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NBA Saturday: Should the Nets Trade Brook Lopez?

With the worst record in the NBA and few tools to rebuild, it may be time for the Nets to trade Brook Lopez.

Jesse Blancarte

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Brook Lopez is now in his ninth NBA season and is the most tenured played on the Brooklyn Nets. In fact, Lopez is the only player on the roster that was with the franchise when it was still the New Jersey Nets. Lopez has been a fixture for this team, consistently producing throughout the team’s ups and downs (though he has struggled with injuries throughout his NBA career).

The Nets currently have the worst record in the NBA (9-45) and have lost 12 games in a row and 28 of their last 30. Nets general manager Sean Marks has been tasked with rebuilding a team that has recklessly traded away future assets over the last few seasons in pursuit of a championship. With few assets to work with, Marks has to be creative and opportunistic in assembling his team. Last offseason, Marks signed Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson to inflated restricted free agent offer sheets in the hope that these young guards would improve to the point where their production would coincide with their respective salaries. The Portland Trail Blazers and Miami HEAT ultimately matched the Nets’ offer sheets and retained their respective free agents, but it was a tactic worth pursuing considering that Marks has limited options in acquiring young talent.

That’s where Lopez could potentially help the Nets. Lopez’s name comes up each season around the trade deadline. This makes sense considering that Lopez is a gifted offensive player, has the size of a throwback center and isn’t a slouch defensively. Lopez has even added three-point range to his game this season, which makes him even more enticing as a trade target. For his part, Lopez is used to hearing his name come up in trade rumors and knows how to manage it.

“I’ve talked to [my agent]. But it’s something I’m used to by now. It wouldn’t be comfortable without it,’’ said Lopez on Tuesday night. “I haven’t heard anything. I’m all right. If it were pressing or something was happening, I’d be aware.

“They’re going to make their decision, but I would hope that I’d be informed, and I have the confidence they would inform me if they were thinking [of doing] something or something was going down.”

This season, Lopez is averaging 20.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.7 blocks per game while shooting 46.9 percent from the field and 33.6 percent from three-point range. In the Nets’ recent loss to the Miami HEAT (who is riding a league-leading 13-game win streak), Lopez overmatched Hassan Whiteside, producing 30 points and eight rebounds. He also got the highlight of the night by viciously rejecting Rodney McGruder’s dunk attempt.

Lopez is currently under contract through next season. This season, he is earning roughly $21.1 million and will earn roughly $22.6 million next season. Unlike a player like Blake Griffin, who last year was rumored to be available in trade discussions since he can become an unrestricted free agent after this season, Lopez has another year under contract. This makes him a bit more valuable in trade discussions since teams won’t balk at the idea of trading significant assets for what could amount to a two-to-three month rental.

The Nets value Lopez a great deal and would only be willing to move him for a significant return. Basketball Insiders’ Steve Kyler recently reported that the Nets have been open to trade discussions all year, but are seeking a lottery level pick this year and a first-round pick next year. Kyler further stated that the Nets are not concerned about moving Lopez this season since they could restart discussions around the upcoming draft. The belief is that Lopez is playing the best basketball of his career and that his value will climb the more he can display his abilities and durability.

The Nets’ front office understands its current situation and is right to hold out for a strong offer for Lopez. With the Boston Celtics owning swap rights to Brooklyn’s 2017 first-round pick, their 2018 first-round pick and Brooklyn owing second-round picks to the Atlanta Hawks, Philadelphia 76ers and Memphis Grizzlies, it is imperative that the Nets receive ample future assets in return for any deal involving Lopez. However, if the Nets become unreasonably stubborn, they’ll run the risk that Lopez’s value will decline as he gets closer and closer to unrestricted free agency.

Lopez does have some limitations that could also drag down his value. In a league that increasingly values athletic rim protectors that double as pick-and-roll threats, such as DeAndre Jordan, Rudy Gobert and Hassan Whiteside, there is a risk that Lopez no longer represents the type of center that teams are primarily targeting. Lopez is not an elite athlete, but he is still mobile enough to be an effective defender, as we saw in the clip above. However, at age 28 and with multiple injuries on his record, there is reason to be wary of his durability and concern for how he will age (especially considering he will be in line for a significant contract when his contract expires after next season). Whether Lopez is ultimately traded or not, he has been a fixture for Brooklyn and has handled his situation as a true professional.

“You never know what’s going to happen, nothing’s for certain,’’ Lopez said. “I’ve consistently said I want to see nothing but good things here and I’d love to be a part of that. It’s the one team I’ve played for, the one team I’ve known. I want to see great things happen here and I’d love to be a part of that foundation and that growth. … That said, obviously I only can control what I can control: There are other variables out there.”

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @MikeAScotto, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @SusanBible, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton, @jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @JabariDavisNBA and @CodyTaylorNBA.

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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NBA Daily: James Harden on the new All-Star Format and Chris Paul Being Snubbed

James Harden shared his thoughts on the new All-Star game format and teammate Chris Paul not being selected as an All-Star

James Blancarte

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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver made a bold decision to alter the All-Star game format. By allowing the two highest voted players in each conference to be team captains, Silver did away with tradition and the usual West versus East format. While there were a few complaints about the switch, fans were seemingly more vocal about the decision to not televise the selection of players by the team captains.

Well, the results are in and praise for new format has been nearly universal. With players more invested in the new format, and perhaps the $100k per player bonus for the winners, the effort level was up, plays were being drawn up and executed and defense made a surprise appearance in an exciting game that came down to the final possession.

2018 NBA All-Star and Houston Rockets guard James Harden spoke about the All-Star game and the new format.

“I think it is exciting. You get an opportunity, you know, for a mixture of guys to play on the same team together. We’re trying to win though, it’s competitive,” Harden stated. “Obviously, the All-Star game has a lot of highlights but we’re trying to win, we’re going to go out there and prove we’re trying to win.”

Harden, who played for Team Stephen, did not get the win. However, Harden also made it clear that playing in the this year’s All-Star game meant even more having grown up in Los Angeles.

“To be able to play in the big boy game means a lot. I grew up, especially being from LA, you grew up watching Kobe, watching Shaq every single year. You see how fun, you see how exciting it was,” Harden said. “Now to be here, to be in the city is more special.”

While Harden made it a point to talk about what it means to play in Los Angeles, another factor he seemed excited and appreciative about was being the first player picked for Team Stephen.

“Man, that’s a great feeling. Just because in middle school I was the last pick. So, to be the number one pick in the All-Star game, that’s what the swag champ is for,” Harden said.

Harden wasn’t universally positive about All-Star Weekend. Specifically, he was not happy about being the only Rockets All-Star – especially considering Houston’s standing in the Western Conference playoff race.

“I have a lot to say about that. What are we talking about? Everyone knows Chris Paul is with the Rockets and the Rockets have the number one [record]. How does that not happen?” Harden asked rhetorically. “It’s frustrating. I know he’s frustrated. He never brings it up. That’s why I did say what I said. He’s never going to bring it up. But, I’ll defend for him. He should be here with me in LA as an All-Star.”

Harden had some success as he led his team in minutes and logged 12 points, eight assists and five rebounds. He spoke after the game and confirmed the reconfiguration of the All-Star game produced a competitive game and a fun product for the fans.

“Felt great. I hope all the fans enjoyed [the All-Star game] as well. It was very competitive. Guys got after it from the beginning of the game. Usually All-Star [games] there are a lot of dunks, a lot of freedom. Tonight was intense,” Harden said.

Harden was not wrong with his conclusion that there was less freedom. With less freedom and better defense played, Harden went 5-19 from the field and 2-13 from three-point range while finishing the game without a single free throw attempted. The lack of free throws may have irked Harden, who is renowned for his ability to get to the line (9.9 free throw attempts per game this season). Adding to that frustration, Harden had the opportunity to put his team ahead with a three-pointer late in the game but failed to connect on the shot. Unsurprisingly, Harden expressed his disappointment with the result.

“I was pissed we lost. I’m still mad,” Harden stated.

On the final play of the game, while ignoring Harden, Curry kept the ball with the chance to tie the game. Curry dribbled into a LeBron James/Kevin Durant double team. Curry wasn’t able to get a shot off and Harden was left with his hands up waiting for a pass and a chance to win the game that never came.

Looking toward next year, Harden was asked if as a possible captain he would prefer to have the player selection two weeks before or right before the game. He thought about it and then smiled.

“Probably right before the game,” Harden answered.

Commissioner Silver has spoken on the subject and is sending strong signals that next year’s selection will be televised. That will potentially add another layer of excitement to the new All-Star game format, which is already paying off for the NBA.

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Mitchell Taking Things Day-By-Day, But Loving ‘Whirlwind’ Experience

It’s been a special year for the Utah Jazz rookie sensation.

Spencer Davies

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Four-and-a-half months into the first season of his NBA career, Donovan Mitchell has accomplished some incredible things.

He won back-to-back Rookie of the Month honors between this past December and January. He leads his class with 19.6 points per game and nearly 17 field goal attempts per contest. Due much in part to his contributions, the Utah Jazz are the hottest team in the league, riding an 11-game winning streak after falling far below the .500 mark.

To top all that off, he won the slam-dunk competition just a few days ago in an event for the whole world to see. All of this has been nothing short of amazing for the 21-year-old, and even he didn’t see this coming.

“This whole thing’s just been a whirlwind for me,” Mitchell said at All-Star weekend of his first-year experience. “Just enjoying the process. There are games where I’m just like, ‘Wow this happened’ or ‘Wow that happened’ and it’s a credit to my teammates and the coaching staff and the organization for believing in me.

“Without them, none of this would be possible, so I really thank them for giving me this opportunity.”

Believe it or not, Mitchell wasn’t always so sure about where his life would go. He played for a couple of seasons at Louisville and ended up declaring for the 2017 NBA draft, a night where the Jazz stole him away from every other team by executing a deal with the Denver Nuggets to land the 13th overall pick in Salt Lake City.

“I tell people all the time this wasn’t my plan,” Mitchell said at All-Star weekend. “After two years of college, being here for All-Star and even being in the NBA wasn’t entirely my plan, so I’m just taking it one step at a time, one day at a time, praising God for this opportunity he’s given me.”

So far, Mitchell is picking things up on the go. As he keeps improving and solidifying his game on the court, he’s also bettering himself mentally.

“If I just continue to be humble and continue to learn, that’s the biggest thing is learning and understanding the game,” Mitchell said. “I make the joke that it’s easy to study film and watch all the games when you don’t have five classes to study for throughout the day. So it’s been fun and I’m just taking it day by day.”

It’s pretty awesome that he’s doing what he’s doing with friends by his side. Most of us think of this class of rookies as a special group because of their talents as players, but it’s a tight-knit inner circle of friends who are enjoying every second of life in the NBA together.

Kyle Kuzma, John Collins, De’Aaron Fox, and Dennis Smith Jr. are friends Mitchell mentioned that he’s been close with for a while, and to see all of their hard work culminate so quickly at the Rising Stars game in Los Angeles is something special.

“I’ve known a lot of these guys, pretty much everybody on this team since high school for the most part,” Mitchell said. “Kinda hanging the same way we did in high school just a lot more cameras, a lot more downtime, bigger city.

“It’s fun. Just gotta treat it like it’s fun, go out there and just be kids. Live a dream of ours since we were younger.”

After the weekend he had, Mitchell accomplished that goal.

Whether the next chapter in his career has a Rookie of the Year award written into it or not, we’re seeing spectacular things from the one they call “Spida.”

And it’s about time people are taking notice.

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NBA Daily: Tobias Harris Thrives at Every Stop

Tobias Harris was traded yet again, but thankfully for the Clippers, he’s gotten better every stop he’s made.

Joel Brigham

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When Tobias Harris was a 19-year-old rookie for the Milwaukee Bucks, he faced a lot of the same issues that other 19-year-old rookies before him had faced, most notably the ones dealing with a lack of playing time.

He only saw the floor in 42 games, playing on 11 minutes per contest when he did get out there.

Despite that, it was somewhat of a surprise that the Bucks gave up on his talent so early in his career, trading him to the Orlando Magic just 28 games into his sophomore season as part of a trade for J.J. Redick.

The Magic immediately tripled his minutes, and he’s never been a 30 minutes-per-game guy ever since. He also has never said a negative thing about any team he’s ever played for. As far as he’s concerned, every opportunity is a blessing and a learning experience.

“I didn’t look at Milwaukee as a team giving up on me. I looked at it as Orlando valuing me and seeing me as a piece of the puzzle,” Harris told Basketball Insiders during All-Star Weekend, where he participated in the three-point contest.

“The NBA is about opportunity, so when you get the opportunity you have to make the most of it. Going from a rookie not playing to where I’m at now, it takes a lot of hard work, focus and determination,” he said. “You have to have the confidence in your own self, to understand you can break through in this league.”

And break through he did, in large part because those first 18 months as a professional were so challenging.

“Adversity helped me to work hard,” he said. “I always envisioned myself as a primetime player in this league. I have a ways to go to get there, but that’s the best part about me. My best basketball is ahead of me, and adversity has helped me get there. It’s motivated me, and I want to be the best player I can be. I’m trying every single day to fight for that.”

This season, most of which came as a member of the Detroit Pistons, was a career-best for Harris.

Between the Pistons and L.A. Clippers, Harris has averaged a career-high 18 points per game, and while he wasn’t voted to the All-Star Team this year, his name popped up in the conversation. He’s never been closer.

It was bittersweet for him, though, leaving a Detroit team he liked so much.

“My favorite part was being around those guys [in Detroit],” he said. “It was a great group of guys and a great coaching staff. Coach Van Gundy is a great coach. At the same time, when I first got there, we had a chance to make the playoffs and we got in the playoffs. That was nice for me, to put that pressure on myself and get it done.”

Now, he’s ready to accept his next challenge in Los Angeles with the Clippers.

“I look at every new opportunity as a new chance,” he said. “My first trade from Milwaukee to Orlando was a situation where I just wanted to prove myself to the league. When I was traded from Orlando to Detroit, it was a situation where I wanted to help the team get to the playoffs, and that’s similar to this one here, too… I really like the group of guys that are on this team. I like our demeanor and our approach, so after the break I look forward to building that chemistry and moving forward.”

Of course, moving forward is all he’s ever done.

After everything he’s proven to date, it seems like a given that he’ll continue to make strides with his new team.

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