Slider

Let’s take a look at a few players with an already ‘’star’’ status, but not quite, as not one of them has been selected to an All-Star roster yet. We can safely say though that these players impact on their teams and the whole league will only get bigger and bigger from now on, season after season.

Jamal Murray, Denver Nuggets

The young point-guard may not yet have a legitimate star glamour, but his organization are already paying him like a real star. Murray signed a 5-year, 170 million USD max extension with the team in July. Even before that the Nuggets had pointed out on numerous occasions that they viewed Murray as their corner-stone player for the foreseeable future. The organization even declined a trade offer from Cleveland Cavaliers for exchange with Kyrie Irving, back when he requested a trade and subsequently went to Boston. That speaks something for the level of confidence Nuggets have in their young guard.

Yet many experts still regard Murray as just the second-best player on the Nuggets squad, which secured the No. 2 seed in the packed Western Conference last year. Center Nikola Jokic has made quite an impact in the last 2 seasons indeed, but it’s not too fair to compare players at so different positions. Murray averaged 18.2 points, 4.8 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game on 43.7 percent shooting from the field and 36.7 percent from 3-point line last season. What’s more important, Jamal elevated his game in the postseason and upped his scoring to 21.3 points per game, helping the Nuggets win their first playoff series since 2009. Anyway, Murray and Jokic form one of the best tandems in today’s basketball and could find themselves both playing in next season’s All-Star contest.

Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics

Celtics look a bit skinny on the roster, following the departures of Kyrie Irving and Al Horford. Now is the time for Jayson Tatum to deserve a much bigger role in the rotation next season. The Celtics still did ok in free agency by signing Kemba Walker, but Tatum will be much more involved offensively, together with the other young hope, Jalen Brown.

 

Tatum made a name for himself during the 2018 postseason as a rookie. He averaged 18.2 points on 46.7 percent from the field in 35.6 minutes per game. He scored 351 total points in these play-offs, just one-point shy of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time rookie record for scoring in a postseason. Like many of his Celtics teammates though, Jayson played a disappointing season last year. Tatum relied far too much on his outside shooting, rather than attacking the basket. Thus he missed far too many opportunities to draw foul shots, when driving to the basket and attacking the rim aggressively.

He still averaged 15.9 points in the regular season though, higher than his rookie regular season mark of 13.9. He also upped his rebounding from 5.0 to 6.0 and his assists from 1.6 to 2.1. The player is a natural scorer and arguably the most talented player of his draft class (2017). Playing with Team USA this summer should be beneficial for the 21-year-old’s growth as he competes against top-tier players. He will likely make the final roster for China, which will be also very good for a young and upcoming NBA player.

 

Pascal Siakam, Toronto Raptors

With Kawhi Leonard gone and Kyle Lowry now 33 years-old, Pascal Siakam is the new face of the Toronto Raptors. He enjoyed a breakout campaign last season, averaging 16.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists during the regular season. Pascal won the league’s Most Improved Player award.

Siakam emerged as a star during the Raptors’ title run, posting 19 points and 7.1 rebounds per game in the play-offs. He produced two dominant games in the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors. Pascal dropped 32 points and grabbed eight rebounds in Game 1 and then totaled 26 points and 10 rebounds in the title-clinching victory in Game 6. He averaged 19.8 points per game in the Finals, on 50.3 % shooting.

Now Siakam will undoubtedly be the No. 1 offensive option for Toronto. He is an elite athlete and versatile defender who can guard well on-the-ball and off it. Siakam still has some room to improve his jump shot and his playmaking skills, but at 25, there’s still plenty of time for him to achieve these goals.

The Raptors still played well without Leonard in the line-up through the regular season last year. They recorded 17 wins in 22 games without Kahwi, which is a superb percentage. They’ll hardly be able to achieve even close to that this year, but will firmly be in the play-off chase in the weaker East, maybe even in the top 4 scramble. No doubt that Siakam will be the irreplaceable piece for this franchise in the next years to come.

 

Tags: ,

A little bit away from NBA, FIBA 18th World Cup tournament will take place this summer in China from 31st of August to 15th September. Unfortunately, some of the best European teams failed to qualify because of the bad timing of the qualifying games. Yet the World Cup will offer us some good level basketball until we eagerly wait for the new NBA season to start.

Team USA will miss the biggest stars, as traditionally they pass these tournaments and reserve their efforts for the national glory for the Olympics. NBA is a league so deep in talent though, that it can easily produce 5 or 10 teams to compete with the rest of the world. The Americans are low favourites to win the tournament, but let’s put that aside for the time being and take a look at their training camp roster at this time. A few players will be cut from this list as the final roster of every team consist of just 12 players.

Team USA 2019 training camp roster:

Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics, F), Mason Plumlee (Denver Nuggets, C), Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics, g, questionable with minor injury), Thaddeus Young (Chicago Bulls, F), Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings, G), Kyle Kuzma (Los Angeles Lakers, G-F), Brook Lopez (Milwaukee Bucks, C), Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors, G), Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks, G), Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz, G), Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics, G-F), P.J. Tucker (Houston Rockets, F), Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers, C), Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics, G), Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat, C), De'Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings, G).

What catches the eye at first sight in this broad roster? Forward and especially guard lines are somewhat thin and lacking depth. Team USA have never really relied and played around a dominating center player since Shaq days, so the center position is ok. The forward rotation is still very decent, albeit lacking superstar names. Probably Middleton, Barnes, Tucker and both Celtics youngsters will utilize the bulk of the minutes in frontcourt. It’s not a bad mix of players for these positions actually, they got enough two-ways skills to prevail any opponent’s line.

 

And we come to the backcourt. There were some question marks around Kemba Walker’s willingness to participate in the tournament. For now, the player is still committed though. Even this way, the load should be carried by the three of them: Walker, Lowry and Mitchell. Kuzma and Tatum can play some minutes at shooting guard position, but still. It’s way better to have one more natural guard in the roster, which will give them 4-men rotation.

The most obvious candidate is the young and upcoming Kings’ star De'Aaron Fox. Fox has put himself in legitimate contention for a final roster spot that he wasn’t initially considered for. That situation quickly changed when player after player at the backcourt positions from the established pool turned down the chance to compete for USA in China. With James Harden, Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Bradley Beal, DeMar DeRozan, and Eric Gordon no longer in play by their own choice, Fox was called up from the program’s large select team roster. It would be up to his commitment and readiness to convince Popovich and the rest of the training staff that he deserves the spot.

A few reporters have been quite impressed with Fox’s performance in the team’s practices and scrimmages in Las Vegas. The player evidently wants the spot in the final roster and the chance to emerge as the next Team USA young star in the making, as many superstars before him. Since USA Basketball took steps to change its selection program after a shocking loss in the 2004 Olympics, the World Cup competition has been largely fulfilled by younger stars in the making. In 2010 USA sent Kevin Durant (then 21 years old), Russell Westbrook (21), Derrick Rose (21), and Stephen Curry (22) to Turkey. In 2014 it was Harden (24), Anthony Davis (21), DeMarcus Cousins (23), and Andre Drummond (21), who joined a team led by Rudy Gay (28) as its oldest player. 2019 team has a few grizzled veterans in Lowry and Lopez’ faces of course, yet there’s more than enough spotlight for the young players to take center stage.

Well, let’s not jump overboard here. Even if he makes the final roster, Fox will hardly be in a position to dominate the way that Durant did in 2010 or Harden and Davis did in 2014. He will be in a position to grow though. The expansion of USA National Team Basketball as a program has been possible mainly because of its value as a staging area for the upcoming NBA stars in the making. This is where LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh sketched out the plan of a super-team. It may not be quite the same without the program’s full range of superstars, saving their efforts for the bigger Olympic games stage, but the national team remains a high-value training ground for the professionals to meet and compare notes. Even more so now, under Popovich reign, as Pop is widely considered the best NBA coach in the last 2 decades, at least. The World Cup is a kind of longer All-Star event, lighter on the star’s part but heavier on the basketball side of things. For what it takes, China games will provide a lot of entertainment for all the basketball fans around the globe.

Tags: ,

This summer will always be remembered as one of the best and wildest free agent’s periods in the whole history of the league. Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard moved the market as the whales they are, but no one expected the sequence of surprises their decisions triggered. Durant’s decision to go to Brooklyn led to an unlikely scenario of D’Angelo Russell heading to Golden State (it’s another question whether he will stay there for more than one season). Kahwi Leonard chose the least talked about team of his three suitors and initiated the coming of Paul George to LA in a blockbuster trade. As a result, OKC pushed the button and exchanged Russell Westbrook for Chris Paul. Now they are trying to move Paul’s huge contract, but it will be difficult.

Let’s take a quick look at next summer most notable names on the market, albeit it’s so early and most of these players could reach an extension agreement with their current teams. Anyway, the market will be way smoother at this time next year.

Anthony Davis, LA Lakers

Davis is still technically on the list. His agent Rich Paul (who is also LeBron’s agent) made no secret about the superstar’s future plans. Davis wanted the chance to play in one of the biggest sports markets and got his wish granted with the trade to the Lakers. Davis has a player option next season which will pay him about 25 million USD. He is expected to decline that and sign a long-term max deal with the Lakers.

Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

Draymond’s decision will likely mirror what Klay Thompson did this summer. Thompson announced his signing on the social media with a comment stating, “There was never a doubt.” Green has said that he took a discount in 2015 in order for the Warriors to sign Durant in 2016. Like Curry and Thompson, his hometown discount days may be over. Green’s value on the market has somewhat plummeted down in the last 2 season, but still Warriors’ management would surely consider him for a max contract. Otherwise some other team will surely offer him the max and GSW core will be shattered forever. Yet Green’s playmaking ability and defense have fueled the Warriors’ championship run before Durant’s coming in Oakland, and he also was a big contributor in this year’s trip to the Finals.

 

DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio Spurs

DeRozan also has a player option next season. It’s somewhat of a certainty that Davis will decline his, but DeRozan might accept it. DeMar would be the top guard available on the market next summer and could ensure himself long-term security. Yet declining the option would lead to DeRozan turning down about 27.8 million USD, not minor money even in today’s NBA. DeRozan’s ability to score is still as present as ever in San Antonio. He finished last season with the best field goal percentage since his rookie season. Accepting his player option would leave him being on the second tier of available free agents in 2021, when the next splash will happen. Next offseason, he would be the main guy for any team chasing a natural scorer. Yet, 28 million USD…A hard one to tackle for the player and his agent and the situation in San Antonio during the season will probably shift the balance in one or another direction.

Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors

Lowry will be a 34-year-old point guard, coming off a huge 33 million USD payday. Kyle’s play next season will be the main factor in determining his value. Leonard and DeRozan are no longer Raptors, but the team should still be a playoff contender. Five consecutive All-Star appearances place Lowry in the position of one of the most loved by the fans all-time Raptors. With Leonard’s departure, Lowry’s scoring numbers should also go back up. It seems highly likely that he will finish his career as a Raptor on a good contract, as a prize for his loyalty to the organization.

DeMarcus Cousins, LA Lakers

Cousins’ true value will be determined after he finishes his season-long audition with the Lakers. This was the plan all along for the past season, but his injury unfortunately prevented DeMarcus from showing his real ability with GSW. At his best, Cousins is one of the top offensive big players in the NBA. Achilles and quad injuries played a role in Cousins looking too slow in Golden State, resulting in a dry market in free agency. The big guy still managed to average 22.8 points, 11.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists and a career-high 2.1 blocks per 36 minutes. Cousins recently posted a picture where he looked to have lost weight. A full offseason of basketball and no injuries could allow Cousins to finally get the big payday that he’s missed the past two seasons. As thin of good big men as today’s NBA is, Cousins will surely see some attention from GM’s next summer, even more so if he registers a good injury-free season alongside LeBron and AD.

 

Tags: ,

We’ve witnesses one of the most unpredictable and wildest NBA season this past campaign. The end of it didn’t disappoint in any way too. It felt like the end of an era for Golden State Warriors. They lost, but they went out of the arena like champions. Klay Thompson and Steph Curry demonstrated a killing shooting performance in the fourth quarter of Game 5 to steal a win on the road. Then the stage was set for the final act. In Game 6, in the final game at Oracle Arena, the team left it all on the court. Klay played one of the best games of his career before the injury cut it short. Then he hobbled out of the tunnel to hit free throws with a torn ACL and told Steve Kerr he just needed a few minute rest before he'd re-enter the game. That alone was a Jordan or Kobe-like act. Draymond Green finished with 11 points, 19 rebounds, 13 assists and 8 turnovers, which is like a classic Draymond Green stats line. Andre Iguodala hadn't been a real scoring option for the Finals so far, but he bounced back to score 21 points on 9-of-15 shooting. It all came down to the final possession, when Steph Curry missed a good look from the 3-point line, but losing the game and the series wasn't the point. The fight from the Warriors in Game 6 was the culmination of a play-off-long effort from the team core - Steph, Klay, Draymond, Iggy, to keep the dream alive even without Durant and Cousins. They lost, but lost with dignity and pride.

What next? Now it seems like everyone expects the Warriors to fall apart and don’t be a force to reckon with in the West the next season, at least. This is quite understandable - Kevin Durant is in Brooklyn, albeit he won’t play next season; Iguodala is in Memphis and the other key bench player Shaun Livingston was waived. Klay Thompson is currently out indefinitely, although medical reports estimate his chances to return somewhere around end of next March or April, as good.

Another factor is Father Time. Steph is 31 years old. Klay and Draymond are 29. Looney is back though and on a very team-friendly contract- 15 million USD for 3 years. Adding D'Angelo Russell after losing Durant was a great move, regardless if he is being moved during the season for some assets or not. Durant was evidently leaving anyway, so gaining an All-Star player in exchange for a leaving free agent is nowhere short of a fantastic job by the franchise’s management. Cleveland received just a trade exception and a handful of middle draft picks when LeBron James left in 2010. Most teams get nothing in this type of situations. Golden State got an All-Star guard who can either help next season or eventually be traded for depth in the next few seasons.

 

So, is it really possible that Warriors are still a factor come next year’s play-off time? Let’s see. If Klay comes back healthy in time, GSW have every chance to offer a decent fight to any team in the West, including both LA teams. They will certainly need every piece of Draymond Green of old though, for this scenario to happen. At his best, he was the backbone of an elite defense and the connecting piece that boosted the best versions of Curry and Klay on offense. Is he still the same player though, after 7 full NBA seasons, spent mostly banging with taller and heavier guys than him? Last season, Draymond averaged 7.6 points per game, his lowest numbers since his second season in the NBA. He only took 6.4 shots per game. He shot 28% from 3-point, his worst percentage since his rookie year.

There’s another thing, looking from the psychological side of the things. Green is eligible for a contract extension this summer and a deal along the lines of what Al Horford recently got in Philadelphia - four years for close to 112 million USD, could make sense for both sides. Green has stated he would be open to signing an extension before free agency next summer, but he also said in 2018 that he doesn't plan to take a discount on his next deal. If no extension happens in the meantime, he'll hit free agency next July. Warriors franchise has proved to be loyal and generous to their loyal personnel, for all the major pieces plus the key bench players in the past 5 years. There’s no reason to assume Draymond won’t get the same fair attitude and offer, regardless if the time. Plus, major contending teams in NBA won’t be too interested in spending max amounts on Draymond Green next summer, for either lack of space or doubts about his longevity at this stage of his career. So it seems kinda likely that both sides will reach a deal somewhere along the way, making small compromises for it to happen.

What can we assume for now though, taking a look at the early NBA outright market? The top dogs first. Both LA teams lead the market of course. Clippers can be backed around 4.00 and Lakers around 5.00+. Maybe fair odds in Clippers case, but on the skinny side for Lakers, as we can’t be sure Bron and Davis will get together well, plus their bench is terribly skinny and suspicious. Milwaukee are offered around 7.00, which seems pretty good in fact and I’ll be tempted to maybe set a small position on them before the season, even more so if the odds drift to 7.50-8.00. Philadelphia and Houston are priced around 9.00 and 10.00 respectively. Sixers’ odds are justified as they are the second-best team in the East now, but I doubt this core can mount a serious title challenge. Maybe they’re still too young, and will need another important piece, more probably. No chance to back Harden-Westbrook led team for a title, that’s a joke. And we come to Warriors at around 14.00 – 15.00 odds. Given all the above mentioned conditions and presumptions (healthy Klay and old Draymond on the floor), these odds don’t look bad at all, even if the plan is to maybe hedge the position back at some point deep in the play-offs. What’s even better – there’s a decent chance we’ll see even bigger odds for the ex-champions at some point early in the season, given Klay won’t play and Russell will need some time to get some chemistry rolling with the team. So, no haste to back GSW just yet, but a pretty interesting line of thought, hopefully…

Tags: ,

NBA hot summer is not over just yet! Another blockbuster trade was announced this Thursday and Thunder were involved once again. It was expected though, after Paul George trade the previous week signaled the franchise front office’s intention to start a fresh rebuild with all the draft picks they acquired this summer.

Oklahoma traded their All-Star point-guard Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Chris Paul, first-round draft picks in 2024 and 2026 and pick swaps in 2021 and 2025. Houston Rockets were Westbrook’s desired destination anyway, according to many reports. The explosive guard will have the chance to play alongside his old teammate James Harden there and both players will continues chasing a title, so elusive so far for both of them.

How it all come to this so fast? Following Paul George's departure, Westbrook and Oklahoma’s General Manager Sam Presti both reportedly understood that the time had positively come to explore the trade possibilities for the franchise player after 11 years with the team. The Heat, Timberwolves, Rockets and Pistons all reportedly had interest in trading for Westbrook before the Thunder dealt him to Houston. Russell, an 8-time All-Star participant, is set to make 38.5 million USD next season. He is on the books for 41.3 million USD in 2020-21 and 44.2 million USD in 2021-22. The player also has a player option for 47 million USD in 2022-23. Westbrook turns 31 in November. He has had 3 consecutive seasons of averaging statistical triple-doubles and was voted the league's MVP in 2016-17. His last season was a bit down in stats and efficiency rating though. He averaged 22.9 points, 11.1 rebounds and 10.7 assists in 2018-19. The same could be said for his counterpart in the deal, Chris Paul. The veteran guard averaged 15.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 8.2 assists per game for the Rockets last season.

 

For Houston, this trade seems something of a desperation move. The Rockets seemed like they would be standing still this summer. That strategy would actually have made a lot of sense. There were multiple reports of disagreement between Harden and Paul in the licker-room through the season and especially in the play-offs. Yet Paul and Harden have actually proven to be a solid backcourt duo over the last couple seasons. Even after their slow start this past season, Houston were one of the better teams in the league through the second half of last season. After the All-Star break, Houston had a healthy 17.0 net efficiency rating with Paul and Harden sharing the floor.

There has never be any doubt about who’s the Alpha dog in the desert though. James Harden is a fav of the owner and evidently his opinion has weighed toward parting ways with Paul and bringing Westbrook on board. So with the pressure of the league around them shifting rapidly, the Rockets threw their eggs in the basket, acquiring Russell for the cost of two future firsts and two first-round pick swaps effectively. His contract is just as heavy as Paul’s one, albeit he is the younger player of course. Paul, 34-year old, has two years left on his contract and a player option for the 2021-22 season (totaling nearly 124 million USD. Of course Thunder’s intention and preference would be to trade Paul as soon as possible. The heaviness of his contract might make it difficult for the Thunder to actually deal him, yet far from impossible. But Paul still has plenty left in the tank, and with the way teams have aggressively compiled star power this summer, he will likely have a few suitors. His playmaking feel and veteran grisliness have not yet diminished.

It would be easier for Thunder to trade Paul than it would be for Rockets, anyway. The fact that his deal runs shorter and cheaper than Westbrook’s one. Now Oklahoma have a treasure chest of graft picks, which they could use to facilitate any trade for Chris Paul. Rumoured suitors for Paul for now seem to be Miami Heat as front-runners, LA Lakers and Detroit Pistons. If Paul wants to join Jimmy Butler in South Florida, then this trade will likely happen. Miami won’t agree to send some of their major rebuilding pieces to Oklahoma in a possible trade scenario, like Adebayo or Winslow, but Oklahoma might just take who’s on offer and benefit from offloading Paul’s contract. Lakers would be able to acquire Paul only in case he reaches a buy-out agreement with Oklahoma and agrees to team with his old friend LeBron on a team-friendly contract. The hardest part here would be the buy-out deal. Thunder management will go to this route only in case if every other scenario fails and they decide to go all the way with unloading Paul real fast, regardless of the money and value loss. Detroit seem like a distant outsider, as their main trading chip would be the heavy Reggie Jackson’s contract. Oklahoma won’t see Reggie as a vital part of the rebuilding process, nor could trade him easy once again. From Pistons’ perspective, pairing Blake Griffin with his old teammate Paul seems like a good move, but the team would still be terribly thin in the roster beyond Drummond, to fight for anything more than a fringe play-off spot even in the weakened Eastern Conference.

 

 

Tags: ,

Page 1 of 121

Please publish modules in offcanvas position.