Connect with us

NBA

NBA PM: Lakers Land Lin at Perfect Time

The Lakers have tried for years to acquire Jeremy Lin and have finally landed him at a perfect time for him to show what he can really do.

Yannis Koutroupis

Published

on


Lakers Land Lin at Perfect Time: What a lot of NBA prospects don’t realize in the pre-draft process is that all of the workouts and interviews they do don’t just impact where they are going to land on draft night. Teams are often doing research and putting together files on players for when they hit free agency or become available in trades years later as well.

The Los Angeles Lakers’ acquisition of Jeremy Lin from the Houston Rockets after the moratorium was lifted is a prime example. The Lakers have had eyes for Lin for years now, trying to sign him before he landed with the Golden State Warriors and also putting in a claim for his rights when he was on waivers afterward, only to see him ultimately land with the New York Knicks where Linsanity was born.

Lin’s career has undergone a string of reality checks since that point. He spent the last two years with the Rockets. He came in as a top target for the Rockets that offseason, but his role decreased with the additions of James Harden and Dwight Howard. Toward the end of his tenure with the team, he was coming off of the bench behind overseas import Patrick Beverley and had his jersey number used during the recruiting pitch for Carmelo Anthony like he wasn’t even on the team anymore.

The Rockets may have fallen out of love with Lin, but the Lakers were eager to take him off of their hands. Having no issue with paying the final year of his contract, which only counts from $8.3 million against the cap but actually costs the team closer to $15 million, the Lakers have finally landed the player they’ve sought after for years. The path that kept Lin away from the Lakers couldn’t have prepared him better for the situation he’s going into with them now.

“I’m a more mature person,” Lin said at his introductory press conference. “That’s one thing I’ve experienced. I’ve gone through the highs and lows of an NBA career in the spotlight. Going through New York has prepared me and given me a different perspective, then going to Houston where things settled down and there wasn’t as much spotlight, now coming to L.A. where there’s a bigger market and spotlight, hopefully I’m able to handle it better each and every year. One of the ways I want to handle it is not letting it affect my play. Now, more than ever, I’ve learned to just play for God and ignore everything on the outside.

“It’s been an up and down year for me. I think when I look back on not just this past year but the past two years I’ve learned and grown a lot as a person, Christian and basketball player. From the minute I stepped into Houston to now, I’m definitely a much more complete player. I’ve learned how to do a lot of things I haven’t had to do before, playing off the ball, cutting, really challenging myself on my weaknesses I’ve tried to improve on.”

Acquiring Lin was clearly a contingency plan for the Lakers, as they went into the offseason with aspirations of luring the top free agents on the market to join forces with Kobe Bryant. However, when they missed out, they quickly went to forming a team of guys like Lin who have been counted out and have something to prove. They put in the winning bid for Carlos Boozer after he was amnestied by the Chicago Bulls and also signed Ed Davis, along with re-signing Jordan Hill, Nick Young, Xavier Henry, Wesley Johnson and Ryan Kelly. They may not be the most talented team on paper, but there may not be a team in the league with a bigger chip on their shoulder.

Bryant is determined to finish his career on a high note and shock his doubters one more time. He’s already started reaching out to his new teammates to get them on the same page.

“We’d exchange texts,” Lin said of his communication with Bryant. “I was in Shanghai at the time, we’ve talked a little bit here or there. The one thing he told me is we have a lot of work to do and I think that’s 100 percent accurate. As long as we come in with that mindset of really having to work and earn everything, I think we’ll be okay.

“I think [the chemistry with Kobe] will be great. I’ve had the opportunity to play with a few really great players. I’ll be able to learn a lot from him; he’s been there, done it and won at the highest level. I’m excited to learn from him, to be honest, and see how he approaches things. I’ve made my own structure and rhythm to what my workouts look like for the season, but I’d like to see what his look like as well.”

Lin also mentioned Lakers veteran point guard Steve Nash as someone he is excited to learn from, as he has studied his game in the past and tried to emulate him. He’s even open to the idea of playing behind him or even off of the ball with him in the case that Nash has a resurgent year and is able to contribute more than he has so far in his injury-plagued two-year Laker career.

“If you ask any player, they’ll believe they’re capable of starting,” Lin said. “If there’s anything I’ve learned this year it’s not about who starts, it’s more about who finishes and how you play with the time you’re given. That’s probably one of the biggest things I’ve learned this past year. I believe I can start for a NBA team and help that team win. As a competitor I would obviously love to, but that’s not me coming in and saying I need this or that. I just want to be a part of the team.

“My approach won’t change. I think my approach shouldn’t ever change. It should just be to be on attack mode all the time because that’s who I am as a player. Regardless of his health or anyone else’s health, I’m going to be on the attack. One thing I thought worked good in Houston was when I played with Pat Beverley. I’d like to play with Steve Nash… I think that’d be really fun.”

The decision on how playing time is split up and what combinations are used will eventually be made by whoever the Lakers tap as their next head coach. They are currently the only team in the NBA without a coach in place. They made it clear from the start that they were going to take their time and used their head coaching vacancy as a part of their recruiting efforts for free agents like Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Chris Bosh among others. Now, even without any star’s voice other than Bryant’s to really take into consideration, they continue to take their time and be methodical with their process.

Longtime Laker Byron Scott, who has been a head coach with the Brooklyn Nets, New Orleans Pelicans and Cleveland Cavaliers, has been the perceived favorite for some time and recently had another interview with the team. However, the fact that they have yet to hire him has created speculation that they may be going in another direction.

With training camp still a couple of months away and no other team looking for a coach, the Lakers could really drag this thing out another couple of weeks and re-evaluate candidates they previously ruled out now that they know what their roster looks like. The team is basically set, outside of perhaps a couple signings for the veteran’s minimum.

No matter who gets put in charge on the sidelines, the timing couldn’t be better for Lin to finally land on the Lakers after multiple failed attempts to acquire him. He’s basically auditioning again, which may not be ideal for him at this stage of his career, but he’s doing so for a team that has wanted him for years and has nothing prohibiting them from keeping him long-term should he flourish like they’re hoping he will. He’s going to have every opportunity to showcase his full repertoire in this contract year and doesn’t have overwhelming expectations for the first time since the Linsanity storm.

“To be honest I have the least amount of pressure, feel the least amount of pressure than I ever have,” Lin said. “I’m trying not to let my situation as a player dictate my play. I know what I want to accomplish as a player and how I want to play. As long as I do that, I can hold my head high.”

Cavaliers Sign Wiggins, Harris: The Cleveland Cavaliers have signed their 2014 NBA Draft picks, Andrew Wiggins and Joe Harris, to contracts, Cavaliers general manager David Griffin announced today from Cleveland Clinic Courts. Per league policy, terms of the contracts were not released.

Wiggins was the first overall pick in the June draft. An early entry candidate from Kansas University, Wiggins, 19, was named Big 12 Freshman of the Year and First-Team All-League in his only year at Kansas. In 35 contests with the Jayhawks last year, the 6’8, 194-pound guard averaged 17.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.0 block in 32.8 minutes per game. In four games during the 2014 NBA Summer League, Wiggins averaged a team-high 15.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 1.5 blocks in 29.9 minutes per game.

Harris was selected 33rd overall after playing four years at Virginia where he was named Second Team All-ACC as a senior and First Team All-ACC as a junior. The 6’6, 225-pound guard averaged 12.6 points and 3.8 rebounds in 30.3 minutes for his career at Virginia (135 games). In four games during the 2014 NBA Summer League, Harris averaged 7.8 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 24.6 minutes per game.

Once rookies are officially signed like Wiggins and Harris now are, they cannot be traded for 30 days. Wiggins has been at the center of trade rumors involving Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love. His signing does not mean that trade talks are off, in fact it makes a trade easier to consummate as he goes from not counting for anything financially as an unsigned rookie to now $5.5 million. A trade involving Wiggins could still be agreed to in principle, just not made official until August 24 at the earliest. The Cavaliers, at the urging of LeBron James, are hot in pursuit of Love and may have to part with Wiggins in order to land him. However, the Chicago Bulls and Golden State Warriors are also firmly in the mix with offers that are comparable to what Cleveland can give.

Yannis Koutroupis is Basketball Insiders' Managing Site Editor and Senior Writer. He has been covering the NBA and NCAA for seven years.

Advertisement




2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Pingback: How a Kobe Bryant and Jeremy Lin Backcourt Can Work for LA Lakers | IamDistinct

  2. Pingback: NBA PM: Lakers Land Lin at Perfect Time – BasketballInsiders - Tommy Mac

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

NBA

Reviewing the Nurkic Trade: Denver’s Perspective

The Denver Nuggets have been on a miraculous run this postseason, but that doesn’t mean that they’re infallible. Drew Maresca reviews the 2017 trade that sent Jusuf Nurkic from Denver to Portland.

Drew Maresca

Published

on

The Denver Nuggets are fresh off of a 114-106 win over the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, pulling within three wins of the franchise’s first trip to the NBA Finals. But what if I told you that the Nuggets’ roster could be even more talented by acting more deliberately in a trade from three years ago?

While Denver won on Tuesday night, they lost a nail bitter on Sunday – for which most of the blame has been pointed at a defensive breakdown by Nuggets’ center Mason Plumlee, who was procured in the aforementioned 2017 trade. What did it cost Denver, you ask? Just Jusuf Nurkic and a first-round pick.

Nurkic was a 2014-15 All-Rookie second team member. He played 139 games over 2.5 seasons in Denver, averaging 7.5 points and 5.9 rebounds in approximately 18 minutes per game. He showed serious promise, but Denver had numerous reasons to pursue a trade: he’d suffered a few relatively serious injuries early in his career (and he’s continued to be injury-prone in Portland), butted heads with head coach Michael Malone and – most importantly – the Nuggets stumbled on to Nikola Jokic.

The Nuggets eventually attempted a twin-tower strategy with both in the starting line-up, but that experiment was short-lived — with Jokic ultimately asking to move to the team’s second unit.

The Nuggets traded Nurkic to the Portland Trail Blazers in February 2017 (along with a first-round pick) in exchange for Plumlee, a second-round pick and cash considerations. Ironically, the first-round pick included in the deal became Justin Jackson, who was used to procure another center, Zach Collins – but more on that in a bit.

As of February 2017, Plumlee was considered the better player of the two. He was averaging a career-high 11 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.0 assists through 54 games – but it was clear that at 27, he’d already maximized his talent.

Conversely, Nurkic was only 23 at the time of the trade with significant, untapped upside. In his first few seasons with Portland, Nurkic averaged 15 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, while establishing himself as a rising star. As noted above, injuries have continued to be a problem. Nurkic suffered a compound fracture in his tibia and fibula in March 2019, forcing him to miss a majority of this current campaign. The COVID-19-related play stoppage in March gave Nurkic extra time to get his body right, and he returned to action in July inside the bubble.

And he did so with a vengeance. Nurkic demonstrated superior strength and footwork, and he flashed the dominance that Portland hoped he would develop, posting eight double-doubles in 18 contests. He averaged 17.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per game and while his play dipped a bit in the playoffs – partially due to a matchup with first-team All-NBA star Anthony Davis – he still managed 14.2 points and 10.4 rebounds in the five-game series. So it’s fair to say that Nurkic is still on his way toward stardom.

But the Nuggets are in the conference finals – so all’s well that ends well, right? Not so fast. To his credit, Plumlee is exactly who Denver expected him to be. He’s averaged 7.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game in three seasons with Denver since 2017 – but to be fair, Plumlee is asked to do less in Denver than he had in Portland. Still, it’s fairly obvious that they’re just not that comparable.

Plumlee is a good passer and an above-average defender that’ll compete hard and isn’t afraid to get dirty – but he has limitations. He doesn’t stretch the floor and he is a sub-par free throw shooter (53.5 percent in 2019-20). More importantly, he’s simply not a major offensive threat and his repertoire of moves is limited.

High-level takeaway: Defenses tend to game plan for opponents they view as major threats – Nurkic falls into this category. Other guys pack the stat sheet through putback attempts, open looks and single coverage alongside the guys for whom opposing defenses game plan – that’s a more appropriate description of Plumlee.

On to the wrench thrown in by Zach Collins’ involvement. Statistically, Collins is about as effective as Plumlee – he averaged 7 points and 6.3 rebounds through only 11 games in 2019-20 due to various injuries – and he possesses more upside. The 22-year-old is not as reliable as Plumlee but given his age and skill set, he’s a far better option as a support player playing off the bench. He stretches the floor (36.8 percent on three-point attempts in 2019-20), is an above-average free throw shooter (75 percent this season) and is a good defender. Looking past Nurkic for a moment, would the Nuggets prefer a 22-year-old center that stretches the floor and defends or a 30-year-old energy guy?

Regardless of your answer to that question, it’s hard to argue that Nurkic should have returned more than Plumlee, definitely so when you factor in the first-round pick Denver included. There is obviously more at play: Denver was probably considering trading Nurkic for some time before they acted – did they feel that they could increase his trade value prior to the trade deadline in 2016-17? Maybe. Further, Nurkic and his agent could have influenced the Nuggets’ decision at the 2017 deadline, threatening to stonewall Denver in negotiations.

Had Nurkic been more patient or the Nuggets acted sooner before it became abundantly clear that he was on the move, Denver’s roster could be even more stacked than it is now. Ultimately, the Nuggets have a plethora of talent and will be fine – while it appears that Nurkic found a long-term home in Portland, where he owns the paint offensively. Denver can’t be thrilled about assisting a division rival, but they’re still in an enviable position today and should be for years to come.

But despite that, this deal should go down as a cautionary tale – it’s not only the bottom feeders of the league who make missteps. Even the savviest of front offices overthink deals. Sometimes that works in their favor, and other times it does not.

Continue Reading

NBA

NBA Daily: They Guessed Wrong

Matt John reflects on some of the key decisions that were made last summer, and how their disappointing results hurt both team outlooks and players’ legacies.

Matt John

Published

on

It doesn’t sound possible, but did you know that the crazy NBA summer of 2019 was, in fact, over a year ago? Wildly, in any normal, non-pandemic season, it all would have been over three months ago and, usually, media days would be right around the corner, but not this time. The 2019-20 NBA season is slated to end sometime in early to mid-October, so the fact that the last NBA off-season was over a year ago hasn’t really dawned on anyone yet. Craziest of all, even though there will still be an offseason, there technically won’t be any summer.

Coronavirus has really messed up the NBA’s order. Of course, there are much worse horrors that COVID-19 has inflicted upon the world – but because of what it’s done to the NBA, let’s focus on that and go back to the summer of 2019. It felt like an eternity, but the Golden State Warriors’ three-year reign had finally reached its end. The Toronto Raptors’ victory over the tyranny that was the Hamptons Five – as battered as they were – made it feel like order had been restored to the NBA. There was more to it than that though.

Klay Thompson’s and Kevin Durant’s season-ending injuries, along with the latter skipping town to join Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn meant two things.

1. Golden State was down for the count
2. Brooklyn’s time wasn’t coming until next year.

A one-year window was open. Even if neither Golden State nor Brooklyn posed the same threat that the former did when it had Kevin Durant, those were two contenders out of commission. If there was a time to go all in, it was in 2019.

Milwaukee certainly seemed to go all in. For the most part.  Malcolm Brogdon’s departure seemed a little odd since he was arguably their best non-Giannis playmaker when they were in crunch time. Not to mention there was nothing really stopping the Bucks from keeping him except for money. Detractors will call out Milwaukee for electing to cheap out by not keeping Brogdon and hence, avoiding the luxury tax. However, there’s more to it than that.

Milwaukee thought it had enough with the core it had on its roster. Coming off the best season they had put up since the eighties, they believed the franchise built the right team to contend. There was an argument that keeping Brogdon may have been overkill with their guard depth – let’s not forget that Donte DiVincenzo did a solid job in Brogdon’s role as the backup facilitator. This would have been more defensible had it not been for Milwaukee picking the wrong guy to let go. That was the indefensible part- electing to keep Eric Bledsoe over Brogdon.

Bledsoe wasn’t necessarily a bad investment. No one’s complaining about an almost 15 point average on 47/34/79 splits or playing individual defense tight enough to get named on the All-Defensive second team. By all accounts, Bledsoe earns his keep. That is until the playoffs. Bledsoe’s postseason woes have been a weight ever since he first entered Milwaukee, and this postseason was more of the same.

Bledsoe’s numbers dwindled to just 11.7 points on 39/25/81 splits, and Milwaukee getting ousted in five games at the hands of Miami made his struggles stand out even more than it had ever been. Bledsoe may be the better athlete and the better defender, but Brogdon’s all-around offensive savvy and his only slight dropoff defensively from Brogdon would have made him a bit more reliable.

Milwaukee guessed wrong when they opted to extend Bledsoe before the postseason last year when they could have waited until that very time to evaluate who to keep around. Now they face a hell of a lot more questions than they did at the end of last season – questions that may have been avoided had they made the right choice.

Now they could have kept both of them, yes, but it’s not totally unreasonable to think that maybe their approach with the luxury tax would have worked and maybe they would still be in the postseason right now had they gone with the homegrown talent. And just maybe, there wouldn’t be nearly as much of this Greek Freak uncertainty.

The Houston Rockets can relate. They got bruised up by a team that everyone thought Houston had the edge on going into the series and then crushed by the Lakers. Now, Mike D’Antoni is gone. The full-time small ball experiment likely did not work out. Since the Rockets emptied most of their assets to bring in Russell Westbrook and Robert Covington, there may not be a route in which they can become better than they presently are.

The mistake wasn’t trading for Russell Westbrook. The mistake was trading Chris Paul.

To be fair, most everybody severely overestimated Chris Paul’s decline. He’s not among the best of the best anymore, but he’s still pretty darn close. He deserved his All-NBA second team selection as well as finishing No. 7 overall in MVP voting. OKC had no business being as good as they were this season, and Paul was the driving force as to why.

For all we know, the previously-assumed tension between Chris Paul and James Harden would have made its way onto the court no matter what. Even so, Houston’s biggest obstacle in the Bay Area had crumbled. If they had just stayed the course, maybe they’re still in the postseason too.

To their credit, none of this may have happened had it not been for the Kawhi Leonard decision. Had he chosen differently, the Thunder never blow it up, and Houston might have very well been the favorite in the Western Conference. Instead, the Rockets took a step back from being in the title discussion to dark horse. But at least they can take pride knowing that they weren’t expected to win it all – the Clippers can’t.

Seeing the Clippers fall well short expectations begs the question if they too got it wrong. The answer is, naturally: of course not. They may have paid a hefty price for Paul George, but the only way they were getting Kawhi Leonard – one of the best players of his generation – was if PG-13 came in the package. As lofty as it was, anyone would have done the same thing if they were in their shoes. They didn’t get it wrong. Kawhi did.

On paper, the Clippers had the most talented roster in the entire league. It seemed like they had every hole filled imaginable. Surrounding Leonard and George was three-point shooting, versatility, a productive second unit, an experienced coach – you name it. There was nothing stopping them from breaking the franchise’s long-lasting curse. Except themselves.

Something felt off about them. They alienated opponents. They alienated each other. At times, they played rather lackadaisically, like the title had already been signed, sealed, and delivered to them. The media all assumed they’d cut the malarkey and get their act together – but that moment never really came. They had their chances to put Denver away, but even if they had, after seeing their struggles to beat them – and to be fair Dallas too – would their day of destiny with the Lakers have really lived up to the hype?

Even if it was never in the cards, one can’t help but wonder what could have happened had Kawhi chosen to stay with the team he won his second title with.

Toronto was the most impressive team in this league this season. They still managed to stay at the top of the east in spite of losing an all-timer like Leonard. That team had every component of a winner except a superstar. They had the right culture for a championship team. Just not the right talent. The Clippers were the exact opposite. They had the right talent for a championship team but not the right culture. That’s why the Raptors walked away from the postseason feeling proud of themselves for playing to their full potential while the Clippers writhed in disappointment and angst over their future.

In the end, everyone mentioned here may ultimately blame what happened to their season on the extenuating circumstances from the pandemic. The Bucks’ chemistry never fully returned when the Bubble started. Contracting COVID and dealing with quad problems prevented Westbrook from reviving the MVP-type player he was before the hiatus. As troubling as the Clippers had played, the extra time they would have had to work things out in a normal season was taken away from them.

For all we know, next year will be a completely different story. The Rockets, Bucks, and Kawhi may ultimately have their faith rewarded for what they did in the summer of 2019 – but that will only be mere speculation until the trio can change the story.

Continue Reading

NBA

Looking Toward The Draft: Power Forwards

Basketball Insiders continues their NBA Draft watch, this time with the power forwards.

David Yapkowitz

Published

on

We got some updated NBA draft news this week when the league announced that several key dates have been pushed back including the draft, the start of free agency and the beginning of the 2020-21 season.

The 2020 draft was originally scheduled for Oct. 16, but it will now likely occur sometime in November. Obviously, with the COVID-19 pandemic still wildly out of control in the United States, all of these potential deadlines are fluid and subject to change.

With that said, we’re continuing our position by position breakdown here at Basketball Insiders of some of the top 2020 draft prospects. We looked at the point guards and shooting guards last week, and this week we’re covering the small forwards and power forwards.

The power forward crop, like the draft overall, doesn’t appear to be as strong as recent years, that doesn’t mean there aren’t potential contributors and high-level NBA players available, as well as one who might just turn out to be a star-caliber player.

Onyeka Okongwu, USC – 19 years old

Okongwu is the player who just might develop into a star on some level. He was actually underrated in high school and was snubbed for a McDonald’s All-American selection his senior year. He established himself early on at USC as the team’s best player as a freshman and now appears to have turned some heads.

He’s been mentioned as a lottery pick and in some mock drafts, he’s top 4-5. He possesses a great all-around skill-set; he can score in the post, he can put the ball on the floor and attack and he can shoot. But perhaps his biggest attribute is his versatility on the defensive end. He’s got quick feet and mobility and can guard multiple positions.

Okongwu might actually play center in the NBA, especially in small-ball lineups, but he’s mostly played power forward and so he’ll probably see time there in the league. His skill-set fits perfectly with today’s game.

Obi Toppin, Dayton – 22 years old

Toppin is one of the older players in the draft, and in recent history, players that age tend to slip on draft boards. In Toppin’s case, it looks like the reverse might actually be true. He’s been projected as a lottery pick, and even going in the top 3.

He’s an incredibly athletic player who thrives in the open court. He looks like he’ll do well in an up-tempo offensive system that has capable playmakers who can find him in transition. He’s extremely active around the rim and he can finish strong. A decent shooter too, something he’ll need at the next level.

Toppin has the physical tools to be an effective defensive player, but that’s where the questions marks on him have been. In the NBA, he’s likely going to have to play and guard multiple positions. Whether or not he can adapt to that likely will answer the question as to what his ceiling can be.

Precious Achiuwa, Memphis – 20 years old

Achiuwa is another intriguing prospect. this writer actually got to watch him play in person while he was in high school and he was very impressive. He looked like a man among boys. He’s projected to be a late lottery pick.

He has an NBA-ready body and he’s got some toughness around the rim and in the paint. He was a double-double threat during his one season at Memphis and his knack for rebounding is something that should translate to the NBA. He’s a very good defender too, in particular, as a rim protector. He’s very quick and has the ability to guard multiple positions.

One of the main knocks on Achiuwa is his shooting ability. He didn’t shoot that well in college and power forwards being able to space the floor is almost a requirement in today’s NBA game. It’s something he can certainly work on and improve on though.

Honorable Mentions:
Paul Reed, DePaul – 21 years old
Xavier Tillman, Michigan State – 21 years old
Killian Tillie, Gonzaga – 22 years old

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement
Online Betting Site Betway
Advertisement
American Casino Guide
NJ Casino
NJ Casino

NBA Team Salaries

Advertisement

CloseUp360

Insiders On Twitter

NBA On Twitter

Trending Now