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NBA Daily: T.J. Warren, Pacers Building Trust Early On

Spencer Davies goes one-on-one with Indiana Pacers forward T.J. Warren to discuss what his transition to the team has been like and what he plans on bringing to the table in his first season with a new organization.

Spencer Davies



The retooling of the Indiana Pacers has already been met with challenges in its beginning stages. Perhaps the most demanding of all thus far has been finding the best way for T.J. Warren to succeed.

“It’s still early. We’ve got to get a feel for T.J. and he has to get a feel for us,” Pacers head coach Nate McMillan said in a pregame media session last week. “We’re still trying to figure out each other and, for me, how you challenge these guys. What do you do to push their buttons? It’s really too early in the season. That’s where we are.”

Looking at the first six games of the season, it’s been a mixed bag for Warren, most noticeably the fluctuating usage that has led to a lack of consistency across the board. We saw his capabilities in a 26-point outburst Sunday against Chicago, but consistently finding his stroke from deep as a catch-shooter (2-for-15) and finding a true rhythm within Indiana’s offense is what both parties are aiming for.

On the flip side, Warren can also affect other areas of the game. According to Cleaning The Glass when he’s sitting, the Pacers’ free throw rate is 15.4 percent worse, while their opponent’s 10.9 percent better. He’s also helping keep teams off the boards on both ends and not turning the ball over, continuing what he’s done over the course of his career.

“I feel like it’s going pretty well,” Warren told Basketball Insiders of getting acclimated to his new team. “Still getting familiar with the system, environment, everything. It’s going to take some time, but we’ve got a lot of good players that’s going to make the transition that much easier.”

After spending the first five seasons of his career with the Phoenix Suns and another staff change coming to the desert, Warren sensed he might be headed elsewhere.

In late June, he received a phone call from his longtime mentor and former AAU team headman, David West, telling him a trade to Indiana was highly likely.

“I don’t know how he knew before me, but when he broke it down to me – him and my agent (Ty Sullivan) – it made a lot of sense and the situation was perfect for me,” Warren told Basketball Insiders during a pregame chat in Cleveland. “And I was very excited to be able to come to the Pacers. Just looking forward to the season and us growing together.”

For Warren, this is completely fresh and “eye-opening.” All he’s ever known is one franchise — a place that, despite the early success this year, has been the definition of instability with head coaches and front office executives flying in and out the door. And the team’s season-by-season record in the recent past reflects that.

The Pacers have been almost the exact opposite. Team president Kevin Pritchard and McMillan have been together in their respective positions for three years. It’s not all that long, but they’ve had continuity at the top of the organization and on their coaching staff for the past decade-and-a-half. Not the kind where it’s only one coach and president/general manager forever, but the kind where the leash is long enough to the point that it’s not a turnstile.

Warren hasn’t truly been associated with anything stable since he’s been in the league, so joining this Indiana group with the knowledge that there won’t be major turnover anytime soon is admittedly helpful.

“That’s how you build trust, build good relationships, when you see the familiar faces every year,” Warren told Basketball Insiders. “And that’s what I’m most excited about, being able to build these relationships over time. The more relationships you build, the more trust and confidence you have, the better you perform.”

According to Warren, everybody has been welcoming him with open arms, so forming bonds has come naturally. It’s figuring the on-court side of things that isn’t coming quite as easy, which shouldn’t be unexpected with a partly reshaped roster.

Diving into two-man lineup data on, Warren’s most compatible teammates by net rating have been Domantas Sabonis (plus-7.1) and Malcolm Brogdon (plus-4.5) in the early going — min. 100 minutes. On the other end of the spectrum, there have been glaring defensive issues when he’s shared the floor with Edmond Sumner (121.2 DRTG) and he’s definitely still feeling out things with Myles Turner, per IMPACT stats on

Yes, the sample sizes are growing with each game, but cracking the code to what gets the best out of Warren – and even the others, individually – simply comes with time.

“We have a lot of new faces, as well as me. Just us building that chemistry, getting familiar and familiar with the system. Everybody’s learning each other’s game,” Warren told Basketball Insiders. “We’ve only been together a whole month, so it’s going to take some time. But I feel like we’ve got a really special group and I’m just ready to experience that with success.”

Maybe another factor in finding comfort is Warren’s position. For the first time in his career last season, he was primarily used as a power forward. He concedes that this was an adjustment for him defending bigger players, although the mismatches on the offensive end allowed him to take advantage. Still, his preference is to operate as a wing.

“It’s good to just match it up, see how the other team’s playing and then that’s for coaches to make the in-game adjustments with that,” Warren told Basketball Insiders.

“I’m getting more familiar back at the three. Just being at the four last year, it’s kinda new again, playing the three.” Warren told Basketball Insiders. “But it’s in a new system. So you’re just trying to get reacclimated to it, but it should take no time for me.”

No matter where Warren is slotted in the lineup, Indiana brought him into the fold for a reason.

“His ability to put the ball in the basket,” McMillan said.

McMillan is no stranger to the fact that T.J. Warren is 1 of 17 players in the league to average at least 19 points and 5 rebounds per 36 minutes over the last three seasons combined. Being in Phoenix might be the reason he had been overlooked by some, but he’s been a reliable bucket-getter for a number of years. When healthy and in a zone, it’s just his nature to be one.

Warren is focused on taking what the defense will give him instead of the numbers game he likes to stay away from. So if that’s an open look on the perimeter, he’ll fire it up. If there’s an opportunity to knife inside, he’ll go to his floater.

“Being the scorer I am, just be myself,” Warren told Basketball Insiders. “I’ve been a scorer my whole life. I’m just ready to capitalize on that on a big stage.”

Warren plans to bring that to the Pacers and hopefully more, such as improving his playmaking ability and locking in to guard his assignments — sharpening the strengths, working on the weaknesses.

And, of course, stacking up the W’s.

“(I want to) take the next step into my career and maximize my potential,” Warren told Basketball Insiders. “I have goals for myself, as well as the team. Just have a lot of success on the winning stage. I know a lot of stuff comes with winning, so I’m just ready to experience that.”

Spencer Davies is a Deputy Editor and a Senior NBA Writer based in Cleveland in his third year with Basketball Insiders. Covering the league and the Cavaliers for the past five seasons, his bylines have appeared on Bleacher Report, FOX Sports and HoopsHype.


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NBA Daily: Is Stephen Curry the MVP?

Given the prolific season Stephen Curry is having, despite the Golden State Warriors being ninth in the Western Conference, does his impact make him the Most Valuable Player in the NBA this season?

Bobby Krivitsky



In the aftermath of Klay Thompson suffering an Achilles tear that ended his season before it began, no one would have blamed Stephen Curry for prioritizing his preservation through the 2020-21 campaign.

Instead, despite the Golden State Warriors lacking the necessary talent to become a title contender, Curry’s doing everything in his power to get them into the playoffs.

The two-time league MVP is on pace to win the scoring title for the second time in his career. In a recent road loss against the Boston Celtics, Curry put up 47 points, becoming the second player in Warriors history to score 30 or more points in 10-straight games, joining Wilt Chamberlain. 

In his last 11 contests, Curry’s averaging 40 points on shooting splits that aren’t supposed to be possible at the game’s highest level. Even though he’s hoisting 14.3 attempts from beyond the arc per game, he’s making them at a 49.7 percent clip. He’s taking 23.4 shots from the field but still seeing the ball go through the hoop 54.1 percent of the time.

The context of how Curry’s producing those prodigious numbers makes them even more impressive. He is the only scoring threat on Golden State who defenses need to concern themselves with — stop Curry, win the game; it’s that simple, at least in theory it is.


Another layer of what makes Curry’s prolific scoring so impressive is the energy he’s exerting to do so. According to’s tracking data, Curry’s running 1.43 miles per game on offense, which is the sixth-most league-wide. And what that figure doesn’t fully capture is that while Curry has a lightning-quick release and is masterful at creating the sliver of daylight he needs to get his shot off, it takes a significant amount of energy to do that once, let alone throughout a game.

Even though Curry’s already the greatest shooter of all time, he’s taken the most lethal part of his game to new heights. From 2015 when the Warriors won their first NBA championship to 2019, a stretch in which they reached the finals every year, step-back threes accounted for just eight percent of Curry’s shooting profile from beyond the arc. But this season, Curry knew it would be more challenging to create shots for himself, which is why he’s doubled that figure to 16 percent and he’s knocking down 51.5 percent of his step-back threes, per

Curry’s also putting more pressure on opponents from further away from the hoop than he has in years past. According to, from 2015 through 2019, five percent of his threes came from 30 to 40 feet. This season, shots from that distance account for 10 percent of his three-point attempts. Just like when defenses double team him out of a pick-and-roll, Curry forcing teams to defend him from further out is another way for him to create 4-3 opportunities for his teammates.


After that loss against the Celtics, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said Curry’s “at the peak of his powers.” Though he’s not just putting his talents towards individual production, he is the primary reason Golden State’s firmly in the play-in tournament. The Warriors currently reside ninth in the Western Conference. They’re one game behind the eighth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies and two back of the seventh-ranked Dallas Mavericks. 

As impressive an individual season as Curry’s having and as vital as he’s been to his team’s success this season, the reality is the Warriors haven’t won at a high enough level for him to win Most Valuable Player honors for the third time in his career. Currently, Nikola Jokic is the leading MVP candidate. While it’s fair to point out the Denver Nuggets aren’t even in the top three in the Western Conference, Jokic ranks first in player efficiency rating, win shares, box plus/minus and value over replacement player. He’s averaging 26.4 points, 11.1 rebounds, 8.8 assists and 1.4 steals per game. 

If Jokic misses enough of Denver’s remaining games, someone could usurp him for the right to win MVP. In that scenario, Curry would have a chance to become the NBA’s Most Valuable Player for a third time, but he’d have to sway voters from giving it to Joel Embiid. Embiid’s in the midst of a career season, ranking second in player efficiency rating, eighth in win shares and fourth in box plus/minus. He’s averaging 29.9 points, 11.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game while leading the Philadelphia 76ers to the best record in the Eastern Conference.

Curry ranks sixth in player efficiency rating, seventh in win shares and is second in both box plus/minus and value over replacement player. He has a case for MVP, but Jokic and Embiid are capping off career seasons while leading their respective teams to a higher level of success. Yes, their teams are more talented and there probably isn’t enough weight put on how valuable an individual is to his team, but the reality is the MVP typically goes to the best player on a top team. Furthermore, that argument also applies to Jokic, who’s the lone All-Star on a team with a better record.

Not naming Curry this season’s Most Valuable Player doesn’t mean his prolific production isn’t appreciated. Nor should it get taken as a sign elevating his team, somehow finding ways to become a more dangerous shooter and investing as much energy as he has into a season that won’t end with a championship isn’t garnering respect from the NBA community. That includes fans whose favorite team doesn’t reside in the Bay Area.

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NBA Daily: The Lakers’ Path Back to the NBA Finals

In the wake of Jamal Murray’s season-ending knee injury, Bobby Krivitsky examines the Los Angeles Lakers’ path back to the NBA Finals.

Bobby Krivitsky



It’s been 15 games since a high ankle sprain sidelined LeBron James. 

With the Western Conference standings congested and Anthony Davis already out due to a right calf strain and a re-aggravation of his right Achilles tendinosis, the Los Angeles Lakers faced the threat of a fall that would require their participation in the play-in tournament.

However, the Lakers have fought admirably in the absence of their two stars, going seven and eight. As a result, their fall in the standings has been painless, going from third at the time of James’ injury to now occupying fifth place in the West.

The primary reason the Lakers have been able to tread water without their two stars is they’ve remained stingy on defense. Since James’ injury, they have the fourth-best defensive rating in the league. That’s despite facing four teams who rank in the top five in offensive rating and six of the categories’ top-10 members.

Right now, the Lakers are 2.5 games ahead of the sixth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers, with a 4.5-game cushion between them and the Dallas Mavericks, who are seventh in the conference. That should be a large enough gap to keep Los Angeles out of the play-in tournament, but the two teams are going to converge for a two-game series starting Thursday. For the Lakers, getting swept would re-open the possibility of having to compete in the play-in tournament.

Fortunately for them, even splitting that series would make it unlikely the Mavericks finish ahead of the Lakers in the standings. And help might be on the way for the Lakers: Davis may soon rejoin the lineup, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, meaning there’s a distinct possibility he’s active for at least one of those two matchups. As for James, he’s on track to return in three weeks.

While Los Angeles’ stars are getting closer to making their returns, the Denver Nuggets got dealt a more severe blow when Jamal Murray tore his ACL in a recent game against the Golden State Warriors. Denver is 10-2 since acquiring Aaron Gordon at the trade deadline and looked the part of a legitimate title contender prior to Murray’s injury. 

Denver is fourth in the West, 1.5 games ahead of Los Angeles. But even if the Nuggets have home-court advantage, they’re the preferable opening-round opponent, not just for Los Angeles, but any team with a legitimate chance at the fourth or fifth seed.

Fortunately for the Lakers, that’s the place in the Western Conference pecking order where they’re most likely to finish this season. So long as the Nuggets don’t freefall in Murray’s absence, Los Angeles will likely start the playoffs against an opponent that’s gone from having the potential to present the greatest challenge to the defending champions’ quest to get back to the Finals to becoming a desirable first-round matchup.

After that, the Lakers may have to get past the Utah Jazz and or the Los Angeles Clippers to make a return trip to the NBA Finals. The former has the best record in the league this season, but locking horns with the defending champions in a best of seven series is a far more challenging and potentially rewarding proving ground.

The Jazz have a deep, reliable rotation, they have the best net rating in the NBA, they’re in the top five in points for and against per 100 possessions, and they’re attempting the most threes per game, but also rank in the top five in three-point shooting percentage. However, the Lakers would have the two best players in a series against Utah. Usually, an opponent doesn’t overcome that disadvantage.  

As for the Clippers, Rajon Rondo has quickly proven to be an impactful acquisition. Los Angeles is seven and one with him in the lineup, generating the highest net rating in the league during that span. Last season, the Lakers saw first-hand how impactful playoff Rondo can be. Now, the Clippers are hoping he can bring structure to their offense, something they sorely lacked last postseason and was at the forefront of them blowing a 3-1 series lead over the Nuggets. Doing so would go a long way towards maximizing the production of a team that has the talent to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the first time in franchise history.

If this is the year the battle of LA takes place in the postseason, it figures to be a slugfest. Still, the Clippers have their doubters after last year’s meltdown in the playoffs. There’s also a large contingency who are skeptical about how far the Jazz can go in the postseason, given their lack of a top-tier superstar. Despite the validity of those concerns, both teams can beat the Lakers in a best of seven series. That no longer appears to be the case for the Nuggets, which is a shame for them and people who want to see the best possible matchups in the playoffs. But Murray’s injury, as unfortunate an occurrence as it is, makes it easier for the Lakers to get through the gauntlet that is the Western Conference and have a chance to claim an 18th championship, which would break their tie with the Boston Celtics for the most titles in NBA history.

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NBA AM: The Play-In Game – West

With the season winding down, Ariel Pacheco takes a look at how the play-in tournament is shaping up in the Western Conference.

Ariel Pacheco



With the regular season’s end in sight, teams are making their last push to make the playoffs in what has been a condensed season. But the new play-in tournament is providing more teams than ever a chance at a coveted playoff spot.

Here is what the new play-in tournament will look like: Teams that finish with the Nos 7 and 8 seeds will face off against each other. The winner of this game will be No. 7. The Nos. 9 and 10 seeds will also play and the winner will play the loser of the first game. The winner of this game will be the No. 8 seed. 

The play-in tournament provides intrigue and adds pressure on teams in both conferences to finish in the top six and avoid the play-in altogether. The Western Conference, in particular, is shaping up to have a rather exciting finish. There are a number of teams who could find themselves fighting for their playoff lives in this year’s tournament – all below in tiers.

Teams Likely To Avoid Play-In

Portland Trail Blazers (32-24)
Games Left: 16
Home Games Left: 8
Games Against Teams Over .500: 12
Games Against West: 11

The Trail Blazers are currently the sixth seed in the West meaning, for now, they are safe from the play-in tournament. However, they are just two games above the Mavericks from possibly dropping down a place. They’re the team most likely to secure that sixth seed because they have more talent than the teams below them – hello, Dame – and they also have an elite offense. However, the defensive concerns are very real and if they were to slip, it would likely be because of their struggles on that side of the ball.

Likely Play-In Teams

Dallas Mavericks

Games Left: 16
Home Games Left: 9
Games Against Teams Over .500: 5
Games Against West: 8

On paper, the Mavs have a really easy schedule as the season winds down. They have just five games against teams over .500 and two against the Los Angeles Lakers, who may be without their two stars for those games. However, they are just 10-12 this season against sub .500 teams and are coming off a disappointing loss to the Sacramento Kings. There’s still a pretty good chance they get the sixth seed and avoid the play-in, but it also wouldn’t be surprising to see them in it as well.

Memphis Grizzlies
Games Left: 17
Home Games Left: 7
Games Against Teams Over .500: 8
Games Against West: 12

The Grizzlies are often overlooked, but they are about as well-coached as any other team in the NBA. It is likely they will be in the play-in game, but don’t be surprised if they are able to sneak into the sixth seed. They lost last year’s play-in game in the Bubble to the Blazers, so they do have experience in this type of setting. They may be getting Jaren Jackson Jr. back soon which should help. 

Golden State Warriors
Games Left: 15
Home Games Left: 9
Games Against Teams Over .500: 6
Games Against West: 13

The Warriors are getting just other-worldly performances from Stephen Curry on an almost nightly basis at this point. However, they continue to struggle to win games, in large part due to the struggles when he sits on the bench. Their schedule is pretty light to close the season, which bolsters their chances. The talent on this team isn’t great, but Curry’s play should be enough to get them in the play-in tournament. 

San Antonio Spurs
Games Left: 17
Home Games Left: 6
Games Against Teams Over .500: 12
Games Against West: 7

The Spurs have struggled of late, especially after the All-Star break. Their defense has dropped off badly, but if there’s any reason to be positive, it’s that they are still coached by Gregg Popovich and their young guys continue to show improvement. They have been really good on the road this season and a majority of their games are on the road. It won’t be easy, but the Spurs should find themselves in the play-in tournament.

Outside Looking In

New Orleans Pelicans
Games Left: 15
Home Games Left: 6
Games Against Teams Over .500: 9
Games Against West: 11

The Pelicans have been hit with the injury bug of late, but their inconsistent play this season continues to be a huge problem. Their defense continues to bleed three-pointers and while point Zion Williamson has worked, there just isn’t enough shooting to maximize him just yet. It seems unlikely the Pelicans make a late-season run to the play-in game.

Sacramento Kings

Games Left: 15
Home Games Left: 8
Games Against Teams Over .500: 8
Games Against West: 14

The Kings are the least likely team to make the play-in tournament. Their defense is still problematic and they just recently ended their 9-game losing streak. It’ll take a huge late-season push and the Kings just haven’t shown that they are capable of putting it all together for a long enough stretch. 

The play-in tournament adds a new layer of competition that will bring excitement at the end of the season. Be sure to check out how the play-in tournament is shaping up in the Eastern Conference.

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