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Six Players To Watch Around The Deadline

Oliver Maroney breaks down six players to watch nearing the trade deadline.

Oliver Maroney

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As the trade deadline approaches, there are always names that pop up as it gets closer to that time to wheel and deal. Teams get desperate as they find themselves barely in or out of the playoffs trying to add a piece that puts them in the hunt. Other clubs pack their bags and concede the season as they prepare and strategize for next year by offloading talent and getting picks or younger, underdeveloped players. Basketball Insiders looks at six potential players that could be on the move.

1. Nerlens Noel

The Philadelphia 76ers are playing some of the best basketball in the NBA. Joel Embiid is becoming the face of the franchise and the direction of the process seems to be changing for the better. Noel has made it very clear that he’s not happy with his role and feels that he should be playing more. When he does play, he looks good and could be an asset to almost any team in the league. But the question is what value he has based on his off-the-court comments and frustrations. With Philadelphia’s current situation, it seems almost inevitable that they could trade him to offset the effects of a backlogged frontcourt.

2. Paul Millsap 

As much as we want to believe that Atlanta isn’t looking for a trade, if the offer is good enough they’ll look at it. Millsap becomes a free agent in the offseason and is one of the most underrated players in the league. His ability to be both consistent on offense and defense is unique and separates him from 95 percent of the league. He’s a great fit in almost any scenario, but the trouble with him is that he can leave in the offseason. He’s also 32 years old and would command a contract that would keep him around until probably 35, 36 or 37 years of age. But, if a team is willing to do it, they would be getting a perennial All-Star who could immediately help their playoff chances.

3. Lou Williams 

Williams has been vastly improved this season and becomes a free agent in 2018, when he will be 33 years of age. Williams has some value, specifically because of how good he’s been this campaign, averaging 17.9 points, 3 assists and 2 rebounds per game in about 24 minutes of play. But the Lakers need to play for draft picks as the season has slowly gotten away from them, and they owe Philadelphia a draft choice if it’s outside of the top-three (making more incentive for them to lose and give up aging players like Williams). Offloading Williams to another team close to making the playoffs or already in the playoffs would make logical sense because it would give them a one-year rental off the bench and help immediately. At about $7 million per year, he’s a bargain, and you could make room on nearly every team with that low a salary. Teams like the Kings, Clippers, Bucks, and Wizards come to mind for a guy like Williams just because of the low cap number and the need for an extra scorer on these teams.

4. Andrew Bogut

Bogut is on a Dallas Mavericks team that is playing well without him. They could certainly improve, but at 32, he’s not a player they’re built around currently. His talent is not a question, nor is his locker room presence. The question surrounds his health, and if he can ultimately be a long-term fix for a team. Rumblings in the past few months have been that Bogut’s on the way out, as he’s been injured and could leave after the season is over anyways. Teams like the Trail Blazers, Bucks and Raptors seem to make sense based on each teams’ need for another big man, but it’s all based on Dallas’ value of the Austrailian.

5. Allen Crabbe

Portland’s Allen Crabbe has been the subject of many rumors in recent months because of his lack of minutes. However, moving a guy like Crabbe will be difficult because he’ll have to waive his no-trade clause – not as easy as it sounds. Crabbe is seeing more time on the floor and has excelled in his past few games, averaging 12.2 points in about 28 minutes of action with the Blazers. Part of the reason he’s started to see a jump in minutes is because of Damian Lillard’s recent injury, but even so, it seems like the Blazers are trying to showcase his talents to get a team to bite on his near $19 million per season over the next 4 years. Philadelphia and Brooklyn were both teams that showed interest in him this offseason, and could still have interest before the deadline. The valuation on him seems all over the board, especially with a salary that’s higher than most in the league. But his potential is still high because he’s only 24 years of age.

6. Ricky Rubio

Rubio is one of the most underrated point guards in the league. Sure, he hasn’t lived up to the lofty expectations of a top draft pick, but he’s certainly no bust. Rubio is most certainly on the trade market, and Minnesota could use a lot of help on the perimeter. It’s yet to be determined what Rubio gets you in return, but ESPN reported that the Timberwolves and Pistons were in discussions to send Rubio to Detroit with Reggie Jackson going the other way. One of the more elite defensive point guards in the league, Rubio has a lot to offer a team needing backcourt depth and defense. His shooting certainly doesn’t blow anyone away (in fact, it’s almost the opposite) but the ability to pass, defend, and create turnovers is rare in this league. Teams like the Trail Blazers, Celtics, Kings, Pistons and even a team like the Spurs should look at Rubio. He brings a rare and unique skill set that doesn’t fit many teams. But he does add significant value to the teams looking to bolster their defensive options at the point guard position.

Be sure to check in for more trade deadline articles on the Basketball Insiders’ homepage. We’ll have breaking news, exclusive interviews, and more. 

Oliver Maroney is an NBA writer for Basketball Insiders. He is based in Portland and covers the league as a whole.

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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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