The Market For Lance Stephenson
A lot of NBA players have had a career that can be compared to a roller coaster ride, filled with highs and lows. That holds true for Charlotte Hornets guard Lance Stephenson more than most, though.
The 24-year-old was a high-profile recruit in high school, but joined the Cincinnati program with some off-court concerns and a little bit of baggage. After a solid freshman year in which he averaged 12.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists, Stephenson opted for an uncertain future as a pro over the chance to play his way into the first round as a sophomore with an expanded role. His inconsistency on the floor, and red flags off of it, caused Stephenson to fall to 40th overall to the Indiana Pacers.
In his third year, Stephenson exploded into one of the league’s most productive shooting guards. This is after two years of staying out of serious trouble and accepting a minimal role without causing any issues. The Pacers took a gamble on him that the rest of the league wasn’t willing to, and it paid off for them.
But, when it came time to pay Stephenson, resurfaced character concerns brought his stock down. From a statistical standpoint, he was worthy of a max contract that players less effective than him were receiving. But no team was willing to make that kind of commitment to him. The Pacers offered him a five-year deal, but at $44 million it was well short of what Stephenson felt was his true value. They followed up that offer by quickly signing C.J. Miles and making it clear to Stephenson that the deal on the table was as good as it was going to get.
With his future as unclear as ever, Stephenson waited for free agency to play out and eventually saw the Hornets emerge as his most serious suitor. They were a young team coming off of a surprise playoff run in need of an upgrade at his position. It seemed like a match made in heaven by the basketball gods. The deal was for less money overall than what the Pacers’ offered, but for slightly more annually. It was also just a two-year pact with a team option for the third year, giving Stephenson the opportunity to hit free agency again as a more mature and proven 27-year-old when the cap should be close to $20 million higher than it is right now.
Yet, so far, it hasn’t been working out. The Hornets have been one of the most disappointing teams in the league, with Stephenson earning the same honor, if you want to call it that, from an individual standpoint. There have already been rumblings that the two sides could be interested in a split, but according to Shams Charania of Real GM, they’re remaining committed to each other right now. It’s a small sample size, but Stephenson is playing better through three games here in the month of December, but what’s ultimately going to determine his fate is where things stand come the trade deadline in February.
With an annual salary of $9 million and the ability to shed his contract after next season, Stephenson is actually a good value contract even based on his underwhelming production so far. His potential to turn things around and get back to the level he was playing at with the Pacers makes the idea of acquiring him even more enticing, assuming the Hornets don’t ask for the moon and the stars in return.
It’s going to take a team in a real unique situation to be willing to take on Stephenson. According to Charania, there are four or five teams out there that have expressed interest in Stephenson to the Hornets. The Brooklyn Nets jump off of the page as they proven veterans they’re willing to let go of and young talent to pair them with as well. Stephenson is a Brooklyn native and the Nets have a clear track record of being willing to take risks. The nearby New York Knicks need talent any way they can get it, but it’s hard to imagine a team with all of their issues looking at Stephenson as a possible solution.
The Dallas Mavericks were one of the other teams involved in the final bidding for Stephenson. In the end they spent their cap space on Chandler Parsons, though, and they never seemed too sure about pairing up Monta Ellis with Stephenson in what would be a potentially explosive (in a bad way) combination. With how well Ellis has been playing right now and other more pressing needs, they don’t seem like a likely destination anymore.
Stephenson would be really intriguing on the Atlanta Hawks, and they have the expiring contract of Paul Millsap that matches Stephenson’s outgoing salary of $9 million, but they’re playing so well right now and that’s a major shake up to make when the chemistry is so strong. If they’re really honest in their valuations of themselves, though, they have to know they’re a piece away and that Millsap could be gone at season’s end.
Also disappointing so far this season, the Denver Nuggets have a long-term hole to fill at shooting guard unless Gary Harris becomes the answer or they re-sign Arron Afflalo. If they’re not sure they’re willing to pay the price to do so, swapping him for Stephenson makes a lot of sense.
Believe it or not, the San Antonio Spurs would be one of the few organizations that would have enough confidence in their program’s structure and the character in their locker room to look past a lot of the fears that scare most teams away from Stephenson. They made inquiries on J.R. Smith earlier in his career and also traded for Stephen Jackson when concerns about his coachability were at their peak. But, coming off of a championship run with their chemistry as good as it has ever been and all of their significant pieces returning, there’s basically zero chance they’d even consider the possibility. If there was the belief in the front office that they were a piece away, though, they’d be monitoring Stephenson’s situation.
The three teams that seem most likely to trade for Stephenson are the New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers. The Pelicans and Kings are in need of a boost for a potential playoff run at the two guard spot, the Pelicans especially. Meanwhile, the Lakers are in shambles with Kobe Bryant ripping his teammates in practice today as they sit near the bottom of the Western Conference. All things seem to be on the table in that situation.
So, while the Hornets and Stephenson are committed to each other right now, there’s definitely a market for him that they could cash in on if things continue to go as horrifically wrong as they have during the first quarter of the season.
The Shoe Game’s Best Kept Secret
When it comes to shoes in the basketball world, the brand name and look trumps just about everything. The Crazy Lights by adidas and the first basketball-playing approved low tops by Nike created some stir about performance, but really, when basketball players of all ages are looking for a new shoe to hoop in, the decision making process doesn’t include much other than who endorses the shoe, how it looks and, of course, price.
The major shoe companies have somewhat of a lock on the market. There’s not a lot of room for grass root, up and coming smaller companies to carve their niche. However, Ektio is doing so by providing a shoe that helps you in a way that no other shoe does. Put simply, every time you wear Ektio’s you play with the support and preventative care that you would have to get taped or wear and ankle brace to receive otherwise.
Rick Barry, a Hall of Famer and the father of one of the most talented and accomplished families in the sport of basketball, dealt with ankle issues in his career, and in short order after checking Ektios out, became one of their biggest believers.
“I got a call from [Ektio creatore] Dr. Katz,” Barry said to Basketball Insiders. “He called me about the shoe. I said, ‘That’s really interesting, if it really works I wish I had it when I played cause I had a number of ankle sprains in my career. Send me a pair and let me see what I think.’
“I said wow. This is pretty good. I got my youngest son to wear it. Kids can be picky, but he wore it and I saw it prevent him from breaking his ankle. He’s a very high leaper. He came down so awkwardly there was no way for the shoe to help protect him from spraining his ankle because it was such a crazy fall on someone’s foot that his foot was totally turned over. The doctor said to me, ‘I can’t believe your son didn’t break his ankle. He had no instability in it. For him to have turned it over and have a sprain and not a break, I’ve never seen this.’
“I said ‘Wow’ and I told him about the shoe and he said that’s the reason. To be honest I wish he could wear it in college now instead of the fact that they have a deal with a shoe manufacturer and has to wear their stuff. I make him take them to school and tell him, ‘If you’re not going to get taped have the Ektios on to protect yourself.’ He didn’t have them on or get taped and he sprained his ankle. I’ve seen first hand how it works and it’s pretty cool.”
“For the dollar you spend for a shoe today, it’s probably the best bargain out there. None of these [other] shoes, regardless of the price, do anything to protect you from a sprained ankle and it’s the most prevalent injury that occurs in the game of basketball so isn’t it worth it if you’re serious about the game to wear the only shoe that has patented technology to help protect you from the most prevalent injury in the game. It makes no sense if you’re serious about the game to not wear this shoe. I’d be wearing it today, if I had a contact with a shoe company and they brought this to me I would go to them and say, ‘Hey you guys need to go buy the rights to this because this is the shoe I want my name on, this is the shoe I want to wear.’ If they wouldn’t do that I’d say, ‘Fine I want out of my contract and buy the company because if I was playing today I’d be able to afford it.’”
After talking to Barry about the product, I had to try it for myself. I grew up playing organized basketball every year from when I was 5-18 years old. However, at 26 now, my playing days are pretty far removed. One of the excuses I always blamed that on was my fear of getting hurt and spraining my ankle specifically, because I dealt with several of them during my playing days and know how troublesome they can be to recover from. Dealing with a sprained ankle is a nightmare, but in school I had ample time to rest and rehab them – a luxury that I no longer have in the real world. But, the safety and comfort that Ektio provided me convinced me to get back out on the hardwood a couple times a week. I kept a weekly diary over the last month to detail my own first-hand thoughts of Ektio’s revolutionary product.
Week 1: First thing I must say is that this is not your average shoe. I’m admittedly lazy, that’s why I haven’t played in so long, so it’s a bit of an adjustment to go from slipping on shoes with pre-tied knots to going through the loosening and tightening process that comes with wearing Ektios. If you’ve ever had your ankle taped, though, or gone through the process of lacing up a brace every time you play, it takes significantly less time to get these on than either of those preventative measures. They’re a little bit heavier than the shoes I’m used to wearing and playing in, but I hardly felt waited down or immobile.
I won’t go into details at the risk of embarrassing myself, but my unanticipated return the court was far from glorious. The score was probably 3-2 before I started feeling exhausted, but I almost forgot midway through that I was actually testing new shoes. Within a few plays, I was comfortable in them as if I had been wearing them forever. The shoes passed their first test, but I didn’t have the endurance or stamina to test them with hard drives to the rim, trying to explode and finish in traffic or much of anything really outside of running, turning it over and call phantom fouls.
Week 2: Either the competition was down or I’m getting some of my touch back, because this week I felt a lot more effective and capable out on the court. I didn’t do anything of note to make it seem like I had any real ability to play basketball last week, so nobody really noticed me or my Ektios. Now that I’m making some things happen, people are starting to ask me about the shoes. Wearing the Alexios, the third generation of Ektio basketball shoes which you can see below, I got a lot of compliments and surprised faces when I told them that it wasn’t a major brand shoe. I got even more when I explained the benefits to them, and how much I liked playing in them. I’m pretty accustomed to putting them on now and I’m able to do so a lot faster than I initially was. Also, I’d like to think I’ve put some miles on them at this point, and the material has held up really well. They still have that new aura to them.
Week 3: My first-hand experience of how beneficial Ektios really occurred this week. It was almost like déjà vu to the final practice before the first game of my senior year. I fancy myself a decent leaper (I’ve dunked more than just a donut in my lifetime) who can finish above defenders. Back in 2005, during a 3-on-2 fast break drill, I came right down on the foot of a teammate trying to take a charge and contest the shot. My ankle rolled and the feeling of pain was so intense and gut-wrenching that I can still remember it to this day. Although I didn’t miss any time, it was weeks before I was back at 100 percent and I had to wear a brace the rest of the year. This time, in almost the exact same fashion on a fast break, there was someone set and squared up as I was filling the lane and looking to finish in transition (yes, people try to take charges in pickup games where I play at – I hate it too), I came right down on his foot and felt my ankle starting to roll – only it couldn’t. The protection wouldn’t allow it. I was filled with fear and expecting pain, but it never came. In seconds, I was running back up the court and incredibly thankful that I had the Ektios on. Without them, the fears that kept me away from the game so long, would have come to fruition.
Week 4: In as true of a sign of full disclosure as I can provide, laziness took back over for me. I played a lot of basketball in my life, and just lacked the desire to keep playing after three weeks and a sprained ankle scare. I have a lot of respect for how much work it takes to be good at the game of basketball, and the competitor in me just couldn’t continue to take the court while knowing that I wasn’t putting in the work I needed to in order to have the kind of success I wanted. So, I decided to put the Ektios to a different test that they don’t market themselves for: wearing them out socially. I combined them with a nice pair of jeans and a button up with a similar color scheme. I used “I’m trying out these new shoes” as a conversation starter for why I was out that night, and was once again really impressed with the feedback and compliments I received. Not only will these be my go-to hooping shoes if I ever get that itch again, but they’re in my regular shoe rotation from this point on.
NBA All-Star Voting Underway
The NBA and Sprint will tip off NBA All-Star Balloting 2015 today in New York City, the official host city of NBA All-Star 2015. Balloting begins at 2:00 p.m. ET.
This afternoon during rush hour, the NBA and Sprint will celebrate the start of balloting with voting fan stations outside of Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center. NBA Legends Darryl Dawkins, Earl Monroe, Gary Payton, and Mitch Richmond will greet fans and commuters and encourage them to cast the first votes at the special NBA-themed voting booths.
NBA All-Star Balloting 2015 presented by Sprint gives fans around the world the opportunity to vote daily for their favorite players as starters for NBA All-Star Game 2015. The official NBA All-Star Ballot presented by Sprint will include all current NBA players for the first time ever. Fans will continue to select two guards and three frontcourt players when choosing the starters for the 2015 NBA All-Star Game, but can now vote for any current NBA player.
As part of the NBA’s all-digital program, fans can vote on NBA.com, through social media networks including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Sina Weibo and Tencent Microblog in China, via SMS text, and the NBA Game Time and NBA Game Time from Sprint applications.
New to this year’s program is SAP, which will integrate daily stats into the online ballot. Fans can sort players on the NBA Ballot by their current stats from NBA.com/stats powered by SAP HANA. SAP will also host a new feature on NBA.com/stats called the SAP NBA All-Star 2015 Game Predictor. After fans vote, they will be able to see how the East and West starters they picked would match up. The game predictor will compare player statistics and compute a game score based on the fan’s picks.
How to vote:
• The NBA.com ballot is available in 11 languages on NBA.com/asb. Voters can fill out one full ballot per day on NBA.com/asb from a desktop or mobile browser.
• Twitter voting allows fans to tweet a vote for 10 unique players each day throughout the All-Star balloting period. The tweet, retweet, or reply must include the player’s first and last name, along with hash tag #NBABallot.
• Facebook voting allows fans to post a status from their personal Facebook accounts. The posts must include the player’s first and last name, along with hash tag #NBABallot. Fans can post votes for 10 unique players per day.
• Fans can use Instagram to vote by posting an original photo, using #NBABallot and the player’s first and last name in the photo caption. Fans can vote for 10 unique players per day.
• SMS voting by texting the player’s last name to 6-9-6-2-2 (“MYNBA”) on any wireless device. Fans can vote for 10 different players per day, per phone number, via SMS voting by sending 10 separate SMS messages, each one with a different player’s last name. Message and data rates may apply.
• NBA fans can also access the ballot and vote through the NBA Game Time and NBA Game Time from Sprint applications, available on Android and iOS. Fans can fill out one full ballot per day, through the NBA Game Time and NBA Game Time from Sprint application, the most comprehensive app in the marketplace for NBA fans.
Balloting concludes on Monday, Jan. 19, and starters will be announced live on TNT on Thursday, Jan. 22, during a special one-hour edition of TNT NBA Tip-Off presented by Autotrader.com at 7 p.m. ET, featuring Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kenny Smith. The special will air prior to TNT’s exclusive doubleheader featuring the San Antonio Spurs at the Chicago Bulls (8 p.m. ET) and the Brooklyn Nets at the Los Angeles Clippers (10:30 p.m. ET).
About NBA All-Star 2015
NBA All-Star 2015 in New York City will bring together some of the most talented and passionate players in the league’s history for a global celebration of the game. The 64th NBA All-Star Game, which will take place Sunday, Feb. 15 at Madison Square Garden, will reach fans in 215 countries and territories in 47 languages. TNT will televise the All-Star Game for the 13th consecutive year, marking Turner Sports’ 30th year of All-Star coverage, as well as the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge on Friday, Feb. 13 and State Farm All-Star Saturday Night on Saturday, Feb. 14, which will both take place at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Other events at Barclays Center include the NBA Development League All-Star Game presented by Kumho Tire and the NBA Development League Dream Factory presented by Boost Mobile on Sunday, Feb. 15, airing on NBA TV. Madison Square Garden will host Friday night’s ESPN-televised Sprint NBA All-Star Celebrity Game.
NBA Daily: Power Ranking The Two-Way Standouts, Part II
With trade season in the rearview mirror, Ben Nadeau takes stock of the NBA’s impressive collection of two-way standouts.
Last week, the NBA’s trade deadline finally came and went — along with plenty of worthwhile fireworks of their own — and buyout season is officially in full swing. But as franchises continue bolstering their roster ahead of the postseason (or lottery-bound future efforts), another deadline occurred recently without much fanfare. In January, the cutoff to sign players to two-way contracts passed — so where does that leave affairs headed into the midseason break?
Previously, Basketball Insiders took a swing at ranking the 30-best two-way players but, quickly, it became clear that there would need to be a Part II. Since then, the Pacers signed Edmond Sumner to a contract that extends through the remainder of the season, plus a team option in 2019-20. Our No. 12 selection has a home in Indiana and — with All-Star Victor Oladipo sidelined with a serious injury — Sumner has proven his worth in the postseason-ready rotation. And, funny enough, Chris Boucher — who was spotlighted in the introductory paragraphs in Part I as a would-be ineligible roster member for Toronto — earned his own multi-year contract as well.
If you’re in need of some honorable mentions and Nos. 30-11, the Part I rankings can be found right here.
But as a rapid-fire recap: Since 2017, two-way contracts have granted a team to carry two more roster spots that won’t count against the salary cap. These players, who must have less than four years of NBA experience, can be swapped between the professional level and the G League for up to 45 days in a season. While these two-way standouts will be ineligible to compete in the playoffs, franchises are able to convert these contracts to regular deals if they have the roster spot to do so. With that out of the way, here’s the best of the bunch — beginning with a very special (and retconned) honorable mention.
Honorable Mention: Chris Boucher, Toronto Raptors
So, the top ten list is officially a top nine with Boucher moving to the Raptors full-time, excellent news for the deep conference frontrunners. Previously, the former Oregon Duck would’ve been ranked at No. 2 and, well, it was a deserved spot. Boucher averaged a whopping 27.6 points, 11 rebounds and 4.2 blocks over 23 games with the 905. For what it’s worth, these numbers slotted Boucher second, fourth and first, respectively, league-wide. In college, Boucher was a highly-touted prospect before a torn ACL sent him tumbling down and, eventually, out of draft boards. After one season as a two-way player for Golden State, Boucher ended up in Toronto — now, he’s a member of the Midseason All-NBA G League Eastern Conference squad.
His NBA-level statistics certainly aren’t as eye-popping, not even close — but now Boucher can receive minutes on Finals-worthy contender. Being behind Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka will cap any short term potential, but the shot-blocking scorer can learn from some of the very best at his position. In 17 games, Boucher has averaged 3.8 points and 0.9 blocks, still, the sky may just be the limit for this talented 26-year-old. Undeniably, Boucher has earned his new multi-year contract with partial guarantees — now can he keep rising?
9. Amile Jefferson, Orlando Magic
Jefferson has been a G League standout since he went undrafted out of Duke in 2017 — now the 6-foot-9 forward has been a rebounding force for two different teams in two consecutive seasons. In 2017-18, Jefferson was named to the All-NBA G League Second Team and the All-Defensive Team after he posted 17.7 points and 12.8 rebounds over 46 games for the Iowa Wolves. This season, now with the Eastern Conference-leading Lakeland Magic, not much has changed.
With nearly identical numbers, Jefferson remains one of the G League’s most consistent forces to date. As the third-ranked rebounder, Jefferson gobbles boards and scores at an effective rate too, with his 58.2 percent mark from the field coming in at 13th-best during the calendar year as well. Notably, the Magic’s frontcourt depth is absolutely loaded, so unless injuries strike the postseason hopefuls, Jefferson will remain behind Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic, Khem Birch and the recently-shelved Mohamed Bamba.
8. Danuel House Jr., Houston Rockets
Earlier this season, two-way standout Danuel House Jr. ran out of eligible days with Houston — but when the Rockets offered a guaranteed three-year deal, the sharpshooter declined it. That decision meant that House would stay with the Rockets’ G League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Barring a change in heart from either side, House, 25, will become a restricted free agent this offseason. Over 25 games with Houston, House averaged 9.1 points and 3.6 rebounds, even starting 12 contests throughout his rapid ascent in the playoff-destined organization.
House has another full year of prior NBA experience too and tallied 6.6 points and 3.3 rebounds over 23 games for the Phoenix Suns in 2017-18. The Vipers are currently two games behind Santa Cruz for the G League’s best record and House, as of late, has been instrumental in that chase. Last Friday, House helped Rio Grande down the South Bay Lakers with 24 points, seven assists and the game-clinching free throws with just seconds remaining. Although House cannot play another game for the Rockets on his current two-way deal, his successes this campaign still enters him fairly high on our list.
7. Theo Pinson, Brooklyn Nets
As far as new revelations come, the Nets’ Theo Pinson may just take the cake. After four successful seasons at North Carolina, including an NCAA Championship in 2017, Pinson went undrafted. During that senior campaign at UNC, Pinson tallied 10.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists over 29 minutes per game — solid, if not spectacular. More importantly, Pinson was a poor three-point shooter, hitting on just 25.7 percent of his attempts at the Division-I powerhouse. Scooped up after the draft by Brooklyn, Pinson has been a nice surprise for the talented prospect-developing franchise in the Northeast.
Over 25 games on Long Island, Pinson has averaged 20.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 6.6 assists — thanks to those efforts, the point guard landed on the Midseason All-NBA G League Eastern Conference squad too. In one of the more positive storylines of the season, Pinson has even become an above average shooter from deep and now makes three three-pointers per game at a very respectable 37.3 percent clip. Perhaps best of all, Pinson recently provided a burst of energy for Brooklyn too. In a close battle against the Knicks, Pinson exploded for 19 points and eight rebounds on 3-for-5 from three-point range over 26 minutes.
Either way, in the last year or so, Pinson has improved massively on his biggest weakness, dominated the G League and made an impact at the NBA level — not a bad way to start your once-undrafted professional career by any means.
6. Jordan Loyd, Toronto Raptors
First and foremost, Loyd, too, was named to the Midseason All-NBA G League Eastern Conference team, in a theme that will continue sharply from here on out. Still, distilling Loyd’s massive 2018-19 to a single honor would be a disservice to the rookie. Loyd has done a little bit of everything for the Raptors 905, although he was passed over by Toronto to sign Malcolm Miller instead. The 6-foot-4 guard has averaged 21.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.9 steals over 34.9 minutes per game. His fine tandem with the aforementioned Boucher seems to be dead for now, but the pair continuously tore up the G League alongside each other for most of the stat-stuffed campaign.
On Jan. 28, Loyd even pulled down a triple-double against Windy City by tallying 24 points, 17 rebounds and 11 assists. Back in 2017-18, Loyd was one of Israeli Premier League’s biggest stars, earned an All-Star Game berth and finished the season as the third-highest scorer (17.4 PPG), Again, the Raptors’ loaded backcourt — Kyle Lowry, Jeremy Lin, Danny Green, Norman Powell, and, by the postseason, Fred VanVleet — has hindered Loyd’s potential impact in the NBA. Honestly, that’s fine: Just stand aside and watch with wonder as Loyd pushes the reigning champions back into the G League postseason all by himself now.
5. P.J. Dozier, Boston Celtics
The Maine Red Claws may be a disappointing subplot to the latest G League narrative but newcomer P.J. Dozier has been an absolute dream. Through 33 games in Portland, Dozier has averaged 21.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game over a 35-minute clip. Not to be a broken record, but, of course, Dozier was another easy selection for the Midseason All-NBA G League Eastern Conference roster too. Dozier has featured in four games for Boston, a total double that of his appearances with Oklahoma City as a rookie last season — but his G League numbers have seen a major rise since then as well.
The 6-foot-6 guard is averaging about 8.5 more points per game, but his greatest rise has been the boost in assists, nearly tripling from his 2017-18 campaign. Progress, particularly from within the Celtics’ organization, is nothing to ignore. Like teammate R.J. Hunter, Boston’s other two-way player, his potential for the season, if not longer, is capped. Of course, that could change this summer depending on where the Kyrie Irving and Terry Rozier chips end up falling in free agency, but Dozier has become an absolute force since joining Boston.
Dozier has averaged just 1.8 points over a paltry 2.5 minutes per game for Boston — regardless, he’s officially a prospect worth keeping tabs on.
4. Alan Williams, Brooklyn Nets
You guessed it: Alan Williams is yet another Midseason All-NBA G League Eastern Conference roster honoree. And, after his tumultuous journey, it’s a well-earned award for the 6-foot-8 big man. Through many world-traveling tribulations — outlined here — Williams signed a multi-year contract with Phoenix in July of 2017. Unfortunately, that feel-good story was short-lived as Williams underwent surgery to repair his meniscus in September, rehabbed until March, played five meaningless games and then was waived at season’s end.
Thankfully, the Suns’ loss became the Nets’ gain and Williams has dominated in the G League for Long Island. The affectionately nicknamed ‘Big Sauce’ has averaged 20.6 points and 13.2 rebounds over 28 games, numbers that place him as a top ten scorer and the second-best board-snatcher league-wide. During Williams’ only major appearance for Brooklyn this season thus far, he grabbed eight points and eight rebounds in eight minutes — a line he’s proven capable of repeating over and over with the proper court burn.
It feels like a matter of time before Williams gets his next chance at the NBA level — but who will scoop up the elite rebounder?
3. Yante Maten, Miami HEAT
At this rate, Yante Maten will be a household name before too long in NBA circles — if he isn’t already. Maten was a four-year standout — 19.3 points per game as a senior — at Georgia before he went undrafted and landed one of Miami’s two-way deals this summer. In return, all Maten has done is tallied 26.4 points (second) 10 rebounds (fifth) and 1.2 blocks per game for the Sioux Falls Skyforce this season. Maten, a 6-foot-8 forward, has been sidelined with an ankle injury since Jan. 2 but he and teammate Duncan Robinson — ranked at No. 18 in Part I — were both named to the Midseason All-NBA G League Western Conference roster last week as well.
Maten has not featured for the HEAT in 2018-19 but his scoring prowess is quickly making himself a name. During an early December win against the Stockton Kings, Maten dropped a blistering 42 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks on 15-for-21 shooting. Miami only averages 105.1 points per game, the 27th-worst mark in the entire league — bested by three free-falling franchises: Chicago, Cleveland and Memphis — so injecting Maten’s scoring punch could provide a much-needed lift.
For now, we’ll have to settle for a healthy return from the inactive list — sadly, it’s been far too long since Maten torched the G League. If things break right for him, it won’t be much longer before he gets his NBA call-up either.
2. Angel Delgado, Los Angeles Clippers
Your current rebounding leader is, handily, the Clippers’ Angel Delgado. At 17.3 points and 14.6 rebounds on 58.8 percent shooting, Delgado’s looming presence has been well-known all season for Agua Caliente. In more recent news, Delgado made his NBA debut for Los Angeles on Feb. 8 and chipped in three points and four rebounds over 14 minutes against the Indiana Pacers. Following their trade that sent Tobias Harris across the country to Philadelphia, the Clippers have some intriguing paths to end this season — many scenarios of which include Delgado’s growth.
As of publishing, Los Angeles holds the conference’s eighth and final postseason berth, winning two of their last three games post-Harris’ departure. Delgado, 24, is coming off back-to-back stellar seasons with Seton Hall, where the frontcourt menace tallied 13.6 points and 11.8 rebounds per game for the Pirates. In January, Delgado pulled down an otherworldly 31 rebounds against the OKC Blue — no, that’s not a type. For now, at least, Delgado is behind Montrezl Harrell, one of 2018-19’s breakout stars, newcomer Ivica Zubac and G League teammate Johnathan Motley, the latter of which has played in 15 games for Los Angeles this season.
Of note, both Delgado and Motley were both named to the Midseason All-NBA G League Western Conference roster.
1. Jordan McRae, Washington Wizards
And, in a reveal that shouldn’t surprise anybody: Jordan McRae is basketball’s best two-way player — at this point, the resume is too much to ignore. Yes, McRae is a Midseason All-NBA G League Eastern Conference awardee, but he’s also an NBA Champion. So far, McRae has seen it all: Finals experience, another previous D-League All-Star selection, a trip (albeit a short one) overseas to play with a prestigious club, Baskonia, and remains the current scoring leader in today’s G League. McRae, 27, has averaged a dominant 30 points per game — which that would rank him behind just Antonio Blakeney (32.0) for the highest single-season PPG tally in G League history — along with 5.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.8 steals.
With 78 NBA games and counting under his belt, McRae is both seasoned and untapped. In an inspired drubbing of the Red Claws last month, McRae poured in 54 points and nine rebounds on 18-for-31 shooting — and there are plenty of other MVP-worthy efforts to choose from as well. The Wizards, struggling to stay afloat without All-Star John Wall, could certainly use McRae’s talented efforts. Ultimately, a combination of developmental and financial cap reasons may keep him from getting his contract converted by season’s end, as Candace Buckner of The Washington Post wrote in January. Through 19 games, McRae has averaged 4.3 points and 1.1 rebounds — but make no mistake, he’s one of the best scorers the G League has ever offered up.
There they are! From top to bottom — and split over two articles — there’s a definitive list of the NBA’s best two-way players. While some are still feeling out basketball at the post-collegiate level, there are plenty of hardened, consistent contributors already. There are high-ranking scorers and rebounders, but other newcomers arrive with overseas experiences, national championships and difficult injury histories. The G League has always given athletes an intriguing — if not unlikely road to the league — but thanks to the two-way deals, those narratives have often become downright compelling.
NBA All-Star Friday Recap
Basketball Insiders recaps NBA All-Star Friday 2019, which featured a four-point shot and a deep pool of talent in the Rising Stars Challenge.
NBA All-Star Celebrity Game
The NBA All-Star Celebrity Game had a variety of big names to trot out on Friday night. This list included former NBA players such as Ray Allen and Jay Williams, current WNBA players Stefanie Dolson and A’ja Wilson, entertainers such as JB Smoove, Mike Colter, and Hassan Minhaj, and last year’s MVP, Quavo.
The Home Team was coached by WNBA legend Dawn Staley while the Away Team was coached by WNBA superstar Sue Bird.
Team Staley pulled ahead multiple times throughout the game, but every run they made was followed by a run by Team Bird. Team Bird’s comeback attempt fell short as Team Staley ultimately won 82-80.
Internet Comedian Famous Los led the way for Team Staley, scoring a team-high 22 points on 10-16 shooting while dishing out three assists in the team’s victory. Jay Williams razzled and dazzled as well, scoring 18 points on 8-15 shooting while dishing out five assists – including this beauty.
— NBA (@NBA) February 16, 2019
What could have been with Jay Williams…
Quavo topped his performance last year for Team Staley, scoring a game-high 27 points in total, highlighted by what may very well be the only five-point play to ever happen in an NBA-sponsored basketball game. Quavo shot 13-19 from the field while also corralling nine rebounds as well. Ray Allen also put up a vintage performance, putting up 24 points on 11-21 shooting, nine rebounds and five assists.
There were a few interesting wrinkles to this game. A four-point shot was implemented in which $4,000 would be donated to charity for each shot made from distance. Ten four-pointers were made in the game, totaling $40,000 in charity donations.
Two more fun facts: We didn’t even get a tip-off in this game. Comedian Brad Williams stole the ball from the ref to start it off. Also, just because it’s a harmless exhibition does not mean participants won’t get into it. JB Smoove and Hassan Minhaj got a little testy at the end of the first quarter.
Other participants included:
From Team Bird: Ronnie 2K (Director of influencer marketing, 2K Sports), AJ Buckley (Actor, “SEAL Team”), Bad Bunny (Singer), Marc Lasry (Milwaukee Bucks’ Co-Owner), Adam Ray (Host of About Last Night), Amanda Seales (Actor/Comedian), James Shaw Jr. (Hometown Hero), Brad Williams (Host of About Last Night)
From Team Staley: Chris Daughtry (Singer), Terrence Jenkins (TV Personality/Actor), Dr. Oz (TV Personality), Rapsody (Rapper), Bo Rinehart (Musician), Steve Smith (Former NFL Player), Jason Weissman (Hometown Hero)
MTN DEW ICE Rising Stars
If last year’s Rising Stars game had an overabundance of talent, this one may have very well topped it. That’s how loaded this year’s class was.
Let’s start with what could be a preview for what’s to come next year: Luka Doncic’s performance. More specifically, his connection with Lauri Markaanen. Throughout the first quarter, Doncic found Markaanen everywhere, either for easy alley-oops or wide open threes on the pick and pop.
Why bring this up? Because this is exactly what we could expect to see from Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis when they share the court together, as Markaanen has a similar skill set offensively to Porzingis’.
As for the game itself, Team USA jumped out to a 12-point lead at the half, thanks primarily to the likes of Jayson Tatum (16 points on 6-12 shooting) and Kyle Kuzma (21 points on 10-16 shooting).
Team World wouldn’t go down without a fight. In the third quarter, they managed to cut the deficit down to a point thanks primarily to Doncic and Ben Simmons’ collective efforts, but that was as close as they got. Team USA pulled away in the fourth quarter as they went on to win 161-144.
Simmons led the way for Team World, as he finished with 30 points on 14-17 shooting on a squad where, outside of Simmons, the scoring was pretty well spread out as Doncic, Markaanen, DeAndre Ayton, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Rodney Kurucs, OG Annonuby, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Okogie all had 10 points or more.
Team USA had a few standouts, including Kuzma (35 points on 15-27 shooting), Tatum (30 points on 12-24 shooting), Donovan Mitchell (20 points, nine assists, seven rebounds), and Trae Young (25 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds). All were deserving of the MVP, but the award ultimately went to Kuzma.
Tonight, we go a little deeper into All-Star Weekend with the Dunk Contest, Three-Point Shooting Contest, and the Skills Challenge. Stay tuned!
NBA Daily: Can Tobias Harris Put the 76ers Over the Top?
Shane Rhodes breaks down whether the addition of Tobias Harris can push the 76ers into the NBA Finals.
The Philadelphia 76ers made perhaps the biggest move of trade season when they acquired Tobias Harris from the Los Angeles Clippers. Harris, in the midst of a career year, was on the path to a lucrative contract come this summer. But, with an uncertain future in Los Angeles, Philadelphia capitalized and made their move to win now.
In doing so, the 76ers have put together, arguably, the most talented starting roster in the Eastern Conference. But what exactly does Harris bring to the team, and can he put them over the top of their competition in the East?
Harris has very much looked the part of an All-Star this season and has given Brett Brown and the 76ers coaching staff yet another weapon with which to attack defenses. The 26-year-old has posted career highs in points (20.7), rebounds (7.8) and assists (2.8) per game, field goal percentage (49.7) and three-point percentage (43.0) this season and should prove a significant upgrade over Wilson Chandler, who was sent to Los Angeles in the trade, on both offense and defense.
In a superior lineup, his Harris’ play should only improve as well.
His statistical values may dip with the move to Philadelphia, but, in a way, the team may look at that as a positive; with so many talents on the floor together, Brown, in theory, should be able to utilize Harris in order to reduce wear and tear on his other players — namely Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler — and keep them somewhat fresh for the postseason, if not at the expensive of some personal stats.
Harris is another player that can handle the ball and should lead to even more movement within the 76ers offense. He has shown over the years an ability to push the ball up the floor in transition and should relieve some of the pressure from Simmons in that area as well. In the event that he is the lone star on the floor, or should the ball movement stop, Harris able and willing to break out his do-it-himself kit; he may not dance a defender like Kyrie Irving, but he is more than capable of sizing up his man and either hitting a shot in their face or brute-forcing his way to the basket.
Harris is a more-than-capable shooter and, off the ball, should provide Simmons with another reliable perimeter outlet and open things up on the interior open things up inside for him and Embiid as well.
Defensively, Harris isn’t a wizard, but the effort and energy are there and should shine in the already competent 76ers defense. While it may not be ideal in all situations, Harris has the size to bang down low with some centers and the quickness to keep up with smaller players on the perimeter. Harris’ length — a near seven-foot wingspan — should also prove an asset, as he will allow the defense to switch on almost every possession. In the postseason, that could prove invaluable.
As good as this acquisition may look on paper, it isn’t without its cons or risks. Harris’ is another primary option on a team that already had three of them in Embiid, Simmons and Butler; could the presence of too many options bog things down a la the Boston Celtics earlier this season?
His contract situation, alongside the impending free agency of Butler, should give some pause as well.
The team has hedged its future on those two players and given up some good (and some great) assets to acquire them. Should Butler leave, Harris would provide the 76ers with the ultimate insurance policy but, should both players move on after the season it could set the team back years.
The 76ers have plenty of pre-existing issues to figure out as well, a losing record against their chief Eastern Conference competition — Milwaukee Bucks (0-1), Toronto Raptors (1-2) and Celtics (0-3) — most prominent among them.
But, with Harris in the fold, the 76ers seem to have all the pieces of the puzzle. If the players can put it all together, they could very well find themselves in the NBA Finals come June.