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

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Running Through the Wall

By Moke Hamilton

John Wall sat perched in a corner of the visitor’s locker room by Bradley Beal at Madison Square Garden.

It was Christmas morning. They laughed and chuckled. Earlier, they had opened gifts and exchanged pleasantries with their families.

But on this morning, what Wall was most grateful for was where the Wizards have found themselves: In New York City, near the top of the standings in the Eastern Conference and with a legitimate opportunity to win an NBA Championship.

Wall was grateful that his Wizards have emerged as a true contender.

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Box Scores Don’t Interest Thunder’s Andre Roberson

By Susan Bible

As offseason prognosticators looked at the Oklahoma City Thunder, one of the biggest storylines centered on who would take over the starting shooting guard position. With Thabo Sefolosha departing for the Atlanta Hawks during the summer, the two-guard position was up for grabs for the first time in years. Would coach Scott Brooks start Reggie Jackson to form a backcourt duo with point guard Russell Westbrook? Would traditional shooting guard Jeremy Lamb get the nod? What about newly-signed ace shooter Anthony Morrow? Multi-positional Perry Jones, perhaps? Wing defender Andre Roberson?

The answer was provided in the season opener as Roberson landed the starting job. It should not have been a huge surprise with Brooks’ documented preference to insert a defensive-minded player in that position. Like Sefolosha, Roberson is offensively limited with a nightly box score that belies his on-court performance.

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10 Centers the Cavaliers Should Target

By Alex Kennedy

Since the start of the 2014-15 NBA season, the Cleveland Cavaliers have been searching for a big man. The team realized early on that they needed to add an interior presence and general manager David Griffin and his staff have been working the phones ever since.

Cleveland’s big men have left a lot to be desired, as the Cavs rank 26th in rebounds per game, 22nd in blocks per game and 22nd in overall defense. Teams often dominate the glass and get easy baskets in the paint against Cleveland, and the team’s frontcourt just got even weaker now that Anderson Varejao has been ruled out for the remainder of the season due to a ruptured Achilles tendon.

What options do the Cavaliers have as they look to add a rim protector? Here are 10 big men whom Cleveland should target:

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How John Wall is Becoming a Wizard with the Ball

By Jessica Camerato

Pass-first.

Aggressive.

Involved.

The same words were echoed among the Washington Wizards when describing John Wall. In his fifth NBA season, the 24-year-old point guard is establishing himself as one of the best at his position. His stat line tells a story of individual excellence; the Wizards’ 21-8 record tells a more significant one.

Wall has the Wizards winning, a statement that couldn’t be said in years past, with a style of basketball that has the entire team reaching success.

“John is literally becoming one of the best point guards in the league, if not the best right now,” Marcin Gortat said.

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Which Teams Need to Upgrade Their Rotation?

By Nate Duncan

When evaluating the prospects of NBA teams, the focus is so often on their top-end talent. Rightly so, considering the impossibility of winning without it. But another often overlooked variable is the number of actively bad players getting rotation minutes.

With the rise of plus/minus based metrics, we can see more than ever the impact of subpar players on good teams’ bottom lines. For squads with rotational black holes like these, the addition of even a competent NBA rotation player can have an enormous stabilizing effect.

Keep in mind that you won’t see a team like, say, Cleveland on this list. They really need a starting big who can protect the rim, and that’s a much bigger piece than we are talking about here. The idea here is teams that could make a minor deal and improve by adding a competent cog to keep replacement-level players out of the lineup.

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Hawks Might Be NBA’s Best Kept Secret

By Lang Greene

At this point, the Atlanta Hawks’ success on the hardwood shouldn’t be a huge surprise to NBA fans. After all the team has reached the playoffs for six consecutive seasons, produced All-Stars and continued to thrive despite multiple head coaches and numerous roster transformations.

This season, the Hawks (23-8) are winning nearly 75 percent of their contests and currently stand second in the Eastern Conference standings – just a half game behind the first place Toronto Raptors. Going further, the Hawks own the league’s fourth best record heading into the New Year.

But despite being on the verge of their seventh straight strip to the postseason, you can make the argument that the Hawks are still flying far below the radar when it comes to securing mainstream respect.

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The Race To Eighth In The West

By Jesse Blancarte

So far this season, the Western Conference Playoff race has been tight. As of today, the eighth seed Phoenix Suns are six games behind the third-place Memphis Grizzlies, whereas in the Eastern Conference, the eighth seed Miami HEAT are 8 ½ games behind the third seed Wizards. To put this in perspective, the Suns, at 18-15, would be the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, and the tenth seed Oklahoma City Thunder would be the eighth seed at 15-17.

The eighth seed in the West is currently being wrestled for by five teams. Though the season is still relatively young, the Utah Jazz, Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves have fallen outside of contention for the final Playoff spot in the West. There is enough time for things to change, but this article focuses on the teams that are most likely to be fighting for the eighth seed based on the current standings, assuming the top seven teams don’t encounter any significant setbacks.

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LeBron James Told You It Would Be Like This

By Steve Kyler

So insert one Mega-Star to a roster full of self-centered young guys; add in a star from another team that needs a volume of shots to a head coach with no NBA experience., sprinkle in some veterans that played with the Mega-Star on another team , add some injuries and what do you get?

Trash Can Fire.

Let’s face it the Cleveland Cavaliers are not the team you thought they’d be, and that is sort of the problem.

Expectation.

When LeBron James explained his decision to return to Cleveland to Sports Illustrated he was pretty clear about what he thought this season would be.

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The Race to Eight In The East

By John Zitzler

The landscape in the Eastern Conferences has shifted dramatically from just a season ago. The days of the LeBron James-led HEAT battling the Pacers for Eastern Conference supremacy are a thing of the past. James’ return to Cleveland left the HEAT scrambling to replace him and, along with addition of Kevin Love, immediately made the Cavs a favorite to win the East. While the Cavs’ acquisition of James made the biggest splash, they weren’t the only team in the East to make some noise during the offseason. Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls added another talented piece to an already proven group in Pau Gasol. Gasol has fit in seamlessly and the Bulls are off to a terrific start. Elsewhere the Raptors, Wizards and Hawks have all impressed early on and look to be legitimate threats in the East.

 

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Jacque Vaughn’s Magic Struggling in Fight for Credibility

By Mary Stevens

The Orlando Magic are still trying to find themselves during the third year of their rebuilding process. They have good pieces in place, but they have yet to make the leap from a rebuilding team to a playoff contender. To earn that kind of credibility, consistency is a must. With that, the wins will follow.

“The only way you can get credibility is if you go out there and compete and get past your opponent and get the win,” Tobias Harris told Basketball Insiders. “The way I look at it is that it’s on us as a team, and the five guys that are out on the floor need to be better than the guys who are in front of you.”

Forming consistency has been so hard for the Magic mainly because they are still trying to figure out who they are as players and how they fit into head coach Jacque Vaughn’s system.

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The All-Most-Improved Team

By Joel Brigham

At this point in the season, there’s very little reason to believe that anyone but Jimmy Butler will ultimately win the Most Improved Player award by year’s end, as he’s leading the Chicago Bulls in scoring (21.9 PPG), minutes (40.0 MPG), steals (1.6 SPG) and PER (22.5). He’s averaging career-highs basically across the board and waltzing his way toward his first All-Star appearance and what is likely to be a max contract when he hits restricted free agency this summer.

There will be people voting for someone other than Butler, however, as there are a handful of other players worthy of winning the Most Improved Player award. Here’s a look at a handful of the most deserving challengers:

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Rebuilding The Los Angeles Lakers

By Jabari Davis

It appears that just about everyone you ask has an idea (or three) for rebuilding the Los Angeles Lakers, but recent history has shown even the best-laid plans offer no guarantees for the current front office. The tandem of executive vice president and part-owner Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak is charged with the unenviable task of finding a way to transition from the “we’re L.A. and will simply glamour and outspend everyone” approach the organization has been able to employ over the past couple decades to one that utilizes a more conventional method of building throughout the draft, cultivating and molding young talent and figuring out how to also add complementary talent along the way with favorable deals and trades.

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Willie Cauley-Stein Heading to the Top Five?

By Yannis Koutroupis

Since John Calipari took over the Kentucky basketball program in 2009, he has turned it into a factory for NBA draft picks. Nineteen of his players have been drafted during this five-year stretch, most of them as underclassmen who “succeeded and proceeded” as Cal likes to call it rather than being one (or two in some cases)-and-done.

Junior center Willie Cauley-Stein very easily could have joined that group, but has surprised everybody by sticking around for two more years than he really had to. While Cauley-Stein didn’t dominate as a freshman or sophomore, he did more than enough to help secure a spot in the first round. Yet, he passed on the bright lights and the large paychecks because he wanted to compete for a national championship and develop more before making the jump to the NBA.

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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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