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The Basketball Tournament: Roundtable Q&A

A Q&A with current and former NBA players participating in The $1,000,000 Basketball Tournament.

Alex Kennedy

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The NBA season is over, which means diehard basketball fans must go without the game they love for quite some time. For a long time, summer league was the only option for a basketball fan craving some action featuring professionals. Now, there’s another alternative.

The Basketball Tournament is back for the second straight year, and it features a ton of former NBA players, old college teams reuniting, a $1 million prize and nationally televised games on ESPN and ESPN U. The opening round of TBT starts on July 10, and games will be played in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia. Games will be on ESPN, ESPN U and live-streamed online, and tickets are available as well.

For complete details about The Basketball Tournament, check out my in-depth article on the competition from April. The short explanation is that anyone can put a team together and the winning squad splits the $1 million prize however they decide. This is the first year that TBT will be televised and feature a seven-figure prize, which has attracted a ton of talented players. Contract restrictions prevent current NBA players from playing in TBT, but former NBA players and free agents are free to participate. The following players will be competing in TBT this year:

Nate Robinson, Mike Bibby, Jason Williams, Jamaal Tinsley, Brian Scalabrine, Dominique Jones, Josh Selby, Jamario Moon, Hakim Warrick, Donte Green, Michael Sweetney, Royce White, Smush Parker, Fab Melo, Jermaine Taylor, Von Wafer, Sam Young, Terrence Williams, Pooh Jeter, Damien Wilkins, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Ike Diogu, Josh Boone, Marcus Banks, Luke Harangody, DerMarr Johnson, Willie Reed, Xavier Silas, Ryan Gomes, Renaldo Balkman, Chris Wright, Tyshawn Taylor, Bobby Brown, Earl Barron, Sundiata Gaines, Dijon Thompson, Stephen Graham, Derrick Caracter, Alex Kirk, Rob Kurz, Mardy Collins, Scotty Hopson and Hamady N’Diaye among others. Other players may still be added too (rumor has it Rasheed Wallace and Jermaine O’Neal are being pursued).

While current NBA players cannot take the floor, they can serve as a team’s general manager, coach or booster and Ty Lawson, Jamal Crawford, C.J. McCollum, Nick Young, Frank Kaminsky and Matt Bonner have decided to do just that.

With The Basketball Tournament right around the corner, we caught up with some of the participants to get their thoughts on the tourney, their respective team and their strategy entering the competition. Each of the individuals we talked to has played in the NBA. Check out our roundtable Q&A:

 

How did you hear about The Basketball Tournament?

Jamario Moon, Player, “Team Trained To Go”: “I got an email asking if I wanted to play and then I was put in contact with [my general manager]. At first, I had never heard of the tournament. I thought it was just another small basketball tournament that organizers put together in a city and they try to get some guys to play so they can generate some money. I thought it was just another one of those. But then once I heard the details –the $1 million prize money, games being on ESPN – I thought, ‘This could be pretty big right here, and a nice opportunity to make some money.’ You can’t beat that. Go out there and play basketball for a month, have some fun and possibly make some money? You can’t beat that! I’m looking forward to it. It definitely won’t be my last time playing in TBT.”

Dominique Jones, Player, “Team BDB”: “The first time I heard about the tournament was when Josh Selby, who is on the team and also our general manager, hit me up about it. He told me about it and it seemed like a great opportunity to play some high-level basketball and potentially earn some money doing it. That’s what I love doing, so I was in.”

Smush Parker, Player, “Team Big Apple Basketball”: “I played last year and I actually first heard about TBT through my coach, Jason Curry, from Big Apple Basketball. I was working out in New York and had just gotten back from playing overseas. He reached out to me and asked if I wanted to run with them in the tournament and I did. It was an incredible experience last year. It was really organized, it was well run, the teams were competitive (for the most part) and the games were exciting. I enjoyed myself and I felt like I was 16 years old again playing AAU basketball.”

Michael Sweetney, Player, “Team City of Gods”: “I actually heard about it from a really good friend of mine, Joe Connelly, who used to be a player development coach for the Washington Wizards the year before last. He’s a good friend of mine and we’ve been working out together for a while and he said, ‘Why not put a team together with guys from this area and try to win this tournament?’ So that’s how I found out about it. This whole tournament is just such a great idea. And not even just the money part of it, just the way that it allows guys to come together and form a team to play together, it’s great.”

C.J. McCollum, Booster, “Team The Wrecking Crew”: “I think I initially saw something about it on social media. I clicked on some links and found out more information about it.”

DerMarr Johnson, Player, “Team City of Gods”: I heard about the tournament through some friends and even had some guys I didn’t know who were reaching out to me trying to get me on their team.”

Alex Kirk, Player, “Team Armored Athlete”: “When I was up at the D-League Showcase, I heard from a couple buddies that they were participating. I’m not doing much around that time of the summer, so why not play? It’s the closest thing to an AAU tournament I’ve been able to compete in since high school.”

Willie Reed, Player, “Team BDB”: “Well, I heard about it last year, but I wasn’t sure if it was something that was real or legit. Then, when I did confirm that it was for real, I found out a little bit too late so I wasn’t able to play. This year, I wanted to give it a go and Josh Selby asked me to play for Team BDB (also known as Brothers Dat Ball).”

Xavier Silas, Player, “Team City of Gods”: “I heard about it from Joe Connelly too, and I was really interested.”

 

Who is on your team and how did your roster come together?

Jamario Moon, Player, Team Trained To Go: “Actually, I live in Atlanta so I got with a group of guys here and we’ve been playing basketball together for a while. We have [former NBA players] Damien Wilkins, Kevin Murphy and Garret Siler. We have some guys who played overseas too.”

Dominique Jones, Player, Team BDB: “I’ve known Josh Selby for a long time. We met through my trainer, who used to work with Josh back when he was younger. Once Josh and I met, we just immediately became close and cool. We always kept in touch, even though our careers have taken us in different directions. I joined his team and he just kept adding guys like [Jermaine Taylor, Willie Reed, Aquille Carr, Durand Scott and Ibrahima Thomas].”

Smush Parker, Player, Team Big Apple Basketball: “I’m playing with the same team as last year, but there are some new guys added on this year. Last year, we had 10 guys on our roster, but only five players showed up so we have the same nucleus, but we wanted to make sure we filled out the team with other guys who could show up. [Former NBA players] Sam Young and Derrick Caracter are on the team with me.”

Michael Sweetney, Player, Team City of Gods: “Joe Connelly pretty much put the whole team together. We have DerMarr Johnson, who is a former NBA player. We have David Hawkins, who plays overseas. We have Pops Mensah-Bonsu, who played in the NBA. We have Xavier Silas, who played in the NBA. We have Hamady N’Diaye, who played in the NBA. We have James Gist, Phil Goss, Omar Strong, Devin Sweetney, Lafonte Johnson. We have a number of guys who played in the NBA or played at a high level overseas. We have a pretty stacked squad. … There are some other really talented teams with former NBA players too though. Dominique Jones is playing, and I know he can go. He should be on someone’s [NBA] roster, but he’s probably just looking for the right chance. For sure, he’s one of the most talented players that I know of in the tournament. Josh Selby too, he can go and he’s very talented. [Team BDB] has some really good guys who can play.”

C.J. McCollum, Booster, Team The Wrecking Crew: “Holden [Greiner], Jordan [Hamilton], Mackey [McKnight] and some other Lehigh alumni are locked in on our roster, to my knowledge. Lehigh had some solid teams over the years and guys have stayed in contact post-graduation. Holden is one of the guys who’s really involved in orchestrating the team and reaching out to different players.”

Alex Kirk, Player, Team Armored Athlete: “Most of the players on our team played in the Midwest and a number of the guys played at Indiana such as Christian Watford, Will Sheehey and Jordan Hulls. We also have Mark Lyons from Arizona. They found a sponsor in Armored Athletes and then found a good group of guys.”

Willie Reed, Player, Team BDB: “I knew I wanted to join this year and then when Josh Selby asked me to play, I figured what better way than to team up with the guy who I became friends with during my pre-draft training? Josh and I built that relationship during the pre-draft process, working out together in Las Vegas, and we had chemistry on the court. We always had fun together and played well together. I’m looking forward to reuniting with him. We have a lot of other talented guys as well. I feel like I’m a guy who can fit in on anybody’s team just because of the way I play, and we have a lot of good players who I’ve worked out with or watched over time.”

Xavier Silas, Player, Team City of Gods: “Our team has Pops Mensah-Bonsu, DerMarr Johnson, James Gist, Phil Goss, Hamady N’Diaye and Michael Sweetney, just to name a few. Joe and his team put it all together.”

 

How is your team preparing? Will you all practice beforehand?

Jamario Moon, Player, Team Trained To Go: “We work out every day together in Atlanta, so we’re going to practice for the tournament and put some plays in place. Actually, we already have some simple sets that we can call. We just played in a $5,000 tournament a few weeks ago and we won, and we ran some basic stuff. We’ll use that, but we’ll also practice more before the tournament. We’re going to turn some of our daily workouts into practices, but it’s great that we already know each other and have chemistry.”

Dominique Jones, Player, Team BDB: “We don’t have any set plans [to train together] yet, but I’m down here in Tampa just working out individually at USF, doing what I do.”

Smush Parker, Player, Team Big Apple Basketball: “We are all in the gym, doing individual workouts. I don’t think we’ll be able to get the whole team together to practice plays and defensive schemes and things like that, but we’re all in the gym individually and getting ready and working on our individual skills. I’m working out in New York.”

Michael Sweetney, Player, Team City of Gods: “I think we’re going to set up something so we can start getting together and practicing soon, but we still have a few guys who are finishing up their season overseas. Once those guys are free, we can all get together. But right now, the guys are pretty much working out with Joe and he already has a game plan for what we’re going to do and how we’re to play. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. We’re all excited about it.”

C.J. McCollum, Booster, Team The Wrecking Crew: “I think the guys will begin practicing as it gets closer. Obviously, I’m in the gym doing my offseason training so I won’t physically be involved as much as I would like, but I can still keep up and stay in contact with guys, due to the advancements in technology (laughs).”

DerMarr Johnson, Player, Team City of Gods: “I’m not positive if we are getting together for practice, but I think we will try to do something like that. It’s tough because I know some guys are still playing right now.”

Alex Kirk, Player, Team Armored Athlete: “This part will be interesting because I know a few of them are trying to meet up during the summer before the games start so that they can practice together. I think that would be great to work out together (and play some golf). But my summer is going to be pretty busy playing summer league with the Memphis Grizzlies and New York Knicks, training at IMG Academy and hosting a couple of my own camps in New Mexico.”

Willie Reed, Player, Team BDB: “Josh [Selby] had talked about meeting up in Baltimore for practices or getting together before the tournament, but I’m not sure what we’re going to do yet. I’m sure we’ll go over some things, put some plays in, discuss pick-and-roll situations and figure out our defensive strategy and then go from there.”

Xavier Silas, Player, Team City of Gods: “I think we will get together beforehand and get some chemistry going, for sure. We’re still figuring it out though.”

 

What are your team’s strengths and what’s your strategy going in?

Jamario Moon, Player, Team Trained To Go: “I think our biggest strengths our ability to play [unselfishly] together and our experience together. Some guys can really score the basketball, some guys can really shoot it, but then they just want to take all of the shots. If we see an open guy, we’re going to hit the open guy. With the seven-footer Garett, we can just dump the ball to him down low and we get him cooking first. Then, if they start doubling Big G, he kicks it out to our shooters. If they don’t double him, well, guess what? He’s going to eat.”

Dominique Jones, Player, Team BDB: “I look at our roster and I just think we’re an all-around good team. We have a lot of talent at every position, all of our bigs and guards can hold their own. We have guys who can score and then play great defense against their opponent on the other end too. We’re going to be a two-way team, that’s going to be what we’re known for and that’s obviously a great strength to have.”

Smush Parker, Player, Team Big Apple Basketball: “Based on what I know from last year and what I know about the players we’ve added, we have guys who can make plays. We have playmakers who can create for others as well as themselves. We can get into the paint and finish, and we have a lot of outside shooting as well.”

Michael Sweetney, Player, Team City of Gods: “Honestly, it sounds crazy, but I think our biggest strength is that just about our entire team grew up in the D.C. area and we’ve all known each other 10 to 15 years. From a chemistry standpoint, we all know each other as players and as people and I think that’s huge for us. Also, we have so many guys with experience at different professional levels, whether it’s in the NBA or overseas, so we have guys who know how to play smart basketball.”

C.J. McCollum, Booster, Team The Wrecking Crew: “I think our strengths are obviously the fact that these guys have played together in years past and understand each others’ games. They will need to play unselfishly, hustle and shoot well to compete at a high level.”

DerMarr Johnson, Player, Team City of Gods: “We just have a well-rounded team of guys who really know how to play and we will just try to play together and play smart.”

Alex Kirk, Player, Team Armored Athlete: “I’m not 100 percent sure yet, to be quite honest, but I think we will have a nice mix of shooters and athletes. I think it will just be a game-by-game decision on what’s working because you can’t really scout your opponents for this. We’ll see what works each game.”

Willie Reed, Player, Team BDB: “The thing about Team BDB is that we have so many talented players that even if one guy doesn’t play well, we have a ton of really talented guys who can pick him up. We have so many guys who can play at a high level and contribute to the team. We have a lot of athleticism, so we can switch a lot. We have a lot of size, so we should out-rebound most teams. And we have excellent guards in Josh Selby, Dominique Jones, Jermaine Taylor and others who can break down their defender and finish. We also have strong leaders. I think that’s a great combination of players.”

Xavier Silas, Player, Team City of Gods: “Defense and rebounding are our strengths, I think. I look at this team and I see rim protectors and rebounders first. Then, I see people who are dogs and who don’t mind getting gritty on defense. Then, of course, we have offensive weapons. Putting all of that together could make us real scary. Also, we all have been playing at a high level overseas, so we will be able to connect in that way on the court as well.”

 

Does your team have what it takes to win it all and why?

Jamario Moon, Player, Team Trained To Go: “Of course we have what it takes. We have some guys who can really go. They play overseas, but it’s not like they aren’t good enough to play [in the NBA]. Our guys can play and, most importantly, they know how to play the right way. There’s a difference. They know the game and they know how their teammates play so they get the ball to them in their spots. It’s basically like we’ve put together our own little pro team here in the city.”

Dominique Jones, Player, Team BDB: “Oh yeah, I think we have it takes to win the whole tournament. Psh, if I didn’t think we had what it takes to win, I wouldn’t be playing in it.”

Smush Parker, Player, Team Big Apple Basketball: “I felt like we could’ve won the entire tournament last year with just five guys, but a lot of us were 30+ years old so playing three or four games in three days was hard on our bodies. Last year, we just ran out of steam. This year, I definitely feel like we can make it to the finals and win the whole tournament.”

Michael Sweetney, Player, Team City of Gods: “I mean, of course. Going in, we’re definitely confident. But we also know that there are a lot of other teams that are also thinking like us, so we just need to take things one game at a time. I’m sure every team is going in thinking, ‘Hey, we’re going to win this thing.’ But I do think we have a good squad here talent wise and it’s great we all know each other personally. We just need to take it one game at a time though. All it takes is one bad game and you’re going home – that’s the hard thing about a single-elimination tournament like this.”

C.J. McCollum, Booster, Team The Wrecking Crew: “In order to win it all, I think it’s more about playing together and executing. Every team in the tourney has talent, but not all have cohesion and chemistry.”

DerMarr Johnson, Player, Team City of Gods: “We just have an experienced, talented team. I’m sure a lot of other teams feel that they do as well, but [we’re confident]. That’s why we feel we can win.”

Alex Kirk, Player, Team Armored Athlete: “I think we have a good mix of players, which will make it difficult to beat us.”

Willie Reed, Player, Team BDB: “The only goal is to win it all. With our competitive nature and the team that we’ve built, the only goal we have is to win it all and take home that prize. There’s no feeling good about making it to the final game or ‘getting close.’ We joined this tournament because we want to win it all. That’s the only goal we have in mind.”

Xavier Silas, Player, Team City of Gods: “I think there are a lot of fighters and hungry guys on this team with really high talent levels. I think management has done a good job of putting us together and if we can get things right on the court, we can take [the $1 million].”

 

Which opponents are scarier: The reuniting college teams with chemistry or the teams with veteran NBA players that are very talented on paper?

Jamario Moon, Player, Team Trained To Go: “If there’s a team in the tournament that has jelled and has played together every day and understands how to play together as a team, I think they have the best shot at winning it all as opposed to the teams that were just thrown together for this tournament. I haven’t looked at all of the rosters, but I think our team has the best shot because I don’t think there are a lot of teams [with our talent] that are playing together like we have been. I mean, we play every day, so that’s really going to help us.”

Dominique Jones, Players, Team BDB: “I think the NBA talent is scarier. Chemistry is obviously really important, but I think that it’s easy to develop chemistry when everyone has the same goal. A team’s chemistry can be bad when people have ulterior motives and stuff like that, but everybody on our team has the same goal and knows what we need to do to win and get this money, so our chemistry will be great.”

Smush Parker, Player, Team Big Apple Basketball: “I’m going to go with the college teams on this one. I believe in team basketball. It’s a team sport and, in college, they harness that concept that everyone works together as a team – defensively and offensively. I’m more afraid of the college teams reuniting than certain teams that may have a few NBA players on their roster.”

Michael Sweetney, Player, Team City of Gods: “The alumni teams from Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Virginia and other schools are probably our biggest challenge. Those guys played in college together and spent so much time together so you know they’re going to be ready to play and have a system they can run. Chemistry is so important. Not to make a direct comparison, but look at a team like the San Antonio Spurs. Those guys have amazing chemistry and have the system down to the point that they know each other so well and always know where they’re going to be on the floor. It is almost automatic, and it’s amazing to watch as a basketball fan. Those teams that have chemistry and can run plays, they definitely have an advantage – even over a team like us since we have never played together like that. We are getting ready, but some of those teams played together for four-plus years. That experience will really help them, but we’re going to play hard and do our best. Honestly, the other scary rosters are the ones where you don’t know anybody. You know nothing about their team entering the game, so you can’t really prepare. There’s no real game-planning, you’re just going out there and playing. I think that’s one of the hardest things about this. The college teams are scary, but the teams you can’t scout or prepare for are tough too.”

C.J. McCollum, Booster, Team The Wrecking Crew: “I don’t think any of them are scary. There are solid players on all teams, but it’s more about competing and just going out there and hoopin’. At the end of the day, it’s still basketball, regardless of who’s out there.”

DerMarr Johnson, Player, Team City of Gods: “I’m really not sure who are on the other teams, to be honest. I haven’t looked at any of that.”

Alex Kirk, Player, Team Armored Athlete: “The college teams are scarier by far. This will be very similar to the old high school AAU tournaments where the most talented teams rarely win. The teams that play together and play defense, AKA play San Antonio Spurs basketball, will always win. I think that the NBA players will dominate [individually], but I don’t think they will ultimately win the tournament.”

Willie Reed, Player, Team BDB: “The college teams are always going to have the chemistry advantage. My old college team [from Saint Louis] is actually playing too. We know those teams will have chemistry from playing together for so long. But when you have a lot of NBA-caliber players, we know what it takes to be successful in the league, to play at the highest level and to work together. I think the San Antonio Spurs are a great example. If we can play somewhat close to what they do – playing on both ends with everyone knowing their role and jelling together – then we’ll have a shot to win. We’re just worried about our team and how we will play every night. If we do that, we don’t have to worry about any other teams in the tournament because we’ll go out there and handle our business.”

Xavier Silas, Player, Team City of Gods: “They are both scary, but I think the reunited college teams with actual veteran NBA players [such as Syracuse with Hakim Warrick and Donte Greene] pose the biggest problem. We’re focused on our own team though, making sure we don’t beat ourselves.”

If you do win, what will you do with your portion of the $1 million prize?

Jamario Moon, Player, Team Trained To Go: “I don’t really spend a lot of money. Oh, I have been collecting remote controlled cars. It’s a little hobby of mine. I like collecting them and getting them all souped up to go fast and then going to race them against other cars. That’s probably what I would do with my money, man. I’d get myself some new motors and gears and RC sets. I’ll go crazy with it.”

Dominique Jones, Player, Team BDB: “I’m not sure yet. I have a baby coming soon, so maybe I’ll start a college fund or something. I think that’s a good idea.”

Smush Parker, Player, Team Big Apple Basketball: “I haven’t decided yet, but it will definitely go toward something related to my future and what I’ll do after I’m done playing basketball.”

Michael Sweetney, Player, Team City of Gods: “Honestly, I don’t even know. That’s a good question. When we first all came together and talked about the tournament, we decided how we were going to split the potential prize money up and all of that, but that’s the last time we talked about the money. I haven’t thought about it at all. I have three kids so I would probably put it toward paying for college or something related to them.”

C.J. McCollum, Booster, Team The Wrecking Crew: “I haven’t even thought that far ahead yet. I’ll probably do some charity work – make donations – and invest some depending on how much is left after the split.”

DerMarr Johnson, Player, Team City of Gods: “If we win, the money will just go in the bank.”

Alex Kirk, Player, Team Armored Athlete: “I would put most of the money in my foundation to help sponsor my camps back in New Mexico. With the rest, I’d just invest it and maybe live off it until the next contract kicks in next season.”

Willie Reed, Player, Team BDB: “If we win and get that money, I’m just going to continue to take care of my family. I’m getting married this summer, so I’m sure my wife will have a lot [of say] in how the money is spent (laughs).”

Xavier Silas, Player, Team City of Gods: “I’m looking to buy a home next year so it will be going toward that, and paying off my law school debt.”

For more information on The Basketball Tournament, check out this article. Only July 1, the tournament’s bracket and official game schedule will be released.

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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NBA Daily: Turner’s Elite Defense Crucial To Pacers Playoff Push

The Pacers are 6-1 in February, and Myles Turner’s outstanding work on the defensive end is a huge reason why, Spencer Davies writes.

Spencer Davies

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When a star player sustains a serious injury, it’s a gut-wrenching blow to any type of momentum his team has established.

Let’s rewind to about a month ago. The Indiana Pacers were rolling right along on January 23 with a 31-15 record. Among the top teams in the NBA, they were engaged in an entertaining battle with the Toronto Raptors that night. The Pacers ended up winning the game, but it cost them an unexpected, steep price.

Hustling down the floor to get back in transition, Oladipo’s leg gave out at the 4:07 mark of the second quarter. Just like that, the All-Star guard had ruptured the quadriceps tendon in his right knee. His year was finished.

While earning an emotional victory over the best squad in the Eastern Conference at home was a commendable response to such devastation, it was one game. Many predicted Indiana would have a significant drop due to the loss of Oladipo. After all, this was their leader on the court and in the locker room. They did drop four consecutive games afterward, too.

What people were quick to forget, though, is the resilience Nate McMillan had instilled in this group—and it continues to show. Sure, they lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in the first-half season finale before the All-Star break, but they were on a six-game spree going into it.

In February, the Pacers are 6-1 with an average margin of victory of 12.8 points. As evidenced by 27.4 assists per game, the ball is moving as it should be and they’re getting results because of it (congratulations on Player of the Week honors, Bojan Bogdanovic).

Remember: Good offense comes from great defense, which is exactly why it’s been such a productive stretch. This month, Indiana is holding opponents to a lowly 28.2 three-point percentage and boasting the No. 1 defensive rating in the league at 98.1 opponent points per 100 possessions.

Although the physicality and technique of his teammates are a big help, Myles Turner is the true anchor of this stout Pacers’ defense. Is it fair to say that the blossoming fourth-year center isn’t getting nearly enough love from the masses as he should be?

This man is an absolute force underneath. The easiest way to put it is by using his league-high 2.7 blocks per game average as proof. In addition, Turner has recorded 81.6 percent of Indiana’s rejections since the beginning of the month. He had 10 swats against both Los Angeles teams at home.

Don’t get it twisted—the impact goes beyond blocks. Turner is simply dominating whoever tries him on the floor.

Per Cleaning The Glass, the Pacers’ defensive rating is 103.8 with him playing, a figure that ranks in the 93rd percentile among every talent in the NBA.

Up against guys who have averaged at least 20 minutes in a minimum of 25 games, Turner places fourth in the league overall in DRTG. Coincidentally, teammate Cory Joseph is right there with him.

Consider the elite competition he has faced. Looking at NBA.com’s matchups page, Turner has done fine work of holding highly-regarded big men in check. In two games, for example, the 22-year-old has stymied Rudy Gobert for just 10 points in 72 head-to-head possessions.

Citing more familiar assignments in the East, All-Star Nikola Vucevic has been a net 4.8 points per 100 possessions worse when facing off against Turner. Joel Embiid is a net minus-1.2 using the same scale. It’s also of note that Brook Lopez, a more spaced out center, has also had his struggles with Indiana’s fast-rising man in the middle, shooting just 33.3 percent from the field.

If you want to really tie a bow around these figures, see how consistent the numbers are. ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus-Minus system has Turner ranked third, just behind Gobert and Hassan Whiteside as the top defenders in that category regarding starters. Basketball Reference’s version of this statistic also has him in the top three, trailing Giannis Antetokounmpo and Gobert in Defensive Box Plus-Minus.

Throw in the fact that Turner is knocking down a career-best 40.7 percent of his triples on the offensive end and the Pacers have really benefited from the Texas product’s development as one of the most promising two-way centers in the NBA.

It’d be remiss of us to forget mentioning Thaddeus Young, who has been a headache for almost every player he bodies up on a nightly basis with his in-your-grill style on defense. He forces the opposition to make costly decisions often, which in turn helps Turner and Indiana create momentum with either stops or steals.

In all honesty, you could pick a name on the Pacers and that person will have contributed in some way, shape or form. That’s just the way McMillan has run things since taking over the club in 2016.

Indiana isn’t only in this thing to get into the playoffs. At 38-20 seeded third in the East, they’re set on making plenty of noise to avenge the loss of their superstar and doing something special.

And Turner just may be the man to ensure the Pacers get their wish.

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NBA

NBA Daily: The Impact of the Buyout Guys

With buyout season in full effect, Matt John takes a look at who among newly signed players will make the biggest impact for their new team.

Matt John

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If there’s a holiday to compare this year’s trading season, it’s Thanksgiving. We had a lot of juicy trades leading up to the deadline, so many in fact that it may have been a little too much to digest. To make a long story short, we got our money’s worth on Feb. 7. (especially if you are betting on basketball)

If Thanksgiving is the only apt comparison for the trade deadline, then buyout season so far has been like Black Friday. We’re seeing quite a few productive players get picked off the market for discount prices. That happens every year, but not at this volume, and not with players as good as this year’s class was.

Wesley Matthews, Enes Kanter, Markieff Morris, Jeremy Lin, Wayne Ellington, Marcin Gortat and Zach Randolph is kind of a loaded class for buyout season. Those guys are slated to be paid almost $100 million combined, and they either have been or will be added for the veteran’s minimum.

Now usually when players get bought out, where they go is usually get dictated by what their motive is. There are only three motives for why a player signs with a team after getting bought out.

A. His next payday
B. Getting a ring
C. Both

The players who opt for option A usually do because they believe they’ll get the most touches, which in turn will make them look better for interested parties this summer. The players who opt for option B are usually at the end of their days in the NBA so they want one last shot at success before they call it a career. Option C pretty much explains itself.

So far, the majority of the players who have latched on to new teams after being bought out have opted for option A. Some have already played a few games with their new team, while others are eagerly awaiting to start a new chapter with their new squad – even if it’s likely to be pretty brief.

As we wait for the NBA season to resume days from now, it’s time to look over what we should expect from the guys who have joined their new teams via buyout season. None of the players mentioned are stars, but they could play a part in their team’s playoff success this season.

Wesley Matthews – Indiana Pacers

This couldn’t have worked out any better than it has for Matthews.

He got traded by the team that he had no future with, and now he gets to play for a team that had a void that he fills at shooting guard and has a chance to make things interesting in the postseason.

Matthews’ role on the team is pretty clear. He’s a 3-and-D swingman who should fit snugly into the Pacers’ roster of high-end role players who know exactly what their role is. Now, Matthews doesn’t boast efficiency – he’s currently shooting 40 percent from the field this season – but his 37.1 percent  shooting rate from distance this season should be perfect for Indy since they shoot the exact same percentage as a team – good for sixth overall in the league.

Since Wes shoots almost six threes a game on average, and Indiana currently ranks 28th in three-point attempts per game (25.4), his presence could also boost the Pacers’ offense, which currently is rated 17th-highest in the league (109.9).

Matthews hasn’t exactly had a brilliant start in his first two games – eight points, four rebounds, 2.5 assists on 23.5 percent shooting from the field and 30 percent from three. In his defense, he’s been on three teams in the past couple of weeks. Going through that much change of scenery is bound to lead some to jetlag.

When he gets past said jetlag, Indiana going to be an even tougher out for whoever faces them in the playoffs and eases the presumed death blow that was Victor Oladipo’s knee injury.

Enes Kanter – Portland Trail Blazers

Remember when the Blazers gave Kanter that four-year/$70 million offer sheet back in the summer of 2015? Looks like this was a pairing that was truly meant to be.

And why shouldn’t it? According to NBA.com, Portland’s bench averages 35.4 points a game, which ranks 19th in the league. Kanter eats second units for breakfast thanks to both his elite low-post scoring and rebounding. Averaging just 25.6 minutes per game this season, Enes is recording 14 points and 10.5 rebounds a night.

Now, some regression is due in Rip City since the Blazers have understandably better offensive options than the Knicks did this season. Still, Kanter is more likely than not going to help what is already the fifth-highest rated offense in the league. He’s also probably going to make Portland’s rebounding, which already ranks third in total rebounds on average (47.6), better. Especially since their bench ranks ninth in rebounding average (17.9).

So, to sum it up, Enes will probably make Portland’s strengths all the stronger on offense. The question is, will he hurt them on defense?

Anyone who’s anyone knows Kanter’s shortcomings on D. The man definitely tries but he’s a liability on that end of the floor which makes him perfect against second units. Portland currently has the 16th-highest rated offense in the league (110.2), so he’s probably not going to make that better.

This season, the Knicks’ defense was plus-3.9 with Kanter on the floor. That’s not good. It’s not dreadfully bad either. It’s not bad enough that Kanter would be an overall liability. It may help Enes to not have to play in the 26th-highest rated defense in the league like he did in the Big Apple.

It’s not picture perfect, but Enes Kanter brings another dimension to Portland. Even if it’s not a dimension that’s as desired around the league as it once was.

Markieff Morris – Oklahoma City Thunder

The one resource that OKC needed in this stretch run was a knockdown shooter. In ‘Kieff, they got a shooter that fits the label of “eh.”

Morris’ 33.3 percent shooting from deep this season – and 33.8 percent for his career – isn’t going to intimidate anyone. It feels as though that’s not why the Thunder brought him aboard. They brought him aboard for one reason above all else: Be better than Patrick Patterson.

Patterson has been a colossal disappointment in Oklahoma City. Originally brought on to be the designated stretch big, Patterson’s percentages have gone down the drain, shooting 37.8 from the field and 33.8 percent from three. To make matters worse, the Thunder are minus-14.7 with him on the floor.

If Morris proves to be just a reasonable upgrade over Patterson, then that can make a world of difference for Oklahoma City’s second unit, who currently ranks 26th in points per game with 31.2 points a game. Markieff doesn’t have to be a knockdown shooter in order to do that. He just has to continue to be the guy he’s been since 2013.

Markieff can also spell minutes for both Steven Adams and Nerlens Noel at center. This season, he’s played 64 percent of his minutes at the five according to Basketball-Reference. That percentage is definitely going to take a dive with the Thunder, but it gives them another option. A team that already thrived on its versatility found yet another facet to make it stronger.

Morris also adds a little sizzle to the Thunder. His brash attitude on the court could make what’s already been the league’s stingiest defense all the more unforgiving. For a team that needed as much help as it can get as entering the toughest part of the schedule, getting Morris should prove to be a no-brainer.

Jeremy Lin – Toronto Raptors

This will be the first playoff-caliber team than Jeremy Lin has been on since his time in Charlotte in 2016, and it is the best team Lin’s been on since his days with Houston Rockets. If all goes well, things could get Lin-sane in Toronto.

All puns aside, adding Lin was a must for the Raptors after trading Delon Wright in the Marc Gasol deal and losing Fred VanVleet for the next month or so. Even with VanVleet, the Raptors needed a playmaker in that second unit. Granted, Gasol probably helps a lot with that. Lin just adds to it.

This season, Toronto’s bench is currently ranked 20th in scoring with 35.2 points a game and is ranked 26th in assists with seven per game. Adding a veteran like Lin won’t magically change all of that, but he’s an improvement over what they had.

Jeremy has also proven to be an overall plus this season. Keep in mind, he played half the season in Atlanta, but the Hawks were a plus-4.1 with Lin on the floor. It primarily came from his defense, where the Hawks were minus-6.3 with him on the floor. Toronto has the seventh-highest rated defense in the league, so he should help in that regard.

Running the second unit isn’t the biggest task, but it’s consequential enough that it needs a man who can be up for the job. Getting a virtuoso in that department like Jeremy Lin should Toronto’s hopes of getting past their playoff demons.

There are others as well, such as Shelvin Mack going to Charlotte and Wayne Ellington going to Detroit, but those moves likely won’t be as impactful.

Who’s to say we’re even finished yet? There are rumblings of a Robin Lopez buyout in Chicago. Ditto for Frank Kaminsky. Several of these buyout guys still remain unsigned. Who knows who else might be finding a new team in the next week or so? Oh, and there’s a certain Carmelo Anthony lurking in the distance.

That last line was only partially a joke.

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G-League

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

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

Ben Nadeau

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

Check out SBG Global Sportsbook for the latest odds.

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

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

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

Honorable Mention: Chris Boucher, Toronto Raptors

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

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

9. Amile Jefferson, Orlando Magic

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

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

8. Danuel House Jr., Houston Rockets

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

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

7. Theo Pinson, Brooklyn Nets

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

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

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

6. Jordan Loyd, Toronto Raptors

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

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

5. P.J. Dozier, Boston Celtics

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

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

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

4. Alan Williams, Brooklyn Nets

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

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

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

3. Yante Maten, Miami HEAT

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

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

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

2. Angel Delgado, Los Angeles Clippers

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

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

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

1. Jordan McRae, Washington Wizards

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

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

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

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