Basketball Insiders Week in Review 5/17

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The Best Trade Chip Contracts

By Eric Pincus

Large expiring contracts were valuable assets just a few years ago.

It was Kwame Brown’s $9 million expiring contract that enabled the Los Angeles Lakers to acquire Pau Gasol from the Memphis Grizzlies in 2008, along with the draft rights to 48th pick Marc Gasol.

Teams have since gotten more sophisticated, taking advantage of non/partially-guaranteed contracts, trade exceptions and cap room to facilitate trades.

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Utah Jazz On The Rise

By Steve Kyler

One of the best stories in the NBA after the All-Star break was the rise of the Utah Jazz. With a young roster starting to find its way, they became one of the better defensive of teams in the league and one of the more entertaining young teams to watch.

Jazz big man Derrick Favors emerged as a legitimate presence in the post, while small forward Gordon Hayward started to live up to his enormous max contract. Young players like Dante Exum and Trey Burke showed promise, while Rudy Gobert emerged as one of the best young defensive big men in the NBA.

Unlike most offseasons for the Jazz, this summer won’t be about trying to find a cornerstone; those are already in place. The Jazz have a few small needs to address and may have the means to do it.

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NBA’s All-Time Best Playoff Buzzer Beaters

By Joel Brigham

Outside of that amazing Game 7 between the San Antonio Spurs and L.A. Clippers, this past weekend was easily the most entertaining stretch of the 2015 NBA Playoffs so far. Derrick Rose’s huge game-winning shot on Friday night, then Paul Pierce’s on Saturday afternoon and finally LeBron James’ on Sunday were enough to give NBA fans a collective heart attack.

Those were great buzzer beaters, all three of them (four, if we include Chris Paul’s), but it’s hard to quantify where those all fit in the big scheme of history’s best buzzer beaters because we don’t know how any of these narratives end just yet.

This year’s incredible game-winners aside, here’s a look at some of the most amazing buzzer-beaters in NBA postseason history.

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Cavaliers Need Efficient LeBron James

By Alex Kennedy

There’s no arguing that LeBron James has been filling the stat sheet this postseason. Through eight playoff games, James has averaged 26.5 points, 10.1 rebounds, 7.8 assists, two steals and 1.4 blocks – all of which are higher than his 2014-15 regular season averages.

However, despite those jaw-dropping numbers and the clutch game-winner against the Chicago Bulls in Game 4, this has been one of James’ least effective and efficient postseasons.

He’s shooting just 41.8 percent from the field while attempting a playoff-career-high 25.4 shots per game. He’s shooting just 15.4 percent from three-point range through two rounds, hitting just six of his 39 attempts from long range thus far. Looking at his second-round averages only, they’re even worse: 37.7 percent from the field on 26.5 shots per game and 10.5 percent from three.

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Some Stars Seeking Redemption

By Lang Greene

The NBA, arguably more so than any other professional sports league, has always been about star power. Annually this is on full display during the playoffs, where the league’s stars typically shine the brightest on the biggest of stages.

Sports continue to be a young man’s game. This season, New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis made his first playoff appearance and averaged 30 points and 10 rebounds versus the Golden State Warriors in a round-one exit. But while young players enter the mix, it also means those old reliable stars of the past are sometimes relegated to watching from afar – outside and distant from the spotlight they once enjoyed.

Heading into the 2015-16 campaign, there will be numerous big names looking to get back into the playoff mix for another taste of glory. For some it could potentially be their last chase for a championship. For others, missing the playoffs this season was just a bump in the road.

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It’s Do or Die for the Rockets

By Cody Taylor

After easily handling the Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs, the Houston Rockets are facing yet another elimination game heading into Game 6 tonight on the road against the Los Angeles Clippers.

While the Rockets are playing to see another day, the Clippers are trying to make the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history. That means the Rockets will have to play near-perfect basketball again tonight against a very determined team on their home court.

Houston took Game 5 in their building after losing the two games in Los Angeles by 58 combined points. The Clippers dominated them in nearly every phase during Games 3 and 4 and seemed to eliminate any chance the Rockets had at coming back in the series.

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Stanley Johnson is as Confident as They Come

By Jabari Davis

When it comes to having confidence in his ability to transition to the next level, NBA lottery prospect Stanley Johnson certainly isn’t lacking. The 6’7 Southern California native made this clear during Thursday’s media session at the NBA’s annual Draft Combine in Chicago.

“I’m the best player in the draft,” Johnson said when asked why an NBA team should draft him.

That may be a prospect merely providing the answer they should give in that situation, but the more time you actually spend around Johnson, the more you begin to see that he truly believes what he’s saying.

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Christian Wood’s Upside Makes Him Intriguing Project

By Jesse Blancarte

Each year, the NBA Draft presents the same dilemma for teams: whether to select a player who is ready to contribute right away or someone who has higher future potential. It is this choice that will determine how early Christian Wood, who played two years at UNLV, will be drafted.

Wood is a 6’11 power forward weighing in at 220 pounds with a 7’3 wingspan. He has a good but not great shooting stroke, but has shown potential to become a floor-spacing, rim-protecting power forward in the NBA. Add in the fact that Wood has great mobility as well as the ability to grab a defensive rebound and go coast-to-coast for a basket in transition, and it becomes clear why general managers are interested in the young forward.

But at this stage, even Wood himself understands that he is a project-type of player and that he will need to address some current weaknesses in his game to compete in the NBA.

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Kaminsky Impresses at NBA Draft Combine

By Ben Dowsett

For many, being the elder statesman at a combine full of young, energetic blue-chip talent could be somewhat strange – but not Frank Kaminsky. It’s all part of the plan for the four-year Wisconsin star and reigning NCAA Player of the Year.

“I knew I was going to stay in college for four years before I even got there,” Kaminsky told reporters at the 2015 NBA Draft Combine. “So I’m a different kind of breed, and I’m happy the way it worked out for me.”

It’s tough to argue with his logic, particularly after a behemoth senior year put him squarely in the national spotlight and, based on his projections in recent years compared with his likely lottery status in the upcoming draft, may have significantly increased his NBA draft stock as well. In Kaminsky’s opinion, age is really blown out of proportion during the pre-draft process.

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