Who Are the League’s Next Superstars?
The NBA does a terrific job of marketing its superstars. Athletes like LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Blake Griffin, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul among others are household names and extremely marketable.
With no helmets, hats or visors blocking faces on the court, basketball players are easily recognizable. This can lead to players becoming huge celebrities and being extremely visible even when they’re not playing the game that made them famous. Even during the NBA offseason, you will still see these superstars constantly on your television screen – some examples include Griffin pitching GameFly, Paul endorsing State Farm, James selling McDonald’s and Durant repping Sprint.
Of course, before one gets to that point, they must experience success on the hardwood. The players mentioned above are all in their prime, with Durant and Griffin being the youngest at 25 years old, and they’ve solidified themselves as the league’s elite players.
Who are some of the players that will be part of the next wave of NBA superstars? Here’s a look at five players who seem poised for superstardom:
Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans – The 21-year-old Davis has quickly become one of the league’s best two-way players. Despite being just a few years removed from high school, he is an All-Star and one of the most productive players in all of basketball.
Last season, Davis averaged 20.8 points, 10 rebounds, 2.8 blocks and 1.3 steals. He ranked 14th in the NBA in points per game, 10th in rebounds per game and first in blocks per game. His efficiency rating (26.5) was fourth in the NBA behind only Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Kevin Love.
Yet, it still seems like Davis has room to improve. Perhaps it’s because we’ve seen that he’s capable of being even more dominant, like when he averaged 24.4 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.4 blocks in the month of March last season. It’s likely only a matter of time until Davis is in the Most Valuable Player discussion each season. Few players can make an impact on both ends of the floor like Davis, especially 21-year-old players who only have just two years of NBA experience under their belt.
With so many key players withdrawing from Team USA before the World Cup in Spain, Davis seems poised for a huge role with the national team. He was a member of the 2012 Olympic team in London as an injury replacement for Blake Griffin, but he was at the end of the bench and didn’t contribute. He had just been the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft and was just happy to be there.
Now, he may be Team USA’s most important piece. People know that Davis is good, but the World Cup is his chance to make a statement and show that he’s one of the best players on the planet. In Team USA’s first exhibition game against Brazil over the weekend, Davis was the squad’s leading scorer and he finished with 20 points, seven rebounds and four blocks. The World Cup could be his coming out party.
The Pelicans don’t play on national TV much, so Davis hasn’t gotten the exposure and recognition that he deserves for his impressive first two seasons in the NBA. That will likely change very soon, and all eyes will be on Davis as he emerges as one of the league’s marquee players. He should continue to make huge strides in his third professional season and, if the Pelicans can remain healthy, he might also make his postseason debut in the 2014-15 campaign.
Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons – In case there was any lingering doubt, Drummond proved that he’s a beast during the final month of the 2013-14 season when he averaged 18.4 points, 17.4 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.1 blocks while shooting 64.2 percent from the field. He was unstoppable, and he’ll likely pick up right where he left off when the 2014-15 campaign gets underway.
The Pistons realize just how good Drummond is going to be, which is why they’re building around him and clearly making him the face of the franchise. Drummond just turned 21 years old last week, which is a terrifying thought for the rest of the league. Averaging 13.5 points, 13.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks for a season is impressive for any player, but it’s remarkable when that individual wasn’t even old enough to legally order alcohol.
Now, the Pistons have hired Stan Van Gundy as their new head coach and president of basketball operations. This should be excellent for Drummond’s development, as Van Gundy is one of the best coaches in the league and understands how to use a dominant interior presence. Keep in mind that he coached Shaquille O’Neal in Miami and Dwight Howard in Orlando, and experienced success with both.
Based on Detroit’s offseason moves, it seems that Van Gundy wants to use Drummond like he used Howard in Orlando – surrounding him with shooters, running the offense through him and forcing teams to pick their poison. If you double-team Drummond, you’re leaving a shooter open. If you stay on the shooters, you’re leaving a poor defender alone in the paint with Drummond. The Magic used this strategy – coupled with great defense – to win many games throughout Van Gundy’s tenure in Orlando and went all the way to the 2009 Finals even though they weren’t the most talented team on paper.
With Van Gundy, an increased role and the continued development expected from a 21-year-old, Drummond certainly seems poised for a monster season. It’s amazing that Drummond slipped to No. 9 in the 2012 NBA draft. The Pistons clearly got a steal, because their young big man has the physical tools and freakish athleticism to eventually be a superstar.
There aren’t many dominant centers in the NBA these days so when Drummond realizes his full potential and reaches his prime in a few years, he’ll be a headache for opposing coaches and big men.
Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers – It’s easy to forget that Irving is just 22 years old. After all, he has already made the All-Star team twice (winning the MVP award in last year’s game) and he’s widely regarded as one of the league’s best point guards. He’s also one of the more exciting players in the NBA, as he can humiliate opposing defenders with his crossover, speed and ability to get buckets from anywhere on the court.
Entering the 2014-15 season, expect Irving to be even better. With LeBron James and Kevin Love joining the Cavaliers, Irving’s job just became much easier and he may take his game to another level. In his first three seasons in the NBA, he was asked to do an awful lot in Cleveland without much help.
Now, he goes from never having played with an All-Star to teaming up with James and Love, who were ranked second and third among all NBA players in efficiency rating for last season. For a point guard, it doesn’t get much better than running down the court with James on one side and Love on the other. Any floor general would love to play with those two stars, and James and Love are excited to play with Irving as well since he’s the best point guard either has played with in the NBA.
Irving should thrive alongside James and Love, improving as a distributor and putting up points with ease now that defenses can’t focus their attention solely on him. Cleveland is going to get out and run much more under new head coach David Blatt and their fastbreaks are going to be a thing of beauty.
Irving’s points per game may go down a bit since he’ll be sharing the ball with his new teammates, but he should be more productive overall and (barring an epic collapse) he’ll make the playoffs for the first time in his career.
Irving is a special talent, and now he has the weapons around him to really show what he can do. Cleveland will play on national television 29 times during the regular season, which should help Irving build his brand and win over casual fans who may not have been as familiar with his game.
In recent years, there was a lot of speculation about Irving’s future and whether he was happy in Cleveland. Now that he has signed a five-year, max extension with the Cavaliers over the summer, that talk will go away and it’s one less distraction that Irving has to worry about. This was an excellent offseason for Cleveland, and Irving should benefit greatly from the sudden influx of talent. He’ll finally have help and he’ll get to perform on basketball’s biggest stage since all eyes will be on the Cavaliers.
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers – Lillard has exceeded all expectations in his first two seasons in the NBA. A few years ago, Lillard was playing for little Weber State, toiling in obscurity in Ogden, UT since he didn’t receive any scholarship offers from major programs when he was in high school. Now, he has taken the league by storm and become a household name quicker than even the most optimistic Blazers fans expected.
Last season, Lillard made his first All-Star appearance and averaged 20.7 points, 5.6 assists and 3.5 rebounds in 82 games, which earned him a spot on the All-NBA Third Team. Lillard helped Portland win 54 games and make the playoffs in the loaded Western Conference.
Lillard further elevated his game in the postseason. In the Blazers’ upset victory over the Houston Rockets in the first round of the playoffs, he filled the stat sheet, averaging a remarkable 25.5 points, 6.7 assists, 6.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals. Not to mention, he hit the incredible series-ending shot in Game 6, which helped make him an even bigger star.
The 24-year-old has been outstanding in his first two professional seasons and his best basketball is likely still ahead of him. Lillard works extremely hard and he’s one of the most humble players in the NBA thanks to his upbringing and the fact that he flew under the radar for so long. He has always had a huge chip on his shoulder, and he is determined to become one of the most productive players in the league.
Prior to last season, he told Basketball Insiders that his goals for the 2013-14 campaign were to lead Portland to the playoffs, make the All-Star squad and make an All-NBA team. Some critics felt this was unrealistic and mocked him, but he silenced his doubters when he achieved all three goals.
Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge form an excellent one-two punch for Portland, which should keep the team in the postseason for years to come as long as they remain in town and stay healthy. If his first two seasons in the NBA are any indication, Lillard’s future is extremely bright and it’s safe to say he’ll be a superstar in no time.
John Wall, Washington Wizards – Wall made huge strides last season, averaging 19.3 points, 8.8 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 1.8 steals while leading Washington to the postseason for the first time in five seasons.
He was one of the best point guards in the league statistically, finishing the season ranked first in the league in total assists (721), sixth in total steals (149) and 13th in field goals made (579).
Wall made his first All-Star appearance last season and started to receive recognition as an elite-level floor general. He showed that he could take over games with his scoring ability, make his teammates better with his playmaking skills and lock down the opposition with his perimeter defense.
The Wizards were able to upset the Chicago Bulls in the first round of the playoffs and steal two games from the Indiana Pacers in the Conference Semifinals, and Wall was a big reason for the team’s success.
Wall still has room to improve, but that’s expected since he’s only 23 years old. He needs to do a better job protecting the ball, as he averaged 3.6 turnovers per game last year. That number must go down, and it should as Wall has said that the game is slowing down for him and he’s more in control as a floor general these days. Wall is one of the fastest and most athletic guards in the NBA, and he’s still learning how to use that to his advantage without being reckless and out of control.
Also, he must continue to work on his three-point shot. He made significant progress from beyond the arc last season, hitting a career-high 35.1 percent of his three-point attempts after shooting 29.6 percent in his first NBA season, 7.1 percent in his second season and 26.7 percent in his third season. Wall needs to keep that number up, because the long-range threat certainly helped him elevate his game in 2013-14 since it made him much harder to guard.
Last season was huge for Wall and he made the leap from good player to All-Star, which the Wizards were banking on when they gave him a max contract extension last summer. He proved that he’s worth every penny and he should keep improving as he continues to develop.
Last year, Wall put up numbers very similar to Chris Paul (who averaged 19.1 points, 10.7 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 2.5 steals for the Los Angeles Clippers). This shows how far Wall has come as a floor general and he’s not even in his prime yet, which is a scary thought for the rest of the league.
Honorable Mention – Players like Bradley Beal, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Andrew Wiggins could eventually develop into superstars, but they’re currently a notch or two below the players listed above and are bigger question marks. These players have a ton of potential and have shown glimpses of brilliance, but it remains to be seen how good they’ll become.
Beal is one of the best young shooting guards in the NBA and the position is relatively weak compared to the past, so it’s possible that he could become one of the league’s elite two-guards at some point in the future.
He’s only 21 years old, so the sky is the limit for Beal and he and John Wall should give Washington one of the league’s best backcourts for years to come. However, whether he’ll emerge as a franchise player or superstar is still up in the air.
Beal did play very well during the Wizards’ postseason run last year, elevating his game and averaging 19.2 points, five rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.6 steals. However, it’s still too early to put him on the same level as the above players and label him a superstar-to-be.
Antetokounmpo is obviously still very raw and his stats don’t jump off of the page. He averaged just 6.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, .8 blocks and .8 steals as a rookie, partially because he was adjusting to the NBA competition and partially because he only played 24.6 minutes a night. It seems that head coach Jason Kidd plans to use Antetokounmpo much more and increase his role during the 2014-15 season, so Milwaukee’s main one-two punch will be Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker this year (and for many years to come, if all goes as planned).
During the Las Vegas Summer League, Antetokounmpo was a monster. He has grown to 6’11, but that didn’t stop him from playing point guard for the Bucks – something that Kidd is experimenting with and plans to continue. Antetokounmpo averaged 17 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, one steal and one block in Vegas, and he made his presence felt all over the court. He’s a matchup nightmare since he’s ridiculously tall, long and skilled.
Giannis has an incredible work ethic and he has the potential to be one of the best two-way players in the game. Keep in mind that just two years ago Antetokounmpo was in Greece playing against very weak competition and receiving little guidance. Earlier this year, an NBA executive told Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports that in Greece Antetokounmpo was essentially playing at the “YMCA level, playing against 35- and 40-year-old guys a lot of days.” It’s why he slipped to No. 15 in the 2013 NBA Draft, and it makes the fact that he held his own against the best players in the world at 19 years old even more impressive. Antetokounmpo has all of the physical tools to be great. The question is, will he realize his full potential and be able to make the leap to stardom?
Wiggins has been labeled a potential superstar since he was in high school. He was the most hyped up prep player since LeBron James, and he wowed talent evaluators with his amazing athleticism and ability to make an impact on both ends of the floor.
In his lone collegiate season at Kansas, he showed flashes of greatness and averaged 17.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.2 steals and one block in 35 games. However, he was inconsistent and didn’t always dominate the competition as expected. He could have 41 points, eight rebounds, five steals and four blocks against West Virginia one night and then four games later have just four points and four rebounds in Kansas’ opening round NCAA Tournament loss to Stanford.
With that said, there’s no doubt that Wiggins has a ton of upside and he played well enough to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. It looks like Wiggins will be dealt from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Minnesota Timberwolves later this month, but that actually may help him become a star. In Minnesota, he’ll have the chance to emerge as the face of the franchise, whereas he would’ve been a role player in Cleveland as he deferred to James, Irving and Love. Wiggins will have every opportunity to succeed and put up huge numbers with the Timberwolves.
However, it’s far too early to consider him a future superstar just yet, as he hasn’t played a single minute of NBA basketball. The potential is there, but he has a lot of developing to do before he is on the same level as the five players mentioned on this list.
Catching Up With Kyle Lowry
Basketball Insiders’ Steve Kyler chatted with Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry recently at the 2014 adidas Nations. Lowry talked about his offseason, how the Raptors can build on last year’s success and much more in this exclusive video interview:
How NBA League Pass is Changing
Ben Dowsett dives deep into some of the technical improvements being made to NBA League Pass.
As the NBA continues to grow in popularity, demands for available programing rise in lockstep. A new mammoth TV rights deal that began last season promised increased visibility and advertising dollars, and was the primary factor in a sudden jump in the league’s salary cap figure. Between that and an exploding digital marketplace, there are a lot of eyes on the NBA as an entertainment product.
For the NBA fan interested in watching the entire league and not just their home market (or even for cord-cutters who only want to watch their local team), NBA League Pass is a familiar tool. Available for both single-team and league-wide subscriptions, League Pass is a multi-device platform that allows for both live and on-demand viewing of NBA games.
For many users of NBA League Pass, this is a relatively issue-free experience. For many others, though, League Pass has long lagged behind competitors in the digital sports sphere, with a number of glitches and absent features still present as recently as last season across multiple devices. These issues are a regular source of annoyance for NBA fans everywhere, particularly the most invested ones.
Basketball Insiders spent the summer investigating the causes of some of these issues, both with the NBA and with various extended providers of League Pass. Here’s what we found regarding previous issues, their fixes, and other developments to the service moving forward. (Also be sure to check out our broader report from earlier this week on some of the general new features being offered by League Pass.)
League Pass on TV
For several years at minimum, customers of most cable and satellite providers have been able to enjoy NBA League Pass with virtually no major issues. Companies like DirecTV, Dish, Uverse and others have all had solid programs for years, with full-HD channel lineups and a simple, straightforward purchasing and viewing process.
For customers of Comcast, however, things haven’t been so rosy.
Through the completion of the 2016-17 NBA season, Comcast XFINITY customers were not offered such a robust slate. Just a single high definition channel was available on League Pass via XFINITY last season, and even that one channel wasn’t dedicated only to NBA action.
Unless a game was being broadcast on a national station like ESPN or NBATV, you simply had to cross your fingers and hope that the game you wanted was the one that was showing in HD. Otherwise, you got to watch it in standard definition or not at all.
Before we discuss how this is slated to change moving forward, a necessary aside: This is crazy. Even before the new massive TV rights deal, the NBA was unquestionably one of the most popular sports in North America; for the largest broadcasting and cable television company in the world by revenue to enter the year 2017 without basic HD channels for the league – channels present in hundreds of other areas and on every other major provider, no less – is nothing short of asinine, and speaks to the limited alternatives available and the simple power of a conglomerate like Comcast.
Back to greener pastures: Changes are in motion, even if they’re still moving a little slower and more timidly than most customers would prefer.
Per sources familiar with the service, HD channel options will be in place for all games under Comcast XFINIFY’s offering of NBA League Pass during the 2017-18 season. These will be available under Comcast’s Beta program, one that’s been offered for both MLB and NHL programming over the last several years. A sample MLB Beta page can be found here.
Beta pages are a bit nebulous and tough to access if you aren’t already paying for one of these services, but our research suggests they function reasonably well. There are multiple ways to access Beta channels, either via a voice or keypad search or through the guide – though doing it through the guide won’t be quite as simple as just clicking a single channel (you have to click a Beta channel, then choose the team you want to watch and wait for blackout and subscription verification).
Blackouts are still present for local markets and nationally televised games, but this is to be expected for all such services.
Now the bad news: There are some pretty serious limitations to this Beta program. Firstly, as you’ll note if you click the link above, it’s considered a trial offering. Features like recording, pausing or rewinding games will not be available. For the busy basketball fan who can’t be present to watch his or her team right from tipoff every night, this is an obvious problem.
Additionally, sources say that this Beta program will only be available by the end of November. As the astute NBA fan will note, the season began on October 17 – what about the time in between? The previous version of League Pass will still be available during this period, sources say, but XFINITY customers who want all their games in HD will be out of luck for about a month and a half. Combine that with some apparent clunkiness in accessing the games themselves, and this new development still leaves a lot to be desired.
Still, it’s progress where previously there had been very little. Sources say that work is being done to move each of the NBA, MLB and NHL offerings away from the Beta package and into full-time circulation, which would ostensibly get rid of most or all of those functionality issues. No firm dates were given for this, however, and NBA fans are probably safest assuming this will be the program for the full season once it kicks in during November. Make your purchasing decisions accordingly.
League Pass Broadband
Understanding how NBA League Pass fits into the broadband landscape requires a look back at the history of streaming sports technology. In particular, we have to look at a competitor: Major League Baseball.
For years, MLB’s streaming service has been considered something of a gold standard within the digital world, with numerous parties contacted for this story gushing about their quality. Basketball Insiders’ research revealed this to be a total falsehood – those compliments simply weren’t going far enough. The degree to which MLB has outpaced the field when it comes to streaming is almost shocking.
(For those only looking for the nitty-gritty details of what will change with NBA League Pass Broadband moving forward, skip to that section by clicking here.)
In the year 2000, while most of us were still worried about Y2K bugs and voting machines in Florida, Major League Baseball was getting to work pioneering online streaming sports. That was the year that the league’s owners centralized all digital rights into a new, independent tech startup called MLB Advanced Media, per sources. The “independent” part was important: MLB was purposefully building a distinct, separate entity that operated in a different facility than league HQ, hired tech-savvy folks and was, truly, its own company.
On August 26, 2002, MLB Advanced Media broadcasted their first live Major League game. Roughly 30,000 people (!!) tuned in to watch a Yankees-Rangers tilt on a date nearly three years earlier than famed video site YouTube would even launch on the web.
Over the next several years, MLBAM (pronounced em-el-BAM by insiders – it’s fun to say!) paved the way for streaming sports technology. They sold a nine-game pennant race package later that season, then a full-season package in March of 2003. By 2005, they had installed a private fiber network dedicated to streaming in all 30 MLB ballparks.
By 2008, two representatives from MLB were on stage and demonstrating the product as Steve Jobs introduced the Apple App Store for the very first time – MLB’s At Bat App was the first sports app in the history of the store, and one of the first 500 ever created of any kind. By 2010, they were pioneering connected devices like PlayStation and Xbox.
All the while, MLB made a concerted effort to keep all these efforts completely in-house. No outsourcing, no reliance on a third party.
Their success quickly started drawing attention. As other similar entities looked to enter the streaming space, they were faced with their own decision: To outsource, or to attempt to build a ground-up technology sector like MLB had.
Some went the outsource route, and their first call was to MLB. Few outside the industry knew it at the time, but MLB was behind the first-ever streaming of March Madness games on CBS Sports back in 2006, per sources. They’d later help ESPN in their switch from ESPN360 to ESPN3 in 2010, and assist with the advent of HBO Now in 2014.
Also in 2014, they helped create a groundbreaking new sector of the streaming world – a full OTT (over-the-top of subscription) network dedicated to WWE wrestling. This wasn’t just live matches, it was a full network complete with archives and on-demand programming. This kind of service is now called direct-to-consumer programming.
By this point, outsourcing demands had grown so much that MLB took some new steps. In 2016, MLBAM was spun off into a new entity called BAMTECH, which was in charge of all outsourced efforts (MLBAM remained on the baseball-only side). One third of BAMTECH was sold to Disney for $1 billion – a $3 billion valuation for what was at one time nothing but a tech startup. In August 2017, Disney acquired additional shares to reach a 75 percent controlling stake in the company at an even larger total valuation, per sources familiar with the finances.
Today, MLBAM continues to manage baseball-related streaming services while BAMTECH, now primarily owned by Disney, works with several other large entities. These include ESPN, the NHL and Riot Games, a big player in the rapidly rising eSports sphere. They also stream their own MLB client to over 400 different devices.
This is a high standard for any other sports or streaming entity to hold itself to, even one as successful as the NBA. Interestingly, though, MLB could end up serving as a perfect template for the path the NBA is now taking – just on a different timeline.
Just as the MLB decided years ago to prioritize their own in-house development of this technology, the NBA has recently done the same. About three years ago, Turner – which handles nearly all of the NBA’s entertainment assets – purchased a majority of a company called iStreamPlanet, a leader in the streaming technology sphere.
Founded in 2000, iStreamPlanet is perhaps best known in the industry for their recent work on the Olympic Games, which began in 2010 at the Vancouver Winter Games. Their coverage of Sochi in 2014 had over 9.1 million users in just 18 days of competition. They’ve also broadcast all the recent Super Bowls, starting in 2011.
Before the beginning of last season, the NBA and Turner migrated all of their League Pass technology over to iStreamPlanet, per sources familiar with the technology. This was in place of a previous internal solution that had managed League Pass streaming.
As one can imagine, the very first year under this new migration came with a few bumps in the road. The migration included a complete change of the infrastructure that processed video, from the way it’s taken to the way it’s encoded. New software was instituted, and then tech experts with Turner and iStreamPlanet meticulously went through each individual platform to diagnose issues and test functionality. Every platform has its own individual player and its own individual quirks, so this was no small project across a wide variety of platforms.
In essence, this was a test run for a product built from scratch. There’s really no other way to do this – for the NBA to truly build its own infrastructure here, they had to start from the ground up.
If last year’s inaugural season under the new technology was all about finding bugs and ensuring functionality across all platforms, the offseason has been all about fine-tuning the execution. The teams at Turner and iStreamPlanet analyzed every step of the video process, from when it left a given NBA arena to when it made its way to your device screen. They hardened the path of video from the venue to the fan, allowing it to arrive more quickly and in better quality.
A few specific changes, possible future changes, and notably similar areas to be aware of here:
- Per sources, changes to video encoding and pathways have resulted in roughly a 50 percent reduction in lag time compared to a television broadcast across a majority of NBA League Pass platforms. No platform experienced worse than a 33 percent reduction in lag time, with most up around this 50 percent figure. Lag time versus standard TV broadcasts has long been a prominent issue among broadband users.
- Down similar lines, extra steps have been taken to protect clients who want to watch games spoiler-free. A new “Hide Scores” button has been introduced at the top of users’ game menu – when clicked, it will remove the live scores from both completed and live games, allowing viewers to start watching a game late without having the score ruined for them in advance (though it appears users still have to manually rewind to the start of the game, so spoilers are still possible).
- With Adobe preparing to soon begin phasing out the Flash player from their content offerings, sources say Turner and iStreamPlanet are working on an eventual transition of NBA League Pass from Flash technology over to HTML5. This transition is expected this season for both live and on-demand content.
- While it won’t please some customers, blackout rules across all areas of League Pass appear to remain the same. These are issues of media rights, and unfortunately that’s just how things work.
- Customers have access to numerous platforms, with up to five connected devices per customer.
- Standard log time for games to enter the on-demand section of League Pass streaming is between 48 and 72 hours – once again, some of this is related to business rules with the NBA and regional television networks. For condensed games, the turnaround time is closer to an average of 24 hours.
- The NBA is offering a free trial preview of League Pass services from now through October 24.
Once again, things won’t be perfect overnight. Lag issues still exist, and media rights considerations make certain bits of timing sub-optimal. Like any platform still in its earlier stages in a relative sense, there will be glitches here and there.
When you experience these issues, speak up. Turner has a full support team in place, with logging capabilities that allow them to identify issues that frequently come up among customers – this process is how some of their biggest changes have taken place over the last year.
Stay tuned to Basketball Insiders for any updates or changes to NBA League Pass in the future.
NBA PM: Frank Kaminsky’s Massive Opportunity
The potential frontcourt pairing of Frank Kaminsky and Dwight Howard should make for an exciting season in Charlotte.
With both highs and lows to account for, it’s been an incredibly eventful offseason for the Charlotte Hornets. From trading for Dwight Howard and drafting Malik Monk to the news that defensive stalwart Nicolas Batum would be out for the foreseeable future, the Hornets will start the 2017-18 season off looking considerably different. Still, it’s difficult to see Charlotte stepping into the conference’s upper echelon alongside the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers, among others, without some major internal growth.
Down those lines, there may be no better candidate for a breakout season than Frank Kaminsky, the team’s modernly-molded stretch big man. Heading into his third NBA season, Kaminsky struggles at times but has generally affirmed why the Hornets passed on the Celtics’ huge offer and selected the former collegiate stud with the No. 9 overall pick back in 2015. Combined with the more defensive-steady force of Cody Zeller, the Hornets quickly found themselves with a solid, if not spectacular 1-2 punch at the center position.
Unsurprisingly, Kaminsky’s best nights statistically last season came when he hit multiple three-pointers. There were games like his 5-for-9 barrage from deep en route to 23-point, 13-rebound effort against the Sacramento Kings in late February, but his inconsistencies often got in the way just as much. In 2016-17 alone, Kaminsky tallied 41 games in which he converted on one or less of his three-point attempts — and the Hornets’ record? 13-28. Perhaps a tad coincidental for a franchise that finished at 36-46, but the Hornets ranked 11th in three-pointers with an even 10 per contest, so when Marvin Williams (1.6) Marco Belinelli (1.4), Kaminsky (1.5) and Batum (1.8) weren’t hitting, it was often lights out for an ultimately disappointing Charlotte side.
With his 33.1 percent career rate from deep, there’s certainly room to improve for Kaminsky, but his 116 made three-pointers still put him in a special group last season. Of all players at 7-foot or taller, only Brook Lopez made more three-pointers (134) than Kaminsky did — even ranking four ahead of Kristaps Porzingis, one of the league’s most talented unicorns. Once that category is expanded to include those at 6-foot-10 or taller, the list gets far more crowded ahead of Kaminsky, but it’s noteworthy nonetheless.
On that lengthier list of three-point shooting big men is Ryan Anderson, one of the strongest like-for-like comparisons that Kaminsky has today. Drafted in 2008, Anderson has been an elite three-point shooter for quite some time and his 204 makes last season ranked him ninth in the entire NBA. In fact, Anderson’s 2012-13 tally of 213 ranked only behind Stephen Curry; the year before that, his 166 total topped the rest of the field for a first-place finish. Coming out the University of California, Anderson was solid late first-round pickup by the New Jersey Nets and he knocked down one of his 2.9 attempts per game as a rookie.
Then, Anderson was traded to the Orlando Magic in the summer of 2009 and found out that true basketballing nirvana is playing on the same team as prime Dwight Howard. For three seasons, they were a near-perfect fit for each other as Howard averaged 13.9 rebounds and Anderson hit two three-pointers per game over that stretch. Howard deftly made up for Anderson’s defensive shortcomings while the latter stretched the floor effortlessly on the other end.
Although Howard is now considerably older, he’s never recorded a season with an average of 10 rebounds or less over his 13-year career. Howard’s impressive rebounding rate of 20.8 percent — the third-highest mark in NBA history behind Dennis Rodman (23.44) and Reggie Evans (21.87) — has made it easy for his partners to stay at the perimeter or bust out in transition. Other power forwards that have flourished next to Howard also include Rashard Lewis (2.8 three-pointers per game from 2007-09) and Chandler Parsons (1.8 in 2013-14), so there’s some precedent here as well.
Simply put, Howard still demands attention in the post, and Kaminsky is the Hornets’ best possible fit next to him. As Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Williams will likely slide up a position at times to help navigate Batum’s injury, throwing Kaminsky into the fire seems almost too logical.
An improved sophomore season for Kaminsky saw rises in every major statistical category outside of his percentages due to an increase in volume. However, that 32.8 percent mark from three-point range is considerably lower than the league average and it’ll need to improve for somebody that spends much of the offensive possession ready to fire away. Regardless, Kaminsky’s 11.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game in 2016-17 are a bright sign moving forward, but with Howard, he’s about to be gifted his best opportunity yet.
Whether he’s operating in transition, out of pick-and-pops or catch-and-shoots, Kaminsky has the tools to join the elite stretch forwards in the near future and stay there permanently. Kaminsky’s growing chemistry with All-Star point guard Kemba Walker has made the pair difficult to defend out on the perimeter. From the aforementioned pick-and-pops to a slightly more complicated dribble hand-off, trying to guard the two three-point shooting threats is enough to make your head spin. When he’s not firing from behind the arc, Kaminsky has also exhibited a soft touch and an ability to score among the trees as well.
As he continues to grow and expand his skill set, Kaminsky just needs to find some much-needed consistency as a shooter. If Kaminsky can raise his three-point percentage up closer to the league average this season, he’ll be an invaluable asset for the Hornets as they push for a playoff berth. Over his two full NBA seasons thus far, the Hornets have never had somebody like Howard to pair with Kaminsky and past results for those shooters playing with the future Hall of Famer are promising. Of course, head coach Steve Clifford is a defensive-minded leader — Charlotte’s defensive rating ranked 14th in 2016-17 at 106.1 — so Kaminsky will need to improve there to take full advantage of the available minutes. Fortunately, Howard’s savvy rim protection should make it a palatable experience on both sides of the ball.
When the Hornets rebuffed the Celtics’ massive draft day offer in order to select Kaminsky two years ago, it would’ve been impossible to predict Howard falling right into their lap as well. Between his expanding game and the new frontcourt combination, there’s potential here for Kaminsky to take the next big step in 2017-18.
If and when they do indeed pair him with Howard, the Hornets will be both maximizing his talents as a perimeter threat and minimizing his weaknesses as a defender. While Clifford leaned on Zeller in the past, Howard’s decorated history surrounded by court-stretching shooters should make the decision even easier. Kaminsky’s got all the workings of a modern offensive big man, the faith of the front office and the perfect paint-clogging partner — now it’s up to him to put it all together and become one of Charlotte’s most indispensable players.
Where Do the Celtics Go From Here?
The Boston Celtics face an uphill climb after the loss of Gordon Hayward, writes Shane Rhodes.
The Boston Celtics suffered a crushing blow Tuesday night after losing marquee free agent acquisition Gordon Hayward to a gruesome leg injury in the early goings of the season’s opening contest. Unfortunately for Boston, the NBA will continue to march on and Brad Stevens and his squad will have to adapt, adjust and learn on the fly. With 81 games still to play, all might not be lost for the Celtics, but where can the team go from here?
A lineup shuffle is almost certainly in the cards. Marcus Smart, projected to be Stevens’ first man off the bench, will likely slot into the starting lineup as the shooting guard next to Kyrie Irving, sliding Jaylen Brown to the small forward position. From there, a larger rotation and a minutes bump for other bench guys like Terry Rozier, Shane Larkin, Semi Ojeleye, etc., would make the most sense as Stevens attempts to ensure his key guys — Irving, Brown and Al Horford — have fresh legs down the stretch. Nineteen-year-old Jayson Tatum, who impressed in his debut with a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds, should also get an extended look, even after presumed starter Marcus Morris is back and healthy enough to play. Irving and Horford’s veteran presence in the locker room cannot be understated as well.
Brown, who should move into Hayward’s spot in the lineup, had already been pegged for a major role on the team this season. Now, the second-year wing will bear an even heavier burden and will seemingly have to produce all over the floor for the Celtics. Without Hayward, Brown now joins a defensive group of Smart, Horford and Morris that will have their work cut out. Brown will also be expected to produce more on the offensive end as well and do so efficiently. While he poured in 25 points last night, Brown did so on an inefficient 11 of 23 shooting while going just 2-of-9 from three-point range. Still rough around the edges as expected, Brown will need to quickly smooth out his game if Boston wants to remain competitive during the season.
Danny Ainge will certainly survey the remaining free agent and trade market as well. If a low-cost, low-risk opportunity were to present itself, don’t expect the thrifty general manager to just sit back. While low-cost and low-risk doesn’t fit Ainge’s usual MO, he knows better than to make a knee-jerk reaction to a freak injury like the one Hayward sustained; he isn’t going to break the bank and mortgage the future he painstakingly built over the past several seasons to bring Anthony Davis to Boston, but a grab at JaMychal Green or a similar player certainly isn’t out of the question.
The real key to the team’s success going forward will be the play of Irving. Formerly the 1A to Hayward’s 1B, Irving will now be the sole No. 1 option and will be relied on by Stevens and the rest of the team as such, which is what Irving has really wanted all along. The whole reason he wanted out of Cleveland, out of LeBron James’ massive shadow, was to show that he could be “the guy” and now Irving has a prime opportunity to prove that he can be. The Celtics from here on will go as he goes; if Irving falters, the team will as well. While the initial showings were positive — Irving posted a double-double of his own with 22 points and 10 assists — there is a lot of basketball left to be played.
All is not lost for Boston and the 2017 season can certainly be salvaged. While Hayward’s injury is devastating and certainly sucked the enjoyment out of what many expected to be a very exciting season, the Celtics are more than capable of weathering this storm and coming out stronger on the other side with Ainge and Stevens at the helm and Irving, Brown and others leading the team on the floor.