Basketball Insiders’ Yannis Koutroupis discusses whether the Miami HEAT are in control of the NBA Finals after their 98-96 Game 2 win, and what cost the San Antonio Spurs the most.
Phoenix, Not Chicago, Most Likely Landing Spot for Kevin Love
Spend three minutes on the internet these days and you’ll bump into seven or eight articles about how Kevin Love is a perfect fit for the Chicago Bulls and how the Chicago Bulls are a perfect fit for Kevin Love. The Bulls do, after all, have some reasonable assets to offer up in a trade for Love, including some combination of Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Carlos Boozer’s expiring contract, the rights to Nikola Mirotic and a couple of top-20 picks in this year’s draft, but believe it or not, getting Love to the Windy City could potentially take more than that.
Minnesota Timberwolves team president (and now head coach) Flip Saunders said earlier this week that 16 teams had already contacted him about Love, and while it’s impossible for all of them to put up stronger offers than the Bulls, there is one organization that could have a decent shot at one-upping Chicago: the Phoenix Suns.
With three first-round picks this year (N0. 14, No. 18 and No. 27), the Suns have plenty to offer in terms of draft compensation, but more importantly, as Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports tweeted on Sunday, Phoenix is not opposed to offering up Goran Dragic or Eric Bledsoe in a deal for Love to go along with cap filler and a pick or two.
Both players were borderline All-Stars this past season for a Suns team that massively over-performed and just barely missed the Western Conference playoffs. As good as Butler and Gibson have been for Chicago, neither are likely to ever be quite as prolific as Bledsoe and Dragic. Bledsoe, for example, would look really nice next to Ricky Rubio in that Minnesota backcourt, and as a restricted free agent the Wolves would have a really good chance of locking him up for the long-term (or they could land him in a sign-and-trade). Even if he costs the max, he’d be a star player to partially replace Love’s production, locked up for the foreseeable future.
He’s a great asset to start with in trying to make Minnesota think long and hard about a deal, but when you throw in a couple of first-round picks and decent rotation guys like Channing Frye to make the salaries match, the deal suddenly looks quite a bit more appealing than anything the Bulls could throw together.
It’s true that Mirotic could be a star, but Bledsoe already is. As far as Love signing off on a long-term stay in Arizona, the Suns are moving in the right direction under the leadership of a smart front office, a promising young head coach in Jeff Hornacek and arguably the league’s best training staff, which has done wonders for all sorts of banged-up stars’ careers. He’d be in warm weather in a beautiful part of the country playing exactly the kind of run-and-gun basketball he was built to play. He would also have an excellent shot at making the playoffs for the first time, which seems very important to him at this point in his career.
Alongside Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah and under Tom Thibodeau in Chicago, Love would certainly have a strong opportunity to spend a few consecutive years in the NBA Finals, especially as the Miami HEAT age and the rest of the Eastern Conference flounders, but Love in Phoenix would make that team a competitor too, and certainly one of the most exciting teams in the league to watch.
Of course, all of this hinges on whether Phoenix is willing to deal Bledsoe, as Spears suggests. It’s impossible to know if his report is true, but if so, it’s hard to believe Minnesota wouldn’t rather have a borderline All-Star like Bledsoe than Butler and/or Gibson. That offer is just a bit sweeter, and Phoenix’s front office has proven they are willing to pull off a blockbuster deal.
Chicago would admittedly be a great fit for Love, and the city would accept him with open arms, but they may not be the most likely landing spot for him anymore. Phoenix could be where Love ultimately rises up from the ashes he leaves behind in Minnesota.
Commissioner Silver Admits League Exploring Lottery and Playoffs Changes
New NBA Commissioner Adam Silver held court before Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday night, answering a number of questions about the Donald Sterling situation and the lack of air conditioning in Game 1, both of which are completely relevant storylines right now. But the most interesting long-term issues Silver discussed were potential changes to the lottery and the playoffs, which will be considered by the Competition Committee next month.
“We have a long list of issues we want to look at that affect playoff seeding, that affect the lottery, possible play in tournaments, other issues that have come up,” Silver said, adding that these changes aren’t likely to happen immediately since he’s still so new as commissioner.
While the quote itself is a bit cryptic, there are a lot of ways to read this as positive, both in terms of the lottery and the postseason.
As far as seeding is concerned, there’s a chance that Silver could consider allowing the 16 best teams in the league—regardless of conference—to make the playoffs, then seed them appropriately based on their record and/or divisional finishes.
With travel now easier than it was when conferences were first established to keep teams from having to travel too long of distances by bus, it’s not the most ridiculous idea, though Silver has previously stated that he’d want to keep regional rivalries in place should such a drastic change occur.
The play-in tournament is another interesting idea that could affect not only the playoffs, but the draft. Bill Simmons of Grantland pushes his “Entertaining As Hell Tournament” every chance he gets, but the concept itself isn’t a bad one. His idea is that the eighth seeds on both sides of the bracket be up for grabs to the remaining 16 teams that did not have a strong enough record to make the playoffs. They would then compete in a single-elimination tournament for those final two playoffs spots.
Not only would this make the postseason more competitive, but it would discourage teams from tanking down the stretch.
And as far as tanking is concerned, changes to the lottery would probably be geared toward not having the same team win the top overall pick three out of four years. “The Wheel” is a complicated and fascinating proposition gaining some steam, but there are a lot of ways to fix the lottery that aren’t quite so complicated.
Whatever changes end up happening, it looks like Silver is interested in eliminating some of the antiquated postseason and offseason rules that don’t always work as well as they should. That is undoubtedly a good thing for the future of the NBA.
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