Joe Johnson, Dirk Nowitzki, J.R. Smith, Stephen Curry

So here’s a fun fact: Ten of the top 20 all-time career leaders in three-point field goals made are active NBA players, and as of last season it was 11 thanks to Kobe Bryant. Curry, who made a record 402 three-pointers last season, is going to make a ton of progress on this list in the upcoming year no matter what everybody else does. Even if he regresses next season, it’s almost impossible to imagine him failing to drop in somewhere around 300 triples, which could move him up as many as 10 spots on the list of career three-pointers made. He’s a little over halfway to breaking Ray Allen’s record 2,973 career three-pointers, but based on Curry’s current pace that would only take about four or five more seasons to shatter.

Terry, meanwhile, won’t be making 391 three-pointers, which is what he’d need to jump from third to second place all-time, but he may have to fend off Pierce to hold onto third place since he’s only 41 threes behind Terry. While Pierce made a career-low 75 last year, that still will be enough to put some pressure on Terry.

Everybody else on the list is chasing Jason Kidd, who retired with 1,988 threes made. Carter (1,937), Crawford (1,933), Korver (1,887) and Johnson (1,832) could all potentially surpass Kidd this season.

Career Assists: Chris Paul, LeBron James, Deron Williams, Tony Parker

Paul is fewer than 300 career assists behind Rod Strickland for 10th place, which based on Paul’s past work means he’ll surpass Strickland sometime around January. James, meanwhile, is currently 18th all-time but with his usual 500 or so assists he could easily jump up to about 12th place all-time.

Deron Williams is currently 24th all-time with 6,459 assists, but is only a few hundred dimes away from cracking the top 20. The same is true for Tony Parker, who sits 28th all-time with 6,349 assists.

Career Rebounds: Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard

Garnett is the only active player with anything close to legendary status in terms of career rebounds, as he sits ninth right now with 14,662 all-time. Unfortunately, he’s probably only good for a couple hundred boards at best this year if he does play, which wouldn’t be enough to catapult him much up the rankings. He could catch Parish, as Garnett is only 53 rebounds behind him for eighth place, but he’s 306 behind Karl Malone for seventh. It doesn’t seem likely Garnett will catch Malone.

As for Howard (27th), he looks primed to crack the top-25 this season, as he’s only 314 rebounds behind Elgin Baylor for 25th place. He also could catch Patrick Ewing, who’s only got another 144 rebounds. Considering Howard typically hauls in around 600 boards when healthy, he could easily finish the season in 24th place all-time in total rebounds.

Career Steals: Kevin Garnett, Chris Paul, Paul Pierce, LeBron James

With Kobe Bryant retired, Garnett is the new active leader in steals, but he’s only 66 ahead of Paul, who’s a single spot behind him on the list and last season swiped away about 125 more steals than Garnett did in limited minutes. Paul should easily surpass Garnett this season and also should move ahead of Isiah Thomas, Bryant and maybe even Derek Harper. That would put him at 13th all-time by season’s end, with enough good years left to make a real run at Jason Kidd, who finished second all-time with 2,684 steals. John Stockton (3,265) is going to be much harder to catch.

As for Paul Pierce, he’s only 11 steals behind Shawn Marion for 18th place, but probably won’t get much higher than that. James, meanwhile, usually averages between 100-130 steals a season, which would be enough to boost him from 24th on the career steals list to as high as 18th. He, too, could top Marion this year.

Career Blocks: Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol

Garnett only swatted away 10 shots last year, a far cry from his career-high 178 blocks in 2003-04. That means he isn’t climbing the all-time list, even though he’s only 45 blocks behind George Johnson for 16th place and 49 blocks behind Manute Bol for 15th place.

Dwight Howard, however, could make some progress. Currently 21st all-time with 1,824 blocks, Howard almost certainly will pass Elton Brand (1,828) and could catch up to Theo Ratliff, who currently sits at 1,968. Either way, he’s cracking the top-20 this season.

***

Records are meant to be broken, and while none of the big career records look as though they’ll be topped this season, a lot of active players (including some legendary stars) may continue their climb up their respective stat leaderboards.

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NBA Daily: Surging HEAT Must Overcome Adversity

The Miami HEAT have been hit with a number of injuries at shooting guard. Can they stay hot?

Buddy Grizzard

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The Miami HEAT have surged to fourth in the Eastern Conference on the back of a 14-5 stretch since Dec. 9, including a seven-game win streak that ended with Monday’s 119-111 loss to the Bulls in Chicago. In the loss, shooting guard Tyler Johnson got his legs tangled with Robin Lopez and appeared to suffer a serious injury.

“I was scared,” said HEAT small forward Josh Richardson, who joined his teammates in racing down the court to check on Johnson. “You never want to see a guy, whether it’s on your team or the other team, down like that. I talked to him when he was in here [the locker room] and he said he didn’t know what was up.”

Coach Erik Spoelstra told pool reporters after the game that X-rays were negative. It was initially feared to be a knee injury, but Spoelstra said the knee is okay and the ankle is the area of concern. Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel tweeted that an MRI was not deemed necessary and Johnson will be listed as doubtful for Wednesday’s game in Milwaukee.

Meanwhile, the HEAT is facing a serious shortage at shooting guard, having lost Dion Waiters to season-ending knee surgery, Rodney McGruder to a left tibia stress fracture that will likely keep him out until February, and now Johnson. Miami has applied for a $5.5 million disabled player exception after losing Waiters, according to the Sun-Sentinel. HEAT power forward James Johnson said the team will be looking for other players to step up.

“I think it’s the next guy’s gonna step up like we always do,” said Johnson. “As we have guys going down we also have guys getting back and getting back in their groove [like] Justise Winslow. Hopefully, it’s going to give another guy a chance to emerge on this team or in this league.”

Johnson added that the loss to Chicago came against a hot team and the HEAT didn’t have the right mental approach or defensive communication to slow them down.

“Our communication was lacking tonight,” said Johnson. “I think our brains rested tonight and that’s not like us. Tilt your hat to Chicago. They’re shooting the hell out the ball. They didn’t let us come back.”

Richardson echoed the theme of communication and the inability to counter a hot-shooting team.

“We weren’t communicating very well and we were not giving them enough static on the three-point line,” said Richardson. “They’ve been the number one three-point shooting team in the league for like 20 games now. They ran some good actions that we were not reacting right to.”

Spoelstra referred to a turnover-riddled close to the first half as “disgusting” basketball and agreed that the defense let his team down.

“I don’t know what our record is in HEAT franchise history when we give up 120-plus,” said Spoelstra. “I would guess that it’s probably not pretty good.”

The good news for Miami is that it can try a combination of Richardson and Winslow at the wings, while Wayne Ellington has been shooting the leather off the ball from three this season (40.5 percent on over seven attempts per game). The HEAT is the latest team to attempt to defy history by making a serious run without a superstar player. To make that a reality and remain in the upper half of the East’s playoff bracket, Miami will have to personify the “next man up” credo.

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NBA Daily: Is It Time To Cash Out On Kemba Walker?

Should the Hornets get serious about trading Kemba Walker or risk losing him in 2019 for next to nothing?

Steve Kyler

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Is It Time To Sell?

Every professional sports team at some point has to decide when its time to cash out, especially if they have a star player heading towards free agency. The Charlotte Hornets are a team teetering on this decision with star guard Kemba Walker.

Now, let’s be honest for a moment. The Hornets are getting nothing of meaningful value in a trade for Walker if they decided to put him on the trade market—that’s something that will drive part of the decision. Check out these UK sports books with free bets!

The other part of the decision is evaluating the marketplace. This is where Charlotte may have an advantage that’s easy to overlook, which is the ability to massively overpay.

Looking ahead to the cap situations for the NBA in the summer of 2019, there doesn’t appear to be a lot worth getting excited over. While it’s possible someone unexpected goes into cap clearing mode to get space, the teams that project to have space in 2019 also project to have space in 2018, meaning some of that 2019 money could get spent in July and change the landscape even more.

But for the sake of discussion, let’s assume most of the 2019 cap space teams swing and miss on anything meaningful this summer and have flexibility the following summer. Not only will Walker be a name to watch, but guys like Boston’s Kyrie Irving, Minnesota’s Jimmy Butler, Golden State’s Klay Thompson, Dallas’ Harrison Barnes, Detroit’s Tobias Harris, San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard and Cleveland’s Kevin Love can all hit unrestricted free agency.

That’s a pretty respectable free agent class.

While most of those names will likely stay where they are, especially if their teams shower them with full max contracts as most would expect, there are a few names that might make the market interesting.

The wrinkle in all of it is the teams projected to have space. Based on what’s guaranteed today, the top of the 2019 cap space board starts with the LA Clippers.

The Clippers currently have just Blake Griffin and Danilo Gallinari under contract going into 2019. They will have qualifying offers on Milos Teodosic and Sam Dekker, but that’s about it. If the Clippers play their cards right, they could be looking at what could be close to $48 million in usable cap space, making them the biggest threat to poach a player because of the LA marketplace. It should be noted, though, that DeAndre Jordan’s situation will have an impact here.

The Chicago Bulls come in second on the 2019 cap space list with just $35.77 million in cap commitments. The problem for the Bulls is they are going to have to start paying their young guys, most notably Zach LaVine. That’s won’t stop the Bulls from getting to cap space, it’s simply a variable the Bulls have to address this summer that could get expensive.

The Philadelphia 76ers could come in third on the 2019 cap space list, although it seems the 76ers may go all in this summer on re-signing guard J.J. Redick and a swing at a big fish or two. If the 76ers miss, they still have an extension for Ben Simmons to consider, but that shouldn’t impact the ability to get to meaningful space.

For the Hornets, those three situations have to be a little scary, as all of themff something Charlotte can’t offer – big markets and rosters (save maybe the Clippers) with potentially higher upside.

The next group of cap space markets might get to real salary cap room, but its more likely they spend this summer like say the Houston Rockets or are equal to less desirable situations like Sacramento (similar), Dallas (has Dennis Smith Jr), Atlanta (similar) or Phoenix (likely drafts a point guard).

That brings us back to the Hornets decision making process.

If the Hornets put Walker on the market, historically, teams get pennies on the dollar for high-level players headed to free agency. If traded, its more likely than not that Walker hits free agency and goes shopping. That’s the scary part of trading for an expiring contract unless you get the player early enough for him to grow attached to the situation, most players explore options. That tends to drive down the potential return.

The Hornets can also start extension discussions with Walker and his camp this summer and it seems more likely than not the Hornets will pay Walker the full max allowed under the collective bargaining agreement, which could be a deal north of $150 million and he could ink that in July.

It’s possible that someone offers the Hornets the moon for Walker. That has happened in the past. The Celtics gave the Cavaliers a pretty solid return for Irving, a player the Cavaliers had to trade. So it’s not out of the question real offers come in, especially with the NBA trade deadline approaching, but what’s far more likely is the Hornets wait out this season and try to extend Walker this summer.

League sources at the G-League Showcase last week, doubted that any traction could be had on Walker while admitting he’s a name to watch, despite however unlikely a trade seemed today.

The challenge for the Hornets isn’t as simple as cashing out of Walker, not just because the return will be low, but also because where would the franchise go from here?

It’s easy to say re-build through the draft, but glance around the NBA today – how many of those rebuild through the draft situations are yielding competitive teams? How many of them have been rebuilding for five years or more?

Rebuilding through the draft is a painfully slow and frustrating process that usually costs you a coach or two and typically a new front office. Rebuilding through the draft is time consuming and usually very expensive.

It’s easier to rebuild around a star already in place and the fact that Walker himself laughs off the notion of him being anywhere but Charlotte is at least a good sign and the Hornets have some time before they have to really make a decision.

At some point, Charlotte has to decide when to cash out. For the Hornets, the time to make that decision on Walker might be the February 8 trade deadline. It might also be July 1, when they’ll know whether Walker would sign a max contract extension.

If he won’t commit then, the Hornets have their answer and can use the summer to try an extract a package similar to what the Cavaliers got for Irving.

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Cavs Woes Reason For Concern, But Not Dismissal

Spencer Davies takes a look at the Cavs’ issues and why we shouldn’t count them out just yet.

Spencer Davies

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are the classic case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

When they’re on, they look like the defending three-time Eastern Conference Champions. When they’re off, they look like an old team that’s worn down and, at times, disinterested—and it gets ugly.

Take this past three weeks for example. After going on a tear of 18 wins in 19 games, the Cavs have dropped eight of 11 and are falling fast. Two of those three victories in that stretch were decided by four points or less against bottom-of-the-barrel teams in the East.

So what happened? For one, the schedule got significantly tougher. Beyond just the level of competition, Cleveland has been on the road for a long while. Nine of the games in this recent down period have been away games. The only time they’ve been home was for a quick second in mid-December and a short stay for New Years.

You’ve got to think about how that affects a psyche, not only from an on-court standpoint but also in regard to spending time with loved ones and family. LeBron James brought attention to his own homesickness on Christmas Day while he was in the Bay Area instead of in Northeast Ohio to celebrate the holidays. If it gets to him, you know it’s got to get to the other players as well. These guys are human beings with lives, and the rigors of travel can wear differently on people. Luckily for them, seven of their next nine games will be at Quicken Loans Arena.

With that being said, everybody in the NBA goes through it, so it’s no excuse for how flat the Cavs have been. Anybody on the team will tell you that, too. However, when you’re figuring out rotations and re-implementing players who had injuries, it’s not easy. This is exactly why nobody should envy Tyronn Lue.

He’s being asked to make room in his rotations and adjust on the fly as Cleveland gets guys back. When they went on that month-long run, the reason they had success was that the second unit really clicked. Dwyane Wade found his niche as the maestro of the bench bunch along with any mixture of Kyle Korver, Jeff Green, Cedi Osman, Channing Frye, and Jae Crowder. Lue had found the perfect group to spell LeBron James and company.

But then, Tristan Thompson came back and, with all due respect, it messed with their flow. The spacing is no longer there for Wade or Green to penetrate because the paint is clogged. It makes it easier on opposing defenses to just stick to Korver because there aren’t any other threatening shooters on the floor (besides Osman, maybe). Worst of all, the change basically kicked Frye—who has a plus-14 net rating, according to Cleaning The Glass—out of the rotation completely.

Deciding who plays and when is a tough job. Derrick Rose is set to come back soon. Iman Shumpert is coming along as well. Lue likes a 10-man rotation, but there are at least 12 players who deserve to be on that court. We already know Rose is expected to commandeer the second unit in Wade’s absence on back-to-backs. As for if Shumpert remains in Cleveland, who knows? It’ll be interesting to keep an eye on how this situation is managed moving forward.

Isaiah Thomas, on the other hand, is somebody the Cavs have been waiting on to return since the season started. Despite LeBron being LeBron and Kevin Love having as great of an offensive year as he’s ever had on the team, the starting unit lacks an extra punch. Thomas can be that shot in the arm, and he proved that in his debut at home against Portland and on the road in Orlando. There are two snags that both he and the team are going to hit before the 29-year-old returns to his All-Star form: 1) He’s got to get his legs under him to regain the consistency in his game and 2) His teammates are going to have to adjust to playing with him.

These are not easy things to do. Remember, aside from Jae Crowder, there is nobody on Cleveland’s roster that has played with Thomas before. Add in that he’s trying to re-discover his own game and that makes for a pretty bumpy road, at least out of the gate.

Start here—put Thompson in the starting lineup. As poor of a fit he’s been on the bench, he has shown promising signs of a developing chemistry with Thomas. It’s only been four games, but he loves having a partner in the pick-and-roll game. That’s clearly where you’ll get the most production out of him and how he can thrive. He’ll provide hustle, second chance opportunities, and a semi-decent big that can at least bother some of the competition’s drives to the basket. Sliding Love over to the four might change his game a little bit, but you can still get him going in the post before giving him chances as a shooter to work him outside-in.

The resulting effect helps the second unit as well. They’ll get one of either J.R. Smith or Crowder, depending on who would be relegated there. Both of those guys can use a spark to get them going. Because of Crowder’s familiarity with Thomas, let’s say Smith gets kicked out. Maybe that gets him out of the funk he’s in? It also allows for Frye, who hasn’t seen more than 20 minutes in a game since December 4, to get re-acclimated to a group he truly helped on both ends of the floor earlier in the year.

Outside of the need to make a move at the deadline, the Cavs can figure this out. It’s understood that they’re the fourth-worst defensive team in the NBA, but they’ve gone through these kinds of ruts at this time of year, specifically since LeBron came back. There might not be statistical evidence backing up the claim of any improvement, but the track record speaks for itself.

The panic button is being hit, but pump the brakes a bit. This isn’t anything new. The pieces are a little different and things look as bad as they ever have, but in the end, the result will likely be the same.

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