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Phoenix Suns 2017-18 Season Preview

Will this be the year the impressive youth in Phoenix breaks out? We take a look at the 2017-18 Suns in this preview.

Basketball Insiders

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It’s been a quiet off-season for the Phoenix Suns. Outside of the draft, the team has done little to add to the roster. Around them, the Western Conference has seen an influx of star talent and player movement: Paul George; Paul Millsap; Chris Paul; the list goes on. How will the Suns fair come training camp and the regular season? Here’s a look.

FIVE GUYS THINK…

To hear people talk, Devin Booker could be the reincarnation of Kobe Bryant. His 70-point game last season put him on people’s maps as the league’s next great scorer, and it’s hard to argue with that logic, even this early in his career. He is really good at scoring the basketball, but so far he hasn’t been good enough to lift his team out of the West’s lower half and return the Suns to the playoffs. That day might be coming, though, especially with athletic kids like Josh Jackson and Marquese Chriss giving fans further optimism for what lies ahead. Phoenix isn’t ready for primetime just yet, but the pieces are starting to look like they’re in place. With great veteran leadership in place, the Suns are rising in the West.

3rd Place – Pacific Division

– Joel Brigham

Another year, another top-five draft pick joins the Phoenix Suns.

This season, Josh Jackson joins the Suns as the next part of their youth movement that already features the likes of Devin Booker, Marquese Chriss, Tyler Ulis, and Alex Len. Phoenix is adopting their own long-term moniker a la the Philadelphia 76ers, and laying out “The Timeline” for fans in hopes to set the tone for the bigger picture.

At the center of it all is Booker. After his breakout year last season, and with some help along the wing coming in by the way of Jackson this season, Booker could really be headed for that next jump in terms of performance. With Brandon Knight lost for the season with a torn ACL and Eric Bledsoe constantly involved in trade rumors, the Suns look to be headed towards another season with a sub-.500 winning percentage. But, with budding young talent already in-house for Phoenix, their timeline may not be as drawn out as some other rebuilds around the league.

5th place – Pacific Division

– Dennis Chambers

From a team-building angle, the 2017-18 season should be a straightforward exercise for the Phoenix Suns. They don’t have to “tank,” per se – with the amount of youth in prominent places on their roster plus the relative lack of Western Conference teams actively looking to be bad, a lot of losing will come organically. The Suns can get tons of experience for young guys like Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, T.J. Warren and Marquese Chriss, all of whom should be able to play huge roles without fear of any negative scoreboard effects. The Suns should jockey with the Lakers for the bottom seed out West and in the Pacific, which will put them in position for yet another elite building block in a top-heavy 2018 draft.

5th place – Pacific Division

– Ben Dowsett

The 2017-18 season will be another developmental season for the Phoenix Suns, who have not made the playoff since 2010. Phoenix drafted Josh Jackson from Kansas with the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft. Jackson is another talented prospect for Phoenix’s impressive young core, which includes Devin Booker, Marquese Chriss, Dragan Bender, Tyler Ulis and T.J. Warren. The Suns still have a few veterans who no longer fit on this developing roster, such as Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Tyson Chandler and Jared Dudley. Don’t be surprised if Phoenix aggressively looks to trade some of these veterans in exchange for draft assets or young talent.

5th Place – Pacific Division

– Jesse Blancarte

Tanking stinks. From a basketball perspective it’s dreadfully bad, but when you look at the treasure trove of young players the Suns are amassing, it’s simply a matter of time before they start to turn the corner and become really good. There is too much talent there for it not to happen. The problem for Suns fans is that this year won’t be that year – but like Philadelphia has preached, trusting the process can yield a lot more than quick fix trades or overpriced free agent signings. The Suns have a promising core. It’s time for them to learn and grow together because next season could be when they break out of the basement.

5th Place – Pacific Division

– Steve Kyler

TOP OF THE LIST

Top Offensive Player: Devin Booker

Devin Booker’s 70-point game against the Boston Celtics last season was just a flash of the almost limitless offensive potential he possesses. Booker paced the Suns last season by scoring 22.1 points per game while shooting 36.3 percent from three with a true shooting percentage of 53.1 percent. Booker led the team in usage percentage and minutes played as well, coming in at 28.6 percent and 2,730 minutes, respectively. Going into his third season, expect those trends to continue and expect Booker to further improve upon his numbers.

Top Defensive Player: Alan Williams

Alan Williams rarely saw the floor for the Suns early on in the season, averaging just 7.2 minutes per game in the first half. When given consistent playing time after the All-Star break, however, Williams was a beast. In 24 second half games, Williams registered 20 steals, 18 blocks and pulled in 155 defensive rebounds in just over 22 minutes per game. Per 100 possessions, Williams’ numbers jump off the page at 13.4 defensive rebounds in addition to 1.8 steals and 2.2 blocks. Williams block percentage of 3.7 percent would have ranked 16th best in the league had he played in enough games to qualify as well. The defensive talent is there and, with enough playing time, Williams should be a defensive force for the Suns next season.

Top Playmaker: Eric Bledsoe

Eric Bledsoe showed the NBA what he can do with a full slate of games at his disposal. Last season, amidst plenty of trade rumors, Bledsoe averaged a career high in points and assist with 21.1 and 6.3 per game, respectively. Bledsoe’s assist percentage of 31.1 percent led the Suns, as did his 418 total assists and four offensive win shares. While trade rumors continue to swirl around Bledsoe, he is still a part of the team and will be a main fixture in the offense next to Booker in the starting lineup.

Top Clutch Player: Eric Bledsoe

Most would expect Booker to take this spot, but in clutch time it was Bledsoe who was the go-to player on the floor for the Suns last year. Across 31 games with five minutes left in the fourth quarter or overtime and a point differential of five or less, Bledsoe shot 42 of 92, good for a 45.7 field goal percentage while also shooting eight of 22 (36.4 percent) from three. Booker was not too shabby himself, shooting 39 of 94 in clutch time across 34 games, good for a 41.5 percent field goal percentage. Booker, however, shot just seven of 27 (25.9 percent) from three. While both are excellent clutch time shooters in their own right, Bledsoe gets the nod for his superior shooting percentages.

The Unheralded Player: Tyson Chandler

Tyson Chandler started in 47 of the first 57 games for the Suns last season, but did not make an on-court appearance for the rest of the season. The reason to consider Chandler unheralded is not for his on-court production, however, but because of the guidance and advice he can provide for the Suns’ up-and-coming roster. A 16-year NBA veteran, Chandler was an integral part of the Dallas Mavericks title run in the 2011 season. That experience is almost invaluable to the Suns, who have very little playoff exposure outside of Chandler and fellow veteran Jared Dudley

Best New Addition: Josh Jackson

The Suns haven’t made many additions this offseason but, even if they had, Josh Jackson probably would still be the best of them. His shooting may be a work in progress, but the effort and intensity he brings on the defensive end will be a boon for the Suns starting lineup. With a defensive rating of 109.3, Phoenix was one of the worst defensive units in the NBA last season; Jackson’s energy and attitude should provide a much-needed boost.

– Shane Rhodes

WHO WE LIKE

1. Devin Booker

Booker carried plenty of momentum into the end of the regular season. In 22 games following the All-Star break, he averaged 24.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists; had he averaged those across the season, Booker would have been one of just eight to average those numbers, bumping shoulders with the likes of LeBron James, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and others. With another offseason of training under his belt, expect a dominant season from Booker.

2. Eric Bledsoe

If Bledsoe can remain healthy for the entire season — a big if — the Suns have a big chance of improving on their 24 and 58 record from a season ago. Bledsoe was flat-out dominant at times last season and, barring a trade, should be able to easily replicate his numbers from last season.

3. Josh Jackson

Jackson won’t solely contribute on the defensive end. While his jumper has its problems, he is a great basket cutter and Jackson’s explosiveness and athleticism will play a huge role in his offensive success as he makes the transition from college to the NBA. In his lone season at Kentucky, Jackson averaged 16.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. While it’s hard to expect those numbers from any rookie, Jackson should have no trouble making an impact early and often for the Suns on both ends of the floor.

4. Alan Williams

After his mini-breakout in the second half of the season, Williams will likely be allotted plenty of minutes in the upcoming season. While he doesn’t stretch the floor much — Williams attempted just one three-pointer last season — Williams is a great rebounder and paint-presence. Per 100 possession, Williams averaged 23.4 points, an absurd 19.7 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 2.2 blocks. While Williams won’t be the offensive fulcrum for the Suns, if he’s surrounded by floor stretchers patrolling the paint should be an easy task for him.

SALARY CAP 101

The Suns are currently $6.3 million under the NBA’s $99.1 million salary cap. That includes Alex Len’s $12.1 million cap hold as a restricted free agent. Phoenix cannot rescind their $4.2 million qualifying offer to Len without his approval. The team otherwise has 15 players under contract with Elijah Millsap and Derrick Jones non-guaranteed. If Len agrees to move on and the Suns cut Millsap and Jones, they’d drop to $21.2 million below the cap. The team also has its $4.3 million Room Exception available.

Eric Bledsoe has just one year remaining on his contract after this season. The Suns may want to look to move him before he fits free agency in July of 2019. As currently constructed, Phoenix projects to have $21.4 million in spending power next year. The franchise also needs to decide, before the start of the coming season, on the team options of Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss and Devin Booker.

– Eric Pincus

STRENGTHS

Youth is certainly a strong point for the Suns, who currently roster seven players under the age of 25 (eight including Alex Len, who is currently a restricted free agent). The average age of their roster, 24.8 years, remains one of the lowest in the league despite hosting several older veterans such as Chandler and Jared Dudley. While other teams may lag at the end of the season, the Suns’ youth should keep them energized down the final stretch. Another strength for the Suns is their plethora of big men. Williams, Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender are all under the age of 25 and flashed major upside when on the floor last season. While Williams is a more traditional big man, Chriss and Bender are capable of stretching the floor beyond the three-point line, which should be a major boost for the Suns in the coming season.

– Shane Rhodes

WEAKNESSES

Earl Watson may be respected by his peers and his players, but coaching is one of the Suns’ more glaring problems. Under his watch, the Suns have a 33-82 record; not promising for a team hoping to ride its young talent to the promised land. It’s not completely Watson’s fault the Suns have stumbled, but should they falter again in 2017 expect him to be on the hot-seat. Youth –something that could be considered a strength — could also be a weakness for Phoenix. Closing out games could be a problem for the team, as could their lack of experience down the stretch.

– Shane Rhodes

THE BURNING QUESTION

Can the Phoenix Suns finally make the leap in 2017?

This question has seemingly been asked of the Suns for the past several years. But with improvements made almost across the Western Conference, don’t expect the Suns to be making any playoff push come May. The team remains relatively unchanged from last season and with the likes of Paul George, Paul Millsap and others joining the West, expect the Suns’ regular season record in 2017 to look similar to their record in 2016.

– Shane Rhodes

The Brooklyn Nets Preview dropped yesterday, and the LA Lakers Preview will drop later today. Keep swinging by Basketball Insiders for new team previews every day all the way to the start of NBA Training Camps.

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G-League

NBA Daily: G League Guards Showing They Belong

Jordan Hicks spoke with NBA hopefuls Trey Lewis and Isaiah Cousins about their current games, playing in the G League and more.

Jordan Hicks

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The Utah Jazz currently have three players out due to injury – all three point guards, coincidentally – so one might say they are a little shorthanded. Because of this, both of their two-way players – Tyler Cavanaugh and Naz Mitrou-Long – have been called up to travel with the team. Unfortunately for Utah’s G League affiliate, the Salt Lake City Stars, they are left short-handed.

Add this to the fact that their first overall draft pick – and arguably their most important player, Willie Reed – is done for the season.

Things like this aren’t uncommon for the G League. In essence, that is primarily why it is there. As a developmental league for the NBA, it is used to both groom young talent, as well as have players readily available when needed (for teams lucky enough to have a program in their area).

In recent years, the SLC Stars have helped groom current Jazz rotation players Georges Niang and Royce O’Neale.

In a league that is growing more and more competitive with every game, every advantage a team can get is clearly a plus. Therefore, having the Stars so close has definitely been a huge positive for the Jazz.

Because a couple of heavy contributors are missing games, guys who are typically important role-players need to step up and be the key guys for the team.

Basketball Insiders had the chance to catch up with two of their young guards – Isaiah Cousins and Trey Lewis – after a recent home loss to fellow G League team the Stockton Kings (affiliate to the Sacramento Kings). In a close game where the Stars were slightly outmatched, these players stepped up in a big way and almost led the Stars to an unlikely come-from-behind victory.

Isaiah Cousins is having a career year with the Stars. His third year in the G League – and second with the Stars – Cousins is averaging 12.7 points, 6.4 assists and 4.6 rebounds a night. He’s currently second in the league in assist to turnover ratio at 3.27.

“Making the right reads and [not trying] to force anything,” Cousins told Basketball Insiders. “Whatever the scouting report is, each team has a different defensive scheme each game, so I look at the scouting report and see what they are going to do.”

Isaiah alluded to the fact that preparation is what helps him take care of the ball so well. In a league where taking care of the ball is essential to winning games, solid point guard play is a must. Cousins’ development in that area goes hand-in-hand with his ability to someday make an NBA roster.

“This is my third year in the G League so I’m experiencing and understanding the game now,” Cousins said.

When asked what position Cousins sees himself playing in the NBA, he noted his versatility.

“I think I’m a point guard, but I can play multiple positions and I can guard multiple positions,” Cousins said. “I do a little bit on-ball and off-ball. Basically, wherever a job is open, I’ll take it.”

Trey Lewis has been instrumental to the Stars’ winning record coming off the bench. Averaging 11.6 points and 2.3 assists, the team relies on his scoring and playmaking abilities to pull-ahead.

Although he isn’t in the starting lineup, Lewis finds himself closing out many games, thanks in part to his clutch shotmaking. Just over two weeks ago Lewis hit a big, go-ahead three-pointer with just seconds left to seal a home win. On the season – in which Lewis has only participated in 13 games due to an early-season ankle injury – Trey has already dropped 20+ points on four occasions.

Lewis played for a handful of teams during his collegiate years, ultimately ending up on Louisville with current Jazz star Donovan Mitchell. Lewis and Mitchell are now playing basketball for the same organization and living in the same city. “[Mitchell] is somebody who I talk to on a daily basis. We push each other, we motivate each other, and we support each other so it’s been great.”

Lewis garnered the essential skill of shooting the deep ball in college. While playing for Cleveland State in the Horizon League, he led the conference in threes made, knocking them in at a 42.3 percent rate.

After playing overseas in Germany for two seasons where he was a two-time All-Star in the BBL, Germany’s top basketball league, Lewis came back to the states.

“My goal since a little child has always been to play in the NBA,” said Lewis when asked why he came to the G League. “I feel like I had two great seasons overseas and felt like this was the next step to get to where I want to go.”

As the NBA continues its move to a heavy three-point shooting league, players are finding they need to adapt in this sink-or-swim situation. Players that can’t shoot the deep-ball – at least at a respectable mark – need to hold elite skills in other areas.

Luckily for Lewis, three-point shooting has always been a strength for him.

Basketball Insiders asked him where he gets his confidence from behind the arc.

“Just hard work; my regimen every day, sticking to my routine, getting my reps, and that builds confidence,” Lewis said. “I know I can hit those shots in needed situations.”

The window has opened for NBA teams to sign 10-day contracts. Whether they eventually end up with the Utah Jazz or with an entirely different franchise, it doesn’t matter. Cousins and Lewis will continue to grind so they can have their shot at a spot in the league. But for now, they will continue to work for their current team and help the Stars try and lift the G League championship trophy at the end of the season.

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NBA Daily: Potential 10-Day Contract Players

Basketball Insiders takes a look at a few players who could be prime candidates for 10-day contracts.

David Yapkowitz

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January 5 was an important deadline in the NBA in that it marked the first day teams can begin signing players to 10-day contracts.

Usually reserved for younger, unproven talent looking to get their first shot in the NBA, recently NBA veterans have started going the 10-day route to refresh their careers and get back in the league. For example, Corey Brewer just recently signed a 10-day contract with the Philadelphia 76ers.

These contracts are very beneficial for teams in that there’s essentially no risk, and the potential for a high reward. It’s a relatively cheap tryout for teams to get a quick look at players who can potentially be helpful. Best case scenario, they end up finding a solid contributor. If not, then the player is no longer with them after 10 days.

Here’s a look at a few players who could be candidates for a 10-day contract.

1. Willie Reed

The veteran big man has had his taste of the NBA. He began last season as the Los Angeles Clippers’ primary backup to DeAndre Jordan. With the emergence of other players, however, his playing time decreased and he was ultimately traded to Detroit in the Blake Griffin trade.

The Pistons then shipped him off to the Chicago Bulls for Jameer Nelson, and the Bulls proceeded to cut him. He ended up being the first overall pick of the Salt Lake City Stars of the G League.

This season with the Stars, he’s been one of the best big men in the G League. Reed has put up 20.1 points per game on 66.5 percent shooting from the field, 11.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. He’s still a quality rotation player and could help a playoff team in need of some size off the bench.

2. John Jenkins

Another NBA veteran, Jenkins developed a reputation as a sharpshooter during his early years in the league, but didn’t do much else. His last appearance in the NBA was last season when he was brought to training camp by the Atlanta Hawks.

He ended up being one of the Hawks’ final cuts before the end of camp, and he subsequently chose to play overseas. He returned stateside this season, where he joined the Westchester Knicks, the New York Knicks’ G League affiliate.

Jenkins has had a very strong season thus far, putting up 24.8 points per game on 47.2 percent shooting, 42.8 percent from the three-point line, 3.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists. Perhaps the biggest changes in his game have been his playmaking ability and his development into a more versatile scorer. Any team in need of some bench scoring should give him a look.

3. Anthony Bennett

Keeping with the trend of NBA veterans using 10-day contracts to get back to the league, the former No.1 overall pick in the 2013 draft has begun to put people on notice this season.

Bennett last saw NBA minutes two season ago with the Brooklyn Nets. He wasn’t that bad during his stint in Brooklyn, but the Nets cut him almost halfway through the 2016-17 season. Aside from a brief stop overseas, Bennett has been playing in the G League.

This season with the Agua Caliente Clippers, Bennett has looked like he’s ready for another shot in the NBA. He’s been averaging a modest 13.0 points per game on 54 percent shooting from the field. One of the biggest additions to his game though has been his expanded shooting range. He’s knocking down 43.6 percent of this 5.1 three-point attempts. He’s worth another look for a team in need of a stretch big man.

4. Bruno Caboclo

Another player with NBA experience, it’s probably not fair to call Caboclo a veteran seeing that he rarely saw playing time in the league. When he was drafted by the Toronto Raptors, his selection caused quite a bit of confusion, leading to Fran Fraschilla’s now famous quote of him being, “two years away from being two years away.”

Caboclo toiled on the Raptors’ bench for about four years before being traded to the Sacramento Kings. He finally was able to see some minutes with the Kings, but still didn’t show much. The Houston Rockets invited him to training camp but ultimately cut him.

Caboclo joined the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the Rockets G League affiliate, and has since been showing that he may very well be worth a 10-day contract. He’s averaging 16 points per game on 51 percent shooting from the field, 42.5 percent from downtown, 7.2 rebounds and 2.9 blocks. When he was drafted, the expectation was he’d develop into a 3&D wing but that didn’t happen. He’s looking much closer to that now. For a team in need of a wing defender who can shoot from distance, he’s worth a look.

Again, 10-day contracts have become a very valuable and inexpensive way for NBA teams to try out potential contributors. If the player pans out, then you have a relatively cheap guy in the rotation. If they don’t, you cut your losses after 10 days. It should be interesting to see if these vets are able to parlay their G League success into a path back to the NBA.

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NBA Daily: Capela’s Injury is a Massive Setback for Houston

Clint Capela’s thumb injury couldn’t have come at a worse time. Spencer Davies looks at the massive loss, who may get opportunities and what moves the Houston Rockets could make in response.

Spencer Davies

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James Harden has a real challenge on his hands.

The Houston Rockets’ remarkable stretch from mid-December to the New Year behind the reigning MVP helped put them back in the middle of the playoff picture.

But he had a right-hand man—the same right-hand man who has emerged as a dominant two-way interior presence over the last three years under Mike D’Antoni—and that is Clint Capela.

Friday afternoon, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Capela would be out for at least the next month with ligament damage in his right thumb. There’s a chance that the 24-year-old big man could get a second opinion from a hand specialist following the MRI he took Monday.

Before sustaining the injury in Orlando, Capela was having a career season with the Rockets on the offensive end, significantly up-ticking his previous year averages to an impressive 17.6 points and 12.6 rebounds in over 34 minutes per game.

At the bottom of the barrel in defensive rebounding (and 29th in total rebounds per game), Houston already struggles on the glass as it is. However, they are doing a solid job of preventing their opponents from crashing the boards. Taking Capela out of the equation hurts because of his fundamental ability.

According to NBA.com, the Rockets rebound the ball as a team 89.9 percent of the time when Capela boxes out under the basket. He averages six of them per game and the vast majority of those are coming on the defensive end. It’s a simple part of the game, yet such an important aspect for a group that struggles in that area.

With Capela sidelined, Houston loses its rim protector. While it may be true that he’s not having as much success as last year defending in the paint, he is one of only four players in the league seeing at least seven attempts per game within five feet or less. More importantly—anywhere on the floor—the Swiss center is a top five shot contester among all of his peers.

Offensively speaking, Harden might be the most disappointed. He and Capela have developed an incredibly impressive two-man game through the Beard’s ability to finish at the rim.

Using the pick-and-roll to their advantage, the opposing big often chooses to help his man cover Harden, leaving Capela there for the easy high-handoff. It’s a play this duo has literally executed at will, and it’s been made deadly over the last few seasons.

Couple that with the athleticism and precision both have—few teams stand a chance at stopping it. And, back to the battle of the boards, Capela pulls down five offensive rebounds per game and provides second chance opportunities consistently.

If you don’t get the picture, we’ll leave it at this—the Rockets have to do something to keep up in a crowded Western Conference. The postseason hunt cannot solely rest on the shoulders of Harden. He has accomplished unfathomable feats in his career and was the NBA’s 2017-18 Most Valuable Player, but this is another type of challenge.

Houston’s players are dropping like flies. Sure, Chris Paul is on the mend and likely to return soon, and the same could be said of Eric Gordon, but there is little depth in the frontcourt . They’re down to Nene, Marquese Chriss and Isaiah Hartenstein as men in the middle. The rest are versatile forwards with the ability to play multiple positions, but not the one they need desperately at the moment.

We all know what Nene is capable of. That said, he’s not going to play 34 minutes per night at his age. In fact, the veteran has only eclipsed the 20-minute mark four times total in the last two seasons. There’s no doubt that he’ll give Houston a solid boost in spurts, but that’s likely not sustainable throughout the entirety of a game.

This writer is curious to see what Chriss does with the opportunity in front of him. It is fair to say that his athletic ability matches, or even supersedes, Capela’s, so the alley-oops will be there for him. However, these important questions remained unanswered: Can he screen? Can he rebound? Can he take the challenge?

Chriss was a top 10 draft pick not even three years ago. There’s a ton of potential that can be tapped into here. Unfortunately for the Rockets, they’re going to need to see growth and development quickly with little leeway for mistakes. They probably can’t depend on a raw 21-year-old prospect to steadily produce the way Capela has.

Hartenstein offers more size than both of those two and has played in 22 games this season. Still, he has only appeared in one contest since December 3. Hartenstein has taken advantage of his floor time, but the sample size is extremely small. Again, not nearly enough to fill the Capela void.

There are a few names out there that Houston general manager Daryl Morey could pursue.

Purely out of speculation, Bulls center Robin Lopez might be a good fit for a veteran squad and the organization is reportedly refusing to negotiate a buyout, so that may be worth paying attention to.

Hawks big man Dewayne Dedmon has quietly put together two impressive seasons in Atlanta. He’s a consistent player who fights for rebounds and gives a solid effort on the defensive end. And an extra attractive quality for D’Antoni—his expanded shooting range. John Collins has stated his own case for extra playing time with stellar play, so Dedmon probably won’t fit into the plans too much longer.

Tristan Thompson is giving his all with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He just returned from a foot injury and is getting back to the pre-injury version of himself. The 27-year-old is matching his career-high in points per game and is grabbing a career-best 11.2 rebounds per game to boot.

Like Capela, he is a monster on the offensive glass and excels at the fundamentals of the game with pick-and-roll situations and box outs. The only drawback to Thompson is his hefty, fully guaranteed salary, but he’s only on that deal for this year and the next.

With Cleveland looking to take on “bad” contracts with future assets attached, the Rockets should most definitely consider moving Brandon Knight or some other package along with a pick or two.

This is just a matter of spitballing a few names that might fit the bill for Houston. Heck, even if it’s a minor depth move, going out and getting an underutilized player like Skal Labissiere in Sacramento would make a difference to ensure the others aren’t winding themselves down with a huge increase in playing time.

Whatever the Rockets decide to do, the road to the playoffs has become a whole lot bumpier. Harden is going to have his work cut out for him LeBron James style a la 2017-18. We’re all anxious to see how he responds to such a challenge.

The past is the past—and CP3 was incredible for Houston last postseason—but it sure would be nice to have Montrezl Harrell around now, wouldn’t it?

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