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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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Defensive Player Of The Year Watch – 11/17/17

Spencer Davies updates the list of names to keep an eye on and who’s in contention for DPOY.

Spencer Davies



We’re exactly one month into the season now, as the NBA standings have started to take shape headed into winter.

A couple of weeks ago, Basketball Insiders released its first Defensive Player of the Year Watch article to go in-depth on players that could compete for the prestigious award. Since then, there have been injuries keeping most of the household names out of the picture.

Guys like Rudy Gobert (knee) and Al-Farouq Aminu (ankle) have been or will be sidelined for weeks. Kawhi Leonard has yet to make his season debut recovering from a bothersome right quad.

While that isn’t the best news for fans and the league at the moment, it’s likely that those players will be just fine and return with the same impact they’ve always made. In the meantime, there are opportunities for others to throw their names in the hat as elite defenders. With new names and mainstays, here’s a look at six healthy candidates.

6) Joel Embiid

Trusting the Process in Philadelphia was worth the wait. As polished as the seven-footer is with the ball in his hands on offense, he might be even more dangerous as an interior defensive presence.

One of ten players in the NBA averaging at least a block and a steal per game, Embiid makes a world of a difference for in limiting opponents. Through 14 games, the Philadelphia 76ers are allowing just 96.4 points per 100 possessions with him playing. Furthering that, he’s the only one on the floor who dips the team’s defensive rating below 100 and has the second-highest Defensive Real Plus-Minus rating (3.03) in the NBA.

5) Kristaps Porzingis

Like Embiid, it’s been an incredible season for the one called The Unicorn. Before the season started, Porzingis stated it was a goal of his to accomplish three things—an All-Star game appearance, Most Improved Player, and Defensive Player of the Year.

So far, he’s on the right track. Outside of being the league’s third-highest scorer (28.9 points per game), the Latvian big man is hounding and deterring shot attempts nearly every time inside. According to SportVU data, Porzingis is allowing his opponents to only convert 35.1 percent of their attempts at the rim, which is the lowest by far among his peers seeing at least four tries per game. Oh, and when he’s off the floor, the Knicks have a 112.4 defensive rating, which is 9.3 more points per 100 possessions than with him on.

4) Nikola Jokic

At the beginning of the season, it looked like the same old story with the Denver Nuggets defense, but their intensity has stepped up on that end of the floor for the past couple of weeks. Playing next to new running mate Paul Millsap has taken some getting used to, but it seems like the two frontcourt partners have started to mesh well.

Though it might not have been the case a season ago, the Denver Nuggets are a net -12.4 per 100 possessions defensively without Jokic on the court as opposed to a team-best 100.1 defensive rating with him on. A huge knock on the Serbian sensation last year and before then was his inability to defend. He’s still got things to work on as a rim protector with his timing, but the progress is coming. He’s seventh in the league in total contested shots (168) and has been forcing turnovers like a madman. Averaging 1.6 steals per game, Jokic has recorded at least one takeaway in all but two games.

3) Draymond Green

In the first DPOY watch article, the Golden State Warriors had been better off defensively with Green sitting. That right there should tell you how much we can really put into data in small sample sizes. It’s changed dramatically since that point in time.

Without Green playing, the Golden State Warriors have a defensive rating of 105.4 as opposed to 98.4 on the same scale with him on the floor. His matchups are starting to grow weary of driving on him again, as he’s seen less than four attempts at the basket. Currently, in DRPM, he ranks eighth with a 2.60 rating.

2) Al Horford

The Boston Celtics are still the number one team in the NBA in defensive rating. Horford is still the straw that stirs the drink for Brad Stevens. If you didn’t see that watching that knockdown, drag-it-out game against the Warriors on Thursday, go back and watch it.

He has the highest net rating on the team among starters and is leading the team by altering shots and grabbing rebounds with aggressiveness we haven’t seen since he played for the Atlanta Hawks. Ranking fourth in Defensive Box Plus-Minus and in DRPM, Horford is continuing to make his presence felt.

1) DeMarcus Cousins

Dominance is the word to describe Cousins’ game. With a month-long absence of Gobert, he has a real chance to show fans and voters that his defensive side of him is no façade.

Next to his partner Anthony Davis, Boogie has kept up the physicality and technique of locking up assignments. The third and final member of this list averaging at least a block and steal per game, Cousins is at the top of the mountain in DRPM with a 3.13 rating.

The New Orleans Pelicans significantly benefit with him on the hardwood (102.3 DRTG) as opposed to him on the bench (112.7 DTRG). He’s one of six players in the league seeing more than six attempts at the rim, and he’s allowed the lowest success percentage among that group. He’s also contested 193 shots, which is the second-most in the NBA.

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Gregg Popovich Continues To Be The Gold Standard For Leadership

There are three guarantees in life: death, taxes and Gregg Popovich.

Moke Hamilton



There are three guarantees in life: death, taxes and the San Antonio Spurs.

Okay, let’s be honest, it’s probably not the first time that you’ve heard that one, but it also won’t be the last.

Behind the genius of Gregg Popovich, the Spurs have qualified for the NBA Playoffs 20 consecutive years. In hindsight, they appear to have been the only team to legitimately frighten the Golden State Warriors during their 16-1 playoff run last year, and this season, well, they’ve been the same old Spurs.

That’s been especially amazing considering the fact that the team has been without Kawhi Leonard. Although Popovich recently said that Leonard would return “sooner rather than later,” he himself admitted to not being certain as to what that meant.

Best guess from here is that Leonard will return within the next few weeks, but at this point, it’s entirely fair to wonder whether or not it even matters.

Of course, the Spurs don’t stand much of a chance to win the Western Conference without Leonard thriving at or near 100 percent, but even without him, the Spurs look every bit like a playoff team, and in the Western Conference, that’s fairly remarkable.

“A team just has to play in a sense like he doesn’t exist,” Popovich was quoted as saying by Tom Osborn of the San Antonio Express-News.

“Nobody cares if you lost a good player, right? Everybody wants to whip you. So it doesn’t do much good to do the poor me thing or to keep wondering when he is going to be back or what are we going to do. We have to play now, and other people have to take up those minutes and we have to figure out who to go to when in a different way, and you just move on.”

In a nutshell, that’s Popovich.

What most people don’t understand about Popovich is what makes him a truly great coach is his humility. He is never afraid to second-guess himself and reconsider the way that he’s accustomed to doing things. Since he’s been the head coach of the Spurs, he’s built and rebuilt offenses around not only different players, but also different philosophies.

From the inside-out attack that was his bread and butter with David Robinson and Tim Duncan to the motion and movement system that he built around Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, the latest incarnation of Popovich’s genius isn’t only the fact that he has survived without Kawhi Leonard, it’s what could fairly be considered the major catalyst of it.

There are many head coaches around the league that take their roles as authority figures quite seriously, and that’s why a fair number would have been threatened by one of their star players requesting that things be rebuilt in a way to maximize his potential.

So when LaMarcus Aldridge proactively sat down with his coach to discuss the ways that he felt he was being misused in the team’s schemes, it wouldn’t have come as a shock for Popovich to meet him with resistance.

Instead, he did the opposite.

“We have talked about what we can do to make him more comfortable, and to make our team better,” Popovich acknowledged during Spurs training camp.

“But having said that, I think we are mostly talking about offense. Defense, he was fantastic for us. Now, we have got to help him a little bit more so that he is comfortable in his own space offensively, and I haven’t done a very good job of that.”

Just 11 days after those comments were printed, the Spurs announced that they had signed Aldridge to a three-year, $72 million extension.

Considering that Aldridge’s first two years as a member of the Spurs yielded some poor efforts and relatively low output, the extension seemed curious and was met with ridicule.

Yet, one month later and 15 games into the season, the Spurs sit at 9-6. They’ve survived the absence of Kawhi Leonard and the loss of Jonathon Simmons.

Behind an offensive system tweaked to take advantage of his gifts, in the early goings, Aldridge is averaging 22 points per game, a far cry above the 17.7 points per game he averaged during his first two years in San Antonio.


I think not.

Death, taxes and the Spurs.

So long as Gregg Popovich is at the helm, exhibiting strong leadership while remaining amazingly humble, the Spurs will be the Spurs.

Sure, Kawhi Leonard will be back—at some point.

But until then, the Spurs will be just fine.

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NBA AM: Atlanta’s Dewayne Dedmon Is Letting Shots — And Jokes — Fly

Dewayne Dedmon’s emergence has been an unexpected positive for the rebuilding Atlanta Hawks.

Buddy Grizzard



It’s been a brutal season for the Atlanta Hawks, they’re just already 3-12 with the worst record in the Eastern Conference.

Wednesday’s franchise-record 46-point win over the visiting Sacramento Kings was a rare chance for Atlanta to have a laugh in the postgame locker room and reflect on things that have gone well, including hot shooting for the team and a potential breakout season for center Dewayne Dedmon.

The Hawks trail only the Golden State Warriors in three-point shooting at just over 40 percent. Prior to joining the Hawks, Dedmon had attempted only one three-pointer in 224 career games. As a Hawk, though, Dedmon is shooting 42 percent on 19 attempts. Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer explained after Wednesday’s game how his staff decided to encourage Dedmon to extend his range.

“You do your research and you talk to friends around the league, you talk to people who have worked with him and you watch him during warmups,” said Budenholzer. “We had a belief, an idea, that he could shoot, he could make shots. We’re kind of always pushing that envelope with the three-point line. He’s embraced it.”

Dedmon is currently averaging career-highs in points, rebounds, blocks and minutes, and set season-highs in points (20), rebounds (14) and assists (five) against the Kings. He’s also brought an offbeat sense of humor that has helped keep the locker room loose despite the struggles. It became apparent early on that Dedmon was a different type of dude.

At Media Day, when nobody approached Dedmon’s table and reporters instead flocked to interview rookie John Collins at the next table, Dedmon joined the scrum, holding his phone out as if to capture a few quotes.

“This guy’s going to be a character,” said a passing Hawks staffer.

Those words proved prophetic, as Coach Bud confirmed after Wednesday’s win.

“He brings a lot of personality to our team, really from almost the day he got here,” said Budenholzer. “I think he’s getting more and more comfortable and can help the young guys and help everybody.”

Dedmon took an unconventional path to the NBA. Growing up, his mother — a Jehovah’s Witness — forbade him to play organized sports. Once he turned 18, Dedmon began making his own decisions. He walked on to the team at Antelope Valley College, a two-year school in Lancaster, Ca., before transferring to USC and eventually making it to the league.

His personality, which formed while Dedmon forged his own path, shone through in the locker room after the Sacramento win. Asked about conversations he’s had with Budenholzer about shot selection, Dedmon turned to teammate Kent Bazemore at the adjacent locker.

“What’s the phrase, Baze? LTMF?”

“Yep,” Bazemore replied.

“Yeah, LTMF,” Dedmon continued. “Let it fly. So he told me to shoot … let it go. I’m not going to say what the M means.”

Amidst laughter from the assembled media, he explained that ‘LTMF’ is Budenholzer’s philosophy for the whole team, not just part of an effort to expand Dedmon’s game.

“Everybody has the same freedom,” said Dedmon. “So it definitely gives everybody confidence to shoot their shots when they’re open and just play basketball.”

With the injury bug thus far robbing Atlanta of its stated ambition to overachieve this season, Dedmon’s career year and team success from three-point range are two big positives.

Rebuilding or retooling can be a painful process. But with a unique personality like Dedmon helping keep things light in the locker room, Atlanta should make it through.

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