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NBA PM: First-Time All-Stars in 2016

The 2015 All-Stars all have been selected, but who might first-time All-Stars in 2016?… NBA Board of Governors adopt new rule regarding limits on ownership.

Joel Brigham

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Who Will Be First-Time All-Stars in 2016?

Some would argue that it’s entirely too early to look ahead to the 2016 All-Star game when the 2015 All-Star Weekend hasn’t even happened yet, but with snubs ultimately comes a conversation about what players may have a better shot at getting into the game for the first time next season. There were, after all, plenty of players that deserved consideration but just didn’t quite do enough to find the votes necessary to make the team (as Basketball Insiders broke down in our list of top snubs). With another year of improvement, the following players could find their way onto the All-Star team for the first time in 2016:

Nikola Vucevic, Orlando Magic – After spending two seasons in Orlando on the cusp of a massive breakout, Vucevic is finally having a season worthy of an All-Star selection. Unfortunately for him, despite the fact that he’s seventh in the league in rebounding with 11.2 RPG and is averaging a career-high 19.5 PPG on a career-high .536 shooting from the floor, he still doesn’t play any defense and is the best player for a team that still can’t manage to win a significant number of games. Vucevic still has some areas in his individual game that could be improved, and little more leadership and a little more defense could be enough to earn him more serious consideration for this honor the next time around.

Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons – There are games when Drummond drops 16 points and 19 rebounds, only to turn around and put up seven points and eight rebounds the next night, so while he is second in the league in rebounding with 12.8 RPG, he’s shooting the ball really poorly (.492 this season after topping .600 his first two seasons) and he’s without question one of the worst free-throw shooters in the league. If he wants to make an All-Star game, he can’t get off to another slow start next year, nor can the Pistons. A good first quarter of the season sticks in the craw a lot more than a good second quarter of the season, which is why Jimmy Butler was a no-brainer All-Star this year and Drummond was never really in serious consideration. He needs to shore up his efficiency and play well more consistently. The free throws aren’t getting any better, but that never stopped Shaquille O’Neal, Ben Wallace and Dwight Howard from making All-Star teams

Eric Bledsoe, Phoenix Suns – If Damian Lillard, Mike Conley and Tony Parker can’t make the Western Conference All-Star team because the guard crop out there is too loaded, then Bledsoe probably doesn’t have much of a chance any time soon unless he makes an astronomical leap as a player next year. The good news is that he’s young enough and talented enough to make just such a leap. His stats don’t jump out at you (16.7 PPG, 6 APG, 5.3 RPG, 19.2 PER), but those are actually some really good stats, and the assists and rebound numbers are both career-highs. If, say, Phoenix should trade Goran Dragic in the offseason and Bledsoe’s numbers increase 15-20 percent across the board, he’d be considered one of the better all-around players in the league. At that point, he’d be a pretty hard guy to ignore for All-Star consideration.

Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets – Even after his slow start, during which Brian Shaw was playing Faried only about 22-24 minutes per game for a few weeks, Faried has clawed his way to 15th in the league in rebounding with 8.9 RPG. Now, he’s up over 30 minutes a night more often than not, and his numbers have risen with the boost in playing time. He’s talented, he’s exciting and he’s likeable, but most importantly he is still at times underutilized. If he is either traded or given a larger role next season, a real explosion from the 25-year-old is completely plausible. He needs more than 27 minutes and nine shots a game, and as soon as he gets it, look out.

Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets – Current injury notwithstanding, Walker had been having a really strong season for the Hornets this year and is starting to do the sorts of things on the NBA level that he did at UConn. His 18.8 PPG places him among the league’s elite scorers, and he’s seen that average rise in each of his first four seasons in the league. While the Eastern Conference is rife with talented point guards, Walker could be on the cusp of a true breakout season, and if any sort of success from the Hornets follows, he could be in contention for an All-Star selection in the very near future.

Kyle Korver was left off of the list, because there really isn’t anywhere else for him to go. He’s older than the other players on this list and is already shooting historically excellent percentages. If he couldn’t make it this year, he probably never will.

This year, Jimmy Butler, Jeff Teague, Kyle Lowry and Klay Thompson were first-time All-Stars. Who do you think has the potential to be a first-time All-Star closer next year? Who will break out in 2015-16 and earn inclusion in this most prestigious of exhibition weekends? Hit up the comments below or continue the conversation on Twitter.

New Rule Changes the Landscape of NBA Ownership

Sometimes things happen in the NBA that fly a little under the radar, especially when it has to do with the issues of owners and has little impact on what actually happens on the floor.

One such quiet move was one in which the NBA Board of Governors approved a new rule that puts limits on how many and what kinds of owners will be allowed for the league’s 30 teams. Specifically, teams may now have 25 or fewer total owners (this includes, obviously, minority owners), and each of those must own at least a 1 percent stake in the team, according to Zach Lowe of Grantland.

Apparently the rule changes are something the Board of Governors had been considering for a really long time, but this will impact friends of owners and rich celebrities who want to get in on ownership just to say that they own part of an NBA team. The problem is that there are too many voices at the table for some organizations with entirely too many minority owners, and just as one example, look at all the say Jay Z had in Brooklyn when he only owned a reported 0.15% of the team. That was a generally positive influence on that organization, but there surely have been plenty of times when those small owners were much more of a nuisance.

Lowe’s sources swear this rule change had nothing to do with the famous rapper, but the point is that majority owners often feel like minority owners need to have enough money invested in a franchise to justify having a voice. If a team sells for $1 billion, a 1 percent owner will need to put up at least $10 million to get himself a stake and a voice in the organization, and certainly someone investing that kind of money deserves to be heard.

This doesn’t change the game of basketball at all, but it does certainly limit the kinds of people that can have serious ownership stakes in NBA teams. It’s a minor change, but certainly an interesting one for potential owners moving forward.

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Bruce Brown Thriving As Nets’ Small Ball Center

Brooklyn has thrived with Bruce Brown playing minutes as a small ball center – and what started out as an experiment may just change the Nets’ championship aspirations for the better.

Ariel Pacheco

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The Brooklyn Nets’ trade for James Harden has proven to be worth it so far. However, their depth and size were seriously hurt as a result of the deal – so the Nets have been forced to get creative with the limited options they have. 

Enter: Bruce Brown.

Standing at a meager 6-foot-4, Brown may be the Nets’ best option at center against certain matchups. DeAndre Jordan, the starting center now that Jarrett Allen is in Cleveland, has seen his defensive capabilities decline rather drastically since his time in Lob City. He is still an elite alley-oop threat but has some lapses with effort levels. Reggie Perry is a rookie who was the 57th overall pick isn’t ready for a heavy load of minutes just yet. Nic Claxton has shown promise but has played in just two games due to injury. 

In a win against the Golden State Warriors on Feb. 13, Brown started at center with Jordan out to injury. He finished the game with 18 points and 7 rebounds. It wasn’t the first time this season Brown spent time at the center position, but it was reflective of his ever-changing role on this Nets team. 

Brown arrived this past offseason and came thought as more of a point guard. Now that the Nets have three of the best playmakers in the NBA, his role has shifted. He is practically never counted on to initiate the offense – instead, he has become the guy who does the dirty work. Think of him as the Nets’ version of Draymond Green. 

Now the small ball option at center, Brown’s strengths have been accentuated. Offensively, he has become a screen-setter and roll man, thus forming chemistry with James Harden, and has played his way into a crucial part of the rotation. Brown’s minutes at the beginning of the season were sporadic and included four DNP’s. Now he’s an invaluable piece to the Nets’ puzzle. 

When teams trap or double James Harden or Kyrie Irving, Brown is often the outlet. He catches the ball in the middle of the floor, turns and has options available to him. Able to attack the basket or make the right pass to an open guy, Brown’s decision-making has been a positive for Brooklyn. 

Defensively, Brown is one of the few Nets players who is a consistent positive on that end. He can guard multiple positions due to his strength and often defends the opposing team’s best players. While his height will never allow for him to be a full-time center, being an option for coach Steve Nash to plug in for small ball lineups is a game-changer. 

“Bruce is remarkable, I mean, I believe he mostly played point guard last year and he’s playing – what do you want to call him our center?” Said Steve Nash, per Newsday. “He’s picking and rolling and finishing with two bigs in the lane. His willingness and ability to do that is remarkable.”

Really, that’s what has been most impressive. Brown is playing a role he has never been asked to do in the NBA and thriving. He scored a career-high 29 points against the Sacramento Kings on Feb. 23. That night, he straight-up shared minutes with Jordan, which speaks to his versatility. Wherever the Nets have needed him this season, Brown has been willing and able. 

Brown’s counting stats won’t jump off a stat sheet. He’s averaging just 7.7 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. He’s also shooting just 22.2 percent from the three-point line but he’s made a living around the basket. A look at his shot chart shows how little he operates from outside the restricted area – and due to the attention his superstar teammates garner, he usually gets open looks right near the rim.

 

He’s also often being guarded by opposing team’s big men. In a matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers, former defensive player of the year Marc Gasol guarded Brown to start the game. The role of the small ball center is not as rare as it used to be, but Bruce Brown may be the smallest guy in terms of height to fill the role. To wit, Draymond Green is 6-foot-6 and PJ Tucker is 6-foot-5. 

The Nets traded for Brown this past offseason in what looks to have been an absolute steal of a deal, giving up just Dzanan Musa and a second-round pick. Given that the inconsistent Musa is now playing overseas, it was a trade that is already providing dividends. 

But, at the end of the day, there are championship expectations in Brooklyn. While the Nets certainly have the star power to beat just about anybody, role-players who thrive in their role can often swing a game or a series come playoff time. So far, more so than nearly any other player outside of the big three, Brown’s ability to fit in wherever needed has changed the contender’s long-term outlook in a positive way.

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NBA Daily: What Should the Raptors Do at the Trade Deadline?

The Toronto Raptors are surging. Bobby Krivitsky examines whether they’ve been good enough to keep their current core intact or if they should take a different approach at the trade deadline.

Bobby Krivitsky

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After losing eight of their first 10 games to start the season, the Toronto Raptors have won 14 of their last 23 matchups, surging to fifth in the Eastern Conference.

The Raptors had to quickly recharge during a truncated offseason, get acclimated to a new setting and adjust to Aron Baynes and Chris Boucher stepping into the void left by the departures of Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka. Despite all of that, they’re scoring the 10th-most points per 100 possessions, are 13th in defensive rating and have the ninth-best net rating in the NBA.

Through Toronto’s ups and downs this season, they’ve been able to count on Fred VanVleet. After signing a four-year, $85 million contract to remain with the Raptors, the fifth-year guard from Wichita State has once again taken his game to a higher level. He’s averaging 20 points, 6.7 assists and 4.5 rebounds — all career-bests — and eighth in the NBA with 1.7 steals per contest. It’s discomforting to imagine where this team would be if he had left.

Then there’s Pascal Siakam, who’s finally shaken off a rough second-round series against the Boston Celtics last postseason and thawed from an icy start to his 2020-21 campaign. Siakam is averaging 20.1 points, 7.5 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 1.2 steals per game. One of the main reasons for his turnaround has been Siakam’s growth as a facilitator: those 4.8 assists represent a career-best. And, with the Raptors shifting more towards small-ball, Siakam is thriving working off a screen from guards, spotting where the defense is vulnerable and taking advantage of it.

Another crucial component of Siakam’s improvement is him playing with more energy on the defensive end. Effort can only take a defender so far, but when that individual is 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan and has the strength, quickness and intelligence to guard positions one-through-five for varying amounts of time, doing so can have a significant impact on the outcome of the game.

 

 

While Siakam’s production has more of an impact on the Raptors’ ceiling than any other player on the team, Kyle Lowry, alongside VanVleet, establishes Toronto’s floor. Lowry, who turns 35 in March, is averaging 18 points, 6.5 assists, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game this season. He remains the heart and soul of the team. That makes it even more impressive that, despite losing him to a thumb injury during a Feb. 16 matchup against the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto went on to win that night and again two days later, stretching their winning streak to four games (including a victory over the Philadelphia 76ers).

One major change stemming from the Raptors playing small more often is Norman Powell entering the starting lineup. He’s started his last 17 games and is averaging a team-high 21.8 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals. During that stretch, the sharpshooting Powell is also knocking down 44.4 percent of his 6.4 threes per game and shooting 51.2 percent from the floor. Toronto has won 10 of those 17 games.

Powell gives the Raptors more offensive firepower, allows them to play faster and, when they don’t have a traditional center on the floor, has made it easier for them to switch on defense. It’s an adjustment that’s worked so well for Toronto, even in Lowry’s absence, Baynes came off the bench while DeAndre’ Bembry joined the starting lineup.

So, with the Raptors finding their footing and the March 25 trade deadline inching closer, what’s Toronto’s best course of action? That decision revolves around their plan with Lowry.

Lowry, whose $30 million deal is set to expire after the season, is interested in playing at least two more seasons at a similar value, per Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Are the Raptors willing to meet those demands, paving the way for the franchise icon to spend the remainder of his career with them? Secondly, the Raptors aren’t a title contender right now, which could lead to the two sides working together to send Lowry to a team meeting that criteria by the trade deadline, which also happens to be his 35th birthday.

If it comes to that, Pompey listed the 76ers, Miami HEAT and Los Angeles Clippers as Lowry’s preferred destinations, noting the North Philadelphia native would like to return to his roots. For the Raptors to go through with trading the six-time All-Star, it would likely take multiple first-round picks and promising young players along with any contracts included for salary-matching purposes to be expiring after this season. 

Considering Toronto’s current place in the NBA’s hierarchy, if Lowry intends to leave for a title contender or the Raptors aren’t willing to meet his contractual demands, it’s clear what they should do at the deadline. Trading Lowry isn’t going to net Toronto the return necessary to vault them into the league’s top tier, but it would still figure to serve them better in the long term, even though the Raptors’ resurgence suggests if he’s still on the team after Mar. 25th, they’re once again going to be a difficult out in the playoffs, and they could go as far as the Eastern Conference Finals.

If they want to play the long game, it would also make sense for them to trade Powell, who has an $11.6 million player option he’s likely to decline in the offseason. Granted, he’ll be 28 next season, so it’s not as if re-signing him would be short-sighted.

There’s nothing wrong with preserving the possibility Lowry never dons another team’s jersey — and parting with a franchise icon is never easy. But trading Lowry may be the best bet for the franchise’s future, while it would neither change the fact that the team will someday retire his jersey, nor would it take away from his legacy. In fact, doing right by him and giving Lowry another opportunity to compete for a title may just be the best parting gift the Raptors could give him while also strengthening their own long-term outlook.

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NBA Daily: Don’t Forget About Romeo Langford

Once a top-five high school recruit, Romeo Langford has yet to make an impact in his brief NBA career.

Dylan Thayer

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As a highly-touted high school prospect, Romeo Langford found himself at the fifth spot in the 2018 ESPN Top 100. His play earned him a spot in the 2018 McDonald’s All-American Game among big-name recruits such as Zion Williamson, and after a very successful high school career, the five-star shooting guard decided to take his talents to Indiana over both Kansas and Vanderbilt. 

Langford’s time as an Indiana Hoosier was short-lived as he only spent one year with the team before declaring for the draft. He played in thirty-two games despite tearing a ligament in his thumb. His shooting percentages reflected this injury as he shot a meager 27.2 percent from three and 44.8 percent from the field, per Sports-Reference. Both of these percentages were not reflective of the electric, efficient scorer he was at New Albany High School. 

Selected with the No. 14 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft by the Boston Celtics, there was a lot to be excited about. For starters, the Celtics were able to draft a player just inside the lottery who many thought would be a top-five pick before the 2018-19 NCAA season. They were also able to get a resilient player that grinded through his injury and was still able to pace the BIG 10 in freshman scoring with 16.5 points per game. The potential with a healthy Langford is there, and that’s what led to him being a Boston Celtic.

During a 2019 interview with Boston.com, Celtics head coach Brad Stevens spoke highly of their rookie. 

“If they would have been more on the national radar, and he would have not hurt his thumb, he probably would have been even more discussed,” Stevens said at the Celtics practice facility. “He’s a guy we were all well aware of before his first game at IU.”

If it was not clear by this quote, big things were expected from the former Indiana Mr. Basketball. 

Unfortunately, his first season on the Celtics was not much of one to write home about. Across 32 games, he managed to average only 2.5 points with 1.3 rebounds in 11.6 minutes per game, often finding himself with Boston’s G League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws.

This should not be a big indicator of how things will end up for Langford though – as flourishing Charlotte Hornets star Terry Rozier was also an afterthought off the Celtics’ bench in his first season, even though many people saw his future potential. In a Feb. 7th matchup with the Atlanta Hawks, Langford made the most of a starting opportunity, dropping 16 points on 5-for-11 shooting, including 2-for-5 from three-point range, and 3 blocks. Later, he would then undergo season-ending surgery to repair the scapholunate ligament of his right wrist during the team’s playoff run in the bubble.

As the 2020-21 season heads towards the All-Star break, Langford has yet to suit up as he still is recovering from surgery. But according to a report by NESN, Langford should be healthy enough to return following the pause. 

This then leaves the question: where does Langford fit on the Celtics roster, if at all? Amidst a disappointing start to the season, many fans and people around the Celtics have begun to sound the alarm. When the owner even comes out to 98.5 The Sports Hub and acknowledges the fact that the young Eastern Conference finalists are not currently a contender, there should be plenty of reason to panic.

The Celtics’ troubles have been all over the place this season, but the one that seems to be the most glaring is the lack of explosive scoring outside of Kemba Walker, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. There has been some great play off the bench by Payton Pritchard and Robert Williams, but players like Grant Williams, Jeff Teague and Semi Ojeleye have struggled to be consistent factors. 

As the Celtics continue to look for splashes in the trade market, there is a lot of uncertainty around Langford’s future as the team now seems to lack tradable assets outside of the core. 

Despite his long injury, Langford is still a much more desirable piece than Javonte Green or Grant Williams. Moving on from Jeff Teague may be a route that the Celtics opt to take as well because he has failed to make much of an impact off of the bench, and this would open up playing time to test out a 100 percent healthy Langford. 

Langford could bring a great burst of energy off the bench for the Celtics if healthy, and so exciting to see how he fits alongside the outstanding rookie point guard in Pritchard. With Langford on the second unit, it would open up the floor for Tatum as he would have another solid scorer to kick the ball out to. 

Could Langford end up being the guy that fixes the bench scoring problem for the Celtics? Only time will tell, but based on his high school and collegiate careers, he very well might be 𑁋 if he’s still on the team past the deadline.

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