Basketball Insiders Week in Review 4/12

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OKC: Stay The Course Or Blow It Up?

By Susan Bible

When an NBA team is struggling mightily and no relief is in sight, a typical course of action to consider is blowing up the roster. Start fresh. Build for the future. It’s worked for many teams in recent history. So as the 2014-15 regular season comes to a close, teams are being analyzed and scrutinized – by critics and fans alike – and opinions are being offered as to whether a roster overhaul is in order.

At first glance, one such team is the Oklahoma City Thunder. This oft-contending group has fallen from grace in warp speed. How can a team go from a .720 win/loss record (59-23) last year to a current .553 win/loss record (42-34) with just six regular season games remaining? How is it that they are barely holding on to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference when they earned the second seed last season and the top spot the season before? For the first time since their inaugural 2008-09 season in Oklahoma City, the Thunder may not have a postseason at all.

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Dwyane Wade Defies Attrition

By Moke Hamilton

In the National Basketball Association, things can change quickly.

Just ask Dwyane Wade.

One year ago, with LeBron James and Chris Bosh by his side, the Miami HEAT seemed poised to achieve the first three-peat that the league had seen since Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and Phil Jackson won three championships in a row in 2000, 2001 and 2002.

After that run ended a bit short, one year later, James is back in Cleveland, Bosh has been ruled out for the remainder of the season and Wade is admirably leading a late-season surge and hoping to help the HEAT qualify for the playoffs for what would be the seventh consecutive season.

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Taking Stock of The 2015 Draft Class

By Steve Kyler

For most of last season, the 2014 NBA Draft class was lauded as being stocked at the top with potential stars and while the sample size on some is smaller than others, the pundits may have been right. Top overall pick Andrew Wiggins has been everything advertised. Before tearing his ACL, Jabari Parker was looking the part as well. While the true value of a draft class usually isn’t known for three to four seasons, the 2014 class has lived up to most of its hype.

If you liked that class, the 2015 class could do you one better. For months the talk about Duke big man Jahlil Okafor being the top pick has been a constant. Supporters of Kentucky big man Karl-Anthony Towns have been making their case for his top pick candidacy and then there are the two point guards in Emanuel Mudiay and D’Angelo Russell who are just as worthy of top pick talk.

While the next tier of players may not offer as much star power, it could offer ready-to-play players that could fill that second guy role many of the teams drafting in the top 14 may be missing. Here are a few of them:

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20 NBA Playoff Predictions

By Joel Brigham

Every fall, I sit down and make 50 predictions about the NBA season to come. While we’ve seen more than enough of this year to know just horrible I am at making those 50 predictions, I’m still going to make 20 more of them for these upcoming playoffs.

It’s a tricky business, making predictions, as anyone who filled out an NCAA Final Four bracket knows. But we do them because they’re fun, especially when the author of those predictions promises to come back to them in a few months when the playoffs are over to take stock of how it all turned out.

With the playoffs just a couple weeks away, now is a great time to make some predictions about how the playoff picture will wrap up and how the postseason will actually play out. Here we go:

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Playoff Picture Remains Unclear

By Jesse Blancarte

It’s not hard to understand why a lot of people view the last two weeks or so of the NBA regular season as a dead period. For many fans, their team is out of playoff contention, so they are either ready to watch the playoffs without any rooting interest or start moving their attention toward the upcoming draft. For other fans, their team locked up a playoff spot weeks ago, and the last few games of the regular season carry little to no consequence for them.

But this season, the playoff race in both conferences is still very active. First, let’s take a look at the current state of West.

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Randolph Wants Guaranteed Contract to Explore Options

By Jessica Camerato

It has been said that when one door closes, another one opens. In the case of Shavlik Randolph, the door doesn’t really seem to close with the Boston Celtics.

Randolph was in his second stint with the team this season. He first played for the Celtics in 2013, and was re-acquired from the Phoenix Suns as part of the three-team Austin Rivers trade in January.

On Monday, the Celtics waived Randolph and subsequently signed Chris Babb to a multi-year contract. That afternoon the team discussed the situation with Randolph, who had an expiring contract, and he expressed he would not want to sign a non-guaranteed deal for the upcoming season. Randolph would like to keep his options open, including the possibility of returning overseas to China with the intention of returning to the NBA in February, as he has done in the past.

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Nets Continue Hot Streak

By Cody Taylor

During the course of any given season, teams will go through hot streaks and then they’ll suffer through cold snaps. Some hot streaks come at better times than others, while some slumps come at the worst parts of the season.

Less than four weeks ago, the Brooklyn Nets found themselves in an unlikely slump with the clock quickly running out on the 2014-15 regular season. Their playoff hopes were dwindling with each loss as the team sat at 23-33 with a number of tough match-ups ahead on the schedule.

Then, on February 28, the Nets defeated the Dallas Mavericks on the road and then followed that game up with a 110-108 win against the Golden State Warriors. It seemed like Brooklyn would turn things around and gain some momentum. But just as quickly as they flipped the switch to play well, they flipped it right back off.

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Pivotal Offseason For Demps, Pelicans

By Lang Greene

One of the toughest things for an NBA front office executive to recover from is the departure of an elite talent. This is exactly the position New Orleans Pelicans general manager Dell Demps was placed in before the 2011-12 season when the team dealt All-Star guard Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Demps and company were put in a rough spot.

All indications were pointing to Paul taking his talents elsewhere as soon as the opportunity presented itself in free agency. In exchange for Paul, the Pelicans managed to secure Al-Farouq Aminu, Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman and a 2012 first-round draft pick (which became Austin Rivers at No. 10 overall).

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Yes, Atlanta is a Legit Contender

By Alex Kennedy

No matter how many games the Atlanta Hawks win or how impressive they’ve looked throughout this season, it seems like they never get the credit that they deserve. Each week, I do a number of radio shows around the country and by far the most common questions I’ve been asked this season is, “Are the Hawks actually a legitimate contender?”

People doubt that this team is for real. They wonder if their style of play can work in the postseason. They question if they can really win a championship without a superstar. They consider their regular-season record to be somewhat of a fluke.

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Quin Snyder: On Process, Patience And How An Elite Defense is Built

By Ben Dowsett

The first thing you notice about Quin Snyder in person is his stare. What’s often a piercing glare to a player or referee on the floor is a more refined look in the confines of the press room, but it’s engaging and almost hypnotic nonetheless. He doesn’t make eye contact just for the sake of politeness. This is a man who, in almost every circumstance while on the job, knows more about what you’re saying than you do, but you’d never know it. No thought is too abstract, no question too elementary that Snyder gives it anything less than his full attention. He does the same thing on the basketball court – it’s why the Jazz hired him.

Snyder never speaks in absolutes. His approach to coaching is methodical and highly contextualized, capturing the entire picture while retaining a keen eye for even the minutest detail. You’ve never “failed” in his system – rather you’ve yet to improve, yet to embrace what’s often a painstaking process; you’ve never fully “perfected” anything so much as you’ve progressed to a higher level of functionality.

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A Realistic Free Agent Wish List for the Knicks

By Tommy Beer

LeBron James is not walking through that door…

Back in the summer of 2010, the last time (and the first time since 1996) that the New York Knicks were under the salary cap, New Yorkers were dreaming of landing the biggest of fishes. Hopes were high that LeBron might relocate to NYC, and bring along a couple of All-NBA his buddies with him. As we know, the Knicks were spurned by LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and had to settle for the oft-injured Amar’e Stoudemire.

This summer, the Knicks will once again be major factors in the free agent market, as they have upwards of $27 million to lavish on available players. And while LeBron James is again expected to exercise his player option and become a free agent, even the most optimistic Knicks fans knows LeBron is not coming to New York. In fact, it’s also highly unlikely that rest of the cream of the 2015 free agent crop lands in NYC as well. Studs such as LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Love and Marc Gasol can all make far more money by re-signing with their current teams – who are all near the top of the NBA standings.

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