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NBA Sunday: Everyone Wins In Rondo Trade

By trading Rajon Rondo, the Celtics avoided the same problem that plagues the Knicks.

Moke Hamilton

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Rick Carlisle donned his navy blue Mavericks hooded sweatshirt. He both looked and sounded quite casual sitting next to Mark Cuban, whose demeanor was somewhere between proud and giddy.

“Obvioulsy, having him here is a huge step forward for us,” Cuban said about what it meant for his franchise to land Rajon Rondo. “He’s a winner and he’s a competitor.”

Rondo is a few other things too: another superstar in Dallas and a beaming light that illuminates championship hopes.

And now, he is, best of all, a Maverick.

Clearly a bit unnerved, Rondo was reserved and stoic. After nine mostly successful years as a member of the Boston Celtics, he slowly saw his surroundings change as the foundation he came to know crumbled.

Over the years, he saw James Posey, Ray Allen and Doc Rivers flee and Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce traded away. Over those nine years, he went from being the new kid on the block to the last of the mohicans.

And as the days wore on and the Celtics embraced rebuilding, general manager Danny Ainge found himself in the peculiar position of trying to best determine what to do with a late 20-something-year-old franchise-caliber player who had no interest in losing.

As the years wore on, Rondo and the Celtics knew they were headed for an inevitable divorce.

Now, finally, Rondo was 1,800 miles away from where it all began.

Sitting beside Carlisle and Cuban, he paid respect to the Celtics, but he tipped his hand when asked what excited him about his new life in Dallas.

He mentioned “being able to play with future Hall-of-Famers” and being a part of “a team that’s ready to contend for a title.”

Meanwhile, in Boston, Ainge had to field some tough questions about what led to the trade of the talented Rondo and he spoke honestly of the “uncertainty” that the Celtics faced with Rondo’s impending free agency. Ainge was afraid of losing his superstar for nothing in return and simply could not take the risk that the Los Angeles Lakers took with Dwight Howard or the one that the New York Knicks did with Carmelo Anthony.

But in the end, for the Celtics, it was for the best.

——

It is often said that the worst place to be as a general manager in the National Basketball Association is right in the middle. A team that is not bad enough to get a top three pick in the draft and not good enough to seriously challenge once the playoffs roll around is up the creek without a paddle.

At least, that is what is often said.

This season, though, with the freshly re-signed Anthony and the New York Knicks sputtering out to their worst 25-game start in franchise history, one could easily make a new argument.

The worst place to be in the NBA is at the helm of a rebuilding team whose only asset is an aging player on a maximum salary and that is especially true in the post-2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement era of NBA economics.

Rebuilding teams require cap flexibility, not cap-clogging contracts.

Rebuilding teams require a slew of draft picks.

Rebuilding teams require patience on the part of their player-personnel.

And, among other things, rebuilding teams require youth.

Instead, a team that re-signs its late 20-something year old franchise player to a maximum contract will have already limited its ability to build an adequate supporting cast around him. In today’s NBA, it takes no less than three All-Star caliber performers to seriously contend for a championship, even if you are an Eastern Conference team.

Quite simply, it’s difficult to assemble that type of roster when you are beginning with a player who is collecting upwards of 30 percent of your cap.

Draft picks are the top currency in the NBA. They are lottery tickets with a potential jackpot of incalculable proportions. They are the lifeblood of a franchise and provide hope for the future.

Invariably, a team with a late 20-something superstar will need to find creative ways to field a competitive roster and build around said superstar. By virtue of him being in his late 20s, said superstar will not have patience; he wants to win now. He won’t be concerned with five years from now, he will be concerned with five months from now. It’s because the hourglass is running out on a late 20-something year-old superstar.

What Ainge realized in Boston was that by their very nature, a player like Rondo and his interests were diametrically opposed to the long-term best interests of the franchise.

Ainge made the tough decision, and perhaps the correct one. In the end, he made the decision that the New York Knicks refused to make with the polarizing Anthony.

For all that he is and brings to the table, Anthony has not proven himself to be a player capable of elevating his teammates and franchise. He will turn 31 years old before the season ends, but is in the first year of a five-year contract that will pay him $124 million.

At the age of 34, Anthony will be finishing up the fourth year of that contract in which he will earn $26.2 million. He will have a fifth year option at $27.9 million. Some people feel that he is not worth that type of investment, others simply feel that those numbers will make building around him difficult.

In the interim, the Knicks find themselves in the precarious position of having made a long-term commitment to their superstar and having to navigate the murky terrain of rebuilding while quickly becoming competitive enough to give Anthony a puncher’s chance of achieving highly in the playoffs.

In a way, they find themselves in the opposite situation as the Celtics.

And now, they find themselves in the situation of attempting to reinvent the wheel in building a contender in New York City.

——

When one looks back closely at the gross majority of NBA Champions over the course of the past twenty years, there are some fairly consistent traits.

The exhaustive list dating back to 1994, in reverse order: San Antonio Spurs (2014, 2007, 2005, 2003, 1999), Miami HEAT (2013, 2012, 2006), Dallas Mavericks (2011), Los Angeles Lakers (2010, 2009, 2002, 2001, 2000), Boston Celtics (2008), Detroit Pistons (2004), Chicago Bulls (1998, 1997, 1996) and Houston Rockets (1995, 1994).

Deep thought around and about each of those teams will yield a few similarities. Each of the aforementioned teams either drafted very well or attained a young player in whom the team presumably saw potential before the player was renowned as a stud. Either situation requires having an astute scouting department, so call that your first necessary trait.

The 2011 Mavericks obviously drafted Dirk Nowitzki, but Jason Terry was not considered a championship player when he was acquired, J.J. Barea was signed as an undrated rookie and Ian Mahinmi had only played 32 professional games before being signed by the Mavericks on a minimum-salaried contract.

For the 2008 Celtics, yes, Paul Pierce was their draftee, and yes, he did have Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett flanking him, but Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, Leon Powe and Glen Davis—all important contributors for that title run—were all drafted by the club.

Champions in 2004, the Pistons remain the gold standard for a team that believes it can trade its way to a championship. Joe Dumars added quite a few pieces to that 2004 team via trade which makes it somewhat easy to overlook the fact that Tayshaun Prince, Mehmet Okur and Lindsey Hunter were drafted by the franchise.

The other champions are so obviously a result of good drafting nothing more needs to be said of this trait.

The second and often overlooked trait of a champion is prudent cap management.

Inevitably, in the NBA, winning costs money. In a free market economy, the gross majority of NBA players play for the team that is willing to pay them the most. The better the player is, the more lucrative the offers he receives, again, the gross majority of time.

Championship teams rarely overpay for marginal production, or if they do, the player who is being overpaid must be canceled out by at least one other player who is underpaid for his production.

Ever notice how it seems like almost every time a team wins a championship, it loses one or two key contributors to free agency immediately after the team hoists the Larry O’Brien trophy? That is usually a result of this very concept. The player leaving the championship team usually does so in pursuit of a higher payday than his incumbent team was either willing or able to offer him. In effect, that proves that the salary he earned before leaving his team was less than what his production warranted.

Two great examples, again, using the 2011 Mavericks and 2008 Celtics are Barea and Posey, respectively.

Barea earned just $1.8 million from the Mavericks, but played 18.6 minutes per game for the club during their title run and had per-36 minute averages of 17.3 points, 6.6 assists and 3.6 rebounds. The ensuing offseason, Barea signed a four-year contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves that paid him $4.3 million in the first year—a raise of 139 percent.

Posey was a integral part of the Celtics’ 2008 championship run. He, along with Tony Allen, were the team’s most proficient perimeter defenders, but he, unlike Allen, was a highly efficient three-point shooter. Posey hit about 40 percent of his shots from behind the arc and gave the Celtics 10.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.6 steals per-36 minutes. He was paid $3.2 million by the team, but left after receiving a four-year deal from the New Orleans Hornets that paid him $5.8 million in the first year—a raise of 74 percent.

In each case, Barea and Posey received substantial raises, helping to make the argument that the Mavericks and Celtics were able to exploit their production for less than their fair market value. Of course, an argument can be made that their market value was increased because they won championships, but a ring without production could not explain such a substantial increase in pay.

——

So, what does this have to do with Anthony and Rondo?

It’s simple: By trading Rondo (as well as Garnett and Pierce), the Celtics have embraced these concepts fully. They are attempting to rebuild the franchise into a contender by way of patience and draft picks. Without building around an aging star, the team can patiently embark on their all-out rebuild. They will have ample opportunities over the next few years to draft their next cornerstone and once they do, they will scour the market to find like-aged running mates for him.

In the interim, they will not chain themselves to long-money contracts tied to marginal or one-dimensional players and they certainly will not overpay for the services of any player.

By trading Rondo, the Celtics opted to to take the road that the Knicks bypassed.

With Anthony on board, the Knicks do not have the luxury of patience. In a haste, the franchise recently surrendered a 2016 first round pick and second round picks in 2014 and 2017 for Andrea Bargnani—a player who has not made a difference for them and has missed more games (70 and counting) than he has played (42).

Moving forward, so long as Anthony is the core player that the Knicks are attempting to build around, the conflict of the franchise’s long-term future and enabling Anthony to win right now will continue to rear its ugly head.

If the Knicks secure a top-five draft pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, would Anthony embrace the idea of playing alongside a youngster and waiting for him to develop into a championship caliber player? Or would he—like his friend Kobe Bryant did once upon a time with Andrew Bynum—advocate trading him away for someone who could help in the immediate term?

In terms of finding talent that overproduces based on their salary, the Knicks could certainly get lucky. But the truth of the matter is that a team attempting to build itself primarily through free agency will often find itself in the precarious position of needing to overpay. That is where the Knicks are; that is what the Celtics avoided.

For the Knicks, are Jimmy Butler and Greg Monroe worth maximum contracts?

Was Amar’e Stoudemire worth a maximum contract?

Has the newly signed Jason Smith made any difference?

Those are the types of questions and decisions that need to be pondered and acted upon for a team attempting to rebuild around an aging superstar. Wanting to win for him, in the short term, yields a haste that is unbecoming of the patience and level-headedness required of a champion.

The Knicks need to win right now, but do not have the means to do so. It is a problem that the Celtics no longer have after trading Rondo.

As division mates, the two teams faced similar situations and came to the same diverging road.

Rondo sat in Dallas. Alongside Carlisle and Cuban, he hopes to continue on toward his dream of another championship.

Meanwhile, back East, the Celtics and Knicks—one franchise with its aging superstar and one without—were taking different routes in pursuit of the same goal.

From here, it will be interesting to see who reaches the destination first.

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G-League

NBA Daily: Power Ranking The Two-Way Standouts, Part II

With trade season in the rearview mirror, Ben Nadeau takes stock of the NBA’s impressive collection of two-way standouts.

Ben Nadeau

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Last week, the NBA’s trade deadline finally came and went — along with plenty of worthwhile fireworks of their own — and buyout season is officially in full swing. But as franchises continue bolstering their roster ahead of the postseason (or lottery-bound future efforts), another deadline occurred recently without much fanfare. In January, the cutoff to sign players to two-way contracts passed — so where does that leave affairs headed into the midseason break?

Previously, Basketball Insiders took a swing at ranking the 30-best two-way players but, quickly, it became clear that there would need to be a Part II. Since then, the Pacers signed Edmond Sumner to a contract that extends through the remainder of the season, plus a team option in 2019-20. Our No. 12 selection has a home in Indiana and — with All-Star Victor Oladipo sidelined with a serious injury — Sumner has proven his worth in the postseason-ready rotation. And, funny enough, Chris Boucher — who was spotlighted in the introductory paragraphs in Part I as a would-be ineligible roster member for Toronto — earned his own multi-year contract as well.

If you’re in need of some honorable mentions and Nos. 30-11, the Part I rankings can be found right here.

But as a rapid-fire recap: Since 2017, two-way contracts have granted a team to carry two more roster spots that won’t count against the salary cap. These players, who must have less than four years of NBA experience, can be swapped between the professional level and the G League for up to 45 days in a season. While these two-way standouts will be ineligible to compete in the playoffs, franchises are able to convert these contracts to regular deals if they have the roster spot to do so. With that out of the way, here’s the best of the bunch — beginning with a very special (and retconned) honorable mention.

Honorable Mention: Chris Boucher, Toronto Raptors

So, the top ten list is officially a top nine with Boucher moving to the Raptors full-time, excellent news for the deep conference frontrunners. Previously, the former Oregon Duck would’ve been ranked at No. 2 and, well, it was a deserved spot. Boucher averaged a whopping 27.6 points, 11 rebounds and 4.2 blocks over 23 games with the 905. For what it’s worth, these numbers slotted Boucher second, fourth and first, respectively, league-wide. In college, Boucher was a highly-touted prospect before a torn ACL sent him tumbling down and, eventually, out of draft boards. After one season as a two-way player for Golden State, Boucher ended up in Toronto — now, he’s a member of the Midseason All-NBA G League Eastern Conference squad.

His NBA-level statistics certainly aren’t as eye-popping, not even close — but now Boucher can receive minutes on Finals-worthy contender. Being behind Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka will cap any short term potential, but the shot-blocking scorer can learn from some of the very best at his position. In 17 games, Boucher has averaged 3.8 points and 0.9 blocks, still, the sky may just be the limit for this talented 26-year-old. Undeniably, Boucher has earned his new multi-year contract with partial guarantees — now can he keep rising?

9. Amile Jefferson, Orlando Magic

Jefferson has been a G League standout since he went undrafted out of Duke in 2017 — now the 6-foot-9 forward has been a rebounding force for two different teams in two consecutive seasons. In 2017-18, Jefferson was named to the All-NBA G League Second Team and the All-Defensive Team after he posted 17.7 points and 12.8 rebounds over 46 games for the Iowa Wolves. This season, now with the Eastern Conference-leading Lakeland Magic, not much has changed.

With nearly identical numbers, Jefferson remains one of the G League’s most consistent forces to date. As the third-ranked rebounder, Jefferson gobbles boards and scores at an effective rate too, with his 58.2 percent mark from the field coming in at 13th-best during the calendar year as well. Notably, the Magic’s frontcourt depth is absolutely loaded, so unless injuries strike the postseason hopefuls, Jefferson will remain behind Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic, Khem Birch and the recently-shelved Mohamed Bamba.

8. Danuel House Jr., Houston Rockets

Earlier this season, two-way standout Danuel House Jr. ran out of eligible days with Houston — but when the Rockets offered a guaranteed three-year deal, the sharpshooter declined it. That decision meant that House would stay with the Rockets’ G League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Barring a change in heart from either side, House, 25, will become a restricted free agent this offseason. Over 25 games with Houston, House averaged 9.1 points and 3.6 rebounds, even starting 12 contests throughout his rapid ascent in the playoff-destined organization.

House has another full year of prior NBA experience too and tallied 6.6 points and 3.3 rebounds over 23 games for the Phoenix Suns in 2017-18. The Vipers are currently two games behind Santa Cruz for the G League’s best record and House, as of late, has been instrumental in that chase. Last Friday, House helped Rio Grande down the South Bay Lakers with 24 points, seven assists and the game-clinching free throws with just seconds remaining. Although House cannot play another game for the Rockets on his current two-way deal, his successes this campaign still enters him fairly high on our list.

7. Theo Pinson, Brooklyn Nets

As far as new revelations come, the Nets’ Theo Pinson may just take the cake. After four successful seasons at North Carolina, including an NCAA Championship in 2017, Pinson went undrafted. During that senior campaign at UNC, Pinson tallied 10.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists over 29 minutes per game — solid, if not spectacular. More importantly, Pinson was a poor three-point shooter, hitting on just 25.7 percent of his attempts at the Division-I powerhouse. Scooped up after the draft by Brooklyn, Pinson has been a nice surprise for the talented prospect-developing franchise in the Northeast.

Over 25 games on Long Island, Pinson has averaged 20.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 6.6 assists — thanks to those efforts, the point guard landed on the Midseason All-NBA G League Eastern Conference squad too. In one of the more positive storylines of the season, Pinson has even become an above average shooter from deep and now makes three three-pointers per game at a very respectable 37.3 percent clip. Perhaps best of all, Pinson recently provided a burst of energy for Brooklyn too. In a close battle against the Knicks, Pinson exploded for 19 points and eight rebounds on 3-for-5 from three-point range over 26 minutes.

Either way, in the last year or so, Pinson has improved massively on his biggest weakness, dominated the G League and made an impact at the NBA level — not a bad way to start your once-undrafted professional career by any means.

6. Jordan Loyd, Toronto Raptors

First and foremost, Loyd, too, was named to the Midseason All-NBA G League Eastern Conference team, in a theme that will continue sharply from here on out. Still, distilling Loyd’s massive 2018-19 to a single honor would be a disservice to the rookie. Loyd has done a little bit of everything for the Raptors 905, although he was passed over by Toronto to sign Malcolm Miller instead. The 6-foot-4 guard has averaged 21.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.9 steals over 34.9 minutes per game. His fine tandem with the aforementioned Boucher seems to be dead for now, but the pair continuously tore up the G League alongside each other for most of the stat-stuffed campaign.

On Jan. 28, Loyd even pulled down a triple-double against Windy City by tallying 24 points, 17 rebounds and 11 assists. Back in 2017-18, Loyd was one of Israeli Premier League’s biggest stars, earned an All-Star Game berth and finished the season as the third-highest scorer (17.4 PPG), Again, the Raptors’ loaded backcourt — Kyle Lowry, Jeremy Lin, Danny Green, Norman Powell, and, by the postseason, Fred VanVleet — has hindered Loyd’s potential impact in the NBA. Honestly, that’s fine: Just stand aside and watch with wonder as Loyd pushes the reigning champions back into the G League postseason all by himself now.

5. P.J. Dozier, Boston Celtics

The Maine Red Claws may be a disappointing subplot to the latest G League narrative but newcomer P.J. Dozier has been an absolute dream. Through 33 games in Portland, Dozier has averaged 21.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 7.1 assists per game over a 35-minute clip. Not to be a broken record, but, of course, Dozier was another easy selection for the Midseason All-NBA G League Eastern Conference roster too. Dozier has featured in four games for Boston, a total double that of his appearances with Oklahoma City as a rookie last season — but his G League numbers have seen a major rise since then as well.

The 6-foot-6 guard is averaging about 8.5 more points per game, but his greatest rise has been the boost in assists, nearly tripling from his 2017-18 campaign. Progress, particularly from within the Celtics’ organization, is nothing to ignore. Like teammate R.J. Hunter, Boston’s other two-way player, his potential for the season, if not longer, is capped. Of course, that could change this summer depending on where the Kyrie Irving and Terry Rozier chips end up falling in free agency, but Dozier has become an absolute force since joining Boston.

Dozier has averaged just 1.8 points over a paltry 2.5 minutes per game for Boston — regardless, he’s officially a prospect worth keeping tabs on.

4. Alan Williams, Brooklyn Nets

You guessed it: Alan Williams is yet another Midseason All-NBA G League Eastern Conference roster honoree. And, after his tumultuous journey, it’s a well-earned award for the 6-foot-8 big man. Through many world-traveling tribulations — outlined here — Williams signed a multi-year contract with Phoenix in July of 2017. Unfortunately, that feel-good story was short-lived as Williams underwent surgery to repair his meniscus in September, rehabbed until March, played five meaningless games and then was waived at season’s end.

Thankfully, the Suns’ loss became the Nets’ gain and Williams has dominated in the G League for Long Island. The affectionately nicknamed ‘Big Sauce’ has averaged 20.6 points and 13.2 rebounds over 28 games, numbers that place him as a top ten scorer and the second-best board-snatcher league-wide. During Williams’ only major appearance for Brooklyn this season thus far, he grabbed eight points and eight rebounds in eight minutes — a line he’s proven capable of repeating over and over with the proper court burn.

It feels like a matter of time before Williams gets his next chance at the NBA level — but who will scoop up the elite rebounder?

3. Yante Maten, Miami HEAT

At this rate, Yante Maten will be a household name before too long in NBA circles — if he isn’t already. Maten was a four-year standout — 19.3 points per game as a senior — at Georgia before he went undrafted and landed one of Miami’s two-way deals this summer. In return, all Maten has done is tallied 26.4 points (second) 10 rebounds (fifth) and 1.2 blocks per game for the Sioux Falls Skyforce this season. Maten, a 6-foot-8 forward, has been sidelined with an ankle injury since Jan. 2 but he and teammate Duncan Robinson — ranked at No. 18 in Part I — were both named to the Midseason All-NBA G League Western Conference roster last week as well.

Maten has not featured for the HEAT in 2018-19 but his scoring prowess is quickly making himself a name. During an early December win against the Stockton Kings, Maten dropped a blistering 42 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks on 15-for-21 shooting. Miami only averages 105.1 points per game, the 27th-worst mark in the entire league — bested by three free-falling franchises: Chicago, Cleveland and Memphis — so injecting Maten’s scoring punch could provide a much-needed lift.

For now, we’ll have to settle for a healthy return from the inactive list — sadly, it’s been far too long since Maten torched the G League. If things break right for him, it won’t be much longer before he gets his NBA call-up either.

2. Angel Delgado, Los Angeles Clippers

Your current rebounding leader is, handily, the Clippers’ Angel Delgado. At 17.3 points and 14.6 rebounds on 58.8 percent shooting, Delgado’s looming presence has been well-known all season for Agua Caliente. In more recent news, Delgado made his NBA debut for Los Angeles on Feb. 8 and chipped in three points and four rebounds over 14 minutes against the Indiana Pacers. Following their trade that sent Tobias Harris across the country to Philadelphia, the Clippers have some intriguing paths to end this season — many scenarios of which include Delgado’s growth.

As of publishing, Los Angeles holds the conference’s eighth and final postseason berth, winning two of their last three games post-Harris’ departure. Delgado, 24, is coming off back-to-back stellar seasons with Seton Hall, where the frontcourt menace tallied 13.6 points and 11.8 rebounds per game for the Pirates. In January, Delgado pulled down an otherworldly 31 rebounds against the OKC Blue — no, that’s not a type. For now, at least, Delgado is behind Montrezl Harrell, one of 2018-19’s breakout stars, newcomer Ivica Zubac and G League teammate Johnathan Motley, the latter of which has played in 15 games for Los Angeles this season.

Of note, both Delgado and Motley were both named to the Midseason All-NBA G League Western Conference roster.

1. Jordan McRae, Washington Wizards

And, in a reveal that shouldn’t surprise anybody: Jordan McRae is basketball’s best two-way player — at this point, the resume is too much to ignore. Yes, McRae is a Midseason All-NBA G League Eastern Conference awardee, but he’s also an NBA Champion. So far, McRae has seen it all: Finals experience, another previous D-League All-Star selection, a trip (albeit a short one) overseas to play with a prestigious club, Baskonia, and remains the current scoring leader in today’s G League. McRae, 27, has averaged a dominant 30 points per game — which that would rank him behind just Antonio Blakeney (32.0) for the highest single-season PPG tally in G League history — along with 5.1 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.8 steals.

With 78 NBA games and counting under his belt, McRae is both seasoned and untapped. In an inspired drubbing of the Red Claws last month, McRae poured in 54 points and nine rebounds on 18-for-31 shooting — and there are plenty of other MVP-worthy efforts to choose from as well. The Wizards, struggling to stay afloat without All-Star John Wall, could certainly use McRae’s talented efforts. Ultimately, a combination of developmental and financial cap reasons may keep him from getting his contract converted by season’s end, as Candace Buckner of The Washington Post wrote in January. Through 19 games, McRae has averaged 4.3 points and 1.1 rebounds — but make no mistake, he’s one of the best scorers the G League has ever offered up.

There they are! From top to bottom — and split over two articles — there’s a definitive list of the NBA’s best two-way players. While some are still feeling out basketball at the post-collegiate level, there are plenty of hardened, consistent contributors already. There are high-ranking scorers and rebounders, but other newcomers arrive with overseas experiences, national championships and difficult injury histories. The G League has always given athletes an intriguing — if not unlikely road to the league — but thanks to the two-way deals, those narratives have often become downright compelling.

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NBA

NBA All-Star Friday Recap

Basketball Insiders recaps NBA All-Star Friday 2019, which featured a four-point shot and a deep pool of talent in the Rising Stars Challenge.

Matt John

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NBA All-Star Celebrity Game

The NBA All-Star Celebrity Game had a variety of big names to trot out on Friday night. This list included former NBA players such as Ray Allen and Jay Williams, current WNBA players Stefanie Dolson and A’ja Wilson, entertainers such as JB Smoove, Mike Colter, and Hassan Minhaj, and last year’s MVP, Quavo.

The Home Team was coached by WNBA legend Dawn Staley while the Away Team was coached by WNBA superstar Sue Bird.

Team Staley pulled ahead multiple times throughout the game, but every run they made was followed by a run by Team Bird. Team Bird’s comeback attempt fell short as Team Staley ultimately won 82-80.

Internet Comedian Famous Los led the way for Team Staley, scoring a team-high 22 points on 10-16 shooting while dishing out three assists in the team’s victory. Jay Williams razzled and dazzled as well, scoring 18 points on 8-15 shooting while dishing out five assists – including this beauty.

What could have been with Jay Williams…

Quavo topped his performance last year for Team Staley, scoring a game-high 27 points in total, highlighted by what may very well be the only five-point play to ever happen in an NBA-sponsored basketball game. Quavo shot 13-19 from the field while also corralling nine rebounds as well. Ray Allen also put up a vintage performance, putting up 24 points on 11-21 shooting, nine rebounds and five assists.

There were a few interesting wrinkles to this game. A four-point shot was implemented in which $4,000 would be donated to charity for each shot made from distance. Ten four-pointers were made in the game, totaling $40,000 in charity donations.

Two more fun facts: We didn’t even get a tip-off in this game. Comedian Brad Williams stole the ball from the ref to start it off. Also, just because it’s a harmless exhibition does not mean participants won’t get into it. JB Smoove and Hassan Minhaj got a little testy at the end of the first quarter.

Other participants included:

From Team Bird: Ronnie 2K (Director of influencer marketing, 2K Sports), AJ Buckley (Actor, “SEAL Team”), Bad Bunny (Singer), Marc Lasry (Milwaukee Bucks’ Co-Owner), Adam Ray (Host of About Last Night), Amanda Seales (Actor/Comedian), James Shaw Jr. (Hometown Hero), Brad Williams (Host of About Last Night)

From Team Staley: Chris Daughtry (Singer), Terrence Jenkins (TV Personality/Actor), Dr. Oz (TV Personality), Rapsody (Rapper), Bo Rinehart (Musician), Steve Smith (Former NFL Player), Jason Weissman (Hometown Hero)

MTN DEW ICE Rising Stars

If last year’s Rising Stars game had an overabundance of talent, this one may have very well topped it. That’s how loaded this year’s class was.

Let’s start with what could be a preview for what’s to come next year: Luka Doncic’s performance. More specifically, his connection with Lauri Markaanen. Throughout the first quarter, Doncic found Markaanen everywhere, either for easy alley-oops or wide open threes on the pick and pop.

Why bring this up? Because this is exactly what we could expect to see from Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis when they share the court together, as Markaanen has a similar skill set offensively to Porzingis’.

As for the game itself, Team USA jumped out to a 12-point lead at the half, thanks primarily to the likes of Jayson Tatum (16 points on 6-12 shooting) and Kyle Kuzma (21 points on 10-16 shooting).

Team World wouldn’t go down without a fight. In the third quarter, they managed to cut the deficit down to a point thanks primarily to Doncic and Ben Simmons’  collective efforts, but that was as close as they got. Team USA pulled away in the fourth quarter as they went on to win 161-144.

Simmons led the way for Team World, as he finished with 30 points on 14-17 shooting on a squad where, outside of Simmons, the scoring was pretty well spread out as Doncic, Markaanen, DeAndre Ayton, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Rodney Kurucs, OG Annonuby, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Okogie all had 10 points or more.

Team USA had a few standouts, including Kuzma (35 points on 15-27 shooting), Tatum (30 points on 12-24 shooting), Donovan Mitchell (20 points, nine assists, seven rebounds), and Trae Young (25 points, 10 assists, seven rebounds). All were deserving of the MVP, but the award ultimately went to Kuzma.

Tonight, we go a little deeper into All-Star Weekend with the Dunk Contest, Three-Point Shooting Contest, and the Skills Challenge. Stay tuned!

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NBA

NBA Daily: Can Tobias Harris Put the 76ers Over the Top?

Shane Rhodes breaks down whether the addition of Tobias Harris can push the 76ers into the NBA Finals.

Shane Rhodes

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The Philadelphia 76ers made perhaps the biggest move of trade season when they acquired Tobias Harris from the Los Angeles Clippers. Harris, in the midst of a career year, was on the path to a lucrative contract come this summer. But, with an uncertain future in Los Angeles, Philadelphia capitalized and made their move to win now.

In doing so, the 76ers have put together, arguably, the most talented starting roster in the Eastern Conference. But what exactly does Harris bring to the team, and can he put them over the top of their competition in the East?

Harris has very much looked the part of an All-Star this season and has given Brett Brown and the 76ers coaching staff yet another weapon with which to attack defenses. The 26-year-old has posted career highs in points (20.7), rebounds (7.8) and assists (2.8) per game, field goal percentage (49.7) and three-point percentage (43.0) this season and should prove a significant upgrade over Wilson Chandler, who was sent to Los Angeles in the trade, on both offense and defense.

In a superior lineup, his Harris’ play should only improve as well.

His statistical values may dip with the move to Philadelphia, but, in a way, the team may look at that as a positive; with so many talents on the floor together, Brown, in theory, should be able to utilize Harris in order to reduce wear and tear on his other players — namely Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler — and keep them somewhat fresh for the postseason, if not at the expensive of some personal stats.

Harris is another player that can handle the ball and should lead to even more movement within the 76ers offense. He has shown over the years an ability to push the ball up the floor in transition and should relieve some of the pressure from Simmons in that area as well. In the event that he is the lone star on the floor, or should the ball movement stop, Harris able and willing to break out his do-it-himself kit; he may not dance a defender like Kyrie Irving, but he is more than capable of sizing up his man and either hitting a shot in their face or brute-forcing his way to the basket.

Harris is a more-than-capable shooter and, off the ball, should provide Simmons with another reliable perimeter outlet and open things up on the interior open things up inside for him and Embiid as well.

Defensively, Harris isn’t a wizard, but the effort and energy are there and should shine in the already competent 76ers defense. While it may not be ideal in all situations, Harris has the size to bang down low with some centers and the quickness to keep up with smaller players on the perimeter. Harris’ length — a near seven-foot wingspan — should also prove an asset, as he will allow the defense to switch on almost every possession. In the postseason, that could prove invaluable.

As good as this acquisition may look on paper, it isn’t without its cons or risks. Harris’ is another primary option on a team that already had three of them in Embiid, Simmons and Butler; could the presence of too many options bog things down a la the Boston Celtics earlier this season?

His contract situation, alongside the impending free agency of Butler, should give some pause as well.

The team has hedged its future on those two players and given up some good (and some great) assets to acquire them. Should Butler leave, Harris would provide the 76ers with the ultimate insurance policy but, should both players move on after the season it could set the team back years.

The 76ers have plenty of pre-existing issues to figure out as well, a losing record against their chief Eastern Conference competition — Milwaukee Bucks (0-1), Toronto Raptors (1-2) and Celtics (0-3) — most prominent among them.

But, with Harris in the fold, the 76ers seem to have all the pieces of the puzzle. If the players can put it all together, they could very well find themselves in the NBA Finals come June.

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