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Six Best Deals in the Pacific Division

David Yapkowitz breaks down some of the best deals made in the Pacific Division this offseason.

David Yapkowitz

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Up next in our Basketball Insiders series of the best transactions in each division is the Pacific Division. With the exception of the Golden State Warriors, every other team in the division is in a state of transition.

The Los Angeles Clippers are preparing for life without Chris Paul, while the Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings are all going through rebuilding phases. We’ve officially hit the dog days of summer and most of the activity has slowed to a crawl. Teams will still look to improve their rosters if they can as training camp draws near, but most rosters are, for the most part, set for next season. With this in mind, let’s take a look at six of the best deals that were made in the Pacific Division so far this offseason.

Warriors re-sign their entire core

Coming off their second championship in three years, the Warriors had a couple of important decisions to make as the season came to a close. While it was a foregone conclusion that Kevin Durant and Steph Curry would remain with the team, the futures of key role players such as Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston were much less certain.

In the end, Durant took less money than what he could’ve signed for, and the Warriors were able to bring back both of their top reserves. Not only that, but they also re-signed Zaza Pachulia, who was last year’s starting center, and David West, who provided valuable veteran minutes off the bench. They even managed to bring back JaVale McGee as well.

Ian Clark notwithstanding, the Warriors didn’t lose anyone of value and kept their team intact. They won the title this year, and they’ve also won the offseason.

Warriors add Nick Young and Omri Casspi

As if they weren’t dominant enough, the Warriors managed to make their roster even stronger this offsason. In the past, veteran players still producing at a high level have sacrificed money and/or years on other teams for a chance at a championship. It’s unknown what other offers were out there for either Young and Casspi, but both had decent seasons last year and had other teams interested in their services. They both chose to play on one-year deals and in Casspi’s case, the veteran’s minimum.

Both players are deadly shooters. Young shot 40.4 percent from three-point range last year with the Lakers. Although Casspi didn’t have a strong shooting year, he is a career 36.7 percent shooter from beyond the arc and all the open looks he’ll get in the Warriors’ offense should be helpful. Both will be asked to provide additional scoring off the bench and Casspi is able to rotate between both forward positions.

The offseason isn’t over yet, and there’s still rumblings of Carmelo Anthony heading to the Houston Rockets, but it’s pretty safe to say the Warriors have put themselves in an excellent position to contend for another title.

Clippers re-sign Blake Griffin

After losing Paul, the Clippers couldn’t afford to lose Griffin as well. Despite some of his past injuries, Griffin, when healthy, can play at the level of a top ten player in the league and is a franchise cornerstone. He’s improved his outside shooting to the point where he can score from pretty much anywhere on the court, and he’s one of the best passing big men in the league. Losing him as well would’ve been a major blow for a franchise that has struggled since its inception with finding and maintaining legitimacy.

With Griffin back in the mix alongside DeAndre Jordan and newly acquired Danilo Gallinari, the Clippers maintain one of the best frontcourts in the Western Conference. Griffin is in the midst of the prime of his career and it will be interesting to see how he performs without Paul.

The West had a big infusion of talent this summer with the arrival of several All-Stars from the East, making the conference that much stronger. From top to bottom though, the Clippers still have a talented roster and should be in the mix for a playoff berth with Griffin leading the charge.

Lakers sign Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

A win-win scenario for both parties involved. Despite being one of the top, and most intriguing wing players on the market, the free agent money dried up, leaving Caldwell Pope searching for a new team after the Detroit Pistons traded for Avery Bradley. The Lakers were searching for someone who could potentially fit with their young core, while not compromising their cap space for next summer.

For Caldwell-Pope, he gets another year to prove his worth and look for a bigger payday next summer when the NBA’s salary cap is projected to jump up again. He’s only 24-years-old and he’s become one of the better perimeter defenders in the league. He’s also an improving shooter who shot a career-high 35 percent from the three-point line this past season.

For the Lakers, they get an extended look at a young guy who’s still developing and who could possibly end up as a member of their young core as they navigate the rebuilding process. With his outside shooting and defensive prowess, he could be a good fit alongside Lonzo Ball in the backcourt. Being that it’s a one-year deal, the Lakers also maintain cap room for next summer when players like Lebron James and Paul George will hit the free agent market.

Kings add trio of veterans

The Kings have struggled for the better part of the last decade, but this summer should have the Sacramento faithful feeling good about the team again. They first added De’Aaron Fox, Harry Giles, Justin Jackson and Frank Mason III through the draft to go along with their other young talent in Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-Stein and Skal Labissiere. They had a great offseason by way of the draft alone.

It’s greatto have a bunch of young talent, but they’re going to need a couple veterans to bring them along and show them the ropes. And the Kings did just that, bringing in a group of some of the best veteran guys available.

George Hill was one of the top free agent point guards, and he’ll provide valuable locker room leadership, as well as being a mentor to Fox. Zach Randolph has long been one of the most crafty and skilled post players in the league. Labissiere and Cauley-Stein should pick up a lot from him. Vince Carter will do the same. At age 40, Carter is the oldest active player in the NBA and was still a valuable rotation player in Memphis. He probably won’t be counted on for a ton of production on the court, but instead will be looked to as the elder statesman in the locker room. Assuming the Kings stand pat, they should have a nice mix of veterans and young talent to build around next season.

Clippers sign Milos Teodosic

Long considered one of the best players in the world not playing in the NBA, Teodosic finally made the move this summer across the sea. An incredibly skilled and talented playmaker, he should fit right in with high flying athletes like Griffin and Jordan. It won’t be easy to fill Paul’s shoes, but Teodosic should help ease the transition.

There have been cases in the past where star players in Europe have come to the NBA and struggled to make any sort of impact. Vassilis Spanoulis and Sarunas Jasikevicius come to mind. Teodosic has played well against the United States in international competition and led Serbia to the silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. But the NBA game is a different animal. There will be an adjustment period. He’ll most likely get his chance to start, but he is limited defensively. It will likely be a battle in training camp between him and his former EuroLeague teammate Patrick Beverly as to who will replace Paul in the starting lineup.

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NBA Daily: Spurs Enter New Territory After Moving Parker To Reserve Role

The San Antonio Spurs are seemingly entering a new phase as Tony Parker has been moved to a reserve role.

James Blancarte

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San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg made a significant change to his rotation earlier this week. On Sunday, January 21 Popovich placed guard Dejounte Murray into the starting lineup in place of Tony Parker. The Spurs went on to lose the game at home to the Indiana Pacers. The result was the same as a losing effort in Friday’s matchup against the Toronto Raptors in Toronto.

The San Antonio Spurs came into the 2017-18 hoping to bounce back from last year’s playoffs where the team suffered injuries to Kawhi Leonard and Parker and eventually lost to the Golden State Warriors. This season started off with the Spurs surviving without Leonard and Parker as the two continued to rehab from lingering injuries. As of now, Leonard is once again taking time off to rehabilitate after playing in nine games while Parker has been able to stay healthy so far. Unfortunately, being healthy enough to play doesn’t make up for the inevitable decline that comes with age and injuries.

On the season, Parker is averaging a career low in minutes (21.6), assists (4.0) and points (8.2), as well as free throws made and attempted per game. His usage rate, player efficiency rating (PER) and shooting percentages are also all at or around career lows. It’s hard to argue against the notion that Parker, at 35 years old with 17 years of pro basketball under his belt, is in the twilight of his impressive career.

Parker has acknowledged his demotion but seems to be handling it like a true professional.

“[Popovich] told me he thought it was time, and I was like, ‘no problem.’ Just like Manu [Ginobili], just like Pau [Gasol], you know that day is going to come,” Parker said recently. .

Before Sunday’s game, Parker had started 1151 of 1164 games played, all with the Spurs of course.

Popovich was asked specifically if the plan was either to start Murray at point guard moving forward or if this switch in the lineup was a part of some kind of injury management program for Parker. Never known for being overly loquacious, Popovich responded with little detail or insight.

“We’ll see,” Popovich stated.

In the starting lineup, Murray logged eight points, four assists, seven rebounds, three steals and one block in nearly 28 minutes of action. Murray had previously started before Parker returned from injury earlier this season but eventually relinquished that spot to career reserve guard Patty Mills.

Parker also spoke of the benefit of coming off the bench and potentially mentoring Murray’s growth in his new presumed role as the starter.

“If Pop [Coach Popovich] sees something that is good for the team, I will try to do my best,” Parker said. “I will support Pop’s decision and I will try to help DJ [Murray] as best as I can and try to be the best I can in the second unit with Manu [Ginobili] and Patty [Mills].”

If nothing else, this move will allow the Spurs to see if Parker can be more effective in limited minutes against opposing bench units. Additionally, Parker will hopefully benefit from playing alongside his longtime running mate, Ginobli.

Parker’s willingness to mentor Murray may come as a relief to Spurs fans watching the ongoing dismantling of San Antonio’s former Big-3, which began with the retirement of future Hall-of-Famer, Tim Duncan. At 6-foot-5, Murray benefits from greater size and athleticism than Parker, although Murray failed to keep the starting job when given an opportunity earlier this season. Coach Popovich gave another straightforward answer when asked which areas he thinks Murray can improve in.

“He’s 21-years-old,” Popovich declared. “He can improve in all areas.”

After asking for a trade in the offseason, the Spurs have benefited from focusing their offense around LaMarcus Aldridge, who is having a bounce-back campaign. However, Leonard is now out indefinitely and the Minnesota Timberwolves have now caught the Spurs in the standings. The pressure is on for this resilient Spurs team, which has again managed to beat the odds despite an injured and aging roster.

Parker became a starter for the Spurs at age 19 and never looked back. Now all eyes are on Murray to see how well he performs in his second stint with the starters at a crucial point in the season.

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Sources: Milwaukee Bucks Fire Coach Jason Kidd

Basketball Insiders

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The Milwaukee Bucks have fired coach Jason Kidd, sources ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Source: Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN

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Defensive Player Of The Year Watch – 1/22/17

Spencer Davies checks into the DPOY race with his latest list of candidates.

Spencer Davies

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It’s a new year and Basketball Insiders is continuing its Defensive Player of the Year watch with sample sizes widening and new players emerging in the conversation.

There were a couple of names knocked out of the list, but that gives more of a spotlight to those who have really stepped up since our last edition ran on December 29. Without further ado, let’s get into it.

 6. Hassan Whiteside

After missing nearly a month of action with a knee injury, Whiteside has returned with a vengeance. The Miami HEAT were already a good defensive team before he came back, but he’s really bolstered that reputation even further. Since Dec. 26, the 7-foot center has recorded eight multi-block games. In five of those, he had at least four swats, including a six-rejection performance in a win at Milwaukee. Overall in ESPN’s Defensive Real-Plus Minus, Whiteside owns by far the best rating at 4.73. “Agent Block” is back and daring all comers to try him.

5. Anthony Davis

Slowly but surely, the New Orleans Pelicans are creeping away from the bottom of the league in defensive rating. Once ranked in the bottom five a few weeks ago, they’ve shot up to 18th in the league (108.4) rather quickly. While that’s not the most impressive statistic to provide, the obvious reason for their improved standing on that end of the floor is Davis. He’s been an absolute workhorse for Alvin Gentry in the restricted area as an elite rim protector, with a heavy responsibility and a ton of minutes. Without him on the floor, the Pels are allowing 8.9 more points per 100 possessions, which puts Davis in the 96th percentile according to Cleaning The Glass.

4. Josh Richardson

Notice there are two members of the HEAT on this list. It’s because they are on fire right now, no pun intended, so it’s about time they received some love in the conversation for DPOY. Whiteside was addressed first, but if we’re talking about a greater sample size with consistent evidence, Richardson fits the bill. Opponents are attempting over 11 shots per game against him, yet are only making 38.9 percent of those tries. That’s the lowest conversion rate in the league with a minimum of 10 attempts.

Battling injuries a season ago, Richardson has played in all 46 games for Miami this year. While it’s been a team effort, he is the heart and soul of Erik Spoelstra’s defense, taking on the most difficult assignments each game. For that reason, he deserves long overdue recognition on this list.

3. Kevin Durant

This isn’t a case where Durant is slipping because of his performances. He’s only ranked third this time around because of the job others have done outside of him. The Golden State Warriors are still a juggernaut on both sides of the court. He’s still a top-notch individual defender. The numbers don’t suggest otherwise and the eye test certainly confirms it.

In isolation situations, Durant is allowing only 0.53 points per possession, which is second in the NBA to only Tony Snell. When it comes to crunch time, he’s always locking up. In fourth quarters, he is limiting the competition to shooting less than 30 percent—and his defended field goal percentage and field goal percentage discrepancy is the best in the league at -17.2. He’s got as good of a chance as anybody to take home DPOY.

2. Joel Embiid

Everybody loves to focus on the off-court antics and hilarities that come with Embiid, but the man deserves his due when it comes to his reputation in the NBA as a truly dominant big. The Philadelphia 76ers have won seven out of their last eight games and it has started on the defensive end of the floor.

Take the games against Boston, for example. Al Horford is a crucial part of the Celtics offense and has had problems getting going against the 23-year-old. In the 22 minutes per game, he’s been on the floor along with him, Horford has been held to below 30 percent from the field on an average of nine attempts. With Embiid off, he’s converted nearly 73 percent of his tries.

Another matchup you can examine is with Andre Drummond. The two have had their fair share of words with each other, but Embiid’s had the edge one-on-one. Similar to Horford, the Detroit Pistons big man has had a rough time against him. Embiid has limited Drummond to under 38 percent on five attempts per game in an average of over 23 minutes on the floor together. When he’s not playing, Drummond has had close to a 78 percent success rate.

Regarding centers, Embiid ranks second in ESPN’s DRPM and fifth in Basketball Reference’s Defensive Box Plus-Minus. Citing Cleaning The Glass, the Sixers are allowing 10 more points per 100 possessions when he’s sitting, which slots Embiid into the 97th percentile.

He’s altering shots. He’s blocking shots. He’s forcing kick outs. And that’s a big reason why the NBA gave Embiid its Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors. Trust The Process.

1. Paul George

Basketball Insiders was well represented this past Saturday in Cleveland when the Oklahoma City Thunder decimated the Cavaliers in their own building. The focus was on the “OK3” exposing a terrible defense, but the real story in this game was how in-tune and sound George was on both ends of the court. He was sizzling shooting the basketball, but perhaps more defining was shutting down LeBron James on a day that was supposed to belong to him.

Any time 23 got the ball to try and get the Cavs going, George was there. He suffocated him with pressure, forcing James into bad decisions and contested shots. The talk of the day was the 30,000-point mark, but PG-13 had other ideas.

“I was hopeful that it took two games for him to get to that,” George said after the 148-124 win at Quicken Loans Arena. “I actually didn’t know that stat until right before coming into [Saturday]. They told me he needed 25 to go to 30,000. I’ve been a part of a lot of those baskets that he’s had, so that’s an achievement or milestone I didn’t want to be a part of.”

Thunder teammate Steven Adams spoke to his prowess on that end of the floor.

“He’s a really good defender man,” Adams said. “It was like a perfect matchup, honestly. He played LeBron really well in terms of our system and what we want him doing. He did an amazing job there.”

Oklahoma City head coach Billy Donovan is a huge fan as well.

“He really I think puts forth good effort,” Donovan said pre-game. “He’s long, smart. He’s disruptive. He’s got good feet. He’s a physical defender. He’s hard to shoot over. Certainly, with he and Andre [Roberson] on the wings, that’s certainly bolstered our defense.”

That was one performance, but it’s obvious how much George brings to the table as one of the toughest guys to score on in this league. He’s got a league-leading 188 deflections and is tied with Eric Bledsoe at the top of the NBA with 2.2 steals per game.

Recently, the Thunder have allowed 91 points at most in three of their last four games. They are also in the top three allowing just 104.7 points per 100 possessions and George has been a huge part of that.

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