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NBA Saturday: Predicting NBA All-Star Reserves

Basketball Insiders staff gives their picks for the 2014 All-Star Game reserves… Looking back at Carmelo Anthony’s historic night… Mirza Teletovic’s surprising eruption… Dwyane Wade’s iffy prognosis…

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Basketball Insiders Vote on All-Star Reserves: With the NBA All-Star starters being announced this past Thursday, fans got a resounding reminder: If there is one thing you can rest assured of, it is that mid-January will bring forth controversies and commotion.

Indeed, arguments over which of the NBA’s giants deserve to be All-Stars and those who are undeserving are like a runaway freight train. You know it is coming from a mile away, but you are powerless to stop it.

This year has been no exception. Because fan votes determine the five starters for each team, in many cases, the popularity of a player trumps the extent to which they may or may not “deserve” a spot over one of the game’s still-toiling youngsters.

Based on this season alone, does Kobe Bryant deserve to be an All-Star more than Damian Lillard? Does Dwyane Wade warrant the distinction more than Lance Stephenson? The answer in both cases is an equivocal no, but these are the types of questions that are yielded by the NBA’s practice of giving fans the opportunity to determine the accolade.

But fortunately, these are the types of questions that your Basketball Insiders will attempt to answer for you. There obviously is no “right” or “wrong” answer, but on this Saturday, we share our answers.

Ten members of our staff were polled. The participants were: Steve Kyler, Alex Kennedy, Eric Pincus, Tommy Beer, Moke Hamilton, Bill Ingram, Susan Bible, Jeff Zitzler, Brad Graham and Kyle Cape-Lindelin.

The number after each player’s name indicates how many votes they received.

Eastern Conference Reserve Picks

BC: John Wall (10 votes)
BC: DeMar DeRozan (7 votes)
FC: Joakim Noah (9 votes)
FC: Roy Hibbert (10 votes)
FC: Chris Bosh (7 votes)
WC: Lance Stephenson (6 votes)
WC: Paul Millsap (6 votes)

Other players receiving votes:
Joe Johnson (3), Kyle Lowry (3), Arron Afflalo (3), Al Jefferson (2), Andre Drummond (2), Kemba Walker (1), Jeff Teague (1)

Out on an island:

  • Steve Kyler is the only Basketball Insider who did not vote for Joakim Noah.
  • Moke Hamilton is the only Basketball Insider who voted for Kemba Walker.
  • Brad Graham is the only Basketball Insider who voted for Jeff Teague.
  • Brad Graham and Bill Ingram are the Basketball Insiders who voted for Al Jefferson.
  • Jeff Zitzler and Susan Bible are the Basketball Insiders who voted for Andre Drummond.

Western Conference Reserve Picks

BC: Damian Lillard (10 votes)
BC: James Harden (9 votes)
FC: LaMarcus Aldridge (10 votes)
FC: Dwight Howard (10 votes)
FC: Dirk Nowitzki (4 votes)
WC: Chris Paul (9 votes)
WC: Tony Parker (7 votes)

Other players receiving votes:
Anthony Davis (4 votes), DeMarcus Cousins (3 votes), Tim Duncan (2 votes), Goran Dragic (1 vote), Serge Ibaka (1 vote)

Out on an island:

  • Steve Kyler is the only Basketball Insider who did not vote for James Harden.
  • Brad Graham is the only Basketball Insider who did not vote for Chris Paul.
  • Brad Graham is the only Basketball Insider who voted for Goran Dragic.
  • Susan Bible is the only Basketball Insider who voted for Serge Ibaka.
  • Steve Kyler and Alex Kennedy are the Basketball Insiders who voted for Tim Duncan.

Obviously, there is no science to this, but it is interesting to note that the staff members that were polled seems to come to a consensus on Wall, Hibbert, Noah, Lillard, Aldridge, Howard, Harden and Paul as All-Stars. After that, it is pretty obvious that subjective assessments took over.

Perhaps it is my New York City bias, but I believe Walker deserves to be an All-Star. But, as usual, I suppose there is always next year.

Carmelo Anthony’s Historic Night: After losing the first three games of their make-or-break eight-game home stand, Carmelo Anthony took matters into his own hands on Friday night, as the Knicks bested the Charlotte Bobcats, 125-96.

Anthony had a performance for the ages, scoring a record-breaking 62 points. With his 62 points, Anthony broke Bernard King’s Knick franchise single-game scoring record of 60 points. King scored 60 on Christmas Day of 1984 in a 120-114 loss to the New Jersey Nets. Anthony also broke Kobe Bryant’s record-setting 61-point shooting spree, set back on February 2, 2009 in a 126-117 Lakers victory.

Although Anthony took the Garden’s record back from Bryant, the Lakers shooting guard has five career games in which he has scored at least 60 points, including his career-high 81-point performance in a 122-104 win over the Toronto Raptors back on January 22, 2006.

Bryant’s five career 60-plus point performances gives him the second most 60-point performances in NBA history. The all-time leader is Wilt Chamberlain, who scored 60 or more points 32 times over the course of his career.

Despite the win, the Knicks enter play on January 25 at 16-27 and tied for 10th place in the Eastern Conference.

Brooklyn Nets Continue to Surge: While Anthony was breaking records at Madison Square Garden on Friday night, five miles away at Barclays Center, the Brooklyn Nets were busy continuing to be the hottest team in the NBA since 2014 began. En route to a 107-106 victory over the visiting Dallas Mavericks, the Nets got an improbable 34 points off the bench from second-year forward Mirza Teletovic. Deron Williams, playing just his third game since returning to the lineup with ankle woes contributed 18 points and 11 assists.

The Nets are now 9-1 in the month of January and have given head coach Jason Kidd a good chance of winning the NBA’s Eastern Conference Coach of the Month award for January. But more importantly, if the Nets keep playing like this, they may find themselves atop the Atlantic Division. Now at 19-22, the Nets trail the Toronto Raptors by just 2.5 games in the division.

Over the course of their hot streak, the biggest difference for the Nets has been small ball. With Brook Lopez out for the remainder of the season, Kevin Garnett has been moved to center with Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson playing beside him in the front court. With the rangy Shaun Livingston re-emerging as a force, the Nets have fielded a starting unit that has somewhat interchangeable parts on the defensive end and five players who are all capable of scoring.

With their collective health improving, and meaningful contributions from Andray Blatche, Andrei Kirilenko and Alan Anderson, the Nets seem to have turned a corner and are charging toward the top of their division.

Dwyane Wade’s Iffy Prognosis: After Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals, after the Miami HEAT emerged as champions over the San Antonio Spurs, Dwyane Wade made no secret of the fact that his knees were ailing. With questions and concerns about his long-term health prognosis, the HEAT have had Wade on a bit of a pitch count, reminiscent of what Gregg Popovich has done in San Antonio with some of his older veterans.

However, as it relates to Wade, the HEAT began 2014 with a tough stretch in which they played five games in eight nights. Wade played in each of them. Since then, Wade has missed six of the HEAT’s last seven games and has already matched the 13 games he sat out last season.

On Sunday, with the San Antonio Spurs making their first trip to Miami since last season’s NBA Finals, Wade’s status is still up in the air. The questions regarding his long-term health will persist.

One of the questions that can cease, though, is whether or not Wade will participate in NBA All-Star Weekend next month. As announced this past week, Wade has been voted in as a starter for the ninth consecutive time.

Moke Hamilton’s Weekly NBA Power Rankings drop each and every Monday night, so be sure to check back to see which teams are dominating the Association.  

Moke Hamilton is a Deputy Editor and Columnist for Basketball Insiders.

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Team USA vs. Iran – Preview, Prediction, & Betting Picks

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Team USA is coming off their first Olympics’ loss in men’s basketball since 2004. In the post-game press conference after USA lost 89-79 against France, head coach Greg Popovich said, “When you lose a game, you’re not surprised. You’re disappointed. I don’t understand the word ‘surprised.’ That sort of disses the French team, as if we’re supposed to beat them by 30. That’s a hell of a team.” Leading up to this matchup, another contributing factor for the team’s loss was Wizards‘ guard Bradley Beal bowing out of the Olympics after being placed in the COVID-19 health and safety protocols during training camp. In the 2020-21 NBA season, Beal averaged 31.3 points per game. Regarding the injury report, as of July 27th, there are no reported injuries for these two teams.

Moreover, the USA’s second men’s basketball game of the 2021 Tokyo Olympics is schedule for Wednesday, July 28th at 12:40 a.m. (EST). Unfortunately, the next two USA men’s basketball games are not guaranteed to air live on television in the United States. However, the games can be watched on NBC channels (delayed) and NBC’s exclusive streaming service known as Peacock. Plus, the NBC Sports mobile app will stream the games live. Free trials are also available for Hulu + Live TV, YouTube TV, fuboTV, Sling TV, or AT&T TV Now. The game can also be watched via NBA League Pass. For betting on medal and group winners for men’s basketball, Bovada offers the best service.

Game Details

Date & Time: Wednesday, July 28th at 12:40 a.m. (EST)

Location: Saitama Super Arena; Saitama, Japan

Availability: Peacock (live) & NBC (delayed)

Spread: USA -41.5 (-110) (per DraftKings Sportsbook)

Over/Under: 166.5

Best Moneyline: USA -8000, Iran +2500 (per DraftKings Sportsbook)

Team USA Starting Lineup:

PG: Damian Lillard 

SG: Zach LaVine 

SF: Kevin Durant

PF: Draymond Green

C: Bam Adebayo 

Team Iran Starting Lineup:

PG: Mohammad Jamshidi

SG: Behnam Yakhchali

SF: Arsalan Kazemi

PF: Samad Nikkhah Bahrami

C: Hamed Haddadi

Bovada and MyBookie are two available betting sites for gambling on men’s basketball during the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. The best NBA betting apps are from MyBookie, BetUS, Bovada, Intertops, and BetOnline. With MyBookie, the app offers a $500 deposit bonus for new users. For the USA vs. Iran matchup, if an individual wants to bet on the best moneyline, DraftKings is another option as well.

USA vs. Iran Preview

Referencing Bovada’s Olympics odds, Team USA is the favorite to win gold in men’s basketball, with odds showing -250. Slovenia and Australia are tied for second, possessing +800 odds. With odds showing +75000, Iran ranks 12th for odds to win the gold medal. They could still win their fourth consecutive gold medal in basketball, but this team appears to be different from previous USA men’s basketball teams. Their performance against the French was pitiful. Anyways, according to the DraftKings Sportsbook, this past Sunday, USA opened as 12.5-point favorites versus Iran. However, yesterday the oddsmakers changed their projection to 29.5-point favorites. As of Tuesday, July 27, DraftKings Sportsbook has USA listed as 41.5-point favorites over Iran.

Team USA’s starting lineup in the Olympics consisted of Zach LaVine, Damian Lillard, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Bam Adebayo. In the team’s 89-79 loss against France, with a total of 29 points, Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell led the team in scoring. However, Mitchell’s performance was not sufficient enough to carry the team. His teammates around him failed to contribute at a higher level. In 25 minutes played, Kemba Walker closed out his performance with 10 points and three rebounds. Marcus Smart also scored 11 points and made two assists. For the winning team, the leading scorer for France was Evan Fournier, finishing his game with 22 points, three rebounds, and four assists.

While the turnovers and field goal percentages were identical between these two teams, the difference-makers were personal fouls and free throw shooting percentage. France shot 21-for-25 (84 percent) from the free throw line, whereas USA shot 14-for-21 (66.7 percent). Additionally, France committed 17 fouls in the match, which was all right considering USA had a total of 24 personal fouls called against them. Despite small forward Kevin Durant scoring 10 points, he also fouled out of the game. This was another poor game plan by Coach Popovich. This was especially evident in the team’s consecutive losses against Australia and Nigeria during those exhibition games. Practice games or not, USA looked less than mediocre, never mind lethargic and disinterested.

Then again, Iran is also trying to recover from an 84-78 loss versus Czech Republic. Guard Behnam Yakhchali led the team on the stat sheet, ending his performance with 23 points, three rebounds, and four assists in 36 minutes played. In 29 minutes on the court, Mohammad Jamshidi had 16 points, one rebound, and seven assists. For the Czech Republic, with 16 points, Patrik Auda led his team in points. While the Czechs out-rebounded the Iranians 43 to 33, they also had fewer turnovers. The winning team had 15 turnovers, while Iran had 21 overall.

The team came close to erasing a 21-point deficit. Iran’s past starting lineup was Benam Yakhchali, Mohammad Jamshidi, Samad Bahrami, Arsalan Kazemi, and Hamed Haddadi. Though, this is subject to change. The projected starting lineup is listed in the game details section shown above. Yakhchali will once again be returning as a guard, and of course, he led the team in scoring against the Czech Republic. 

Prediction: USA wins by 15+ points

Team USA is nearly a 42-point favorite against Iran. Based on their previous 89-79 defeat versus France, it is certainly hard to believe this team will beat a team by 40 points. Many bettors were not expecting for Durant to foul out, either. After their 10-point loss, Bovada adjusted the odds of USA winning their group. Now, France has the favored -550 odds of winning Group A, whereas USA has +400 odds. Though, between USA and Iran right now, the Americans are obviously the best of the worst. All things considered, USA will likely have their first bounce-back victory, but the question right now is, how many points will they win by?

Some bettors are speculating a 12-point margin of victory, however, others are suggesting 23 points. A prediction of at least 15 points sounds reasonable. Why? It’s because Iran’s men’s basketball team has lost multiple games already. In the FIBA World Cup Qualifying Round (2019) for Group F, Japan defeated Iran 70-56. Then, Spain defeated Iran 73-65 later in the year. Iran losing 84-78 versus the Czech Republic just adds to this notable trend. Nevertheless, while some could say that Iran is due for their first win, so is the USA. The Americans have not lost multiple games since 2004. In the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece, the USA lost 92-73 versus Puerto Rico, 94-90 against Lithuania, and 89-81 versus Argentina. Time will tell if the Americans can turn over a new leaf.

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NBA Trade Rumors: Bradley Beal never requested a trade, remains committed to Wizards

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This NBA offseason has been a frustrating one for some die-hard fans, especially Washington Wizards‘ fans. On June 18, 2021, news broke concerning shooting guard Bradley Beal announcing his commitment to play for the USA Basketball Men’s National Team. A few weeks ago, it was reported by USA Basketball that Beal would not play in the Tokyo Olympics. And, this was because the 28-year-old three-time NBA All-Star had to enter the COVID-19 health and safety protocols. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Missouri native.

In an interview published by CBS Sports on July 15, 2021, regarding the chance to play for USA Basketball, Beal told CBS’ Michael Kaskey-Blomain, “It’s an honor. It’s something that you take for granted. Not a lot of guys in the league get this opportunity. We all know that. We didn’t live up to what we wanted to a few years ago (in the 2019 FIBA World Cup), and so now we have an opportunity to get back what’s rightfully ours.”

In 2010, Beal won the FIBA-Under 17 World Cup MVP. Though, everyone can see his passion for basketball. Needless to say, it is an awful experience for any athlete to have to bow out of the Olympics. In addition to this unfortunate news, there is all kinds of speculation across the Internet concerning Beal’s future with the Wizards. From Boston.com, it was reported two days ago that Beal would welcome a trade if he was moved to the Boston Celtics. The report also included three other teams: Golden State Warriors, Miami Heat, and Philadelphia 76ers. This latest news information was originally reported by Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer. Last Saturday, Fischer stated, “Boston’s path to securing Beal would appear far more costly, as the Celtics’ offer almost certainly has to include Jaylen Brown and all of their future draft picks they are able to part with.”

Although the report could still be accurate, many fans are asking for more evidence to help support this claim. This is Beal’s team; he was drafted by Washington third overall in the 2012 NBA Draft. Would the Wizards be wiling to trade their star player for Jaylen Brown and potential future draft picks? This remains to be seen. Plus, everyone should keep in mind that although Beal was open to a trade, at least he never demanded an immediate trade. The latest news is likely just trade rumors and meaningless gossip.

Moreover, the 2020-21 Wizards finished 34-38 (.472), ranking third in the Southeast Division and eighth overall in the Eastern Conference. The team lost four games to one in the first round of the postseason against the 76ers. The Wizards have not appeared in the NBA Finals since the 1978-79 season, and they have not won the championship since the 1977-78 season, when they defeated the Seattle Supersonics in Game 7 105-99. Not to mention, the Wizards were called the Bullets back then.

After the season ended, the organization agreed to part ways with head coach Scott Brooks. Perhaps Coach Brooks leaving the team is leading Beal to ask more questions about his own future. According to one report by NBC’s Pro Basketball Talk, Beal was irked over the organization hiring Wes Unseld Jr. over Sam Cassell for the vacant head coach position. How much does this play into trade talks?

Well, we all know that Beal is a competitive player, so three consecutive losing seasons by Washington might not be cutting it for him. Then again, a great player should be willing to give a new coach a chance. Last season, in 60 games played, the six-foot-three guard averaged 31.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game. The 9-year NBA veteran also shot 48.5 percent from the field and 34.9 percent from beyond the arc. In the 2021 All-Star Game, in 31 minutes played, Beal scored 26 points.

On October 17, 2019, Beal signed a two-year, $72 million extension with Washington. He earned $28.7 million this past season, and he will earn $34.5 million in the upcoming 2021-22 season. Beal’s player option for the 2022-23 season is also $37.2 million. So, folks should keep in mind that Beal is still showing his loyalty to the Wizards. He is only considering a trade request before the draft. The key word here is “considering.” Having said this, not even LeBron James is safe from a trade in this league. Ok, maybe only James is safe.

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Grizzlies trade Jonas Valanciunas to Pelicans for Eric Bledsoe, Steven Adams

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According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Andrew Lopez, the New Orleans Pelicans are shipping guard Eric Bledsoe, center Steven Adams, the Nos. 10 and 40 picks of the 2021 NBA Draft, and two future first-round picks to the Memphis Grizzlies for center Jonas Valanciunas and the Nos. 17 and 51 picks of this week’s upcoming draft. So, the Pelicans are giving up the Lakers’ 2022 first-round pick. Valanciunas, the 29-year-old veteran center, averaged 17.1 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game in 62 games played throughout the 2020-21 season. He also shot 59 percent from the field. The seven-foot Lithuanian also ranks fourth overall in true shooting percentage (.616) among active players. On July 11, 2019, Valanciunas signed a three-year, $45 million contract with the Grizzlies. He is set to earn $4 million next season.

Additionally, in 71 games played last season, Bledsoe averaged 12.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. The six-foot-one guard also shot 42.1 percent from the field in the 2020-21 season. On November 23, 2020, as part of a four-team trade, Bledsoe and Adams were traded to the Pelicans from the Oklahoma City Thunder, along with two future first-round picks and the right to swap two additional first-round picks. Last season, in 71 games played, Bledsoe averaged 12.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 3.8 assists. His field goal percentage was 42.1 percent as well. The 11-year veteran is set to earn $18,125,000 in the 2021-22 season. Before he was traded to New Orleans, on March 4, 2019, the guard signed a four-year, $70 million extension. He earned his first All-Defensive second-team selection in the 2019-20 season.

Moreover, in 58 games played last season, Adams averaged 7.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. The six-foot-eleven center ranks fifth among active players for effective field goal shooting percentage (.591). The eight-year veteran also ranks third in offensive rebounding percentage, with an active statistic of 14 percent. On November 23, 2020, the same day Adams was traded to the Pelicans, he signed a two-year, $35 million extension. For next season, he is projected to earn $17,073,171. To add to this trade news, the Grizzlies and Pelicans are swapping second-round picks in this year’s draft, too. Referencing NBA.com’s “Consensus Mock Draft” article, with the No. 10 pick of the draft, the Pelicans were originally expected to draft either Josh Giddey or Davion Mitchell at this number. However, plans have now changed.

From ESPN’s Bobby Marks, the trade will not be finalized until August 6th, and this is because of the annual salaries of these said players. Free agency will begin on August 2, 6:00 p.m. (EST). Furthermore, per Spotrac’s 2021-22 NBA salary cap table, next season’s luxury tax threshold is $136,606,000. The team’s current available luxury tax space is $22,555,195. The Pelicans and Grizzlies have a salary cap maximum of $112,414,000. Brandon Ingram, Bledsoe, and Adams had a combined cap percentage of 39.2 percent. Considering that Bledsoe and Adams are traded away, this will clear up $35,198,171 of dead cap space.

Yesterday, CBS Sports reported the news pertaining to Lonzo Ball’s desire to remain in New Orleans. With extra cap space, the team is expected to re-sign the 23-year-old guard. Likewise, for the Grizzlies, the teams has a luxury tax space of $37,019,952. Their current cap space is $8,321,229. As stated before, the transactions have not yet been finalized. The Grizzlies’ outgoing cap is now $14 million, but from the contracts of Adams and Bledsoe, they are bringing in $35,198,171.

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