This week Basketball Insiders takes a look at six aspects of each division that may be flying under the radar. We kicked our series off with the Southeast Division, now we take a closer look at the Central Division.
The biggest news in the Central Division was of course made by the Cleveland Cavaliers. The return of LeBron James and the acquisition of Kevin Love makes them immediate title contenders. Other major headlines include three coaching changes: Jason Kidd in Milwaukee, David Blatt in Cleveland and Stan Van Gundy in Detroit. The Pacers also lost their star, Paul George, after he suffered a broken leg this summer while playing in a scrimmage for Team USA. While these events may have drawn the most attention, there are number of other items throughout that division that are worth mentioning. Here are six other things to key an eye on in the Central Division in 2014-15.
1. The Bucks will experiment with Giannis Antetokounmpo at point guard
Over the course of the 2013-14 season Bucks fans had little reason to be excited. Everything that could go wrong for the team seemingly did and they struggled all year long, finishing with the worst record in the NBA. However, despite the team’s lack of success there was one reason for optimism, and that was the performance of first round pick Giannis Antetokounmpo. Antetokounmpo dazzled fans almost nightly with his unbelievable playmaking ability. For a player of his size, his ability, not only to handle the ball, but to pass it as well makes him a truly unique talent.
New Bucks Coach Jason Kidd seems to be very intrigued by the unique gifts Antetokounmpo possesses and is ready to utilize his variety of skills to the fullest. This means Antetokounmpo, who spent the majority of his minutes last season playing as a wing off the ball, will get the chance to be the Bucks primary ball handler at times this season. Antetokounmpo spoke with Basketball Insiders just a few a weeks ago about the possibility of playing point guard.
“It’s something that I feel comfortable with and I’ll play wherever Coach wants me to play, especially when it’s Coach Kidd who thinks that I can play point guard,” Antetokounmpo said. “That makes me feel like, ‘I can play it. I can play point guard.’ I’m going to try my best and just listen to Coach. I’ll do whatever Coach says to do and I’ll get more comfortable.”
It was reported Monday night that Antetokounmpo will get his first chance to start at point guard in Tuesday’s preseason game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Antetokounmpo will reportedly get the start alongside Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker, Ersan Ilyasova, and Zaza Pachulia. It should be noted that Jason Kidd has experimented with a number of different starting lineups this preseason and that this certainly doesn’t mean he’ll be the starting point guard when the regular season rolls around, but nonetheless it will be an interesting first look.
2. The Bulls have a very deep frontcourt
The two most recognizable names in the team’s stable of big men will be the starters: Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah. Both players are very accomplished. Gasol is a four-time All-Star and two-time NBA championships with the Lakers; he is one the better post players in the game today. Noah has been named an All-Star twice and is coming of a season where he was awarded the Defensive Player of the Year. The two will combine to form one of the most talented starting frontcourts in the league this season.
While Noah and Gasol will likely get the majority of the minutes, the Bulls have a number of impressive big men they can bring off the bench. The most important player in that group will be Taj Gibson. Gibson has developed into a terrific defender and is more than capable of putting up double digit points on any given night. He has the talent to be starter, but for now will be utilized as one of the premier bench bigs in the league.
The Bulls will also have Nikola Mirotic on their roster this season. Mirotic joins the team after a dominate stint with Real Madrid of the Liga ACB. During his time with Real Madrid he was named twice named to the All-ACB team, was chosen to the All-Euroleague two times and was named the Spanish league MVP in 2013. He is a very good shooter from the outside, shooting just over 40 percent in his last five years with Real Madrid. Mirotic is a much different player than Gibson and the two should complement each other nicely.
The Bulls also have Nazr Mohammed fighting for one of the final roster spots. Mohammed isn’t going to wow you with incredible athleticism or an array of offensive moves but he will offer a steady defensive presence when he is on the court. He likely won’t see many minutes considering the players in front of him, but if he is called upon he will be ready.
3. Stan Van Gundy is stressing conditioning with the Pistons
Stan Van Gundy has a massive undertaking ahead of him to turn the Pistons into a contender. The team significantly unperformed last season and was one of the bigger disappointments in the league. However, he isn’t taking over a team where the cupboard is bare. The Pistons have some talented players. Andre Drummond has the chance to be a truly dominant center with his combination of athleticism and size. Josh Smith has proven throughout his career that he can be an elite defensive player. Greg Monroe is back and the team added Jodie Meeks, Caron Butler and D.J. Augustin, all players who can improve the team this season.
Since taking over, one thing Van Gundy has really focused on has been the team’s conditioning. He has made point during training camp to work his guys into the best shape possible with the season right around the corner. Drummond recently spoke with Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press on the topic.
“There’s one thing I can tell; we’ll probably be the best conditioned team in the NBA,” Drummond said with a chuckle. “I can tell you that right now.”
It’s clear Van Gundy is already making his mark on his new team. While they may not be a contender this year it won’t be due to fatigue. Van Gundy appears to already be making strides in getting the Pistons back on the right track.
4. Rodney Stuckey and CJ Miles will both be important pieces for the Pacers
After Paul George suffered a horrific leg injury while playing for team USA, which will likely sideline him for the season, it left the Pacers with a huge hole to fill. Both CJ Miles and Rodney Stuckey were acquired this offseason to help George and the Pacers make another deep playoff run. Their roles quickly changed following the devastating injury to George.
We know for certain that George Hill, David West and Roy Hibbert will be in the team’s starting lineup. Those players have all been steady contributors on very good Pacers teams the last couple of years. If the Pacers have hopes of salvaging their season without George they will need Miles and Stuckey to step up and take on bigger roles than expected. Both may now have the chance to start. Stuckey has been working in the backcourt along with George Hill in practice recently. Frank Vogel spoke with Candace Buckner of the IndyStar about what he has seen from Stuckey.
“Stuckey’s a big, punishing type of guy,” Vogel said. “The two of them played a lot together today and looked really comfortable together. I was pretty excited about what it looked like. Just mixing up, who’s bringing the ball up, who’s playing off screens…and having a two-guard attack, that’s one of the things I’ve been excited about early on in camp.”
Miles is intrigued by the potential of an increased role.
“When I have played and what I have done, it’s been with the first group,” Miles said. “So, we’ll see. The next couple of days, that’s when they’ll let me do more and more. Hopefully, it’ll stay that way.”
All signs so far point to Stuckey and Miles getting the chance to start and play extended minutes. The Pacers will count on consistent production from both to help ease the loss of the team’s star. If the group can mesh together they have the chance to still be a fringe playoff type of team.
5. David Blatt may have the Cavs play some zone defense
With all the talent on the Cavs roster they should have no problem scoring the ball. LeBron James alone will make things much easier for all his teammates. Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving have proven that they can fill it up without the help of James as well, so expect buckets to come even easier for them this season. The biggest concern with this new and improved group of Cavaliers will be on the defensive end.
First year head coach David Blatt isn’t afraid to try something a little different on that end if it means slowing down the opposition. Zone defense is generally frowned upon in most NBA circles, some viewing it as the lazy way out. However, Blatt who comes to Cleveland after coaching in Europe, has seen how effective a good zone defense can be if used properly. Blatt spoke with Jason Lloyd of the Beacon Journal about the idea of playing some zone defense this season.
“I like any defense that helps you gain an advantage or helps you change the way the other guy plays,” Blatt said.
It may not be a staple of the Cavs’ defense, but be on the lookout this year for Blatt and the Cavs to surprise some teams with a zone defense if they aren’t getting it done in man-to-man.
6. The Central Division has the chance to be the strongest in the East
It all starts up top with the loaded Cavaliers and a Bulls teams that has become a perennial contender over the last five years. Both those squads will battle all-season long for Eastern Conference Supremacy. The two are locks to make the playoffs and are the favorites to meet in the Eastern Conference Finals. Although the Bulls and the Cavs are the most highly regarded teams in the division the rest of the division shouldn’t be overlooked.
Expectations for the Pacers have fallen off significantly following the injury to George. However, don’t expect coach Vogel and company to just roll over and consider the season lost. They have spent too many years establishing a winning culture to regress back to a below-average team. It goes without saying that they won’t be the same type of threat they have been in recent years, but if Stuckey and Miles can provide consistent production the team will be OK. In Detroit Stan Van Gundy will be eager establish that same type of winning culture and has some very talented players to work with. The team figures to be much more disciplined this season and with the addition of some perimeter shooters should become a more balanced offensive unit. They have the chance to make some noise and don’t be shocked if they sneak into the playoffs. The Bucks are still in rebuilding mode, but have a lot talented young players. Jason Kidd will has a good amount of work ahead of him, but has a group hungry to improve and capable of pulling off an upset on any given night.
Make sure to follow our Six Things to Know series throughout the week to stay updated on what’s happening in each division.
NBA Daily: A New Beginning Or The Beginning Of The End?
The Toronto Raptors made some bold moves this off-season, but will those moves be the beginning of something new or the beginning of the end of Raptors run in the East?
A New Beginning Or The Beginning Of The End?
The Toronto Raptors were clearly at a crossroads after being swept unceremoniously by the Cleveland Cavaliers in May. It was a microcosm of their situation – good enough to win the East in the regular season, but not good enough to win in big playoff games.
The Raptors went on to fire Dwane Casey as head coach, despite him ultimately being named Coach of The Year. The idea behind the firing wasn’t an emotional reaction to the swept; it was the acceptance of the reality that Casey wasn’t going to evolve as a coach, at least not the way management had hoped.
Casey’s ouster wasn’t the only change; the Raptors also traded away franchise cornerstone DeMar DeRozan in a “dare to be great” trade with San Antonio for forward Kawhi Leonard.
From a pure talent standpoint, Leonard is an upgrade in almost every way to DeRozan, a multi-time All-Star in his own right. The problem with Leonard isn’t what he is as a player, its what he’s become as a person. No one saw the divorce in San Antonio coming, nor the lengths his camp would go to force an exit and leave countless millions on the table for a new start.
The problem for Toronto is the new start Leonard was seeking never included them. So, much like the Oklahoma City Thunder did a year ago with Paul George, the Raptors are hopeful that a long and successful courtship of Leonard could win him over and into a new long-term deal. If that sounds like a pipe dream, it probably is.
Let’s be real about a few things.
Toronto is a beautiful and passionate basketball city, but is that enough to sway a kid from Southern California to stay? The Raptor faithful will point to DeRozan as an example of yes; he did exactly that when he signed his current deal. But is the situation ideal for Leonard, again the answer might be yes, especially if he is fully recovered from the quad injury that sidelined him for most of last season.
There is no doubting that the Raptors are built to win right now. They won 59 games with arguably the same roster and will enter an Eastern Conference that no longer has LeBron James in Cleveland.
Sure, the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers are formidable challengers for supremacy in the East and let’s not forget about the Indiana Pacers, who could be in that same pack of teams vying for the top spot. But are any of them far and away better than the Raptors in terms of proven in their prime players?
The script seems to be written for the Raptors to either explode and cement themselves at the top of the East or implode on their own decisions.
New Raptors coach Nick Nurse is as a good as they come from the assistant ranks. He is a bright basketball mind, and he knows his players and has relationships with most of them. The question is will he be as good as advertised? If he not, this dance could be over before it starts.
Leonard has so much to prove after orchestrating his exit from San Antonio. If he gets back to MVP form in Toronto how can the Raptors not be considered the front-runner for the East? Yes, Boston is going to be really good too, but if you were betting on two players – MVP version of Kyrie Irving or MVP version of Leonard, who are you taking?
The problem for the Raptors is what if Leonard isn’t that guy again? What if all the negativity becomes too much? What if not being coddled and sheltered by the Spurs is a problem? No, Leonard isn’t a baby that needs mothering, but if you have followed anything about Leonard, he’s not this rock of a person that can handle anything. It’s a real question only he can answer with his play on the floor.
Equally, what if the quad isn’t fully healed or he goes Isaiah Thomas and tries to come back on to make it worse and needs surgery?
These are not easy questions to answer.
If the Raptors come out on top of most of these decisions – Nurse and Leonard are what people hope them to be — then things could swing in a very interesting direction for the Raptor franchise.
That’s what makes the “dare to be great” move interesting.
Thunder GM Sam Presti made news when he was quoted in Paul George’s ESPN docu-series, saying one of his favorite Lyrics was from Tribe Called Quest – “Scared money don’t make none” — in rationalizing his all-in approach to George.
It seems like Raptor president Masai Ujiri may have stolen a play from the Thunder playbook, because the franchise is now all the way in on the make or break moves of this off-season.
This could be the beginning of a new chapter for the Raptors, or it could end being the moves that cratered something special.
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NBA Daily: Why Teams Should Think Twice Before Tanking
Making up for the loss of a superstar is not a cut and dry, writes Spencer Davies.
Making up for the loss of a superstar is not a cut and dry affair.
If it happens, ownership and management have to choose between two options.
1) Attempt to stay competitive
2) Blow everything up and go for a high draft pick
The second choice seems to be the favorite path for executives to take as of late. After all, just look at the job the Philadelphia 76ers have done with perfecting the art of the aptly named process, “tanking.”
Former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie’s three ultra-quotable words have turned NBA fans on to see the bigger picture. Who cares if a team has to suffer through multiple seasons of losing? If it takes a couple of years, so be it. In the end, we’ll reset with younger talent to build around. Trust The Process.
Philadelphia lost a lot of games between the 2013 and 2017 seasons. It was flat out brutal to watch. With that said, it did give the organization the opportunity to draft the likes of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons and acquire a young international talent like Dario Saric.
They were extremely patient throughout this whole operation. Brett Brown remained the head coach through thick and thin. Players swore on buying into what was being preached.
Last season was a breakthrough for the Sixers. They won 52 games and made the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 campaign. Two of the guys they drafted turned into recognizable names with their play and have sky-high potential to break through in this upcoming season.
But is this really what it takes to achieve relevancy and perpetual competition in the NBA now? Do you really have to wipe the slate clean entirely and put out an unacceptable product year-in and year-out for half a decade so that there’s a possibility of one day becoming a winning franchise?
It’s obvious that Philadelphia did its homework, but who’s to say that other front offices can function like that? The Sacramento Kings have been in the doldrums for 12 years. The Orlando Magic have missed the playoffs for six straight seasons and the New York Knicks haven’t made an appearance in five.
What it comes down to is hitting on draft picks, plain and simple. You don’t hear often about the missteps of the process. Nerlens Noel was supposed to be a key piece of the Sixers core, as was Jahlil Okafor. Both of those players were top six selections in their respective drafts.
In order to acquire Noel (along with New Orleans’ 2014 first-round pick), Philadelphia sent Jrue Holiday, Pierre Jackson and the 42nd overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft to the newly branded New Orleans Pelicans.
In hindsight, this was an awful move—no bones about it. Holiday had been coming off an All-Star season. He stood a head above the rest on a roster mixed with veterans and middle-of-their-career players. Most impressive of all, it was only his third year in the league.
The Sixers picked a gamble that did not return the results they were hoping for. Michael Carter-Williams won Rookie of the Year and Noel had his moments, but there’s no way it was worth losing a player the caliber of Holiday. But they had to abide by the process by any means necessary, right?
Philadelphia hasn’t won a championship, yet they’re heading in the right direction. They were able to overcome those bumps in the road. The three teams in Sacramento, Orlando and New York to this point have not.
Tanking may not be the wrong answer. It’s not always the right one, though. It all depends on timing. Take a different approach of re-tooling in lieu of rebuilding.
A prime example of this viewpoint is the Utah Jazz last season. After Gordon Hayward signed with the Boston Celtics, many pundits stuck a dead duck label on the Utah Jazz. Those people said that in spite of the fact that the organization was on the rise with a brilliant head coach and an up-and-coming center bordering on best defensive player in the league status.
General manager Dennis Lindsey made a few moves here or there, but did not even think about giving up on the overall progress the Jazz had attained. He kept Quin Snyder and Rudy Gobert, drafted Donovan Mitchell and began a new chapter in the same book instead of writing a different novel.
Utah opened a ton of eyes last season, not only making the playoffs—competing until the very end. And even that was fluky when injuries came into the picture.
They never had to go into the gutter. In the four straight years the Jazz missed the playoffs, it wasn’t because of a set strategy to take a nosedive. They had the wrong coach the first two and were learning how to play winning basketball under the right leader the next two.
It seems as if the Cleveland Cavaliers are taking that route instead of the usual cry to “blow it up.” This isn’t comparing the impact of losing Hayward to LeBron James. That would be irresponsible. But they’ve clearly formed a strategy for all of this and were much more prepared the second time around.
Their true plans were revealed on July 24 when Kevin Love signed a four-year, $120 million extension to stick around with the wine and gold. Confusion surfaced all around. Nearly everybody in the NBA world expected general manager Koby Altman to trade him and stock up on future assets. After all, the Cavaliers’ first-round draft pick next season only conveys if they finish as a bottom 10 team in the league. If they do not, the selection goes to the Atlanta Hawks.
While that’s a true statement, nothing is guaranteed. Anything that happens in a season can be unpredictable. Anything that goes on in a draft is unpredictable.
In one timeline, Cleveland could be as bad of a team as some are predicting with Love. In another, they could make the playoffs and shock their doubters.
We don’t know what Collin Sexton will be in this league yet. We do know that experience is irreplaceable. Why not surround the young man with talent for him to breed confidence in himself and others? It’s better than losing a ton of games because the front office is waiting for the next guy to pair him with, right?
The Cavaliers are keeping their head coach. They’re acquiring players aching for an opportunity. They’re altering their direction, but keeping the same focus.
With LeBron James, Cleveland made four straight NBA Finals. In doing so, they’ve set a standard for the organization. Even with The King going west, why would it make any sense to change that message?
Considering the talent this league already has and the “super teams” that are being built among them, there is a difference between a ball club that wins 20 games and one that wins 35. They both miss out on the postseason and have a lottery pick, however, Team A silently creates losing habits while Team B tries to instill a culture of winning.
There is no perfect method for filling a void left by losing a superstar player. Nobody is a psychic.
Maybe it’s naïve to criticize “The Process” for not wanting to be in NBA purgatory—usually somewhere stuck between a seven seed in the playoffs and the 10th team in the conference standings—but tanking is a tricky game. Precision is necessary to pull it off. If it isn’t there, you’ll be in a world of hurt.
At least when you’re in NBA purgatory, you can add to what you have or try a different coach. Championship or bust is a dangerous mentality in the current landscape of sports.
Of course, that’s always the goal, but very few understand what it takes to get to that point. It all starts with a winning attitude, a quality of most teams that have tanked do not possess.
NBA Daily: The Summer’s Most Impactful Coaching Hires
There have been a lot of coaching swaps this offseason, but there are only a select few that should impact what happens next year.
Building a successful team is like cooking a meal. The players serve as the ingredients, while the coach serves as the cook who stirs the ingredients. A championship team requires the right ingredients just as much as it requires an adept cook.
Take the Warriors for example. Mark Jackson played an important role in putting Golden State back on the map in 2013. However, after it was clear that he wasn’t capable of pushing them much further the following year, they replaced him with Steve Kerr.
That made all the difference. The Dubs went from pseudo-contender to legitimate contender, thanks to their new coach revolutionizing the team’s offense. The team went from the league’s 12th-ranked offense in the league the previous season (107.5 points per 100 possessions) to its second (111.6). Stephen Curry’s evolution into a basketball supernova led the way of course, but it was Kerr’s revisions to the team that pushed them to another level.
It all started with how he handled his rotation. Making Draymond Green a full-time starter while also transitioning Andre Iguodala into the sixth man made the Dubs all the more lethal as a team. The final touch was forming the “Death Lineup”, which consisted of Curry, Green, Iguodala, Klay Thompson, and Harrison Barnes, that made Golden State nearly impossible to stop.
Golden State had a roster built for a title. All they needed was a coach who could get them the best results. Kerr was the man for the job.
That goes to show how vital a coach is to a franchise that has high aspirations.
Because of success stories like Golden State, we saw quite a few coaching changes this summer from teams hoping to have a Hollywood ending much like the Warriors.
Milwaukee Bucks – Mike Budenholzer
Poor Coach Bud. It’s not his fault that the Hawks team that he guided to 60 wins in 2015 slowly disintegrated over the last three years. Luckily he got out of there to avoid having to take on a rebuild. So now, he gets a fresh start in Wisconsin.
Budenholzer’s stock has gone down considerably since winning the Coach of the Year three years ago. That being said, he’s shown that when he has lemons, he can make lemonade. Now that he is running the show in Milwaukee, he is coaching one of the more unique situations in the league. Coach Bud now has a superstar at his arsenal in Giannis Antetokounmpo, which is something he never had in Atlanta.
It’s true that Milwaukee has been one of the league’s frequent underachievers since they kicked the tires of the Greek Freek era, but their talent cannot be understated. Remember that Coach Bud once made the likes of Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver All-Stars, statuses that they’ve never come close to regaining since. If he can do that with guys like Teague and Korver, imagine what he can do with Giannis and Co.
Milwaukee has also done a solid job building a team that fits Budenholzer’s emphasis on floor stretching. Adding Brook Lopez and bringing back Ersan Ilyasova should give a team that ranked 21st in three-point percentage more spacing. That’s quite impressive since Milwaukee had the ninth-best offensive rating in the league (109.8).
Milwaukee’s been trying to find their big break for a while now. They may have found theirs in Coach Bud.
Detroit Pistons – Dwane Casey
Nobody had a harder spring than Casey. Usually, winning Coach of the Year would be a moment worth treasuring, but in Casey’s case, it was far from it. Leading up to getting the award, Casey and the Raptors were swept by the Cavs for the second consecutive time, then he got fired shortly afterward. Casey getting Coach of the Year this season was pretty much like Dirk Nowitzki getting the MVP in 2007 after getting upset by the Warriors in the first round.
Thankfully, Casey’s illustrious resume was good enough for him to land on his feet just about anywhere. That anywhere happens to be Motown, where he’s replacing Stan Van Gundy as head coach. Detroit also has not had the most success since they’ve turned to Andre Drummond. That could be attributed to the unfortunate injuries that they’ve had to deal with in the last two years.
Despite having the persistent monkey on his back come playoff time, Casey has improved his craft in response to his failures. The Raptors saw improvement every year when Casey ran the show, and now Casey has the chance to show he can do the same in Detroit.
It will be an interesting transition going from the Raptors to the Pistons. Though not as talented as Toronto’s, Detroit’s strength should primarily come from their frontcourt. Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond should be one of the league’s best frontcourt pairings on paper. Casey has a reputation for making things work, so now that they will have a full season together, they may shine more than they did last season.
One particular question that should be answered is if Toronto’s problem was Casey or his roster. That may be answered by how Detroit does this season. Oh hey, speaking of Toronto…
Toronto Raptors – Nick Nurse
There seems to be a fair amount of optimism surrounding Nurse. Supposedly, he was the reason why the Raptors’ offense improved so much last season. Casey executed it to perfection, but Nurse was the one who designed it. Now, he’s at the forefront on a team that is desperate for success now more than ever.
This is Nurse’s first gig as a head coach, and the pressure is going to be on. It’s not just that Toronto’s been trying to get past its playoff demons. Now that they have Kawhi Leonard, they have to do everything in their power to keep him around — tall order given he seems hellbent on going to L.A.
Still, Leonard is an upgrade over DeMar DeRozan. Acquiring him, along with promoting Nurse, shows that the Raptors aren’t playing around. Being the head coach for one of the league’s powerhouses is a big break for Nurse. This may be his only to chance to prove he deserves a spot in this league.
James Borrego – Charlotte Hornets
Another Popovich protegee moving up through the ranks! Borrego has had some head coaching experience, though it was with the Orlando Magic, who were not going anywhere, three years ago. Now he’s going to Charlotte, a team that’s in a pretty tough situation right now.
Right now, Charlotte is hard-capped on a roster that does not have much room for improvement. The team has not made the playoffs in two years, and it’s hard to imagine how they improve from where they currently are. However, that might be why they hired Borrego.
Instead of going for a known name like Stan Van Gundy or Jeff Hornacek, they went with a guy who has learned under the NBA’s best coach for several years. Coach Bud became a great coach after learning from Pop, so perhaps Borrego may follow in his footsteps. This is a pivotal year for Charlotte since Kemba Walker’s bargain contract is expiring. If Borrego can help Charlotte return to the playoffs, then that could do wonders for them.
Note that David Fizdale, Lloyd Pierce, and Igor Kokoskov weren’t named. It isn’t fair to include them because the teams they are running are currently in the rebuilding phase with little expectation. They could be very impactful hires down the line. Just don’t expect a lot from them right away.
Same goes for J.B. Bickerstaff, but that’s because he already was the Grizzlies’ head coach. Now he’s full-time instead of interim. Call it cheating if you want to.
As for those who have been named, these hires should have a significant impact on what happens in the Eastern Conference playoff race this season. One of these hires could very well put their team in the finals, while another could put them in the NBA lottery.