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NBA Saturday: Injuries Already Mounting During Preseason

The 2016-17 NBA season is less than a week away, but significant injuries are already piling up.

Jesse Blancarte

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One of the worst parts of sports at all levels is injuries. Last season, the Memphis Grizzlies had terrible luck with injuries and had to cycle through 28 players throughout the regular season, including eight different players signed to 10-day contracts. Entering their regular season finale, between 12 players, the Grizzlies had lost 291 games to injuries. Somehow, against all odds, the Grizzlies still managed to make the playoffs, though they lost in four games to the San Antonio Spurs.

While the 2016-17 NBA season is still a few days away, we are already seeing injuries that range from minor to significant.

Khris Middleton – Milwaukee Bucks

Khris Middleton was one of the most notable players to suffer a significant injury as teams started preparing for training camps to open and for the preseason to begin. On September 20, Middleton ruptured his left hamstring during a preseason workout and underwent surgery on September 28. He will reportedly be sidelined for about six months. Losing Middleton is a major blow to a Bucks team that is looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2015-16 season. Middleton is a great wing-defender who has also established himself as a deadly shooter and playmaker on offense. Last season, Middleton averaged 18.2 points, 4.2 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.7 steals, while shooting 44.4 percent from the field and 39.6 percent from beyond the arc.

Reggie Jackson – Detroit Pistons

Reggie Jackson will miss six-to-eight weeks as he recovers from tendinitis in his knee as well as a thumb injury. Jackson recently received platelet-rich plasma injections to help address the injuries. Last season, Jackson averaged 18.8 points, 6.2 assists and 3.2 rebounds per game, while shooting 43.4 percent from the field and 35.3 percent from three-point range. Jackson is the motor of the Pistons’ offense and has formed a strong one-two game with center Andre Drummond. The Pistons are looking to make some noise in the Eastern Conference this season but will need Jackson at, or near, full health to make that happen.

Patrick Beverley – Houston Rockets

Patrick Beverley will reportedly undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, sidelining him for three weeks, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. Beverley is a tough defender at the point guard position and provides much-needed defense alongside James Harden in Houston’s backcourt. Harden will be playing de facto point guard under Mike D’Antoni this season, so the Rockets won’t lose much in terms of playmaking. However, it will be up to Eric Gordon to step into Beverley’s position and make a defensive impact in Houston.

Ben Simmons – Philadelphia 76ers

Ben Simmons, the No.1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, suffered a foot injury on September 30 during a team scrimmage. The Philadelphia 76ers announced on October 4 that Simmons underwent successful surgery to repair an acute Jones fracture of the fifth metatarsal of his right foot. 76ers head coach Brett Brown suggested that Simmons could return in January, but later pulled back on that timeline.

“I was just getting excited about how soon he might be able to come back,” Brown said to Keith Pompey of Philly.com. “There are so much speculation and dates as a coach you sort of want to hear what you want to hear at a time. I did mention a January hopeful return. That is premature.

“That is a coach doing a lot more wishing than receiving instruction. So we will play this out. Everything is on track with his rehabilitation.”

Nerlens Noel – Philadelphia 76ers

On Friday night, the Philadelphia 76ers announced that center Nerlens Noel would undergo knee surgery to address an inflamed plica above his left knee. There is no timetable for Noel’s return, but this is a minor procedure that shouldn’t cause any significant issues for Noel. The 76ers have plenty of size in their frontcourt to absorb the loss of Noel, with players like Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor and Dario Saric on the roster. Noel has been mentioned in trade rumors throughout the offseason and will likely continue to be considering how much overlapping talent the 76ers have at the center position.

Gordon Hayward – Utah Jazz

Gordon Hayward suffered a fractured finger on his left hand on October 7 and is expected to miss the beginning of the season. Hayward is arguably the Jazz’s most important player considering the large role he plays on offense as both a scorer and playmaker. People in and around the NBA are predicting that the Jazz will have a strong season, but they will need Hayward back in order to do any real damage in the Western Conference. Last season, Hayward averaged 19.7 points, five rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.2 steals while shooting 43.3 percent from the field and 34.9 percent from three-point range.

Danny Green – San Antonio Spurs

On October 21, the San Antonio Spurs announced that Danny Green suffered a left quad strain and is expected to be sidelined for roughly three weeks. Green had a disappointing 2015-16 season for San Antonio, but he is still one of the better 3-and-D wings in the NBA. Whether Green’s play suffered because of nagging injuries or some other issue, the Spurs will need him to step up his production this season after the loss of Tim Duncan and the advanced age of several Spurs players.

Chandler Parsons – Memphis Grizzlies

Chandler Parsons underwent surgery on March 25 to repair a torn meniscus. Depending on the type of surgery that is performed, a player can sometimes return in a matter of weeks from this surgery. Parsons has reportedly been building the strength in his knee throughout the offseason, but there is still no clear timetable for his return. The Grizzlies, who signed Parsons to a four-year contract worth $94 million this offseason, are hopeful he will be ready to go at the beginning of the regular season.

Chris Bosh – Miami HEAT

Chris Bosh’s future in the NBA is in serious question after failing a physical in September. It seems that Bosh is still dealing with blot clot issues that make it extremely dangerous for him to play in an NBA game. Bosh first started dealing with this issue in February 2015 when a blood clot traveled to one of his lungs, which he was hospitalized for. Bosh has not given up on finding a way to make it back onto the court, but all indications are that, despite being under contract, his relationship with the HEAT is over.

Josh Richardson – Miami HEAT

Josh Richardson suffered a partially torn MCL during an offseason workout in early September. The young, promising guard was lined up to have an increased role after a strong showing last season and the departure of Dwyane Wade. Richardson should still see plenty of playing time as soon as he is healthy and able to play.

Tiago Splitter – Atlanta Hawks

Tiago Splitter is another player who will likely miss the start of the upcoming season. Splitter has been riddled with injuries since the Atlanta Hawks traded for him in 2015. On October 11, the Atlanta Hawks announced that Splitter would be sidelined for roughly four weeks after suffering a grade 2 hamstring strain. The Hawks, of course, have Dwight Howard at the starting center position, so the loss of Splitter isn’t a devastating setback for Atlanta. However, Splitter could be a nice contributor for a Hawks team that struggled with rebounding last season.

Ian Mahinmi – Washington Wizards

Ian Mahinmi underwent meniscus surgery on October 15 and is expected to be sidelined for four-to-six weeks. The Wizards signed Mahinmi to a four-year, $64 million deal this offseason to bring some defense and rebounding to their frontcourt. Mahinmi had a strong season for the Indiana Pacers in 2015-16 and established himself as a strong defensive presence for one of the best defensive teams in the league. Last season, Mahinmi averaged 9.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.5 assist and 1.1 blocks while shooting 58.9 percent from the field.

 

Jesse Blancarte is a Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders. He is also an Attorney and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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Updating the Buyout Market: Who Could Still Become Available?

Shanes Rhodes examines the buyout market to see which players could soon be joining playoff contenders.

Shane Rhodes

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While it may not be as exciting as the NBA Trade Deadline, another important date is approaching for NBA teams: the Playoff Eligibility Waiver Deadline.

March 1 is the final day players can be bought out or waived and still be eligible to play in the postseason should they sign with another team. As teams continue to fine-tune their rosters, plenty of eyes will be on the waiver wire and buyout market looking for players that can make an impact.

So who could still become available?

Joakim Noah, New York Knicks

This seems almost too obvious.

The relationship between Joakim Noah and the New York Knicks hasn’t been a pleasant one. Noah, who signed a four-year, $72 million contract in 2016, has done next to nothing this season after an underwhelming debut season in New York and has averaged just 5.7 minutes per game.

After an altercation between himself and Knicks head coach Jeff Hornacek at practice, Noah isn’t expected to return to the team. At this point, the best thing for both sides seems likely a clean break; there is no reason to keep that cloud over the Knicks locker room for the remainder of the season.

Noah may not help a playoff contender, but he should certainly be available come the end of the season.

Arron Afflalo, Orlando Magic

Arron Afflalo isn’t the player he once was. But he can still help any contender in need of some shooting.

Afflalo is averaging a career-low 12.9 minutes per game with the Orlando Magic this season. He is playing for just over $2 million so a buyout wouldn’t be hard to come by if he went asking and he can still shoot the basketball. A career 38.6 percent shooter from long distance, Afflalo can certainly get it done beyond the arc for a team looking to add some shooting or some depth on the wing. He doesn’t add the perimeter defense he could earlier in his career, but he could contribute in certain situations.

Vince Carter, Sacramento Kings

Vince Carter was signed by the Sacramento Kings last offseason to play limited minutes off the bench while providing a mentor for the Sacramento Kings up-and-coming players. And Carter may very well enjoy that role.

But, to a degree, the old man can still ball — certainly enough to help a contender.

Carter is 41-years-old, there is no getting around his age, but he can still provide some solid minutes off the bench. Playing 17.1 minutes per night across 38 games this season, Carter has averaged five points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists while shooting 35.3 percent from three-point range. Combining all of that with his playoff experience and the quality of leadership he brings to the table, Carter may be an ideal addition for a contender looking to make a deep playoff run.

Zach Randolph, Sacramento Kings

Like Carter, Zach Randolph was brought in by the Kings to contribute solid minutes off the bench while also filling in as a mentor to the young roster. Unlike Carter, however, Randolph has played much of the season in a starting role — something that is likely to change as the season winds down.

Randolph has averaged 14.6 points, seven rebounds and 2.1 assists in 25.6 minutes per game; quality numbers that any team would be happy to take on. But, in the midst of a rebuild, the Kings should not be taking minutes away from Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere and (eventually) Harry Giles in order to keep Randolph on the floor.

As he proved last season, Randolph can excel in a sixth-man role and would likely occupy a top bench spot with a team looking to add rebounding, scoring or just a big to their rotation down the stretch.

Wesley Matthews, Dallas Mavericks

Wesley Matthews remains one of the most underrated players in the NBA. He provides positional versatility on the floor and is a solid player on both sides of the ball.

So, with Mark Cuban all but saying the Mavericks will not be trying to win for the remainder of the season, Matthews is likely poised for a minutes dip and seems like an obvious buyout candidate. Matthews, who has a player option for next season, has averaged 12.9 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.2 steals this season across 34.1 minutes per game this season.

If Cuban is true to his word, both parties would be better served parting ways; the Mavericks can attempt to lose as many games as possible while Matthews can latch on to a team looking to win a title. It’s a win-win.

Isaiah Thomas, Los Angeles Lakers

Isaiah Thomas’ three-game stint with the Los Angeles Lakers before the All-Star break looked much like his short tenure with the Cleveland Cavaliers: up-and-down. Thomas shined in his Laker debut, putting up 25 points and six assists in just over 30 minutes.

He then followed that up with three points and two assists, and seven points along with five assists in his second and third games with the team, respectively.

Thomas needs time to get himself right before he can start playing his best basketball. Re-establishing his value is likely his top priority.

But will he be willing to come off the bench for a team that won’t be making the postseason?

With Lonzo Ball close to returning, Thomas will likely move to the Laker bench. Adamant in recent years that he is a starting guard in the NBA, Thomas may be more inclined to take on that role for a team poised to make a deep playoff run — there is no shortage of teams that would be willing to add Thomas’ potential scoring prowess while simultaneously setting himself up for a contract and, potentially, a starting role somewhere next season.

Other Names to Look Out For: Channing Frye, Shabazz Muhammed, Kosta Koufos

There are still plenty of players that can make an impact for playoff-bound teams should they reach a buyout with their current squads. And, as the Postseason Eligibility Waiver Deadline approaches, plenty of teams out of the running will move quickly in order to provide their guys an opportunity to find their way to a contender.

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NBA Daily: Eric Gordon, The Houston Rockets’ Ex-Factor

James Harden and Chris Paul are stars that have faltered in the playoffs. Eric Gordon could be their ex-factor

Lang Greene

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The 2017-18 Houston Rockets are shaping up to be one of the league’s best regular-season teams over the past decade. The squad features a fan-friendly and fun to watch style, two legitimate superstar talents and a seemingly well-rounded contingent of role players willing to do whatever it takes to help the team get to the next level.

But as strong of a force as the Rockets appear to be developing into, there are still major question marks about how this team will perform in the playoffs when the game gets tighter, bench rotations are reduced and the spotlight glares the brightest.

All-Star guard James Harden has played in 88 career playoff games over the course of his career – 45 with the Rockets where he’s averaging 27.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 7.1 assists. The statistics look good in the aggregate, however, Harden has noticeably faded down the stretch during pivotal playoff moments in the team’s recent runs. The most recent example being Game 5 of the 2018 Western Conference Finals versus the San Antonio Spurs where Harden finished with just 10 points on 2-of-11 shooting from the floor.

The Rockets other superstar, Chris Paul, has never reached the Western Conference Finals in a career dating back to the 2005-06 season. Paul’s most memorable playoff collapse came when he was a member of the Los Angeles Clippers. His team surrendered a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference semifinals to the Harden’s Rockets back in 2015.

While there are undoubtedly questions at the top, their bench unit is anchored by 2017 Sixth Man of the Year Eric Gordon, once considered one of the rising shooting guards in the league while he was a member of the Clippers.

Gordon, was traded as part of a package by Los Angeles to acquire Paul from New Orleans. Since then, a combination of injuries and reported frustration in New Orleans seemingly derailed Gordon from the once promising ascent and trajectory he was projected to achieve. But Gordon has gotten his career on track. Once injury prone, Gordon suited up for 75 games in 2017 and is on pace to play 73 games this season.

“It’s almost like it is consistent to be here now,” Gordon said during All-Star weekend. “It’s been great. When I’ve been healthy, I’ve always had that chance to do some good things.

When you’re winning things come easier. You’re scoring easier [and] it’s easier to come into work and play well every single practice and game.”

Gordon believes there’s something special about this Rockets team because of how quickly they have gained cohesion since training camp. Gordon is averaging 18.5 points in 32 minutes per contest on the season. The guard will play an integral role off the Rockets’ bench and will play heavy minutes in any playoff series involving the Western Conference elite teams – namely Golden State and San Antonio. In three games versus the Warriors this season, Gordon is averaging 20 points on 43 percent shooting from the field.

“We definitely have to figure things out but we just clicked so quickly and early in the season,” Gordon said. “We just knew we had a chance to maybe win it. I’d say at this point we know what we need to do and it’s all about being consistent enough on both sides of the ball for us to have a chance.”

Golden State, as defending champs, have to be respected as the better team until proven otherwise. Many do believe the Rockets have at the very least a puncher’s chance because of how they can score the ball in bunches. The Warriors, for all of their past defensive prowess, have slipped on that side of the floor this season with declining efficiency numbers. But is that slippage enough for the Rockets to gain ground or are the Warriors’ defensive struggles a combination of regular season boredom and a lack of enthusiasm.

In a seven-game playoff series, the cream rises to the top. Are the Rockets legit? Or are they a team best suited for the regular season as in seasons past? They currently lead the season series against the Warriors 2-1 and are 2-0 versus the Spurs to date. We have witnessed regular-season dominance from Paul and Harden in the past. Is this the year both guys put it all together and finally get over the hump? Time will tell and Eric Gordon figures to play a big role in determining the outcome.

The Rockets resume play on Friday versus the Minnesota Timberwolves.

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NBA Daily: Rich Cho Out As Charlotte Hornets GM

The Charlotte Hornets opted to not move forward with GM Rich Cho and are expected to pursue former Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak.

Buddy Grizzard

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The fateful moment for Rich Cho came days after he was hired as GM of the Charlotte Hornets in June of 2011. With the NBA Draft coming just nine days later, Cho started work on a three-team trade that would land Charlotte a second top-10 pick to pair with its own ninth pick, which was used to draft franchise cornerstone Kemba Walker.

In that draft, Klay Thompson went 11th to the Golden State Warriors and Kawhi Leonard 15th to the Pacers. Of the 17 players selected after Bismack Biyombo, who went to the Hornets with the seventh pick, 12 are regular contributors on current NBA rosters. The Orlando Magic are currently outscored by 11.6 points per 100 possessions with Biyombo on court, a rotation-worst.

Today, Hornets owner Michael Jordan announced that Cho is out as Charlotte’s GM.

“Rich worked tirelessly on behalf of our team and instituted a number of management tools that have benefited our organization,” said Jordan in a press release. “We are deeply committed to our fans and to the city of Charlotte to provide a consistent winner on the court. The search will now begin for our next head of basketball operations who will help us achieve that goal.”

While the failure to obtain Thompson, Leonard or any of the numerous impact players in the 2011 draft will always mar Cho’s record, falling to the second pick in the 2012 NBA Draft will continue to haunt Charlotte. Despite a brutal 7-59 record in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season, which set the record for lowest win percentage in an NBA season (.110), the New Orleans Pelicans won the right to the first overall pick and selected Anthony Davis.

The Hornets selected Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with the second pick. Although the 2012 Draft wasn’t nearly as deep as 2011’s, the Hornets still left players like Bradley Beal (third) and Andre Drummond (ninth) on the board. Either would have been an outstanding compliment to Walker, who remains with the team despite rumors of his availability leading up the the trade deadline.

“I feel like I’m going to be in Charlotte,” said Walker at his All-Star media availability. “So that’s where I’m at, that’s where I’m playing. So I never really sat and thought about any other teams.”

Walker made his second All-Star appearance after Kristaps Porzingis suffered a season-ending ACL injury.

“I wish K.P. hadn’t gotten hurt,” said Walker. “Everybody hates to see guys go down, especially great players like him. But when I was able to get the call to replace him, it was a really good feeling.”

Another fateful moment in Cho’s tenure came during the 2015 NBA Draft. According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, the Boston Celtics offered the 15th and 16th picks, a future protected first rounder from the Brooklyn Nets and a future first from either the Grizzlies or Timberwolves in exchange for the ninth pick, which Cho used to draft Frank Kaminsky.

“If it was such a no-brainer for us, why would another team want to do it,” Cho asked rhetorically in defense of the Kaminsky selection, according to Lowe.

Years later, it’s evident that the Celtics dodged a bullet when both Charlotte and the Miami HEAT rebuffed its attempts to move up and draft Justise Winslow. The latter has not panned out while Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, the players Boston subsequently obtained with Brooklyn’s picks, have developed into starters.

Chris Mannix of Yahoo! Sports reported in the first week of February that Charlotte may target former Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak for a high-ranking role in the organization. Kupchak, like Jordan, is a former UNC star. Kupchak would join Jordan’s UNC teammate and Charlotte assistant GM Buzz Peterson.

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