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NBA AM: The All-Reserve All-Stars

Who have been the best bench players this season? Joel Brigham gives his All-Reserves Team.

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When it comes to postseason awards, all most people really care about is the race for Most Valuable Player. However, this year it really doesn’t look like much of a race at all considering how many games Golden State has won behind Stephen Curry’s insanely efficient and entertaining play.

There are, of course, other postseason awards that matter, including the Sixth Man of the Year Award, which has been doled out every season since 1982-83 to the players who have offered up the strongest performances as reserves for their respective teams. It’s a severely under-appreciated award because every true fan of the game knows how integral a strong bench is to winning games, particularly in the postseason. To have the best reserve in the league is a massive advantage over other teams in the NBA because it essentially allows for starter-quality production to continue even when the starters are getting a breather on the bench.

Part of the reason it’s so underrated as an accolade is because the men that get awarded the trophy tend not to be the most recognizable of names. Only two players (Bill Walton and Kevin McHale) ever earned this award and then later made it to the Hall of Fame, while several players on the list never even were named to an All-Star team.

They deserve an All-Star team of their own, though, which appears below. The following is a list of the best reserves at each position in the NBA including, ironically enough, a sixth man, just to keep with the spirit of the thing. One of these players likely will win the actual Sixth Man Award later this spring, but for now it feels like enough just to recognize those players that contribute the most to their current teams despite not being regular starters.

This is the 2015-2016 All-Reserve All-Star Team:

G – Jeremy Lin, Charlotte Hornets – The years following the Linsanity breakthrough in New York have been at times rather trying for Jeremy Lin, but he looks like he’s finally found a bit of comfort on this blossoming Hornets team playing behind Kemba Walker. In 26 minutes a night, Lin is averaging 11.4 PPG and 3.0 APG, while turning the ball over only 1.8 times per game. Ever since Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was declared injured for the season, Lin has stepped up considerably and really helped the Hornets establish themselves as what appears to be a sure-thing playoff team. That early-season Mohawk was the real MVP, though.

G – Jamal Crawford, L.A. Clippers – While it seems like Crawford injects himself into the conversation for the Sixth Man Award every year, the two-time winner of the award only continues to end up there because he deserves it. Even at age 35, Crawford is still filling up the stat sheet, and in the months of February and March, no reserve player in the NBA has scored more than Crawford’s 15.6 PPG, meaning he’s finishing off strong enough to once again earn himself consideration for the award that could someday be named after him, especially if he ends up winning a third one this year. No other player has ever done that.

F – Evan Turner, Boston Celtics – While his numbers probably aren’t massive enough to win big money consistently in nightly DraftKings contests, they haven’t been bad, either. In fact, his all-around averages of 9.9 PPG, 4.8 RPG and 4.5 APG are pretty well-rounded on a team with so many contributors, and he leads the league’s reserves in 10-point/5-assist/5-rebound games with ten this season. Also, no other reserve in the league has more assists than Turner, which is surprising considering he’s not a point guard. While scorers typically win Sixth Man of the Year, Turner deserves a spot on the All-Sixth-Man Team for his versatility. The points might not be there, but everything else sure is.

F – Will Barton, Denver Nuggets – For a good chunk of December and January, Barton was the trendy pick for Sixth Man of the Year, and really there’s little reason for those good vibes to dissipate considering he’s now the team’s leading active scorer despite his coming off the bench. His quick, athletic play has helped the Nuggets be a good running offensive team, and while Denver is 12 games under .500, they’re still a lot better than anybody thought they’d be, and Barton deserves considerable credit for that. As a sixth man, he’s been absolutely elite this year.

C – Enes Kanter, Oklahoma City Thunder – While the Thunder sure have received a lot of grief for giving Kanter what could have been James Harden’s money, there’s no denying the fact that the Turkish big man has been a considerable asset to that team since signing his big contract. He hasn’t started a single game, but is averaging 12.3 PPG and a team-leading 7.8 RPG, all in just 20.6 minutes per game. Kanter’s per-36-minute stats are All-Star caliber, and his team is one of only three or four that have any sort of real shot at winning the NBA title this year. Come playoff time, OKC will be glad they’ve got such a bruiser headlining their second unit.

6th Man – Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors – While his numbers aren’t staggering (7.3 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.4 APG), the reigning Finals MVP has a huge positive impact on his team when on the floor, particularly on the defensive end. The fact that he’s the key reserve for arguably the greatest regular-season team in the NBA earns him the honor of being the key reserve for arguably the greatest all-reserve team ever (hypothetically) assembled. The Warriors are a lot worse without this guy, which is what makes him so valuable, even if the stats aren’t as sexy as those put up by some other guys on this team.

Great NBA reserves are hard to come by, which is why the Sixth Man of the Year Award is so important. Not all of these guys can win that award, though, so as a consolation prize they get a spot on this All-Star team of reserves. It’s not much of a silver medal, but it’s better than nothing.

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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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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Team Argentina vs. Spain – Preview, Prediction, & Betting Picks

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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.

Game Details

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) 

Over/Under: 167

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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NBA releases schedule for Summer League 2021

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On Wednesday, the NBA announced the broadcast schedule for the MGM Resorts NBA Summer League 2021. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NBA had to cancel the Las Vegas Summer League last year in 2020. Fast forward to today, the 17th annual NBA Summer League will air live this year in Las Vegas, Nevada from August 8-17. During the 10-day tournament, the 75 total games will be broadcasted on these network channels: NBA TV, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, and ESPNews.

Plus, the games can be watched live with the ESPN app. WatchESPN is free, but according to ESPN.com, the user must be a subscriber of a major cable service, such as AT&T U-Verse, BendBroadband, or Xfinity. Anyways, through the NBA.com website, tickets can be bought via the NBA Events section of the site. Each of the 30 NBA teams will play a total of five games over the course of the short, competitive tournament.

The Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion stadiums will host six to eight games per day. According to the 2021 schedule, for games 17-22 on Tuesday, August 10th, only six games will be played this day. The 75th game of the competition, the final matchup, will be the championship game. The 28 teams that fail to qualify for the championship game will play their fifth and final game on either August 16th or 17th. The title game is scheduled for Tuesday, August 17th at 9:00 p.m. (EST) on ESPN.

The Summer League 2021 tips off with a matchup between the Boston Celtics and Atlanta Hawks at the Cox Pavilion. This game is scheduled for Sunday, August 8th at 1:00 p.m. (EST) on NBA TV. The first four teams selecting in the 2021 NBA Draft will also be playing on this day: Detroit Pistons (No. 1 pick), Houston Rockets (No. 2 pick), Cleveland Cavaliers (No. 3 pick), and the Toronto Raptors (No. 4 pick). At the Thomas & Mack Center, the Raptors vs. Knicks game is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. (EST) on ESPN2. Then, the Trail Blazers will face the Hornet at 6:00 p.m. (EST) on NBA TV.

For the opening game on the second day, the Pelicans will play the Bulls at 3:00 p.m. (EST) on ESPN2, followed by the Mavericks versus 76ers at 4:00 p.m. (EST) on NBA TV. There are several different games viewers can choose to watch over this 10-day span. Brandon Clarke was the most recent player to win the Las Vegas MVP award, in the Summer League of 2019. Clarke was drafted 21st overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2019 NBA Draft.

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