Allow us to welcome this week’s special guest, Basketball Insiders’ own Alex Kennedy into the ‘Shop. Alex called his shot in advance and already let Lang know that he had better bring his A game, so let’s go ahead and strap Sir Managing Editor into the chair for this week’s discussion. We’ll be back later this week with another ‘Shop discussion on Saturday.
Jabari: Alex, thanks for joining the mix this week. Let’s go ahead and start off in Washington, because I’d love to get your opinion on why they continue to struggle and whether you think it will ultimately work out for John Wall as a Wizard? Scott Brooks was brought in specifically because of his experience with turning things around in Oklahoma City, but part of me wonders whether his star players will have quite as much patience with that process given they aren’t first- and second-year players as was the case when he took over the Thunder.
Alex: Thanks for having me, guys. After being on the editing side of these the last few weeks, I decided I wanted in.
The Wizards have been a huge disappointment for me early in the season. I really thought that the Scott Brooks hire would be great for them and they’d get back to looking like the team from two years ago that was so close to advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals.
But after this start, I really wonder what is going on with this squad behind closed doors. I didn’t think much of the reports about John Wall and Bradley Beal having beef when they first emerged, but the more we see them struggle together and then seeing Wall making some comments about it on the record, it wouldn’t surprise me if things are pretty ugly behind the scenes. That’s where having Coach Brooks can help, because one thing he did really well in Oklahoma City was get everyone to buy in and create a family atmosphere as well as a winning culture. The question is, will he be attempting to create that environment with the team as currently constructed or do they make some kind of blockbuster trade?
Wall isn’t going anywhere. He’s a superstar on an excellent contract and you can build around him. Also, one thing that doesn’t get talked about enough is that he is friends with a TON of players. His relationship with Kevin Durant was well-documented, but what a lot of people don’t realize is he has A LOT of relationships like that with guys around the NBA (and in the college ranks). I used to do a ton of stories on top high school prospects and almost all of them would mention that they were friends with Wall or that he mentored them or that they viewed him like a big brother. And I’m not talking about this happening a couple times. It happened over and over and over. I’m calling it now: I don’t know who or when, but Wall will recruit at least one star to play with him before his career is over. He has the kind of friendships that lead to the formation of a super-team.
So, anyway, Wall isn’t going anywhere. But could the Wizards look to move Beal or Otto Porter or other key pieces? Absolutely. I’d be gauging interest in everyone but Wall and seeing what trade options are out there. Lang, what do you think? Do you think they should break up the core before the trade deadline in February?
Lang: Welcome to the Insider Shop, AK. Appreciate the visit. Before I get into the Wizards, let me go on record to say that you won’t be winning the Basketball Insiders’ Fantasy Football League. The trophy will be coming here to the ‘Shop. For the Hoop Freaks that don’t know, Alex is currently in first place in our league (yours truly is in second) with only one loss to date. When you get a chance on Twitter, ask Alex what team took away his 0. Ha.
Alex: Psh, it was a Week 1 loss and I’ve won 11 straight. I’m feeling good. Shout out to Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Ezekiel Elliot (it’s a two quarterback league). I’ll tweet out a picture of the trophy as soon as the season is over.
Lang: Back to the Wizards. No way they entertain trading John Wall, based solely on the strength of what Alex mentioned earlier: Elite player, reasonable contract and well connected/respected among his peers. That’s a trio of goodness right there.
But let me say this, playing Devil’s Advocate: That may be exactly WHY the Wizards should explore trading him. With all of those contacts, Wall hasn’t been able to lure any other elite guys into D.C. just yet. The Wizards’ roster is currently a collection of drafted players and band-aid type trade acquisitions. They’ve been unable to move the needle via free agency and if you look around the league, the contenders have been able to complement their drafts and trades with major free agency moves over the past few years. Let’s take a brief stroll through the major players…
Cleveland: LeBron James (2014)
Golden State: Kevin Durant (2016)
San Antonio: LaMarcus Aldridge (2015)
Heck, you can even throw in the Los Angeles Clippers’ retention of DeAndre Jordan last year as a major free agency win after they convinced him to leave Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks high and dry. So while I know the Wizards won’t entertain the thought, with a team this disappointing all options should be being seriously evaluated.
Jabari: I can see where both of you are coming from, but think it could be somewhere in the middle if I’m “in the room” in Washington. To Alex’s point about Wall being a top player (with league connections – I’m thinking Boogie, by the way), I agree that you can’t just let them get away without exhausting every single measure to make it work. I also agree with Lang in the sense that you also can’t be totally myopic and completely ignore the warning signs of a disgruntled employee that means so much to any potential success you may have as a franchise.
So, here’s where, as a franchise, you have to have real and honest conversations with Wall and find out where his head is at. If it is a relationship that can be salvaged, then obviously (like Alex mentioned) you do whatever it takes to continue building around him. Trouble is, unless he’s finally able to attract a buddy or two (BBN stand up), I think you have to seriously consider all options before the situation winds up spiraling to a point where you are painted into a corner.
Alex: I see what you guys are saying, but it’s so hard to land an elite, face-of-the-franchise talent in this league. Unless some team makes an amazing offer that Washington can’t pass up, I’m looking at mixing up the supporting cast and gauging interest in everyone else before I part ways with Wall.
Lang: Staying in the East is another situation that is rapidly developing: What in the hell is going on with Greg Monroe in Milwaukee? Here’s a guy who was considered one of the most sought after free agents in 2015. He turned down offers from the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks in order to join the youth movement in Milwaukee with Jason Kidd running the show from the sideline. But it hasn’t panned out – I mean, like, at all. He recently had a four-game stretch in which he played just 17 minutes – combined. Combined, I say. Oh, and this includes a DNP-CD. Greg is seemingly in his physical prime and Bucks need help on the interior. We’re talking about a 15/8 guys when given minutes. I’m wondering, what went wrong?
Jabari: The Greg Monroe situation is peculiar for sure. Makes me wonder if bringing him in was a management/ownership decision rather than one Kidd was in favor of? Obviously, that’s just me speculating, but it seems odd that he’s getting paid so well ($17 million this year, $17.9 million next) simply to wear a dark jersey in practice and get up the occasional tippy-toes dunk on a random fastbreak here and there. Part of it has to do with the fact that Milwaukee’s defense seemed to suffer when they added Monroe and Jabari Parker into that starting lineup.
Parker has actually improved as a defender as he’s added a bit more strength and agility, but Kidd’s reluctance to play Monroe does seem to still be related to that side of the court. So, Alex, do you see a realistic landing spot for Monroe if they were to seek a trading partner? Realizing he’s a “15/8ish” guy as Lang mentioned, part of me wonders if the league’s continued shift in style and tempo make Kidd look at Monroe’s potential production as sort of “empty numbers” since they would come at the expense of the defense and perhaps even the preferred flow of the offense.
Alex: I think you just hit the nail on the head, Jabari: The league is shifting away from big men like Monroe. Milwaukee was an elite defensive team the year before he arrived, and they just take a huge step back on that end when he plays. Not to mention, teams are also going away from back-to-the-basket bigs who can’t hit threes.
As far as his trade value, they have tried to move him and clearly don’t like any of the offers they’ve received. Monroe’s value has plummeted due to what’s happened in Milwaukee. It doesn’t help that, as Lang mentioned, his minutes and (as a result) his production are way down this season.
I will throw one potential destination out there: What about Washington? As we just talked about, this is a team that is struggling and may be looking to mix things up. Also, it’s worth noting that the Wizards’ front office expressed interest in trading for Monroe several times when he was with the Detroit Pistons, so they have liked him for awhile. I have no idea what they currently think of him, but they’re looking for change and they have trade assets, so it’s worth throwing out there.
Lang: Good stuff guys. I want to change gears one last time and talk a little about The Brow. There’s no denying Anthony Davis is one of the 10 best players walking on this earth right now, but his injury woes have to be concerning for the New Orleans Pelicans’ fan base. He’s never played 70 games in a season and while his injuries haven’t been career-threatening types, you get the sense every time he falls, lands, jumps into the crowd or sets a screen that Pelicans fans are holding their breath – much like Chicago Bulls fans used to with Derrick Rose. Alex, do you think The Brow will ultimately overcome these nagging small ailments and put together a string of 75-78 games played campaigns? Or is his destiny going to remind us of Marcus Camby (health wise)? On you, bro.
Alex: I really hope his injuries are a thing of the past. Davis is one of the most exciting NBA players to watch and I’d hate for him to be limited in any way going forward. With that said, it is somewhat scary that he’s had so many injuries because it doesn’t get any easier for a big man to stay healthy as they get older.
I’d like to see him connect with P3 or one of these other training facilities that monitor a player’s body, use various tests to see where that individual is vulnerable to injury and then strengthen those areas. A lot of guys are doing this in the offseason and these places have had some success with that method, predicting some injuries and helping prevent others. I’d also love to see a second star in New Orleans, giving him some help and reducing his usage rate, but that’s obviously easier said than done.
We’d like to thanks Alex for stopping through to talk shop with us this week. Make sure you join us on Saturday where we’ll talk the latest and greatest around the league. If you’re not following us on Twitter please do so in order to keep the conversation going: @JabariDavisNBA and @LangGreene. Later, Hoop Freaks.
Life After Philadelphia is Just Fine For Turner
Evan Turner goes 1-on-1 with Basketball Insiders to explain how life in Philadelphia shaped the rest of his career.
Once upon a time, Evan Turner was the second overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft, and the next man in line to save the Philadelphia 76ers.
After finishing his junior year at Ohio State University, Turner declared for the draft and eventually was taken directly after John Wall by the Sixers. Turner joined a team that won just 27 games the year before, but had more than a few promising young pieces.
Andre Iguodala, a former Sixers top-10 pick in his own right, was the oldest of the core bunch, at just 27. After him, the likes of Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams, Thaddeus Young, and Spencer Hawes were all under the age of 24. All in all, adding a No. 2 pick to that mix looked to set up the Sixers for years to come.
For the most part, the beginning of Turner’s career was successful. After making the playoffs his rookie season and losing in the first round to the Miami HEAT four games to one, the Sixers pushed the Boston Celtics to seven games in the Eastern Conference semifinals during the 2011-12 season.
Turner started 12 of those 13 playoff games during his second season, averaging 11.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 2.5 points per game.
Just as Turner seemed to be coming into his own, though, the tides in Philadelphia began to turn, and turn quickly.
His third year in the league, and first year as a full-time starter, came and went for Turner. He posted decent numbers. His 13.6 points per game were second only to Holiday. He was third on the team in assists and sixth in rebounds. In the midst of his fourth season, while averaging a career-high 17.4 points, Turner was traded to the Indiana Pacers.
Newly hired president of basketball operations, Sam Hinkie, had a plan in place that didn’t include Turner. It didn’t include Holiday either, as he was shipped off during the 2013 draft for Nerlens Noel and future first-round pick.
Just as the Sixers were becoming “his” team, Turner was sent packing to a new zip code. In his mind, he never got a fair shake at trying to the be the guy he was drafted to be in Philadelphia.
“I don’t think I really ever had a chance to shoulder it, to tell you the truth,” Turner told Basketball Insiders. “I didn’t start my first two years, but numbers wise I thought I did well. Nobody averaged more than 13 or 14. We were a great unit. My third year, my first year starting, I thought I did pretty well for a first-year starter. We missed the playoffs, which is always tough. Within the next year, it got blown up.”
Turner reiterated that in his mind, he wasn’t allowed the leash to become a franchise guy. But it wasn’t all for naught in Philadelphia.
“Honest opinion, I don’t think I ever fully got the chance,” Turner said. “But I got the chance to do a lot of great things. Learn how to win, learn how to defend, learn how to prepare.”
Since leaving Philly, Turner’s role in the NBA has shifted from a potential franchise player to a serviceable role man on a playoff caliber team.
Last summer, Turner inked a four-year, $70 million deal with the Portland Trail Blazers after his stint with Indiana, and then two years with the Boston Celtics. Beyond the years in Philly, Turner’s life in the Association has been kind to him.
“It’s been fine,” Turner said. “On the up and up, I was fortunate to make the playoffs every year since leaving Philly. I made the playoffs two out of three, or three out of the four years that I was here. It’s cool, it’s a blessing. Healthy, stable, and living the dream.”
On Wednesday night, Turner returned to Philadelphia and the Wells Fargo Center to square off against his old team. Nowadays, this version of the Sixers is much different than the one he left behind. A process that nearly began with jettisoning Turner to the Pacers feels near completion, and the energy Turner once felt on the court in a Sixers uniform is returning in full force.
When walking around the building, this time as a visitor, Turner takes appreciation in seeing some old faces. The guys “behind the scenes” as he put it, always are welcoming. Brett Brown, Turner’s former coach, never fails to show him love, and the arena in South Philly, Turner says, is always a great reminder of where he came from.
Turner thinks the process that was kicked off with getting rid of him and his core teammates is promising, though.
“It’s turning around,” Turner said. “Just off the first eye glance, I know Coach Brown can coach his butt off. Even the fact that they’re getting up a real practice facility says a lot. Obviously on the court, the energy. You see on tv before, it’s more sold out. When you see the Sixers sometimes it would be a joke, in regards to how many games they lost, or whatever. But now it’s kind of like you’re going to see some great highlights, you’re watching a lot of energy from the crowd and things. I’m happy for them. It seems like it’s trending in the right direction.”
It wasn’t always rainbows and sunshine for Turner in Philadelphia; he would be reminded of that as he was greeted with boo’s from the crowd when he checked into the game for the first time Wednesday night. The city of brotherly love has a reputation that doesn’t necessarily precede its name.
“Much is given, much is expected,” he said. “One thing is, when you get kind of labeled as whatever, you kind of get tagged for the most critical stuff. I saw how sometimes Iguodala would get blamed for everything, and then I kind of moved into that. I went from the cute little kid, to moving into that responsibility. Then MCW (Michael Carter-Williams) went from that position. It’s just kind of, you know, part of the game.”
The harshness of the city, and Turner’s situation particularly, helped guide him through his career after Philadelphia. In Turner’s words, “The only way to go from here, in a certain sense, is up.”
Portland’s sixth man has lived a long, lucrative life in the NBA, even if it didn’t go exactly how it was initially planned to. Turner was quick to point out that any time he heard someone complain during his travels around the league, at least they weren’t facing the wrath of Philadelphia.
“Going into new situations, people are like, ‘Hey they do this or they do that,’ and I’m like are y’all serious,” Turner said with a smile. “Go to Philly and see what they’ll do to y’all.”
Maybe his time spent in Philadelphia didn’t turn out the way fans had hoped, but Turner found out quickly there was a spot for him in the league as a former second overall pick, and that his career has gone just the way it was supposed to.
“I’m a firm believer in everything is supposed to happen how it’s supposed to happen,” Turner said. “Regardless of which, it’s a blessing.”
NBA AM: The First 2018 NBA Mock Draft
With College Basketball getting underway and things starting to get interesting in the standings of the NBA, what better time to drop a 2018 Mock Draft than on Thanksgiving.
The Thanksgiving 2018 NBA Mock Draft
So with that in mind here is my first Mock Draft of the 2018 Season, look for more of these are we march on (and hopefully you like the new Mock Draft table design.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are owed the Brooklyn Nets first-round pick as a result of the Kyrie Irving trade this summer.
The Phoenix Suns are owed the Miami HEAT’s first-round pick as part of the Goran Dragic trade in 2015, it is top-seven protected and would convey to Phoenix based on the current standings.
The Phoenix Suns are owed the Milwaukee Bucks first-round pick as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The pick only conveys if the Bucks pick lands between the 11th and 16th pick, which based on the standings today would convey.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are owed the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick as part of the Ricky Rubio trade this summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Minnesota Timberwolves first round pick as part of the Adreian Payne trade in 2015. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Brooklyn Nets are owed the Toronto Raptors first round pick as part of the DeMarre Carroll salary dump trade this past summer. The pick is lottery protected and based on the current standings would convey.
The Atlanta Hawks are owed the Houston Rockets first round pick as part of a three-team deal with the LA Clippers and Denver Nuggets involving Danilo Gallinari and taking back Jamal Crawford and Diamond Stone. The pick is top-three protected and based on the current standings would convey.
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NBA PM: Lopez Leading On And Off The Court
Brook Lopez has been a valuable addition to the Los Angeles Lakers, both on and off the court.
In spite of the ongoing media circus, an inherently tougher conference and a roster that features just five players with more than three years of NBA experience, the Los Angeles Lakers are 8-10. Naturally, that won’t be good enough to reach the postseason in the West, but it’s better than most expected the young Lakers to fare. Their early season successes can be chalked up to their glut of budding talent — Julius Randle, Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram, among others — but there’s one other major driving force at hand here and his name is Brook Lopez.
Following years of will-they, won’t-they rumors, Lopez was acquired in a shocking blockbuster trade with the Brooklyn Nets just prior to this year’s draft. The Lakers were eager to get out from under Timofey Mozgov’s lengthy, albatross-sized contract, so they packaged him with the once-troubled D’Angelo Russell, shipping the pair off for Lopez and the No. 27 overall pick. The deal was largely made with financial implications in mind, but the initial returns on Lopez have been a massive win for the Lakers as well.
Although Lopez is currently logging a career-low in minutes (24.3), he still often leads the way for Los Angeles — like the night he effortlessly dropped 34 points and 10 rebounds on 6-for-9 from three-point range against his former franchise. Through 18 games, Lopez is averaging just 14.8 points and 5.1 rebounds — a scoring mark that ranks only above his rookie season with the New Jersey Nets in 2008-09 — but his statistical impact is key on this inconsistent roster nonetheless.
But beyond that, it seems as if some of Lopez’s biggest contributions this season have come off the court — just ask Kyle Kuzma and Ivica Zubac.
“[Lopez] has taught me how to be a professional,” Kuzma told Basketball Insiders prior to their game against the Boston Celtics earlier this month. “He’s one of the first guys in the gym, one of the last ones to leave.”
Lopez, who has carried his fair share of incredibly poor teams in the past — and often with a smile — is in the final year of the contract he signed back in 2015. His expiring deal worth $22.6 million made Lopez the perfect acquisition for a Lakers team hoping to shed cap space before the upcoming free agency period — where, allegedly, LeBron James and Paul George are both targets.
For a 7-foot center that just added a three-point shot to his game and knocked down 134 of them last season alone, Lopez may be one of the greatest trade afterthoughts in recent memory. The Lakers will likely finish in the lottery rather than the postseason, but Lopez — along with veterans Andrew Bogut, Corey Brewer and Luol Deng — have been a helpful presence for the slew of young Lakers as they adjust to professional basketball.
“They’re all great — they’ve been there, done that,” Kuzma said. “They have a lot of experience in this league, so it’s good to learn from those guys because they’ve played 10, 13 years and that’s what I want to do.”
Kuzma, of course, was selected with that No. 27 overall pick that the Nets sent to Los Angeles in the trade, and he’s been red-hot ever since. Following an impressive combine, summer league and preseason, Kuzma jumped into the starting lineup after Larry Nance Jr. fractured his hand just eight games into the campaign. Although the Rookie of the Year battle has been dominated by the Philadelphia 76ers’ Ben Simmons so far, Kuzma — averaging 16.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per game — has emerged as a strong runner-up candidate.
For Zubac, however, it’s been a slower start to his NBA career but with Lopez, he says, things have gotten easier.
“The whole summer, I worked on my three-point shot,” Zubac told Basketball Insiders. “But also [I worked on my] post offense too, that’s what [Lopez] is good at. I’m really focusing my game around the post, so that’s where I’m trying to learn.”
Last year, Zubac was a popular late-season member of head coach Luke Walton’s rotation and he finished his rookie year averaging 7.5 points and 4.2 rebounds in just 16 minutes per game. Unfortunately, the new arrivals and recent emergences have limited Zubac to just 10 total minutes over four appearances in 2017-18. Still, Lopez gives Zubac a mentor worth modeling his game after, even if it’s at the expense of real experience this season.
To get Zubac on the floor, the center has spent time with the South Bay Lakers, Los Angeles’ G-League affiliate, as of late. In two games, Zubac has averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds on 73 percent shooting from the field. Despite the lack of playing time, Zubac was more than happy to praise not only Lopez but the efforts of the other aforementioned veterans too.
“I can learn a lot from them and they help me play my game,” Zubac said. “Whoever’s on the court, whoever I’m playing with, I just try to learn as much as I can from them.”
Ultimately, though, it all comes back to Lopez.
Again, Lopez has averaged a career-low in minutes, but his contributions have been crucial in the Lakers’ overall standing thus far. In the games that Lopez has played less than 21 minutes, the Lakers are 0-5; but when he plays more than 30, the team is 3-1. On top of that, the Lakers are 5-1 when Lopez hits two or more three-pointers in a game as well. That sample size is still certainly small, but it’s nice indicator of Lopez’s inherent on-court impact, even when he’s not carrying the team on his shoulders.
“[He makes life] a lot easier for me,” Kuzma said. “He’s one of the most established scorers in the league and his career average is, like, 20 [points] a game. You can always count on him to be there every single night.”
While the Lakers can plan for a dream offseason haul involving James, George and others, they’ll have a tough decision facing them in July. Whether he’s efficiently stretching the floor, finishing off assists from Ball or setting the tone in an inexperienced locker room, Lopez has been quite the addition for Los Angeles.
This summer, Lopez enters unrestricted free agency and will likely garner offers outside of the Lakers’ pay range considering their big plans. If the Lakers decide to focus elsewhere, another team will reap the rewards. Until then, the youthful core in Los Angeles will benefit from having Lopez train and educate them each day.
“[Lopez] takes care of his body, he stays low-key and is never in trouble,” Kuzma said. “He’s the type of professional I want to be.”
Whether this is just a one-year detour in his extensively underrated career or the start of a great, new partnership, Lopez’s arrival in Los Angeles has been a huge success already. But as far as role models go for both Kuzma and Zubac, there are few choices better than Brook Lopez — both on and off the court.