Basketball Insiders Week in Review 5/31

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Better to Have Love and Lost?

By Moke Hamilton

In a dapper black and white tuxedo, he stood before the assembled media, seemingly a tad bit uncomfortable. He cleared his throat and Andrew Wiggins spoke of his journey to this point—being named the 2015 NBA Rookie of the Year.

“My expectations here were a lot different than they would have been in Cleveland,” Wiggins responded when asked.

And as for what he would have been in Cleveland? It is something that LeBron James and his team’s front office are probably pondering at this very moment.

As James sits on the cusp of reaching his fifth straight NBA Finals, he has done so not because of the presence of Kevin Love, but despite his absence.

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Stanley Johnson Says He Can Guard Four Positions

By Eric Pincus

18-year-old small forward Stanley Johnson believes he can quickly become an impact defender in the NBA.

“In today’s day and age, it’s about defensive versatility.  How many people you can guard and how well you can do it,” said Johnson on Thursday at a Santa Barbara workout in front of approximately 150 NBA executives, hosted by his agent Bill Duffy.

“I can guard fours.  I can guard Draymond Green.  I can guard Kawhi Leonard.  I can guard Mike Conley — I can stay with him at least,” he continued.  “You guard people in stints, I can definitely stint the minutes for sure.”

Johnson, a 6’7 freshman at Arizona, acknowledged he might be at a disadvantage against some of the bigger, stronger power forwards.

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Cavaliers Have To Pay Thompson, Right?

By Steve Kyler

Our own Moke Hamilton wrote on Sunday about the Cleveland Cavaliers’ decision to trade Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love.

Hindsight is always a brutal evaluator of decisions. In the case of Kevin Love and the Cavaliers, it couldn’t be more true.

Love has never really connected or fit in with the group in Cleveland, hence all the rumors that he may leave this summer or that he and LeBron James are not close. So far in the playoffs, Love really has not been missed despite his season-ending shoulder injury sustained in the first round against Boston.

In his absence, Tristan Thompson has emerged as a defensive and rebounding machine, and now the Cavaliers face a tough decision this summer. What is Thompson really worth, especially if Love stays in his current contract?

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Curry Recounts Scary Fall in Western Conference Finals

By Jessica Camerato

The basketball world held its breath during Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals as Stephen Curry soared over the back of Trevor Ariza and slammed onto the court. Minutes of uncertainty lingered while the NBA MVP lay face down after hitting his head. Curry was diagnosed with a head contusion and, after passing the league’s concussion protocol, returned in the second half. The end result – a Rockets’ 128-113 victory to avoid elimination – was overshadowed by the unnerving moments that took place during the game.

Curry remembered it all.

“I felt like I was in the air for a long time and trying to brace [myself],” Curry told reporters after the game. “Once I hit the ground, kind of hearing voices from trainers and people just telling me to take my time and not rush yourself getting up. [I wanted] to make sure that I passed all the tests that I needed to do so that I could get back on the floor.”

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2015 Summer Critical For Atlanta Hawks

By Lang Greene

For some, the 2014-15 campaign was a dream season for the Atlanta Hawks. For others, a resounding playoff sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals will undoubtedly leave a sour taste their mouth all summer. These two conflicting viewpoints properly sum up why it’s so hard to properly categorize the current situation of the Hawks.

Should 60 wins, a top seed in the Eastern Conference, a Conference Finals appearance, four All-Stars and a Coach of the Year deem the 2014-15 campaign a success. Or should it be viewed as a disappointment, losing at the cusp of a NBA Finals appearance to a team with serious injuries to two of its own All-Stars?

Whatever side of the fence you may land, both views will be able to fully agree that this summer will be a key to the team’s future longevity at the top of the Eastern Conference hierarchy.

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Andrew “Mini Mamba” Goudelock Dominating Overseas

By David Pick

There isn’t a basketball fan on the planet who doesn’t want to see Kobe Bryant in action. Just the thought of his possible retirement upsets many fans.

Injuries have forced the “Black Mamba” to miss significant time over the last two seasons. So, until he returns, Andrew Goudelock – also known as the “Mini Mamba” – is the lone Mamba dominating.

Goudelock, who played for the Los Angeles Lakers from 2011 to 2013, has been playing excellent basketball overseas, although he admits it’s tough not being in the NBA.

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Will Stars Bolt From West to East?

By Alex Kennedy

When the Chicago Bulls held their free agency meeting with Carmelo Anthony last July, part of the franchise’s pitch focused on the Eastern Conference being wide open and how the star-studded Bulls could be a perennial contender in that landscape. They wanted to stress to Anthony that playing in the NBA Finals year after year could be a reality with Chicago’s talented roster and relative lack of competition, whereas making an annual title run would be much more difficult if he joined one of the Western Conference teams pursuing him.

Anthony, of course, re-signed with the New York Knicks. Then, the Cleveland Cavaliers added LeBron James and Kevin Love to become the clear-cut frontrunner in the East. Still, it remains true that the Eastern path to the Finals has significantly fewer obstacles than the Western route.

Players recognize this too, so don’t be surprised to see a number of middle-to-upper-tier players move from the West to the East through free agency or trades in the near future. Other things will obviously factor into players’ decisions too – such as the money, city, weather, playing time and much more. But all things being equal, East teams may be more attractive given how insanely competitive the West has become.

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The Ongoing Debate About “Jump Shooting” Teams

By Jesse Blancarte

There is an ongoing debate in the NBA between those who believe “jump shooting” teams can’t win a championship and those who do. Charles Barkley serves as the most vocal spokesperson for skeptics, constantly voicing his doubts during TNT’s pregame and post-game coverage of NBA games. Also in Barkley’s camp is New York Knicks president Phil Jackson, who also just so happens to be arguably the greatest coach in NBA history.

On May 10, Jackson took to Twitter to get an update on the state of three-point shooting in the playoffs. Jackson’s tweet was written when the Golden State Warriors and Atlanta Hawks were both down 2-1 in their second round matchups. The point he was making is that three-point shooting isn’t the “be all end all of basketball” and that teams should not “disvalue the 2pt shot.”

Another vocal skeptic is Los Angeles Lakers head coach Byron Scott. Before the season started, Scott told reporters that he didn’t believe shooting three-pointers was a formula for winning a championship.

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Why Fred Hoiberg for Bulls?

By Joel Brigham

For months, rumors have swirled that the Chicago Bulls would hire current Iowa State University head coach Fred Hoiberg the moment that Tom Thibodeau was either fired or traded. But now that Thibs has officially packed his things and moved on from the Bulls, the reality of Hoiberg becoming the next head coach of the Bulls really has started to set in.

Obviously Hoiberg hasn’t officially been hired yet, and there is a possibility with his recent heart issues that he could decide the rigors of the NBA aren’t for him (especially considering how cushy his Iowa State gig is), but despite all of that there is a strong belief that he’ll end up manning the sidelines for Chicago next season. Adam Zagoria even suggests that ISU recruits were told from the get-go that The Mayor might not be around for the upcoming NCAA season.

So let’s just assume Hoiberg does get the Bulls’ coaching job. What does he bring to the table, and how is he an upgrade over Thibodeau?

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Parsing the 2015 NBA Finals Chessboard

By Ben Dowsett

Just as they do every year, the 2015 NBA playoffs have highlighted several bits of minutiae that see far less attention during the 82-game regular season. There have been several major themes this year, from rest and injury concerns to the ever-present conference imbalance at play. But like always, the largest and most noticeable differences are tactical and schematic in nature.

Rather than traveling around the NBA globe with a different opponent on the docket every two or three nights, a given team has just one foe on whom to focus for an extended period of time. They can spend practice time zeroing in on even the opposition’s tiniest weaknesses, and furthermore can use each game in the series as a chance to re-adjust. It’s not always the case, but when personnel and other factors aren’t separated by much, the side that stays a step ahead in this game within the game gets over the top more often than not.

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