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Who Needs a Change of Scenery?

Which Western Conference players need a change in scenery? Shane Rhodes breaks it down.

Shane Rhodes



Some players and teams just don’t mix. It doesn’t always work out, but sometimes a change of scenery can do wonders. We’ve already seen the impact it can have this season with Jusuf Nurkic, who was discontent and stopped competing for the Denver Nuggets. Since being traded to the Portland Trail Blazers (and before going out with a fractured fibula), Nurkic has played like an absolute beast, all because he was given a chance to do so in Portland.

Here are some other players in the Western Conference who could benefit from a new home.

Brandon Knight, Phoenix Suns

After deciding to break up their point guard trifecta by sending Isaiah Thomas to the Boston Celtics and Goran Dragic to the Miami HEAT, the Phoenix Suns brought in Brandon Knight to play second fiddle to rising star Eric Bledsoe. Knight, who was averaging 18 points, four rebounds and five assists for the Milwaukee Bucks at the time of the trade, seemed like a fine pickup.

Boy, are they regretting that move now.

Thomas and Dragic are currently leading their respective teams into the postseason while Knight continues to ride the bench for struggling Suns. Even now, with Bledsoe shut down for the remainder of the season, Knight remains sidelined and is subjected to watching 5-foot-10 rookie Tyler Ulis pass him on the depth chart. However, Knight is the type of guy that can make an impact when given the opportunity.

The season following the trade, Knight averaged 19 points with four rebounds and five assists in 52 games. With his move to the bench came a massive downturn in his production. And with Phoenix primed to make another top-five selection in the draft this summer, a draft loaded with point guards no less, things don’t look good for Knight’s future with the team. An offseason move a to a team in need of a lead guard, like the Philadelphia 76ers, New Orleans Pelicans or New York Knicks would be a win-win for both Knight and the Suns.

Emmanuel Mudiay, Denver Nuggets

Emmanuel Mudiay, once viewed as the point guard of the future for the Denver Nuggets, has almost completely fallen out of favor with the team. After averaging a promising 13 points, three rebounds and six assists as a 19-year-old, Mudiay’s second season has been a complete flop. While he still shows flashes, his overall numbers on the season are down and he’s appeared in a total of six games since the All-Star break. Not exactly what you want from a 20-year-old and former top ten pick.

Like Knight, Mudiay may just need a chance to contribute. He averaged 15 points, four rebounds and seven assists per 36 minutes in his first season, so the talent is there for him to make an impact. However, stuck behind 35-year-old Jameer Nelson and the Nuggets’ more recent first-round selection, Jamal Murray, Mudiay barely gets a chance to even see the floor. Like the Suns, the Nuggets should look to move Mudiay for some value, rather than letting him just rot on the bench. With his combination of age and upside, Mudiay should be a hot commodity on the offseason trade market, especially with teams in need of young guards like the 76ers.

Evan Turner, Portland Trail Blazers

Evan Turner has fallen on hard times in his first year in Portland.

After two sparkling seasons in Boston as the head of Brad Stevens’ second unit, Turner signed a four-year deal worth $70 million with the Blazers. Originally slated to play with the starters, Turner just hasn’t made the same impact in Rip City and has since been buried on the bench. His inconsistent play, paired with injury troubles and his awkward fit in the Blazers’ offense, has led him to have one of the worst seasons of his career, with averages of nine points, four rebounds and three assists. ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus (RPM) currently has him listed as the 424th best player in the league (-3.59).

Turner was the primary ball handler off the bench for Boston, a position in which he thrived. He emerged as a contender for Sixth Man of the Year with averages of 11 points, five rebounds and four assists after being written off by most of the league. However, with guys like Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum and others ahead of him in regards to controlling the floor, Turner has been unable to play to his strengths all season. Turner is also terrible at shooting the three, evidenced by his 29.9 three-point percentage, which is something the Blazers like to do a lot (11th in three-point attempts). At this point, a split seems best for both sides.

Turner and the Blazers need to find a team that’s willing to take on the money he’s still owed in order to make a trade happen. But, if he’s placed into the right system, Turner could return to form and become an asset to a contender.

Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets

Kenneth Faried has been in need of a new home for some time. After averaging 14 points, nine rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block in the 2013-2014 season, the “Manimal” has seen his numbers, along with his playing time and starting opportunities, dwindle.

As of now, Faried sits behind Wilson Chandler and Nikola Jokic for playing time at power forward or center, respectively, while the Nuggets host a glut of other, younger options at those two positions (like Juancho Hernangomez). Faried’s minutes per game are down to a career low (21.6 minutes per game) and his number of starts has decreased from 71 in 2014-15, to 63 in 2015-16, to 30 this season. His total rebounding numbers (7.8 per game) are his worst since his rookie season (7.7), while his overall play has declined from years past.

Faried can still be a force on the court, with per 36-minute averages of 16 points, 13 rebounds and a block. And at 27, he may still have time to grow as a player. Rather than stunt that growth and his future career arc, the Nuggets could probably trade Faried to a poor-rebounding team (the Celtics, Washington Wizards and Indiana Pacers come to mind) for some really big value.

Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings

It’s been quite the ugly relationship between Ben McLemore and the Sacramento Kings. Since he was drafted 7th overall by the Kings in the 2014 draft, there just hasn’t been any stability or an environment for McLemore to develop and prove what he is capable of.

McLemore, an athletic wing, came into the league with high expectations. But, after starting 81 games and averaging 12 points, three rebounds and two assists per game his sophomore season, McLemore has seen a stark drop off in opportunity, starting 53 games last year and just 23 this year (in 56 games). And now, with the Kings set at shooting guard for the foreseeable future with recent trade acquisition Buddy Hield and fellow 2016 draft pick Malachi Richardson, it may be time for McLemore to pack it up and move on.

Still only 24 and hitting restricted free agency this offseason, McLemore, could be a nice pickup for a team like the Brooklyn Nets or New York Knicks, who don’t have much draft capital to improve their respective teams. McLemore should go out and sign somewhere and hope that the Kings don’t match. If they do, perhaps he can try and force a trade next season to a team that wants him and will play him. With the right combination of playing time and nurturing, McLemore could regain the confidence he had in college, when he averaged 16 points, five rebounds and two assists and shot nearly 50 percent from the floor at the University of Kansas.

Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers

Although he’s missed some time due to injury this year, Chris Paul is having a typical Chris Paul season for the Los Angeles Clippers, averaging 18 points, nine assists, five rebounds and two steals. So why is he on this list?

Paul, perhaps the best point guard in the NBA, has never made it past the second round of the playoffs.

Paul has won several awards and has made a significant amount of money over the course of his career. But now, at 31-years-old, one would think another early playoff exit could lead Paul to seriously consider jumping ship to a team that can get him to the finals. The Clippers’ other personnel moves this offseason, specifically those involving Blake Griffin and J.J. Reddick, could also have an impact on Paul’s decision. Paul’s decision will likely be heavily based on how the Clippers do in the upcomimg playoffs.

A lot of players could benefit from a chance in scenery. Above are some of the most notable examples in the Western Conference. Once the postseason comes to an end, we may see some of these names quickly surface in the offseason trade market.
Unless otherwise noted, all stats courtesy of


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NBA Daily: Credit Ujiri And Raptors For Taking The Risk

Perhaps emboldened by OKC’s ability to retain Paul George, the Raptors are taking a gamble of their own.

Lang Greene



In any given NBA season, at the most, there are only five legitimate title contenders in play. The rest of the league could be considered as either on the rise, middle of the pack or in the hunt for a lottery pick.

There are far too many teams around the league that are content with solely making the playoffs while not seriously contending for a title. This is why the Toronto Raptors organization along with team president Masai Ujiri should be given credit for taking the ultimate gamble in acquiring a top-five player, even one who could amount to a one-year rental.

The Raptors shipped four-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan, center Jakob Poeltl and a protected first-round pick to the San Antonio Spurs in exchange for former NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and veteran wing Danny Green.

The move is the ultimate gamble for an organization that has turned itself into a perennial playoff presence with five consecutive postseason appearances and three straight 50-win campaigns. DeRozan, 28, was locked under contract the next three seasons and the organization could have theoretically decided to ride the DeRozan and fellow All-Star guard Kyle Lowry duo until the proverbial wheels fell off.

But instead, Ujiri unexpectedly shipped their star player, who wanted to be in Toronto long-term, to acquire Leonard who reportedly has his eyes dead set on joining one of the Los Angeles franchises once he hits free agency in 2019.

Think about this for a moment.

While Toronto has served as LeBron James’ playoff punching bag as of late, make no mistake, Raptors basketball is undoubtedly experiencing the peak of its golden era.

Sure, the team’s former stars such as Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and Chris Bosh will likely go down in history considered better than DeRozan (and Lowry). But none of the aforementioned players led the franchise to a 50-win season while with the organization. None of those guys led the Raptors to a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. DeRozan was a vital cog in breaking new ground while with the team, defiantly re-signing with the Raptors despite overtures from his hometown Los Angeles Lakers in 2016.

Perhaps emboldened by the success the Oklahoma City Thunder recently had in taking a similar risk last summer, the Raptors took the gamble. The Thunder traded for All-Star forward Paul George, who also reportedly also had Los Angeles dreams, last summer, and were able to convince the wing to re-sign earlier this month to a long-term deal.

Toronto has never been a free agency hot spot and the aforementioned stars all forced their way out of town early in their careers. What if Leonard doesn’t buy the soup Ujiri is cooking? There are already some reports stating the forward has no desire to play with the Raptors at all.

Even if this is the case, Ujiri and company still have options. Leonard can still be dealt before next February’s trade deadline. Ujiri could theoretically create a bidding war between the Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers for Leonard’s services with an attractive.

At the bare minimum, the Raptors are all-in this season for a championship run in an Eastern Conference no longer facing the talents of LeBron James. If things don’t work out, DeRozan’s $54 million owed after this season is off the books. Lowry will be owed $33 million in 2020 but could potentially be an attractive expiring contract. All of this to say, the Raptors are simultaneously preparing for a title run and bracing for a rebuild of their current roster.

Far too many teams become content with just making the playoffs and not rocking the boat. Ujiri took his shot to boost the Raptors up the league’s hierarchy. The ultimate risk. Much respect for taking it.

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NBA Daily: Quality Free Agents Still Available

Many quality free agents are still available nearly three weeks into free agency, writes James Blancarte.

James Blancarte



With the NBA Summer League over and training camps a few months away, the NBA would normally be quiet this time of year. Apparently the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors didn’t get the memo as they agreed to a trade centered around Kawhi Leonard and DeMar DeRozan. Additionally, Carmelo Anthony has finally been traded to relieve the Oklahoma City Thunder from a tremendous tax burden.

As the dust settles from these trades, many free agents continue to wait in the wings. The list includes many talented players who will eventually make their way back onto an NBA team’s roster. Some will return to the team they played for last year, which is especially likely for restricted free agents (e.g., Marcus Smart). Some may, for a variety of reasons, not return to an NBA roster. Last year Rodney Stuckey sat the year out and used the time to improve his health in order to make a comeback this year. Former All-Star center Roy Hibbert just announced his retirement at age 31 after not being active last season.

The list of available restricted free agents has seriously dwindled now nearly three weeks into the free agency period. RFAs such as Marcus Smart (back to the Boston Celtics) and Jabari Parker (to the Chicago Bulls) have recently signed new contracts. These signings, among others, leaves Houston Rockets RFA center Clint Capela and Los Angeles Clippers RFA center Montrezl Harrell as two of the bigger names left on the board.

Available Restricted Free Agents:

Clint Capela

Clint Capela is coming off of his best and most efficient season averaging 13.9 points, 10.8 rebounds, 1.9 blocks in 27.5 minutes a game (all career highs) and he is only 24 years old. Capela also spearheaded a defense that, when combined with James Harden’s offensive mastery, pushed the Golden State Warriors to the brink in the Western Conference Finals. Reports are that Capela has turned down an initial offer to re-sign for well below his max. While the clock ticks on the Rockets and Capela, Capela finds himself in what remains a punitive free agent market. The Sacramento Kings is the only other team capable of immediately signing Capela to a competitive contract to lure him away from the Rockets. To make matters worse, the Kings have been committed to stocking their roster with as many big men as possible making them a less-than-ideal suitor for Capela’s services.

Montrezl Harrell

Montrezl Harrell won’t generate as many headlines as the other RFAs that have been in the news lately but don’t sleep on him. In a season that never went according to plan for the Clippers, Harrell was one of the bright spots for the team. Harrell, acquired by the Clippers in the Chris Paul trade, showed tenacity on offense as he served as a strong offensive rebounder, floor runner and helped the Clippers weather a five-game stretch where center DeAndre Jordan was unavailable. Harrell played especially well in place of Jordan. However, working against Harrell is the Clipper’s roster crunch. The team has 18 players on the roster, not counting Harrell. If the Clippers do ultimately decide to bring back Harrell, the Clippers will have to make several moves to clear roster spots.

Rodney Hood

Cleveland Cavaliers RFA wing Rodney Hood also remains available. Utah Jazz fans can relate to the ups and downs of cheering for Hood who has flashes of brilliant play but remains inconsistent. Hood was acquired during last season to help bolster the Cavaliers’ championship run. However, Hood’s scoring, three-point shooting, overall statistics and minutes went down significantly due to his uneven play. While Hood is still a capable player, his time with the Cavaliers did not end well, which has impacted his stock around the league. It didn’t help Hood’s cause when he was benched in the postseason and he subsequently refused to enter the game when instructed to. The Kings, in need of help on the wing, could be a suitor for Hood’s services. However, Cleveland could match any such offer as the franchise continues to build a new team after the loss of LeBron James.

Available Unrestricted Free Agents:

Dwyane Wade

The group of remaining unrestricted free agents is a mixed bag. As mentioned above, there is at least a chance that one of these players may not even make a roster when the dust settles this offseason. Dwyane Wade has bounced around the league the last few years with stints with the Bulls, Cavaliers and a most recent return to the Miami HEAT under his belt. Wade remains capable of spurts of offense and is a fan favorite in Miami. The most obvious result here is a return to Miami. However, Wade himself commented regarding a potential return or possibly retirement.

“When I get back from China, I’ll focus on that [decision],” Wade said while in China. “The basketball will take care of itself. I’ll sit down and figure that out once I get back from this tour at some point.”

Michael Beasley

Michael Beasley remains unsigned despite a strong outing last season for the New York Knicks. Beasley started 30 of 74 games played. His numbers don’t jump off the boxscore: 13.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists in 22.3 minutes. However, these are some of the best numbers he’s put up in years and the most consistent he has played since 2012-13. The Knicks may likely move on from Beasley but he remains a viable scorer who could come off the bench and start in a pinch for many teams if the price is right.

Jamal Crawford and Nick Young

Jamal Crawford and Nick Young remain unsigned veterans who offer potential teams a scoring punch off the bench. Young has the benefit of showing that he contributed in spurts to the Warrior’s championship season while not becoming a distraction. Both are known for knocking down difficult outside shots but can be inefficient scorers and potential liabilities on defense.

Honorable Mentions

A few notable big men remain available as well. Phoenix Center Alex Len never became the elite big man the Suns had hoped for when they used the fifth pick in the 2013 draft to acquire him. However he remains a serviceable player. For his career, Len averages 7.2 points and 6.2 rebounds in 19.9 minutes. He is somewhat mobile and could be a strong option for a team looking for a backup center. Centers Al Jefferson and Jahill Okafor can both score the basketball but have to directly combat the notion that they have become antiquated. The modern game calls for mobile centers that shoot reliably from the outside to stretch the floor, are efficient on offense, can guard the rim as well as being at least somewhat capale of covering ball handlers on switches. Okafar and Jefferson don’t fit that profile and will have to convince potential suitors that despite their meager contributions over the last few seasons that they can sufficiently adapt to the modern game and make a positive impact.

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NBA: Kawhi Leonard for DeMar DeRozan Makes Sense

In an unexpected move, DeMar DeRozan and Kawhi Leonard swapped teams, and it makes complete sense.

Dennis Chambers



The Kawhi Leonard saga in San Antonio is finally over.

In the wee hours of the morning on Wednesday, news broke via Twitter that Leonard was about to be shipped across the Canadian border to the Toronto Raptors for — get this — DeMar DeRozan.

Leonard, and his deteriorated relationship with the San Antonio Spurs, dominated the offseason headlines, and while reports constantly whizzed around about where the All-Star small forward would wind up — maybe Los Angeles, maybe Philadelphia, maybe Boston — his final destination is one that came completely out of left field (despite the current odds).

While many people viewed the situation with Leonard as a chance for San Antonio to start fresh and plan for the future, the Spurs appeared to have no interest in that avenue. The entirety of the deal, Leonard and Danny Green for DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl, and a top-20 protected 2019 first-round pick displays a win-now outcome for each party.

After winning 59 games and obtaining the top overall seed in the Eastern Conference, the Raptors eventually were bounced by the Cleveland Cavaliers in a sweeping fashion. Dwane Casey, the 2017-18 Coach of the Year, was fired after not being able to extend the franchises’ best season to an NBA Finals appearance. It appeared, with LeBron moving West, that the Raptors were going to run it back one more time to see if they could finally break through to the game’s biggest stage.

On the other side, the Spurs were coming off of a season in which they won 47 games and were two games out of the Western Conference’s third seed — all of which they achieved without Leonard. In the waning years of Gregg Popovich’s career, it appeared his team was still talented enough, and system still effective enough, to make relevant noise in the playoffs without a superstar player.

At its core, this deal comes down to each team swapping their best player for the other’s. Leonard gets out of San Antonio, to a team whose core won 59 games in the East. DeRozan gets the benefit of fitting into a system with the best head coach in the league, on a very competitive roster.

Now, it remains to be seen how happy each player will be in their situations. Reports surfaced early Wednesday morning that both players were dissatisfied with the trade outcome. But, as we all know, winning cures everything.

On the Spurs’ front, it’s interesting how little they considered trade packages for future picks and quality role players. ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported San Antonio rebuffed offers from the Sixers and Celtics that were centered around future assets, in turn focusing their trade efforts on the likes of Ben Simmons, and the Celtics’ young core. Instead of landing a handful of assets or players that may not materialize until Popovich is gone, the Spurs reeled in a player who is a year removed from averaging 27 points per game. Oh, by the way, he’s also under contract for the next three seasons.

DeRozan keeps the Spurs relevant. Maybe he doesn’t help them beat the Golden State Warriors (in fact, he most certainly doesn’t), but he allows his new team the chance to win meaningful games in the postseason over the next three years.

From everything that’s been reported, there was no way Popovich was going to commit the final few years of his NBA life to a rebuild. With a man like that at the helm, and a star player like DeRozan under contract, who knows what other tricks San Antonio might have up its sleeve.

Up in Toronto, if the Raptors can convince Leonard to play this season, their core plus an upgrade on the wing might finally be enough to break through to the Finals. New head coach Nick Nurse suddenly has a player widely regarded as a top-five talent in the league on his roster to accompany a deep and talented core. Although, just like in San Antonio, Leonard might not add enough to the Raptors to dethrone the Warriors. However, he suddenly has a better supporting cast to try and give Golden State a run for its money.

Plus, given Toronto’s inability to get out of the East, a Finals appearance in its own right would be considered a success next season.

All around, maybe this wasn’t the deal we expected to get Leonard out of San Antonio, but digesting the move from all angles, it appears to be the most sensible.

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