The most consistent member of the Los Angeles Clippers this postseason is Reggie Jackson. In his tenth NBA season, the veteran guard’s gone from a backup eager for more responsibility to a franchise floor general, and now, he’s operating in his optimal role.
Jackson’s shouldering less of a burden than he was with the Detroit Pistons. Even in Kawhi Leonard’s absence, he has the luxury of playing off a potent perimeter scorer in Paul George, freeing him up to act as a lead guard who also makes a significant impact attacking off the catch.
Jackson is the Clippers’ third-leading scorer this postseason, averaging 18.1 points per game while making 49.2 percent of the 13.3 shots he’s taking from the field. He’s also dialed in from distance, draining 41.5 percent of the 7.5 threes he’s hoisting, and according to NBA.com, he’s shooting 47 percent on 4.6 catch and shoot three-point attempts per game. The former Boston College Eagle is a threat to score from all three levels. Whether stepping into open space centers cede to protect the rim, taking circuitous routes coming off screens or using a simple side-step, Jackson is excellent at creating clean looks from the mid-range, an area he’s shooting 60 percent from in the postseason, per NBA.com. Jackson’s 6-foot-2, but he has a 7-foot wingspan, which he pairs with the necessary strength to shield off defenders when he drives to the cup.
After averaging 15.4 points and 2.7 assists per game in the Clippers’ opening-round matchup with the Dallas Mavericks, Jackson upped his production in both departments in Los Angeles’ series against the Utah Jazz, generating 18 points per game and four assists, elevating his performance in Leonard’s absence. Through five games in the Western Conference Finals, he’s again raised his scoring output. Jackson’s producing 21.8 points per contest, but he’s dishing out fewer dimes (2.8). Unless Leonard returns, for Los Angeles to get to the Finals, it may require him continuing to score 20 or more points per game while once again facilitating at least four assists per contest.
Even if that doesn’t happen, or it proves not to be enough to help propel the Clippers to their first NBA Finals appearance, Jackson has earned himself a significant payday this summer. Last season, after he got bought out of his contract by the Pistons, he joined the Clippers, signing for the veteran minimum in the middle of the 2019-20 campaign. Unfortunately for him and his new team, it wasn’t a smooth transition. Jackson averaged 9.5 points and 3.2 assists in 17 regular-season contests, and in 12 playoff games, he only produced 4.9 points and less than an assist per game. As a result, he returned to a Los Angeles team hamstrung against the cap. Despite the capability to give him a 20 percent raise last offseason, he signed for less of a pay bump, going from a deal paying him just over $734 thousand to making $2.3 million while counting $1.6 million against the Clippers’ cap this season.
Ideally, Jackson re-signs with the Clippers this offseason. As mentioned earlier, he’s thriving in the role he’s best-suited for, playing on a team capable of competing for the Larry O’Brien Trophy, and he’s doing so alongside a close friend of his in Paul George. The two of them have discussed the idea of teaming up since Jackson was with the Pistons and George was a member of the Indiana Pacers. However, given the Clippers’ cap constraints, even with Jackson’s Early Bird Rights increasing what they can offer him to slightly north of $10 million, he’ll likely receive richer offers than that. He may decide that for the reasons above, he’ll take less than market value to stay in his current situation, but since the Clippers have to rely on using an exception to keep Jackson as opposed to signing him into cap space, there isn’t much they can do to raise their offer. Even though Luke Kennard’s four-year, $64 million contract extension, which has him on the Clippers’ books for $12.7 million next season, isn’t the only roadblock to signing Jackson into cap space — while preserving the mid-level exception — it makes that decision look worse.
If Jackson opts to sign elsewhere, at least in large part due to another team’s ability to make a more lucrative offer, the New York Knicks, Miami HEAT and the Mavericks are the potential suitors who make the most sense. Dallas saw firsthand this postseason how effectively the versatile scoring threat can play alongside a bona fide top option. Adding someone who can generate offense is a pressing need for the Mavericks. The Knicks and the HEAT are hoping to land high-profile players this offseason, such as Damian Lillard and Kyle Lowry, but if that doesn’t work out for them, at the right price, Jackson would be a nice consolation prize.
It’s rare to go from playing for the veteran minimum to having offers that will presumably exceed the value of the non-taxpayer mid-level exception. However, Jackson, who has scored the eighth-most total points in the NBA playoffs this year and has made more threes than anyone else in the postseason, has set himself up to accomplish that feat.
Mike D’Antoni to step away as Nets assistant coach
On Wednesday evening, the Brooklyn Nets organization announced that assistant coach Mike D’Antoni would not be returning to Steve Nash’s coaching staff for the 2021-22 NBA season. Coach D’Antoni is deciding to step down from his position after one season spent with the organization. The reason D’Antoni is deciding to leave the team is unknown. In late June, D’Antoni met with the Portland Trail Blazers for the vacant head-coaching position; he was interviewed twice.
From ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the 70-year-old veteran coach is still seeking to pursue another job as head coach. Coach Nash commented on the story stating, “I will forever be grateful for his guidance and will carry on a lifetime of lessons from the many years we’ve spent together. Our players and staff all benefited from this time in Brooklyn and we wish Mike, Laurel, and their family the very best in what lies ahead.” This news has personally shocked Nash, considering their history together.
Brooklyn Nets assistant Mike D’Antoni is stepping away from a full-time coaching role on Steve Nash’s staff, sources tell ESPN. D’Antoni is expected to pursue head coaching jobs again in the future. He was a finalist for the Portland opening this year.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 28, 2021
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) July 28, 2021
In his 16-year NBA head coaching career, D’Antoni’s W-L record is 718-555 (.564). Despite never winning an NBA championship, D’Antoni won the 2005 Coach of the Year award with the Phoenix Suns when Nash was his star point guard, and he won his second award while coaching the Houston Rockets in 2017. The 2004-05 Suns finished 62-20 (.756), ranking first in the Pacific Division and first overall in the Western Conference. However, the Suns went on to lose four games to one against the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals.
The 2017-18 Rockets ended their season 65-17 (.793), ranking first in the Southwest Division and first in the Western Conference Finals. Though, once again, D’Antoni’s team came up short, losing in Game 7 versus the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. Coach D’Antoni was also the NBA All-Star Game head coach in 2007 and 2018. Moreover, the Nets lost another assistant coach this offseason after the Boston Celtics hired Ime Udoka to become their next head coach. On July 9, 2021, the Nets hired former Trail Blazers assistant coach David Vanterpool to their coaching staff.
NBA Draft: Déjà Vu in Detroit
Tomorrow night the Detroit Pistons will make the first overall selection in the NBA Draft for just the second time in team history. They selected a Hall of Famer with that pick 51 years ago. Chad Smith details why it might happen again, this time with a player that resembles a guy that was once the face of their franchise.
It has been 18 years since the Detroit Pistons had a top-three pick in the NBA Draft. Unfortunately, it was arguably the worst selection in the history of the event as they took Darko Milicic second overall ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. It was a night that everyone in Detroit would love to forget, and now they might be able to do just that.
Detroit will kick off the 2021 NBA Draft on Thursday night in what has been labeled as a loaded draft class, especially at the top. The last time the Pistons had the top overall pick, they did well by selecting Hall of Fame center Bob Lanier out of St. Bonaventure in the 1970 draft. The organization is hopeful that history will repeat itself.
Cade Cunningham is the consensus number one pick this year, which speaks volumes when considering the other candidates. While Detroit has not publicly hinted that they will take Cunningham, it would be an absolute shocker if he does not end up in the Motor City. It is a place that Cunningham has already grown fond of.
Cade Cunningham on his impressions of the city of Detroit pic.twitter.com/jIXItQYGx7
— Rod Beard (@detnewsRodBeard) July 23, 2021
Should things go according to plan on Thursday night, there could be some déjà vu in Detroit. Aside from the Darko debacle, the last top-three selection by the franchise came in 1994 when they took Grant Hill out of Duke. The physical attributes are quite clear. Both players are listed at 6’ 8” tall and around 220 pounds. Just as their build is the same, so too is their demeanor on and off of the court.
Both Cunningham and Hill have similar playing styles and share many of the same strengths and weaknesses. They have incredible vision and passing ability that allows them to create for teammates. They use their size and strength against smaller defenders near the basket and are incredibly versatile with the ball in their hands. They are able to initiate offense from anywhere on the floor and have a complete all-around game that includes defense.
Cade Cunningham projects as a mid-post killer due to his size, footwork & touch inside of 15 feet. Really effective with his face-up shimmy, can get to jump hooks with either hand and has the makings of a turnaround game. More on Cunningham's go-to moves. https://t.co/dptqk6czxG pic.twitter.com/uiK7LQyNlo
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) July 24, 2021
Hill recorded 29 triple-doubles in his career. That is something that Detroit hopes to get out of the 19-year old playmaker. Unlike many situations where the top overall pick finds himself on a team lacking talent, the Pistons have done a marvelous job of transforming their roster under Troy Weaver. Most of their core is already under contract for next season and will be earning less than $6 million.
Cunningham will join Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee, as well as two All-Rookies in Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart. With Killian Hayes missing much of his rookie season due to injury, the Pistons have plenty of talent surrounding their new floor general. With some more talent and veteran leadership possibly coming onboard during free agency, Detroit should be able to return to the postseason next year.
As gifted as Cunningham is, he is not the most explosive athlete for his size. He won’t blow by defenders on the perimeter or leap over them for a highlight dunk, but that doesn’t stop him from attacking the basket. Like Hill, he has shown the ability to either create for teammates, create for himself, or simply finish at the rim. He makes the right reads against traps and hard hedges, making him even more difficult to defend.
The versatility is on full display whether it be on offense or defense. Cunningham’s seven-foot wingspan adds another element to his game as a physical defender with active hands. His high basketball IQ allows him to capitalize on filling passing lanes and his timing on shot-blocking. His improved jump shot has also elevated him as a true dynamic threat, scoring from all three levels.
Cade Cunningham is the most complete basketball player that I can remember coming into the draft. pic.twitter.com/lZpkwsbimk
— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) July 28, 2021
As a Freshman at Oklahoma State, Cunningham averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.6 steals per game while shooting 44 percent from the floor. He plays under control and never looks rushed or uncomfortable. It may take him some time to adjust to the NBA game but he has all of the tools and attributes you would want a top prospect to possess.
The fit in Detroit is tailor-made for the versatile guard. Cunningham can do a little bit of everything and elevates the play of his teammates. Whether he is facilitating, scoring, or playing off the ball, his impact on the court is significant. Despite not being an elite athlete, he can initiate the offense and get his own shot when needed.
Detroit clearly lacked guard play last season, with Hayes out of the lineup. They relied upon Grant and Plumlee to fuel their offense, with the rookies filling in at times. With the addition of Cunningham and the return of Hayes, the Pistons will have a sensational young backcourt to go along with their already established frontcourt.
There is also the potential for Detroit to have one of the most improved defenses in the conference. With their length and athleticism, this young core fits right in with the culture of a blue-collar team built around defense. Much of their success will ride on the shoulders of Dwane Casey, as he returns for his fourth season in Detroit.
Both Hill and Cunningham are from Texas and their birth dates are just ten days apart. Hill spent his first six seasons in Detroit, where he enjoyed the prime years of his playing career that included the Rookie of the Year Award. Five of his seven All-Star seasons came as a member of the Pistons and he was often seen as the next great superstar.
While injuries derailed his career, Hill’s journey ended with a trip to the Hall of Fame. While it is too early to put those expectations on a 19-year old, it is safe to say that the Pistons are in good hands for many years to come.
Team Argentina vs. Spain – Preview, Prediction, & Betting Picks
On Thursday, July 29th at 8:00 a.m. (EST), Argentina will take on Spain in this Group C preliminary round matchup. The Spaniards will enter this game as the selected favorites, while the Argentinians embrace their underdog role, as they lost their opening game 118-100 against Mavericks’ guard Luka Doncic and the Slovenian team. The last time Spain won the gold medal for the men’s team was at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, where they defeated Argentina 95-75.
Date & Time: Thursday, July 29th at 8:00 a.m. (EST)
Location: Saitama Super Arena; Saitama, Japan
Availability: Peacock (live) & NBC Sports Network (delayed)
Spread: Spain -8.5 (+100) (per DraftKings Sportsbook)
Best Moneyline: Spain -400, Argentina +300
- Table odds retrieved from DraftKings
Argentina vs. Spain Preview
Team Argentina’s starting lineup in Thursday morning’s game consists of Facundo Campazzo, Luca Vildoza, Patricio Garino, Luis Scola, and Marcos Delia. In the team’s 118-100 defeat versus Slovenia, in 27 minutes played, forward Scola led the team on the stat sheet, accumulating 23 points, four rebounds, one assist, and one block. Guard Campazzo also earned 21 points, six rebounds, four assists, and three steals. According to Bovada’s Olympic futures odds, the Argentinians have the eighth best odds to win the gold medal, with +8000 futures odds. Argentina has the third best odds (+2000) of winning Group C.Argentina vs. Spain Preview
Moreover, the starting lineup for Spain consists of Ricky Rubio, Rudy Fernandez, Juan Hernangomez, Victor Claver, and Marc Gasol. Their bench also includes two-time NBA champion center Pau Gasol. In the Spaniards’ 88-77 victory over Japan, Rubio led the team all across the board, leading the team with 20 points, two rebounds, and nine assists. Forward Claver finished his performance with 13 points, nine rebounds, and one steal. Additionally, with +1000 futures odds, Spain has the fifth best odds of winning the gold. Spain has the second best odds (EVEN) of winning Group C.
Prediction: Spain wins by 8 points
Team Spain are the more trustworthy, superior bet in this matchup. Pau Gasol, the seven-foot-one six-time NBA All-Star, is 41-years-old. Marc, his brother, is also 36. Leading into the Tokyo Olympic Games, basketball experts and bettors were wondering if age would be a significant factor for the Spaniards. However, thus far, it has been quite the contrary. Ricky Rubio has also proven to be an important piece for helping the team to become legitimate title contenders. In the 2020-21 NBA season, Rubio averaged 8.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 6.4 assists.
As for Argentina, Scola and Campazzo are carrying the team right now. In their 18-point loss to Slovenia, the Argentinians shot 5-for-31 (16.1 percent) from beyond the arc. To add insult to injury, the team was out-rebounded 59 to 32 overall. This cannot happen against the top contenders, such as versus Slovenia, France, Spain, or the USA. Sooner or later, the wheels on the wagon will eventually fall off. There are bettors giving Spain a -12.5 point spread in this matchup, but it might be best to stick with the -8.5 spread, first provided by DraftKings. In this game, some bettors are anticipating a 20-point blowout repeat of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Final.
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