NBA Playoffs: Ten Player Story-lines To Watch

NBA Playoffs: Ten Player Story-lines To Watch

            The 205-2016 season was one for the ages.  The Golden State Warriors won 73 games.  Kobe Bryant scored 60 points in his last game ever.  The San Antonio Spurs nearly went step for step with the Warriors in their pursuit of history.  And LeBron James quietly finished the year as good as ever. With the playoffs upon us, there are storylines abound.  Who will deliver home the NBA championship?  Who may see their team broken apart if they fail to meet that goal?  Who is a must watch on a night in, night out basis? Here are the 10 – well, 14 – players to watch Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan             In some respects, the idea of this iteration of the Toronto Raptors having a history of playoff failures is overblown.  In 2014, the Raptors lost to the Brooklyn Nets, but most predicted that result.  So, in actuality, the “history” of Raptors playoff struggles behind their Kyle Lowry-DeMar DeRozan core is based on the loss of one playoff series – last year’s first round to Washington.  That was an awful loss – but only one loss. Still, what the metrics say is often not what resides in our own psyche, and the Raptors surely will have recent playoff outcomes on their mind as they take on the Indiana Pacers. The Raptors are an extremely good team and all the ingredients to make playoff noise are in place.  Lowry and DeRozan form a great backcourt.  Jonas Valanciunas is a good big.  Terrence Ross and Patrick Patterson fit extremely well.  Cory Joseph has been a great spark off the...
Offseason Outlook: Brooklyn Nets

Offseason Outlook: Brooklyn Nets

In less than three weeks, the NBA playoffs will begin in earnest.  When they do, the focus, deservingly so, will be on the league’s playoff teams. However, up to five of those teams will be newcomers to the playoff scene who watched from the lottery last season.  And all playoff teams were once lottery teams themselves. So before we reach the playoffs, where do the league’s lottery teams stand, and what may they look to do this offseason to approach the playoff precipice?  Here’s a look at one of those lottery teams: the Nets. Brooklyn Nets Players Under Contract: Brook Lopez, Thaddeus Young, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Bojan Bogdanovic, Sean Kilpatrick, Chris McCullough Free Agents: Shane Larkin (Player Option), Markel Brown (Restricted), Sergey Karasev, Henry Sims, Willie Reed (Restricted), Donald Sloan, Thomas Robinson (Player Option), Jarrett Jack (Team Option), Wayne Ellington (Player Option) A look at the Nets’ offseason outlook requires an evaluation of the worst draft pick situation the NBA has seen in recent memory.  The Nets’ 2016 and 2018 first round picks go to Boston, their 2017 second round pick goes to Atlanta, and their 2018 second round pick goes to Charlotte or Philadelphia.  The Clippers get to swap second rounders in 2016 unless it falls from 56-60, which is unlikely.   And the Nets and Celtics swap 2017 first rounders if the Celtics are better than the Nets, which is likely, although that allows the Nets to swap second rounders with the Celtics, unless the second rounder falls between 31-45 (which appears unlikely). In short, the most likely scenario is over the next three drafts the Nets will have a...
Offseason Outlook: Philadelphia 76ers

Offseason Outlook: Philadelphia 76ers

In less than three weeks, the NBA playoffs will begin in earnest.  When they do, the focus, deservingly so, will be on the league’s playoff teams. However, up to five of those teams will be newcomers to the playoff scene who watched from the lottery last season.  And all playoff teams were once lottery teams themselves. So before we reach the playoffs, where do the league’s lottery teams stand, and what may they look to do this offseason to approach the playoff precipice?  Here’s a look at one of those lottery teams: the Sixers. Philadelphia 76ers Players Under Contract: Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid, Richaun Holmes, Nik Stauskas, Carl Landry Free Agents: Robert Covington (Team Option), Jerami Grant (Team Option), Ish Smith, TJ McConnell (Team Option), Hollis Thompson (Team Option), Isaiah Canaan (Restricted), Kendall Marshall (Team Option), Sonny Weems (Team Option), Elton Brand Poised to potentially lose 70 games, the Sixers are not in a position to contend in 2016-2017.  For as important as the NBA Draft is, and as much as we hype high picks, the likelihood of drafting a top tier talent and immediately contending is slim.  Even the Timberwolves, with Karl Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins in house, are not close to a playoff team. Still, in hiring Jerry Colangelo to, at most, replace Sam Hinkie, or, at a minimum, work in tandem with him, it appears clear that the Sixers have decided to undertake a strategy shift, and be more aggressive in the free agent market this summer.  The Hinkie led regime would not have dumped a young Christian Wood or second round picks for...
Offseason Outlook: New York Knicks

Offseason Outlook: New York Knicks

In less than three weeks, the NBA playoffs will begin in earnest.  When they do, the focus, deservingly so, will be on the league’s playoff teams. However, up to five of those teams will be newcomers to the playoff scene who watched from the lottery last season.  And all playoff teams were once lottery teams themselves. So before we reach the playoffs, where do the league’s lottery teams stand, and what may they look to do this offseason to approach the playoff precipice?  Here’s a look at three of those lottery teams: the Knicks, Sixers, and Nets. New York Knicks Players Under Contract: Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, Jerian Grant, Robin Lopez, Jose Calderon, Kyle O’Quinn Free Agents: Langston Galloway (Restricted) Arron Afflalo (Player Option), Lance Thomas, Kevin Seraphin, Derrick Williams (Player Option), Cleanthony Early (Restricted), Louis Amundson, Sasha Vujacic The Knicks face an enormous offseason.  They are currently in a better spot than many feel: a middling team near playoff level, and one that already has a very good lead player, a great young talent, as much as $35 million in cap space depending on player options, and the lure of a fun city to live in.  That is a good place to be, and Phil Jackson, while imperfect does deserve some credit for bringing the Knicks there. Alas, this summer represents a crossroads for the Knicks.  Carmelo will be 32, and Porzingis 21, when next season comes.  Both can form a nice foundation at the moment, but given the age gap, their talents likely will not intersect at a high level for more than 2-3 years.  That means...
Trade Deadline Redux: What Happened, and What Didn’t

Trade Deadline Redux: What Happened, and What Didn’t

The NBA trade deadline came and went.  While some saw it as underwhelming, several significant moves did occur, all of which showed the direction in which multiple teams seem to be headed.  The deadline, by virtue of its relative quiet (no superstars or elite players were moved) also may signal that we have a busy summer ahead.   Here is a look at the trades, and what they mean going forward.   Magic and Pistons Pistons Get: Tobias Harris Magic Get: Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova Why They Did It: For the Pistons, the rationale to this great trade for them is a simple one: if you are building a team, and you can add a core player without subtracting a core player or a noteworthy draft pick, you do it.  The Pistons clearly made their team better with this deal.  Jennings had no real place with the team (was he going to stick around as a change of pace reserve forever), while Ilyasova was in many ways a place holder upon Monroe leaving, playing the four because the Pistons felt he fit their spread the floor vision.  Harris is a way more talented piece to place in his stead. There are other takeaways here involving the Pistons. First, the argument that you cannot rebuild through the middle, despite so many recent contenders proving otherwise (the Rockets before this year; the Pacers before last year, are examples, among others) continues to be exploited by actual evidence that you indeed can.  There is nothing wrong with the middle of the standings, if you have flexibility: because that puts you in...
TRADE DEADLINE ADVICE: CELTICS, CLIPPERS, KINGS, & PELICANS

TRADE DEADLINE ADVICE: CELTICS, CLIPPERS, KINGS, & PELICANS

The best week of the NBA regular season is here – the NBA trade deadline.  History tells us that the deadline may be robust, and full of deals, or paltry, and full of rumors that do not come to fruition.  Regardless, there will be a lot of talk about rumored deals, roster shaping, and ideas teams have to pull of major heists. Inevitably, like any other year, some teams have more assets, and are in a better position to make a big trade than other teams.  However, whenever you have a ton of assets, there is always the danger that you will overpay in a trade,  So here is a word of caution to four teams — the Celtics, Clippers, Kings, and Pelicans — as they mull over their options Boston Celtics: Don’t Trade the Nets’ 2016 First Rounder for Al Horford              Sitting at third place in the East at the moment, excitement is building in Boston.  Their young core is coming together.  Isaiah Thomas was an all-star.  They won on the road in Cleveland, where LeBron’s Cavs are 22-4 on the year (with one of the losses coming to the Warriors).  And with as vulnerable as the East is, you can see reason for optimism. With that has come the idea that the Celtics, owners of Brooklyn’s 2016 first round draft pick (which will likely fall in the top 5), should deal that pick now, to help boost their 2016 run.  That school of thought has led to the belief that the Celtics should take advantage of the Atlanta Hawks’s sudden desire to rebuild, and should trade the...