Just over 24 hours ago, the headline screamed from mlive.com: “Pistons slide raises questions about Stan Van Gundy’s future.” Over at the Detroit Free Press on Saturday, the headline read, “Van Gundy has a plan; it’s just not working out.” With Monday’s blockbuster trade that sent Blake Griffin, Brice Johnson and Willie Reed to the Pistons for Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic and a pair of draft picks, Van Gundy proved that he could pull off a narrative-changing trade when he perhaps really needed one.
Van Gundy addressed the media Tuesday and explained Detroit’s thought process.
“The hardest thing to do in this league is to get a proven star,” he said. “It’s hard to do in free agency. It’s hard to do in trades. You get very few opportunities to do it. The guy’s a five-time All-Star. He’s been an All-NBA guy. He puts you in the top 15 guys in the league. He’s only 28 years old. We know the injury history. That’s the risk on him. But that risk was worth it because of the talent that we’re bringing back.”
Griffin’s arrival comes not a moment too soon, with the Pistons mired in an eight-game losing streak, the longest since a 10-game streak in Van Gundy’s first season. Detroit opened the season 14-6 but have gone 8-20 since, including 3-12 since starting point guard Reggie Jackson suffered an ankle injury. With Van Gundy in the fourth year of a five-year contract and the Pistons in danger of missing the playoffs again despite being hard-capped with a massive $117 million in guaranteed salary, the time was ripe to make serious changes.
“When you get an opportunity to add that kind of talent, you take it,” said Pistons owner Tom Gores on Twitter. “The move is not without risk. We gave up a lot to get him.”
— Tom Gores (@TomGores) January 30, 2018
But did the Pistons really? Harris led the team with 18 points per game, but what does that mean if it doesn’t result in a playoff berth? Bradley was second for Detroit with 15 points per game, but his -5 on-court net rating was the worst of any Piston with at least 400 minutes. With nearly 1300 minutes played this season, it’s not a small sample. Marjanovic didn’t clear the 400-minute threshold.
Detroit sent a 2018 first-round pick to the Clippers in the deal, which is protected 1-4 through 2020 and would be unprotected in 2021. The Pistons could still miss the playoffs and convey a lottery pick, but that’s the kind of real risk you take to obtain the top-15 player Van Gundy spoke of.
The Pistons coach said that, although dedicating most of the team’s cap money to a pair of big men goes against league trends, Detroit wasn’t in a position to follow what other teams have done.
“When you look at all the analytics … we understand that it’s a perimeter league,” said Van Gundy. “We’re not in a situation where we can be that choosy. We can’t necessarily go and try to do it the same way as everybody else. We’re going to be different. Our money and our talent is in our big guys and in Reggie when we get him back.”
For Detroit, this is a Hail Mary that was answered. There’s nothing but upside for the Pistons unless Griffin, who has missed 99 games in the last four seasons, continues to be plagued with health issues. With Bradley out of the picture, Van Gundy will be forced to feed minutes to shooting guards Langston Galloway and Luke Kennard. Neither has cracked 800 minutes this season, but Galloway is a team-best +6 while rookie Kennard is right behind him at +5.8. Those are by far the best net ratings on the team as stretch four Anthony Tolliver is third at just +0.6.
Kennard is shooting a scorching 43 percent on 2.5 three-point attempts per game while Galloway is a respectable 36 percent on nearly four attempts. Reggie Bullock, a three-and-D prospect who is finally starting to make an impact in his fifth season, leads the team at 44 percent on 3.5 attempts. He’s averaging a career-best 8.2 points and has started 23 of 33 games.
With such efficient shooting from wings who will surely see an uptick in usage, Griffin’s playmaking can only make those players better. Griffin is already accustomed to playing with DeAndre Jordan, whose lob-and-rebound game mirrors that of Andre Drummond. The newest Piston’s ability to play on the perimeter as a scorer and playmaker will instantly make Drummond better, and could boost his trade value if Detroit opts against pairing them long-term.
“Blake’s been able to extend his range,” said Van Gundy of how he envisions integrating Griffin and Drummond. “He’s a very, very good ball handler, really good in pick and rolls with the big. Obviously he and DeAndre have played very well together for a long, long time. I don’t think that will be a problem. Of course there’s going to be some kinks to be worked out and it’s going to be an adjustment for Andre because we’ve run everything — literally everything — through him this year. And now that obviously won’t be the case. We’ll run a lot of stuff through Blake and he’ll be in different positions off the ball.”
The combination of Jackson’s injury and letting Harris and Bradley combine for nearly 11 shots per game had the Pistons on the verge of a lost season. Point guard will continue to be a major issue unless Jackson can return to health after a Grade 3 right ankle sprain that is due to be re-evaluated in February. Griffin’s arrival could also change the equation for young players such as small forward Stanley Johnson and power forward Henry Ellenson, who have struggled to make an impact this season.
For Detroit, the trade for a star who just signed a five-year max contract in the summer was the best avenue to add a player of Griffin’s caliber. Even with the brand-new Little Ceasers Arena opening this season, Detroit is a tough sell for top-flight free agents. Griffin’s contract is fully-guaranteed through 2020-21 with a player option in the final season. That gives the Pistons three full seasons with Griffin locked up to make additional moves and contend in an Eastern Conference that has been weakened by free agent defections to the West.
Again, Griffin’s arrival does not assure Detroit will make the playoffs. But this trade was a seminal moment for a franchise that missed the playoffs in six straight seasons before being swept by Cleveland in the first round in 2016. The Pistons were going nowhere and exhibiting little identity before Van Gundy’s big gambit. No one can say how it will turn out, but getting a star for expendable parts is a spectacular win.
NBA Daily: Bought Out Players Faring Well With New Teams
The deadline for teams to send their unwanted players to the buyout market was March 1. Jordan Hicks takes a look at some of the key acquisitions since the deadline and how they are helping postseason pushes.
The buyout market seems to be gaining more and more popularity with each season. While rebuilding teams tend to forego more seasoned players in order to give their younger guys some run, veteran players often find themselves bought out or waived prior to the deadline.
Teams competing for a spot in the playoffs – so it seems – have increasingly taken advantage of this situation by signing guys that can definitely help them get enough wins. While you definitely will not find All-Stars in the pool of available players, oftentimes solid role players find themselves there due to a myriad of reasons.
It could be that their previous teams wanted to give more playing time to guys more in-line with their future plans. It could also be because their previous team was simply wanting to lose games in order to increase their draft position, which is also known as tanking. By waiving better players on your roster and keeping less talented ones, teams can essentially give themselves a better chance to lose games without totally making it look like they’re doing it on purpose.
This year had one of the stronger pools of players on the buyout/waived market as of March 1st in recent memory, so let’s take a look at some of the top players and how they’ve fared since joining their new team.
Matthews was part of the marquee trade that sent Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks. He ended up with the Knicks, but after two short games, they realized they didn’t want his talent interfering with their draft position. They waived him prior to the deadline and he was picked up by the Indiana Pacers.
This has turned out to be an incredibly important acquisition for the Pacers – primarily due to the fact that they lost All-Star Victor Oladipo for the season.
Matthews brings grittiness on the defensive end and a diverse set of skills offensively. He is an above average shooter from the three-point line, averaging 38.8 percent on 6.1 attempts per game since joining Indiana. He has added much-needed scoring to the offense as well – currently at 12.5 points and 2.4 assists each night.
He’s very clearly a step below Oladipo, especially when considering what Vic brought to both ends of the floor, but the fact that the Pacers added him without having to give up any assets is pretty remarkable.
While he has yet to add any considerable value on defense, Matthews has ranked fifth on the team in offensive rating since joining them on February 7. If Oladipo was still on the roster, you could argue that they wouldn’t necessarily need Matthews. But in light of recent events, being able to add Matthews as easily as they did was certainly a win for the franchise.
Another player the Knicks decided to unload was Enes Kanter. He was sent to the player pool via buyout, and it is safe to assume that New York had to spend handsomely to send him there.
Kanter is an interesting player. He has always been able to get buckets around the rim, as well as grab rebounds, but he has always struggled defensively. This was not why the Knicks wanted to let him go, however. Tension had been growing between Kanter, the front office, and the coaching staff, as they wanted to limit his minutes in lieu of the younger players on the roster.
Enes just wanted to play, and, by being bought out and signing with the Portland Trail Blazers, he’s been able to do just that.
Since joining Portland, the team as gone 9-3. While he continues to have his struggles on defense, he is posting 10 points and 6.7 rebounds on only 18.2 minutes per night.
Since the acquisition, Meyers Leonard has seen a decreased role. Kanter has turned into the de-facto backup to starting center Jusuf Nurkic. While Kanter is a poor defender himself, Portland has enough solid defensive players in the frontcourt that they haven’t had too much of a problem hiding him on that end of the floor.
Lin headed to the market after being bought out by the Atlanta Hawks. He was picked up by the Toronto Raptors, who have struggled to field consistent backcourt players off the bench due to injuries – which was made more difficult after dealing Delon Wright to the Grizzlies as part of the Marc Gasol trade.
In 13 games with the Raptors, Lin is averaging 8.4 points and 2.5 assists in 20.8 minutes per game. He has struggled to find any consistency with his shot, as he’s averaging just 39 percent from the field and a morbid 18.4 percent from three.
That shooting has every opportunity to increase. Lin is a 34.3 percent shooter from downtown over the course of his career.
The Raptors will need Lin to pull his shooting together as the season wraps up for a strong playoff campaign. The bench unit was a major part of their success last season and it is proving to be another key part this year. In order for Toronto to finally reach their goal of winning the Eastern Conference, they’ll need Lin to be at his best. He isn’t the only key to their success, but he’ll have a major impact on how the Raptors finish out the season.
There are still plenty of solid players on the market. Carmelo Anthony, Ben McLemore and Nick Young could provide instant offense off the bench. Greg Monroe, Marcin Gortat and Zach Randolph could help improve the frontcourt of any team in need. Whether or not teams decide they need their services, only time will tell.
While the season plays out, it will be interesting to see just what impact these players discussed – as well as those not mentioned – will have for their franchise in the postseason.
NBA Daily: Justin Bibbs Gets First NBA Opportunity In L.A.
Justin Bibbs spoke to Basketball Insiders about joining an NBA team after going undrafted, playing in the G League, his developing skill set and more.
One of the best moments in the life of an aspiring pro basketball player is to receive the news that an NBA team wants to sign them.
For Justin Bibbs, that dream became a reality of his when the Los Angeles Clippers called him up to the team on a 10-day contract last week. The former Virginia Tech guard went undrafted last summer and was spending his first professional season in the G League with Maine Red Claws, the affiliate of the Boston Celtics.
This past Sunday against the Brooklyn Nets was actually his first day being around the team as they had immediately assigned him to the Agua Caliente Clippers after signing him.
“To be honest, I still don’t have words for it. It’s kind of indescribable,” Bibbs told Basketball Insiders. “I always wanted to be on this level, but now that I’m here I just trying to take in every second of it, just relax and let God do his thing.”
Bibbs had a decent showing with the Celtics in summer league, leading to him being added to their training camp roster. He was ultimately cut and joined the Maine Red Claws as an affiliate player. Each NBA team is allowed to assign up to four players to their G League affiliate, players who were in training camp and are guaranteed a G League roster spot.
Affiliate players, however, are still considered ‘free agents’ in that they can sign with any NBA team. Bibbs played in 44 games with the Red Claws and averaged 11.8 points per game, 3.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists.
At Virginia Tech, he was a knockdown outside shooter (42.4 percent) and a strong defender. He has good size for a guard at 6-foot-5 and 225-pounds. It’s those qualities that he’s hoping to bring to the Clippers should he get the chance on the court.
“I always bring energy defensively and I just play my game. On offense, I bring shooting,” Bibbs told Basketball Insiders. “But it’s whatever the coach tells me to do and basically just playing the right way.”
Although Bibbs has reached his goal of the NBA, he’s in a different situation than the rest of his Clippers teammates. They’re all secured with guaranteed contracts. Bibbs has ten days to prove himself to team brass, ten days to show he’s worth keeping around a bit longer.
“I’m happy that my play has been rewarded, that the organization believed in me enough to give me a 10-day. Its motivation for me to keep going,” Bibbs told Basketball Insiders. “I was called down from the G League team, and I’m just trying to get all the sets and plays and stuff, trying to make that adjustment. But it’s definitely a blessing.”
He’s played in three games for the Agua Caliente Clippers so far, logging 27.1 minutes per game off the bench. He’s put up 9.7 points per game on 45.8 percent shooting from the field, 5.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists during that stretch.
He’s yet to log any minutes for the Clippers, but he’s just thrilled to be a part of an NBA organization. Despite being undrafted, he always knew that he’d get to this level at some point.
“Yeah I did, for sure I did. I didn’t know when or how, but I always thought I would be here,” Bibbs told Basketball Insiders. “I had no idea what team, but being out in LA, I’ll take that as a blessing. But yeah I thought I would be here for sure.”
For players like Bibbs who are on 10-day contracts, nothing is guaranteed. But he’s soaking up the entire experience as long as he can. Whether the Clippers decide to retain him a little bit longer, or he moves on to another opportunity, he just wants to be able to play his game.
“My overall goal is just to actually play my game my way and not be restricted,” Bibbs told Basketball Insiders. “Kind of just play freely and right now that’s what I’ve shown, that’s what got me here. I’m just taking in the whole process, just taking it all in and getting the experience and knowledge.”
NBA Daily: 60-Pick NBA Mock Draft – 3/19/19
With the field of teams set for the 2019 NCAA March Madness tournament, things should get noisy over the next few weeks on the NBA Draft front. Steve Kyler offers up another 60-pick Mock Draft before all the zaniness begins.
Let the Madness begin.
The basketball world will shift its attention to college basketball’s biggest stage over the next few weeks, especially this weekend’s opening round of 64.
While the tournament doesn’t necessarily make or break a player’s draft stock, this will be the first time some notable draft prospects will face elite talent and, more importantly, the pressure of the big stage. You can check out march madness predictions 2019 here.
Expect things in the draft world to start to percolate, not just because of the magnitude of the games, but also because a lot of NBA scouts will be in the same places, which is where the draft chatter originates.
Equally, a lot of NBA teams will watch games together in the conference rooms this week, so more group discussion on players will happen inside NBA teams’ front offices, and that could lead to new preference information flowing into the NBA Draft information bubble.
Here is this week’s 60-Pick Mock Draft, based on NBA games played through 3/18/19:
Here are the first-round picks that are owed and how those picks landed where they are.
The Atlanta Hawks are 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 standings, it will not be conveyed.
The Boston Celtics are 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 current standings, would not convey.
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 standings, would convey.
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 current standings, 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 current standings, would not convey.
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 current standings, would convey.
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 current standings, would convey.
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 current standings this pick would not convey. If the debt is not settled this year, the pick in 2020 would be top-7 protected.
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