Utah Jazz Assemble Promising Core
In recent years, the Utah Jazz have stockpiled young talent and assembled one of the best up-and-coming cores in the NBA.
Their roster features a number of lottery picks such as Trey Burke, Dante Exum, Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks as well as additional first-round picks like Rudy Gobert and Rodney Hood. They have young talent at every position and this team could be very good in several years, if Utah’s coaching staff is able to maximize the group’s potential.
The Jazz hired Quin Snyder as their new head coach this summer, and he’s thrilled to work with this young core.
“It’s been great,” Snyder said. “I mean, the biggest thing is I’m part of a great organization and that in and of itself makes the opportunity a good one. Having the opportunity to be a head coach in the NBA is something that everybody in my profession aspires to, so having that opportunity, I feel very grateful.
“It’s a little early, we haven’t even had our full team together, but I think our goal generally would be to keep getting better. I mean, we want to [improve] every day, every practice. It sounds like a cliché, but particularly with a group as young as we are, that’s something we can aspire to. … We’ve approached it that way where we wanted these two, three weeks [of summer league] to be about growth and our staff has done a great job kind of pulling that out of them while here in Vegas.”
The players recognize that the group they have in place has a chance to be special, and they’re looking forward to developing alongside one another in the coming years.
“I think we just need to continue to grow together,” Burke said. “I definitely think we have the right talent, the right pieces, once everybody comes together during the season. It’ll definitely come along.”
Snyder has made it clear that he wants the Jazz to play at a fast pace with a lot of ball movement, which is something that the coaching staff and players are excited about.
“Hopefully we can get out on the floor and make plays for each other,” Synder said. “Playing with pace, hopefully, is not just getting the ball up the court quickly, but sharing the ball and playing with the pass. I saw some moments here [during summer league] where I was really happy with how the ball moved. We’re not perfect yet, never will be, but our spacing and a lot of things can improve. But I thought there was really a willingness and effort on our guys’ part to play with the pass. It’s just the idea of the ball moving. I think if you run 100 feet and I pass 100 feet, I’m going to win. The ball moves faster than people and if you play with the pass, it keeps people guessing and on the move.”
“It’s good; everybody wants to play fast,” Hood said. “It helps us as a team, and it’s hard to defend. I think that’s the reason we’re playing like that. We’re moving. When we play half-court offense, we’re moving the ball, we’re sharing the ball and it’s hard to guard.”
Having Burke and Exum in the backcourt – two players capable of playing point guard and running the offense – should make it easier for the Jazz to get out in transition. Snyder is confident that Burke and Exum will be able to coexist and form one of the more intriguing backcourts in the NBA.
“I was waiting for the Dante-Trey question,” Snyder said with a smile when asked about the duo. “I’ve talked about this every time we play, every time we practice. To me, there aren’t positions in basketball. If you have five guys on the floor that can defend the five guys on the other team, it doesn’t matter whether you call them ones, twos, threes, fours or fives. Those two guys, I think, can match up defensively with other guards and if they can play together, which I think they can, they really present a matchup problem. I do think that they can be a unique backcourt. And in my mind I see them as a backcourt, as opposed to a one and a two or a three.”
“We’re a tandem,” Burke said when asked about Exum. “We’re on the same team. I definitely think we can both play the point and handle the ball, so I definitely think it will work out.”
“It’s great,” Gobert said of playing with Burke and Exum. “When I get the rebound, I just pass to Trey or Dante, and I know it’s going to be quick so we can get easy baskets. They’re both good passers. Trey, Dante and even Rodney is a good passer – pretty much all the guards. I just want to be aggressive and if they shoot, I just go after the rebound.”
Exum admits that he’s still adjusting to playing alongside Burke, since he’s having to play off the ball and defer more than usual.
“I think I’m still comfortable at the point,” Exum said. “I still want to get the ball in my hands as much as possible. I didn’t get it a lot in my hands these last couple of games. … With Coach’s system, it’s open, but there’s been so many times where I just went away from the ball and let Trey take it.
“It’s just about having the confidence and just being aggressive because there’s so many times where I’m just running up and the down the floor and when the ball comes, I’m just being passive with the ball. I think if I just start to be aggressive [it’ll be better].”
Exum’s teammates came away from summer league extremely impressed with the 19-year-old. His stats didn’t jump off of the page, but he showed glimpses of brilliance and displayed the skills that made him so intriguing during the pre-draft process.
“He is one of the quickest guys I’ve ever seen with the ball,” Hood said of Exum. “He changes speeds just like that. It helps me, him getting into the lane and being able to pass the ball. He’s a really good passer as well. He can score. I mean he’s just ultra-quick.”
“I think Dante is what we thought he was,” Snyder said. “He’s young, he’s got work to do, but he’s a kid with a great deal of pride and a will to compete and improve. I think he’s tired. I think for anybody, let alone if you’re 19, to deal with a lot of this stuff is a lot – in addition to playing. But I think he’s done well, he looks fatigued to me right now, but that’s natural.”
“I’m adjusting alright,” Exum said. “It’s going to take some time, but it’s just about getting the repetitions up and getting some games under my belt. … It’s been tough and this is just a taste of what the real thing is. I look forward to learning from this experience and coming out better. I can’t wait to finally get to start the season. I’ve heard from so many people that it’s a grind, that it’s going to be so different than what I’m used to, so I’m just looking forward to getting into it.”
Burke, who is two years older than Exum and entering his second season in the NBA, is emerging as a leader for Utah and he’ll try to help the rookie guard as he makes his transition to the league.
“I definitely think their ears are open when I have instruction,” Burke said of becoming a leader. “That’s my job, to lead them on the court, get them to spots and set them up where they’re best at. I think I can continue to grow, learning this new offense. I can do a better job at doing so, but I think we’re on the right path.”
“[Playing in summer league was] important for the small things I want to work on. [Improving] on the defensive end, being a leader, running the offense. It’s a new offense for all of us, so we’re still learning how we can get our shots off in the offense, where we can attack and things like that. Playing summer league, a lot of people ask why I was playing, but I think it’s going to help me out. Every time I have the opportunity to play against NBA talent, I’m going to take that opportunity.”
Utah’s best basketball is obviously ahead of them and it’ll be a few years until this team is ready to potentially contend in the talented Western Conference. But Burke believes the team can experience some success in the near future as well, and thinks making the playoffs is a realistic goal for the group.
“We had a lot of big wins last year, and I think we can get a lot of big wins this year as well,” Burke said. “The playoffs is the goal for us this year, obviously, and we just got to continue to work hard to reach that goal.”
The Jazz have a promising young core in place and the future is certainly bright. If all goes as planned over the next few years, Utah may be a perennial playoff team with talent at every position.
Mavericks Void Lewis’ Contract Due to Injury
Yesterday, it was announced that Rashard Lewis would be undergoing surgery on his right knee, just one week after inking a one-year deal with the Dallas Mavericks worth the veteran’s minimum.
Well, the injury was news to the Mavericks, and they have decided to void the contract.
“It came to our attention during Rashard Lewis’s physical that he is in need of a medical procedure on his right knee,” Mavericks president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said in a statement. “We wish him all the best for a speedy recovery and continued success in his remarkable career.”
Lewis is once again an unrestricted free agent, who’s free to sign wherever he wants once he has recovered from the surgery. It’s possible that he could join Dallas again once he proves he’s healthy, or he could sign elsewhere (perhaps after the season has gotten underway).
The 34-year-old Lewis has played 16 seasons in the NBA and averaged 14.9 points and 5.2 rebounds over the course of his career. He has made the eighth-most three-pointers in NBA history, hitting 1,787 in his 16 seasons.
Last season, the former All-Star averaged 4.5 points and 1.8 rebounds in 16.2 minutes with the Miami HEAT. He played well during the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers and NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs, scoring in double figures in five straight games and stretching the floor for Miami by shooting above 40 percent from behind the arc in both series.
2014 Las Vegas Summer League Shatters Records
This year’s NBA summer league in Las Vegas was incredibly successful, shattering all-time records for attendance, NBA TV viewership, digital consumption on NBA.com and NBA Mobile and overall merchandise sales.
There was much more interest in this year’s tournament than usual, most likely because this draft class is one of the best in recent memory. There were a record 513 media members credentialed for the event. Over the 11 days, there were 71,942 people in attendance, which is an increase of 16 percent from last year’s previous record. A new all-time single-day mark was set on July 14, when 8,013 people were in attendance.
This was the most-watched summer league ever on NBA TV, averaging 103,000 household impressions and 116,000 total viewers, which are increases of 40 percent and 28 percent, respectively, over last year. The network delivered six of its top-10 most-viewed NBA Summer League telecasts ever. NBA TV’s opening night game that featured the Milwaukee Bucks and Jabari Parker facing the Cleveland Cavaliers and Andrew Wiggins netted an average of 220,000 total viewers, becoming the second-most viewed summer league telecast of all time.
The NBA’s Summer League Live subscription package, which delivered televised and online access to all live games from Orlando and Las Vegas, received a record number of subscriptions, up 73 percent from the previous season. In addition, NBA.com and NBA Mobile set new records, with visits up 80 percent and videos viewed up more than 70 percent from the previous season.
Merchandise sales were also the highest ever, up a double-digit percentage from 2013 and a triple-digit percentage from 2012.
For all of Basketball Insiders’ coverage of the 2014 summer league including exclusive interviews, in-depth features and game analysis, check out our summer league section here.
NBA Daily: The Cleveland Cavaliers Need Tyronn Lue
The Cleveland Cavaliers have faced injury adversity and a roster shakeup, and now face uncertainty regarding coach Tyronn Lue’s health.
The most enduring image of Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue came moments after his team sealed the 2016 NBA Finals with a third consecutive win after trailing the Golden State Warriors 3-1. As the team celebrated its historic comeback and readied to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy, one camera focused on Lue, who sat on the bench with his face buried in his hands.
— Buddy Grizzard (@BuddyGrizzard) June 20, 2016
The image tells a thousand words about the pressure Lue was under as Cleveland teetered on the brink of elimination for three games. Rather than sharing the euphoria of his players, it seemed that Lue’s emotions centered around the massive weight that had been lifted from his shoulders. Almost two years later, it appears that burden has caught back up with Lue, whose leave of absence for health reasons complicates things for Cleveland with the playoffs just around the corner.
“It’s like losing one of your best players,” said Cavaliers forward LeBron James after Cleveland’s 124-117 win at home over the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday.
Kevin Love returned from a six-week injury absence to post 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists against the Bucks. James likened Lue’s absence to the burden of trying to replace Love’s output while he was unavailable.
“We’ve got to have guys step up, just like guys trying to step up in Kev’s absence,” said James. “We have to do the same as a collective group as long as Ty needs to get himself back healthy.”
There’s optimism that Lue could return before the playoffs, but there’s a great deal of uncertainty given the seriousness of his symptoms, which reportedly included coughing up blood. Lead assistant Larry Drew, a former head coach with the Bucks and Hawks, will handle head coaching responsibilities until Lue is ready to return.
Kyle Korver played under Drew in Atlanta and said he’s confident in his ability to fill in.
“We’d love to have Ty here and healthy,” said Korver after the Bucks win. “Coach Drew has done this for a long time as well. He coached me for a full year in Atlanta. We know he’s fully capable.”
Korver also doubted Drew would introduce any major stylistic changes.
“I think LD’s been Ty’s top assistant for a reason,” said Korver. “They really think a lot alike. They coach very similarly. We miss Ty, but I think the style of what we do is going to be very similar.”
While style and approach should remain unchanged, what could an extended absence for Lue mean for the Cavaliers? Lue cemented his legacy as a leader by keeping the Cavaliers together as they fought back from a 3-1 deficit to the Warriors, but Drew hasn’t had that kind of success as a head coach.
In 2012, the Hawks had a real opportunity to reach the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in Atlanta history. The Hawks faced an aging Boston Celtics squad in the first round. The eighth-seed Philadelphia 76ers awaited in the second round after defeating the top-seeded Chicago Bulls.
After splitting the first two games in Atlanta, the Hawks faced a pivotal Game 3 in Boston with the opportunity to retake home court advantage. Atlanta Journal-Constitution beat writer Michael Cunningham used Synergy Sports to break down every offensive possession for Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo. His conclusion? For three quarters, Rondo did not score a single basket while guarded by Hawks combo guard Kirk Hinrich.
The Hawks traded a package that included a former and a future first-round pick to obtain Hinrich from the Wizards in 2011. But in Game 3, Hinrich failed to score a point despite his effective defense. Apparently feeling the need for an offensive spark, Drew left Hinrich on the bench in the fourth quarter and turned to career journeyman Jannero Pargo.
With Hinrich out of the game, Rondo’s offense came to life as he slashed to the basket at will. Boston opened the fourth with a 13-7 run before Pargo went to the bench and Atlanta closed on a 15-7 run to force overtime. The NBA did not publish net rating data at the time, but we can now see via historical data that the Hawks were outscored by nearly 52 points per 100 possessions in Pargo’s minutes in Game 3. Rather than entrust Atlanta’s season and his own legacy to a player the Hawks traded two first-round picks to obtain, Drew went with Pargo, a career end-of-bench player.
What does this mean for the Cavaliers? It means the team needs to get Lue back. Drew and Lue are both former NBA players who have received mixed reviews as head coaches. But when his legacy was on the line, Lue pushed the right buttons.
For Drew’s part, in his first postgame press conference since Lue’s absence was announced, he remained publicly deferential.
“Coach Lue is the one who makes that decision,” said Drew when asked about lineup combinations. “That’s not my call. We look at a lot of different combinations — whether guys are starting or whether they are coming off the bench — and we assess everything.”
On the critical question of how lineups will be fine-tuned as the Cavaliers prepare for the playoffs, Drew once again emphasized Lue’s active role even as he steps away from the bench.
“I’ll talk to Ty,” said Drew. “He’s got the final say-so. Whatever he wants, then that’s what we’re going to go with. But if he tells me to make a decision, then I’ll have to make the decision.”
With Lue suffering acute symptoms, there’s no way of knowing when he will be ready to step back into the pressure cooker of a leading role for a team with championship aspirations. But the Cavaliers need him and need his steadying influence and instincts. Cleveland is a team that has battled through injuries and a major roster overhaul at the trade deadline. It also faces the pressure of James’ impending free agency decision this summer.
Now, with the playoffs just around the corner, the Cavaliers must endure uncertainty about Lue’s ability to return and lead the team. James has emphasized that Lue’s health overshadows any basketball concerns, but gave his most terse remark when asked about learning that Lue would step away on the same day Cleveland finally got Love back.
“If it’s not one thing, it’s another,” said James. “That was my reaction.”
A Breakout Season for Joe Harris
Brooklyn Nets swingman Joe Harris talks to Basketball Insiders about his second chance with the Nets.
The NBA is all about second chances. Sometimes players need a change of scenery, or a coach who believes in them, or just something different to reach their full potential. They may be cast aside by several teams, but eventually, they often find that right situation that allows them to flourish.
Such was the case for Joe Harris. Originally drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers with the 33rd overall pick in the 2014 draft, Harris rarely saw the court during his time in Cleveland. He averaged about 6.4 minutes per game over the course of about one and a half seasons with the Cavaliers.
During the 2015-16 season, his second in Cleveland, he underwent season-ending foot surgery. Almost immediately after, the Cavaliers traded him to the Orlando Magic in an attempt to cut payroll due to luxury tax penalties. He would never suit up for the Magic as they cut him as soon as they traded for him.
After using the rest of that season to recover from surgery, he would sign with the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2016. He had a very strong first season in Brooklyn, but this season he’s truly broken out.
“I think a lot of it has to do with just the right situation in terms of circumstances. It’s a young team where you don’t really have anybody on the team that’s going out and getting 20 a night,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a collective effort most nights and it can be any given person depending on the situation. It’s one of those things where we’re real unselfish with the ball. A lot of guys get a lot of good looks, so your production is bound to go up just because of the system now that we’re playing.”
Known primarily as a sharpshooter in college at the University of Virginia as well as his first stop in Cleveland, Harris has started developing more of an all-around game. He’s improved his ability to put the ball on the floor and make plays as well as crashing the glass and playing strong defense.
In a relatively forgettable season record-wise for the Nets, Harris has been one of their bright spots. He’s putting up 10.1 points per game on 47.3 percent shooting from the field while playing 25.4 minutes per game. He’s up to 40.3 percent from the three-point line and he’s pulling down 3.3 rebounds. All of those numbers are career-highs.
“My role, I think, is very similar to the way I would be anywhere that I was playing. I’m a shooter, I help space the floor for guys to facilitate,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “I’m opportunistic offensively with drives and such. I’m out there to try and space the floor, knock down shots, and then play tough defensively and make sure I’m doing my part in getting defensive rebounds and that sort of stuff.”
Although Harris didn’t play much in Cleveland, he did show glimpses and flashes of the player he has blossomed into in Brooklyn. He saw action in 51 games his rookie year while knocking down 36.9 percent of his three-point attempts.
He also saw action in six playoff games during the Cavaliers’ run to the 2015 Finals. But more importantly, it was the off the court things that Harris kept with him after leaving Cleveland. The valuable guidance passed down to him from the Cavaliers veteran guys. It’s all helped mold him into the indispensable contributor he’s become for the Nets.
“Even though I wasn’t necessarily playing as much, the experience was invaluable just in terms of learning how to be a professional,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “The approach, the preparation, that sort of stuff. That’s why I learned a lot while I was there. All those good players that have had great, great, and long careers and just being able to kind of individually pick their brains and learn from them.”
When Harris came to Brooklyn two years ago, he initially signed a two-year deal with a team option after the first year. When he turned in a promising 2016-17 season, it was a no-brainer for the Nets to pick up his option. Set to make about $1.5 million this season, Harris’ contract is a steal.
However, he’s headed for unrestricted free agency this upcoming summer. Although he dealt with being a free agent before when he first signed with the Nets, it’s a different situation now. He’s likely going to be one of the most coveted wings on the market. While there’s still a bit more of the regular season left, and free agency still several months away, it’s something Harris has already thought about. If all goes well, Brooklyn is a place he can see himself staying long-term.
“Yeah, it’s one of those things that I’ll worry about that sort of decision when the time comes. But I have really enjoyed my time in Brooklyn,” Harris told Basketball Insiders. “It’s a great organization with a lot of good people, and they try and do stuff the right way. I enjoy being a part of that and trying to kind of rebuild and set a good foundation for where the future of the Brooklyn Nets is.”
NBA Daily: 2018 NBA Mock Draft – 3/20/18
With most of the major NBA draft prospects eliminated from March Madness, things in the mock draft world are starting to get interesting.
A Lot of Mock Movement
With the race to the bottom in full swing in the NBA and the field of 64 in college basketball whittled down to a very sweet sixteen, there has been considerable talk in NBA circles about the impending 2018 NBA Draft class. There seems to be a more consistent view of the top 15 to 20 prospects, but there still seems to be a lack of a firm pecking order. Arizona’s Deandre Ayton seems like to the prohibitive favorite to go number one overall, but its far from a lock.
It’s important to note that these weekly Mock Draft will start to take on more of a “team driven” shape as we get closer to the mid-May NBA Combine in Chicago and more importantly once the draft order gets set. Until then, we’ll continue to drop our views of the draft class each Tuesday, until we reach May when we’ll drop the weekly Consensus Mock drafts, giving you four different views of the draft all the way to the final decisions in late June.
Here is this week’s Mock Draft:
Here are some of the pick swaps and how they landed where they are currently projected:
The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this past summer. The Brooklyn Nets traded several unprotected picks to Boston as part of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trades in 2015.
The Philadelphia 76ers are owed the LA Lakers’ 2018 Draft pick, unprotected, as a result of the 2012 Steve Nash trade with the Suns. The Suns traded that pick to the 76ers as part of the Michael Carter-Williams three-team trade with the Milwaukee in 2015. The 76ers traded that pick to the Boston Celtics as part of the draft pick trade that became Markelle Fultz before the draft; it has 2 through 5 protections and based on the standings today would convey to Philadelphia.
The LA Clippers are owed the Detroit Pistons first-round pick in 2018 as a result of the Blake Griffin trade. The pick is top four protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Phoenix Suns are owed the Milwaukee Bucks’ first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick only conveys if the Bucks pick lands between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the standings today would convey.
The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the current standings.
The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves’ first-round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Chicago Bulls are owed the New Orleans Pelicans first-round pick as a result of the Nikola Mirotic trade. The pick is top-five protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The LA Lakers are owed the Cleveland Cavaliers first-round pick as a result of Jordan Clarkson/Larry Nance Jr. trade. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Jazz/Wolves Ricky Rubio trade this past summer. The Jazz acquired the pick as part of the Thunder’s deal to obtain Enes Kanter in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors’ first-round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets’ first-round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.
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