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NBA Sunday: Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony’s Looming Legacies

Entering the 2014-15 season, both Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony face questions regarding their legacies.

Moke Hamilton

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The horn sounded. The third quarter ended. Chris Paul sat on the bench, forlorn. His bright red jersey, now burgundy and drenched in sweat, clung to his frame.

He took a deep breath and looked up at his head coach. Searching and hoping for a diatribe that would light a fire under his listless teammates, he got the opposite.

“We’ll regroup for Game 2,” his coach said, mentally forfeiting.

“We’ll be ready,” he said.

But alas, this was Game 1 and there were still 12 minutes remaining.

And as he sat down and looked up at the scoreboard, he saw the 85-64 score. He didn’t need an abacus to tell him that his team faced an insurmountable deficit. That this was Game 1 on the road made the task of accomplishing the impossible all the more daunting.

Lesser men would have rationalized the defeat, waved the white flag and reasoned that they simply needed to win Game 2.

Instead, Paul opened his mouth.

“You have to give us a chance,” he pleaded with his coach.

And against his better judgment, Vinny Del Negro relented. Paul peeled himself up for the game’s final 12 minutes and went out and made history.

His Los Angeles Clippers didn’t just defeat the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 1 of the 2012 NBA Playoffs, they practically robbed them at gunpoint, erasing a 24-point fourth quarter deficit to win Game 1 of a series that would eventually see them prevail in seven.

Yes, it was a heist, and afterward, Blake Griffin said so himself.

“We put a mask on and robbed that one,” Griffin told The Los Angeles Times.

So as Paul closes in on his 30th birthday and the questions about his durability and lack of bling persist and polarize, I ask you:

What will you remember him for?

Will you remember him for having the heart of a champion? Will you remember him for controlling and dominating games, despite often being the smallest competitor on the court? Will you remember him for single-handedly turning two franchises into contenders in the ever-tough Western Conference?

Or, will you, like those who cannot see past their own noses, simply boil his legacy and place in history down to the simple question of whether he was able to capture a championship over the course of his career?

Would Kevin Garnett not be as great of a player in your eyes if he never had the good fortune (and sense) to be traded to the Boston Celtics to team up with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen?

Would Dirk Nowitzki not be arguably one of the greatest shooters and offensive forces in NBA history if his 2011 Dallas Mavericks weren’t able to pull off one of the biggest NBA Finals upsets in history?

Are they, Garnett and Nowitzki, better players because they were able to accomplish that?

Through that lens, I ask you, even deeper, will you remember any of the NBA’s superstars who walk away from the game without ever having the pleasure of cradling the Larry O’Brien trophy?

If Kevin Durant is unable to lead his Oklahoma City Thunder to the promise land, will that diminish his greatness? Will you pretend as though he is not a transcendent basketball talent who, amazingly, has the stature of a beanstalk, the grace of a gazelle and the dead-eye of an eagle?

Will you brush their accomplishments aside and forget to mention them along the likes of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade?

Will you cast their legacies aside and include them in the list of “others” that were unable to accomplish the game’s ultimate feat?

The gross majority of the basketball-watching public will, but you should not, because the ultimate measure of one’s greatness should not be boiled down to whether or not they were able to win a championship. Prudent and intelligent management is an integral part of accomplishing that and players have little control over it.

Yes, the bling sings, but it should be in pianissimo.

*****

Let’s talk about irony.

Let’s talk about a player whose own fan base is torn on him and his talent.

Let’s talk about a player who has been expected to live up to an unattainable standard and is largely unappreciated as a result.

Yes, let’s talk about Carmelo Anthony and his self-appointed designation as being the game’s most underrated superstar, even after signing a five-year, $124 million contract to remain a member of the New York Knicks.

And then, let’s talk about the fact that Anthony is correct.

Perhaps somewhat naturally, in a culture that has come to worship the World Series of Poker and other winner-take-all endeavors, we have learned how to ignore all but the brightest shining star.

You’re either the best, or you’re not. You’re either the man, or you’re not. You’re either LeBron James, or you’re not.

I know LeBron, and Mr. Anthony, you are no LeBron.

But I know that Anthony is still an amazing basketball talent worthy of universal reverence from all-corners of the league (and the basketball-watching world, for that matter). But I also happen to know that Anthony is being simultaneously judged while his immense talents are disrespected and overlooked. Not only because he’s considered the peer of LeBron, and not only because of the dearth of playoff series victories, but also because of Allen Iverson.

Collectively, we were sold on the idea that Iverson, a “volume scorer,” who was both ball-dominant and inefficient, was impossible to win with. Over time, we soured on Iverson. We overlooked the fact that he would leave everything he had on the floor in pursuit of winning. Instead, we focused more on the fact that he was unable to win more and do more, despite the likes of Derrick Coleman, Matt Geiger, Toni Kukoc and Theo Ratliff being his wingmen.

Instead of talking about how he played hurt and was a one-man wrecking crew that was small enough to fit in Shaquille O’Neal’s pocket—and revering him for that—we would rather spend our time talking about practice and why Iverson was “only” able to lead his Philadelphia 76ers to one NBA Finals appearance.

Because of Iverson and his faults (and he did have quite a few), we were eventually taught to buy into the myth that a man whose most capable asset on the floor is his ability to score points is impossible to succeed with. We have been taught that anyone lacking the all-around skill set of LeBron James isn’t worthy of our respect.

And so what if Mark Cuban was able to finally win with Nowitzki?

Nowitzki was far more efficient than Carmelo. He’s never even sniffed the 50/40/90 club, so clearly, he’s not of Nowitzki’s caliber

We will continue to overlook the fact that since 2011, Anthony has become a more efficient shot maker, become a more willing passer and has flat-out played harder than we had grown accustomed to seeing him in the past.

We will continue to not believe that the correct offensive system—the triangle, in this case—can find a way to utilize his unique skills while hiding the weak points.

We will continue to overlook some of his more amazing accomplishments. Like that time when he finally got a capable running mate in Denver and he and Chauncey Billups gave an in-prime Kobe Bryant a valiant fight for the 2009 Western Conference Championship. Or that time in the 2011 NBA Playoffs where, without Billups and a healthy Amar’e Stoudemire, being flanked by the likes of Bill Walker, Toney Douglas, Jared Jeffries and Shawne Williams, Anthony put together one of the most amazing playoff performances many of us have ever seen.

After he single-handedly gave his New York Knicks an opportunity to win with a 42-point, 17-rebound, six-assist effort, Doc Rivers called him one of the best players he’s ever seen and said his Boston Celtics were “lucky” to have won that night.

The 33 points he scored in a single quarter back in 2008? We will brush that aside as quickly as we have the fact that he is one of the greatest and most accomplished players to ever play for USA Basketball. We will brush them aside just like we did his amazing performance in the 2012 Olympics, where he emerged as the alpha scorer for Team USA and set the USA Men’s Olympic team record for most points (37) scored in a game.

Those 62 points he scored against the Charlotte Hornets back in 2014 in Madison Square Garden? Most call that meaningless in the grand scheme.

Instead of holding Anthony in high esteem, we will continue to boil his usefulness and legitimacy down into one simple question…

How many championships has he won?

And until that number changes, if it changes, the answer to that questions equals how much respect he will get from the masses, because honoring, respecting and appreciating players like Anthony and Chris Paul requires more than a passive look. It requires actually watching.

It requires one to do more than simply look at a stat sheet or an accolades list to make a determination about a player’s worth.

It requires basketball education, and frankly, that’s a little too difficult for most of us to attain.

So yes, let’s talk about irony and let’s discuss what it is.

In short, irony is becoming a better player while your team regresses. Irony is making it through 11 years in the NBA without ever simultaneously having a coach that could fully utilize your skills and a Robin that fully complements them.

Since arriving in New York, like his salaries, Anthony’s game has risen while his stature in the league has seemingly gone on a descent.

That’s life as Anthony, though. The $124 million underrated superstar.

Ironic, isn’t it?

*****

Since 1999, each NBA Finals has had at least one of Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan or Dwyane Wade in it.

Duncan has had R.C. Buford and Greg Poppovich by his side for his amazing run. Bryant has served under Jerry West, Mitch Kupchak and Phil Jackson and Wade owes almost everything to Pat Riley.

Behind every great champion is a great executive and a great head coach. Winning requires an immense amount of talent on the basketball court, but it requires an immense amount of brainpower above it, as well.

In the end, no matter how great the player, he himself cannot single-handedly win the ultimate prize. In the end, reducing someone’s legacy and the amount of respect bestowed upon him to a single question as to whether he was able to win is an insult.

Although there are more chapters to be written in the books of Paul, Anthony and even Durant, eventually toppling LeBron’s reign atop the NBA is something that should enhance the legacies that they leave on the game. But if none of those three are able to, it should not detract or distract us from seeing them for the special talents that they are.

Success in the NBA is no accident. It requires an alpha-male, but it requires so much more.

Falling short of accomplishing that ultimate goal should not be a black mark against any player who changes the culture of a franchise and gives it an opportunity to compete at the highest level.

I’ll take Paul or Anthony on my team any day. I’ll take their strengths and their weaknesses and I’ll do my best to utilize them and hide them, respectively. I’d do my best to be the Mark Cuban to their Dirk Nowitzki.

And when it’s all said and done, win or lose, I’ll take their accomplishments and their shortcomings.

I just won’t take their credit.

When it’s all said and done, win or lose, after observing their growth over the years and their transforming of two franchises, I’ll take their legacies, too.

I’ll take their legacies and defend them, because unlike many, I understand that winning in the NBA never was and never will be about just one player.

But one’s legacy? It should be.

And at the end of the day, it is important to know the difference. Being an inlier is a natural byproduct of competition, but by no means should it reduce the esteem anointed to some of the greatest players we have had the pleasure of watching.

So no, neither Paul nor Anthony is LeBron. But at the end of the day, they’re still pretty damn good.

Moke Hamilton is a Deputy Editor and Columnist for Basketball Insiders.

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NBA Daily: A New Beginning Or The Beginning Of The End?

The Toronto Raptors made some bold moves this off-season, but will those moves be the beginning of something new or the beginning of the end of Raptors run in the East?

Steve Kyler

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A New Beginning Or The Beginning Of The End?

The Toronto Raptors were clearly at a crossroads after being swept unceremoniously by the Cleveland Cavaliers in May. It was a microcosm of their situation – good enough to win the East in the regular season, but not good enough to win in big playoff games.

The Raptors went on to fire Dwane Casey as head coach, despite him ultimately being named Coach of The Year. The idea behind the firing wasn’t an emotional reaction to the swept; it was the acceptance of the reality that Casey wasn’t going to evolve as a coach, at least not the way management had hoped.

Casey’s ouster wasn’t the only change; the Raptors also traded away franchise cornerstone DeMar DeRozan in a “dare to be great” trade with San Antonio for forward Kawhi Leonard.

From a pure talent standpoint, Leonard is an upgrade in almost every way to DeRozan, a multi-time All-Star in his own right. The problem with Leonard isn’t what he is as a player, its what he’s become as a person. No one saw the divorce in San Antonio coming, nor the lengths his camp would go to force an exit and leave countless millions on the table for a new start.

The problem for Toronto is the new start Leonard was seeking never included them. So, much like the Oklahoma City Thunder did a year ago with Paul George, the Raptors are hopeful that a long and successful courtship of Leonard could win him over and into a new long-term deal. If that sounds like a pipe dream, it probably is.

Let’s be real about a few things.

Toronto is a beautiful and passionate basketball city, but is that enough to sway a kid from Southern California to stay? The Raptor faithful will point to DeRozan as an example of yes; he did exactly that when he signed his current deal. But is the situation ideal for Leonard, again the answer might be yes, especially if he is fully recovered from the quad injury that sidelined him for most of last season.

There is no doubting that the Raptors are built to win right now. They won 59 games with arguably the same roster and will enter an Eastern Conference that no longer has LeBron James in Cleveland.

Sure, the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers are formidable challengers for supremacy in the East and let’s not forget about the Indiana Pacers, who could be in that same pack of teams vying for the top spot. But are any of them far and away better than the Raptors in terms of proven in their prime players?

The script seems to be written for the Raptors to either explode and cement themselves at the top of the East or implode on their own decisions.

New Raptors coach Nick Nurse is as a good as they come from the assistant ranks. He is a bright basketball mind, and he knows his players and has relationships with most of them. The question is will he be as good as advertised? If he not, this dance could be over before it starts.

Leonard has so much to prove after orchestrating his exit from San Antonio. If he gets back to MVP form in Toronto how can the Raptors not be considered the front-runner for the East? Yes, Boston is going to be really good too, but if you were betting on two players – MVP version of Kyrie Irving or MVP version of Leonard, who are you taking?

The problem for the Raptors is what if Leonard isn’t that guy again? What if all the negativity becomes too much? What if not being coddled and sheltered by the Spurs is a problem? No, Leonard isn’t a baby that needs mothering, but if you have followed anything about Leonard, he’s not this rock of a person that can handle anything. It’s a real question only he can answer with his play on the floor.

Equally, what if the quad isn’t fully healed or he goes Isaiah Thomas and tries to come back on to make it worse and needs surgery?

These are not easy questions to answer.

If the Raptors come out on top of most of these decisions – Nurse and Leonard are what people hope them to be — then things could swing in a very interesting direction for the Raptor franchise.

That’s what makes the “dare to be great” move interesting.

Thunder GM Sam Presti made news when he was quoted in Paul George’s ESPN docu-series, saying one of his favorite Lyrics was from Tribe Called Quest – “Scared money don’t make none” — in rationalizing his all-in approach to George.

It seems like Raptor president Masai Ujiri may have stolen a play from the Thunder playbook, because the franchise is now all the way in on the make or break moves of this off-season.

This could be the beginning of a new chapter for the Raptors, or it could end being the moves that cratered something special.

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NBA Daily: Why Teams Should Think Twice Before Tanking

Making up for the loss of a superstar is not a cut and dry, writes Spencer Davies.

Spencer Davies

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Making up for the loss of a superstar is not a cut and dry affair.

If it happens, ownership and management have to choose between two options.

1) Attempt to stay competitive
2) Blow everything up and go for a high draft pick

The second choice seems to be the favorite path for executives to take as of late. After all, just look at the job the Philadelphia 76ers have done with perfecting the art of the aptly named process, “tanking.”

Former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie’s three ultra-quotable words have turned NBA fans on to see the bigger picture. Who cares if a team has to suffer through multiple seasons of losing? If it takes a couple of years, so be it. In the end, we’ll reset with younger talent to build around. Trust The Process.

Philadelphia lost a lot of games between the 2013 and 2017 seasons. It was flat out brutal to watch. With that said, it did give the organization the opportunity to draft the likes of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons and acquire a young international talent like Dario Saric.

They were extremely patient throughout this whole operation. Brett Brown remained the head coach through thick and thin. Players swore on buying into what was being preached.

Last season was a breakthrough for the Sixers. They won 52 games and made the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 campaign. Two of the guys they drafted turned into recognizable names with their play and have sky-high potential to break through in this upcoming season.

But is this really what it takes to achieve relevancy and perpetual competition in the NBA now? Do you really have to wipe the slate clean entirely and put out an unacceptable product year-in and year-out for half a decade so that there’s a possibility of one day becoming a winning franchise?

It’s obvious that Philadelphia did its homework, but who’s to say that other front offices can function like that? The Sacramento Kings have been in the doldrums for 12 years. The Orlando Magic have missed the playoffs for six straight seasons and the New York Knicks haven’t made an appearance in five.

What it comes down to is hitting on draft picks, plain and simple. You don’t hear often about the missteps of the process. Nerlens Noel was supposed to be a key piece of the Sixers core, as was Jahlil Okafor. Both of those players were top six selections in their respective drafts.

In order to acquire Noel (along with New Orleans’ 2014 first-round pick), Philadelphia sent Jrue Holiday, Pierre Jackson and the 42nd overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft to the newly branded New Orleans Pelicans.

In hindsight, this was an awful move—no bones about it. Holiday had been coming off an All-Star season. He stood a head above the rest on a roster mixed with veterans and middle-of-their-career players. Most impressive of all, it was only his third year in the league.

The Sixers picked a gamble that did not return the results they were hoping for. Michael Carter-Williams won Rookie of the Year and Noel had his moments, but there’s no way it was worth losing a player the caliber of Holiday. But they had to abide by the process by any means necessary, right?

Philadelphia hasn’t won a championship, yet they’re heading in the right direction. They were able to overcome those bumps in the road. The three teams in Sacramento, Orlando and New York to this point have not.

Tanking may not be the wrong answer. It’s not always the right one, though. It all depends on timing. Take a different approach of re-tooling in lieu of rebuilding.

A prime example of this viewpoint is the Utah Jazz last season. After Gordon Hayward signed with the Boston Celtics, many pundits stuck a dead duck label on the Utah Jazz. Those people said that in spite of the fact that the organization was on the rise with a brilliant head coach and an up-and-coming center bordering on best defensive player in the league status.

General manager Dennis Lindsey made a few moves here or there, but did not even think about giving up on the overall progress the Jazz had attained. He kept Quin Snyder and Rudy Gobert, drafted Donovan Mitchell and began a new chapter in the same book instead of writing a different novel.

Utah opened a ton of eyes last season, not only making the playoffs—competing until the very end. And even that was fluky when injuries came into the picture.

They never had to go into the gutter. In the four straight years the Jazz missed the playoffs, it wasn’t because of a set strategy to take a nosedive. They had the wrong coach the first two and were learning how to play winning basketball under the right leader the next two.

It seems as if the Cleveland Cavaliers are taking that route instead of the usual cry to “blow it up.” This isn’t comparing the impact of losing Hayward to LeBron James. That would be irresponsible. But they’ve clearly formed a strategy for all of this and were much more prepared the second time around.

Their true plans were revealed on July 24 when Kevin Love signed a four-year, $120 million extension to stick around with the wine and gold. Confusion surfaced all around. Nearly everybody in the NBA world expected general manager Koby Altman to trade him and stock up on future assets. After all, the Cavaliers’ first-round draft pick next season only conveys if they finish as a bottom 10 team in the league. If they do not, the selection goes to the Atlanta Hawks.

While that’s a true statement, nothing is guaranteed. Anything that happens in a season can be unpredictable. Anything that goes on in a draft is unpredictable.

In one timeline, Cleveland could be as bad of a team as some are predicting with Love. In another, they could make the playoffs and shock their doubters.

We don’t know what Collin Sexton will be in this league yet. We do know that experience is irreplaceable. Why not surround the young man with talent for him to breed confidence in himself and others? It’s better than losing a ton of games because the front office is waiting for the next guy to pair him with, right?

The Cavaliers are keeping their head coach. They’re acquiring players aching for an opportunity. They’re altering their direction, but keeping the same focus.

With LeBron James, Cleveland made four straight NBA Finals. In doing so, they’ve set a standard for the organization. Even with The King going west, why would it make any sense to change that message?

Considering the talent this league already has and the “super teams” that are being built among them, there is a difference between a ball club that wins 20 games and one that wins 35. They both miss out on the postseason and have a lottery pick, however, Team A silently creates losing habits while Team B tries to instill a culture of winning.

There is no perfect method for filling a void left by losing a superstar player. Nobody is a psychic.

Maybe it’s naïve to criticize “The Process” for not wanting to be in NBA purgatory—usually somewhere stuck between a seven seed in the playoffs and the 10th team in the conference standings—but tanking is a tricky game. Precision is necessary to pull it off. If it isn’t there, you’ll be in a world of hurt.

At least when you’re in NBA purgatory, you can add to what you have or try a different coach. Championship or bust is a dangerous mentality in the current landscape of sports.

Of course, that’s always the goal, but very few understand what it takes to get to that point. It all starts with a winning attitude, a quality of most teams that have tanked do not possess.

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NBA Daily: The Summer’s Most Impactful Coaching Hires

There have been a lot of coaching swaps this offseason, but there are only a select few that should impact what happens next year.

Matt John

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Building a successful team is like cooking a meal. The players serve as the ingredients, while the coach serves as the cook who stirs the ingredients. A championship team requires the right ingredients just as much as it requires an adept cook.

Take the Warriors for example. Mark Jackson played an important role in putting Golden State back on the map in 2013. However, after it was clear that he wasn’t capable of pushing them much further the following year, they replaced him with Steve Kerr.

That made all the difference. The Dubs went from pseudo-contender to legitimate contender, thanks to their new coach revolutionizing the team’s offense. The team went from the league’s 12th-ranked offense in the league the previous season (107.5 points per 100 possessions) to its second (111.6). Stephen Curry’s evolution into a basketball supernova led the way of course, but it was Kerr’s revisions to the team that pushed them to another level.

It all started with how he handled his rotation. Making Draymond Green a full-time starter while also transitioning Andre Iguodala into the sixth man made the Dubs all the more lethal as a team. The final touch was forming the “Death Lineup”, which consisted of Curry, Green, Iguodala, Klay Thompson, and Harrison Barnes, that made Golden State nearly impossible to stop.

Golden State had a roster built for a title. All they needed was a coach who could get them the best results. Kerr was the man for the job.

That goes to show how vital a coach is to a franchise that has high aspirations.

Because of success stories like Golden State, we saw quite a few coaching changes this summer from teams hoping to have a Hollywood ending much like the Warriors.

Milwaukee Bucks – Mike Budenholzer

Poor Coach Bud. It’s not his fault that the Hawks team that he guided to 60 wins in 2015 slowly disintegrated over the last three years. Luckily he got out of there to avoid having to take on a rebuild. So now, he gets a fresh start in Wisconsin.

Budenholzer’s stock has gone down considerably since winning the Coach of the Year three years ago. That being said, he’s shown that when he has lemons, he can make lemonade. Now that he is running the show in Milwaukee, he is coaching one of the more unique situations in the league. Coach Bud now has a superstar at his arsenal in Giannis Antetokounmpo, which is something he never had in Atlanta.

It’s true that Milwaukee has been one of the league’s frequent underachievers since they kicked the tires of the Greek Freek era, but their talent cannot be understated. Remember that Coach Bud once made the likes of Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver All-Stars, statuses that they’ve never come close to regaining since. If he can do that with guys like Teague and Korver, imagine what he can do with Giannis and Co.

Milwaukee has also done a solid job building a team that fits Budenholzer’s emphasis on floor stretching. Adding Brook Lopez and bringing back Ersan Ilyasova should give a team that ranked 21st in three-point percentage more spacing. That’s quite impressive since Milwaukee had the ninth-best offensive rating in the league (109.8).

Milwaukee’s been trying to find their big break for a while now. They may have found theirs in Coach Bud.

Detroit Pistons – Dwane Casey

Nobody had a harder spring than Casey. Usually, winning Coach of the Year would be a moment worth treasuring, but in Casey’s case, it was far from it. Leading up to getting the award, Casey and the Raptors were swept by the Cavs for the second consecutive time, then he got fired shortly afterward. Casey getting Coach of the Year this season was pretty much like Dirk Nowitzki getting the MVP in 2007 after getting upset by the Warriors in the first round.

Thankfully, Casey’s illustrious resume was good enough for him to land on his feet just about anywhere. That anywhere happens to be Motown, where he’s replacing Stan Van Gundy as head coach. Detroit also has not had the most success since they’ve turned to Andre Drummond. That could be attributed to the unfortunate injuries that they’ve had to deal with in the last two years.

Despite having the persistent monkey on his back come playoff time, Casey has improved his craft in response to his failures. The Raptors saw improvement every year when Casey ran the show, and now Casey has the chance to show he can do the same in Detroit.

It will be an interesting transition going from the Raptors to the Pistons. Though not as talented as Toronto’s, Detroit’s strength should primarily come from their frontcourt. Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond should be one of the league’s best frontcourt pairings on paper. Casey has a reputation for making things work, so now that they will have a full season together, they may shine more than they did last season.

One particular question that should be answered is if Toronto’s problem was Casey or his roster. That may be answered by how Detroit does this season. Oh hey, speaking of Toronto…

Toronto Raptors – Nick Nurse

There seems to be a fair amount of optimism surrounding Nurse. Supposedly, he was the reason why the Raptors’ offense improved so much last season. Casey executed it to perfection, but Nurse was the one who designed it. Now, he’s at the forefront on a team that is desperate for success now more than ever.

This is Nurse’s first gig as a head coach, and the pressure is going to be on. It’s not just that Toronto’s been trying to get past its playoff demons. Now that they have Kawhi Leonard, they have to do everything in their power to keep him around — tall order given he seems hellbent on going to L.A.

Still, Leonard is an upgrade over DeMar DeRozan. Acquiring him, along with promoting Nurse, shows that the Raptors aren’t playing around. Being the head coach for one of the league’s powerhouses is a big break for Nurse. This may be his only to chance to prove he deserves a spot in this league.

James Borrego – Charlotte Hornets

Another Popovich protegee moving up through the ranks! Borrego has had some head coaching experience, though it was with the Orlando Magic, who were not going anywhere, three years ago. Now he’s going to Charlotte, a team that’s in a pretty tough situation right now.

Right now, Charlotte is hard-capped on a roster that does not have much room for improvement. The team has not made the playoffs in two years, and it’s hard to imagine how they improve from where they currently are. However, that might be why they hired Borrego.

Instead of going for a known name like Stan Van Gundy or Jeff Hornacek, they went with a guy who has learned under the NBA’s best coach for several years. Coach Bud became a great coach after learning from Pop, so perhaps Borrego may follow in his footsteps. This is a pivotal year for Charlotte since Kemba Walker’s bargain contract is expiring. If Borrego can help Charlotte return to the playoffs, then that could do wonders for them.

Note that David Fizdale, Lloyd Pierce, and Igor Kokoskov weren’t named. It isn’t fair to include them because the teams they are running are currently in the rebuilding phase with little expectation. They could be very impactful hires down the line. Just don’t expect a lot from them right away.

Same goes for J.B. Bickerstaff, but that’s because he already was the Grizzlies’ head coach. Now he’s full-time instead of interim. Call it cheating if you want to.

As for those who have been named, these hires should have a significant impact on what happens in the Eastern Conference playoff race this season. One of these hires could very well put their team in the finals, while another could put them in the NBA lottery.

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