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Who Needs a Change of Scenery?

Which Eastern Conference players need a change in scenery? David Yapkowitz breaks it down.

David Yapkowitz

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When it comes time for teams to address their roster concerns in the offseason, one of the first things to consider is whether any players need a change of scenery. Maybe a free agent signing or midseason trade acquisition didn’t pan out. Perhaps an older veteran or two is not in the team’s plan for the future. Whatever the reason is, teams usually do what they can to accommodate those players.

Here’s a look at some of the biggest names in the Eastern Conference that should be looking to move on from their current teams.

Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks

Perhaps the biggest name in desperate need of a new home is Carmelo Anthony. There was chatter at the trade deadline about moving Anthony, but the Knicks decided to hold on to him and possibly revisit trade scenarios in the summer. Anthony has a no-trade clause in his contract, so he must approve any potential trade. But after six and a half seasons, it is time for the Knicks and Anthony to part ways. Anthony can use a player option to become a free agent at the end of next season, but both the Knicks and Anthony should make finding him a new team a priority this summer.

With Kristaps Porzingis in place and another top lottery pick coming the Knicks’ way, Anthony just doesn’t fit in the team’s rebuilding plans. His season averages of 22.7 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists are right around his career averages, so he still has All-Star level basketball left in him. He shouldn’t waste what high-level years he has left on a team that is moving into the rebuilding phase. He can be the missing piece that a team needs to put them over the top and become a real contender for a title.

Derrick Rose, New York Knicks

Also needing a new destination is Anthony’s teammate, Derrick Rose. Rose will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, so he’ll have a bit of an easier time figuring out where he’ll play next. The Knicks had aspirations of making it back to the playoffs and making some noise when they traded for Rose and signed Joakim Noah. For many reasons, it just didn’t work out and Rose should seriously consider leaving the Knicks.

Rose has actually stayed healthy for the most part this season. His averages of 18 points per game, 3.8 rebounds and 4.4 assists are not too far off his career averages. His 47.1 percent shooting from the field is the third-highest for his career. He can still be a serviceable player for a playoff team.

His starting days, however, might be nearing an end and should he go to a team that is looking to make a deep playoff run, he may need to reinvent himself as a sixth man type of scorer off the bench. At any rate, he also has enough left in the tank to be a difference-maker for teams in need of some added scoring punch. Rose is only 28 years old and should have a few more productive seasons left should he be able to remain healthy.

Paul George, Indiana Pacers

Another big name that could change teams this summer is Paul George. George, like Anthony, has the option to terminate his contract at the end of next season. George’s name was also mentioned at the trade deadline, but nothing materialized. The Pacers have been a big disappointment this season. Following an offseason that saw them add Al Jefferson, Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young, they sit in eighth place in the East and are in danger of missing the playoffs altogether.

Statistically, George is having one of the best seasons of his career. His 22.8 points per game are the second-highest for his career as is his 45.2 percent shooting from the field. He remains one of the best two-way players in the league and has shown no lasting effects from the injury that forced him to miss most of the 2014-15 season. At 26 years old, he is in the prime of his career.

If the Pacers keep him heading into next season, and they show no noticeable improvement, it is likely he will exercise his option. Barring any major moves that catapult Indiana near the top of the East, it would be wise for both sides to push for finding George a new home in the summer.

Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls

It seems there is no shortage of talented perimeter players who need new homes in the East, and Jimmy Butler is next on the list. Butler’s name was also tossed around at the trade deadline but like with Anthony and George, nothing happened. The Bulls are stuck in no man’s land right now. They started the season looking to make a run in the playoffs, but have since looked more like a team ready to hit the reset button. That leaves Butler in an interesting situation. He could either be part of a potentially long rebuild while in the prime of his career, or the Bulls could elect to move him this summer and allow him to go to a team with postseason aspirations.

Butler is averaging career highs across the board in points (23.5), rebounds (6.2) and assists (5.5). Like George, he is in the prime of his career and among the best in the league when it comes to two-way players. His current contract runs through the 2018-19 season, at which point he can use his player option to become a free agent.

As it stands, the Bulls are still alive in the East’s playoff race and if they end up making the playoffs, it will no doubt be because of Butler’s brilliance. But even if they do get there as a low seed, do they have the chance to actually pull off an upset? That’s what Butler has to ask himself, and ultimately this summer the Bulls should make moving Butler a priority. He, like George and Anthony, can also put a team over the top.

Dwyane Wade, Chicago Bulls

Butler isn’t the only Bull who should change teams in the offseason. His teammate Dwyane Wade needs to consider it as well. The duo of Wade and Butler, along with the rest of talent the Bulls had looked good on paper, but the chemistry just hasn’t been there this season, which is why they are on the verge of missing the playoffs. With a trade deadline move that saw Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott shipped off to Oklahoma City, it should be obvious that the Bulls will be heading down the rebuild path sooner rather than later.

While Wade has shown flashes of the player he once was this season, his 18.3 points per game are his lowest since his rookie year. His 30.2 minutes per game, 3.9 assists and 43.4 percent shooting from the field are all career lows. He’s missed the last six games due to an elbow injury, and eight of the last 12 overall. It was the first time in 12 years that Wade was not named to the All-Star team.

That’s not to say that Wade doesn’t have anything left to offer a team. He’s a three-time champion and veteran leader. As he enters the twilight of his career, he can still be an important piece to a team that wants experience and leadership, as well as some scoring punch as they look to make a playoff run. He can opt out and become a free agent in the summer, and he should definitely do so and see what comes next.

Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks

Another potential free agent that should seriously consider going elsewhere is Paul Millsap. Millsap’s name also came up around the trade deadline but the Hawks decided to hang on to him. Atlanta is also in the dreaded no man’s land. A middle of the pack team that is not good enough to do anything in the playoffs, but not bad enough to take advantage of a top lottery pick.

Millsap, however, has been having one of the better seasons of his career. His 18.1 points per game and 3.8 assists per game are career highs. He was named to the All-Star team for the fourth consecutive year. He’s ready to win now as he’s in the last years of his prime. It’s just not clear whether he can do that in Atlanta.

Millsap has a player option this summer, which he should definitely exercise to test the free agent waters. At 32 years old, this is probably his last shot at securing a big, long term contract. And it’s obvious that he still has quite a bit of game left, his recent injury notwithstanding. He may end up re-signing in Atlanta, where he would continue to be the team’s best player and focal point of the offense. He owes it to himself though to test the market and see if there is a better opportunity for him than Atlanta can offer.

There are a couple of other somewhat high profile names that could potentially switch teams. However, these high-profile players have plenty of reason to consider making a move. Considering how much noise there was surrounding each of these players around the trade deadline, it wouldn’t be surprising to see some serious changes during the upcoming offseason.

 

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New Orleans Pelicans and Cliff Alexander Agree To Deal

Michael Scotto

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The New Orleans Pelicans and free agent forward Cliff Alexander have agreed to a one-year, non-guaranteed deal, a league source told Basketball Insiders.

The addition of Alexander will give New Orleans 20 players heading into training camp.

Alexander spent last season playing 40 combined games with the Erie Bayhawks and Long Island Nets in the G-League, where he averaged 15.8 points and 8.9 rebounds in 27.3 minutes per game. Alexander also shot 52 percent from the field and blocked one shot per game.

The 21-year-old forward was a McDonald’s All-American and won MVP of the Jordan Brand Classic in 2014 before attending Kansas University. Alexander played 28 games as a Jayhawk and averaged 7.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks in 17.6 minutes per game before declaring for the draft.

After going undrafted, Alexander played in eight games for Portland during the 2015-16 season and received a 10-day contract from the Brooklyn Nets in April.

For more information on the salary cap and roster situation for the New Orleans Pelicans, click here.

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Atlanta Hawks and John Jenkins Agree To Deal

Michael Scotto

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The Atlanta Hawks and free agent guard John Jenkins have agreed to a training camp deal, a league source told Basketball Insiders.

The addition of Jenkins will give Atlanta 20 players heading into training camp.

Jenkins drew interest from several other teams, including the Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks.

The 26-year-old guard began his career in Atlanta after the Hawks selected him 23rd overall out of Vanderbilt in the 2012 draft. For his career, Jenkins has averaged 5.1 points in 12.8 minutes per game while shooting 45 percent from the field overall and 36 percent from beyond the arc.

For more information on Atlanta’s salary cap and roster situation, click here.

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Golden State Warriors 2017-18 Season Preview

The Golden State Warriors remain the cream of the NBA crop, even after several franchises went all in this offseason. Can anyone really beat the Warriors in a seven-game series? We look at the Warriors in this final NBA season preview.

Basketball Insiders

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After losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2015-16 NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors were highly favored to win the 2016-17 championship with the offseason addition of Kevin Durant. In the Warriors’ third straight Finals match up with Cavaliers, Golden State, with plenty of help from Durant, over-matched Cleveland in last season’s NBA Finals. This year, with Durant taking a pay cut, the team did a masterful job of bringing back just about all of the key players from last year’s championship run. Now the team is primed to wreak havoc on the league once again.

FIVE GUYS THINK…

It’s almost comical at this point how the best team in basketball keeps getting better.

After adding Kevin Durant last summer, and then completely decimating the entire NBA, including LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, all the Golden State Warriors did was go out and add two players in Omri Casspi and Nick Young who almost perfectly fit their brand of “you’re not out-shooting us” basketball.

The powers of the NBA all shuffled around their rosters this season in hopes of trying to assemble some type of “anti-Warriors” remedy, and when it’s all said and done, those moves will be all for naught. Expect Golden State to ride their legendary roster to another NBA title.

1st place – Pacific Division

– Dennis Chambers

What do you need me to say about the Warriors that you don’t already know? Two of the best five players in the league are on the roster, as well as arguably the top defensive player in the league and a cast of reserves that fit perfectly with the superstars running the show. Even JaVale McGee is shooting three pointers now. The Warriors are unstoppable and in some ways even better than the team that won a championship a few months ago. It’s going to be a long season for every other team in the league. They’re all playing for second place.

1st Place – Pacific Division

– Joel Brigham

The road to the NBA Finals obviously goes through Oakland, especially after the club managed to re-sign JaVale McGee, Zaza Pachulia, Andre Iguodala, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. Nick Young will give the team some additional firepower, but they probably don’t even need it.

So long as these guys stay healthy, they’ll probably find their way to their fourth consecutive NBA Finals, and with the Clippers having lost Chris Paul, the Warriors should have a relatively easy time winning the Pacific Division for the fourth straight year.

I’m usually longer-winded than that, but I’m not sure much else needs to be said about the Warriors.

1st place – Pacific Division

– Moke Hamilton

At this point, what’s really left to say? The Warriors had arguably the best basketball team ever assembled last season, and that was while dealing with minor role concerns and dealing with Kevin Durant’s midseason injury. Then they went out and improved this offseason, adding the likes of Omri Casspi and Nick Young as perfect end-of-roster pieces. Combine that with what most would expect will be even better fit and chemistry across the roster this season, and the Warriors stand head and shoulders above the rest of the league even with several squads making big power moves to try and bridge the gap. Anything but a third title in four years will fail to do justice to the incredible, historical talent on this roster.

1st Place – Pacific Division

– Ben Dowsett

The best team in the NBA went out and retained key players and signed Omri Casspi and Nick Young to round out the roster. As has been the case for several years now, the Warriors enter the upcoming season with the most overall talent, improved chemistry, good health and every ingredient necessary to win an NBA championship. Several other contenders pulled off some impressive moves to try and bridge the gap between themselves and the Warriors, but Golden State still holds the advantage against every other team in the league. So long as the Warriors are playing up to their potential, or anywhere near it, the other contenders are out of luck. Unless the Warriors face some serious injuries this upcoming season or some internal discord, we should expect them to win their third championship in four seasons.

1st Place – Pacific Division

– Jesse Blancarte

TOP OF THE LIST

Top Offensive Player: Stephen Curry/Kevin Durant

Don’t knock me for not clearly choosing a single player here. The individual excellence of both Stephen Curry and Durant cannot be stated enough. While Curry’s statistics did take a bit of a step back from the year prior, he still led the way for the Warriors last season. Last year, Curry led the team in points per game (by a slim margin), three-pointers made, assists and usage percentage. Keep in mind, Durant was excellent but Curry still commanded the offense for the most part. However, Durant was right on Curry’s heels and in the playoffs actually slightly surpassed Curry in points per game. In addition, Durant remains as tough to cover one-on-one as anyone in the league. Regardless, both players are unbelievable individual talents and would easily be the top offensive player on just about any other team.

Top Defensive Player: Draymond Green

For the foreseeable future, Draymond Green has this category on lockdown for the Warriors. Green uses a combination of length, strength, timing and sneaky athleticism to smother his opponents. Green’s versatility allows him to guard a range of positions in the post and switch to guard guards and forwards on the wing effectively as well. His versatility is the lynchpin of the Warrior’s vaunted death line up that uses Green at center and brings Iguodala off the bench to close games. Last year’s Defensive Player of the Year race came down to Green and Utah center Rudy Gobert. In the end, Green’s versatility as well as his ability to guard the rim effectively made him the top choice in voters’ minds. Expect Green to be in the running for Defensive Player of the Year this upcoming season as well.

Top Playmaker: Stephen Curry

When the Warriors added Durant to the roster, many wondered, even for a team as unselfish as the Warriors, how would Stephen Curry and Durant manage to share the ball? That question was answered when Curry took a step back and allowed Durant’s individual offensive brilliance to shine. Curry’s points per game dropped (30.1 to 25.3) as did his usage percentage (32.0 to 29.2). Curry’s individual excellence continued regardless as he remained the Warriors’ top distributor (followed closely by Draymond Green). In addition, Curry garners so much attention that his simple presence on the court creates more room for teammates to operate. Curry’s ability to pull up from virtually anywhere on the court and willingness to make the extra pass to teammates makes him a nightmare to cover and the Warriors’ top playmaker.

Top Clutch Player: Kevin Durant/Stephen Curry

Once again, you could give this award to either of the Warrior’s two best offensive players. Curry dominates most of the advanced statistics when breaking down clutch play, defined as the last minutes of a game within 5 point or less, per nba.com. However, based on Durant’s size, length and ability to get off a shot in isolation, he makes for an excellent clutch player in just about any situation. Either is an extraordinary option and their play in crunch time continues to be critical to their championship fortunes.

The Unheralded Player: Klay Thompson

Klay Thompson is a phenomenal talent who does a number of things well. He’s an unbelievable three-point shooter and defends elite point guards to alleviate the pressure on Curry. For a team with two elite offensive players, having Thompson as your third option on offense is just unfair to the rest of the league. Thompson lights up the league with his ability to hit outside shots without needing to dominate the ball. Don’t just count on Thompson to score as he takes pride in his defense and his ability to lockdown on defense.

Best New Addition: Omri Casspi

Overall, the Warriors have had an unbelievable stretch of luck when it comes to injuries, which will hopefully rub off on Omri Casspi this season. With his length, versatility and the ability to stretch the floor, he can slide into either forward spot. His addition strengthens the team’s ability to survive the grind of the regular season and lessen the minutes of the starters. Casspi fills a lot of needs for several teams that are looking to challenge the Warriors, so simply keeping him away from those teams is an added benefit to his signing.

– James Blancarte

WHO WE LIKE

1. Steve Kerr

Steve Kerr continues to be the perfect coach for this team. He helps to keep the players focused on their individual roles within the larger team structure and has so far prevented major dissension and discord. Kerr took the team that Mark Jackson previously coached and helped to transform the team into champions. Credit is deserved for his part in successfully orchestrating the move of former All-Star Iguodala to a bench role and meshing Durant’s individual brilliance with the Warriors’ pre-existing, pass-happy offense. Kerr has missed significant time due to his botched spinal surgery, but if he can manage his health, count on Kerr to keep the Warriors a well-oiled machine.

2. Nick Young

Nick Young is a player that has had an up-and-down career. Credit Young for carving out a relatively successful career as a journeyman three-point shooting wing. Keeping Young focused and unlocking his full range of talents has been difficult for many organizations. The Warriors are up next and will give the 11th year pro an opportunity to do what he does best — knocking down three-pointers. As a career 37.6 percentage three-point shooter, Young will have a chance to get more open looks from distance than he has previously in his career. Like JaVale McGee, Young will also have a chance to transform his reputation if he proves to be a disciplined, effective contributor to a championship team.

3. Jordan Bell

What’s the perfect piece for a rebuilding team in need of young talent to build around? Jordan Bell, selected with the 38th pick in this year’s draft), is just that sort of player. The Warriors acquired the pick from the Chicago Bulls for cash consideration. The Bulls loss is the Warriors gain as hopes are high for the young talent from the University of Oregon. The Warriors will take their time with the 6-foot-9 forward and hope that he will build on and develop his defensive talents and one day be a reliable contributor for Golden State.

4. Shaun Livingston

Shaun Livingston is many years removed from the knee injury that nearly ended his professional career. While Livingston has played for nine teams in his career, he continues to be loyal to the Warriors, the team with which he has experienced the most success post-injury. Livingston continues to do whatever the team requires as he slides into either guard slot when needed and provides reliable production from the bench. Opposing backup point guards often get caught being posted up by the lengthy 6-foot-7 guard. Count Livingston as another essential cog who will do whatever it takes to help the Warriors win at all costs.

– James Blancarte

SALARY CAP 101

The Warriors are a major spender at $135.4 million in guaranteed salary, resulting in at least $32 million in luxury taxes. Golden State used its Taxpayer Mid-Level Exception to sign Nick Young at $5.2 million for a season. Having re-signed on one-year deals, Zaza Pachulia, David West and JaVale McGee can block any trades.

Before November, the Warriors need to decide on 2018-19 team options for Kevon Looney and Damian Jones. Next summer, Kevin Durant can opt out again but now the team has his Early Bird Rights and the ability to give him a raise in the $35 million range. The Warriors seem willing to pay for a winner but for how long as luxury taxes grow progressively as the team gradually becomes a repeat offender?

– Eric Pincus

STRENGTHS

This team continues to have everything you could want in a modern NBA team. An electric point guard who is nearly unstoppable, a 3-and-D wing with a killer three-point shot, an unstoppable one-on-one player who can score from anywhere, a dominant and flexible defensive forward who can play center and a defensive wing who is a great glue guy. That’s just the five players that are normally used to close out games. The rest of the roster has a number of key contributors ready to do whatever the team needs. Oh, and they also have a great coach to keep everyone on the same page. With all the pieces a team could want, expect the Warriors to again push a possible record-breaking pace in the regular season on their way to the playoffs and likely the Finals.

– James Blancarte

WEAKNESSES

The easiest answer here is none. Eventually the injury bug might hit the Warriors but for now they have everything they could want to continue their excellent play. Perhaps some players may lose a sense of urgency in the regular season after breaking records and dominating the last few seasons, though that seems unlikely. On paper, this team is not afflicted by any major weaknesses.

– James Blancarte

THE BURNING QUESTION

Can anyone stop the Warriors?

Other teams continue to make moves to get better. On September 23, the Oklahoma City Thunder traded agreed to terms on a deal to acquire Carmelo Anthony from the New York Knicks. With that move, count the Thunder, Houston Rockets, San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics and the Cavaliers as the biggest potential obstacles in the Warriors’ path to repeat. One of these teams may beat them, but the Warriors are the heavy favorites and the team most likely to win the championship next year.

– James Blancarte

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