Basketball Insiders Week in Review 4/6

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Future Looks Bright in Sacramento

By Bill Ingram

The Sacramento Kings have been one of the more perplexing teams in the NBA in recent years. Since the decline of the core group that made them contenders in the early 2000s, the Kings have been through enough head coaches to populate an entire division and wasted enough draft picks to give Kings fans nightmares thinking about what might have been. Now, however, the Kings believe they are headed in the right direction. Mike Malone is at the helm of the team and he feels he has some important pieces in place to think about winning long-term.

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Thibodeau: Noah Deserves MVP Consideration

 By Jessica Camerato

It’s easy to point to players like LeBron James and Kevin Durant in the Most Valuable Player debate. They are the faces of elite teams, ones that have been dominating all season.

Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau, though, has a different take on the MVP race. The Bulls have not had an easy ride. It has been rocked by the season-ending injury of Derrick Rose and the dramatic trade of Luol Deng. But they still find themselves at 40-32 and the reputation as a team few want to face in the playoffs.

Thibodeau credits this success to their intense man in the middle, Joakim Noah.

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Fixing the Philadelphia 76ers

 By Joel Brigham

Whatever Egyptian pharaoh first decided to undergo the construction of the pyramids must have understood the importance of patience in developing what must have then seemed like a borderline impossible task. Imhotep, the ancient architect commissioned to build the first of the great pyramids, likely laid out his plans in front of him, admitted to himself that the task at hand would be unbearably daunting, but knew that if he pulled it all off, the pain and suffering of those that helped build the things would all be worth it.

Whatever patience Imhotep and the pharaohs may have had to exercise, Philadelphia 76ers fans should probably count on doubling it. The road ahead for this massive rebuilding project is long and arduous, no doubt about it, and people who root for the Sixers should probably count on at least a few more years of mediocrity. It won’t ever be as bad as it was this season, when the team tied the NBA record for consecutive losses with 26 in a row, but it will most certainly be slow.

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Nowitzki Should Weigh Free Agency Options

By Alex Kennedy

As the 2013-14 NBA season comes to a close, some players and teams are starting to look ahead to July, when free agency begins. While there has been plenty of discussion about players like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony and what they might do this summer, there is one impending free agent who hasn’t been talked about very much.

Dirk Nowitzki.

The 35-year-old will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and while it has been assumed that he will finish his career with the Dallas Mavericks, there’s no guarantee that will happen. After all, the Mavericks may miss the postseason for the second consecutive year and, as currently constructed, are far from a contender in the Western Conference. As of right now, Dallas is 44-30, which puts them in eighth place by a half game in the competitive conference.

Will Nowitzki re-sign with the Mavericks or will he sign with a contender?

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NBA Power Rankings: Battles Abound

 By Moke Hamilton

After 22 weeks of NBA action, the playoffs are on the horizon, but more than in recent years past, injuries and attrition have begun to dominate the conversation leading into April.

From Dwight Howard to LaMarcus Aldridge to Andre Iguodala to Russell Westbrook in the West to Kevin Garnett and Dwyane Wade in the East, there are quite a few key cogs on contenders that are trying to nurse themselves back to 100 percent in pursuit of the Larry O’Brien trophy.

That is the major story heading into April—at least at the top of the respective conferences.

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The Indiana Pacers Might Be Toast

By Lang Greene

For most of the season the Indiana Pacers have led the Eastern Conference, seemingly in control of their quest to secure home court advantage throughout the (East) playoffs. However, the Pacers’ goal may be one that is ultimately unfulfilled as the Miami HEAT finally pushed past them in the standings on Monday night.

After  a 33-7 start to the campaign, the Pacers have gone 19-16. Indiana’s struggles have continued down the stretch, compiling a woeful 8-10 record in March. While the HEAT are the new leaders of the East, they haven’t exactly been the pillars of consistency, compiling slightly above average 10-8 record during March.

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Fixing the Milwaukee Bucks

 By John Zitzler

The 2013-14 season may hasn’t gone how the Milwaukee Bucks had hoped, but the season full of losses might have been exactly what the team needed. Unlike the Philadelphia Sixers, the Bucks went into this year hoping to fight for one of the final playoff seeds in the weak Eastern Conference. They brought in veteran players such as O.J. Mayo, Gary Neal, Caron Butler, Carlos Delfino, Zaza Pachulia and Luke Ridnour to help bring stability and leadership to an otherwise young group, with aspirations of a surprising season.

However, it didn’t take long to see that even with the team’s offseason additions, they weren’t going to win many games. The Bucks rolled into the All-Star break with a paltry record of 9-43. It was evident to even the most optimistic fan that despite being in the very down Eastern Conference, this season was not going to end with a playoff berth.

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“Tanking” Just Isn’t a Big Deal

 By Nate Duncan

One cannot turn a page on the basketball internet this season without encountering a discussion of “tanking.” The implication is that the league has a massive problem with teams intentionally losing games to better their draft picks. It is totally understandable that these pieces proliferate; they are funny.* Moreover, it is fun to try to come up with solutions to this theoretical problem.  It is quite amusing to overstate the problem–until the dialogue begins to potentially effect real change that could remove hope from downtrodden teams.

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2014 Cap Space Projections – Central Division

By Eric Pincus

Eight teams have officially clinched playoff berths as the 2013-14 regular season winds down.

Looking ahead to the 2014 offseason, a number of teams in the SoutheastSouthwestAtlantic and Pacific divisions could have significant cap room this summer.

The league’s early projections for next year’s salary cap is $62.9 million, up from this year’s $58.7 million.  The luxury tax threshold is also expected to climb to approximately $75.7 million from $71.7 million.

In the fifth part of a series, where do the five teams in the Central Division stand this offseason?

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Fixing the Cleveland Cavaliers

 By Jesse Blancarte

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ recent history can be divided into two periods: life-with-LeBron and life-after-LeBron.

The life-after-LeBron period has been somewhat of a roller coaster. The Cavaliers managed to swing a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers that netted them a 2011 first-round draft pick that became Kyrie Irving. This was the high point on the Cavs’ rollercoaster ride. However, it didn’t last long.

The Cavs then drafted Tristan Thompson with the fourth pick in 2011 and Dion Waiters with the fourth pick in 2012. Though Thompson and Waiters are talented players, the Cavs passed on players like Andre Drummond, Jonas Valanciunas and Klay Thompson to pick them. Then, after winning the 2013 lottery, the Cavs selected Anthony Bennett. The choice was so surprising, it caused ESPN’s Bill Simmons to emphatically say “whoa” during coverage of the draft.

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Phil Jackson Seeing Potential in Knicks

By Yannis Koutroupis

New York Knicks president Phil Jackson has officially been on the job for less than a month, but things are already turning around in the Big Apple. They’re winners of three straight games, and seven of their last 10; if the season were to end today, they’d be in the playoffs.

Now Jackson probably deserves the least amount of credit for the turnaround of anyone currently involved in the Knicks organization. It’s not like he’s come in and made radical changes or been really hands on with the day-to-day operations. He’s simply in observing mode right now, but he does see potential even in this year’s team. When asked if he believes the team is capable of making some noise in the playoffs, Jackson said yes due to the team’s balanced attack.

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The True Cost of Guaranteed Contracts in the NBA

By Tommy Beer

It’s been quite an eventful offseason for the National Football League. America’s most popular sport has captivated the interest of its fans even during the many months when their teams never step foot on the field.

Much of this offseason’s intrigue has centered on a dynamic free agency period, which has increased in intensity as a result of so many of the league’s star players being released from their current contracts. NFL teams can simply and easily part ways with virtually any player if they so choose. If they feel a player is no longer worthy of his contract (be it big or small) for whatever reason (performance on the field or attitude issues in the locker room), the lack of guaranteed contracts in the NFL allows general managers to pink slip even the highest paid players. If the team’s management feels it is in the best interest of the organization to cut loose a productive, but overpaid player, they have that option.

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Fixing the Orlando Magic

 By Cody Taylor

It was only a few years ago that the Orlando Magic were a contender and one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Those were the days when Dwight Howard was liked in Orlando, Hedo Turkoglu was playing at the peak of his career and Rashard Lewis was in Central Florida rather than South Florida.

Now, the state of the Magic is much different compared to then, as relationships have soured and Howard has gone through a blockbuster trade and a summer of free agency to land in Houston.

That blockbuster trade the Magic made nearly two years ago saw them acquire young players such as Nikola Vucevic and Maurice Harkless, while also bringing in a proven scorer in Arron Afflalo. The trade also brought in a total of five draft picks, including a potential lottery pick from either the Denver Nuggets or New York Knicks, and allowed the Magic to dump several bad contracts.

Orlando has gone 41-117 since trading Howard, so that begs the question: how can the Magic be fixed? Here are several steps for Orlando to right the ship:

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GMs On The Hot Seat?

By Steve Kyler

Last summer there were six new general manager named in the NBA, one of the largest shifts in leadership the league has seen in some time. While there will likely be some significant moves made among NBA front office this summer, the number of open jobs won’t be nearly what it was a year ago.

Here are some of the jobs that could come open, and some of the names that might fill them:

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