Basketball Insiders Week in Review 11/29

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In Miami, the HEAT is on

By Moke Hamilton

As we enter play on November 22, the defending Eastern and Western Conference champions sit atop their respective conferences. The Golden State Warriors (14-0) officially have people wondering if they can win 70 games, while the Cleveland Cavaliers (10-3) seemed destined to make a return trip to the NBA Finals.

Obviously, though, there is a lot of basketball to be played between now and the spring, and there are many teams dreaming of foiling LeBron James and his attempt to reach his sixth consecutive NBA Finals. One such team, coincidentally, is the Miami HEAT. And they may actually have a better shot than you think.

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George Thriving Despite Changes

By Alex Kennedy

Paul George is clearly the face of the Indiana Pacers, but that wasn’t the case earlier in his career.

At one point, veterans like Danny Granger, David West and Roy Hibbert were the stars of Indiana’s defensive-minded attack. It wasn’t until George’s third NBA season, the 2012-13 campaign, that he became an All-Star and first led the Pacers in scoring (averaging 17.4 points). But even still, Granger, West and Hibbert were on the roster and had more experience than the young forward.

Over the offseason, the Pacers lost West (who opted out of the final $12.6 million of his contract with Indiana to sign a minimum contract with the San Antonio Spurs) and Hibbert (who was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers for a second-round pick). For the first time in his career, George entered this season as Indiana’s longest-tenured player and had to adjust to not having West and Hibbert alongside him.


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What A Hot Start Means for NBA Title Hopes

By Joel Brigham

The Golden State Warriors tied the hottest start in NBA history, winning their first 15 games and showing absolutely zero signs of slowing down. They have the opportunity to put a stranglehold on the record this Tuesday when they take on the L.A. Lakers in front of a home crowd, and subsequent games against the Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings and Utah Jazz are plenty winnable too.

If they continue playing at this level, it may be quite a while before Golden State loses. However, regular season records ultimately mean very little in the big scheme of things. There have been many great regular season teams throughout NBA history, but the only ones that matter are those that actually win a championship at the end.

Knowing that, here’s a look at the teams that jumped off to the hottest starts in league history before this year’s Warriors and how things ultimately ended for them:

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DeMarcus Cousins Steps into Leadership Role

By Cody Taylor

It’s easy to point blame around when things go sideways. When tempers are boiling over, things begin surfacing that may prove to be detrimental to a team. It seems this is exactly how the year has gone so far for the Sacramento Kings.

Over the offseason, the team cleared out cap space in an attempt to lure some of the top free agents to town. They traded away Nik Stauskas, last year’s eighth overall pick in the draft, as well as Carl Landry and Jason Thompson to the Philadelphia 76ers in a move that would clear $16 million in cap space. In return, the Kings received draft rights to two players overseas.

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A Look At 2015-16 NBA Salaries

By Steve Kyler

We like to think Basketball Insiders has the most in-depth and thorough NBA salary data anywhere. A while ago, we decided to put all of this data into a database so we could parse information and display it in a more interesting way. This database allows us to answer questions like: Who are the highest-paid NBA players? Which team spends the most? Which team is spending the least?

We also have some internal tools we can use and, from time to time, we like to post some of the top tier data like this:

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Green Still Humbled by Long Road to NBA

By Jessica Camerato

Go to the gym. Get there early. Practice. Stay late. Go to the arena. Watch others play. Sit on the bench. Repeat.

It didn’t take Danny Green long to grasp the reality of his rookie year. After the first 10 or 15 games with the Cleveland Cavaliers, he understood he would be observing most of the action from the sidelines.

That didn’t mean he didn’t have to stop putting in the work. It also didn’t mean he had to stop believing he could have a significant role in the NBA, even when he got waived.

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As Kobe Bryant Fades, Frustration Builds

By Lang Greene

The Los Angeles Lakers have missed the playoffs the past two seasons and, at 2-12, appear to be on a similar trajectory for a third consecutive campaign. There are myriad problems plaguing the Lakers. The team is young and lacks a consistent identity. Also, the team’s best player, Kobe Bryant, continues to lose his battle versus Father Time. All of this has put the Lakers on pace to post the worst record in franchise history.

On Thursday, the Lakers lost to the defending champion Golden State Warriors by a whopping 34 points. Bryant was a paltry 1-of-14 from the field, finishing with four points in 25 minutes of action.

After the contest, Bryant admitted his frustration about the current situation.

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Appreciating Russell Westbrook

By Eric Saar

Thanksgiving is over, but it’s not too late to give thanks to Russell Westbrook. The Oklahoma City Thunder “point” guard is one of the NBA’s most talented stars and his play needs to be appreciated.

Westbrook’s unique style of play is challenging the status quo, changing what it means to be a point guard. Some have even tried to create a new label for players like Westbrook, such as “power guard.”

What makes the fourth overall pick in 2008 so unique is that he fills up the stat sheet in a way that not many players can. He can score with the best of them, be an elite playmaker by dishing out assists and rebounds better than most guards. This is to say nothing of his defensive prowess.

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Rajon Rondo Finding His Groove in Sacramento

By Jesse Blancarte

When the Dallas Mavericks traded for Rajon Rondo last season, they hoped he would be the missing piece to their championship puzzle. Unfortunately, Rondo was, at best, an awkward fit. He gummed up the Mavericks’ efficient, improvisational offense, provided inconsistent effort defensively and was such a disruptive presence that he was eventually told to stay home in the postseason.

After tearing his ACL in January of 2013 and flaming out in Dallas, the free agent market was uncertain for Rondo this past offseason. It wasn’t clear how much teams would be willing to invest in the 29-year-old former champion. Rondo is a four-time NBA All-Star and was selected to the All-NBA Third Team once, the All-NBA Second Team twice and led the league in assists twice (2012, 2013). However, since his ACL tear, Rondo has not been able to play at his pre-injury level consistently and has a well-documented history of clashing with his coaches, which also hurts his value.

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