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DeAndre Ayton should have immediate impact in the NBA

By Chris Dortch, NBA.com As the only coach who had to game plan for Arizona’s Deandre Ayton three times in the freshman sensation’s only year of college basketball, Colorado’s Tad Boyle is qualified to let the NBA know what’s coming. “He’s a monster,” Boyle said of the 7'1", 260-pounder with the 7'5" reach. “I played [at Kansas] in the ’80s, and he’s the best player since Hakeem Olajuwon. He’s that kind of talent. He’s not as good a low-block player as Hakeem, but the similarity is that, if he catches it eight feet from the basket, he’s gonna score. There’s nothing you can do about it. “He doesn’t have Hakeem’s shimmy moves, but facing the basket, he’s certainly better than Hakeem was at the same stage of his career. This kid’s got good footwork, agility, the ability to run the floor, explosiveness, intelligence and skill. He’s special.” When Boyle shook Ayton’s hand after the third time his Buffaloes played the Wildcats, in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament, he told the big man he was happy to see him move on to the NBA, where the Phoenix Suns, having won the lottery, will most likely make him the No. 1 pick in the Draft. Lest the Suns decide they might get better value dealing the pick, well, Boyle can’t imagine that happening. “This kid’s just scary,” Boyle said. “You see him on tape and how he finishes dunks. It’s like he’s playing with a Nerf ball in the basement. Then you see him in person. If you were going to build the perfect basketball player on a computer screen, you’d want someone who’s seven-feet and cut, who can run and jump and make perimeter shots. You’d build Deandre Ayton.” Colorado managed to win one game of the three it played against Arizona. That was the first one, where Ayton scored 26 points, grabbed five rebounds and blocked two shots. The Buffs lost the next two, but they whittled down Ayton’s contributions each time. By the third game, Ayton contributed just 10 points, six boards and three blocks. Boyle’s plan was to front Ayton and try to prevent him from catching the ball anywhere close to the basket. A second defender was always nearby to help and try to turn Ayton into a passer, a skill Boyle thinks Ayton hasn’t mastered — yet. “I played with Danny Manning,” Boyle said. “Danny was such a good passer. If you brought [a second defender] at him, he’d find somebody on the floor or skip it. Deandre isn’t at that level yet, but I think he’ll figure it out.” With Ayton, Colorado decided to pick its poison. The consensus first-team All-American, Pac-12 Player of the Year and Karl Malone Award winner shot a solid 34 percent from three-point range, albeit in limited attempts, and, per Hoop-Math.com, he also made 43 percent of his face-up two-pointers during the season, solid considering those made up 44 percent of his total attempts. “We decided if he wanted to pick and pop and beat us with 15-foot jump shots, go right ahead,” Boyle said. “We had to keep him away from the 10- to 15-toot foot area, where if he catches it, he just overpowers you or goes around you. It’s not like he’s not capable of making that 15- to 17-foot jump shot. That’s just what you have to live with.” Colorado’s strategy of containing Ayton led to one of the biggest upsets in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Arizona drew Buffalo in the first round. Bulls coach Nate Oats replaced Bobby Hurley when the latter moved on to Arizona State and spoke to his old boss as soon as the NCAA bracket was announced. Ayton was a primary topic of the conversation. “Bobby didn’t think you could front him,” Oats said. “But I said we’re going to front him. Colorado was the only team in the Pac-12 that I saw that actually fronted him. Everybody else played zone, which I could understand because they had another seven-footer in the lineup [Dusan Ristic]. But Ayton’s got great basketball feel. You can’t keep a body on him in the zone. You can’t pressure the ball in the zone. “We sat Ristic’s man right behind Ayton. Offensively, we didn’t think their spacing was that great. They had two pros, both seven feet, and you’ve gotta play them. But that also limits how you space the floor.” Buffalo’s plan worked. Ayton still managed to deliver 14 points and 13 boards, but Arizona shot 11 percent (2-of-18) from three. The Wildcats couldn’t take advantage when the Bulls sprang the double team on Ayton, who passed for just one assist. “Limiting his touches and keeping it congested around him,” Oats said. “Daring them to skip the ball to a shooter on the back side. That was our plan.” At least Boyle and Oats had some time to prepare for Ayton. When SMU played the Wildcats in the Battle 4 Atlantis last November, coach Tim Jankovich and his staff had just a few hours to get ready. “Our preparation was by the seat of our pants,” Jankovich said. “We went to bed late that night. But we figured out we were going to front him and trap. We double teamed him, but a different way than we’d been doing.” Jankovich wouldn’t elaborate. “It’s kind of a trade secret,” he said, laughing. SMU’s double team worked. The Mustangs won. Ayton still piled up 17 points and 15 rebounds, but he took only 11 shots and six free throws. And the Wildcats shot 25 percent (5-of-20) from three. Boyle, Oats and Jankovich all figured out a way to deal with Ayton, but their message to his future opponents in the NBA was essentially the same. Good luck. “I think he’s going to be a better pro than he was a college player, and he was a great college player,” Oats said. “Sean [Miller] is an unbelievable coach and did a great job with the kid. But in the NBA, the spacing’s better. You can’t double that easily.” “I can’t fathom him not being impactful, and right away, too,” Jankovich said. “He’s one of those rare players that you can’t help but keep your eye on during the game, because he’s so different than most. Your eye always goes to him. That’s all great players. You don’t mean to focus on him, but when you can’t help but do it, you’re always worried, every possession.” Chris Dortch is the editor of the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. You can email him here, follow him on Twitter and listen to the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Hour. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource: abscbn abscbnJun 5th, 2018

DA s 2018 NBA Offseason Rankings: The Bottom 10

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst Wonder what the rental market is like in San Luis Obispo, Calif. San Luis Obispo is, give or take a few miles, one of the closest cities that is near the midway point between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Given the events of the NBA’s offseason, it’s not hare to imagine national reporters are going to be spending a lot of time in California next season, bouncing back and forth between the Bay and L.A. Catch LeBron James and the Lakers on Wednesday and then, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and the Warriors on Thursday. The Western Conference only got stronger and deeper with James leaving Cleveland for a second time, this time to go to the Lakers. Add four of the top five Draft picks -- including No. 1 overall selection Deandre Ayton (Phoenix Suns), No. 2 pick Marvin Bagley III (Sacramento Kings) and international phenom Luka Doncic (No. 3 pick, acquired by Dallas Mavericks) -- going to Western Conference teams, and the talent disparity between conferences only seems greater. But did Eastern Conference teams take advantage of Cleveland deflating to make their teams better? And how effective were West teams in making their teams better prepared to at least compete with the Warriors? That’s where this year’s Offseason Rankings come in -- big, bold, definitive. You love them, if the amount of hate tweets and e-mails I get after they’re published are any indication. Every year, we rank how all 30 teams have done since the end of their respective seasons. We look at everything -- how they drafted, what trades they made, what players they signed in free agency, and for how much -- or if they didn’t participate in free agency much at all. We look at if they’ve changed coaches, executives, owners, or if they’re moving into a new building that can generate big revenues. And you have to decide which ones you liked the most. Here's what these rankings ARE NOT: A predicted order of finish for next season. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) I do not expect the Suns, for example, to have a better record than the Celtics, just because they had a better summer. It is not a ranking of the teams in order from 1 through 30 right now; I do not believe the Mavericks are now a better team than Rockets. This is just one person’s opinion about offseason moves -- offseason moves only. Is your team better now than it was before? - If your team is ranked in the top 10, it doesn't mean I love your team.       - If your team is ranked in the bottom 10, it doesn't mean I hate your team. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) What plays into the rankings: - This isn’t science. It’s an educated guess, weighing the impact both of the Draft and free agency, but also assessing whether teams got value in their free-agent signings. Overpaying the right player is as much a sin as signing the wrong player. A good new coach can coax some more wins out of a roster. But if a team’s players don’t believe in the system their team uses, the best Xs and Os on earth don’t matter.       - Teams that are rebuilding obviously have different priorities than teams making a championship push. That's factored in. So Chicago, for example, gets credit for adding young, affordable players as it stockpiles its talent -- but that talent has to fit together, as Wendell Carter Jr. does with Lauri Markannen. And a team like the Warriors that shows it’s willing to go deep into the luxury tax -- which most teams try to avoid -- in order to keep winning has to be commended, and its rankings reflect that commendation.       - Continuity matters here as well. The most successful teams usually not only identify a core group of players, they keep them together for a while, finding that sweet spot: everyone doesn’t get a max contract, but most get paid well enough to keep the train moving down the tracks. That reflects both good roster construction and good financial management -- and, again, is rewarded. The explosion in the cap means everyone has to spend; keeping your powder dry for another day doesn’t have as much cache as it used to. But you still have to manage your money wisely. Salary numbers, with a couple of exceptions, come from Basketball Insiders, whose Eric Pincus does the best job of anyone in the game of keeping track of all the moving financial parts, quickly and accurately -- which is why we use him at NBA TV during the Draft and free agency to tell us what the hell this all means. The Bottom 10 * * * 21. DETROIT PISTONS 2017-18 RECORD: 39-43; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach Dwane Casey; New executive Ed Stefanski; G Bruce Brown (No. 42 pick, 2018 Draft); G Jose Calderon (one year, $2.3 million); C Zaza Pachulia (one year, $2.3 million); G/F Glenn Robinson III (two years, $8.3 million); G Khyri Thomas (No. 38 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: Former coach Stan Van Gundy; G Dwight Buycks (waived); F/C Eric Moreland (waived); F Anthony Tolliver (signed with Wolves) RETAINED: None THE KEY MAN: F Blake Griffin. And he will be for some time. The Pistons need him to be his former All-Star self again, able to take slower defender to the basket, able to stretch the floor if he plays the five in small-ball lineups. They need him to be a playmaker, to get Reggie Jackson more looks off the ball and Andre Drummond some high-low lobs at the rim. They need him to sell tickets at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit’s revitalized downtown -- a building that seems to be more for the NHL’s Red Wings than the NBA’s Pistons. And they need Griffin to be an anchor that draws players to the Motor City during the life of his extension. THE SKINNY: Owner Tom Gores agonized over firing Van Gundy, but he finally did so, and was fortunate that Casey was available and willing to step right back into the fray after being cashiered in Toronto. Casey will be quite in his element building a defense around Drummond, but, like Van Gundy, Casey will need Jackson to stay healthy; he’s missed a combined 67 games the last two seasons. Detroit did well for not having a first-round pick to come out of the Draft with two solid guard prospects deep in the second in Thomas and Brown. However, the new coaching staff will have to get more out of the team’s last three first-rounders: Stanley Johnson (2015), Henry Ellenson (2016) and Luke Kennard (2017). 22. BOSTON CELTICS 2017-18 RECORD: 55-27; lost in Eastern Conference finals ADDED: G Brad Wanamaker (one year, $838,000); C Robert Williams (No. 27 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: G Shane Larkin (signed to play in Turkey); F Abdel Nader (traded to Thunder) RETAINED: C Aron Baynes (two years, $10.6 million); F Jabari Bird (two years, $3 million), G Marcus Smart (four years, $52 million) THE KEY MAN: F Gordon Hayward. All indications are he’s well on his way back from that horrific injury he suffered on opening night last season. He can do so many great things in coach Brad Stevens’ system, and if he’s 100 percent by the playoffs, Boston may well be the one team that can match up, player for player, with Golden State in a Finals meeting. (Remember this when people inevitably say I ranked the Celtics 23rd in offseason moves.) THE SKINNY: Boston got its biggest work done after Smart couldn’t loosen up an offer sheet from the Sacramento Kings or Dallas Mavericks, and eventually worked out a deal for less than he sought to return. Smart’s deal puts Boston in the tax for the foreseeable future, but the Celtics knew that was the next step in keeping a Finals-capable core group together. With Kyrie Irving and Hayward expected back on line Stevens can throw so many different lineups out there, all committed to stifling opponent movement with long, switching defenders led by Smart, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. Williams was worth an end of the first flier, though he didn’t get off to a great start. If he gets a good wake-up alarm on his phone, he has a chance to be the Celtics’ center of the future. 23. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS 2017-18 RECORD: 52-30; lost in Eastern Conference semifinals ADDED: F Wilson Chandler (acquired from Nuggets); F/C Mike Muscala (acquired from Hawks); G Zhaire Smith (No. 16 pick, 2018 Draft); G Landry Shamet (No. 26 pick, 2018 Draft); G Shake Milton (No. 54 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: Former GM Bryan Colangelo (resigned); F Justin Anderson (traded to Hawks); G Marco Belinelli (signed with Spurs); F/C Richaun Holmes (traded to Suns); F Ersan Ilyasova (signed with Bucks); G/F Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (traded to Thunder) RETAINED: C/F Amir Johnson (one year, $1.5 million); G T.J. McConnell (picked up team option); G J.J. Redick (one year, $12.2 million) THE KEY MAN: G Markelle Fultz. His rookie year laid waste by a combination of injury and the yips -- which the Sixers have finally copted to -- Fultz is reportedly rebuilding his shot successfully under the learned eye of development coach Drew Hansen. If that carries over to the fall, Fultz will get a true opportunity (he had some cameos late in his rookie season) to show a skeptical Philly fan base he was worth the top pick in 2017, and worth Philly trading up to get him. He definitely could fill a need with the 76ers for a second playmaker to go with and occasionally in place of reigning Kia Rookie of the Year winner Ben Simmons. But if Fultz has another setback, physically or otherwise, it will be hard for him to stick much longer in Philly -- not a town known for patient reflection with regard to its sports teams. THE SKINNY: Coach Brett Brown was quite clear when he said the Sixers were hunting for a superstar this summer with the cap space they’d assiduously cleared the last couple of years. But the summer has come and gone and there’s no LeBron, no Kawhi, no trade, at least not yet, for Jimmy Butler or anyone else at that level. Belinelli and Ilyasova both played huge roles for Philly in the playoffs; maybe Fultz (see above) takes on some of that role, and Chandler will help. But this doesn’t feel like a successful offseason for one of the real risers in the East. 24. PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS 2017-18 RECORD: 49-33; lost in first round ADDED: G Seth Curry (one year, $2.7 million); G Nik Stauskas (one year, $1.6 million); G Anfernee Simons (No. 24 pick, 2018 Draft); G Gary Trent Jr. (No. 37 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: G/F Pat Connaughton (signed with Bucks); F/C Ed Davis (signed with Nets); G Shabazz Napier (signed with Nets); C Georgios Papagiannis (waived) RETAINED: C Jusuf Nurkic (four years, $48 million) THE KEY MAN: Assistant coaches David Vanterpool, Nate Tibbets, Dale Osbourne, Jim Moran, John McCullough and Jonathan Yim. With the Blazers mostly landlocked the next two seasons -- they’re currently above the projected luxury tax line both for next season and 2019-20 -- there aren’t likely going to be many significant roster changes for a while. And in the West, especially, standing pat is often falling behind. It will thus fall to Portland’s excellent staff behind coach Terry Stotts to maximize the production of the current group. They can point with some pride to success stories like Will Barton and Allen Crabbe, now in Denver and Brooklyn, respectively, along with Maurice Harkless and Al-Faroqu Aminu. For Portland to take another step up, they’ll have to coach up someone like 2017 first-rounder Zach Collins or this year’s first-rounder, Simons. They must have them exceed expectations to become a third legit star behind Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. THE SKINNY: Lillard insists the rumblings heard in some quarters that he’s unhappy in Portland aren’t true, and the franchise better hope he’s being honest. The decisions the Blazers made in 2016 continue to lock them in place; if they catch a favorable first-round matchup (a grumbling Rockets team in 2014; an injury-strafed Clippers squad in 2016), they can advance a round. But last year’s 4-0 sweep by the New Orleans Pelicans had to give everyone pause. How does Portland respond mentally? Re-upping Big Nurk in the middle on a very reasonable deal -- $12 million for a starting center was the going rate five years ago, when the Wolves gave Nikola Pekovic a five-year, $60 million contract -- was necessary. But losing Davis, a locker room and fan favorite for superior work ethic, will hurt, even though Collins should sop up a lot of those minutes. 25. ORLANDO MAGIC 2017-18 RECORD: 25-57; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach Steve Clifford; C Mohamed Bamba (No. 6 pick, 2018 Draft); G Isaiah Briscoe (three years, $3.9 million); F Melvin Frazier (No. 35 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jerian Grant (acquired from Bulls); F Justin Jackson (No. 43 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jarrell Martin (acquired from Grizzlies); C Timofey Mozgov (acquired from Hornets) LOST: C Bismack Biyombo (traded to Hornets); G Mario Hezonja (signed with Knicks); C Dakari Johnson (traded to Grizzlies); G Shelvin Mack (waived); G Rodney Purvis (traded to Thunder) RETAINED: F Aaron Gordon (four years, $82 million) THE KEY MAN: G D.J. Augustin. A vet’s vet, he’s played 10 years in the league and started 226 games for eight teams, including 56 over the last two for the Magic. He’ll enter this season as the unquestioned starter at the point with Elfrid Payton in New Orleans and Orlando still looking to solve its long-term search for a point guard. It’s Augustin’s turn. THE SKINNY: At some point, Orlando’s yearly gambles on size and potential will pay off. Bamba could be the goods; he’s got a demeanor and toughness that should keep him together while he learns the craft at the pro level. But -- again -- it will take some time for Bamba, like 2017 first-rounder Jonathan Isaac, and Gordon, in whom Orlando invested a sizeable sum in July, to flourish. And Magic fans rightly can ask exactly how long they’re to remain patient. Clifford is supposed to improve the defense, but so was Frank Vogel … and so was Scott Skiles … and so was Jacque Vaughn. 26. NEW ORLEANS PELICANS 2017-18 RECORD: 48-34; lost in Western Conference semifinals ADDED: G Tony Carr (No. 51 pick, 2018 Draft); G Elfrid Payton (one year, $3 million); F Julius Randle (two years, $17 million) LOST: C DeMarcus Cousins (signed with Warriors); G Rajon Rondo (signed with Lakers) RETAINED: G Ian Clark (one year, $1.7 million); F Nikola Mirotic (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: Owner Gayle Benson. Mrs. Benson took control of the team after the death of her husband, Tom, last March. She displayed great grace in the days and weeks after Tom Benson’s death, making it clear at the time she had no interest in selling the team and would continue to make outlays to keep the team competitive. The Pels didn’t blink last summer giving Jrue Holiday $126 million, and that will have to remain the case going forward if New Orleans is to repeat its surprising run to the Western Conference semifinals last spring. THE SKINNY: Can’t lose your starting point guard and your starting All-Star center in one offseason -- no matter what the circumstances -- and come out of it with high offseason marks. And especially when Rondo seemed like the perfect fit for the team. Mirotic mentioned during the Warriors series how good Rondo was at picking him up and connecting him quickly with the team after he was traded to New Orleans from Chicago. And, yes, coach Alvin Gentry mentioned he may have exchanged cusses with Rondo every now and again, too. Life in RondoWorld. The path forward is narrower, but not impassible; Randle can be tantalizing at times, maddening at others, but he could plug-and-play at the four, and he can take some of the playmaking burden off of Holiday. But big minutes on the ball for Holiday again is not what New Orleans had in mind. Payton is going to have to perform immediately. And losing “Boogie” Cousins is a big minus. It’s not what the Pelicans gave up to get him. It’s the fit and flow he had with Anthony Davis before the injury, and what the promise of a return this season could have meant toward carrying the momentum of last year forward. 27. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES 2017-18 RECORD: 47-35; lost in first round ADDED: F Anthony Tolliver (one year, $5.7 million); G Josh Okogie (No. 20 pick, 2018 Draft); F Keita Bates-Diop (No. 48 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: C Cole Aldrich (waived); F Nemanja Bjelica (signed with Kings) RETAINED: G Derrick Rose (one year, $1.5 million) THE KEY MAN: Vikings QB Kirk Cousins. He signed for big, big money by NFL standards (three years, $84 million), and the Vikings have Super Bowl aspirations. So all the light will be on the Vikes most of the fall and winter in Minneapolis, keeping it off of the still-young Wolves, who won’t be able to sneak up on anyone after breaking their long postseason drought. THE SKINNY: The Wolves should be positioned to build on their playoff run, especially if Butler can get through a full season healthy and Karl-Anthony Towns adds consistency to his prodigious talents. But they didn’t do much in the offseason, and the team that they beat out on the last day of the regular season, Denver, looks to be much improved. Tolliver should help the Wolves’ depth; they essentially traded him for Bjelica, and he shot slightly better on 3-poiners last season than Belly. Plus, they don’t come better as a guy than Tolliver and he can help Minnesota in the locker room. The issue of Butler’s contract isn’t going away; there will be a reckoning at some point, and he’ll have a lot more options next summer than free agents had this summer. Until then, coach Tom Thibodeau has pretty much the same team that he has to cajole better defense out of next season (22nd in Defensive Rating; 17th in points allowed). 28. CHARLOTTE HORNETS 2017-18 RECORD: 36-46; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach James Borrego; GM Mitch Kupchack; C Bismack Biyombo (acquired from Magic); F Miles Bridges (No. 12 pick, 2018 Draft); G Devonte' Graham (No. 34 pick, 2018 Draft); F Arnoldas Kulboka (No. 55 pick, 2018 Draft); ; G Tony Parker (two years, $10.2 milliion) LOST: G Michael Carter-Williams (signed with Rockets); C Dwight Howard (traded to Nets); C Timofey Mozgov (traded to Magic); G Julyan Stone (traded to Bulls) RETAINED: None THE KEY MAN: C Cody Zeller. It’s a guess -- Borrego could opt for Frank Kaminsky III -- but Zeller would seem to be the replacement at center for Dwight Howard, who wound up in Washington after the Hornets traded him to the Nets. Zeller started 58 games two years ago and was very good in screen and rolls with Kemba Walker. Zeller only played in 33 games last season because of a left knee injury; if he returns to form, the Hornets could pick up offensively and actually have a little more diversity at that end than last season. THE SKINNY: Team owner Michael Jordan cleaned house after a disappointing 2017-18, bringing another Tar Heel back home in the veteran Kupchak. Kupchak dispatched Howard and then got Mozgov’s guaranteed 2019-20 season off his books to take back Biyombo, who’d left Toronto two years ago for $72 million from the Magic and who’s got a player option for 2019-20. Well before then, the Hornets are going to have to decide what to do with Walker, who’ll be one of the top free agents available next summer if Charlotte can’t get him re-signed or extended. The Hornets were 8.8 points worse when the two-time All-Star was off the court rather than on. Nicolas Batum has to make a return to the all-around talent that enticed Charlotte to trade for him and give him a $120 million extension; he averaged just 11.6 points per game last year, his lowest in three years. Howard’s presence in the paint may have clogged things up some, but that’s no longer the case. 29. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS 2017-18 RECORD: 50-32; lost in The Finals ADDED: F Channing Frye (one year, $2.3 million); G Collin Sexton (No. 8 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: G Jose Calderon (signed with Pistons); F Jeff Green (signed with Wizards); F LeBron James (signed with Lakers); C Kendrick Perkins (waived); F Okaro White (waived) RETAINED: F Kevin Love (contract extension) THE KEY MAN: GM Koby Altman. Altman has a blank slate now after trying to steer a championship-contending ship that had been stripped of a few propeller blades in the last 13 months. With James gone, as well as former GM David Griffin, the 35-year-old Altman has team owner Dan Gilbert’s charge to rebuild the Cavs without taking them down to the studs (as the Cavs did after James first departure in 2010). Altman’s next task after working out Kevin Love’s $130 million extension is clearing the roster of all the veterans brought in the last three years mainly because of their ability to play off of James. THE SKINNY: There weren’t any widespread jersey burnings this time in the Land. James left for L.A. with relative good will from his hometown, having delivered the championship it had waited 52 years for in 2016. Truly, the Cavs’ rebuild started the minute Kyrie Irving demanded a trade; last season seemed more rearguard action than an attack at another title. Extending Love through 2023 with no outs -- keeping him locked with rookie Sexton through the latter’s last controllable season before hitting unrestricted free agency -- gives Cleveland a base upon which to build. Cap room will follow in 2019, but next season will be difficult; Sexton has a lot of toughness and potential, but rookie point guards tend to get their lunch handed to them. 30. MIAMI HEAT 2017-18 RECORD: 44-38; lost in first round ADDED: None LOST: None RETAINED: G Wayne Ellington (one year, $6.2 million); F/G Derrick Jones Jr. THE KEY MAN: G Josh Richardson. Like many of his teammates, Richardson got an extension a couple of years ago -- four years and $42 million. Last season, he was (again) a solid two-way player for Miami -- almost 13 points per game, 84.5 percent from the line, 37.8 percent on 3-pointers. But if the Heat is going to shake out of the middle lane in which it currently seems stuck, Richardson will have to expand. Miami’s current roster makes it complicated; Pat Riley thinks Richardson’s probably more of a two, but he plays mostly three for coach Erik Spoelstra because Miami’s best lineups were small ball ones. Another offseason at P3 in California will help Richardson continue his development. THE SKINNY: No, Heat people: I don’t hate your team. But when you have no Draft picks, and you have no cap space, and thus you literally could do nothing in the offseason, and basically did nothing in the offseason, and your biggest, most newsy event was whether your 36-year-old future Hall of Fame guard will come back for one more season or play over in China … well, what am I supposed to do with that information? Rank you first? The question is, how much better is your team now than it was at the end of last season? It’s essentially the same team; other than the likes of Richardson (see above) or Justise Winslow, it’s not like there’s a great step up expected from Hassan Whiteside or Goran Dragic, is there? The Heat is not any better than last season. It isn’t any worse. It just … is. So, 30. Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 8th, 2018

DA s 2018 NBA Offseason Rankings: The Middle 10

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst Wonder what the rental market is like in San Luis Obispo, Calif. San Luis Obispo is, give or take a few miles, one of the closest cities that is near the midway point between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Given the events of the NBA’s offseason, it’s not hare to imagine national reporters are going to be spending a lot of time in California next season, bouncing back and forth between the Bay and L.A. Catch LeBron James and the Lakers on Wednesday and then, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and the Warriors on Thursday. The Western Conference only got stronger and deeper with James leaving Cleveland for a second time, this time to go to the Lakers. Add four of the top five Draft picks -- including No. 1 overall selection Deandre Ayton (Phoenix Suns), No. 2 pick Marvin Bagley III (Sacramento Kings) and international phenom Luka Doncic (No. 3 pick, acquired by Dallas Mavericks) -- going to Western Conference teams, and the talent disparity between conferences only seems greater. But did Eastern Conference teams take advantage of Cleveland deflating to make their teams better? And how effective were West teams in making their teams better prepared to at least compete with the Warriors? That’s where this year’s Offseason Rankings come in -- big, bold, definitive. You love them, if the amount of hate tweets and e-mails I get after they’re published are any indication. Every year, we rank how all 30 teams have done since the end of their respective seasons. We look at everything -- how they drafted, what trades they made, what players they signed in free agency, and for how much -- or if they didn’t participate in free agency much at all. We look at if they’ve changed coaches, executives, owners, or if they’re moving into a new building that can generate big revenues. And you have to decide which ones you liked the most. Here's what these rankings ARE NOT: A predicted order of finish for next season. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) I do not expect the Suns, for example, to have a better record than the Celtics, just because they had a better summer. It is not a ranking of the teams in order from 1 through 30 right now; I do not believe the Mavericks are now a better team than Rockets. This is just one person’s opinion about offseason moves -- offseason moves only. Is your team better now than it was before? - If your team is ranked in the top 10, it doesn't mean I love your team.       - If your team is ranked in the bottom 10, it doesn't mean I hate your team. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) What plays into the rankings: - This isn’t science. It’s an educated guess, weighing the impact both of the Draft and free agency, but also assessing whether teams got value in their free-agent signings. Overpaying the right player is as much a sin as signing the wrong player. A good new coach can coax some more wins out of a roster. But if a team’s players don’t believe in the system their team uses, the best Xs and Os on earth don’t matter.       - Teams that are rebuilding obviously have different priorities than teams making a championship push. That's factored in. So Chicago, for example, gets credit for adding young, affordable players as it stockpiles its talent -- but that talent has to fit together, as Wendell Carter Jr. does with Lauri Markannen. And a team like the Warriors that shows it’s willing to go deep into the luxury tax -- which most teams try to avoid -- in order to keep winning has to be commended, and its rankings reflect that commendation.       - Continuity matters here as well. The most successful teams usually not only identify a core group of players, they keep them together for a while, finding that sweet spot: everyone doesn’t get a max contract, but most get paid well enough to keep the train moving down the tracks. That reflects both good roster construction and good financial management -- and, again, is rewarded. The explosion in the cap means everyone has to spend; keeping your powder dry for another day doesn’t have as much cache as it used to. But you still have to manage your money wisely. Salary numbers, with a couple of exceptions, come from Basketball Insiders, whose Eric Pincus does the best job of anyone in the game of keeping track of all the moving financial parts, quickly and accurately -- which is why we use him at NBA TV during the Draft and free agency to tell us what the hell this all means. The Middle 10 * * * 11. TORONTO RAPTORS 2017-18 RECORD: 59-23; lost in Eastern Conference semifinals ADDED: Coach Nick Nurse; G Danny Green (acquired from Spurs); F Kawhi Leonard (acquired from Spurs) LOST: Former coach Dwane Casey; G DeMar DeRozan (traded to Spurs); F Alfonzo McKinnie (waived); C Jakob Poeltl (traded to Spurs) RETAINED: G Fred VanVleet (two years, $18.1 million) THE KEY MAN: Nurse. The former Raps assistant has extensive G League head coaching experience. But the NBA isn’t just about a coach’s Xs and Os acumen. We know Nurse can do that. But an NBA coach has to have command presence in a locker room not only full of millionaires, but full of Alpha males who have their own very strong opinions on how they should be used and how their teammates should help them. Nurse will have to show he can put his own stamp on a team that will have some new faces while still having extremely high expectations. THE SKINNY: You may well think Toronto should be higher, based on Leonard’s standing as a top-five player in the league when fully healthy. No matter what you think of DeRozan, a four-time All-Star, no one can realistically say he’s better than “The Klaw” when both are 100 percent. But, of course, we don’t know if Leonard’s 100 percent. And, trading DeRozan, who’d been the franchise’s biggest advocate during his nine seasons there -- and who had led the team to its greatest extended run of success ever -- is not a transaction without consequence for the Raptors. He helped get the best out of Kyle Lowry. He could help recruit free agents. And, the circumstances of his departure have not helped the franchise’s reputation. Still, this is a talent-based league, and Leonard has it. His and Green’s presence on the perimeter gives Toronto the chance to be a switching defensive monster -- and will help the Raptors be able to match up better with the likes of the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers in a late-May playoff matchup, as long as the Raptors’ young core in which it believes so strongly continues to play as well in reserve as it did last season. 12. MILWAUKEE BUCKS 2017-18 RECORD: 44-38; lost in first round ADDED: Coach Mike Budenholzer; G Donte DiVincenzo (No. 17 pick, 2018 Draft); G Trevon Duval; F Ersan Ilyasova (three years, $21 million); C Brook Lopez (one year, $3.32 million); F Pat Connaughton (two years, $3.2 million); LOST: Former interim coach Joe Prunty; G Brandon Jennings (waived); F Jabari Parker (signed with Bulls) RETAINED: None THE KEY MAN: G Eric Bledsoe. His departure from Phoenix early last season was messy. But once he got to Brewtown, Bledsoe solidified the Bucks at the point, averaging 17.8 points and 5.1 assists per game in 71 starts. At 28, Bledsoe faces the last year of his contract and will have to show a new coach he’s capable of running things long-term and playing alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo through the meat of his prime. THE SKINNY: Budenholzer’s arrival should coincide with an improvement in the Bucks’ defense, something that former coach Jason Kidd could never quite accomplish. Ilaysova’s return for a second tour in Milwaukee should help, with his celebrated charge-taking skill and Lopez’s still-substantial size a double-boon to Milwaukee’s interior D as the Bucks were bottom 10 last season in points allowed in the paint (47.4 per game). If the paint becomes a little tougher to traverse, the Bucks should finally able to use their substantial length on the wing to get back to create deflections and turnovers, and get out in transition, where Antetokounmpo and Friends do their best work and their most damage to the opposition. They’ll do so 41 nights a year for the next couple of decades in the 17,500-seat Fiserv Forum, the Bucks’ new arena that will open in early September with a concert and should pump new revenues into the Bucks’ bloodstream, giving them more financial wherewithal to keep “The Greek Freak” surrounded with high-quality talent. 13. UTAH JAZZ 2017-18 RECORD: 48-34; lost in Western Conference semifinals ADDED: G Grayson Allen (No. 21 pick, 2018 Draft); G Jarius Lyles; G Naz Mitrou-Long LOST: F Jonas Jerebko (waived) RETAINED: G Dante Exum (three years, $33 million); F/C Derrick Favors (two years, $37.6 million), G Raul Neto (two years, $4.4 million); F Georges Niang (three years, $4.9 million) THE KEY MAN: C Rudy Gobert. He’s a monster presence, the hub of the Jazz’s defensive wheel and the reigning Kia Defensive Player of the Year. And he has to take a step back in Utah next season for the Jazz to take the next step forward. He has to understand what Utah has in Donovan Mitchell and let that kid eat. Nobody in the league can do what Gobert does defensively. So embrace that and concentrate on that -- take the Draymond Green attitude about being the “defensive guy” on a great team (not that Jazz fans want you to do anything that Green does). Gobert’s handsomely paid and the DPOY award found him in Salt Lake City; there’s no small-market bias at work here. So let Mitchell and Joe Ingles carry the shooting/scoring load, let Ricky Rubio orchestrate, and snuff out opponent dreams at the other end, night after night. It’s what you were born to do. THE SKINNY: My God, Mitchell had a great rookie season. And Utah brought most of the band back from last season to provide advice and consent for him again, re-signing Favors, Exum and Neto each on very reasonable contracts. Doing so leaves Utah over the cap, still comfortably under the tax, and with nothing on the books that should raise an eyebrow financially. (Utah’s front office should handle my checking account for a while.) Anyway, no reason to expect any backsliding next season with the crew returning, though coach Quin Snyder will surely miss the counsel of his longtime friend Igor Kokoskov, off to run the Suns. 14. ATLANTA HAWKS 2017-18 RECORD: 24-58; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach Lloyd Pierce; F Justin Anderson (acquired from 76ers); G Kevin Huerter (No. 19 pick, 2018 Draft); C Alex Len (two years, $8.5 million); G Jeremy Lin (acquired from Nets); F Omari Spellman (No. 30 pick, 2018 Draft); G Trae Young (No. 5 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: Former coach Mike Budenholzer; G Antonius Cleveland (waived); G Damion Lee (signed with Warriors); F/C Mike Muscala (traded to 76ers); G Dennis Schröder (traded to Thunder); G Isaiah Taylor (waived) RETAINED: C Dewayne Dedmon (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: GM Travis Schlenk. The second-year executive will be judged on how well Atlanta uses its trove of Draft picks -- three firsts this year, three firsts next year, two firsts in 2022 -- the next few years. And, ultimately, the Hawks will live or die by whether Young or Luka Doncic becomes the bigger NBA producer. Schlenk’s chances of completing the rebuild may well ride on that. THE SKINNY: The Hawks’ roster teardown is nearing completion, but the renovated Philips Arena will come online faster than the team, which now needs Young to live up to all the hype after his one season at Oklahoma. He has incredible range and great potential, but he’ll be challenged every night to stay in front of the legion of great points in this league. Pierce, the former Sixers’ assistant, is going to have a very tough time melding all the newcomers with the small core of players who survived, including John Collins, Kent Bazemore, DeAndre' Bembry and Taurean Prince. 15. LA CLIPPERS 2017-18 RECORD: 42-40; missed playoffs ADDED: C Marcin Gortat (acquired from Wizards); G Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (No. 11 pick, 2018 Draft); F Johnathan Motley (acquired from Mavericks); F Mike Scott (one year, $4.3 million); F Luc Mbah a Moute (one year, $4.3 million), G Jerome Robinson (No. 13 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: G Austin Rivers (traded to Wizards); C DeAndre Jordan (signed with Mavs); G C.J. Williams (waived) RETAINED: G Avery Bradley (two years, $24.9  million); C Montrezl Harrell (two years, $12 million); G Wesley Johnson (picked up player option); G Milos Teodosic (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: F Tobias Harris. He was the key tangible piece of the Blake Griffin trade last season (the intangible being the unprotected first from Detroit in the deal that eventually became Gilgeous-Alexander after a Draft night trade with Charlotte). And Harris played quite well in his 32 games with the Clips, averaging 19.3 points and six rebounds per game. Those numbers could each well go up in a contract year and with few others outside of Lou Williams on the roster that can go get their own buckets. THE SKINNY: Amazing, but true: the Clipper player with the longest current tenure is … Wesley Johnson, who came aboard in 2015. “Lob City” is in the history books and change will be the norm here for a while, including next summer, when the Clippers expect to be a free-agent destination. The Clips did what they could with that not-insignificant restriction, but the best stuff was in the Draft, winding up with a potential long-term point in Gilgeous-Alexander and a two in Robinson that rocketed up the pre-Draft charts. Bradley’s on a very team-friendly and controllable contract, as is Patrick Beverley, whose modest 2018-19 salary isn’t guaranteed until January. Those two and Mbah a Moute can give coach Doc Rivers hope that he can get some stops on the perimeter, because while Gortat is still willing defensively and still takes a bunch of charges, he is not Jordan when it comes to rim protection. 16. BROOKLYN NETS 2017-18 RECORD: 28-54; missed playoffs ADDED: F/C Ed Davis (one year, $4.4 million); F Jared Dudley (acquired from Suns); F Kenneth Faried (acquired from Nuggets); G/F Treveon Graham (two years); F Rodions Kurucs (No. 40, 2018 Draft); F Dzanan Musa (No. 29 pick, 2018 Draft); G Shabazz Napier (two years, $3.7 million) LOST: F Darrell Arthur (traded to Suns); F Dante Cunningham (signed with Spurs); C Dwight Howard (waived); G Jeremy Lin (traded to Hawks); C Timofey Mozgov (traded to Hornets); G Nik Stauskas (signed with Blazers); G Isaiah Whitehead (traded to Nuggets) RETAINED: G Joe Harris (two years, $16 million) THE KEY MAN: Co-owner Joseph Tsai. The Alibaba executive and billionaire has 49 percent of the team, and can buy majority control from Mikhail Prokhorov by 2021. Until then, they’ll run the team jointly, so no matter Prokhorov’s ups and downs, Brooklyn’s financial spigot should never run dry. Tsai reportedly has designs on expanding the Nets’ brand further in China, just as Prokhorov believed the Nets had global reach. They didn’t, at least not the post-KG and Pierce squads. THE SKINNY: If you love Ed Davis like smart people who know basketball do, Brooklyn makes the top half by bringing the ex-Blazer in on a short deal. If he plays great, he’ll cost the Nets a pretty penny in 2019, but Brooklyn has to take chances on guys who can outperform their contracts. The only thing the Nets couldn’t do was take on more ’19 salary when they’ll be in line to potentially add two max players. Won’t be easy to lure the elites, but Brooklyn also has accumulated enough assets to be able to make uneven trades for salaries if need be. In the interim comes next season, with coach Kenny Atkinson needing to continue to develop diamonds in the rough like Graham, who Cleveland wanted and who will help the Nets at multiple positions. 17. CHICAGO BULLS 2017-18 RECORD: 27-55; missed playoffs ADDED: G Antonius Cleveland; C Wendell Carter Jr. (No. 7 pick, 2018 Draft); F Chandler Hutchison (No. 22 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jabari Parker (two years, $40 million) LOST: F Jerian Grant (traded to Magic); G Sean Kilpatrick (waived); G Julyan Stone (waived); F Noah Vonleh (signed with Knicks); G Paul Zipser (waived) RETAINED: G Antonio Blakeney; G Zach LaVine (matched four year, $78 million offers sheet from Kings) THE KEY MAN: G Kris Dunn. As the 24-year-old will be every season he’s in Chicago. The Jimmy Butler trade in 2017 yielded the pick that became Lauri Markannen, and he’s also a key piece to the Bulls’ future. But Chicago won’t ever get elevation again if Dunn doesn’t become an elite point guard in a league full of them. He showed signs last season that he could be just that, most notably a December in which Dunn averaged 14.9 points and eight assists, and the Bulls went 10-6. But a concussion in January derailed Dunn’s progress and his production fell sharply the rest of the season. THE SKINNY: Can Parker play the three, as the Bulls insist he can? There isn’t a ton of evidence suggesting so, and Parker’s hypothesis that he isn’t getting paid to play defense does not provide much comfort. But the Bulls will try him there alongside Markannen and rookie Carter Jr. in what would be a huge frontcourt. Almost $20 million annually for LaVine going forward is also a stretch, but less of one if LaVine comes all the way back from his 2017 ACL tear with a full training camp and season. Carter may be more important to the Bulls’ hoped-for resurgence than Parker and LaVine; the Duke big man has that much potential. 18. WASHINGTON WIZARDS 2017-18 RECORD: 43-39; lost in first round ADDED: C Thomas Bryant; G Troy Brown (No. 15 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jeff Green (one year, $2.5 million); C Dwight Howard (two years, $11 million); G Austin Rivers (acquired from Clippers); G Issuf Sanon (No. 44 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: C Marcin Gortat (traded to Clippers); F Mike Scott (signed with Clippers) RETAINED: G Jodie Meeks (picked up player option); C Jason Smith (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: Coach Scott Brooks. Entering his third season in Washington, Brooks keeps saying he wants the Wizards to defend and play fast. But he has to follow that up with action, especially when and if John Wall doesn’t provide the on-ball defense Washington needs to have any chance to unleash a still-potent fast break. Wall is 27 and, if healthy, in his prime. The team takes almost all of its cues from him; when he’s locked in, the Wizards can compete with anyone. But when he’s indifferent, so are they -- as evidenced by their horrible record against bad teams. Brooks has to demand Wall’s best, or be ready to limit his minutes. THE SKINNY: NBA protocol almost demands you hate the pickup of Howard, such is his current perceived valued among many after multiple stops the last few seasons. The guess here is that Howard won’t hijack the Wizards’ locker room, as he had been accused of while in with the Houston Rockets and Charlotte Hornets, especially. Howard’s skill set can help Washington, which fell off defensively last season. But there’s also not much sense he’ll be a significant pick-me-up in D.C., either. He can’t stretch the floor and he’s not especially potent finishing in pick and roll, either. But the Wizards should at least be deeper off the bench with Green, who played well for the Cavs last season, and Rivers, who gives Washington legit guard depth along with Tomas Satoransky. 19. SACRAMENTO KINGS 2017-18 RECORD: 27-55; missed playoffs ADDED: F Nemanja Bjelica (three years, $20.4 million); C Marvin Bagley III (No. 2 pick, 2018 Draft); G Yogi Ferrell (two years, $4.1 million); G Ben McLemore (acquired from Kings); F Deyonta Davis (acquired from Grizzlies) LOST: G Garrett Temple (traded to Grizzlies) RETAINED: G Iman Shumpert (picked up player option); C Kosta Koufos (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: F Harry Giles. The Kings traded for the one-and-done forward on Draft night 2017 and redshirted him, feeling he needed a year to fully recover from the multiple knee surgeries he’d undergone the last three years. Those surgeries stopped his top-five Draft potential in its tracks, before and after a year at Duke. But Giles is back on the floor, having flashed his skills during NBA Summer League, as Sacramento gushed about his progress. If the 20-year-old is ready to roll come October, he could be an enormous boost. He’ll have to at least become a contributor, lest folks remind the Kings they passed on the likes of Kyle Kuzma and O.G Anunoby to trade for his rights. THE SKINNY: Bagley III has superstar potential, and he better become one, or the Doncic Stans among the Kings’ fan base will have aneurysms. The Kings were all over everyone, seemingly, this summer, dropping sheets on Zach LaVine, almost doing the same with Marcus Smart and Jabari Parker, and going after unrestricted free agent Mario Hezonja. All well and good, and getting Bjelica out from under Philly and prying Ferrell from Dallas were decent late July pickups. But it will be Bagley III who’ll be under the microscope. His skill sets are prodigious and he’s been working out feverishly all summer. And he wants to make a mark in restoring the Kings to where they were on the floor during the Webber Years. He worked out for them. He’s enthusiastic about them. That counts for something. 20. HOUSTON ROCKETS 2017-18 RECORD: 65-17; lost in Western Conference finals ADDED: G Michael Carter-Williams (one year, $1.5 million); G De'Anthony Melton (No. 46 pick, 2018 Draft); F Vincent Edwards (No. 52 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: F Trevor Ariza (signed with Suns); Luc Mbah a Moute (signed with LA Clippers); C Chinanu Onuaku (traded to Mavs) RETAINED: C Clint Capela (five years, $90 million); G/F Gerald Green (one year, $2.3 million); G Aaron Jackson (picked up team option); G Chris Paul (four years, $159 million) THE KEY MAN: Jason Biles, Joe Rogowski, Keith Jones and Javair Gillett -- the Rockets’ athletic trainers, sports performance and rehab staff. Their only mission next season, should they decide to accept it, is to get Paul through an 82-game regular season and a two-month playoff slog without breaking or pulling anything of importance that keeps him out of key games. Of course, should any of the staff be unsuccessful, the Morey will disavow any knowledge of their employment. Good luck, men. THE SKINNY: We have not yet included Carmelo Anthony, who will be signing in Houston any minute now. When he’s officially on the roster, he’ll certainly help, and we all saw that even Houston can go through extended scoring droughts in the playoffs. Having Anthony around should alleviate that. The Rockets may have had the best signing of the summer, keeping the 24-year-old Capela locked up long-term for $18 million per -- incredible value these days, given the way salaries are skyrocketing. But that was mitigated by the losses of Ariza and Mbah a Moute, who were crucial to the switching defense Houston employed and perfected by the playoffs, which threw sand in the gears of the Warriors’ impenetrable offense and would likely have propelled the Rockets to The Finals if Paul hadn’t gotten hurt in Game 5. Ennis and Carter-Williams will help some in that regard, but they don’t have the resume of Mbah a Moute and Ariza -- which means they sometimes won’t get the benefit of the doubt from refs that the old heads do. Houston’s still the clear number two to Golden State in the West, but the gap between the Rockets and the best of the rest has closed. Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 8th, 2018

DA s 2018 NBA Offseason Rankings: The Top 10

By David Aldridge, TNT Analyst Wonder what the rental market is like in San Luis Obispo, Calif. San Luis Obispo is, give or take a few miles, one of the closest cities that is near the midway point between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Given the events of the NBA’s offseason, it’s not hare to imagine national reporters are going to be spending a lot of time in California next season, bouncing back and forth between the Bay and L.A. Catch LeBron James and the Lakers on Wednesday and then, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant and the Warriors on Thursday. The Western Conference only got stronger and deeper with James leaving Cleveland for a second time, this time to go to the Lakers. Add four of the top five Draft picks -- including No. 1 overall selection Deandre Ayton (Phoenix Suns), No. 2 pick Marvin Bagley III (Sacramento Kings) and international phenom Luka Doncic (No. 3 pick, acquired by Dallas Mavericks) -- going to Western Conference teams, and the talent disparity between conferences only seems greater. But did Eastern Conference teams take advantage of Cleveland deflating to make their teams better? And how effective were West teams in making their teams better prepared to at least compete with the Warriors? That’s where this year’s Offseason Rankings come in -- big, bold, definitive. You love them, if the amount of hate tweets and e-mails I get after they’re published are any indication. Every year, we rank how all 30 teams have done since the end of their respective seasons. We look at everything -- how they drafted, what trades they made, what players they signed in free agency, and for how much -- or if they didn’t participate in free agency much at all. We look at if they’ve changed coaches, executives, owners, or if they’re moving into a new building that can generate big revenues. And you have to decide which ones you liked the most. Here's what these rankings ARE NOT: A predicted order of finish for next season. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) I do not expect the Suns, for example, to have a better record than the Celtics, just because they had a better summer. It is not a ranking of the teams in order from 1 through 30 right now; I do not believe the Mavericks are now a better team than Rockets. This is just one person’s opinion about offseason moves -- offseason moves only. Is your team better now than it was before? - If your team is ranked in the top 10, it doesn't mean I love your team.       - If your team is ranked in the bottom 10, it doesn't mean I hate your team. It's an opinion that seeks to answer a question: is the team better now than at the end of last season? The ranking reflects the belief on whether, and how much, that is so. (I liked certain guys who were in the Draft more than others, so if your team took them, I probably weighed it more positively. Doesn't mean I'm right.) What plays into the rankings: - This isn’t science. It’s an educated guess, weighing the impact both of the Draft and free agency, but also assessing whether teams got value in their free-agent signings. Overpaying the right player is as much a sin as signing the wrong player. A good new coach can coax some more wins out of a roster. But if a team’s players don’t believe in the system their team uses, the best Xs and Os on earth don’t matter.       - Teams that are rebuilding obviously have different priorities than teams making a championship push. That's factored in. So Chicago, for example, gets credit for adding young, affordable players as it stockpiles its talent -- but that talent has to fit together, as Wendell Carter Jr. does with Lauri Markannen. And a team like the Warriors that shows it’s willing to go deep into the luxury tax -- which most teams try to avoid -- in order to keep winning has to be commended, and its rankings reflect that commendation.       - Continuity matters here as well. The most successful teams usually not only identify a core group of players, they keep them together for a while, finding that sweet spot: everyone doesn’t get a max contract, but most get paid well enough to keep the train moving down the tracks. That reflects both good roster construction and good financial management -- and, again, is rewarded. The explosion in the cap means everyone has to spend; keeping your powder dry for another day doesn’t have as much cache as it used to. But you still have to manage your money wisely. Salary numbers, with a couple of exceptions, come from Basketball Insiders, whose Eric Pincus does the best job of anyone in the game of keeping track of all the moving financial parts, quickly and accurately -- which is why we use him at NBA TV during the Draft and free agency to tell us what the hell this all means. The Top 10 * * * 1. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER 2017-18 RECORD: 48-34; lost in first round ADDED: G/F Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot (acquired from Sixers); G Hamidou Diallo (No. 45 pick, 2018 Draft); G Devon Hall (No. 53 pick, 2018 Draft); F Kevin Hervey (No. 57 pick, 2018 Draft); F Abdel Nader (acquired from Celtics); C Nerlens Noel (two years, $3.7 million); G Dennis Schröder (acquired from Hawks) LOST: F Carmelo Anthony (traded to Hawks); F Nick Collison (retired); C Dakari Johnson (traded to Magic); G Rodney Purvis (traded to Celtics) RETAINED: G Raymond Felton (one year, $2.3 million); F Paul George (four years, $136.9 million); F Jerami Grant (three years, $27.3 million) THE KEY MAN: G Andre Roberson. This is real simple: with Roberson on the court last year, OKC’s opponent offensive rating was 99.2; when he was off, it was 110.7. The Thunder was a near-elite defensive unit when Roberson played and was awful when he didn’t. His Real Defensive Plus-Minus, per ESPN.com, was 4.34, second only to Utah’s Rudy Gobert (5.06). So when Roberson ruptured his patellar tendon in late January, the Thunder’s ability to use George as a weakside defender who could freelance and use his length to create deflections and turnovers (because Roberson had the strong side absolutely locked down) went away. Any chance the Thunder has next season to compete at the highest levels in the West will depend on the 26-year-old Roberson’s recovery and return to the lineup. THE SKINNY: None of us -- none -- thought George was going to stay in OKC. And we all thought Sam Presti and the Thunder were crazy for trading for him last year, because it was just going to be a one-year rental and he was going to be off to the Lakers in 12 months, and OKC would have nothing to show for its deal. But George’s presence helped convince Russell Westbrook -- also long rumored to eventually head back to Cali -- to sign a long-term deal with the Thunder. And OKC’s acquisition of Carmelo Anthony helped convince George that the Thunder was all in on competing. And even though OKC went out in the first round of the playoffs to Utah, its year-long courtship of George and his family paid off when PG-13 spurned L.A. once and for all to stay in the 405. Anthony ultimately wasn’t a good fit, but he brought back Schroder, who will give Billy Donovan a dynamic scorer off the bench that can give Westbrook a blow and keep OKC’s offense from immolating when Westbrook is on the bench, a common malady the last two years. The Thunder has been relevant in an incredibly small market now for almost a decade. With George and Westbrook and Steven Adams and, now, Schroder, all signed up through 2021, that remarkable run will continue for some time. 2. LOS ANGELES LAKERS 2017-18 RECORD: 35-47; missed playoffs ADDED: F Michael Beasley (one year, $3.5 million); F Joel Berry II; F Issac Bonga (No. 39 pick, 2018 Draft); G Jeffrey Carroll; F LeBron James (four years, $153 million); C JaVale McGee (one year, $1.4 million); G Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (No. 47 pick, 2018 Draft); G Rajon Rondo (one year, $9 million); G Lance Stephenson; F Mo Wagner (No. 25 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: C Thomas Bryant (waived); G Tyler Ennis (waived); F/C Channing Frye (signed with Cavs); C Brook Lopez (signed with Bucks); F Julius Randle (signed with Pelicans); G Isaiah Thomas (signed with Nuggets) RETAINED: G Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (one year, $12 million); G Travis Wear THE KEY MAN: F Brandon Ingram. The third-year man should be the major beneficiary of James’ presence going forward. Driving lanes previously clogged with defenders should now be runway clear. Opponents who previously could close out strong on Ingram will now have their attention elsewhere. Ingram need only look at James’ last stop: per NBA.com/Stats, among players leaguewide who appeared in at least 60 games last season, three Cavaliers -- Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith and Cedi Osman -- were among the top 20 in the league in lowest frequency of having their closest defenders within two feet of them, meaning James created many wide open looks for teammates all season. Ingram vastly improved his range last season over his rookie one, shooting 39 percent on 3-pointers. But he only attempted 1.8 threes per game last season. That number will surely skyrocket in 2018. Ingram must ready to take advantage. That will make him that much more deadly as a driver. THE SKINNY: Team president Magic Johnson was tasked with landing a whale in free agency, and he and GM Rob Pelinka bagged Moby Dick in James. Their subsequent free agent moves once Paul George opted to stay in Oklahoma City were all short-term plays with an eye toward the promising 2019 free agent class, which include the likes of All-Stars Klay Thompson, Kemba Walker and DeMarcus Cousins. But that doesn’t mean Lake Show ’18 isn’t going to be the rip-roaringest circus this side of your standard Ozzy Ozbourne tour. What’s the over-under on the first time Rondo cusses out coach Luke Walton, or when we hear of a “spirited practice” that is code for “Lance ‘bowed ‘Bron in the neck and Walton sent everyone home”? The Lakers could be in The Finals or out in the first round, but what they decidedly will not be is boring. 3. DENVER NUGGETS 2017-18 RECORD: 46-36; missed playoffs ADDED: F Michael Porter Jr. (No. 14 pick, 2018 Draft); G Isaiah Thomas (one year, $2 million); F Jarred Vanderbilt (No. 41 pick, 2018 Draft); C Thomas Welsh (No. 58 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: F Darrell Arthur (traded to Nets); F Wilson Chandler (traded to 76ers); F Kenneth Faried (traded to Nets); G Isaiah Whitehead (waived) RETAINED: G Will Barton (four years, $53 million); G/F Torrey Craig (two years, $4 million); C Nikola Jokic (five-year, $147.7 million contract extension) THE KEY MAN: G Jamal Murray. Denver ended all pretense that the full-time point guard job wasn’t his last season and his second-year numbers were very encouraging. Among regularly playing (60+ games) floor generals, per NBA.com/Stats, Murray’s .577 True Shooting Percentage ranked only behind D.J. Augustin, Kyrie Irving, Darren Collison and Kyle Lowry. No one doubts the still-just-21-year-old Murray can fill it up, and that the Nuggets don’t need a classic ball distributor to light up the Pepsi Center scoreboard. But they do need to get more credible defensively. So does he. THE SKINNY: A great offseason for the Nuggets, who did what they said they would -- keep Jokic off the market next summer -- while clearing roster spots and minutes with two trades, and simultaneously reducing their luxury tax bill for 2019. (The Chandler trade to the Sixers also created an enormous $12.8 million trade exception for Denver through August of 2019.) Jokic should anchor one of the most athletic starting quintets in the game -- along with Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, the re-signed Barton (penciled in for now as the starting three) and Paul Millsap. the Nuggets didn’t add much at the defensive end, which was their Achilles’ heel the last couple of seasons and the main reason they didn’t make the playoffs in 2017-18. Denver opted to strengthen a strength by bringing in Thomas, who’ll be in prove-it mode next season on a short deal with a coach that he knows from their Sacramento days in Mike Malone. Look for Malone to unleash Thomas on second units throughout the West. Porter Jr. was worth a flier at 14; he was the consensus likely first pick in the Draft a year ago, before his back injury took him out of all but a couple of games in his one season at Missouri. Denver can give him the entire year to rehab from two surgeries, the latest last week, and reset his clock for 2019-20. 4. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS 2017-18 RECORD: 58-24; won NBA Finals ADDED: C DeMarcus Cousins (one year, $5.3 million); F Jacob Evans (No. 28 pick, 2018 Draft); F Jonas Jerebko (one year, $2.1 million); G Damion Lee LOST: C JaVale McGee (signed with Lakers); C Zaza Pachulia (signed with Pistons); Head of Physical Performance and Sports Medicine Chelsea Lane (went to Hawks) RETAINED: F Kevin Durant (two years, $61.5 million); F Kevon Looney THE KEY MAN: Brett Yamaguchi, Director of Game Operations/Entertainment, Oracle Arena. One doesn’t envy Yamaguchi, whose tasks will be twofold next season: create lifetime memories for the loudest and most loyal fanbase in the league, as the Warriors play their final season at Oracle Arena (aka Roaracle) -- they’re moving into the Chase Center, their tony new digs across the Bay in downtown San Francisco, come 2019-20. And, provide atmosphere and sizzle that will help coach Steve Kerr keep his veteran core from being bored out of its collective mind during the regular season while it waits for the playoffs and a chance at a three-peat. THE SKINNY: So, sure, the best team in the league adds one of the top two or three big men in the game in Cousins. But that’s the ancillary benefit of having such a dominant organization; everyone wants to figure out a way to get to the Bay. Cousins took less money to do so; now he can take his time rehabbing his torn Achilles tendon. If that means he’s not all the way back until All-Star, who cares? The Warriors will roll Kevon Looney, Jordan Bell and Jonas Jerebko out at the five in non-Death lineups until Cousins is ready. Meanwhile, Kerr has to keep his vets, but especially Andre Iguodala and Shawn Livingston, off their feet as much as possible during the regular season so they’ll be good to go from April through June. Losing Iguodala for the bulk of the 2018 Western finals was almost the Warriors’ downfall. 5. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES 2017-18 RECORD: 22-60; missed playoffs ADDED: F Kyle Anderson (four years, $37 million); G Jevon Carter (No. 32 pick, 2018 Draft); F Omri Casspi (one year, $2.3 million); F Jaren Jackson Jr. (No. 4 pick, 2018 Draft); C Dakari Johnson (acquired from Magic); G Garrett Temple (acquired from Kings) LOST: C/F Deyonta Davis (traded to Kings); G Tyreke Evans (signed with Pacers); F Jarell Martin (traded to Magic); G Ben McLemore (traded to Kings) RETAINED: Coach J.B. Bickerstaff THE KEY MAN: G Mike Conley. It’s no secret how vital Conley is to the franchise, so a return to form is vital for the veteran point, who’ll be 31 on opening night and who missed 70 games last season with a heel injury. Next season will be the third of Conley’s five-year, $150 million deal signed in 2016; remember when so many people thought the world would end when a small market like Memphis invested so much in him? Well, Conley has already dropped to fifth in the league in salary among point guards, behind Stephen Curry Curry, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Kyle Lowry. He’ll fall even further down the list next season, when John Wall’s massive extension kicks in, and Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker each get new contracts that could leap his. THE SKINNY: Memphis couldn’t have had a worse 2017-18 if it tried, and the Grizzlies compounded their on-court implosion by not trading Evans when everyone in the league -- seemingly, except for them -- knew he was going to walk in the summer if they didn’t. But, the Grizzlies’ front office recovered in a big way, selling the 18-year-old Jackson that he would fit right in despite not working out for the Grizz before the Draft, then doubling up on “Grit And Grind 2.0” by taking Carter, college basketball’s fiercest on-ball defender, in the second. Ownership was willing to let the front office use the full mid-level exception on Anderson, who isn’t the sexiest pickup to many fans but whose defensive numbers in San Antonio were outstanding. Temple is the ultimate good vet and locker room guy who will get a chance to play for Bickerstaff after the Kings opted to go with their young guys and he was likely out of the rotation. GM Chris Wallace was adamant that the Grizzlies could rebuild again around the aging Conley and Marc Gasol and that they wouldn’t trade Gasol after the latter’s difficult relationship with former coach David Fizdale. They did, and they didn’t. 6. PHOENIX SUNS 2017-18 RECORD: 21-61; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach Igor Kokoskov; F Trevor Ariza (one year, $15 million); F Darrell Arthur (acquired from Nets); C Deandre Ayton (No. 1 pick, 2018 Draft); F Mikal Bridges (No. 10 pick, 2018 Draft); F Richaun Holmes (acquired from 76ers); G George King (No. 59 pick, 2018 Draft); G Elie Okobo (No. 31 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: Former interim coach Jay Triano; F Jared Dudley (traded to Nets); C Alex Len (signed with Hawks); G Elfrid Payton (signed with Pelicans); G Tyler Ulis (waived); F/C Alan Williams (waived) RETAINED: G Devin Booker (contract extension) THE KEY MAN: Ayton. Let’s not bury the lead here: he was the first pick overall for a reason, because he has franchise-turning capability. The Suns don’t need singles or the occasional double any more; they need someone to put them back on the map with big, sweaty, nasty four-baggers, night after night. (cc: mixed metaphor police.) It’s been a minute since Amar’e Stoudemire was at his destructive best, and the list of impactful bigs in franchise history is thin: Connie Hawkins, Alvan Adams, Tom Chambers, Charles Barkley, Stoudemire. Ayton has a chance to be as good as any of them, and better, and he’s a potential stash of Kryptonite down the pike to the Warriors dynasty. THE SKINNY: There’s the makings of a Jazz-like reimaging of the franchise in short order. Kokoskov not only comes from Utah’s staff, but has significant coaching chops outside of Salt Lake City. He’s been coaching since he was 24, and that was 22 years ago. He’s coached both around the world and around the NBA as an assistant and development maven, and he’ll be great at bolstering the confidence of the Suns’ young guys -- including Bridges, a mature and solid rook with collegiate titles from Villianova who’ll be able to grow quietly outside the huge media shadow cast on Ayton. Kokoskov will also make things a lot easier for Devin Booker offensively. But GM Ryan McDonough was also smart enough to surround the kids with some solid vets, starting with Ariza, who will help the Suns again become acquainted with a long-honored NBA concept called “defense.” 7. DALLAS MAVERICKS 2017-18 RECORD: 24-58; missed playoffs ADDED: F Kostas Antetokounmpo (No. 60 pick, 2018 Draft); G Jalen Brunson (No. 33 pick, 2018 Draft); G Luka Doncic (No. 3 pick, 2018 Draft); C DeAndre Jordan (one year, $22 million); C Chinanu Onuaku (acquired from Rockets); F Ray Spalding (No. 56 pick, 2018 Draft); F Ding Yanyuhang; LOST: G Kyle Collinsworth (waived); G Seth Curry (signed with Blazers); G Yogi Ferrell (signed with Kings); F Doug McDermott (signed with Pacers); F Jonathan Motley (traded to Clippers); C Nerlens Noel (signed with Thunder) RETAINED: G/F Wesley Matthews (picked up player option); F Dirk Nowitzki (one year, $5 million) THE KEY MAN: CEO Cynthia Marshall. The former AT&T executive was put in charge after Sports Illustrated’s explosive story last February detailing a toxic workplace for female employees on the team’s business side, with sexual harassment rampant and no relief forthcoming from the supervisors who should have provided it. Marshall has been fast at work changing the business side culture, as separate investigations of who was responsible for allowing the previous environment to fester wind down. After their results are made public, it will be Marshall who will have to both enact their recommendations and sell the public that owner Mark Cuban’s organization has been fumigated for good. THE SKINNY: Dallas is banking that the 19-year-old Doncic is not only the real deal, but that he can come out of the gate in the NBA after starring in Europe and immediately give the Mavs a boost. There’s a large body of work suggesting Doncic will do just that, and accelerate the Mavs’ rebuild. Second-year guard Dennis Smith Jr.’s improvements should also speed up, and Jordan’s presence should start to close the sieve that has plagued Dallas’s defense the last couple of years. Losing both Curry and Ferrell will hurt the Mavs’ guard depth, though, and Brunson won’t be able to work in slowly. 8. INDIANA PACERS 2017-18 RECORD: 48-34; lost in first round ADDED: G/F Tyreke Evans (one year, $12 million); G Aaron Holiday (No. 23 pick, 2018 Draft); F Alize Johnson (No. 50 pick, 2018 Draft); F Doug McDermott; C/F Kyle O'Quinn LOST: C Al Jefferson (waived); G/F Glenn Robinson III (signed with Pistons); G Lance Stephenson (signed with Lakers) RETAINED: G Cory Joseph (picked up player option); F Thaddeus Young (picked up player option) THE KEY MAN: Kevin Pritchard, president of basketball operations. He’s been instrumental in putting this team together -- first as Larry Bird’s assistant, but on his own the last year-plus since Bird left. Now Pritchard will have to deal with not just the expectations last season’s surprising turnaround season will create with fans, but with the incessant calls and texts one receives when one has a team in which six players among the team’s core are on one-year deals and free agents next summer. It is extremely difficult for a team so constituted to stay unified and keep pulling on the rope together. Human nature is human nature, and players (and their families, and their agents) need reassurances they’re part of the organization’s future, just like any drone from Sector 7G would. It’s hard to think about sacrificing minutes and shots when almost players are judged by are their numbers. Nate McMillan, meanwhile, is only concerned, as any coach is, with the game in front of him, tonight. Pritchard’s phone will rarely have an hour off next season. THE SKINNY: What does a team that surprised so many last season need? More depth, because there aren’t going to be a lot of nights off going forward. The Pacers filled in nicely with a bunch of under-the-radar players, getting Evans after a bounce-back season in Memphis and O’Quinn after good years in New York. McBuckets is running out of stops to show he can be a key contributor in the NBA, but everything is tailor made for him to succeed here: he’ll have all the space in the world playing alongside Victor Oladipo, Bogdanovic and/or Myles Turner, depending on the lineup. Holiday was very good value at 23 in the first round. And Oladipo is on his grind. The Pacers are as big a threat as anyone to Boston’s assumed ascension in the post-LeBron East. 9. NEW YORK KNICKS 2017-18 RECORD: 29-53; missed playoffs ADDED: Coach David Fizdale; G Mario Hezonja (one year, $6.5 million); G Kevin Knox (No. 9 pick, 2018 Draft); C Mitchell Robinson (No. 36 pick, 2018 Draft); F Noah Vonleh (one year) LOST: Former coach Jeff Hornacek; F Michael Beasley (signed with Lakers); C/F Kyle O'Quinn (signed with Pacers); F Troy Williams (waived) RETAINED: G Ron Baker (picked up player option); F/C Luke Kornet; C Enes Kanter (picked up player option); THE KEY MAN: F Kristaps Porzingis. It’s unlikely Porzingis will play much, if at all, next season, as he rehabs his torn ACL suffered in February. New York will be extremely cautious with a timeline, and in Porzingis’ absence, if more losing brings more figurative ping pong balls the Knicks’ way … well, they won’t complain about that, either. None if it matters if “The Unicorn” doesn’t regain his form, though. So much of the Knicks’ 2018-19 improvement, or regression, will take place off camera. THE SKINNY: Fizdale won’t have a mandate to try and win with a veteran team in his first season in New York, as was the case in his year-plus in Memphis. So he can implement his position-less/fitness regimen with the young Knicks without looking over his shoulder. New York’s planning for 2019, when it hopes to strike in a big way in free agency, but that doesn’t mean next season won’t be important. Knox will have a lot of light on him, especially after playing well during NBA Summer League, but the Knicks truly believe Robinson will make some contributions this season with his significant physical gifts. Both must continue changing the narrative in Gotham that the team’s new braintrust is rebuilding the brand the right way -- slowly, and correctly. Hezonja was a good low-cost flier for New York who’ll give Fizdale some small ball options. Hezonja came on strong the second half of last season for the Magic, who hadn’t picked up his third-year option and were hamstrung in what they could offer him as a result. 10. SAN ANTONIO SPURS 2017-18 RECORD: 47-35; lost in first round ADDED: G Marco Belinelli (two years, $12 million); F Dante Cunningham (one year, $2.5 million); G DeMar DeRozan (acquired from Raptors); C Jakob Poeltl (acquired from Raptors); G Lonnie Walker IV (No. 18 pick, 2018 Draft); F Chimezie Metu (No. 49 pick, 2018 Draft) LOST: F Kyle Anderson (signed with Grizzlies); G Danny Green (traded to Raptors); F Kawhi Leonard (traded to Raptors); F Joffrey Lauvergne (signed with Fenerbahce); G Tony Parker (signed with Hornets); G Brandon Paul (waived) RETAINED: C/F Davis Bertans (two years, $14.5 million); G Bryn Forbes (two years, $6 million); F Rudy Gay (one year, $10 million) THE KEY MAN: Coach Gregg Popovich. There is no way to tell, nor is it really anyone’s business, how Pop will cope with the loss of his wife Erin, who died in April during the Spurs’ first-round series with Golden State. But the NBA grind is an unforgiving one, and Popovich is adding Olympic team coach duties to an already taxing schedule. He knows best how he’s doing and you can only hope he listens to himself when or if he needs time away. THE SKINNY: Backed up against it with Leonard’s still-murky insistence for a divorce, the Spurs did as well as could be expected in getting a four-time All-Star who’ll play with a huge chip on his shoulder next season. DeRozan will certainly help San Antonio extinguish the offensive droughts that came when teams loaded up on LaMarcus Aldridge defensively. LA was sensational for long stretches last season, making second team All-NBA for the second time in his career. Belinelli, rookie Walker and Poeltl should lengthen San Antonio’s bench significantly and reduce the Spurs’ dependence on nightly brilliance from 40-year-old Manu Ginobili, if he comes back for a 17th season. Longtime NBA reporter, columnist and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsAug 8th, 2018

DeAndre Ayton should have immediate impact in the NBA

By Chris Dortch, NBA.com As the only coach who had to game plan for Arizona’s Deandre Ayton three times in the freshman sensation’s only year of college basketball, Colorado’s Tad Boyle is qualified to let the NBA know what’s coming. “He’s a monster,” Boyle said of the 7'1", 260-pounder with the 7'5" reach. “I played [at Kansas] in the ’80s, and he’s the best player since Hakeem Olajuwon. He’s that kind of talent. He’s not as good a low-block player as Hakeem, but the similarity is that, if he catches it eight feet from the basket, he’s gonna score. There’s nothing you can do about it. “He doesn’t have Hakeem’s shimmy moves, but facing the basket, he’s certainly better than Hakeem was at the same stage of his career. This kid’s got good footwork, agility, the ability to run the floor, explosiveness, intelligence and skill. He’s special.” When Boyle shook Ayton’s hand after the third time his Buffaloes played the Wildcats, in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament, he told the big man he was happy to see him move on to the NBA, where the Phoenix Suns, having won the lottery, will most likely make him the No. 1 pick in the Draft. Lest the Suns decide they might get better value dealing the pick, well, Boyle can’t imagine that happening. “This kid’s just scary,” Boyle said. “You see him on tape and how he finishes dunks. It’s like he’s playing with a Nerf ball in the basement. Then you see him in person. If you were going to build the perfect basketball player on a computer screen, you’d want someone who’s seven-feet and cut, who can run and jump and make perimeter shots. You’d build Deandre Ayton.” Colorado managed to win one game of the three it played against Arizona. That was the first one, where Ayton scored 26 points, grabbed five rebounds and blocked two shots. The Buffs lost the next two, but they whittled down Ayton’s contributions each time. By the third game, Ayton contributed just 10 points, six boards and three blocks. Boyle’s plan was to front Ayton and try to prevent him from catching the ball anywhere close to the basket. A second defender was always nearby to help and try to turn Ayton into a passer, a skill Boyle thinks Ayton hasn’t mastered — yet. “I played with Danny Manning,” Boyle said. “Danny was such a good passer. If you brought [a second defender] at him, he’d find somebody on the floor or skip it. Deandre isn’t at that level yet, but I think he’ll figure it out.” With Ayton, Colorado decided to pick its poison. The consensus first-team All-American, Pac-12 Player of the Year and Karl Malone Award winner shot a solid 34 percent from three-point range, albeit in limited attempts, and, per Hoop-Math.com, he also made 43 percent of his face-up two-pointers during the season, solid considering those made up 44 percent of his total attempts. “We decided if he wanted to pick and pop and beat us with 15-foot jump shots, go right ahead,” Boyle said. “We had to keep him away from the 10- to 15-toot foot area, where if he catches it, he just overpowers you or goes around you. It’s not like he’s not capable of making that 15- to 17-foot jump shot. That’s just what you have to live with.” Colorado’s strategy of containing Ayton led to one of the biggest upsets in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Arizona drew Buffalo in the first round. Bulls coach Nate Oats replaced Bobby Hurley when the latter moved on to Arizona State and spoke to his old boss as soon as the NCAA bracket was announced. Ayton was a primary topic of the conversation. “Bobby didn’t think you could front him,” Oats said. “But I said we’re going to front him. Colorado was the only team in the Pac-12 that I saw that actually fronted him. Everybody else played zone, which I could understand because they had another seven-footer in the lineup [Dusan Ristic]. But Ayton’s got great basketball feel. You can’t keep a body on him in the zone. You can’t pressure the ball in the zone. “We sat Ristic’s man right behind Ayton. Offensively, we didn’t think their spacing was that great. They had two pros, both seven feet, and you’ve gotta play them. But that also limits how you space the floor.” Buffalo’s plan worked. Ayton still managed to deliver 14 points and 13 boards, but Arizona shot 11 percent (2-of-18) from three. The Wildcats couldn’t take advantage when the Bulls sprang the double team on Ayton, who passed for just one assist. “Limiting his touches and keeping it congested around him,” Oats said. “Daring them to skip the ball to a shooter on the back side. That was our plan.” At least Boyle and Oats had some time to prepare for Ayton. When SMU played the Wildcats in the Battle 4 Atlantis last November, coach Tim Jankovich and his staff had just a few hours to get ready. “Our preparation was by the seat of our pants,” Jankovich said. “We went to bed late that night. But we figured out we were going to front him and trap. We double teamed him, but a different way than we’d been doing.” Jankovich wouldn’t elaborate. “It’s kind of a trade secret,” he said, laughing. SMU’s double team worked. The Mustangs won. Ayton still piled up 17 points and 15 rebounds, but he took only 11 shots and six free throws. And the Wildcats shot 25 percent (5-of-20) from three. Boyle, Oats and Jankovich all figured out a way to deal with Ayton, but their message to his future opponents in the NBA was essentially the same. Good luck. “I think he’s going to be a better pro than he was a college player, and he was a great college player,” Oats said. “Sean [Miller] is an unbelievable coach and did a great job with the kid. But in the NBA, the spacing’s better. You can’t double that easily.” “I can’t fathom him not being impactful, and right away, too,” Jankovich said. “He’s one of those rare players that you can’t help but keep your eye on during the game, because he’s so different than most. Your eye always goes to him. That’s all great players. You don’t mean to focus on him, but when you can’t help but do it, you’re always worried, every possession.” Chris Dortch is the editor of the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. You can email him here, follow him on Twitter and listen to the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Hour. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsJun 5th, 2018

Who is No. 1? Top college player often not top NBA prospect

By Aaron Beard, Associated Press RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Duke’s Marvin Bagley III, Arizona’s Deandre Ayton and Oklahoma’s Trae Young are certainly high NBA draft picks, one of them could easily be the top overall selection. Still, that doesn’t make any of them the best player in college basketball. That’s a different question. Villanova’s Jalen Brunson is a leading candidate to be anointed the national college player of the year. While several freshmen will likely hear their names called as one of the top-five draft picks, Brunson has been the man in college. And Brunson has NBA talent at the helm of a team playing in this weekend’s Final Four in San Antonio, but recently there seems to be a disconnect between college production and NBA potential. “I think it’s hard for players to figure that out,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “Like, ‘Hey, I’m one of the best players in college basketball, how can I not be a first-round draft pick?’ There’s just a big difference between what the NBA guys think they want to use draft picks for and who’s the best player in college basketball.” For years, those two things seemed intertwined. Ten of the 19 different players named The Associated Press college player of the year between 1980-2000 — Virginia’s Ralph Sampson won three times — became the No. 1 overall NBA draft pick, including Sampson, Georgetown’s Patrick Ewing, Navy’s David Robinson, LSU’s Shaquille O’Neal and Wake Forest’s Tim Duncan. But in the years since, only three players — Utah’s Andrew Bogut in 2005, Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin in 2009 and Kentucky’s Anthony Davis in 2012 — have been AP player of the year and the No. 1 overall pick. Last year’s AP winner, Frank Mason III of Kansas, was a second-round draft pick. This year’s leading contenders include possible No. 1 draft picks in Ayton and Bagley, along with a potential top-10 pick in Young, while Brunson could be a second-rounder like Mason. The shorter college careers of top players can explain some of that change. Formerly, they routinely developed over three- and four-year stays that offered a clearer picture of player potential. Now, as top prospects stick around only a year or maybe two, that evaluation has changed. “There’s less of an emphasis on college productivity,” said ESPN analyst Dino Gaudio, Wake Forest’s head coach from 2007-10. “Is it a factor? Sure it is, but it is less of a factor than what it was many years ago because of the one-and-done [rule] and how early kids can come out. “I think the word is projection. I think that’s the biggest word.” Brunson is still playing in the Final Four as the top-seeded Wildcats pursue a second national championship in three seasons. Bagley helped the Blue Devils reach the Elite Eight before losing in overtime to Kansas, while Ayton and Young both suffered first-round losses. The AP named its All-America team Tuesday, with Brunson and Kansas’ Devonte’ Graham joining Bagley, Ayton and Young on the first team. The AP names its player of the year Thursday in San Antonio. Ayton is an athletic 7'1" freshman with power and a soft shooting touch, averaging 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds. Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley said Ayton “may be the best big I’ve seen in college as a player or coach” — high praise considering Hurley played against O’Neal and Michigan’s Chris Webber, and alongside Christian Laettner at Duke. “He’s a once-in-a-generation player,” Arizona coach Sean Miller said. “I doubt if I’ll coach anyone like him again.” Bagley, a 6'11" forward, has the wingspan to score over defenders, rebound through traffic and step out to the arc, making him the Atlantic Coast Conference’s leading scorer (21.1) and rebounder (11.5). The 6'2" Young led the country in scoring (27.4) and assists (8.7), including games of 48 points and a Division I record-tying 22 assists. “You’re trying to develop as an individual, you’re trying to win as many games as a team,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “If you can do all those things well, as Trae has done, you’re going to position yourself well.” Ayton and Young have declared for the draft, while Bagley has yet to make the expected official. And there are several other freshmen looking like potential lottery picks, including Mo Bamba from Texas and Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. (who was injured nearly all year) along with possible one-and-done guard Collin Sexton of Alabama. Meanwhile, there’s Brunson, the steady 6'3" junior leading a team that spent a national-best eight weeks atop the Top 25. He averages 19.2 points and shoots 53 percent, though he lacks elite athleticism and isn’t regarded as the best pro prospect on his team (that would be 6'7" junior Mikal Bridges). “So is Jalen Brunson the best player in college basketball?” Gaudio said. “For me, I think so. And I think he is a great college player. Will he be one of the top five picks in the draft? No, because it’s so heavily weighted on how these guys can impact a team at the next level. And so much of that is related to athleticism, how high their ceiling is.” ___ AP Basketball Writer John Marshall in Phoenix; and AP Sports Writers Cliff Brunt in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and Dan Gelston in Philadelphia; contributed to this report......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsMar 28th, 2018

Forbes double-double fuels Spurs by Suns 111-86

By Raul Dominguez, Associated Press SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Bryn Forbes had a season-high 24 points and a career-best 11 rebounds as the San Antonio Spurs beat the Phoenix Suns 111-86 on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). San Antonio has won three straight halfway through a six-game homestand. The Spurs, who are allowing 113.3 points per game, have limited their opponents to 101 points during their winning streak. LaMarcus Aldridge added 18 points in 25 minutes. He sat out the fourth quarter with San Antonio leading by as many as 25 points. Phoenix, which was without leading scorer Devin Booker for the fifth straight game, never led while falling to 4-24. T.J. Warren led the Suns with 23 points and De'Anthony Melton added 17. Rookie DeAndre Ayton was the only other Phoenix player in double figures, scoring 12 points on 6-for-10 shooting. DeMar DeRozan was held to a season-low five points, but the 6'7" guard attempted just six shots as he set up his teammates. DeRozan had eight of his nine assists in the first half, setting up six three-point shots by drawing the defense into the lane on his drives. San Antonio finished 13-for-21 on three-pointers, falling one shy of matching their season-high for three's. Four of DeRozan's assists in the first half were to Forbes. An undrafted free agent out of Michigan State, Forbes matched a career-high with five three-pointers. TIP-INS Suns: Booker missed his fifth straight game with a strained left hamstring. Booker suffered the injuring trying to save possession on a ball going out of bounds against the Lakers on Dec. 2 (Dec. 3, PHL time). . Phoenix has had eight different players lead the team in game scoring this season. . Warren's season high is 29 points, which he set Nov. 8 (Nov. 9, PHL time) against Boston. Spurs: DeRozan's eight assists in the first half were the second-most he has had in any half in his career. DeRozan had 10 assists and 30 points in the second half against Portland on Feb. 1, 2014. . Forbes has scored in double figures in 21 games this season, the most by an undrafted player. Robert Covington, Wesley Matthews and Justin Holiday and Rodney McGruder all have 17 games in double figures. UP NEXT Suns: Host Dallas on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). Spurs: Host Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsDec 12th, 2018

Clippers extend home winning streak to 9 by beating Suns

By Joe Reedy, Associated Press LOS ANGELES (AP) — Danilo Gallinari had 28 points and 10 rebounds as the Los Angeles Clippers won their ninth straight home game, defeating the Phoenix Suns 115-99 on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time). Lou Williams scored 20 points while Tobias Harris (18 points, 10 rebounds) and Boban Marjanovic (18 points, 10 rebounds) notched double-doubles for the Clippers (14-6), who have the NBA’s longest active home winning streak and have won 10 of their last 12 overall. The game was tied 49-all at halftime before Los Angeles took control with a 20-4 run over a five-minute stretch in the third quarter to go up 83-63. Gallinari scored 12 of the first 15 points in the run, including a pair of three-pointers. Phoenix, off to the worst start in franchise history at 4-17, pulled to 104-93 on Deandre Ayton’s reverse layup with four minutes remaining but could not get any closer. Devin Booker led Phoenix with 23 points and Elie Okobo added 19. T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson each scored 15. TIP-INS Suns: Ayton, the top pick in this year’s NBA draft, had a season-low four points but led the team in rebounds with nine. ... Richaun Holmes came off the bench to score 10 points. ... G Isaiah Canaan was waived before the game. He appeared in 19 games and averaged 7.5 points and 3.3 assists. Suns coach Igor Kokoskov said it “was a business decision but I feel good about his future.” Canaan began the season as the team’s starting point guard before Kokoskov moved Booker to the point and inserted rookie Mikal Bridges into the starting lineup. Clippers: Los Angeles has won nine straight games against the Suns, dating back to the start of the 2016-17 season. It is the club’s second-longest active winning streak against a single opponent — the Clippers have won 10 straight vs. Orlando. ... Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 13 points. ... F Luc Mbah a Moute (sore left knee) and G Jerome Robinson (strained right foot) were inactive. UP NEXT Suns: Host Orlando on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). Clippers: Play at Sacramento on Thursday (Friday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 29th, 2018

Bogdanovic s 3 helps Pacers escape with win in Phoenix

By Bob Baum, Associated Press PHOENIX (AP) — Bojan Bogdanovic sank the go-ahead three-pointer with 31 seconds to play and the Indiana Pacers escaped with a 109-104 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). The Pacers, coming off a 33-point victory at Utah the previous night, had their hands full in a tight fourth quarter. Myles Turner's triple gave Indiana a 104-101 lead with 48 seconds to play, but Devin Booker responded with a three-pointer to tie it at 104-104 with 45 seconds left. After Bogdanovic's long-range basket, Booker's attempt at a game-tying three barely rimmed out. Darren Collison's two free throws wrapped up the scoring. Doug McDermott and Domantas Sabonis scored 21 points apiece for Indiana. Turner added 16 and Bogdanovic 15. T.J. Warren scored 25 for the Suns. Booker was just 7-of-21 shooting but scored 20 points and had eight assists. Deandre Ayton had 18 points and 12 rebounds. Indiana led by as many as 13 points in the second and third quarters, but Phoenix, with Booker and Ayton on the bench, used a 15-2 run late in the third and early in the fourth to go up 85-81 when Richaun Holmes made one of two free throws with 9:51 to play. Until the final seconds, nobody led by more than four the rest of the way. McDermott and Sabonis each scored 12 in the second quarter. McDermott's consecutive three's in an 8-0 Pacers spurt put Indiana up 46-35 with 6:37 left in the half. Indiana stretched it to 52-39 on Sabonis' two free throws but Phoenix got it back to single digits and trailed 61-54 at the break. Indiana stretched the lead back to 13, 76-63, on Collison's three-pointer but the Suns finished the quarter with a 7-2 spurt, Isaiah Canaan's three-pointer cutting the lead to 81-77 entering the final quarter. TIP-INS Pacers: Indiana's 33-point win at Utah was the fifth time the Pacers have won a road game by at least 30 points and first in 22 years (when they won at Vancouver 127-80 in December 1996). ... Indiana reserves scored a season-high 62 points in the rout at Utah. ... McDermott and Sabonis were a combined 8-for-11 in the second quarter against Phoenix. .... McDermott scored 21 for the second game in a row. Suns: Ayton became the fourth player since 1992 with at least 300 points and 200 rebounds in his first 20 NBA games. The others who did it are Blake Griffin, Tim Duncan and Shaquille O'Neal. ... Ayton had 14 points and seven rebounds in the first half. ... A victory would have given Phoenix two wins in its last three games. Suns have won just four all season. UP NEXT Pacers: At the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night (Friday, PHL time). Suns: At the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 28th, 2018

Rookie Ladder: Ayton, others starting to make their move

By Drew Packham, NBA.com It’s been two weeks since I checked in on this entertaining rookie class, and I appreciate the readers who took the time to point out my absence last week. Let’s me know someone’s paying attention, I guess. (My bad. I was off getting married and honeymooning.) And while I was making major life decisions and fracturing a rib trying to surf in Sayulita, Mexico, I was also keeping a watch on the rookies making moves in their new lives in the NBA. And things are not getting any easier when it comes to ranking these guys. Unlike my “Ultimate Wedding Dance Party” playlist I curated on Spotify (which was incredible, by the way, thanks in large part to this song), there’s no simple shuffle button I can hit each week. I feel like I say this every week, but we’re truly lucky with this rookie class. There is so much talent, variety and skill among the class, with so many rookies doing so many things well, that my job of judging them against each other is becoming increasingly difficult. Looking back to two weeks ago, for example, I’m surprised to remember that Deandre Ayton was on the fourth rung. Sure, Wendell Carter and Trae Young had had some big performances (and the Ladder does have a built-in recency bias), but Ayton has since bounced back and put together enough solid games to make a serious run at No. 1. Luka Doncic holds on to the top spot for now, but unlike saying “I do” to my wife or choosing “Ooh La La” by Faces for our first dance, it wasn’t an easy decision. * * * 1. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks Last edition: No. 1 Doncic almost lost his grip on this spot due to some spotty shooting, but the fact that the Mavericks have won six of their last eight -- including wins over the Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City and Utah Jazz -- bolstered his case. He’s had at least nine rebounds in each of his last three games and continues to come up with big plays down the stretch of these wins. The Mavs trust him, and it’s easy to see why. He continues to lead rookies in scoring (19.3 ppg), is third in rebounding (6.9) and second in assists (4.1). Ayton is gaining ground on him, and the gap is narrowing with every dominant double-double from the Suns’ big man. 2. Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns Last edition: No. 4 Ayton climbs two rungs after two weeks of solid play. The more opportunities I have to watch Ayton, the more I leave impressed and certain he’ll be a star in this league for many years. He’s still struggling to defend like you’d hope from a seven-footer (just three blocks in last eight games), but the offensive numbers back him as a force inside. Over his last seven games, Ayton is averaging 17.3 ppg and 9.9 rpg while shooting 64 percent. 3. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, LA Clippers Last edition: Not ranked It’s looking like the Clippers might have found their answer at point guard. Taken with the 11th pick, Gilgeous-Alexander has stepped up and seems to have locked down the starting point guard job. At 6'6", he has the size to defend and has shown the ability to navigate the pick-and-roll, hitting 50 percent of his mid-range jumpers to date. Over his last seven games, he’s averaged 14.1 points on 50 percent shooting as the Clippers had won five straight before Tuesday’s (Wednesday, PHL time) 125-118 loss to the Washington Wizards. Gilgeous-Alexander's season numbers aren’t eye-popping (10.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.8 apg), but he’s carrying himself and leading the Clippers like a veteran. 4. Jaren Jackson Jr., Memphis Grizzlies Last edition: Just missed cut Jackson makes a jump this week thanks to one of the young big man’s best games as well as because of the subpar play from Young and Carter. In a 112-104 win over the Kings last week, Jackson scored 27 points with six rebounds, four steals and a pair of blocks. He made 11-of-16 shots and was a force the Kings couldn’t solve. Before Jackson scored nine points in just 12 minutes of Wednesday’s (Thursday, PHL time) win over the Spurs, he’d scored in double-digits in eight of his last 10 games. The Grizzlies are a surprise atop the Western Conference standings, and their young big man is a big reason for that. 5. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks Last edition: No. 3 Young is in a serious funk right now. He’s scored in double-digits just once in his past five games, hitting just 27 percent of his shots and five percent -- yes, five -- of his three's (1-for-20). The talent is clearly there, as his lone breakout game in that span was an impressive 25-point, 17-assist performance in a 127-119 loss to the Clippers. Young became the first rookie since Allen Iverson to record at least 25 and 15 in a game, and the 17 assists are the most by any player this season. Although his averages place him among the rookie leaders, more weeks of poor shooting like this one won’t help him fend off more consistent rookies. Just missed the cut: Wendell Carter Jr., Chicago Bulls Carter slides out of the Top 5, but he’s still putting up decent numbers for the struggling Bulls. He ranks second in both rebounds (7.4) and blocks (1.9) per game, but his field-goal percentage is low for a big man (46.5 percent). Collin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers Sexton has been one of the leading rookie scorers over the past two weeks, with 17.6 ppg over his last seven games (second among rookies in that span). He’s doing it by shooting 46.2 percent overall and 60 percent on 3-pointers. Marvin Bagley III, Sacramento Kings Bagley had 15 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks in the Kings’ 117-113 win over the Thunder. It was Bagley’s first career double-double and he’s scored in double-digits in his last three games. Aaron Holiday, Indiana Pacers With Victor Oladipo nursing a sore right knee, Holiday has stepped in admirably and deserves some credit for his recent play. In his last three games, he's averaged 14 ppg and 5.3 rpg in 20.1 minutes per game. Hamidou Diallo, Oklahoma City Thunder Diallo gets an honorary spot this week after suffering a gruesome looking (but not serious) leg injury in Wednesday night’s (Thursday, PHL time) rout of the Warriors. There's no word on if he'll miss time, though. Diallo had become a fixture in the rotation, starting in OKC's previous two games. In Monday’s (Tuesday, PHL time) win over Sacramento, he scored 18 points, becoming the first Thunder rookie to go at least 7-for-7 from the field. * * * (All stats through Wednesday, Nov. 21) Send any questions or comments to my email or find me on Twitter @drewpackham. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 23rd, 2018

Jabari Parker shines as Bulls beat Suns

CHICAGO --- Jabari Parker had 20 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists, and the Chicago Bulls beat the Phoenix Suns 124-116 on Wednesday night to stop a four-game slide. Chicago shot a season-high 56.8 percent from the field and placed six players in double figures in just its third win in its last 12 games. Zach LaVine scored 29 points after missing Saturday night's loss to Toronto due to an illness, and Ryan Arcidiacono finished with 14. Phoenix lost for the seventh time in its last eight games. Devin Booker scored 23 points, T.J. Warren had 21 and Deandre Ayton added 18 points and 12 rebounds. Jamal Crawford's pullup jumper for the Suns tied it at 97 with 10:54 left, but ...Keep on reading: Jabari Parker shines as Bulls beat Suns.....»»

Category: newsSource:  inquirerRelated NewsNov 22nd, 2018

Parker shines as Bulls beat Suns 124-116

By Jay Cohen, Associated Press CHICAGO (AP) — Jabari Parker had 20 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists, and the Chicago Bulls beat the Phoenix Suns 124-116 on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) to stop a four-game slide. Chicago shot a season-high 56.8 percent from the field and placed six players in double figures in just its third win in its last 12 games. Zach LaVine scored 29 points after missing Saturday night's (Sunday, PHL time) loss to Toronto due to an illness, and Ryan Arcidiacono finished with 14. Phoenix lost for the seventh time in its last eight games. Devin Booker scored 23 points, T.J. Warren had 21 and Deandre Ayton added 18 points and 12 rebounds. Jamal Crawford's pullup jumper for the Suns tied it at 97 with 10:54 left, but the Bulls responded with a 10-0 run. Parker had a driving dunk before Antonio Blakeney capped the decisive sequence with a jumper with 7:27 remaining. Phoenix pulled within three on Warren's three-pointer with 1:27 to go, but Arcidiacono found Wendell Carter Jr. for a layup and LaVine made two foul shots to help close it out. Carter and Blakeney also had 14 points apiece for Chicago, which improved to 1-7 against Western Conference teams this season. Justin Holiday made three of the Bulls' 11 three-pointers and finished with 11 points. TIP-INS Suns: Crawford finished with 16 points, and Richaun Holmes had 14. ... Phoenix shot 49 percent from the field. Bulls: Rookie F Chandler Hutchison was held out after he developed back spasms during the morning shootaround. "It just kind of came out of nowhere," coach Fred Hoiberg said. ... F Lauri Markkanen (right elbow sprain) had "his best conditioning workout" on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time), Hoiberg said. Markkanen and G Kris Dunn (left MCL sprain) participated in a pick-and-roll drill in practice. "We did have our guys out there. It wasn't a contact drill," Hoiberg said, "but just to try to get them integrated into a 5-on-5 setting." UP NEXT Suns: Try to stop a six-game slide against Milwaukee when they visit the Bucks on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time). Bulls: Host the Miami Heat on Friday night (Saturday, PHL time) in the first of three meetings between the teams this season......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 22nd, 2018

LeVert scores 26 to lift Nets past struggling Suns 104-82

By Jose M. Romero, Associated Press PHOENIX (AP) — Caris LeVert scored 26 points, D'Angelo Russell added 15 and the Brooklyn Nets beat the struggling Phoenix Suns 104-82 on Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time). The Nets won their third game in the past four, while the Suns have lost 8-of-9. Devin Booker led Phoenix with 20 points but made just 6-of-21 shots. Deandre Ayton had 15 points and a season-high 13 rebounds. Brooklyn held the Suns to a season-low in points and field goal shooting at 34.6 percent. The Suns went on a 9-0 run to turn a 14-point deficit in the third quarter to 63-58 difference on Trevor Ariza's corner three with 5:31 to play. The Nets regained a 14-point lead, 74-60, with Dinwiddie's triple at the 2:18 mark. Phoenix never threatened in the fourth, the Suns' cold shooting helping the Nets remain in control. Ed Davis' dunk made it 92-74 with 4:15 to play. The Nets' strategy seemed to be to let the 7'1" Ayton shoot mid-range shots rather than allow him to work inside the paint. It worked for much of the game, as the Suns' high-profile rookie made just 6-of-17 shots. Both teams struggled to hit shots in the first quarter, with field goal percentages of less than 40 both ways. The Nets, up two after one quarter, led by 14 during the second quarter. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson's short turnaround bank shot made it 47-34 with 2:53 to go before halftime. Phoenix got back-to-back three's from Mikal Bridges and Ariza to cut the lead to 50-42, and the Suns trailed by 10 at the half. Suns backup center Richaun Holmes had season highs of 13 points and 10 rebounds. TIP-INS Nets: G Jared Dudley returned to Phoenix for the first time since being traded in the offseason. He spent seven seasons over two stints with the Suns. ... F DeMarre Carroll has yet to play this season due to a right ankle injury. Suns: F T.J. Warren returned after missing the team's last game with back spasms. ... Booker entered the game second in the NBA with an average of 9.8 points per game in the fourth quarter. He had four in the final 12 minutes. ... G Jamal Crawford moved into 29th place career in games played (1,271). DUDLEY DOING RIGHT Dudley, with 11 pro seasons to his credit, has started all 11 games for the Nets this season, and coach Kenny Atkinson said Dudley gets an "A-plus" for leadership. "He's doing it in the locker room and he is also doing it with his play because he doesn't need the ball in his hands," Atkinson said. "He's going to space the floor and he's an intelligent defender." UP NEXT Nets: At Denver Nuggets on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). Suns: Host the Boston Celtics on Thursday (Friday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 7th, 2018

Rookie Ladder: Mavericks Doncic starts on top

By Drew Packham, NBA.com Welcome back to another season of the Rookie Ladder. If you’re like me, there’s nothing you love more than watching the first-year players find their way in the NBA. This will be my 11th season covering the rookies (first for SI.com, now here) and it has yet to grow old. The beauty of covering rookies is that every season provides something that will surprise you. There are so many storylines, so many angles to keep an eye on. Players break out. Players flop. Players live up to expectations. Players fail to live up to expectations. Players have incredible performances. Players have awful performances. But yet, night in and night out, across virtually every arena, there’s something intriguing and exciting to watch. Each week, in this space, I’ll do my best to highlight the Top 5 rookies (and another five just missing the cut) and rank them on the Ladder according to their standing on the season. Last year, the Ladder was primarily a video released each week with my Top 5 rookies, but this season I’ll be able to write a little more and dig deeper into the ups and downs of the rookie class. So, with all that said, here’s the inaugural Rookie Ladder for the 2018-19 season. (All stats through Thursday, Nov. 1, PHL time) * * * 1. Luka Doncic, Dallas Mavericks Through the first week, Doncic has been the most consistently entertaining rookie and it’s difficult to pick one aspect of his game to feature. Do you like step-back 3-pointers? Check. Do you dig floaters in the lane? You’ll see several a game. How about court vision and slick passes? He’s got it. The thing with Doncic is he looks so comfortable being the Mavs’ leader, and the season is just two weeks old. He’s already the team’s leading scorer (19.6 ppg, first among rookies) and put up 31 points and eight rebounds in a tough 113-108 OT loss in San Antonio on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). The only knock on Doncic so far are the turnovers (4.0 against 4.4 apg), but that should improve as he acclimates to his teammates and the style of play in the NBA. If you haven’t tuned in to a Mavs game, now’s the time. Doncic is must-see TV and earns the top rung to start the season. 2. Deandre Ayton, Phoenix Suns The No. 1 overall pick has lived up to the hype early in the season, averaging a double-double (16.9 ppg, 10 rpg) while giving Phoenix the dominating inside presence it has long desired. Devin Booker is dealing with a sore hamstring, but when the pair has been on the floor together, they’ve been a tough duo to defend. Drop down on the massive Ayton? He’ll kick it to Booker or his other shooters. Defend Booker on the perimeter? He’ll drop it in to get Ayton going inside. “He’s going to be a force down there the whole season,” Booker said. “I feel like teams are going to have to figure out what they want to do.” Ayton is shooting at a 61.6-percent clip (85.7 pct. on free throws) and he’s fourth among rookies in assists (3.3 apg), so it’s clear he’s comfortable passing out of the post. He’s going to be in the Kia Rookie of the Year chatter all season and while he may not be as exciting as Doncic and Young, his efficiency and dominance should give him a great shot at claiming the award. 3. Trae Young, Atlanta Hawks The No. 5 pick has been hit-or-miss in the early going, but his big games have been impressive. In the Hawks’ third game of the season, Young erupted for 35 points and 11 assists, while going 6-for-14 from 3-point land in a 131-117 loss to the Grizzlies. He’s only the third rookie since 2000 to top 35 and 10. The other two? LeBron James and Stephen Curry. But Young followed that outburst with a stretch of three games in which he was 11-for-37, going 2-for-15 from beyond the arc. This is likely what we’re going to see from Young throughout this season -- briliant performances followed by typical rookie struggles. Still, it’s clear Young can play. He leads all rookies in assists (6.6 per game) and he’s not turning the ball over at a terrible rate (3.0 per game). The Hawks are Young’s team, so he’ll have every opportunity to shine, which should keep him high on the Ladder all season. 4. Marvin Bagley III, Sacramento Kings At 5-3, the Kings are one of the early surprises of the season, and Bagley has been a big reason for their success. Working with the second unit, Bagley has been key as Sacramento has looked to push the tempo. While Bagley was more of a typical post-up player at Duke, he’s best when running the floor and finishing in transition. The Kings are winning, and Bagley is putting up decent numbers in just 23.3 minutes per game. Among rookies, he’s currently fourth in scoring (12.4 ppg) and second in rebounding (7.1 rpg), while shooting 53.4 percent overall and 5-for-9 from 3-point land. His most notable performance came Oct. 23 (Oct. 24, PHL time) in a 126-112 loss to the Nuggets in which he finished with 20 points, nine rebounds and five blocks in 32 minutes. Bagley could see his minutes increase as he improves, but he’s making the most of his minutes so far, which should keep him high on the Ladder. 5. Josh Okogie, Minnesota Timberwolves Okogie is one of the season’s early surprises as he’s made the most of his opportunity in Minnesota. After not seeing the floor in the Wolves’ first two games, Okogie got his chance when Jimmy Butler rested a game, then saw heavy action with Andrew Wiggins out with a quad contusion. In six games, the No. 20 pick out of Georgia Tech is averaging 9.8 points (8th among rookies) and 5.3 rebounds (sixth). More notably, he leads rookies in steals per game (1.7), which will certainly endear him to coach Tom Thibodeau. “You just like him,” Thibodeau said after Okogie scored 17 to help the Wolves beat the Lakers 124-120 on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). “You just like his energy, and he makes things happen.” He’s struggling from the floor (38.3 percent), but his energy and defense could make him hard to bench once Wiggins returns. For now, though, he’s earned his rung on the Ladder. Just missed the cut: Jaren Jackson, Memphis Grizzlies Through six games, Jackson is averaging 11.5 points (6th among rookies), 5.2 rebounds (7th) and 1.0 blocks (4th) in 22.7 minutes. Scored in double-digits in the first four games, but has just 10 points in last two games while seeing playing time dip due to foul trouble. Mo Bamba, Orlando Magic Fifth in rebounding (5.4 rpg) and leads rookies in blocks at 2.0 per game (ninth among all players). Also managing to put up almost two 3s a night (at a 38.5 percent clip) while seeing around 20 minutes of action. Wendell Carter, Jr., Chicago Bulls Fourth in rebounding (6.3 rpg) in just over 25 minutes per game. Field goal percentage down for a big man (43.6 percent) but he’s scored in double-digits in last three games. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, LA Clippers Has been solid as Clippers’ backup. His ability to get to the rim and defend has earned him a spot in the rotation and even crunch-time minutes. Averaging 8.4 points and 3.6 assists (4th), while picking up a steal per game. Collin Sexton, Cleveland Cavaliers Has scored in double-digits in his last four games, averaging 14.3 points in that span. His ability to get to the line (nine times in each of last two games) may be his best feature. His career-best 17 points helped Cleveland get its first win Tuesday night (Wednesday, PHL time), and it will be interesting to see how his role changes under interim coach Larry Drew. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsNov 2nd, 2018

Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant lead Warriors past Suns 123-103

By Janie McCauley, Associated Press OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry scored 15 of his 29 points in the third quarter and also had eight assists, leading the Golden State Warriors past the Phoenix Suns 123-103 on Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time). Kevin Durant scored 22 points and Draymond Green dished out eight of 35 assists for the two-time defending NBA champions. Coach Steve Kerr had been disappointed in his team's passing, rushed shots and ball movement so far. "I'd like to get great shots instead of decent ones," Kerr said. "Right now we're settling for decent ones." Kerr might be pleased with the progress: The Warriors shot 51.1 percent in the second of a back-to-back following a two-point loss at Denver on Sunday (Monday, PHL time), which came after a one-point win Friday (Saturday, PHL time) at Utah. The Warriors won a 16th straight against Phoenix, their longest unbeaten run against a single team in franchise history. Golden State's 14 straight home victories versus the Suns is a new franchise mark, as well. Klay Thompson scored 16 points but missed his initial four three-point tries and finished 1-of-6 from deep, making him 3-for-22 through four games. New Golden State starting center Damian Jones dunked three times in the initial 4:03 — a pair of them on alley-oops — and Durant had one in transition, too. Phoenix called timeout down 12-7 at the 7:34 mark after KD's slam. Jones also added an early three-point play on a putback and finished with 13 points. He had nine and four rebounds in the opening eight minutes. Devin Booker scored 28 points, TJ Warren had 27 off the bench and Deandre Ayton added 20 points and 14 rebounds for Phoenix. "We are playing the best team in the world," Suns coach Igor Kokoskov said. Curry shot 11-for-18 with six three-pointers. He had scored 30 or more points in each of his initial three games this season but didn't play the entire fourth quarter Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). TIP-INS Suns: Phoenix was outrebounded 17-6 in the opening quarter. ... While G Troy Daniels had been cleared from the concussion protocol as of Monday morning, he did not play. ... The Suns had allowed exactly 27 points in each of the third and fourth quarters in both their first two games. ... Phoenix won at Oracle Arena during the preseason. Warriors: Reserve G Shaun Livingston sat out with a bruised left knee. ... The Warriors are averaging 119.8 points during the winning streak against the Suns. ... Golden State's first three games were decided by 11 total points. ... The Warriors completed the first set of 13 back-to-backs — which will be their fewest total since the NBA began an 82-game schedule in 1967-68. COUSINS UPDATE Center DeMarcus Cousins will begin doing more "controlled aspects" of team drills during practice, increasing from the extensive individual work he has largely been limited to so far during his recovery from surgery for a torn left Achilles tendon. Cousins still won't be rushed into full scrimmaging but perhaps some light work when the young players scrimmage, Kerr said. "He's doing fine, he's doing well," Kerr said. Cousins has been a big support for Jones, hopping off the bench to encourage the third-year pro and offering insight during timeouts. UNICYCLE GIFT Rong Niu, the Red Panda halftime performer, received a new custom-made unicycle courtesy of the Warriors and it was presented by team President and COO Rick Welts. Niu's previous unicycle was stolen in January from the luggage area at San Francisco International Airport. Niu let out a "Yeah!" and pumped her fist after successfully flipping the bowls onto her head. Afterward, an emotional Red Panda took a bow, brought the house down, and said, "Thank you so much!" "She's been amazing. She's one of the great halftime acts in sports," Kerr said. "So I think that's great she'll be here tonight. I will ask for a report from you guys afterward because I'll be busy at halftime. I'm happy that she got her bike back." UP NEXT Suns: Host LeBron James and the Lakers on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). Warriors: Host Washington on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 23rd, 2018

Jokic s triple-double leads Nuggets past Suns 119-91

By ARNIE STAPLETON,  AP Sports Writer DENVER (AP) — Nikola Jokic scored 35 points, posted a triple-double and didn't miss a field goal in leading the Denver Nuggets past the Phoenix Suns 119-91 Saturday night (Sunday PHL time). Jokic, who had 10 assists and 10 rebounds, joined Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in NBA history to post a triple-double with 30 or more points without missing a field goal. Chamberlain did it twice, in 1966 and '67. Jokic made all 11 of his shots from the floor and missed just one of 11 free throws on a night the crowd serenaded him with chants of "MVP! MVP!" Jamal Murray added 26 points for the Nuggets, who are off to their first 2-0 start since 2011-12 and will go for their first 3-0 start since 2009-10 when they host the two-time defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors on Sunday night. They'll be without starting forward Will Barton, who injured his right hip on a reverse layup in the third quarter and was wheeled off the court in obvious distress. Devin Booker's 25 points led the Suns. Barton's injury took some air out of the Pepsi Center, where Jokic stretched Denver's 65-49 halftime lead to 81-59 on a dunk, which was followed by a 3-pointer from Murray for a 25-point lead midway through the third quarter. The intriguing matchup between Jokic and top overall draft pick Deandre Ayton down low never really materialized. Ayton, who had 18 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in his debut against Dallas, scored 5 points on 2-of-7 shooting. Phoenix coach Igor Kokoskov knew it was going to be a learning experience as his prized rookie worked against Jokic. "He makes everybody else better. He's a tricky player. He's going to try to sell a lot of tricks to Deandre," Kokoskov said before tipoff. "Deandre has to play smart. He has to play to his strengths, his energy and high motor. He also has to match all of his tricks." He didn't come close, and neither did the Suns. TIP-INS: Suns: Phoenix was without G Troy Daniels, who sustained a concussion at practice. "It was a contact practice, guys were scrimmaging and it happened right in front of me," Kokoskov said. "It didn't look that hard but he didn't pass the test. He's in concussion protocol and he's expected to come back in a few days." Nuggets: Denver was 31-10 at home last season, fourth-best in the NBA. ... Murray tried to get too fancy on a steal and layup and was stripped when he tried to go behind his back before scoring. ... The Nuggets' second string kept letting the Suns back in the game as Phoenix's big runs came when Denver's starters were getting breathers on the bench. The Nuggets were outscored 13-2 at the end of the third quarter and saw their lead go from 25 to 13. UP NEXT Suns: visit Golden State Warriors on Monday night. Nuggets: host Golden State Warriors on Sunday night......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 21st, 2018

Warriors dominance in the West shows no sign of relenting

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com We have reached the point in this Golden State Warriors’ chokehold on the Western Conference where it turns spooky: The last team out West to deny the Warriors (technically) no longer exists. Yes, the LA Clippers are still right where they’ve always been. But all other traces of May 3, 2014, when they beat the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs, have turned to dust. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, JJ Redick, DeAndre Jordan, Jamal Crawford -- they’re all gone. Usually, it’s the loser who feels the cold repercussions and fallout of a first-round defeat in the playoffs. But what’s often lost as the Warriors run the table in the West is how they’ve shattered so many teams, schemes and dreams along the way. In hindsight, four years ago was not the beginning of “Lob City” and the Clippers. It was the beginning of their end. The wreckage left behind by the Warriors over the ensuing 53 months underlines the undeniable truth: They’ve taken ownership of their very own West Side Story. They had a record-setting 73-win regular season. They’ve won 12 straight West payoff series (and 15 of 16 playoff series overall). Only twice – the West finals in 2016 and '18 -- did they endure the indignity of needing to survive Game 7 in the West playoffs. In short, this dynasty shows no signs of dying this season. If anything, the argument can be made -- even before it’s proven as fact -- that the 2018-19 Warriors are their most talented team yet. All-Stars Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson welcomed a fifth, DeMarcus Cousins, to their mix this summer. That is not typical in the NBA, folks. “This," Durant said, "is going to be an exciting season. Fun.” The Warriors’ five All-Stars (two of whom are former Kia MVPs) are still in their prime. And given that Andre Iguodala tends to transform from a fossil to an X-factor when spring arrives, perhaps only injury or another uncontrollable circumstance will keep the Warriors from making it an NBA-record five straight Western Conference crowns. “In terms of encouraging each other, being in tune with some of the things that might be thrown at you, whether it's injuries, whether it's a couple of slumps on the court, whatever the case is, we adapt really well and we don't stay down for too long,” Curry said. The Rockets, who won 65 games a season ago, are perhaps the most realistic challenger to the Warriors out West. But it's quite possible that Houston is weaker than it was in 2017-18. To understand how high the Warriors are sitting on the throne, you must survey what they’ve left behind. Just look at how the biggest threats in the West have either hit dead ends or maxed themselves out trying to chase the Warriors since 2014. Memphis Grizzlies: At one point, they were considered the toughest matchup for the Warriors because they were polar opposite in style. Half-court and methodical, the Grizzlies took a switchblade to the basketball, slowing the tempo. And they exploited Golden State’s lone weaknesses: Interior size and overall strength. They physically beat up the Warriors in the paint (Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol) and on the perimeter (Tony Allen). Additionally, Mike Conley was at times a handful at point guard at a time when Curry was winning MVP awards. But health and age wore the Grizzlies down and eventually forced them into a current reinvention that likely won’t reap benefits until after the Warriors are finished. Oklahoma City Thunder: As one of only two West teams (Houston being the other) to force the Warriors into a seventh game, OKC was prime for a takeover in 2016. That season, OKC eliminated a 67-win San Antonio Spurs team in the West semfinals. Durant and Russell Westbrook were healthy, humming and helping the Thunder to a 3-1 lead in the West finals. That, however, was their apex, and the costly collapse was heightened by the “Klay Game” (41 points in Game 6). Imagine, if not for a fateful turn of events -- Klay’s 3-point rampage, KD’s second-half Game 7 vapor and the Warriors losing the 2016 Finals to Cleveland -- maybe Durant sticks around in OKC. At any rate, the post-2016 West finals reconstruction being done by the Thunder (Exhibit A: The short-lived Carmelo Anthony experience) is falling short so far. Portland Trail Blazers: They were never seriously considered a thorn to the Warriors, and still aren’t. It’s just that they played themselves. They were fooled by the events in 2016, when they beat the injury-hampered Clippers in the first round. They were then somewhat competitive against the Warriors in the West semifinals (winning one game by 12, losing another in OT and the elimination game by just four). Flushed with false hope, that summer the Blazers handed out rich extensions to rotational players and, unfortunately, locked themselves into a team that hasn’t won a playoff game since. San Antonio Spurs: Like the Grizzlies, the Spurs caused trouble for the Warriors because of their disciplined style that put the brakes on the pace. San Antonio ruled the West just prior to the Warriors’ run and the proud franchise wasn’t willing to relinquish its hold so easily, causing the Warriors to shiver by winning the regular season matchup from 2014-16. Still, like Memphis, the Spurs turned gray almost overnight. Tim Duncan retired, Tony Parker lost some zip and then, of course, came the sneaky Zaza Pachulia foot plant that KO’d Kawhi Leonard in the first game of their 2017 series. It hasn’t been the same for the Spurs, who shipped off the disgruntled Leonard this summer. Houston Rockets: While the Warriors were able to build around Curry to create a dynasty, the Rockets are in their third attempt to do likewise with James Harden. The Dwight Howard experiment was an exploding cigar, and then the strategy of turning Harden into a point guard failed to draw blood. Chris Paul arrived last season and the best record in the West followed, but Paul has always limped at the wrong time. True to form, his body failed him in the conference finals, just when the Rockets were up 3-2 on the Warriors and primed to issue a stunning statement. The conference-wide process of teams searching for the formula to bring an end to this “Golden” era has taken on an interesting twist. Except for the Rockets, who shuffled their deck slightly this summer, other West contenders are on a semi-defeatist two-year plan. As in: We’re not ready now, but look out in a coupla years! LeBron James joined the Lakers this summer, but it’s hard to take them seriously when LeBron himself says his new team isn’t breathing the same air as the defending champs. His supporting cast is a mix of pups with no playoff experience and vets who’ve seen better days. It’s foolhardy to doubt the potential of any team with LeBron — eight straight trips to the championship round is no joke, even if it came through the East. But they’ll stand a better chance next season, especially if they’re bringing Kawhi or Jimmy Butler by then. There’s also the Utah Jazz, a Spurs-like operation led by a pair of Spurs alums in GM Dennis Lindsey and coach Quin Snyder. Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell is a star in the making, but you need more than one of those to match Golden State. Perhaps in time, Mitchell will get a shotgun rider, but Utah is a tough sell for A-list free agents. Houston stands out from the pack with Harden, Paul and center Clint Capela, who gave the Warriors fits last spring. They’re still an attractive, turnkey team. Adding Anthony provides scoring, but does he impact a potential West finals rematch in 2019? With Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute gone, where is the perimeter defense coming from? Is it possible that Houston, with Paul aging, had its best chance last spring and didn’t cash in? It’s also possible the Warriors will do everyone in the West a favor and destroy themselves in the very near future. Durant can become a free agent next summer. Thompson’s contract is up, too, although he’s been very clear about his preference to stay even if that means making below market value. “What’s happening right now is going to be really tough to replicate for anybody,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “You have the proverbial window, however you want to put it. We have an incredible opportunity that’s just not always going to be here. We want to take full advantage not only from a success standpoint but from an enjoyment standpoint. “We’re well aware that it’s not going to last forever.” But that’s getting ahead of the story here, which is whether the Warriors will fall shy of The Finals for the first time since 2014. A three-time champion is bringing everyone back and will add a bonus whenever the healing Cousins returns. Basketball can sometimes be a funny game and anything can happen to throw this scenario for a loop. Until then, however, it's hard to imagine anything derailing another season of Warriors dominance. Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 16th, 2018

No surprise, the West title still runs through the Warriors

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press Golden State coach Steve Kerr is a happy man these days. He’s got a new contract. He’s got his son Nick, who was helping out in San Antonio, working in the Warriors’ video room now. He’s leading a team that has won three of the last four NBA championships and is the overwhelming favorite to win it again this season. Staying happy will be the challenge for Kerr and the Warriors this season, when Western Conference rivals resume their attempts to take down the champs. “Our place in the history of the league is pretty secure,” Kerr said. “I don’t think our guys should feel a ton of pressure. I think they should feel the importance of trying to do it again, because this may be the last time we have this current iteration of the Warriors, just given all the free agents and the money crunch and everything else.” LeBron James took his talents to Los Angeles, signing with the Lakers and moving out of the East for the first time in his career. Houston had the NBA’s best regular-season record a year ago and has reigning MVP James Harden. Utah has a budding superstar in Donovan Mitchell, and certainly got the league’s attention with its playoff run last season. But in the West, until further notice, it’s still the Warriors and then everybody else. “It’s a marathon,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “There’s a lot of time between now and April and May and June, but if we go about it the right way to start the season, it can feed on itself in terms of the expectation we have night in, night out.” A look at the West, in predicted order of finish: PLAYOFF BOUND 1. GOLDEN STATE — Warriors aiming for their third consecutive NBA championship, something only the Lakers, Celtics and Bulls franchises have done. 2. UTAH — Donovan Mitchell is a legitimate star, coach Quin Snyder has been underrated for far too long, and the Jazz went 29-6 to finish last season. 3. HOUSTON — The Rockets have the MVP in James Harden, a leader in Chris Paul and added Carmelo Anthony, but expecting another 67-15 season is a lot. 4. L.A. LAKERS — LeBron James is still the best player in the game and shows no signs of slowing down, so doubting his chances seems less than brilliant. 5. OKLAHOMA CITY — This is a sign of how loaded the West remains: The Thunder are really good, and that won’t assure them home-court for Round 1. 6. DENVER — Losing Game 82 last season to Minnesota and missing the playoffs because of that outcome should serve as a massive motivator for Denver. 7. NEW ORLEANS — DeMarcus Cousins is gone, Rajon Rondo is gone, but Anthony Davis is still there and that should be enough for a Pelicans playoff run. 8. SAN ANTONIO — Dejounte Murray’s ACL tear is a disaster, but any team with LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan and Gregg Popovich still has a lot. IN THE MIX 9. PORTLAND — The West’s No. 3 seed last season, the Blazers were only three games ahead of No. 9 and will face a serious battle in a very loaded West. 10. DALLAS — Luka Doncic is NBA-ready, DeAndre Jordan will make the Mavs better and Dirk Nowitzki deserves to see his franchise trending up again. 11. L.A. CLIPPERS — A possible transitional year for the Clippers, who should be major players in free agency next summer and could add a lottery pick. FACING LONG ODDS 12. MINNESOTA — The Jimmy Butler debacle shows that some big changes in direction are probably going to happen in Minnesota, and sooner than later. 13. PHOENIX — Devin Booker got his max deal and the Suns got No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton, but firing GM Ryan McDonough so close to the season was odd. 14. MEMPHIS — Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are savvy vets, but they are going to need a lot of help if Memphis is going to seriously improve this season. 15. SACRAMENTO — Kings had a league-high 44 games last season where they didn’t score 100 points, and a very young team might not change that much. WHAT TO KNOW L.A. BRON: If he has even an average-for-him season, new Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James will rise to No. 4 on the NBA’s all-time scoring list this season. He’s currently No. 7, with No. 6 Dirk Nowitzki, No. 5 Wilt Chamberlain and No. 4 Michael Jordan well within reach. Add 2,000 or so points to James’ total of 31,038, and only No. 3 Kobe Bryant, No. 2 Karl Malone and No. 1 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — all former Lakers — would still be ahead of him. STEPH RISING: Speaking of rising up career charts, Golden State’s Stephen Curry could easily be No. 3 on the all-time list for 3-pointers made by the end of this season. Curry has 2,129 3s in 625 career games, a rate of 3.4 made per game. The six players ahead of him — Ray Allen, Reggie Miller, Jason Terry, Kyle Korver, Jamal Crawford and Paul Pierce — averaged 1.8 made 3s per game. BIG NUMBERS: The only players in the last 30 seasons to average 30 points and eight assists were Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook in 2016-17 and Houston’s James Harden last season. Probably not coincidentally, Westbrook and Harden won MVP awards for those seasons. There are seven active players with at least one MVP award in the NBA right now, and all seven play in the West. GREAT COACHES: San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich enters the season with 1,197 wins, fifth-most in NBA history — 13 behind Pat Riley and 24 behind Jerry Sloan. Meanwhile, Golden State’s Steve Kerr comes into the year with the highest winning percentages during both the regular season (265-63, .808) and the postseason (63-20, .759) in NBA history. Here’s how far ahead Kerr is on the NBA’s all-time regular season winning percentage list: If the Warriors go 24-58 this season, which seems less than likely, he would still be above Phil Jackson for the No. 1 spot. VERSUS EAST: The West beat the East for the ninth consecutive season in head-to-head matchups, winning nearly 53 percent of the cross-conference matchups in the regular season (and 100 percent of them in the NBA Finals). Over the last nine seasons, West teams have beaten East teams nearly 57 percent of the time......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 11th, 2018

Smashing debut: Giannis, Bucks cruise in new arena s opener

By The Associated Press Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks put on a smashing opening-night performance at their new arena. Antetokounmpo had 19 points, 13 rebounds and five assists, and the Bucks routed the Chicago Bulls 116-82 on Wednesday night (Thursday, PHL time) in the first game at the Fiserv Forum. The Bucks had the look of contenders under new coach Mike Budenholzer, scoring 63 points in the first half of their preseason opener and leading by as much as 34 points. Their new arena opened in August and the Bucks looked right at home there against the Bulls, overwhelming them on the backboards with a 64-43 rebound advantage. Bobby Portis led Chicago with 17 points and Kris Dunn added 10. BUCKS: Eric Bledsoe added 16 points, Khris Middleton scored 15 and Pat Connaughton had 12 points on four three-pointers. ... First-rounder Donte DiVincenzo scored just two points on 1-of-9 shooting but grabbed seven boards in 19 minutes ... Budenholzer spent the last five seasons as Atlanta coach. BULLS: Jabari Parker was 1-of-12 from the field and scored two points in his return to Milwaukee, where the Bucks’ former No. 2 pick played his first four seasons. ... No. 7 pick Wendell Carter Jr. had nine points on 4-of-8 shooting. UP NEXT: The Bucks (1-0) play Minnesota at the Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa, on Sunday (next Monday, PHL time). The Bulls (1-1) visit Charlotte on Monday (next Tuesday, PHL time). PISTONS 97, THUNDER 91 Andre Drummond had 31 points and 16 rebounds, and scored the go-ahead points on a three-point play that gave visiting Detroit a 94-91 lead with 1:37 left. Ish Smith’s three-pointer with 17 seconds left capped the scoring. Stanley Johnson scored 10 of his 14 points in the first half for the Pistons. Dennis Schroder had 21 points and nine assists and Steven Adams added 17 points and 12 boards for Oklahoma City. PISTONS: Blake Griffin did not play. ... Glen Robinson III had 11 points, and Reggie Bullock and Zaza Pachulia scored 10 each. ... Dwane Casey made his debut as the Pistons’ head coach after seven seasons in Toronto, including a 59-win campaign in 2017-18. THUNDER: Russell Westbrook and Paul George did not play. ... Raymond Felton had 12 points on 5-of-14 shooting in 19 minutes. UP NEXT: The Pistons (1-0) travel to San Antonio on Thursday (Friday, PHL time). The Thunder (0-1) visit Minnesota on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). KNICKS 107, NETS 102 Rookie Allonzo Trier scored 25 points, Enes Kanter had 22 points and 20 rebounds, and the Knicks took the first of two preseason meetings between the city rivals. Caris LeVert scored 15 points for the Nets in their preseason opener. The teams meet again at Madison Square Garden on Oct. 12 (Oct. 13, PHL time) on the final night of preseason play. KNICKS: New York closed the first half with a 24-6 burst, turning a 40-26 deficit into a 50-46 lead. ... Rookie Mitchell Robinson limped to the locker room early in the fourth quarter with an apparent ankle injury. ... Veteran Courtney Lee missed his second straight game with a strained neck. NETS: Spencer Dinwiddie and rookie Rodions Kurucs each scored 13 points. ... D’Angelo Russell had 11 points but shot just 4-for-12. ... The Nets were 8-for-41 (19.5 percent) from three-point range. DeMarre Carroll missed all four of his attempts in an overall 0-for-5, scoreless performance. ... Brooklyn was without veteran forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (left abductor strain) and newcomers Shabazz Napier (strained right hamstring) and Kenneth Faried (sore left ankle). UP NEXT: New York (2-0) hosts New Orleans on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). ... Brooklyn (0-1) visits Detroit on Monday (next Tuesday, PHL time). SUNS 91, NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS 86 No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton reached a double-double with five minutes left in the second quarter and finished with 21 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks. The Suns briefly trailed in the middle of the first quarter before taking the lead for good at 17-15. Corey Webster led the Breakers with 27 points and seven assists. SUNS: Ayton is shooting 62.1 percent from the field and averaging 22.5 points and 12 rebounds in two preseason games. ... Trevor Ariza added 16 points and TJ Warren scored 13. ... No. 10 pick Mikal Bridges had two points in 19 minutes. NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS: Tai Wesley added 15 points and Patrick Richard scored 11. ... New Zealand made just 35.6 percent from the field and 6-of-25 from three-point range. UP NEXT: The Suns (1-1) host Portland on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). CLIPPERS 128, TIMBERWOLVES 101 Tobias Harris shot 4-for-5 from three-point range and scored 23 points, and Danilo Gallinari added 22 points and Boban Marjanovic had 15 points in 11 minutes for the Clippers. Los Angeles never trailed after the early moments and pulled away in the second quarter. Karl Anthony-Towns led Minnesota with 18 points. Andrew Wiggins and Tyus Jones added 12 points each. CLIPPERS: Rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter and finished with 12 points. ... The Clippers’ other first-round pick Jerome Robinson scored five. ... Gallinari had 14 points in the first eight minutes and 20 in the first half. ... Avery Bradley and Luc Mbah A Moute did not play. TIMBERWOLVES: Jimmy Butler, the subject of ongoing trade rumors, did not play for a second straight game. ... Second-round pick Keita Bates-Diop had 11 points and Anthony Tolliver scored 10. UP NEXT: The Clippers (2-0) face the Lakers at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, on Saturday (Sunday, PHL time). The Timberwolves (1-1) host Oklahoma City on Friday (Saturday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 4th, 2018

Dominant debut for No. 1 pick Ayton in Suns exhibition game

By The Associated Press Deandre Ayton might be the NBA’s next great man in the middle. The No. 1 pick had a dominant debut Monday night (Tuesday, PHL time), finishing with 24 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots in the Phoenix Suns’ 106-102 loss to the Sacramento Kings. The exhibition opener for both teams featured the top two picks in the most recent draft. Marvin Bagley III of Duke came off the Sacramento bench for seven points in 25 minutes. Ayton — Bagley’s one-time high school teammate — looks a little more NBA-ready. The former Arizona star leaped high for alley-oop and showed off a nice touch with a hook, finishing 9-for-16 from the floor and 6-of-8 from the free throw line. Joel Embiid, perhaps the league’s top current big man, matched up Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) with another top-10 center from the draft, Orlando’s Mo Bamba. Embiid kept Philadelphia unbeaten with 21 points in the 76ers’ final game before they head to China for a pair of games against Dallas. KINGS 106, SUNS 102 Yogi Ferrell had 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting, including 6-of-9 from three-point range, and Willie Cauley-Stein added 14 points and 12 rebounds for Sacramento. Josh Jackson added 17 points and six assists for Phoenix, and TJ Warren scored 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting. Ayton missed his final four field-goal attempts and went 2-of-4 from the line with an offensive foul in the final minute. KINGS: Bogdan Bogdanovic (knee), Kosta Koufos (hamstring), Iman Shumpert (calf) and Nemanja Bjelica (knee) did not play. ... Harry Giles III, who missed all of last season after being selected 20th overall in the 2017 draft, scored 14 points. ... Bagley shot 2-for-7 and grabbed two rebounds. SUNS: Mikal Bridges, the 10th overall selection in June’s draft, was scoreless with one rebound in 12 minutes. ... Devin Booker, who had surgery on his right hand last month, did not play. He is expected to miss all of the preseason but expects to be ready for the start of the regular season. UP NEXT: The Kings (1-0) travel to Los Angeles to play the Lakers on Thursday (Friday, PHL time). ... Phoenix (0-1) will play host to the New Zealand Breakers on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). 76ERS 120, MAGIC 114 Joel Embiid had 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds in 22 minutes. Ben Simmons added nine points, five rebounds, seven assist, two steals and a block. Furkan Korkmaz made 6-of-8 from the field, including 3-of-5 from behind the arc, and finished with 18 points in 18 minutes for the 76ers. Nikola Vucevic led Orlando with 20 points and blocked two shots. Terrence Ross hit three triples and finished with 13 points and three steals. 76ERS: Markelle Fultz, the top pick in the 2017 draft who missed 68 games last season, had 12 points on 5-of-12 shooting and grabbed six rebounds. ... Jerryd Bayless did not play after suffering a sprained knee during practice Sunday. He’ll be re-evaluated in 3-to-4 weeks. Wilson Chandler, who strained his hamstring in Friday’s preseason opener, did not play. MAGIC: D.J. Augustine and Mo Bamba, the No. 6 overall selection in June’s draft, scored 12 points apiece. Augustine hit 3-of-4 from three-point range and had six assists. ... Isaiah Briscoe had 11 points and Aaron Gordon added 10 points, seven rebounds and four assists. UP NEXT: The 76ers (2-0) play Dallas in Shanghai on Friday. ... Orlando (0-1) returns home to play Flamengo. KNICKS 124, WIZARDS 121, OT Rookie Kevin Knox had 13 points and 10 rebounds in the Knicks’ preseason opener. The No. 9 pick in the draft started and added three assists and two steals in 26 minutes. Lance Thomas scored 12 points. John Wall played just 9.5 minutes of Washington’s exhibition opener, scoring six points. Bradley Beal had 11, but shot just 3-for-12 in 22 minutes. KNICKS: Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing, now coaching Georgetown, spoke to Knicks players earlier Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). ... Damyean Dotson scored 12 of his 14 points in overtime, making all three shots, including two three-pointers. ... Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 11 points. ... Second-round pick Mitchell Robinson, who didn’t play in college last season, had six points and seven rebounds. ... Rookie Allonzo Trier, signed to a two-way contract, had 13 points. ... Courtney Lee sat out with a strained neck. WIZARDS: Dwight Howard remained out with a back injury that has sidelined him since training camp began. ... Kelly Oubre Jr. led Washington with 15 points, eight rebounds and four assists. ... Otto Porter Jr. scored 13 points. ... Markieff Morris was ejected after exchanging words with Mitchell. ... Austin Rivers had seven points off the bench in his first game with the Wizards. ... Jordan McRae was 4-for-4 for nine points in OT. UP NEXT: The Knicks visit Brooklyn on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). Washington (0-1) hosts Miami on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). PELICANS 116, HAWKS 102 DeAndre’ Bembry had 20 points, five rebounds and four assists and John Collins scored 18 points for Atlanta. Rookie Trae Young had 11 points and eight assists, but was just 5-of-16 shooting. Anthony Davis led New Orleans with 16 points and grabbed seven rebounds in 17 minutes, and Jrue Holiday hit 3-of-4 from three-point range and finished with 13 points. Julius Randle had 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting and grabbed seven rebounds. PELICANS: Jahlil Okafor (ankle), Darius Miller (biceps), Nikola Mirotic (Achilles) and Alexis Ajinca (quadriceps) did not play. ... New Orleans shot just 36.5 percent (38-of-104) from the field, including 8-of-39 (20.5 percent) from behind the arc. HAWKS: Justin Anderson (leg) Dewayne Dedmon (ankle), Daniel Hamilton (rotator cuff) and Omari Spellman did not play. ... Alex Poythress had 13 points and five rebounds in 14 minutes. ... Tyler Dorsey scored 11 points. UP NEXT: The Pelicans (0-2) travel to New York to play the Knicks on Friday (Saturday, PHL time). ... Atlanta (1-0) plays the Grizzlies in Memphis on Friday (Saturday, PHL time)......»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsOct 2nd, 2018

30 Teams in 30 Days: After wholesale makeover, Hawks ready to rebuild

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com What offseason? That's a question many fans ask as the flurry of trades, free agent news and player movement seems to never stop during the summer. Since the Golden State Warriors claimed their third title in four years back on June 8 (June 9, PHL time), NBA teams have undergone a massive number of changes as they prepare for the season ahead. With the opening of training camps just around the corner, NBA.com's Shaun Powell will evaluate the state of each franchise as it sits today -- from the team with the worst regular-season record in 2017-18 to the team with the best regular-season record -- as we look at 30 teams in 30 days. * * * Today's team: Atlanta Hawks 2017-18 Record: (24-58, did not qualify for the playoffs) Who's new: Coach Lloyd Pierce, Trae Young (Draft), Kevin Huerter (Draft), Omari Spellman (Draft), Jeremy Lin (trade), Justin Anderson (trade), Alex Len (free agency), Vince Carter (free agency) Who's gone: Coach Mike Budenholzer, Dennis Schroder, Mike Muscala The lowdown: Three years after winning a conference-best 60 games, the Hawks crash-landed and clearly set their sights on the Draft lottery by the 2018 All-Star break. New GM Travis Schlenk dumped Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilasova at the trade deadline and would’ve shipped off a few more players if he could. Basically, Schlenk attempted to scrub most of the work of Budenholzer, who ran the basketball operation previously. John Collins made the All-Rookie team and Taurean Prince finished strong. However, Kent Bazemore -- the club’s highest-paid player -- sputtered and never felt comfortable being a volume scorer (12.9 points per game). The Hawks couldn’t win or generate much interest in Atlanta, putting the framework for a fresh era in place well before 2017-18 ended. The Hawks held the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 Draft. Deandre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III were off the board. What say you, Mr. Schlenk? He made a gutsy move, bypassing European sensation Luka Doncic in favor of Young and a 2019 protected first from the Mavericks. Schlenk admitted the Hawks’ war room was evenly split on Doncic and Young, but the ’19 first-rounder was the deal-maker. That’s not an overwhelming vote of confidence for Young, and you wonder if Hawks ownership nudged Schlenk into making the deal because of Young’s star potential. The organization dropped millions to give the newly-renamed State Farm Arena some bling over the last year and obviously crave a player with flair to move the needle in Atlanta. Young certainly brings a wow factor. He was the box office star at Oklahoma with his long-range shots and fancy passes. He also became the first collegiate player to lead the nation in scoring and assists in the same season. The Hawks say his ability to make teammates better is vastly unappreciated and will smooth his transition into the NBA. He also had a ragged second half of last season and became a social media punch line. His shot selection and accuracy raised red flags. In a sense, his final year at OU was a tale of two players: Tantalizing Trae and Tragic Trae. NBA scouts say Young's other drawbacks were his lack of size, athletic ability and defense. He was a polarizing Draft pick and the Hawks’ decision received mixed reviews at best among Hawks fans. That additional first-round pick Atlanta got from Dallas could prove beneficial for a rebuilding team that wants to collect as many assets as possible. The idea of Young becoming an Atlanta Basketball Jesus seems like a reach ... until you remember this franchise hasn’t had a ticket-selling sensation in its history. Even Pete Maravich and Dominique Wilkins weren’t basketball magnets in this college football-crazed town. With a new basketball regime in place, it was only a matter of time before Budenholzer, stripped of his basketball operations stripes, would bolt. Schlenk wanted his own people, which is standard operating procedure for a new GM. Once the season ended, Budenholzer began running off copies of his resume with the blessing of the Hawks. He landed in Milwaukee and Schlenk began searching for Budenholzer's successor. Eventually, Schlenk stayed in his comfort zone and hired Pierce. (Years ago, they both worked for the Golden State Warriors.) Pierce came with strong reviews for his work as an assistant coach, most recently with the Sixers. As a player, he rode shotgun in college at Santa Clara with Steve Nash and brings solid people skills to Atlanta. He is, however, a first-time coach and sometimes, it gets tricky when folks slide one seat over on the bench. It was no secret the Hawks wanted to jettison starting point guard and leading scorer Schroder this summer. He had legal issues and didn’t develop solid chemistry with his teammates. When the Thunder agreed to a proposal, the Hawks pounced, sending Schroder to OKC for Carmelo Anthony (who was subsequently bought out), Justin Anderson and a future first-rounder. Of course, this means the Hawks will either go with a rookie as their starting point guard or Lin (who’s should be healthy for training camp after he missed all but one game last season.) With their additional first-round pick this year, the Hawks took Huerter, a sharp-shooter from Maryland. Right now they’re getting nothing special offensively from the swing position and Huerter will get a long look as a rotational player. In order to help a young locker room adjust, the Hawks added 41-year-old Carter (who was a rookie when Young was born). Carter has become a lovable NBA senior citizen, which allows folks to overlook his declining skills. His veteran voice will help when the Hawks endure a losing streak. Still, the summer belonged to the deal the Hawks swung for Young. It’s one of those decisions that could make Schlenk look like a genius, especially if he scores big on the 2019 Dallas pick and Young pans out. The flip side? Doncic becomes the transcendent star in Dallas that the Hawks craved. The final verdict on this deal won’t be delivered for years. By then, will the Hawks be winners? Veteran NBA writer Shaun Powell has worked for newspapers and other publications for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here or follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Category: sportsSource:  abscbnRelated NewsSep 5th, 2018