Coming into NBA Trade Deadline 2018, most of the speculation around major moves seemed quiet.
But most fans of the Association know its purely chaotic nature, and that delivered completely before the clock struck 3 p.m. Thursday afternoon.
The Cleveland Cavaliers treated their roster like a college kid treats his franchise mode in NBA 2k. Complete overhaul, just mashing away at the trade button.
While the reigning Eastern Conference champions provided enough deadline drama for the entire league, a few players that didn’t get moved flew under the radar. As a result, a player perfect for the Philadelphia 76ers and their playoff push is now available without needing to relinquish any future assets.
Despite being on the market for a reasonable second-round pick, the Atlanta Hawks were unable to move Marco Belinelli. Instead, the two parties reached a buyout agreement and Belinelli is now free to sign wherever he pleases.
Marco Belinelli is finalizing a buyout agreement with the Atlanta Hawks, league sources tell ESPN. Several contenders are interested.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) February 9, 2018
As Adrian Wojnarowski points out, several “contenders” are interested in Belinelli’s services. Rightfully so. At this point in the season, being able to acquire a player who can space the floor and score off the dribble like Belinelli’s shown capable of doing, without trading draft capital to get him, is an attractive option.
At 31 years old, Belinelli could fit places like Golden State or Cleveland more suitable for his career path right now if those teams came to the table with an offer. But the word “contender” is vague, and more than a few teams outside of that general mold could be interested in signing the veteran shooting guard.
Before his buyout, Belinelli’s contract for the season in Atlanta was $6,606,061. Given his price point, and the market set for half-season buyout contracts like the $5 million Greg Monroe got from the Boston Celtics, Belinelli could see a similar number should he decide to sign with a team for just the remainder of the season, addressing his long-term plans in the summer.
The Sixers, who are over the cap limit, have $4,328,000 in room exception to play with. Coincidentally, that’s right in Belinelli’s probable price range.
While Belinelli isn’t a home run addition or a championship winning signing, he fits a glaring hole on the Sixers’ roster while the team is in the midst of a hotly contested playoff race for the first time in more than a half decade. A playoff appearance, even to just be bounced in the first round, is incredibly significant for the future of the team’s core players like Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
Lights don’t get much brighter than playoff lights, and getting that initial glare out of the way to set up future runs is an important part of the championship contending process.
That’s where Belinelli’s potential contribution can come in. Everyone by this point understands the Markelle Fultz saga to be not only incredibly confusing, but also increasingly dim. President of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo admitted to reporters on Friday that the top overall pick from last June’s draft may not play this season (raise your hand if you’ve seen this Sixers movie before).
Fultz was acquired to provide a scoring punch alongside Embiid and help space the floor for the jump shooting challenged Simmons. It seems now that he won’t provide either of those things for a team charging toward the postseason. And while Belinelli is obviously not the caliber of player Fultz is expected to be one day, he is effective in the present.
So far this season, Belinelli attempts 24.8 percent of his shots from 16 feet to the three-point line. He attempts 51 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. Belinelli’s percentages from those ranges (41.7 and 37.2, respectively) are more than effective enough to add another weapon off of the bench in Philadelphia to draw attention to the perimeter while Embiid and Simmons attack the paint.
Philadelphia currently has three players who attempt five three’s a game: Dario Saric, J.J. Redick, and Robert Covington. All three connect on at least 37 percent of those attempts. When any, or all, are off of the floor, the Sixers’ offense enters a weird stage of slashing and kicking out to a player who isn’t nearly confident or equipped enough to hit the open shot provided to them by a collapsed defense.
That’s where the extra option of Belinelli comes in.
Attempting a tick shy of five deep balls per game (4.8), Belinelli would slide perfectly into the rotation as the stop-gap weapon. While he fills in the minutes of a Jerryd Bayless or Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, the Sixers have a more capable shooter and scorer on the floor biding time until one of the other marksmen comes back off the bench to either join or replace him.
It’s no guarantee that the Sixers are even considering Belinelli or even the other way around. But given the team needs and the player’s skill set, this could be a match made in heaven for Philadelphia and their postseason goal.
Mitchell Taking Things Day-By-Day, But Loving ‘Whirlwind’ Experience
It’s been a special year for the Utah Jazz rookie sensation.
Four-and-a-half months into the first season of his NBA career, Donovan Mitchell has accomplished some incredible things.
He won back-to-back Rookie of the Month honors between this past December and January. He leads his class with 19.6 points per game and nearly 17 field goal attempts per contest. Due much in part to his contributions, the Utah Jazz are the hottest team in the league, riding an 11-game winning streak after falling far below the .500 mark.
To top all that off, he won the slam-dunk competition just a few days ago in an event for the whole world to see. All of this has been nothing short of amazing for the 21-year-old, and even he didn’t see this coming.
“This whole thing’s just been a whirlwind for me,” Mitchell said at All-Star weekend of his first-year experience. “Just enjoying the process. There are games where I’m just like, ‘Wow this happened’ or ‘Wow that happened’ and it’s a credit to my teammates and the coaching staff and the organization for believing in me.
“Without them, none of this would be possible, so I really thank them for giving me this opportunity.”
Believe it or not, Mitchell wasn’t always so sure about where his life would go. He played for a couple of seasons at Louisville and ended up declaring for the 2017 NBA draft, a night where the Jazz stole him away from every other team by executing a deal with the Denver Nuggets to land the 13th overall pick in Salt Lake City.
“I tell people all the time this wasn’t my plan,” Mitchell said at All-Star weekend. “After two years of college, being here for All-Star and even being in the NBA wasn’t entirely my plan, so I’m just taking it one step at a time, one day at a time, praising God for this opportunity he’s given me.”
So far, Mitchell is picking things up on the go. As he keeps improving and solidifying his game on the court, he’s also bettering himself mentally.
“If I just continue to be humble and continue to learn, that’s the biggest thing is learning and understanding the game,” Mitchell said. “I make the joke that it’s easy to study film and watch all the games when you don’t have five classes to study for throughout the day. So it’s been fun and I’m just taking it day by day.”
It’s pretty awesome that he’s doing what he’s doing with friends by his side. Most of us think of this class of rookies as a special group because of their talents as players, but it’s a tight-knit inner circle of friends who are enjoying every second of life in the NBA together.
Kyle Kuzma, John Collins, De’Aaron Fox, and Dennis Smith Jr. are friends Mitchell mentioned that he’s been close with for a while, and to see all of their hard work culminate so quickly at the Rising Stars game in Los Angeles is something special.
“I’ve known a lot of these guys, pretty much everybody on this team since high school for the most part,” Mitchell said. “Kinda hanging the same way we did in high school just a lot more cameras, a lot more downtime, bigger city.
“It’s fun. Just gotta treat it like it’s fun, go out there and just be kids. Live a dream of ours since we were younger.”
After the weekend he had, Mitchell accomplished that goal.
Whether the next step in his career has a Rookie of the Year award written into it or not, we’re seeing spectacular things from the one they call “Spida.”
And it’s about time people are taking notice.
NBA Daily: Tobias Harris Thrives at Every Stop
Tobias Harris was traded yet again, but thankfully for the Clippers, he’s gotten better every stop he’s made.
When Tobias Harris was a 19-year-old rookie for the Milwaukee Bucks, he faced a lot of the same issues that other 19-year-old rookies before him had faced, most notably the ones dealing with a lack of playing time.
He only saw the floor in 42 games, playing on 11 minutes per contest when he did get out there.
Despite that, it was somewhat of a surprise that the Bucks gave up on his talent so early in his career, trading him to the Orlando Magic just 28 games into his sophomore season as part of a trade for J.J. Redick.
The Magic immediately tripled his minutes, and he’s never been a 30 minutes-per-game guy ever since. He also has never said a negative thing about any team he’s ever played for. As far as he’s concerned, every opportunity is a blessing and a learning experience.
“I didn’t look at Milwaukee as a team giving up on me. I looked at it as Orlando valuing me and seeing me as a piece of the puzzle,” Harris told Basketball Insiders during All-Star Weekend, where he participated in the three-point contest.
“The NBA is about opportunity, so when you get the opportunity you have to make the most of it. Going from a rookie not playing to where I’m at now, it takes a lot of hard work, focus and determination,” he said. “You have to have the confidence in your own self, to understand you can break through in this league.”
And break through he did, in large part because those first 18 months as a professional were so challenging.
“Adversity helped me to work hard,” he said. “I always envisioned myself as a primetime player in this league. I have a ways to go to get there, but that’s the best part about me. My best basketball is ahead of me, and adversity has helped me get there. It’s motivated me, and I want to be the best player I can be. I’m trying every single day to fight for that.”
This season, most of which came as a member of the Detroit Pistons, was a career-best for Harris.
Between the Pistons and L.A. Clippers, Harris has averaged a career-high 18 points per game, and while he wasn’t voted to the All-Star Team this year, his name popped up in the conversation. He’s never been closer.
It was bittersweet for him, though, leaving a Detroit team he liked so much.
“My favorite part was being around those guys [in Detroit],” he said. “It was a great group of guys and a great coaching staff. Coach Van Gundy is a great coach. At the same time, when I first got there, we had a chance to make the playoffs and we got in the playoffs. That was nice for me, to put that pressure on myself and get it done.”
Now, he’s ready to accept his next challenge in Los Angeles with the Clippers.
“I look at every new opportunity as a new chance,” he said. “My first trade from Milwaukee to Orlando was a situation where I just wanted to prove myself to the league. When I was traded from Orlando to Detroit, it was a situation where I wanted to help the team get to the playoffs, and that’s similar to this one here, too… I really like the group of guys that are on this team. I like our demeanor and our approach, so after the break I look forward to building that chemistry and moving forward.”
Of course, moving forward is all he’s ever done.
After everything he’s proven to date, it seems like a given that he’ll continue to make strides with his new team.
2018 NBA All-Star Sunday Recap
Michael Petrower recaps the All-Star Game from Sunday in Los Angeles.
The 2018 NBA All Star Game had some added appeal this year, with Captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry selecting playground style from the pool of All-Stars. Although it was not televised, it drew a lot of interest to say the least.
Team Lebron was headlined by Kevin Durant (the alleged first pick), Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, and Kyrie Irving. Sadly, Team Lebron suffered big losses with John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, Kevin Love and Kristaps Porzingis going down with injuries. Team Stephen was led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, Joel Embiid and Demar DeRozan.
NBA fans were ready to indulge on the highlight real of plays to commence…That was, until the NBA inflicted a marathon-like performance that seemed a bit unnecessary, to say the least. Kevin Hart was at the center of theatrics that had NBA fans scratching their heads questioning what was on their television screen. Fergie topped off the saga with what was one of the more questionable national anthems we’ve seen in recent years. However, if you stuck around long enough, the game started at 8:40 PM EST and the flashy plays that we hoped for, began.
Joel Embiid made his first A;l-Star game appearance and kicked off the scoring festivities for Team Stephen with a ferocious and-one dunk. Team Stephen led all of the first quarter and won the quarter 42-31. Karl Anthony Towns led the first quarter scoring with 11 points. Team LeBron, however would storm back and cut the lead to two, 78-76 at half. LeBron came into his 14th straight All-Star game and lead his team at the half with 15 points. Klay Thompson also lead Team Stephen with 15 points at half.
The second half ensued and after some back and forth between the two teams, Team Stephen was leading by three going into the fourth quarter, 112-109. Team Stephen grew their lead to 11 while LeBron and KD got some rest. But after the two came back in, the 11-point deficit was erased after a LeBron three and the teams were now tied at 144 with 1:16 left in the fourth quarter.
DeRozan would make a free throw to put Team Stephen up one point, but Lebron followed with a strong two-pointer to put his team up one. DeRozan tried to answer, but threw away a pass which resulted in an easy two points for Russell Westbrook to ice the game. Team LeBron was the 2018 All Star Game winner with a score of 148-145.
LeBron James went on to win his third All Star MVP after finishing with 29 points to go along with 10 rebounds, eigh assists and a steal on 12-17 shooting. DeRozan and Damian Lillard lead Team Stephen with 21 points each.