The players who didn’t get traded

Every NBA trade deadline, even crazy ones like this year, have teams that couldn’t get a deal done. This means the player and situation are forced to coexist until the end of the year excluding buyouts. Basketball is a business and sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make. However, in these cases the teams should’ve focused on making a trade happen for these players.

 

Tyreke Evans

 

The Grizzlies played a dangerous game, they sat Tyreke Evans for the past week and made it known they wanted a 1st round pick in return. No team bit on their bluff, and Evans will remain in Memphis for the remainder of the year. Evans will likely prevent Memphis from getting better odds in the lottery.

Evans is on a relatively cheap expiring contract without bird rights and Memphis believes that they can retain him with their MLE(Mid-Level Exception) despite other teams likely offering him much more. There is a very high chance that Evans leaves this summer, and the Grizz will end up empty-handed.

Memphis had multiple offers on the table including multiple second round picks, but no team was willing to fork over a 1st. Multiple Eastern Conferences teams had tried to prey Evans away including the Celtics, Sixers as well as Denver in the West.

 

Deandre Jordan

The Clippers Big 3 of Chris Paul, Deandre Jordan and Blake Griffin is now a thing of a past with Paul on the Rockets and Griffin on the Pistons. (Photo by ClipperBlog)

 

The Clippers are making a massive mistake in not trading Deandre Jordan. Here is a list of reasons why he won’t re-sign:

  1. He was a free agent in 2015 and agreed to a deal with the Dallas Mavericks potentially breaking up the “Lob City” formed. However, the Clippers core at the time locked Jordan in his house before he was able to sign the deal with the Mavericks and convinced him to sign with the Clippers. He has shown resistance to staying with the Clippers before.
  2. The Clippers begged and pleaded Blake Griffin to sign with them over this summer. They then proceeded to trade him to Detroit less than a year later. The Clippers show they have no loyalty to their stars, and Jordan won’t want the same to happen to him.
  3. The Clippers are not a competitive playoff team. Deandre wants to play for a team that is heading for a rebuild.

The Clippers should realize that Jordan is at best 50/50 on staying with them and that they could easily get good young players and a draft pick instead of ending up with nothing if he leaves this summer.

 

Lou Williams

 

The Clippers get to be on this list twice because it looks like they don’t know how to rebuild, or win in the playoffs. Lou Williams was one of the positive stories for the Clippers as he became the best 6th man in the league. He’s 3rd in the league in Isolation points per possession behind James Harden and Chris Paul and is averaging 23 points a game along with 5 assists.

For weeks, they were fielding offers for Sweet Lou and should’ve made a deal with a competitor for a pick and young player. Instead, the Clippers decided to sign him long-term with a 3 year deal. The Clippers are not close to competing in the Western Conference, and it’s delusional to think they could.

 

Final Thoughts

General managers have difficult decisions, there is likely multiple deals that almost happened every trade deadline and making any decision takes a lot of consideration for the future of the team. However, it feels like these players and teams would’ve been a lot better off if they made the deals happen instead of staying pat at the deadline.

 

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LeBron James new team

Weighing LeBron’s most likely landing spots

LeBron James’ contract is up at the end of the season. He’s officially fulfilled his commitment to Cleveland. He delivered a championship to the long-suffering city in the most exciting NBA Finals of the past 10 years.

So that begs the question of where is his next stop?

The most interesting thing about this debate is that many teams are in limbo until James narrows down his list. Some teams are trading away players to guarantee the cap space, while others are loading up to lure him to their city. Still, others are gauging his interest to make the most calculated moves to prepare for either eventuality.

The entire league is waiting with bated breath to see where The King wants to take his talents next. No matter where he goes, the move will shake up the foundation of the NBA for the length of his new contract. He’s been tied to many teams through the rumor mill, but here are the most interesting propositions.

Los Angeles Lakers

Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news yesterday that the lakers are “shifting their focus to the 2019 free agent class.” That could mean a few things.

The most likely explanation is that James wouldn’t want to go to the Lakers without any bona fide stars on the roster. He’s carried teams to the playoffs and finals by himself before, and all signs indicate he’s on the quest for more rings.

LeBron James new team

LeBron James and Lonzo Ball share a postgame hug. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

If he signs there at the seasons’ end, James will be alone with Lonzo Ball and Larry Nance Jr., who are not huge draws. James might want the team to bring in some talent before he commits. Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Klay Thompson are all names that appear to be on Magic Johnson’s shortlist.

It could also mean that Johnson isn’t positive he can reel in James at all, and that he doesn’t want to trade away assets and clear massive cap space to pull in someone who may not be interested.

Leaving the cap open also allows them to go in a different direction. The Lakers could pull two or maybe even three stars after next season, letting James go his own way.

James owns homes in Los Angeles, and it’s well-known that he wants to make a transition to Hollywood after his NBA career is over. Pair that with the Lakers’ storied history and their ability to draw in free agents, and it’s hard to believe the team would not go after him with everything they’ve got.

But consider the possibility that James goes to another team on a max deal, with an opt-out clause after the first year. If things don’t go according to plan in his new city, he could exercise that option. Assuming Johnson can pull in a superstar, then the door is open for James to put on the purple and gold.

It’s messy and complicated, but Magic Johnson has the star power to get this done.

San Antonio Spurs

San Antonio’s championship window is closing. The team is old, and their three best players’ contracts expire after next season.

There is one sure-fire way to get them to re-sign, possibly even for less money. That way includes signing LeBron James.

LeBron James new team

Gregg Popovich and LeBron James congratulate each other after Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals. (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images)

A team including LaMarcus Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James, coached by Gregg Popovich, is an instant title contender. Age and bench players be damned, that team could compete with any team in the league. Pau Gasol will be pushing 40 by the time his contract is up, but just ask Manu Ginobili how Coach Popovich can keep up old players’ efficacy.

Keep in mind that James has never had a coach anywhere near as good as Popovich. As he gets older and has to start becoming more of a system player rather than a one-man wrecking crew, coaching goes a long way.

This all hinges on the idea that James can draw in some young talent to one of the least exciting basketball cities in the country. Leonard and Aldridge would also have to re-sign. But their tradition of excellence makes it hard to completely count the Spurs out of contention.

Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers are a very interesting dark horse candidate to land LeBron James. They have a breadth of young talent and the most cap space in the NBA at over $75 million.

The potential to be very good for a long time could be a huge draw for James. It also would allow him to be a leader and a mentor to the young guys on the team. That would be a complete 180 degree turn from his current situation with the Cavaliers.

The problem here is that none of the players are established enough to prove to him that Philadelphia would put him in a position to win more titles. Ben Simmons is firmly in contention for Rookie of the Year, but he has an injury history, and the sample size is tiny.

The same goes for Joel Embiid. He’s been injured constantly and just played in back-to-back games for the first time on Feb. 2 and 3. Markelle Fultz is also injured and has seemingly forgotten how to shoot the basketball.

Again, the key here is the 76ers’ cap space. The contracts there are extremely manageable, and if the young players can stay healthy, they can be doubly useful, either as trade bait or pieces of the team’s success moving forward. The ability to sign players that James likes to play with has been a huge part of his decisions in the past. However, Philadelphia is still a couple of years away from being true contenders in the East.

New York Knicks

James has been in the Eastern Conference since he entered the NBA. Staying in the East would more than likely set him up for the most success moving forward. He knows every team in the league inside and out, but playing with a similar travel schedule will be more important as he gets older. The Knicks check that box.

LeBron James new team

James shoots over Kristaps Porzingis. (Photo by: Brad Penner/USA Today Sports)

New York City is the Mecca of basketball. Playing at Madison Square Garden 41 nights out of the year would be beyond compare for someone who as aspirations to become the greatest NBA player of all time. Delivering a championship to New York could very well solidify that position.

Kristaps Porzingis is out for the year, and ACL tears are a notoriously difficult injury. But given his skill set, there is no reason to believe he won’t come back 100 percent. Porzingis would be a huge draw to James if he does indeed come back strong.

Apart from The Unicorn and the city, there is little else to convince anyone that James will be a Knick. The front office is a mess, and the team has little to no direction at the moment. James could fix the latter, but this move is unlikely at best.

Los Angeles Clippers

Another Los Angeles team has LeBron James sized aspirations.

Dumping Blake Griffin’s contract off of the payroll was a major first step towards landing The King. If the Clippers deal DeAndre Jordan as well, the cap space will be wide open for a max deal. Plus, the organization also just announced that they are re-signing Lou Williams. Williams and Patrick Beverley could create a sneaky-good backcourt, although the team would still lack talent.

But still, they are a Los Angeles team. The city alone guarantees people will want to play for the Clippers. If Paul George truly does want to play in Los Angeles, who is to say he has to play for the Lakers? George and James would more than fix the frontcourt issues. Also, delivering a championship to a team that’s never seen the Western Conference Finals could cement the status James is chasing.

However, as with the Lakers, trading away assets on the promise of potential signings might not be the way to go. James wants to win now and often. Jockeying to sign him may have just taken them out of the conversation.

Houston Rockets

Now for the most likely candidate. Houston may very well have the pieces to beat Golden State right now. Add LeBron James to the team and you have a competitive Western Conference again. The problem for the NBA, however, is that the NBA Finals would be little more than a formality.

LeBron James new team

James Harden guards LeBron James. (Photo by David Liam Kyle/Getty Images)

Regardless, playing with James Harden, Chris Paul and Clint Capela would be huge for James. After all, playing with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh alone worked out well for him. The pieces the Rockets have are better than that Miami Heat team.

Some NBA fans, however, think playing with stars tarnished James’ legacy. He has made it clear he is uninterested in those opinions, but it could play a part in deciding not to play on a super team.

Also, to clear the cap space, the bench would more than likely suffer immensely. James won’t be able to average 36.8 minutes a game forever. Harden and Paul could lighten the load, but not significantly.

But James wants rings, as many as he can get. The move to Houston would give him the best chance to win more of them.

 

Featured image by Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

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Blake Griffin trade winners and losers

Winners and losers of the Blake Griffin trade

Doc Rivers said in a pregame press conference before the Clippers’ matchup against the Portland Trail Blazers that the Blake Griffin trade “…came out of nowhere, and it came pretty quick.”

One moment, the Clippers were a potential playoff team with two of the premiere big men in the league. The next moment, they are almost certainly in rebuild mode with more valuable pieces that might be on the move.

Most NBA pundits are completely divided on the trade. Did Detroit give up too much? Did Los Angeles throw in the towel too early? Who does the deal benefit more?

Even though both teams are almost certainly indifferent to anyone’s opinion other than Griffin’s and the front offices’, let’s break down the winners and losers three days removed from the trade.

Winner: Los Angeles Clippers

Many might argue that the Clippers didn’t get enough for Blake Griffin. They might say that Los Angeles didn’t field enough offers for him, or didn’t wait long enough to see how desperate teams would become for Griffin’s services closer to the trade deadline.

Blake Griffin trade winners and losers

Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan were previously one of the best big man combinations in the league. (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBA)

The fact is, Griffin is injury-prone, and the longer teams have to think about that, the higher the odds are that they will want to buy low. When you add up all the time that Griffin has missed in his seven-year career, he has missed almost two full seasons.

 

The key to the trade isn’t Tobias Harris or Avery Bradley. It’s the 2018 first-round and 2019 second-round picks they received from Detroit.

Sure, Griffin makes Detroit much more competitive, which will devalue the picks considerably. But if the Clippers commit to a rebuild, which they should, then stock-piling picks is the way to go. Find good players in the draft, and once it seems like the team can be competitive again, trade less valuable pieces away for the pieces they are missing.

This trade was a gamble, and no one should really believe that the Clippers are trying to stay competitive, or are going for a “soft rebuild.” However, hamstringing the team to pay Griffin in 2023 out of nothing more than loyalty, would be a mistake.

Loser: Doc Rivers

Blake Griffin trade winners and losers

DeAndre Jordan holds Doc Rivers back. (Photo by Kathy Willens/Associated Press)

Becoming a non-factor in the Western Conference playoff picture almost definitely means Rivers’ time is up in Los Angeles.

 

His contract is up in 2019, and if the Clippers trade Lou Williams and DeAndre Jordan, then they are set up for a disastrous 2018-19 campaign. This will allow the Clippers to cut ties with the head coach without a second thought.

The news isn’t all bad for Rivers, however. He’ll find another job, maybe even on another competitive team due to his player coaching abilities. However, not even getting Lob City to a Western Conference finals is a huge black mark on his record.

Either way, Los Angeles would be silly not to bring on a younger, more new-school coach after the 2019 season that fits better with the team’s new direction.

Winner: Detroit Pistons

Getting Blake Griffin now is a huge win for the Pistons’ future.

Since he is under contract until 2022, Detroit has time to build around Griffin and convince him to stay for less money if they manage to become legitimately competitive by the time his current contract expires.

It is also a huge incentive for Andre Drummond to stay after his contract is up in 2021. If the chemistry is there between the two players, then Detroit might be able to convince him to stay. Perhaps they could even have a life-long Piston on their hands.

Teams can absolutely turn things around in 3-4 years. The Griffin-Drummond combo makes Detroit an attractive free agent destination in the coming years. That alone could turn the Pistons from an afterthought in the East to a real threat, especially if LeBron James finds his way to the West.

Loser: NBA

The NBA is better off with at least one competitive team in Los Angeles. Now that it seems as if that ship has sailed for the Clippers (no pun intended), the NBA is in a tough spot.

The trade makes the road to the finals even easier for the juggernaut that is the Golden State Warriors. The Clippers could have caused them some problems with Griffin, but the last thing the NBA needs is to make the Warriors’ lives even easier.

The trade also does not make the Eastern Conference much more competitive. Regardless of the Cavaliers’ struggles as of late, it would be foolish to think they can’t turn it on in the playoffs and get back to the finals. The Boston Celtics will also almost definitely be in the Eastern Conference finals due to great depth and coaching. The Pistons will not be able to compete with either of those teams with only half a season’s worth of chemistry-building.

TBD: Blake Griffin

Finally, the man in the center of all of the drama’s fate is yet to be decided. Will this experiment work out in Detroit? Or will it be more of the same for Griffin?

Blake Griffin trade winners and losers

Blake Griffin will have to find success in the Eastern Conference. (Photo by Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

It looks on the surface as if it might be just more of the same. Being paired with another impressive big man, surrounded by decent role players was the exact situation Griffin was just a part of in Los Angeles. Who is to say the Pistons won’t peter out in the second round like the Clippers did?

However, another great coach and having the ability to finally draw in free agents might set the Pistons apart from some of the other conferences in the East. It will all depend on if Griffin can finally stay healthy and find a different level of success in an easier conference.

It’s not a ridiculous exaggeration to say that this move will either set up Griffin for more success than he has previously had, or whether he will just go down as the greatest Clipper ever.

All the NBA can do is wait to see how Detroit’s front office will approach the coming years as the East gets tougher.

 

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NBA All-Star game snubs

2018 All-Star Game snubs and surprises

The 2018 All-Star game starters and reserves are set. We don’t know what color jerseys the players will be wearing, but we do know who will be wearing them.

So it’s time to cue the profanity-laced tweets and cries of “popularity contest.” Let the fans’ opinions on how to fix this defense-free contest both somehow simultaneously be heard and spectacularly ignored. Let’s bask in the interminable glory of four Warriors starters making the roster for the second year in a row. At least they might be playing on different teams this time.

The newly implemented draft system was meant to be an exciting way of adding an air of competitiveness to the game. Ask the NFL how that worked out for them.

What’s more is the fans won’t even get to watch the draft. The rosters will be announced on Thursday on an extended edition of TNT’s Tip-Off program.

Regardless of anyone’s feelings, the stage is set. So after we take a look at how voting is counted, let’s break down the biggest snubs and surprises from the All-Star game selections.

All-Star game voting

The voting for starters is split between fans, players and media. The fans votes make up 50 percent, while the players and media both account for 25 percent.

NBA All-Star Game snubs

Leaked All-Star Game jerseys are drawing bad reviews from fans (Photo by Conrad Burry)

The three frontcourt players (regardless of small forward, power forward or center designations) and the two guards with the highest combined vote totals in each conference are selected as the starters.

 

Starters: Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Durant, Joel Embiid, James Harden and Kyrie Irving

The All-Star game reserves are chosen by the NBA coaches. They are asked to choose three frontcourt players, two guards and two more players at any position. These players have to be in the coach’s conference, and cannot be players on their own team.

The backcourt and frontcourt players with the highest vote total are selected. Then, the two extra players are chosen by votes, and position preference stated on the coaches’ ballots.

Reserves: Kyle Lowry, Bradley Beal, John Wall, Victor Oladipo, Kevin Love, Kristaps Porzingis, Al Horford, Damian Lillard, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, Russell Westbrook, LaMarcus Aldridge, Draymond Green and Karl-Anthony Towns

Biggest snubs

Paul George

NBA All-Star game snubs

Paul George snubbed from All-Star game despite his great defensive season (Photo by Russ Isabella/USA TODAY Sports)

Paul George has been a part of a rocky experiment in Oklahoma City. At 27-20, the Thunder are currently the fifth seed in a tough Western Conference, but with their big three, one can’t help but think they are underachieving.

 

George is having a monstrous defensive season. While defense is not quite at a premium during the All-Star game, it isn’t like his offense is suffering because of it either. George is leading the league in steals at 93, and is still averaging almost 21 points per game. He’s also shooting the 3-pointer well at 42.2 percent.

In an offense dominated by two ball-hogs, that’s not bad. And many people, Russell Westbrook included, think it should have been enough to earn him a spot on the reserve roster.

Lou Williams

Lou Williams has been a revelation off the bench during the first half of the season. He’s shooting 45.1 percent from the field, and hitting 40.5 percent of his 3-pointers (of which he takes a lot). He’s averaging about 32 minutes, again, off the bench, and has had 14 games scoring over 30 points. That includes a 50-point game against Golden State, a team known for its defense as much as its offense.

Some claim that playing starters’ minutes off the bench was actually a mark against him during All-Star voting, but it also speaks to his willingness to be a team player. Those intangibles coupled with those numbers are the makings of an All-Star.

Chris Paul

Chris Paul has been pretty famously banged up this season. What most people may not realize, however, is that Paul has played in over half of the Rockets’ games this season.

When he plays, they win. Period.

When Paul has suited up this season, the Rockets have gone 23-5. When Paul, Clint Capela and James Harden are all in the lineup, the Rockets are 17-0. That’s a testament to his leadership and court vision.

Paul is averaging 19.1 points per game and 8.9 assists per game. He is also averaging a career-high 5.9 rebounds per game.

Of course, his assist numbers would be higher if the Rockets could stay healthy, but 8.9 isn’t too shabby for a team that takes as many jumpers as Houston does.

Andre Drummond

NBA All-Star game snubs

Drummond is upset he was left out of the All-Star Game reserves (Photo by Gregory Shamus, Getty Images)

Finally, Andre Drummond was left out of the All-Star game reserves. He is averaging 14.3 points and 15 rebounds per game, with the rebounds being the league’s best.

 

His free-throw shooting percentage is also up an incredible 24.3 percent, which is significant for one of the NBA’s worst at the line. His 3.9 assists per game are also up from his career average of one. Not too bad for a true center.

Drummond has been pretty vocal about his displeasure towards being left out of the All-Star roster. You can see exactly what he thought if you visit his Twitter page, as long as you’re not at work, that is.

Biggest surprises

Al Horford

The Celtics’ center Al Horford somehow made it on to the All-Star game reserve roster averaging just 13.3 points, and less than eight rebounds per game. Although his assist totals are slightly higher than Drummond’s, he’s also more of a stretch player than Drummond is.

He ventures outside the 3-point line much more than some other centers, which could have been seen as an asset. That opens the door to more passing lanes than living under the basket does.

He’s also playing almost the exact same number of minutes as Drummond is on a better team. That alone lends itself to not really having to lean on Horford as much as Detroit has had to lean on Drummond.

This isn’t a completely unwarranted All-Star game appearance. It perhaps is just an example of bias towards a more complete team.

Guards over forwards

As stated in the voting section, the two “wild card” spots on the reserve roster are given to which ever kind of player the coaches would prefer to have on the teams. Those spots in both conferences went to guards.

It’s not totally shocking, seeing as how the league has changed to rely on quickness and 3-pointers. But if the fans are supposed to believe that NBA coaches are all as committed to defense as they say they are, that should probably show up in the All-Star game. You would expect them to be favoring blocks and paint presence over quick hands and pull-up jump shots.

Watchability

In conclusion, 2018’s All-Star game just might be more watchable than previous iterations. The draft is a fun experiment, even if it doesn’t quite work out. And it’s already proven itself useful if all four Warriors don’t end up on the same side.

Even though the jerseys may be terrible, and the draft is not televised, it’s important to remember that the league is trying new things. The NBA isn’t ever going to make everyone happy with the All-Star game, especially the players. No matter how selection is done, there will always be players who are vocal about not being on the roster.

There will always be fans claiming that none of it matters anyway, or about how their voice is not heard enough. But it’s a tradition, and it is the very nature of traditions to be divisive.

Either way, N.E.R.D is playing the halftime show. That should be enough of a reason to tune in.

 

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Blow it up: Why the Clippers should embrace a rebuild

The Clippers are only one game back from the eighth seed in the West. Lou Williams is playing outside of his mind. Blake Griffin is back from concussion protocol and Patrick Beverley says he could potentially play again this year. Not to mention, they’re one of the most injured teams in the league, all around, and they still beat the Warriors on Wednesday.

So why blow it up? Why not keep getting healthier and make one last meaningful run at the title while everyone has written them off?

Easy answer to an easy question; They won’t win a title in the West. They can’t. Not with this roster in this conference with this level of competition.

The Clippers are already teetering on breaking their streak of six straight playoff appearances. So here’s why they should wave the white flag and lean into the disappointment.

Trade chips

Lou Williams’ value will simply never be higher than it is right now. He’s averaging 31.6 points per game off the bench in his last 10 contests. He’s a virtual lock for Sixth Man of the Year, although he’s pretty much playing starters’ minutes. And he dropped 50 points on Golden State on Wednesday night, which is significant because the name of the game for 29 teams in the Association is to beat the Warriors at all costs. That’s something to, at the very least, take into consideration while going over a shopping list.

Clippers

Lou Williams tries to score over Omri Casspi. (Photo by: Alex Gallardo/Associated Press)

The Clippers also have two of the premiere offensive-minded rebounders in the league in Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan.

At 28 and 29-years-old respectively, are both in that sweet spot where the Clippers can trade them away without an iota of seller’s remorse. Historically, big players have started to have a downturn in their numbers around 30-years-old. So, the Clips can say that they held onto Griffin and Jordan in their prime, tried their very best to make it work and can sell very high to teams in need of their production.

Also, if they keep Beverley off the court this year and maintain an air of mystery around what he is capable of, then they can sell high on his defensive potential during the off-season.

Coaching

Doc Rivers is a prolific players’ coach, and puts more stock in talent than schemes. This isn’t a knock against him in any way, and, in fact, it is what won him a championship in Boston.

The problem is that without transcendent talent on the floor, coaching has to be about schemes and patterns. Now that Chris Paul is a Rocket, Blake Griffin can’t seem to stay on the court for an entire season, and defensive wizard Patrick Beverley is probably done for the year, Rivers is not the right fit for the team.

Clippers

Doc Rivers yells at an official while Deandre Jordan begins to hold him back (Photo by: Kathy Willens/Associated Press)

Trading away talent for picks and placeholders is an easy way to phase out Rivers and begin again with a clean slate. His contract is up after next season, so if the team commits to the rebuild, then next year’s record should be pretty bad. That’s an excuse to let Rivers go find his next job and lets the Clippers pick a new direction.

The draft

The Clippers don’t have a wealth of draft picks this year. In fact, as of now they only have one pick. Obviously, if they trade away stars and want to rebuild, that will (or should) result in more picks.

The 2018 draft should be pretty balanced and should feature some franchise-altering talent in the first round. That leaves two ways Los Angeles can play this particular game.

They can stockpile picks and see what sticks and what doesn’t, a-la the Philadelphia 76ers. Or, they can bear hug the tanking philosophy after trading away Williams, Griffin and Jordan and aim for a high pick. Once that pick is secured, they can flip it for more chances at less-valued players, or go for broke and try to draft a star.

Either way is equally risky and equally viable, but it should all depend on what they can get for their on-court talent.

Clippers

Blake Griffin throws down a dunk. (Photo by: Harry How/Getty Images)

It’s not easy to say goodbye to Lob City. The Clippers were, genuinely, one of the most exciting teams in the NBA for a long period of time. They also successfully overshadowed a certain purple and gold clad team that shares their arena.

But with Chris Paul dropping dimes in Houston, an aging frontcourt and no real identity, it’s time to watch these players be great somewhere else. Steve Ballmer is, arguably, a top-10 owner in the league, so let’s all hope he won’t want to mortgage the future for another meaningless first round exit.

Two good teams in Los Angeles is good for the Association, and good for the fans. If this happens, however, there will be two pretty bad teams in Los Angeles, for what is probably the very first time. But this is a Band-Aid that needs to be ripped off. They still have the Dodgers, after all.

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Making the case for every fringe playoff team

The NBA season is halfway over, which means it’s time to start evaluating potential playoff teams.

The top four seeds in each conference are virtual locks, due to overall talent and coaching. The fifth-seventh seeds will do some changing around as teams jockey for their playoff seeding. Although, close followers of the NBA probably wouldn’t be surprised if the Pistons or the Trailblazers fell out of the playoff picture after overachieving slightly in the first half of the season.

As with any sport’s playoff, however, the most interesting storylines are the ones involving the teams on the bubble.

With that in mind, let’s look at each conference’s eighth seed and first two teams on the outside looking in.

Eastern Conference

Indiana Pacers (21-19, No. 8 seed)

The Pacers have been just fine without Paul George. Victor Oladipo has been playing close to his ceiling, although they’re still overpaying for him. The other piece of the trade that sent George away, Domantas Sabonis, has also been playing nicely. He’s two rebounds shy of averaging a double-double, and will probably end up setting career-high averages in every meaningful category.

While their offense has been clicking, their defense is some of the most below average in the Association. Not awful, just very mediocre. Their offense alone can win the Pacers enough games to keep them in the 8th spot. Lack of defensive consistency will have been their downfall if they fail to make the cut.

Philadelphia 76ers (19-19, first team out)

Philadelphia is one of the most exciting stories in the NBA this season. The “process” seems to have finally come to fruition, and we are finally seeing glimpses of what this long and arduous rebuild has wrought.

Even though the 76ers are a .500 team, don’t be fooled. They’re currently first in the league in rebounds per game, second in assists resulting made field goals, and sixth in points. A rested and re-energized team could ride that kind of momentum to a playoff spot after the All Star break. Plus, their first overall draft pick hasn’t even played five games yet.

NBA Playoffs

Embiid scores on Whiteside. (Photo by: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

What will keep them out of the playoffs is their youth and inconsistency in their game to game performances. As the season drags on, the young players might start to slow down, which will only exacerbate their inconsistency issues. Those red flags usually mean a .500 team will stay a .500 team, but playing in a weak conference will definitely help.

New York Knicks (19-21, second team out)

The Knicks are a force to be reckoned with in the paint on both ends of the court. They are ninth in points in the paint and second in points allowed in the paint. Yes, we’re talking about the New York Knicks.

The team is huge, size-wise. Porzingis, O’Quinn, Kanter and Noah are all either over or close to 7-feet. That length pays dividends over a long regular season, but could actually be a problem if they sneak into the playoffs. The East is full of jump shooting teams, which will stretch New York’s strengths too thin to make them truly effective.

Western Conference

New Orleans Pelicans (20-19, No. 8 seed)

New Orleans might very well be a better team than their record indicates. They’re second in points in the paint thanks to Anthony Davis and Demarcus Cousins. They’re also second in the NBA in assists per game thanks to some great guard play both from starters and off the bench. Not to mention they have the second toughest schedule in the NBA (according to 2016-2017 team records).

Team defense leaves a lot to be desired for the Pelicans. Bottom five in opponents points in the paint per game doesn’t make a lot of sense considering the front court they have. They also give up the third most points in the league per game.

NBA Playoffs

Davis and Cousins during a game against the Spurs. (Photo by: Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

It’s an especially strange case on New Orleans’ part. The chemistry and coaching is clearly there, as evidenced by the assist totals. But the defense is nowhere near where it should be, in spite of Cousins and Davis. Remember that Alvin Gentry was brought on to be a defensive mastermind, and the roster has only gotten better since he came to town. Maybe look for a coaching shake-up if the Pelicans miss the playoffs.

Los Angeles Clippers (18-21, first team out)

Doc Rivers’ team is hurting out west. The Clippers have been a staple of the Western Conference playoffs for the past six years, but the days of Lob City have finally come to an end. Chris Paul’s departure marked a culture change for the Clips, and the team has not found its stride just yet.

Los Angeles still has a great 3-point game. Beverley, Williams, Rivers and even Griffin can all pull up from distance. They also have great personnel for man-to-man defense. Those two things are golden in NBA playoff basketball. But, yet again, team defense is going to be the main hurdle between them and their playoff streak.

Utah Jazz (16-24, second team out)

The new look Jazz are in a soft rebuild. After losing their number one scorer in Gordon Hayward, the Jazz were almost certainly take on a new identity. But picking up Ricky Rubio and finding a steal in Donovan Mitchell should have stopped the bleeding more than it has.

Their defense is some of the best in the NBA, all around. In fact, the Jazz are top 10 in almost every meaningful defensive category under Quin Snider. Against the trend, the offense is what will probably keep Utah out of the playoffs this year. Although, again, this is a new look team. And offense almost always comes together more quickly than defense. If they can keep up the defensive dominance, they won’t be out of the playoff picture for long.

 

Featured image by ANTHONY GRUPPUSO-USA TODAY

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Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets trade: Clippers get assets for free

On Wednesday morning, the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets trade sent the NBA offseason mood from buzzing to bewilderment. In an offseason packed with rumors of blockbuster trades and splashing free agency leads, fans of the NBA finally got a trade to chew on.

The Clippers ship nine-time All-Star Chris Paul to Houston and receive Patrick Beverly, Sam Dekker, Lou Williams and a 2018 first-round pick. The pick is top-three protected for the draft next June.

Los Angeles Clippers Houston Rockets trade

Chris Paul will team up with James Harden in Houston, and the Clippers adjust to a new identity (Photo: Slam Online).

The haul for Paul is absolutely staggering. Rumors swirled that the Clippers were already going to lose both Paul and Blake Griffin in free agency this summer, so Los Angeles was already going to have to move on without their stars. The fact that the Clippers pull in what will end up being four players for a guy who was already planning to leave the team is stunning.

The Clippers essentially received fruit snacks, a Little Debbie, a bag of chips and an extra drink for a bologna sandwich they weren’t planning on eating at lunch anyway.

The Los Angeles front office basically watched the Rockets front office lob them an alley oop, only for LA to slam it right in the Rockets’ innocent face.

According to The Vertical, Chris Paul was so far out the door of Los Angeles that he’d already made his way into the Rockets’ headquarters. Paul and James Harden had previously talked about wanting to team up, so Houston landing the Wake Forest product this summer was extremely likely.

Although the Clips lose a superstar point guard in the trade, it doesn’t really matter. The fact is that Paul was already going to leave, so the fact that he’s “included” in the trade doesn’t matter.

Los Angeles Clippers Houston Rockets trade

The Clippers receive what will turn out to be some solid pieces and a brand spanking new rookie in next year’s draft. Sam Dekker is a young guy who was overshadowed in a crowded backcourt in Houston. Patrick Beverly can be a solid starter for Los Angeles and move back to point guard. Lou Williams can do what he does best: Be a scoring threat while getting Sixth Man of the Year consideration every single year.

Patrick Beverley: A solid two-way guard

It’s no secret that Patrick Beverley will most likely never break out and become a star in the NBA, but that’s OK. The Arkansas product is as consistent as they come. Beverley is a two-time All-NBA Defensive team selection and can play both point guard and shooting guard with ease.

In five seasons, Beverley has averaged 9.3 points per game. Again, that’s not fantastic, but it’s still solid. Los Angeles has the seventh-most turnovers in the league last season, and Beverley only averaged 1.5 turnovers per game last season. This could be a big step in taking care of the ball for the Clippers.

The bottom line is that you know what you’re getting from Beverley. He won’t be a star in LA, and may not produce many fireworks, but he’s a solid player that will make the NBA his home for a long time. The Clippers can use a leader like Beverley in the locker room and on the court, and that’s what they’ll get.

Sam Dekker: The next Gordon Hayward (maybe)

Sam Dekker’s first full NBA season came last year. In 77 games, Dekker averaged 6.5 points per game and shot 47 percent from the field. Dekker may not seem like a big piece in the trade, but he could end up being a steal.

The 23-year-old wing man was drafted 18th in the 2015 NBA Draft. Dekker was one of the most consistent players in college basketball in his time with Wisconsin, and was the 19th ranked prospect in the nation in his 2012 recruiting class.

Los Angeles Clippers Houston Rockets trade

Sam Dekker could end up being a steal in the Los Angeles Clippers Houston Rockets trade (Photo: nba.com).

Dekker has received NBA comparisons to Gordon Hayward (cuz of course, lolz) for his versatility to play multiple positions, offensive prowess and ability to play above the rim.

Dekker’s per 36 minutes stats are encouraging. When using the metric, his points per game total jumped to 12.8. He also averaged 7.2 rebounds per 36 minutes.

The Clippers will use Dekker as a versatile bench player. Dekker, who’s known as a small forward, played 87 percent of his minutes as a power forward for Houston last season according to Basketball Reference’s play-by-play stats. This only helps Dekker in that he can play from shooting guard to power forward.

The Clippers already have more depth in the backcourt than the frontcourt with Austin Rivers and the aforementioned Williams and Beverly. If the Clippers can sign J.J. Redick, they’ll have a quality backcourt. Dekker will most likely see more time in the front court which is where Los Angeles needs the most help. Dekker is a diamond in the rough in the NBA, and could break out in LA. If he does, it will make this trade even sweeter for the Clippers.

Lou Williams: Sixth Man of the Year, every year

Los Angeles Clippers Houston Rockets trade

Lou Williams will take his scoring expertise to Los Angeles (Photo: The Undefeated).

The Clippers need to just let Williams come off the bench and do his thing. Williams has finished in the top ten in Sixth Man of the Year voting six times in his career, including winning the award two seasons ago.

Williams has continued to improve over the course of his NBA career. He reached his career-high in scoring last season, averaging 17.5 points per game in his age-30 season. Williams shot 43 percent from the field as well. Williams has steadily seen his scoring totals rise during his career, and might as well be on pace to win the MVP by his 40th birthday.

A score-first guard, Williams can provide a scoring presence that neither Beverley nor Dekker can provide. Williams averaged 27.5 points per 36 minutes last season, which shows that when he’s on the floor, he scores at will and with tenacity.

Williams adds to what is becoming a loaded backcourt for LA. He can be the score-first player the Clippers need, and could possibly lead the team in scoring next season.

Clippers win Big, Set Up For Future

By the time this trade has panned out, the Clippers ought to credit the Rockets with an assist on keeping LA a competitive team. Yesterday, Los Angeles looked as though it could be reeling, with losing Chris Paul and Blake Griffin a real possibility. Now, Paul is gone, but the Clippers gain a lot from a trade rather than losing him in free agency.

Los Angeles’ backcourt becomes one of the ten-best in the NBA. The depth is incredible, and if the Clippers can resign J.J. Redick, it will be even better. Los Angeles will also get a chance to see Austin Rivers blossom as a starter. Rivers was a big time talent when Chris Paul missed time last season, so it seems the best is yet to come for Rivers.

Los Angeles now must focus on the frontcourt. Whether they resign Blake Griffin or sign another quality big man, shoring up the frontcourt needs to be the highest priority. If that happens, expect the Clippers to compete in the Western Conference next season.

Oh, and the Clippers will be welcoming a top-three pick to its roster after the NBA Draft this time next season.

 

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Rockets

Houston Rockets 2017 NBA Draft Profile

Day 25 of our 2017 NBA Draftmas special focuses on the needs and targets of the Houston Rockets 2017 draft.

Houston Rockets 2017 Draft Summary

Houston Rockets 2017 Draft

Mike D’Antoni has taken this team to new heights along with top players James Harden and Trevor Ariza. (Photo by the Houston Chronicle)

Under newly hired head coach Mike D’Antoni, the Houston Rockets had an incredibly successful year. The team finished 55-27, although their season was cut short after losing in six games to a talented and well-coached San Antonio Spurs team in the Western Conference semifinals.

D’Antoni moved superstar James Harden to the point position on offense, which further enhanced their offensive success. Harden averaged 29 points, 11 assists and 8 rebounds per game on 44 percent field goal percentage. His ability to score and facilitate has continuously kept the Rockets in title contention.

Other impact starters included Trevor Ariza, Patrick Beverly and Clint Capela, who were clearly the team’s best defensive players. Ariza and Beverly both averaged over one steal per game, while Capela averaged over one block.

The Rockets’ bench depth included two Sixth Man of the Year candidates, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams, who averaged about 16 and 15 points per game respectively. Young guys like Montrezl Harrell and Sam Dekker showed that they can also be impact players as well.

The Rockets’ offense ranked first in three pointers attempted per game and second in points per game, showing that their offense needs no adjustments. On the other hand, their defense could use some tweaking, as they ranked 26th in points per game, 20th in blocks and 15th in defensive rebounding.

Houston Rockets 2017 Draft Picks & Needs

The Rockets traded their first round pick along with Corey Brewer to the Los Angeles Lakers in February in return for Lou Williams. This leaves Houston with only two selections in the upcoming draft, with both being in the middle of the second round.

First Round: N/A

Second Round: No. 43 (Via DEN), No. 45 (Via POR)

With defense being their glaring need, the Rockets will likely add a forward that can be a versatile defender as well as an above average rebounder.

Targets & Thoughts

Houston Rockets 2017 Draft

Jaron Blossomegame’s defense and athleticism would make him a perfect fit for the Rockets. (Photo by Draftexpress.com)

Pick #43: Jaron Blossomgame, Forward, Clemson

In his senior season, Blossomgame averaged 18 points, six rebounds and one block on 50 percent field goal percentage. He is a strong and athletic forward, who can use his 6-foot-8, 225-pound frame to guard the two through four positions with ease. His explosiveness will allow him to be an exceptional rebounder and finisher near the basket.

He shot over 44 percent from three on more than three 3-pointers attempted per game in his junior season. His defensive and rebounding skills paired with his ability to hit the three makes him a great fit for Houston.

Houston Rockets 2017 Draft

2015-16 ACC Sixth Man of the Year, Isaiah Hicks, would be a steal in the second round for Houston. (Photo by TheScore.com)

Pick #45: Isaiah Hicks, Forward, UNC

Another senior, Hicks helped the North Carolina Tar Heels win a National Championship during the 2016-17 season. His per 40 minute averages were 20 points, 9 rebounds, one steal and one block per game.

In his junior season, he was awarded the ACC Sixth Man of the Year award after averaging 9 points and 5 rebounds per game on about 62 percent field goal shooting.

Hicks’ 6-foot-9, 245-pound frame allows him to be a menacing physical presence down low. Hicks would be a great fit in Houston as he would add a needed rebounding and defensive presence on the low block who also having enough athleticism to defend the perimeter.

Conclusion

With defense and rebounding as their blatant needs, the Rockets would be smart to add an older player out of the draft who can impact the game on the defensive end while also being able to attack the glass.

Jaron Blossomegame is a defensive stud whose athleticism will allow him to be a menace on the boards for a small forward. Isaiah Hicks would also fit the bill, as his defensive ability paired with his aggressiveness on the glass would make him a perfect piece for the Rockets moving forward.

 

Thanks for checking out the Houston Rockets 2017 NBA Draft profile and tune in tomorrow for day 26 of our NBA Draftmas special to see what the Washington Wizards may do.

NBA Draftmas Day 23: San Antonio Spurs

NBA Draftmas Day 24: New Orleans Pelicans

 

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Expect An Exciting End to the NBA Trade Deadline

With the recent blockbuster trade that sent Demarcus Cousins to the Pelicans, the Trade Deadline has started to heat up in the NBA. What deals can still happen in the next few days?

There has been some speculation that the Cousins deal actually depreciated the market. Teams may be less inclined to give up a bundle of assets since the Pelicans gave so little for a superstar. The current state of the NBA lends well for some trades to still happen however. There are a few names in particular that seem to be hitting the market.

NBA Trade Deadline

Brook Lopez (Photo courtesy: twitter.com)

The Nets seem to be the biggest seller at this point. Brook Lopez and Bojan Bogdanovic have both been floating around trade talks for a good while now. Finding an appropriate destination for them is a different story.

Lopez was often linked to the Pelicans who have obviously satiated their need for a big man with Cousins. The Pelicans’ deal seriously hampers the chances of a Lopez deal happening. Although he was linked in trade talks with the Pacers, it seems unlikely that the Pacers’ first round pick will be enticing enough to get Lopez.

Bogdanovic is another story. He would be a perfect fit in Oklahoma City as they need a wing threat. He also could fit in Washington as a bench scorer, which is something the Wizards desperately need. It’s yet to be seen whether either of those deals could materialize, but Bogdanovic is much more likely to move at the deadline.

The most recent development of the day is the linking of Blake Griffin to the Boston Celtics. The Celtics are one of the few teams that have the assets to grab a superstar (assuming Vlade Divac is done giving them away), and if anyone was going to make a huge splash it would be Boston. With Kevin Love injured, the Cavaliers may try and leverage their assets for a chance at a title push this year.

The bottom line is that even though the Cousins trade undoubtedly will make General Managers more wary about being on the wrong side of a deal, the atmosphere for big trades may have been increased. The parity in the league right now is as high as it has been in a long time, and teams may try to take advantage of a perceived window of opportunity.

The four best teams in the East (The Cavs, Celtics, Wizards and Raptors) all have a shot at winning the East after the Kevin Love injury. Although the Cavaliers remain the favorites, an upset is more likely than it has been since Lebron Left Cleveland in the first place. In the West, the Pelicans trade allows for significantly more parity, and the chances of a playoff upset increase astronomically.

The next few days could reflect those sentiments. Look out for at least a few deals to be made, and maybe even a blockbuster.

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