We’re just about one-quarter of the way through the NBA season, and yet the fate of the Phoenix Suns has already been decided.
At 4-20 and having suffered an embarrassing blowout loss to the now-decent Sacramento Kings on Tuesday, the Suns are entering another inevitable bottom finish.
It’s not that they are off to yet another bad start. It’s that everyone who is ahead of them at the moment is in a dogfight for a playoff spot (click here for the best basketball odds available online), and are all at minimum seven games ahead of the Suns in the standings.
There may be optimists for out there for the Suns with a relentless “Never say die!” mindset, but this tweet from Marc Stein yesterday would imply that Phoenix is waving the white flag already.
The Suns' Trevor Ariza is seen by rival teams at the top of the list of players who will be made available via trade after Dec. 15, league sources say
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) December 4, 2018
A guy like Trevor Ariza would attract pretty much every team in the NBA. Though his numbers may have taken a hit – 9.9 points a game on 37 percent from the field including 35.7 percent from three – Ariza is one of the clear-cut three-and-D wings in the NBA.
$15 million is an overpay for a guy like him, but since his contract expires after this season, it’s more than affordable. The real question is, is he going to leave Phoenix by trade or by buyout?
When Ariza’s trade restriction expires, it will make for a fascinating race to see who gets Ariza, and how. Though the Suns appear to want to trade Ariza for some value, interested suitors seem to want a different outcome.
Ariza is on a one-year, $15 million deal with Phoenix. Interested teams have been hoping the Suns would just buy Ariza out like they did with Tyson Chandler, but they are expected to pursue trades to try to get at least one asset in return
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) December 4, 2018
Once Dec. 15 arrives, it’ll be intriguing to see who is willing to part with what to get about three-fourths of a rental of the 17-year swingman, and, if that doesn’t happen, it’ll be even more curious to see where Ariza decides to go if he winds up on the buyout market.
First, let’s start with the teams that could make a realistic trade for Ariza.
The Jimmy Butler trade has so far proven to be a success in Philly, as the team has gone 9-2 since he joined the team, making them 17-8 on the year.
While their three-point shooting has been quite well (they’ve shot 37.9 percent from distance since the deal), their defense has slipped. It rates 12th in the league with a 106.9 defensive rating. That’s above average, but Philly’s defense was rated fourth last year at 105. Their top competitors – Toronto, Milwaukee, Boston – all have top-notch talent on the wing, so they will need as much defensive help as they can get around the perimeter.
At 33, Ariza’s not the shutdown defender that Robert Covington is, but he still has enough juice left that he can be of service to Philly. Getting him would give the Sixers’ fantastic depth on the wing.
Philadelphia can offer Phoenix expiring contracts like Wilson Chandler and Mike Muscala, but the one asset they have that would knock Phoenix’s socks off would be Markelle Fultz. Fultz doesn’t fit in Philly’s timeline, but he would in Phoenix. The Suns are in the rebuilding phase and they need a point guard, so trading Ariza for him would be perfect for both sides.
Since Fultz is getting paid $8+ million, matching him along with other salaries with Ariza would be a sinch.
Los Angeles Lakers
Thanks to Tyson Chandler, the Lakers have really picked it up defensively in the past month, but their outside shooting is subpar at the moment. The need for Ariza stems primarily from their need for more three-point shooting.
The Lakers currently rank 20th in the NBA in three-point shooting, which has probably played a role in them being tied for the 15th highest rated offense in the league at 108 points per 100 possessions. Their best shooters from deep are Rajon Rondo (43 percent), Josh Hart (39.6 percent), LeBron James (36.6 percent) and Lance Stephenson of all people (36.7 percent). Everyone else in their rotation who regularly shoots from deep doesn’t shoot any better than 32 percent.
Both LeBron and Rondo thrive playing with guys who can spot up around the perimeter because of their elite playmaking abilities. Considering Ariza played with James Harden and Chris Paul last year, it’d be safe to assume that he would easily fit next to those two.
The Lakers aren’t trading any of their top young talents for Ariza, but Ivica Zubac could be in the mix. What the Lakers have to offer are plenty of one-year deals to trade: Stephenson, Michael Beasley and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. When Rondo returns, somebody’s minutes are going down. That somebody could be used in a trade for Ariza.
There’s no doubt that the Lakers are talented, but what steadied the team was a veteran presence who knew his role like Chandler. Getting another one like Ariza, who has championship experience as a Laker, could take them even further.
As odd as it sounds, acquiring a grizzled veteran might actually be the right move for the Kings right now. Sacramento currently has a winning product, as it is in the thick of a very intense playoff race with an impressive record – for them – at 12-11.
They’re on the opposite end of the spectrum from the Lakers. They are actually the best three-point shooting team in the league right now, as their three-point percentage is 38.8 led by Buddy Hield and Nemanja Bjelica. What they would need Ariza for is defense.
Sactown currently has the 20th-rated defense in the league. That isn’t terrible, but with how things are going with the Kings, improving their defensive personnel is a must since they’ve proven so far that they have what it takes to compete. Getting a player like Ariza could take them even further.
Troy Williams and Justin Jackson haven’t done a bad job as the backup wings, but Ariza brings experience that this team needs. The Kings’ vets in the rotation – Bjelica and Iman Shumpert – have done a solid job, so there’d be no hurt in adding another one.
The Kings have players out of the rotation who are expiring – Zach Randolph, Kosta Koufos, Ben McLemore – as well as young players who could use a fresh start like Skal Labissiere or Frank Mason III. The Kings aren’t a contender, but getting a guy like Ariza can help break their reputation as a joke franchise in the league.
It wouldn’t surprise this writer in the slightest if somebody else traded for Ariza. It’s just that these three teams have the most sensible packages on paper.
In the unlikely event that Ariza gets bought out, expect these teams to pursue him.
Houston – They have the 24th-rated defense at 111.7. They have the seventh lowest three-point percentage at 34.2. The Rockets were much better in both categories last season with much of it having to do with Ariza. They didn’t want to the guy to leave but they couldn’t top Phoenix’s offer. They’ll grab Ariza at the first opportunity he’s on the market.
Oklahoma City – Ariza would fit in like a glove since they have the highest-rated defense in the league at 100.5. What stops the Thunder from being a contender is their dreadful spacing, as they shoot just 31.1 percent from the field. Getting a trusted floor spacer like Trevor could do so much good for OKC.
New Orleans – They are in a very similar spot to Houston. They have the 26th-rated defense at 111.8, while ranking No. 19 in three-point percentage at 34.5. Ariza helps in both departments as well as helps them play more small-ball, which they could definitely use.
This season, we’ve seen teams who have made quick fixes with their severe issues. First, the Lakers added Chandler to improve their defense. Then, the Jazz added Kyle Korver to improve their three-point shooting.
With Trevor Ariza going on the market soon – which team will he be a quick fix for?
NBA Daily: Tacko Fall Out To Prove He’s More Than Tall
Most of the attention centered around Tacko Fall stems from his height, but after an impressive combine outing, he’s out to prove that there’s so much more to him.
Tacko Fall was one of the many participants who attended the NBA Draft Combine this past week in Chicago.
By so doing, the combine retrieved all of his official measurements as a player such as his height, weight, and wingspan among others. After the combine was over, Fall had the following measurements.
Height (without shoes): 7’5 ¼’’
Height (with shoes): 7’7″
Weight: 289 pounds
Wingspan: 8’2 ¼’’
Standing Reach: 10’2 ½”
Vertical Leap: 26.5″
Those measurements set many records at the combine. So, in case you didn’t know it before, growing has never exactly been an issue for Tacko Fall. Even though the findings that measured how freakishly tall Fall is shocked the masses, none of them really fazed the man himself as long as that meant he wasn’t going to grow anymore.
“I kind of already knew so I wasn’t really surprised,” Fall said. “I don’t think I’m going to keep growing. I think it’s just going to stay there. Hopefully. We’ll see.”
Fall’s physical advantages made him look like a man among boys in his four years at the University of Central Florida. The Senegal native averaged 2.4 blocks and 7.7 rebounds – in only 23 minutes per game – and put up a scorching field goal percentage of 74 percent over the four-year span of his college career. Basically, Fall’s good stats mainly come from his unrivaled length.
During his time at the combine, Fall believes that sticking to his guns and not doing things out of his comfort zone made him look good to spectators.
“I think I’m doing pretty good,” Fall said. “I’m holding my own. I’m not going out there doing anything out of character. I’m staying true to myself. I’m playing hard. I’m talking. I’m running hard. I’m doing everything that I need to do.”
Despite his towering presence, Fall is not expected to be a high selection in this year’s NBA Draft, if he is selected at all. Not many mock drafts at the time being list his name among those who will be taken, and the ones that do have him among one the last selections in the draft.
Some of his primary critiques as a player include his low assist-to-turnover ratio and his faulty shooting mechanics. The biggest one of them all is his lack of mobility. Being as tall as he is would make it hard for anyone to move around well enough to compete with NBA offenses that rely more on quickness and spacing now than it did on mass.
The concerns surrounding Tacko’s mobility were made loud and clear to him. That’s why he believed he had something to prove to the skeptics at the combine.
“For people my size that’s the biggest thing that they’re looking for,” Fall said. “‘Can he move?’ ‘Can he keep up with the game?’ ‘Can he run the floor?’ ‘Can he step out and guard?’ I feel like I have the ability to do those things. So, coming in here and having the opportunity to play against great competition and showing my abilities have been a great blessing for me.”
Before the combine, Fall’s stock benefited from his final performance as a college basketball player. Tacko and the ninth-seeded Knights fought the first-seeded Blue Devils until the very end but ultimately lost 77-76. Fall had much to do with UCF’s near-upset over Duke, putting up 15 points, six rebounds and three blocks in 25 minutes before fouling out.
That game did a lot for Tacko’s belief in himself as a player leading to the combine. Putting up that kind of stat line against one of the best college basketball programs with three top-10 prospects with so much on the line had to make him feel good about his chances. He said as much following his performance at the combine.
“That was definitely one of the best games in my college basketball career,” Fall said. “It helps build confidence. You go toe-to-toe with those people. You think, ‘Wow I can really do this.’ All you have to do is keep working and working and keep proving that you can step out there and compete every night.”
For some prospects, the NBA Combine is nothing more than just a formality. In fact, multiple prospects for this upcoming draft – including RJ Barrett, Rui Hachimura, and consensus No. 1 pick Zion Williamson – decided to skip out on it. For prospects who are on the bubble like Tacko, it’s a rare opportunity to show that there’s more to them than what they showed in college.
Fall recognized the importance of the occasion and voiced his appreciation for the chance he had to show everyone who attended what he can bring to a basketball court.
“It’s been a great experience,” Fall said. “I’m blessed to be here. I worked really hard. I thank God I’m in this position. I just got to take advantage of it.”
Tacko’s efforts impressed scouts and media members alike. There have been rumblings that his play at the combine has further increased his stock in the NBA Draft. Even with all the work he’s put in and the ambition he has to make it to the biggest stage, Fall is soaking it all in.
“I’m enjoying it because not a lot of people get the opportunity to come here,” Fall said. “I’ve worked really hard and God put me in this position. I’m just trying to enjoy it.”
NBA Daily: Bruno Fernando Is Ready To Take On The NBA
After his sophomore season at Maryland, Bruno Fernando is confident that he is ready to take on the NBA, writes James Blancarte.
The 2019 NBA Draft Lottery kicked off the draft season in a shocking way as numerous teams jumped into the top four due to the new draft structure. After the Lottery, it’s a bit easier to predict the order in which Zion Williamson, Ja Morant and R.J. Barrett will be selected. Who gets drafted after that, and in what order, is still very much unclear. There are some consensus players in the upper half of the first round. After that, things get very interesting.
Expect the mock draft boards to be all over the place as we move closer to this year’s draft, especially after going through the Combine. Many once less-heralded players show up to the Combine with eye-opening physical measurements, impress in workouts and scrimmages and demonstrate a level of professional polish, among other things.
Last year, after his Freshman season as Maryland, center Bruno Fernando participated in the draft process. Fernando did not sign with an agent and ultimately returned to Maryland where he continued to raise his profile. This year, Fernando again participated in the Combine and spoke with Basketball Insiders.
“I think what’s different this time around is just how much easier it’s gotten. For me, how much more comfortable I am. How much easier it is. Obviously, you know what to expect,” Fernando told Basketball Insiders. “I think just really being here and being around the guys on the team has been a completely different experience than I had last year. This year I know a lot more of the guys. I’ve been working out with a lot of different guys. I think it’s just been a much, much better experience.”
Starting all but one game his sophomore year, Fernando averaged 13.6 points, 10.6 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and two assists per game. These averages were a significant jump over his freshman year. Fernando uses an aggressive, mobile game at and around the basket to do his damage. After solidifying his game on the court, he felt comfortable enough signing with an agent and letting Maryland know he wouldn’t be returning for his junior year. Fernando is now confident about his positioning in the draft, which played a factor in his decision to not play in five-on-five scrimmages.
“Last year I was in a position where I didn’t really know where I stand as much. Last year I had to find out a lot of things coming into the combine,” Fernando said. “And this year I think I am in a position just by talking to my agent and my coaches where I feel like I’m in a position where I’m a lot comfortable compared to last year, in a much better place. Having that that feedback from teams really, my agent really felt like that was the best decision for me not to play five-on-five.”
Fernando’s offensive prowess and athletic upside have him looking like a solid first-round pick. According to the Basketball Insiders version 3.0 mock draft, Fernando is projected to go anywhere from 14th- 29th overall. Tommy Beer projects him to go 25th. Being drafted in the first-round, in general, portends a better career as teams find themselves with a greater financial stake in the player and accordingly will be pinning higher hopes for that prospect.
At 6-foot-10, Fernando projects as a low post threat with excellent handwork who can score with a variety of moves down low as well as a lob threat. Fernando also occasionally takes advantage of steal and breakaway opportunities to run the floor and score easy points with his ferocious dunking ability. He didn’t do much damage from distance, although his shooting stroke and mechanics make that part of his game a potential future weapon in his arsenal. Fernando addressed that very point.
“The part of my game that is unseen so far is my ability to space the floor. My ability to dribble the ball and put the ball on the floor, take guys off the dribble and my shooting ability,” Fernando told Basketball Insiders. “I really think my shooting ability is something that people don’t notice that I am able to shoot the ball. Just because of my situation in Maryland where I didn’t really take many shots. You know, I never really had to come outside and try to play outside. You know we had a lot of really good players on the perimeter. I think it’s really just a matter of me staying to true to myself, who I am and trying to win in the best way possible.”
Any team in need of a possible pick-and-roll threat who can score down low should keep an eye on Fernando. Whether a team believes that Fernando can also be successful as a stretch big is not as clear. Where Fernando ends up is still totally up in the air. Regardless, he’s grateful for the opportunity to be the first representative from his own home country of Angola to play in the NBA and made it clear that he has been hearing from other Angola natives.
“Sending a lot of love and positive energy, lot of words of encouragement for me and I think it is really special to get those text messages,” Fernando told Basketball Insiders. “Having people from home texting me every single day. Just knowing that a whole nation is behind me. I’m here fighting and sacrificing to make a dream come true, something that will not just benefit me but a whole nation.”
NBA Daily: Who Is Cam Reddish?
An underwhelming season at Duke casts a shadow over Cam Reddish, who oozes talent and potential. Shane Rhodes looks to answer the question: Who is Cam Reddish?
“I’m Cam Reddish.”
Cam Reddish gave the tongue-in-cheek response Thursday at the 2019 NBA Draft Combine when asked “who he is” as a basketball player.
But who is Reddish?
A former high school phenom, five-star recruit and projected top pick, Reddish was expected to flourish at Duke University under the watch of Mike Krzyzewski. When R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson later followed him to Durham, North Carolina, the three were expected to take the NCAA by storm.
Things didn’t quite go as planned.
While he is still a projected lottery pick, the jury is out on just who Reddish is and how his game will translate to the NBA. A dominant force in high school, the reserved 19-year-old took a backseat to Barrett and Williamson as the three tried but failed to capture a National Championship in their lone season together at Duke.
When compared to the sky-high expectations that were set for him, Reddish underwhelmed mightily as a Blue Devil, and that played a major part in their failure. Relegated to the role of a spot-up shooter and the third option on offense, Reddish averaged an okay, not good 13.5 points on just 12 attempts across 36 games. He managed a meager 35.6% from the field (33.3% from three) and dished out just 1.9 assists per game. When he had the ball, he often deferred to Barrett and Williamson, too often for some.
The focal point of his high school team at Westtown School, Reddish was lauded for the ability that made him a top recruit. He oozed (and still oozes) athleticism – Reddish, who weighed in at 208 pounds, was measured as 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot wingspan at the Combine – and is as versatile as they come. At Westtown, Reddish ran the point, while he spent most of his time at the two-guard or in the front-court at Duke. He was an aggressive, efficient scorer that had no problem getting what he wanted on the floor with the ball in his hands.
But at Duke, that player that Reddish was, the aggressiveness and ease at which he operated, seemed to disappear for long stretches. Those struggles have cast a large shadow over someone that had the look of a future superstar, and Reddish’s draft stock has taken a hit as a result. While some still stand behind him and his talent, plenty of others have faded Reddish in favor of other prospects.
But, at the Combine, Reddish isn’t dwelling on what was or what could have been at Duke. He just trying to learn and get back to being that do-it-all force that he was.
“I’m just trying to learn about the NBA process,” Reddish said. “I’m just trying to get back to who I can be, who I am.”
But that begs the question: who, exactly, is Reddish, and what could he do at the NBA level?
“I feel like I can do everything,” Reddish said. “I was more of a shooter this year – I don’t want to classify myself as just a shooter. I feel like if I just go out there and play my game, I can do a variety of things.”
“Once I show that, I should definitely move up [draft boards].”
There were plenty of flashes of that player during his short stint at Duke. Reddish, at times, seemed to will the ball into the basket, while his shooting stroke appeared to be as good as advertised. He had a knack for performing in the clutch, with multiple shots to win or tie the game for Duke, or keep them in it down the stretch when the others started to fade. The wing managed double-digit points in 23 games, 15 of which he posted 15 or more points (with 20 or more points in eight of those). Reddish managed 18 multi-steal performances and recorded a block or more in 16 games as well.
Wrap all of that up with his plus-defensive ability, and Reddish could very well prove the type of player that could do a little bit of everything for an NBA squad. But he can bring more than that, not only on the court, but off the court as well.
While some may perceive his passiveness alongside Barrett and Williamson as a negative, a lack of “mamba-mentality” or killer instinct that many teams hope for in their top draft picks, Reddish could (and probably should) just as easily be applauded for his willingness to share the ball and step into an ancillary role on a team loaded with talent. As we saw this season with the Boston Celtics, who were projected by many to go challenge the Golden State Warriors for the Larry O’Brien trophy but flamed out against the Milwaukee Bucks after a season fraught with discontent, that can be hard to do on the biggest stage.
And, while he is the quiet type, Reddish made it a point to say that evaluators shouldn’t confuse that for laziness or lack of effort.
“I’m kind of reserved – my personality is kind of reserved – some people might take that as lazy or too laid back. But that’s not just who I am, I’m just a naturally reserved, calm guy.”
There were certainly issues, however.
Despite flashes, Reddish wasn’t the player he could be on anywhere near a consistent basis, even in a smaller role. His time at Duke revealed some major deficiencies in his game and presented some serious causes for concern; a penchant for bad shots, struggles close to the basket and the inability to maximize his athletic gifts. On more than one occasion, he looked to have turned the corner, only to drop another underwhelming performance soon after.
All of that doesn’t exactly bode well for Reddish’s transition to the NBA, regardless of the team that picks him on draft night.
But, the potential is there for him to be great. Now it’s on Reddish to capitalize on that potential.
Reddish could very well prove the most polarizing prospect in the 2019 Draft Class. His ability to maximize his natural talent and recapture the aggressiveness that pushed him to the top of his recruiting class could prove the difference between him becoming the next Jeff Green or the next Paul George
Or, should he really find himself at the next level, he could become the first Cam Reddish.