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Basketball Insiders Week in Review 4/27

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

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The Demise of a Would-Be Champ?

By Bill Ingram

Prior to the start of the 2013-14 NBA season you couldn’t find too many analysts who didn’t pick the Indiana Pacers to come out of the Eastern Conference this season, and not a single one would have told you the Pacers would fall anywhere short of the conference finals. They walked of the court at the end of last year’s conference finals looking like a team that was ready to take the next step. They were deep, confident, and their leader – Paul George – looked poised to take the NBA by storm.

They started the season that way, too, staking their claim on the East’s top spot and looking like a lethal threat to the Miami HEAT’s bid to win three straight championships behind the play of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh.

And then the trade deadline came.

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76ers Executed Their Plan Flawlessly

By Steve Kyler

Last summer during the Orlando Summer League, as front office personnel and media members took in a meal in between game action, Philadelphia 76ers majority owner Josh Harris pulled up a chair at a crowded table. Immediately the topic of conversation shifted from the chatter about the day’s game, to the flurry of transactions Harris’ team had consummated just weeks earlier. Harris, reflecting on his team’s situation, sort of had a “what do you know today that you didn’t when you bought the team moment”, in which it became clear that Harris finally figured out what every NBA owner eventually discovers on their own: There are no shortcuts to getting a NBA championship.

Harris joked with the other executives sitting at the table that it was harder than he anticipated to build a winning team in the NBA and that inserting a high priced coach and throwing around a little cash to players wouldn’t get it done. It surely wouldn’t get it done over the long haul.

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Replacing Mike Woodson and Rick Adelman

By Yannis Koutroupis

The NBA head coaching carousel took a couple of days after the end of the season to start up, but it’s moving full speed now as Mike Woodson was fired by the New York Knicks and Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Rick Adelman retired on Monday.

Neither move comes as a surprise. Woodson’s job security has shaky since the beginning of the season. In fact, there were multiple times in-season where reports surfaced that he could be fired any day. Even before Phil Jackson took over as president it was clear that his time as the Knicks coach would not extend beyond this season unless they won a championship.

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Lillard’s Incredible Ascent to Stardom

By Alex Kennedy

Damian Lillard is rarely rattled on the basketball court. That’s clear to anyone who has watched Lillard take over a game in clutch time and lead the Portland Trail Blazers to victory. The latest example of Lillard’s ice-water veins came on Sunday night, when the 23-year-old had 31 points, nine rebounds, five assists and several huge plays in the final minutes to lead the Blazers to an upset road victory over the Houston Rockets. It was Lillard’s first career playoff game, but you would never know it watching the confident point guard.

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Potential Trade Destinations for Kevin Love

By Cody Taylor

The Minnesota Timberwolves have a very important offseason coming up, one that will be filled with a lot of questions regarding their franchise player Kevin Love. The situation with Love is one that many teams have to deal with at one point or another, deciding whether to trade an unhappy star in fear of losing that player for nothing. While the Timberwolves’ stance on trading Love has softened in recent weeks, there are some teams in the league that might try to tempt Minnesota into making a deal. The Timberwolves are in a no-win situation with Love because if they hold on to him he could walk next summer but if they trade him they know they won’t get anywhere near the value Love is really worth. But something is better than nothing.

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Studs and Duds From Week 1 of the Playoffs

By Moke Hamilton

With the NBA playoffs having kicked off this past weekend, we were served a stark reminder: it’s not how you perform, it’s when you perform.

Legends are made during the playoffs and heroes are often exposed as zeroes. After two full days of dramatic action, Basketball Insiders presents the Studs and Duds of Week 1.

At the end of the day, winning matters more than anything else, so do not expect homage to be paid to a player whose team came up on the short end of the stick.

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Youthful Raptors Not Feeling Pressure

By Lang Greene

The Toronto Raptors was arguably the best team in the Eastern Conference after trading high scoring forward Rudy Gay back in December. Toronto finished the campaign on a 41-22 tear and snapped a five season playoff drought in the process, securing a third seed in the East.

But despite the team’s success down the stretch, many believe the Brooklyn Nets jockeyed to play the emerging Raptors in the first round of the playoffs rather than the more seasoned Chicago Bulls.

If true, on paper, the Nets’ strategy was seemingly a good one. After all, the NBA playoffs is a veteran’s playground which is typically a humbling ground for the inexperienced. Entering the playoffs Brooklyn’s roster contained more than 400 combined games of playoff experience and well over 16,000 postseason minutes on their respective resumes. For many Raptors players, the 2013-14 campaign is their first rodeo on the big stage.

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Will The Lakers Re-sign Pau Gasol?

By Jabari Davis

Should the Los Angeles Lakers re-sign Pau Gasol? The real question is whether Gasol should stay or go? Finally, the veteran big man and soon-to-be free agent has the right to make such a decision for himself. After being the key component of seemingly every trade rumor known to man for the better part of three seasons, the 13-year veteran will have the ability to begin negotiating with teams as of 9:01 p.m. Pacific Time on June 30.

“This year is a little different,” Gasol told reporters during his exit interview. “I wasn’t sure if I’d be traded. [Now], that possibility is out of the question. It’s now [out] because I’m in charge of my future and destiny, and listen to the possibilities on the table. I look at this as an opportunity probably for the first time and last time I’ll be a free agent where I can choose.”

One can hardly blame Gasol for wanting to explore his options. The opportunity to remain in Los Angeles with longtime friend and teammate Kobe Bryant may be appealing, but it would also be understandable for Gasol to pursue a more immediate path toward a title if he determines the current state of the Lakers is not something he wants to sign on for.

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Didn’t Happen Overnight: Mike Conley Takes Control

By Jessica Camerato

He has reached the point now where he makes it look easy. The way he controls the pace of the floor, knowing when to attack and when to slow things down, understanding how to see the path to the basket before it is created and where to position his teammates for the best shot, it seems effortless.

Mike Conley has figured it out. Now in his seventh NBA season, the point guard is at the helm of a Memphis Grizzlies team that tied up their first round series with the Oklahoma City Thunder, 1-1, on Monday. Conley posted 19 points, 12 assists and seven rebounds while only committing two turnovers in the overtime battle.

The way he gets up and down the court seems like second nature, as if he entered the NBA with a built-in ease that instantly spilled on to the floor. The reality is, Conley’s talent is the product of years of hard work, countless hours of game film and the modesty to understand the effort needed to become a dominant player in the league.

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Is the 2015 Free Agent Class Better than 2014?

By Jesse Blancarte

The NBA’s regular season is over, which means free agency is right around the corner. This summer’s list of free agents is fluid as many players have the choice to opt out of their current contract in order to secure a new, longer contract with their team or another team; players such as Carmelo Anthony, Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph have to decide whether they want to test free agency now or at some point down the road. This often precludes a potential free agent from ever actually hitting the market. Also, players can extend their current contract and avoid free agency. This happens less often under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, but is still possible. Thus, here we will be making educated predictions on whether players such as Anthony, Gay and Randolph will enter this summer’s free agency pool or put off the bidding war for their services until next offseason.

In some years, NBA free agency includes a star-studded cast, like in 2010 when LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Carlos Boozer, Amar’e Stoudemire, Joe Johnson and Dirk Nowitzki among others were all free agents. More often, however, there are one, two or maybe three stars who are free agents and generate a lot of buzz, such as Chris Paul and Dwight Howard last year.

Considering this, let’s take a look at who may be available this upcoming offseason.

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Top 10 NBA Free Agents

By Joel Brigham

The 2013-14 NBA season is completely over for 14 teams, and eight more are about to join them in the next week or two. That means over two-thirds of the league will have nothing better to do but start gearing up for free agency and the draft this summer, with free agency talking a prominent position because of all the high-quality talent on the market this year.

The following is a list of the 10 best free agents on the market, and while it’s an impressive set, it doesn’t even include some of the biggest names that could potentially hit the free agent pool. LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh among others have early termination options on their deals which, if exercised, could put them on the market in July, as well.

For now, though, we’re just going to look at the players who will definitely be free agents in the coming months, as well as where they might end up and how much money they could earn.

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Simple Adjustments for the Bulls in Game 3

By Nate Duncan

After two close losses at home that saw their offense fizzle down the stretch and vaunted defense surrender points at a near league-high rate, the Chicago Bulls trail the Washington Wizards 2-0 heading into Friday’s Game 3 at the Verizon Center in Washington.  Through two games, the Wizards have appeared by far the more talented team, and arguably possess the three most talented players in the series in Nene, John Wall and Bradley Beal.  Nevertheless, the outcome of the series is not yet fait accompli.  Given the competitive nature of the series, the Bulls could improve their chances by making a few adjustments.  Although in-series adjustments are not a panacea for the Bulls’ overall offensive issues, a number of tweaks could enable them to at least extend the series and return it to Chicago.

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The NBA’s Biggest Contracts

By Eric Pincus

Fourteen teams are already on vacation.  Sixteen will be pared down to eight in a week’s time. Looking ahead to the 2014-15 season, the NBA has projected a salary cap of $63.2 million. A number of players will take up a major portion of their team’s cap.  Some earn their money — others, not so much.

The following is a list of the NBA’s biggest contracts for the coming season:

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Things the Bucks New Owners Need to Address

By John Zitzler

On April 16 Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens purchased the Milwaukee Bucks for $550 million from Herb Kohl. This move has rejuvenated the franchise and provides a new found optimism that hasn’t surrounded the organization in quite some time. Lasry and Edens will have a massive undertaking ahead of them but if done right could build something very special here in Milwaukee.

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Fantasy: 2013-14 Fantasy Basketball Awards

By Tommy Beer

With the 2013-14 regular season in the books, Basketball Insiders breaks down the numbers and hands out hardware to the cream of the fantasy crop.

Fantasy MVP: Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder

While an argument could be made for LeBron James as the winner of the actual NBA MVP award this season, Durant blew him out of the water in the fantasy hoops universe. It is not a stretch to say Durant put together one of the finest all-around statistical seasons in NBA history in 2013-14.

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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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