There has been a mass migration of talent in the NBA. Over the past several seasons — whether via trade or free agency — stars have routinely found themselves leaving the Eastern Conference, heading out West for it’s seemingly more talented and competitive counterpart. Most recently, Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Paul Millsap have all packed up and left the East, stripping the Conference of three players from last season’s All-Star team and leaving it almost devoid of recognizable star power outside of LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
However, the East still needs to field a team for the 2017-18 All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles. While they may not be stars yet, the East has plenty of young, high-upside talent and there’s a good chance that there will be some first-time All-Star selections next season. Here are five players that could accomplish that:
Kristaps Porzingis, New York Knicks
You don’t often find players like Kristaps Porzingis, a 7-foot-3 forward-center who can stroke it from the outside. Since being drafted fourth overall by the Knicks two seasons ago, Porzingis has vastly exceeded his expectations, finishing last season with averages of 18.1 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2 blocks per game while shooting 35.7 percent from three on 314 attempts. While it may seem surprising, Porzingis has yet to make an All-Star team in his young career, having occasionally been hampered by injuries. But with the major distraction that was Phil Jackson gone from the Knicks front office, look for Porzingis’ to take another step forward next season and, at the very least, make a reserve appearance in the All-Star Game.
Otto Porter, Washington Wizards
Otto Porter made the leap for the Wizards last season, his fourth in the NBA. Porter became one of the best three point shooters in the league — he finished the season fourth in three-point percentage at 43.4 percent and fifth in effective field goal percentage at 60.8 percent — while also increasing his stats virtually across the board, finishing the season with averages of 13.4 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game. With another season under his belt, Porter has the opportunity to improve even further on those numbers and has a legitimate chance of finding himself with a roster spot on the All-Star team next season. While it may be harder for him to make the cut playing for a team that has two other All-Star caliber players in John Wall and Bradley Beal, Porter has the talent to get himself into the game.
Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks
A torn hamstring sidelined Khris Middleton for much of the first half last season. But, when healthy, Middleton showed that he is one of the best two-way players in the NBA, finishing the season with 14.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.4 steals per game in limited playing time across 27 games. His offensive versatility allows him to contribute to the team in a multitude of ways — whether it be spot-up shooting or playmaking — while his size allows him to guard multiple positions. Going into the season healthy, Middleton should see a robust increase in his minutes played, followed by an increase in most of his counting stats. With his legs fully underneath him, Middleton should find himself alongside teammate Antetokounmpo on All-Star Weekend.
Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers
With the trade of George to the Oklahoma City Thunder, Myles Turner now bears the weight of the Indiana Pacers franchise on his more than capable shoulders. Last season, Turner averaged 14.5 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game and, after becoming the focal point of the team in George’s absence, those numbers should only increase. Turner’s ability to guard multiple positions as a center is extremely valuable and he is proficient enough on the offensive end — he shot 51.1 percent from the field and 34.8 percent from three — that his overall game should warrant some serious recognition. So, while the Pacers don’t look like a great team overall on paper, Turner has more than enough talent and will likely be deserving of a spot on the All-Star roster when the time comes.
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
While Joel Embiid was unable to make the All-Star team in his rookie season, his first half play was certainly deserving of a spot. When Embiid and his stat line of 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game were on the floor, the 76ers were a completely different team; players who have that type of impact typically find themselves as regulars on the All-Star squad. However, Embiid has one thing keeping him from being that perennial All-Star: his health. Embiid’s inability to stay on the floor has hampered his career since college, forcing him to miss two seasons following his selection in the 2014 NBA Draft and likely costing him an All-Star appearance and Rookie of the Year award this past season. If Embiid can maintain his health throughout the season, he’ll almost certainly be a lock for the All-Star Game.
Jonathon Simmons, Orlando Magic
When Kawhi Leonard went down with an injury in the Western Conference Finals, Simmons finally had the chance to break out and showed that he can be an impact player in the NBA, culminating in a three-year deal with the Orlando Magic. The move to the East should allow Simmons to play much closer to 30 minutes per game rather than the 16.3 minutes he averaged in his two seasons with the Spurs, leading to a likely uptick in points and other stats.
Kelly Olynyk, Miami HEAT
The move to South Beach should do wonders for Kelly Olynyk, who should see a major increase in play time as well. Throughout his four years with the Boston Celtics, Olynyk flashed the potential that made him the 13th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft but was never able to maintain that type of play consistently. If Olynyk can play well in a more featured role with the HEAT, he’ll get some well deserved All-Star consideration.
Elfrid Payton, Orlando Magic
With a strong second half of the season, Elfrid Payton may very well have saved his job. The Orlando Magic showed confidence in the third year point guard by not drafting a point in the loaded 2017 NBA Draft. Payton likely doesn’t have much of a chance to make the team in the Eastern Conference — which is loaded with guards — but showed he is a talented player by finishing the season with five triple-doubles, good for fifth in the NBA.
D’Angelo Russell, Brooklyn Nets
The move from Los Angeles to Brooklyn should lead to a major increase in shot opportunities for D’Angelo Russell, leading to an almost inevitable increase in points per game. Like Payton, Russell doesn’t have much of a chance to make the team in a Conference loaded with guards — playing on perhaps the worst team in the NBA won’t help him either — but he can stake a claim for one of the more talented scorers in the East.
NBA Daily: Spurs Enter New Territory After Moving Parker To Reserve Role
The San Antonio Spurs are seemingly entering a new phase as Tony Parker has been moved to a reserve role.
San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg made a significant change to his rotation earlier this week. On Sunday, January 21 Popovich placed guard Dejounte Murray into the starting lineup in place of Tony Parker. The Spurs went on to lose the game at home to the Indiana Pacers. The result was the same as a losing effort in Friday’s matchup against the Toronto Raptors in Toronto.
The San Antonio Spurs came into the 2017-18 hoping to bounce back from last year’s playoffs where the team suffered injuries to Kawhi Leonard and Parker and eventually lost to the Golden State Warriors. This season started off with the Spurs surviving without Leonard and Parker as the two continued to rehab from lingering injuries. As of now, Leonard is once again taking time off to rehabilitate after playing in nine games while Parker has been able to stay healthy so far. Unfortunately, being healthy enough to play doesn’t make up for the inevitable decline that comes with age and injuries.
On the season, Parker is averaging a career low in minutes (21.6), assists (4.0) and points (8.2), as well as free throws made and attempted per game. His usage rate, player efficiency rating (PER) and shooting percentages are also all at or around career lows. It’s hard to argue against the notion that Parker, at 35 years old with 17 years of pro basketball under his belt, is in the twilight of his impressive career.
Parker has acknowledged his demotion but seems to be handling it like a true professional.
“[Popovich] told me he thought it was time, and I was like, ‘no problem.’ Just like Manu [Ginobili], just like Pau [Gasol], you know that day is going to come,” Parker said recently. .
Before Sunday’s game, Parker had started 1151 of 1164 games played, all with the Spurs of course.
Popovich was asked specifically if the plan was either to start Murray at point guard moving forward or if this switch in the lineup was a part of some kind of injury management program for Parker. Never known for being overly loquacious, Popovich responded with little detail or insight.
“We’ll see,” Popovich stated.
In the starting lineup, Murray logged eight points, four assists, seven rebounds, three steals and one block in nearly 28 minutes of action. Murray had previously started before Parker returned from injury earlier this season but eventually relinquished that spot to career reserve guard Patty Mills.
Parker also spoke of the benefit of coming off the bench and potentially mentoring Murray’s growth in his new presumed role as the starter.
“If Pop [Coach Popovich] sees something that is good for the team, I will try to do my best,” Parker said. “I will support Pop’s decision and I will try to help DJ [Murray] as best as I can and try to be the best I can in the second unit with Manu [Ginobili] and Patty [Mills].”
If nothing else, this move will allow the Spurs to see if Parker can be more effective in limited minutes against opposing bench units. Additionally, Parker will hopefully benefit from playing alongside his longtime running mate, Ginobli.
Parker’s willingness to mentor Murray may come as a relief to Spurs fans watching the ongoing dismantling of San Antonio’s former Big-3, which began with the retirement of future Hall-of-Famer, Tim Duncan. At 6-foot-5, Murray benefits from greater size and athleticism than Parker, although Murray failed to keep the starting job when given an opportunity earlier this season. Coach Popovich gave another straightforward answer when asked which areas he thinks Murray can improve in.
“He’s 21-years-old,” Popovich declared. “He can improve in all areas.”
After asking for a trade in the offseason, the Spurs have benefited from focusing their offense around LaMarcus Aldridge, who is having a bounce-back campaign. However, Leonard is now out indefinitely and the Minnesota Timberwolves have now caught the Spurs in the standings. The pressure is on for this resilient Spurs team, which has again managed to beat the odds despite an injured and aging roster.
Parker became a starter for the Spurs at age 19 and never looked back. Now all eyes are on Murray to see how well he performs in his second stint with the starters at a crucial point in the season.
Sources: Milwaukee Bucks Fire Coach Jason Kidd
The Milwaukee Bucks have fired coach Jason Kidd, sources ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Bucks assistant coach Joe Prunty will be installed as interim coach, league sources tell ESPN. He will coach Bucks against Phoenix tonight.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 22, 2018
Source: Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN
Defensive Player Of The Year Watch – 1/22/17
Spencer Davies checks into the DPOY race with his latest list of candidates.
It’s a new year and Basketball Insiders is continuing its Defensive Player of the Year watch with sample sizes widening and new players emerging in the conversation.
There were a couple of names knocked out of the list, but that gives more of a spotlight to those who have really stepped up since our last edition ran on December 29. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
6. Hassan Whiteside
After missing nearly a month of action with a knee injury, Whiteside has returned with a vengeance. The Miami HEAT were already a good defensive team before he came back, but he’s really bolstered that reputation even further. Since Dec. 26, the 7-foot center has recorded eight multi-block games. In five of those, he had at least four swats, including a six-rejection performance in a win at Milwaukee. Overall in ESPN’s Defensive Real-Plus Minus, Whiteside owns by far the best rating at 4.73. “Agent Block” is back and daring all comers to try him.
5. Anthony Davis
Slowly but surely, the New Orleans Pelicans are creeping away from the bottom of the league in defensive rating. Once ranked in the bottom five a few weeks ago, they’ve shot up to 18th in the league (108.4) rather quickly. While that’s not the most impressive statistic to provide, the obvious reason for their improved standing on that end of the floor is Davis. He’s been an absolute workhorse for Alvin Gentry in the restricted area as an elite rim protector, with a heavy responsibility and a ton of minutes. Without him on the floor, the Pels are allowing 8.9 more points per 100 possessions, which puts Davis in the 96th percentile according to Cleaning The Glass.
4. Josh Richardson
Notice there are two members of the HEAT on this list. It’s because they are on fire right now, no pun intended, so it’s about time they received some love in the conversation for DPOY. Whiteside was addressed first, but if we’re talking about a greater sample size with consistent evidence, Richardson fits the bill. Opponents are attempting over 11 shots per game against him, yet are only making 38.9 percent of those tries. That’s the lowest conversion rate in the league with a minimum of 10 attempts.
Battling injuries a season ago, Richardson has played in all 46 games for Miami this year. While it’s been a team effort, he is the heart and soul of Erik Spoelstra’s defense, taking on the most difficult assignments each game. For that reason, he deserves long overdue recognition on this list.
3. Kevin Durant
This isn’t a case where Durant is slipping because of his performances. He’s only ranked third this time around because of the job others have done outside of him. The Golden State Warriors are still a juggernaut on both sides of the court. He’s still a top-notch individual defender. The numbers don’t suggest otherwise and the eye test certainly confirms it.
In isolation situations, Durant is allowing only 0.53 points per possession, which is second in the NBA to only Tony Snell. When it comes to crunch time, he’s always locking up. In fourth quarters, he is limiting the competition to shooting less than 30 percent—and his defended field goal percentage and field goal percentage discrepancy is the best in the league at -17.2. He’s got as good of a chance as anybody to take home DPOY.
2. Joel Embiid
Everybody loves to focus on the off-court antics and hilarities that come with Embiid, but the man deserves his due when it comes to his reputation in the NBA as a truly dominant big. The Philadelphia 76ers have won seven out of their last eight games and it has started on the defensive end of the floor.
Take the games against Boston, for example. Al Horford is a crucial part of the Celtics offense and has had problems getting going against the 23-year-old. In the 22 minutes per game, he’s been on the floor along with him, Horford has been held to below 30 percent from the field on an average of nine attempts. With Embiid off, he’s converted nearly 73 percent of his tries.
Another matchup you can examine is with Andre Drummond. The two have had their fair share of words with each other, but Embiid’s had the edge one-on-one. Similar to Horford, the Detroit Pistons big man has had a rough time against him. Embiid has limited Drummond to under 38 percent on five attempts per game in an average of over 23 minutes on the floor together. When he’s not playing, Drummond has had close to a 78 percent success rate.
Regarding centers, Embiid ranks second in ESPN’s DRPM and fifth in Basketball Reference’s Defensive Box Plus-Minus. Citing Cleaning The Glass, the Sixers are allowing 10 more points per 100 possessions when he’s sitting, which slots Embiid into the 97th percentile.
He’s altering shots. He’s blocking shots. He’s forcing kick outs. And that’s a big reason why the NBA gave Embiid its Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors. Trust The Process.
1. Paul George
Basketball Insiders was well represented this past Saturday in Cleveland when the Oklahoma City Thunder decimated the Cavaliers in their own building. The focus was on the “OK3” exposing a terrible defense, but the real story in this game was how in-tune and sound George was on both ends of the court. He was sizzling shooting the basketball, but perhaps more defining was shutting down LeBron James on a day that was supposed to belong to him.
Any time 23 got the ball to try and get the Cavs going, George was there. He suffocated him with pressure, forcing James into bad decisions and contested shots. The talk of the day was the 30,000-point mark, but PG-13 had other ideas.
“I was hopeful that it took two games for him to get to that,” George said after the 148-124 win at Quicken Loans Arena. “I actually didn’t know that stat until right before coming into [Saturday]. They told me he needed 25 to go to 30,000. I’ve been a part of a lot of those baskets that he’s had, so that’s an achievement or milestone I didn’t want to be a part of.”
Thunder teammate Steven Adams spoke to his prowess on that end of the floor.
“He’s a really good defender man,” Adams said. “It was like a perfect matchup, honestly. He played LeBron really well in terms of our system and what we want him doing. He did an amazing job there.”
Oklahoma City head coach Billy Donovan is a huge fan as well.
“He really I think puts forth good effort,” Donovan said pre-game. “He’s long, smart. He’s disruptive. He’s got good feet. He’s a physical defender. He’s hard to shoot over. Certainly, with he and Andre [Roberson] on the wings, that’s certainly bolstered our defense.”
That was one performance, but it’s obvious how much George brings to the table as one of the toughest guys to score on in this league. He’s got a league-leading 188 deflections and is tied with Eric Bledsoe at the top of the NBA with 2.2 steals per game.
Recently, the Thunder have allowed 91 points at most in three of their last four games. They are also in the top three allowing just 104.7 points per 100 possessions and George has been a huge part of that.