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NBA Daily: Gauging Tristan Thompson’s Trade Value

As a veteran with NBA Finals experience having a bounce back season, Tristan Thompson could help a number of teams in their playoff pushes, writes Matt John.

Matt John

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are in fire sale mode right now, or they may as well be.

The reigning Eastern Conference Champions currently sport a 10-41 record, which is good for the worst record in the entire league. The Cavs have already made a few moves, trading away the likes of Kyle Korver and George Hill for future assets. Things are more than likely to continue to trend downwards for Cleveland, so they may as well cut their losses now while they still can.

Outside of Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman, Larry Nance Jr and Ante Zizic, no one on the squad should be off limits. Luckily for general manager Koby Altman, the Cavaliers at least have a better salary cap situation than they did back when LeBron was in town.

Kevin Love instantly comes to mind, but he’s been out for almost the entire season. There should be plenty of interested suitors for JR Smith, but only because his contract next season is guaranteed for a little less than $4 million. The same could be said for Alec Burks and Rodney Hood and their expiring contracts.

In a market where teams are trying to conserve their cap space, odds are Jordan Clarkson, John Henson and Matthew Dellavedova are staying put at least until next season.

Then there’s Tristan Thompson.

Ever since he agreed to a five-year, $82 million extension back in 2015, Thompson has received much scorn for having one of the worst contracts in the NBA. Three years have since been shed off that deal. With only two years left, Thompson, while still being overpaid at almost $17.5 million a year and $18.5 million the next, can be a useful cog on a playoff team.

Since LeBron’s departure, Thompson is having himself quite the renaissance. Thompson is currently averaging 11.5 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 0.8 steals, all of which are either career-highs or the best he’s had since before LeBron came back to “The Land.” Now, a rise in numbers is to be expected because his role was due to expand with King James out of the picture, but still – Thompson has played well enough that teams should at least consider trading for him.

The 11.1 rebounds he averages is good for 11th in the league, with his offensive rebounding numbers of 4.4 per game are good for fourth in the league. Thompson may not be worth the money he is getting paid, but what he does well on the court, he does very well.

His playoff experience also could help a team who is trying to do some damage in the postseason. Thompson played a very important role on the Cavaliers’ four consecutive trips to the finals, including winning a title. If these increased numbers are not a mirage, then Thompson could be even more impactful for a playoff team than he ever was for the Cavaliers.

The concerns surrounding what Thompson can do and how much he is getting paid to do are valid. Paying over $17 million for a guy whose lone specialty is rebounding would not look like the brightest move. Thankfully, rebounding is not Tristan Thompson’s lone specialty.

Remember how Kendrick Perkins’ one elite skill in the NBA was being able to stop Dwight Howard one-on-one? Think of the same with Thompson, only with his Dwight Howard being Al Horford.

Coming into last season’s Eastern Conference Finals, Thompson was struggling to find minutes in Cleveland’s rotations. He only averaged 14.5 minutes in Cleveland’s first series against Indiana – with most of them coming from the 35 minutes he played in Game 7 – then averaged 17.3 minutes in their second series against Toronto – with most of them coming from the 26 minutes he played in Game 1.

Then, Game 1 of the Conference Finals happened. It didn’t go well for Cleveland, to say the least. Boston steamrolled them from beginning to end, winning 108-83, with Horford leading the way. Big Al was matched up with Kevin Love at center, and he took all the advantage he could out of it.

Horford finished with a stat line of 20 points, six assists, four rebounds, two blocks, shot 8/11 from the field including 2.4 from three and was plus-17. In that time, he held Love to 17 points on 5/14 shooting including 1-for-4 from three and was minus-13.

From that point onward, Thompson was inserted into the starting lineup as the center. That wound up making all the difference in the series. Horford never came close to that dominant for the rest of the series. With Thompson at center, Horford averaged 12.4 points on 42.4 percent shooting including 28.6 percent from three.

Perhaps Thompson’s re-insertion into the starting lineup just happened to coincide with Horford’s decreased numbers. A few statistics provided by old friend Ben Dowsett would say otherwise.

Also, before that series against the Cavaliers, Horford was averaging 17 points on 53 percent shooting including 36 percent from three his previous two playoff series. The Celtics were a plus-19 overall with Horford in those series. The Celtics were a plus-13.1 with Horford on the court against Cleveland, but that is still a steep drop-off.

Horford’s struggles against Thompson have been the case for the past couple of seasons. Although last season’s conference finals are the most indicative evidence of Thompson shutting down Horford, data from previous playoff matchups show more of the same.

You may be thinking, ‘Well, so what? Why is it so important that Thompson has proven he can shut down Horford in a playoff series?’ The answer to that is simple: Because Al Horford is the one guy who the Celtics need at his best in order to succeed.

This writer already penned an article detailing why Horford was the Celtics’ most important player. He won’t grab you with his stats, but his three-point shooting and defensive versatility create so many matchup problems for their opponents. This season, Al has struggled a bit – which is one of the under-the-radar reasons why Boston has disappointed so far – but now he’s starting to look like the Horford from last season.

In his last five games, Al has averaged 18.8 points and 8.8 rebounds on 66.1 percent shooting, including 47.1 percent from three, and the Celtics have been plus-5.4 with him on the court. If he has regained his form from last season, expect him to have his best stuff when the playoffs come around. When he does, that’s where having Tristan Thompson could really help.

Sure, the Celtics haven’t exactly looked as good as anticipated, but they’re still making the playoffs anyway as long as they don’t suffer any untimely injuries before the postseason. The lowest they’ll probably wind up with is the fifth seed. Who knows how they’ll look when the playoffs start?

This limits interested parties because Horford plays in the East, and the Western Conference have bigger, Golden State Warrior-sized problems to worry about. For the Eastern Conference, there are teams who do have players on contracts that could match up in a Tristan Thompson trade without sacrificing cap flexibility.

Toronto fits the mold. The Raptors have Jonas Valanciunas, CJ Miles and Fred VanVleet among others who they could trade for Tristan Thompson. Toronto has been better than Boston, but what could really insure them beating the Celtics in a hypothetical playoff series is having Thompson to stop Horford in his tracks.

Brooklyn also fits the mold. They have Allen Crabbe’s contract alone to match up with Thompson’s contract. They have been on a tear as of late, and things should only get better when Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris Levert return from injury. Those two coming back should also reduce Crabbe’s minutes. The Nets are already standing out as the team no one wants to face in the postseason. If they get Thompson, that would certainly frighten the team that basically ruined them.

What hurts Thompson’s value at the moment is that he is currently nursing a foot injury that’s bothered him through most of the season. He won’t be back until after the trade deadline passes, which means trading for him would be risky. Then again, winning a championship requires taking risks. Acquiring Thompson could provide many rewards.

Let’s rewind it back to Kendrick Perkins. The Perk experiment may have failed in OKC, but he still played a big role in them reaching the NBA Finals in 2012. That same low-post defense that worked so well against Howard played a role in limiting Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Tim Duncan. That doesn’t justify how much they paid him in that time, but he still did his part on their run to the Finals.

It’s the same thing with Thompson. Even if his defense is geared more towards stopping Horford specifically, that can make a huge difference in a playoff series. Even with all their struggles, the Celtics are not to be trifled with come playoff time. Thompson would be there to prevent trifling of any kind.

If Thompson proves valuable against Horford yet again in the playoffs, then he’d be worth every penny.

Matt John is a staff writer for Basketball Insiders. He is currently a Utah resident, but a Massachusetts native.

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NBA

NBA Daily: Garrett Temple Fitting In With Clippers

David Yapkowitz sits down with Los Angeles Clippers swingman Garrett Temple to discuss his niche with the team and the culture they’ve established under Doc Rivers.

David Yapkowitz

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It’s been a season of silencing the doubters for the Los Angeles Clippers. Back in October when the NBA season began, you’d be hard pressed to have found anyone that would’ve given them a chance at making the playoffs.

Flash forward to the present, and they not only have made the postseason, but they’re currently tied 1-1 in the first round with the defending champion Golden State Warriors – and with the next two games on their home-court.

Even as recently as the trade deadline, there were people and pundits who doubted them when they traded away Tobias Harris, who was having an All-Star caliber season. But the new guys who arrived in February have been a huge reason why the Clippers continued to win, especially Garrett Temple.

The nine-year veteran began this season in Memphis after having spent the last two years with the Sacramento Kings. When the Clippers dealt Avery Bradley at the deadline, Temple – along with JaMychal Green – was one of the two pieces the Grizzlies sent back.

Temple had been a bit of journeyman prior to his time with the Kings and the four years before with the Washington Wizards. From his rookie season in 2009-10 to 2012-13, he had stints with the Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, Milwaukee Bucks and Charlotte Hornets. When he first arrived in LA, he could tell right away the locker room dynamic.

“It’s great, we have a team where everybody knows their roles, everybody wants to win,” Temple told Basketball Insiders. “Winning is most important here, there’s no egos. We have a team like this where guys are coming together to do whatever coach [Doc Rivers] says. When it’s all about winning, good things can happen.”

And good things did happen. Following the trade deadline, the Clippers went 17-7, including win streaks of five and six games, to finish the season. They were two wins short of winning 50 games.

Temple had a big hand in that, sort of taking over the role Bradley played as the defensive-minded guard, who can stretch the floor and knock down the three.

“Coming off the bench, I give them some defensive energy. I give energy on the offensive end too, in transition, pushing the ball, make my open shots when I’m open,” Temple told Basketball Insiders. “When I get the chance, I make sure I push the pace. But just bringing that energy on the defensive side.”

Defense has been Temple’s strong suit since he’s been in the NBA. At 6-foot-6, he’s got the size to defend both guard positions as well as some small forwards. In this playoff series, he’s got the daunting task of being matched up against Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson.

But defense is something he prides himself on. He isn’t going to back down no matter who is standing across from him. Even as the oldest player in the Clippers locker room, he remains one of their best defenders.

“No question, I’ve prided myself on that since I got in the NBA. It’s part of the reason why I’ve been able to stay in the league,” Temple told Basketball Insiders. “A lot of guys in this league come off the bench and try to score. I pride myself on being that guy on the bench unit that can defend any three positions on the court.”

Since coming over to the Clippers, Temple has been averaging 4.7 points in 19.7 minutes per game. Normally a reliable three-point threat, his shooting numbers have dipped a bit. He’s down to 29.6 percent from three.

None of the team played well enough to mention in Game 1. But in the Game 2 thrilling comeback, Temple gave solid contributions of seven points, knocking down both his free throws and knocking down one of his two attempts from three-point range.

“You don’t fix what’s not broken, you continue to do what you do, whatever’s your strength,” Temple told Basketball Insiders. “Obviously there’s different transitions and different lingo, but at the end of the day, it’s just basketball. I find myself getting comfortable with what our coaches like us to do on the defensive end and offensive end, and trying to fit in well.”

It remains to be seen what happens in this series against the Warriors, but one thing is for sure – the Clippers definitely have Golden State’s attention. To this group, though, the fact that they were able to pull off a historic comeback probably isn’t surprising to them. They’ve prided themselves all season on having this tough mentality.

Temple recognized it right away before the playoffs even began. When he was in Memphis, he experienced the ‘Grit and Grind’ culture of hard-nosed basketball that the team had embraced. He noticed a similar time vibe with the Clippers, a vibe he knew would make them scary come playoff time.

“Just the fact that everybody is hungry, everybody understands their role. There’s no question from anybody what they’re supposed to do when they get on the court. It’s tough when you have a team that just got together,” Temple told Basketball Insiders.

“I think the biggest thing is we know what everybody does. We have enough firepower offensively, we have enough defensive pieces, and we have a Hall-of-Fame coach. We have a good recipe to be somebody to be reckoned with.”

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NBA Daily: 60-Pick NBA Mock Draft – 4/16/19

The deadline to declare for the 2019 NBA draft is April 29th, however, most of the notable prospects have already declared and started the training and preparation process. Steve Kyler offers up his latest weekly 60-Pick Mock Draft.

Steve Kyler

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Let the chaos begin!

The 2019 NBA Draft class has taken on more of a defined shape with the bulk of the expected early entry players having already declared for the draft, with several already in pre-draft gyms training and preparing for the marathon pre-draft process that will play out over the next 65 days.

There are a few dates to keep in mind as the draft process ramps into full speed.

The NBA deadline to declare for the 2019 NBA Draft is 11:59 p.m. on April 29th. Players must submit in writing to be a part of the draft. Once the early entry players are official, teams can start working those players out.

The NBA Draft lottery which will determine the top four selections of the 2019 NBA Draft will be held in Chicago on May 14th, just as the annual Draft Combine kicks off.

The NCAA has changed its rules and will allow players to not only test “the waters” but retain an agent, assuming that player does not accept anything more than transportation, reasonable lodging and meals related to meeting with that agent or conducting workouts for NBA teams.

The NCAA requires those players that wish to remain eligible to withdraw from the draft by May 29th.

The last date to withdraw from the draft by NBA is 5 p.m. on June 10th. This is usually not college level players; this date is typically international players that opt out of the draft.

The 2019 NBA Draft is set for June 20th.

Here is this week’s 60-pick Mock Draft:

Here are the first-round picks that are owed and how those picks landed where they are.

The Atlanta Hawks were to receive the Cleveland Cavaliers’ first-round pick as a result of the Kyle Korver trade in 2017, which is top-10 protected. But based on the final standings, that pick will not be conveyed.

The Boston Celtics were to receive the Memphis Grizzlies first-round pick as a result of the three-team Jeff Green trade in 2015; the pick is top-eight protected and, based on the final standings, that pick will not be conveyed.

The Atlanta Hawks are to receive the Dallas Mavericks first-round pick as a result of the Luka Dončić – Trae Young swap on draft night in 2018. The pick is top-five protected and, based on the final standings, that pick will be conveyed.

The Boston Celtics are to receive the more favorable of either the Sacramento Kings or Philadelphia 76ers first-round picks as part of the Markelle Fultz pre-draft trade in 2017. Based on the final standings, that pick will be conveyed; the Kings pick is the more favorable and would convey to Boston.

The Boston Celtics are to receive the LA Clippers first-round pick as a result of the Deyonta Davis draft day trade with Memphis in 2016. The Grizzlies got the pick in their Jeff Green/Lance Stephenson deal at the deadline in 2016. The pick is lottery protected and, based on the final standings, that pick will be conveyed.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are to receive the Houston Rockets first-round pick as a result of the three-team deadline deal that sent out Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss.

The Brooklyn Nets are to receive the Denver Nuggets first-round pick as a result of the Kenneth Faried – Darrell Arthur trade in July 2018. The pick is top-12 protected and, based on the final standings, that pick will be conveyed.

The San Antonio Spurs are to receive the Toronto Raptors first-round pick as a result of the Kawhi Leonard – DeMar DeRozan trade in July 2018. The pick is top-20 protected and, based on the final standings, that pick will be conveyed.

The Phoenix Suns are to receive the Milwaukee Bucks first-round pick as a result of the Eric Bledsoe trade in 2017. The pick has top 3 and 17-30 protections, designed to yield a lottery-level pick to Phoenix. Based on the final standings this pick would not convey. Given that the debt is not settled this year, the Bucks pick in 2020 would be top-7 protected.

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, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @TommyBeer, @jblancartenba, @SpinDavies, @JamesB_NBA, @MattJohnNBA, @DrewMaresca, @JordanHicksNBA, and @Ben__Nadeau .

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NBA Daily: Wear & Tear Rearing Ugly Head In Playoffs

A rigorous schedule and demanding workload have limited three of the NBA’s best in the playoffs, writes Spencer Davies.

Spencer Davies

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There is nothing worse in sports than seeing somebody get hurt.

In the NBA, we’ve seen plenty of devastating setbacks. Torn ACL’s, ruptured Achilles, broken bones—all of them season-enders and most of them career-alterers.

Jusuf Nurkic’s gruesome leg injury most recently comes to mind. Before that, Victor Oladipo and Dejounte Murray. Last year, Gordon Hayward’s season was cut short less than halfway into a single quarter, as was DeMarcus Cousins’ in the midst of a dominant campaign. And there’s more going without mention, to boot.

It’s unfortunate that these things happen. Most of them are freak accidents, bad luck or something completely unexpected in an instant. But there’s another type of injury that’s affected the league and its postseason that needs to be addressed.

The term “wear-and-tear” is used predominantly to describe the aging of inanimate objects—shoes, tires, furniture, you name it. Yet, it has another meaning when it comes to the human body. As is the case with the majority of athletes, NBA players like to push their limits, so much so that it sometimes ends up biting them in the behind from doing it on a consistent basis.

Not shortchanging the game on effort is to be expected, but giving 110 percent and going the extra mile nightly to earn victory after victory is a whole ‘nother level of commitment to your craft. While those guys should be rewarded for it, unfortunately, they are oftentimes unfairly punished.

There are three players in the current playoff picture who—when in tip-top shape—can change the course of their respective series in an instant. However, each of those respective talents is dealing with nagging pains affecting their games.

Drawing a first-round matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks wasn’t ideal for the Detroit Pistons. This writer picked an easy sweep for Giannis Antetokounmpo and friends. However, one would be remiss to say that Blake Griffin wouldn’t make things more interesting.

Based on Sunday night, it’s more than arguable that the Pistons wouldn’t have been even close to a .500 record without Griffin’s contributions. He made his first All-Star game in four seasons and played in his most total games in five years.

Of course, as the team battled for a playoff berth, he left every drop of sweat he had. It resulted in left knee discomfort, which has, in turn, caused him to reportedly miss the entire first round of the postseason.

That’s just one case in which a player isn’t seeing the floor. What about the ones who are trying to push through these moments with hefty minutes?

Dealing with a sore knee of his own, Joel Embiid decided to give it a go for the Philadelphia 76ers in their first-round opener. Though he dominated the paint in the early moments and still put up a 22-point, 15-rebound, five-block stat line, it was clear that the dynamic seven-foot center wasn’t himself.

Embiid fired off a third of his shot attempts from the perimeter and never found the mark. When he put the ball on the floor, the burst and nimble footwork he’s shown time after time wasn’t quite there. Sixers head coach Brett Brown could only keep him out there for 24 minutes, well below his season average.

Yes, an Embiid at 75 percent is better than one at zero. It’s just not the same monster we’re all used to seeing on that court, which sucks because, when healthy, “The Process“ is as entertaining and talented as it gets, regardless of size.

We can head out west to find another example. Paul George’s shoulder is clearly bothering him. He stated Monday that the pain is gone—even though there was a bag of ice wrapped around his upper right body as he said the words. That’s probably the right avenue to take so there’s no competitive advantage for the Portland Trail Blazers to exploit against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

George won’t admit this because he wants to be out there and compete at the highest level at the biggest stage. It’s admirable that he’s playing through the pain. He was out there for 42-plus minutes and gave his group all he had. Anybody would take 26 points, 10 rebounds and four steals as an impressive output, too.

It’s the rate at which George struggled—8-for-24 from the field and 4-for-15 from deep, a trend that’s been happening since the All-Star break. Decreased shooting percentages have seemed to be the byproduct of overdoing it. It’s a shame because PG had been lighting it up in the first half of the season to the tune of 40 percent as a three-point shooter.

Whether it’s the reps that have had a negative effect on his motion or the physical style he’s played on both ends, George hasn’t looked like the MVP candidate we were watching back in the December and January.

So why are we bringing this up? Let’s put it as straightforward as possible—shorten the season and start the playoffs earlier.

The topic came up at Adam Silver’s recent media availability session after meeting with the NBA’s Board of Governors, though it was mostly about the pressing concern with players over-resting rather than the subject of wear and tear.

The commissioner has already done an outstanding job at taking a once-ridiculously grueling schedule filled with back-to-backs & four days in five nights and removing the number of such instances at a rapid rate (and completely eliminating the latter).

Possible solutions to lessening the 82-game load are to get rid of preseason altogether and begin the year then. Silver surmised to reporters that in-season tournaments based on the model of soccer overseas might be a way to do it. Another idea brought to the table was taking the full game length from 48 minutes to 40 minutes.

Actively seeking to make the league better is what makes Silver so revered by the NBA, players and executives alike. He’s exceptionally aware of concerns and always has his ears open.

We deserve to see players perform at their peak, especially during this time of year. It’s impossible to control what happens on the floor, but it’s possible to determine the frequency at which things occur.

So, Mr. Silver, this writer is pleading with you: Follow through.

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