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Basketball Insiders Week in Review 10/25

Basketball Insiders looks at some articles from last week in case you missed any the first time around.

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Kevin Durant’s Wise Decision

By Moke Hamilton

As LaMarcus Aldridge begins preparing for his first season as a member of the San Antonio Spurs, fans of the Portland Trail Blazers watched their franchise, which seemed to be just one piece away from being a contender, pull the plug and begin building from ground zero.

I wonder if the Oklahoma City Thunder await the same fate.

In July 2014, Aldridge famously said that he was not going to sign an extension with the Blazers, but that he was forgoing the option because it made the most financial sense to do so. One of the features of the NBA’s current collective bargaining agreement is a rule that mandates that a player actually become a free agent in order to re-sign for a full five-year term with the team that owns his Bird rights.

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Fantasy Hoops: Ranking Top 60 Forwards for 2015-16

By Tommy Beer

After the release of the Top 150 overall players last week, we started breaking down the top performers at each individual position.

First, we ranked the top 60 guards. Today, we examine the forward position.

Please note: These rankings are based on nine-category rotisserie leagues that account for points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocks, three-pointers made, turnovers, field goal percentage and free throw percentage.

In addition, the position eligibility is based on Yahoo! fantasy leagues. Players may qualify at multiple positions (i.e. guard and forward).

Lastly, listed below the rankings are an assortment of interesting and pertinent stats for some of the players listed.

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The Bulls Should Explore Trades

By Joel Brigham

Bobby Portis is good, and Taj Gibson is expendable. That’s the lesson we’ve learned from watching the Chicago Bulls throughout the preseason this fall.

It isn’t as simple as that, obviously, as very few rookies (especially rookies outside of the lottery) step into their first NBA season ready to take the league completely by storm. However, the Bulls had arguably the deepest frontcourt rotation in the league even before the draft. Now, with Portis in the mix too, one has to wonder how much depth they really need there.

To be clear, Portis could in no way immediately replace Gibson, who for the last two seasons has averaged over 10 points per game and six rebounds per game while playing roughly 27 minutes a night. While Portis is averaging a preseason double-double with 12.2 points and 10.4 rebounds (fifth and first among rookies, respectively), that comes with both Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol playing fewer than 20 minutes per game and Gibson playing fewer than 10 per game. Still, it’s impressive that Portis has posted these numbers while averaging just 24.8 minutes per game himself.

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Thunder Are Staying The Course

By Steve Kyler

There is no bigger free agent fish next July than Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant. With what projects to be more than a dozen NBA teams with $20 million or more in useable cap space, the list of possible suitors for Durant in July is substantial.

But will any of that really matter?

Thunder GM Sam Presti in a wide-ranging Q&A with the Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn explained how his team is approaching his franchise’s biggest free agent.

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Eastern Conference: Six Preseason Studs

By Jonathan Concool

The NBA preseason is our first chance to get a look at what players worked on over the summer and how their training translates onto the court. Some players ease into the preseason, using it as a chance to get into game speed and prepare for the long haul of the 82-game regular season. Others, though, come out with vengeance and seem like they have something to prove. Today, we take a look at six Eastern Conference players who have been shining in preseason.

 

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Bucks’ Vaughn Turning Heads Early

By Alex Kennedy

One of the biggest surprises early in the 2015-16 NBA preseason has been the play of Milwaukee Bucks rookie Rashad Vaughn. The shooting guard was just 18 years old when the Bucks selected him with the No. 17 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, and he’s the second-youngest player in the NBA this season (behind only Phoenix Suns shooting guard Devin Booker, who is just two months younger).

The UNLV product was born in 1996, meaning he wasn’t alive to witness the first three years of his head coach Jason Kidd’s NBA playing career

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Pelicans Constantly Plagued By Injuries

By Lang Greene

The New Orleans Pelicans shocked the league last season by winning 45 games and reaching the playoffs in the ultra-competitive Western Conference. Most observers believed New Orleans arrived to the party one year ahead of schedule in their rebuilding project. The Pelicans’ romp to the playoff berth and flirtation with 50 wins was even more impressive considering the team had to endure All-Star forward Anthony Davis’ absence in the lineup for 14 games.

During the offseason, the team surprisingly parted ways with Monty Williams and hired Alvin Gentry as head coach, believing the league veteran could get the franchise over the hump quicker.

Whether Gentry will be able to get the team further than Williams remains to be seen, but one thing he’ll have to navigate like his predecessor is New Orleans’ penchant for injuries as of late.

 

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Western Conference: Six Preseason Studs

By Eric Saar

The 2015-16 NBA regular season is almost upon us. Rejoice, basketball is back! We can’t take much from the preseason games that are played before the real season gets started at the end of October, but there is some value in these exhibition contests.

The preseason is typically a period when coaches to tinker with lineups, evaluate which players work best on the court together and work out overall kinks. Sometimes, they also need time to instill their offensive and defensive systems and get everyone on the same page.

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Who Disappointed in the Preseason?

By Ben Dowsett

It’s common to hear prognosticators across the NBA remind their readers and listeners that taking the preseason too seriously from a predictive standpoint is a hazardous practice. There are too many variables that differ too much from standard NBA play – conditioning, systems, player availability and actual emphasis on the scoreboard among them. It’s hard to get too excited, for instance, if your team blows out an expected contender if said contender had their five best players sitting out for rest and recovery considerations.

Like NBA Summer League, though, there are times when gleaning bits of legitimate info from the performance of a player or team is useful during the preseason. And near the top of the list, unfortunately, is assessment of guys playing badly. It’s easier to discount a strong performance because top players are often limited or not present; discounting a guy coming well short of expectations is a lot tougher under the same context, especially if it’s a supposedly proven guy doing so against typically weaker overall competition.

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Stevens Took Chance on Hunter in High School

By Jessica Camerato

For R.J. Hunter there was college basketball, and then there was Indiana college basketball. Growing up in Indianapolis, he watched in-state teams and thought of what it would be like to suit up for them as he pursued his own career.

Recruiting wasn’t an issue for Hunter. The sharpshooting guard garnered attention from around the country as college neared. The interest from his home state of Indiana, however, wasn’t as significant. The fact that Hunter’s father, Ron, was the head coach of IUPUI at the time deterred many schools from pursuing him.

There was one, though, that took a chance. In spite of the fact that Hunter’s decision seemed obvious, they couldn’t let Hunter’s talent pass them by.

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Pelicans Counting on Players to Step Up

By Cody Taylor

The summer of 2015 brought a lot of promise to the New Orleans Pelicans organization. Once free agency began, Anthony Davis was among the first players to agree to a new contract, reaching an extension with the team. Now, Davis will be under contract with the Pelicans for the next six seasons.

Davis re-signing with the Pelicans alone would have been enough to celebrate this summer. However, the team also added a new head coach in Alvin Gentry, and it seemed as though the team’s core was poised to take the next step this season after their surprising playoff run last year.

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High Stakes for Roy Hibbert this Season

By Jesse Blancarte

In April of last year, I wrote that Roy Hibbert should have won the Defensive Player of the Year Award for the 2013-14 NBA season.

Fifteen months after I wrote that, the Indiana Pacers traded Hibbert to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for a 2019 second-round draft pick. That’s right, a 7’2 center in his prime years couldn’t even net a first-round draft pick fifteen months after finishing second in Defensive Player of the Year voting (166 points, eight first-place votes).

Hibbert spent the first seven years of his NBA career with the Pacers, earning a reputation as a defensive anchor and elite rim protector. However, this offseason the Pacers decided to take a dramatic shift in their style of play. The franchise decided it would embrace smaller lineups and a faster pace of play, which Hibbert simply doesn’t fit into.

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Kyle Cape-Lindelin is based out of Portland, OR covering the NBA while being one of the newsline editors and contributor to "Out of Bounds."

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