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NBA Saturday: Trade Deadline Deals That Didn’t Happen

Basketball Insiders takes a loot at some missed opportunities from Thursday’s trade deadline … Reggie Jackson says he became a scapegoat in Oklahoma City.

Jesse Blancarte

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Thursday’s trade deadline surprisingly turned out to be the most active in NBA history. Some of the trades that were executed were complete surprises, such as Michael Carter-Williams being sent to the Milwaukee Bucks, and Brandon Knight landing with the Phoenix Suns. While players like Carter-Williams and Knight were unexpectedly traded, some names that have been in trade rumors for several weeks were surprisingly not dealt before Thursday’s deadline.

Let’s take a look at some trades that didn’t happen and what it means for those players and their respective teams moving forward.

Brooklyn Nets, Brook Lopez 

The worst kept secret in the NBA has been the Brooklyn Nets’ desire to trade expensive veterans Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez. Lopez’s name has shown up the most in recent trade rumors and on Thursday it seemed almost certain that the big man would end up with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Nets were in advanced discussions with the Thunder to acquire point guard Reggie Jackson, Kendrick Perkins and Perry Jones for Lopez, according to Adrian Wojnarowksi of Yahoo Sports. Brooklyn would have turned Lopez, who has a player option for next season, into a potentially long-term solution at point guard in Jackson (who is set to be a restricted free agent after this season) an expiring contract in Perkins and a young, multi-talented wing-player in Jones. However, the Thunder passed on the proposed deal with Brooklyn and, as part of a three-team deal, sent Jackson to the Detroit Pistons (and a future first-round pick to the Utah Jazz) in exchange for Enes Kanter, Steve Novak, D.J. Augustin, and Kyle Singler.

So now the Nets move forward with Lopez, who has been openly shopped by the Brooklyn front office for weeks. As previously mentioned, Lopez has a player option for next season and could potentially opt out of the final year in order to land a long-term contract (likely with another team). However, Lopez is set to earn $16.7 million next season, which is a lot of money to pass on. In addition, the salary cap is expected to increase significantly after next season, when the NBA’s new, lucrative television deal comes into effect. At that point, Lopez would be in a position to earn a lot more money than he can after this season, especially considering how many teams will suddenly have extra spending power and the usual high demand for big men. And if the Nets still want to move Lopez after this season, there may be lukewarm interest from other teams since he could very likely be a one year rental.*

*Lopez’s player option was reportedly a contributing factor to teams not making better offers for him prior to the trade deadline.

As for Williams and Johnson, neither player was expected to be moved before Thursday’s deadline. Aside from some preliminary interest from the Sacramento Kings for Williams (before hiring George Karl) and recent interest in Johnson from the Pistons, the market was pretty cool on both players. On a day when teams were making a surprisingly high amount of trades, the Nets failed to move any of its three most expensive players, who combined are set to make roughly $62.6 million next season (assuming Lopez opts into the final year of his contract).

The Nets did manage to trade Kevin Garnett for Thaddeus Young, who has been less than stellar this season with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but is still a very solid player. Young, age 26, is a nice addition for the Nets, who are currently ranked ninth in the Eastern Conference standings.

Denver Nuggets, Wilson Chandler –

The Denver Nuggets entered this season with playoff aspirations. However, the Nuggets have been inconsistent all season and it has been apparent for some time that Denver is lottery bound.

The Nuggets traded center Timofey Mozgov to the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this season in exchange for two first-round draft picks. It was a nice haul for a good, but not great center, who became expendable with the emergence of rookie Jusuf Nurkic. The package received for Mozgov reportedly emboldened Denver to demand high returns on its other veterans, including hot commodities Wilson Chandler and Arron Afflalo.

The Nuggets eventually traded Afflalo to the Portland Trail Blazers for Will Barton, Victor Claver, Thomas Robinson, a lottery protected 2016 first-round draft pick and a second-round draft pick. This was a nice haul for a player that can opt out of the final year of his contract after this season.

However, the Nuggets failed to trade Wilson Chandler, who is having a solid season and has a partially guaranteed salary for next season. Whether Denver only received low-ball offers for Chandler, or simply demanded too much in return, it was a missed opportunity to add future assets. While Chandler can still be moved after the season, it just seems as though Denver can’t decide whether to reload or completely rebuild its roster. The Boston Celtics were in a similar situation not so long ago, but general manager Danny Ainge eventually embraced a full rebuild and acquired a ton of assets by offloading a majority of his veteran players.

The Nuggets could have also potentially moved players like Randy Foye, whose salary is also non-guaranteed for next season. Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried were reportedly made available as well, but it would have taken significant offers for Denver to trade either player, which is understandable. Lawson and Faried are both players that are arguably worth building around (although Faried has been disappointing this season), however players like Chandler and Foye don’t figure to be in Denver’s long-term plans.

Considering the make up of Denver’s roster, the nice returns on Mozgov and Afflalo, and the eagerness of contending teams to bolster their rosters on Thursday, it looks as though the Nuggets missed out on an opportunity to move Chandler in exchange for future assets that could have accelerated a full rebuild, which is probably what is needed for Denver at this point.

Reggie Jackson Says he became a Scapegoat in Oklahoma City

Reggie Jackson is one of the best players that was traded before Thursday’s trade deadline. Jackson has never been shy about his desire to be a full-time starter, which became a distraction in Oklahoma City this season. Considering his desire to be a starting point guard and the fact that he will be a restricted free agent after the season, Thunder general manager Sam Presti essentially had no choice but to trade Jackson.

On Friday, in an interview with Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, Jackson said that he became a scapegoat for everything that has gone wrong in Oklahoma City this season.

“I wasn’t always perfect, nor was the situation, but I became the brunt of the blame there,” Jackson said. “Everything bad that happened, I was the scapegoat. I’m taking all this blame, and I’m wondering: ‘How am I supposed to change it all here, make an impact, in eight minutes a game?’ Everybody is jumping down my neck, and it gets annoying when I’m supposed to have this great impact playing so little this season.

“All of a sudden, I’m the bad locker room guy. I’m the problem.”

In 50 games this season with the Thunder, Jackson averaged 12.8 points, 4.3 assists and four rebounds per game. These per game numbers are above Jackson’s career averages and are roughly in line with his numbers from last season. However, it was apparent to anyone who watched a Thunder game recently that Jackson was not fully engaged while on the court. He would often hold the ball and take tough shots from the perimeter and seemed reluctant to attack the rim.

When asked about the trade deadline and Jackson’s departure, Kevin Durant made it clear that it was a bitter end to his former teammate’s tenure in Oklahoma City.

Jackson joins the Detroit Pistons with a new attitude and more responsibility. Jackson is for the most part unproven as a starting point guard, so it will be interesting to see how he does as the full time starter in Detroit. Jackson started in 13 games in November, filling in for Russell Westbrook who was sidelined with a hand injury. Through that stretch, Jackson averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game. While those numbers are promising, the Thunder won just three of those 13 games.

Another concern for Jackson is his three-point shooting. For his career, Jackson has shot just 28.8 percent from beyond-the-arc and is shooting 27.8 percent this season.

Reggie Jackson Shooting Chart 2014-2015

While Jackson is a poor three-point shooter, he is good at driving and finishing around the rim. But Jackson does not draw many fouls, averaging just three free throw attempts per 36 minutes this season (which is a career high).

With a new coach in Stan Van Gundy, new teammates and a larger role, Jackson has the opportunity to redefine himself and prove that he is worthy of being a starting point guard.

“I’ve always dreamed about this, and I was never sure it would happen,” Jackson told Yahoo Sports. “Stan believes in me, in the leader that I can be. He believes in the player that I can be, and I’ve always imagined having a coach like this, an opportunity like this, in the NBA.

“It just means so much to have someone finally believe in you. I’m Stan’s point guard now, and I want that responsibility. He can cuss me out in the film room, do whatever he needs to do for this team and me, because at least now I have control on the court. That’s all I ever wanted.

“This is my shot now.”

Jackson will likely make his debut with the Pistons on Sunday against the Washington Wizards.

 

Jesse Blancarte is a Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders. He is also an Attorney and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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NBA PM: Hornets Rookies May Become Key Contributors

Some key injuries may force Charlotte’s rookies into becoming effective role players earlier than expected, writes James Blancarte.

James Blancarte

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As the NBA finally gets underway tomorrow evening, the 2017 rookie draft class will get their first taste of regular season action. Teams reliant on young rookie talent might produce an exciting brand of basketball but that rarely translates into a winning formula. Having rookies play a key role for a team hoping to make the playoffs can be a risky endeavor.

Out West, the Los Angeles Lakers are relying on both Lonzo Ball as well as Kyle Kuzma, who may have worked his way into the rotation with his surprising preseason play. However, the Lakers are, at this point, not realistic contenders in the competitive Western Conference. In the East, the Philadelphia 76ers have more realistic playoff hopes. The team is relying on this year’s top overall draft pick, Markelle Fultz, and 2016’s top pick, Ben Simmons, for meaningful production. Although Simmons has been in the league for over a year, he is still classified as a rookie for this season since he didn’t play last season.

The Charlotte Hornets are looking to return to the playoffs after narrowly missing the cut this past season. The team will likely feature not one, but two true rookies as a part of their regular rotation. Like the Lakers, the Hornets feature a highly touted rookie with the talent and poise to contribute right away in Malik Monk. The team also features Dwayne Bacon, a rookie that has flashed scoring potential as well as maturity — key attributes that will allow him to quickly contribute to the team.

Both players will be given the opportunity to contribute as a result of the unfortunate and untimely injury to forward Nicolas Batum. Batum tore a ligament in his left elbow in an October 4 preseason game against the Detroit Pistons. Initial speculation was that the injury would require surgery. However, it was announced on October 10 that surgery would not be necessary, and that he is projected to return in six to eight weeks. Assuming that there are no setbacks in Batum’s recovery, the Hornets will be looking to replace his perimeter scoring, playmaking abilities and perimeter defense. Enter Monk and Bacon.

Monk and Bacon have both shown the ability to score the ball, which is not exactly a common trait in Hornets rookies. Bacon, the 40th pick in the 2017 NBA draft, has made it a point to look for his shot from the outside, averaging 7.8 three-point shots per game while knocking down 33.3 percent of his attempts. As Bacon gains more experience, he presumably will learn how to get cleaner looks at the basket within the flow of the team’s offense. Doing so should help him increase his shooting percentage from beyond the arc, which would turn him into an even more effective contributor for Charlotte.

Bacon spoke to reporters after a recent preseason game against the Boston Celtics. Bacon was placed in the starting lineup and went 4-4 from three-point range in 34 minutes of action.

When asked what are some of the things he wanted to work on, Bacon focused on one end of the court in particular.

“Definitely defense. I’m trying to perfect the defensive side, I want to be one of the best two-way players to ever play the game,” Bacon stated. “I feel like I got the offensive side so just keep getting better on defense, I’ll be fine.”

Lack of consistency and defense are key factors that prevent many rookies from playing and being successful on winning teams right away. Based on Bacon’s size (6-foot-6, 221 pounds with a long wingspan) and physicality, he has the physical tools necessary to play passable defense. Combine that with his ability to score (he led the team in scoring in three of its five preseason games) and the unfortunate injury to Batum, it’s apparent that Bacon will get an opportunity to make the rotation and contribute.

Reliable two-way players on the wing are crucially important, but are not always readily available and are even less common on cheap contracts. The Los Angeles Clippers went through the entire Chris Paul/Blake Griffin era swapping small forwards on a nearly annual basis, struggling to find this kind of contribution from the wing. With little cap flexibility, the Clippers were unable to acquire a forward that could effectively and consistently play both end of the court, which caused issues over the years. As a second round pick, Bacon is set to make $815,615 in his first year. If Bacon is able to contribute at even a league average level, that will be a major boost for the shorthanded Hornets. Bacon is smart to focus on improving as a defender as Steve Clifford is a defensive-minded coach who will leave talented players on the bench if they aren’t making a positive impact on the defensive end of the court.

In fact, Clifford offered some strong simultaneous praise and criticism of Monk when it came to his scoring and defense.

“He can score, he can score, he can score [speaking of Monk],” Clifford stated. “I think his defense will come because he’s willing, he’s a good guy. I think that being a good player is very important to him.”

It’s apparent in Clifford’s comment that he values scoring, but that defense is also extremely important and essential to any player that wants to be a “good player.”

“He knows and understands that the way he has played in the past [in college], he can’t play in this league if he wants to be a good player,” Clifford said about Monk. “The big thing is, I told him, when people say, ‘he’s a talented offensive player’ that is a lot different than somebody saying, ‘he’s a talented NBA player.’”

Point guard Michael Carter-Williams also suffered an injury (bone bruise in his left knee), which received less attention than Batum’s injury. While Carter-Williams is not the same caliber of player as Batum, the Hornets are alarmingly thing at backup point guard. Without Carter-Williams, the team was going to lean on Batum to act as a playmaker more than he has in the past, which would have, at least in part, addressed the lack of an established backup point guard. But with Batum sidelined, Coach Clifford has given Monk time at the point guard position. If Monk proves capable of playing both guard positions and playing alongside Walker, that could go a long way towards mitigating the loss of Batum and Carter-Williams. It’s not reasonable to expect Monk (or Bacon) to produce as consistently as a seasoned veteran, but having them contribute at a league average level would constitute a big win for a Charlotte team with serious playoff aspirations.

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Teams Refuse To Back Down To Stacked Warriors

Golden State got better over the summer, but that didn’t stop others from trying to stop them from repeating as champions

Spencer Davies

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Opening week is finally upon us.

Appropriately enough, the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics will kick off the 2017-18 NBA season tomorrow night, as will the defending champion Golden State Warriors when they host the improved Houston Rockets.

The clear-cut favorites to win the league title are the ones who have done so two out of the past three years, and rightfully so. Warriors general manager Bob Myers has done a masterful job of assembling a juggernaut. They’ve kept their insanely talented core intact and—aside from Ian Clark and Matt Barnes—haven’t lost any of their key bench pieces to free agency.

In fact, Golden State has added to that dangerous second unit. Jordan Bell was bought from the Chicago Bulls and will bring another Draymond Green-esque impact almost immediately. Nick Young and Omri Casspi were brought in to fill the void of backup wings, which is an improvement at the position anyway. With the same roster as last year and better reserves to give the starters a breather, there’s no reason Steve Kerr and company can’t repeat if they stay healthy.

Knowing what the Warriors are capable of and how well they are set up to truly be a dynasty, there are some league executives out there who are hesitant to make significant moves that could potentially flop against such a powerhouse.

ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported back in middle June that select teams don’t want to risk a big play because of it. What that basically translates into is: We’re throwing in the white towel until that ball club disbands.

But luckily for fans and for parity’s sake, there was a handful of general managers that refused to take that path. Just looking down the list in the Western Conference, there were organizations that swung for the fences this summer.

The aforementioned Rockets are one of them.Daryl Morey pieced together multiple trades to allow him to land Chris Paul to play next to James Harden and form a dynamic backcourt tandem. Houston also signed a pair of veteran two-way players in Luc Mbah a Moute and P.J. Tucker to provide depth and defense.

What about the Oklahoma City Thunder? Just when we thought Russell Westbrook’s MVP season was enough to maybe build off, the unthinkable happened. Sam Presti unloaded Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to Indiana after just one season with the team to add All-Star forward Paul George, who is in a contract year.

That blockbuster move was followed up with another two months later, as Presti decided to deal fan favorite Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott to the Knicks in exchange for Carmelo Anthony. The creation of a Westbrook-George-Anthony big three forms an elite trio that is determined to prove championship worthiness.

Top tier Eastern Conference counterparts did their due diligence as well. The Cavaliers and Celtics are essentially rivals and became trade partners in an attempt to re-tool their respective rosters, in addition to gaining important pieces outside of that.

Boston inked Gordon Hayward to a maximum contract to create a bolstered starting unit alongside Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Al Horford until madness happened.

Firstly, Bradley got moved in a swap with the Detroit Pistons for Marcus Morris to address the hole at power forward. After that—with reports of Kyrie Irving’s unhappiness in Cleveland swirling around the basketball universe—Celtics general manager Danny Ainge acted immediately and swung a deal for the All-Star point guard in exchange for his All-Star point guard, a vital member of his team in Jae Crowder and the coveted Brooklyn Nets first-round pick.

It’s almost a brand new squad, but Brad Stevens has a versatile group to work with to try and finally dethrone the conference champions of the last three years.

As for the East’s cream of the crop, the Cavaliers moves are well known because wherever LeBron James goes the spotlight follows. Thomas and Crowder were huge gets for first-time general manager Koby Altman, especially after the outside growing doubt in the franchise’s front office. The rookie executive was also instrumental in signing Derrick Rose, Jeff Green, and Dwyane Wade to veteran minimum contracts.

Rose and Green have plenty of motivation because their critics think they’re washed up, meaning Tyronn Lue won’t have to give them a reason to play their hearts out. Wade simply made the decision to come to Cleveland because he can play with his best friend and potentially add to his collection of championship rings.

Ante Zizic, Cedi Osman, and Jose Calderon are also now a part of the roster that all-of-a-sudden is now deep at almost every position. It’s a new flavor for a team that may have only one year left to compete for a title with James’ pending free agency next summer.

Those four teams feel great about their chances to get in the way of the Warriors. It doesn’t stop there though. The West in general loaded up.

The Minnesota Timberwolves executed the first big move of the year when they traded for Jimmy Butler. The Denver Nuggets signed Paul Millsap to provide leadership and a veteran voice in a young locker room full of talent. The San Antonio Spurs lost Jonathan Simmons but brought in a very capable Rudy Gay under-the-radar as Kawhi Leonard’s backup.

Nobody expected the league to completely fold and hand Golden State another championship, but it was surprising (and relieving) to see so many teams have the fortitude to pull off the moves that they did. There was definitely risk involved for some of them, however, one thing is for certain.

The Warriors will not have a cakewalk to the NBA Finals. They will have to go through a rigorous set of teams in the West throughout the regular season and the playoffs.

If any team is up to the task, it’s Golden State. But we’ll see how it plays out starting about 24 hours from now.

See you at tip-off.

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NBA League Pass Debuts for 2017-18 Season

NBA League Pass has launched for the 2017-18 season. Basketball Insiders has the details.

Ben Dowsett

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The NBA and Turner Sports have launched NBA League Pass for the 2017-18 season, with several new features and pricing options available. NBA League Pass, a subscription-based service, will be available to users across 19 different platforms, from television and broadband to tablets, mobile and a plethora of connected devices.

In addition, an important note: As of Monday, NBA League Pass subscribers who have already purchased their access through a TV provider (Comcast, DirecTV, Dish, etc.) are now able to link their account to the NBA’s streaming service at no additional charge. The link to do this can be found here.

Basketball Insiders has you covered with a breakdown of all the new details immediately available. We will also be bringing you a detailed breakdown of certain important technological areas later in the week.

Features

New or improved features of NBA League Pass include:

  • Improved video quality for streaming League Pass content developed by iStreamPlanet, a high-level video streaming entity working in partnership with NBA Digital. Included among these improvements are faster delivery time for live feeds, reducing notable lag time present in previous versions. More detail on these video quality improvements will be featured in our breakdown later this week.
  • A new premium package that includes continuous in-arena coverage, even during commercials. This allows fans to view team huddles, live entertainment and other venue features that make them feel closer to the experience.
  • A season-long virtual reality subscription package via NBA Digital and NextVR, available to all premium and traditional NBA League Pass subscribers (also available to international subscribers and single-game purchasers beginning in week two of the NBA season). Access will be available across Samsung Gear VR, Google Daydream and Windows Mixed Reality.
  • Coverage of pre-game warmups and other in-arena events.
  • Spanish-language video coverage for select games, as well as Spanish-language audio continuing for select games.
  • NBA Mobile view will contain a zoomed-in, tighter shot of game action that’s optimized for mobile devices.

Pricing

Pricing for NBA League Pass has not changed for traditional access, and will remain at $199.99 for the full season. New monthly-based subscriptions are now also available, both for the full package and for individual teams. Full pricing will be as follows:

  • Traditional NBA League Pass (full league): $199.99
  • Premium NBA League Pass: $249.99
  • NBA Team Pass: $119.99
  • Single Game Pass: $6.99
  • Virtual Reality package: $49.99
  • Premium monthly subscription: $39.99
  • Traditional League Pass monthly subscription: $28.99
  • NBA Team Pass monthly subscription: $17.99

Notes

As previously reported by Basketball Insiders, upgrades are also expected on the TV side of NBA League Pass, particularly through Comcast, which has had the largest share of customer issues for this product in recent years. While only a single nightly HD channel was available via Comcast XFINITY League Pass previously, sources tell Basketball Insiders that all games will be available in HD through Comcast’s Beta channel package by the end of November (or earlier).

This Beta package does have limitations, however, including users’ inability to record, pause or rewind games. The package that was available in previous season will continue to be available until (and after) the Beta package is active, and subscribers will get access to both for no additional charge.

Check back with Basketball Insiders later in the week for a full rundown of the technological improvements being made to NBA League Pass.

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