Last season, the NBA created two additional roster spots for teams in the form of two-way contracts. Players signed to one of these contracts could only spend a maximum of 45 days with their NBA team, while spending the rest of their time in the G-League.
One player who was the recipient of one of those new contracts last year was Los Angeles Clippers swingman Tyrone Wallace. During an injury-ravaged season, Wallace got plenty of opportunities with the Clippers and was able to prove he was an NBA-caliber player.
When he hit restricted free agency this past summer, the New Orleans Pelicans signed him to an offer sheet, only to have the Clippers match. Heading into this season, it’s the first time in his professional basketball career that he’s had some real stability.
“It feels good. I think all the two-way guys obviously want a regular deal,” Wallace told Basketball Insiders. “But I think the two-way was good in terms of giving me an opportunity and giving guys an opportunity to go out there and show that they can be regular contract guys. You use it to that advantage and play well, then it feels good to be a year removed and on a regular deal.”
Wallace certainly proved to the masses that he belongs in the league. He wasn’t expected to contribute much last season as a rookie, especially on a two-way contract, but multiple injuries to key guards such as Patrick Beverley, Austin Rivers and Milos Teodosic forced Doc Rivers to throw Wallace into the fire right away.
He responded by averaging 9.7 points per game on 44.5 percent shooting from the field. He also pulled down 3.5 rebounds per game and dished out 2.4 assists. He always had the confidence that he was an NBA player, but his journey didn’t always come easy.
In the 2016 NBA Draft, after a stellar four years at Cal, Wallace was selected by the Utah Jazz with the last (60th) overall pick. He ended up in the G-League where he was cut by the Salt Lake City Stars due to an injury.
“It’s just a grind. Being drafted the last pick, most of those guys don’t end up sticking or playing in the league,” Wallace told Basketball Insiders. “I think it just shows how hard I’ve tried to work in order to get here. You have your bumps along the way, I played in the G-League my whole first year.”
The Clippers signed him prior to the start of the 2017-18 season, but cut him at the end of training camp. He found himself back in the G-League with the Clippers affiliate, the Agua Caliente Clippers. It was there that he caught the attention of the Clippers with a strong start to the G-League season.
“After being cut and going to the G-League, I played really well and then I was able to work myself into the opportunity to actually get minutes and play up here at this level,” Wallace told Basketball Insiders. “I think it’s just being able to stick with it and understand that if you work hard, it will show.”
Although the Clippers obviously wanted him back, Beverley’s return to the lineup – as well as the emergence of rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – pushed Wallace further back in the rotation. His minutes average dropped from 28.4 last season to 9.7 this season. He began the season playing sparingly with a few strings of DNP’s.
Recently, however, he’s begun to play his way back into being a regular in the rotation. Since the beginning of December, Wallace has seen playing time in all but two of the Clippers’ 19 games during that stretch. He had a season-high 15 points against the Toronto Raptors on Dec. 11, along with four rebounds, six assists, and two blocked shots.
When Wallace enters the game, he gives the Clippers a strong defensive presence as well as a guy who is constantly in attack mode and can get to the rim with ease.
“I think I’m a guy that comes in and is able to be versatile,” Wallace told Basketball Insiders. “I can help defensively, guard multiple positions, try to attack in the open court, be aggressive, but just a team player. I come in and help these guys whichever way coach [Rivers] and the team feels I need to.”
The Clippers’ bench has consistently been one of the best in the league. They’ve been leading the NBA in bench scoring the entire season with 52.5 points per game.
Wallace has now regained his role as part of that second unit, and, for now, he’s just trying to bring the same intensity as the rest of the bench does.
“I think we take it personally. We feel like we can go out there and continue to keep the same level of play as the starters,” Wallace told Basketball Insiders. “We got proven guys, we got Lou [Williams] on the bench, now we got Pat [Beverley] coming off, and then ‘Trez [Harrell] who’s been a force for us down low. I think we’re just ready to compete and play whenever we’re put into the game and take advantage of the minutes that we get.”
NOTE: Wallace just recently had his contract guaranteed by the Clippers for the rest of the season.
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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