Lionel Hollins: Kevin Garnett to Be Brooklyn Nets’ Starting Power Forward

Brooklyn Nets head coach Lionel Hollins informed reporters that Kevin Garnett will indeed be starting for the team at the start of the 2014-15 NBA season. Nets coach Lionel Hollins says Kevin Garnett will start this season and if healthy he will play more than 15-16 mins a game — Ohm Youngmisuk (@NotoriousOHM) September 15, 2014 After a second-round playoff loss to the Miami Heat last postseason, Garnett’s NBA future was in question. He struggled in the close-out game of the series, scoring just two points to go with two turnovers. Still, it appears the future Hall of Famer still has a bit left in the tank—or so his new coach thinks. The post Lionel Hollins: Kevin Garnett to Be Brooklyn Nets’ Starting Power Forward appeared first on Basketball Bicker.

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Breaking Down Cleveland Cavaliers’ Power Forward Position for 2014-15 Season

Heading into the 2013-14 NBA season, the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ best and deepest overall position may be at power forward.

The Cavs already had a young, talented Tristan Thompson as their starter for the past two years before trading for perhaps the game’s best 4 in Kevin Love.

Shawn Marion, a former All-Star and 15-year veteran, was also signed and can play either forward position. Cleveland has some additional pieces in play, even if their future with the team is uncertain at this point.

Here’s a look at the Cavs‘ past, present and future at power forward.

 

Last Season’s Results

The Cavaliers’ power forward spot last season included a heavy dose of Tristan Thompson with a dash of Anthony Bennett and Earl Clark sprinkled in.

Thompson was far and away the best of the group.

Even after switching shooting hands in the offseason, Thompson’s offensive game left something to be desired. His rebounding, however, was excellent. He once again did the majority of his work cleaning up others’ misses, as Thompson finished second among all power forwards in offensive rebounds per game (3.3, second to Zach Randolph‘s 3.4).

For the year, Thompson started all 82 games, averaging 11.7 points and 9.2 rebounds in 31.6 minutes a night.

Behind him, Bennett and Clark flip-flopped between small and power forward, with neither having much success at either spot.

Bennett, as well-documented by now, came into training camp well overweight while trying to rehab from shoulder surgery. This, coupled with playing in a Mike Brown offense, basically killed any chance of him putting together a productive year. He finished with averages of 4.2 points and 3.0 rebounds in 52 games before being traded this offseason to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the deal for Love.

Clark’s time in Cleveland was even shorter.

After the Cavaliers signed him in the summer of 2013, Clark was shipped off to the Philadelphia 76ers in February for a two-month rental of Spencer Hawes. Before that, Clark spent 45 games (17 starts) with the Cavs basically being awful. Clark was originally signed to win the starting small forward job but struggled with his shot so badly he was moved to the backup 4. Overall, Clark averaged 5.2 points and 2.8 rebounds in 15.5 minutes a night.

Here’s how the Cavs‘ power forward group ranked collectively in some key categories, via Hoopsstats.com:

Cavs PFs PTS REB AST BLK FG% FT%
Stats 17.5 12.7 1.3 0.6 45.9 67.5
Rank 26 5 30 30 22 26

Not surprisingly, the Cavaliers struggled in just about everything but rebounding (thanks to Thompson). When the ball moved to Thompson, Bennett or Clark, it usually stuck. Nobody in the group was a particularity strong defender, especially when it came to protecting the rim.

Overall, this was one of the Cavs‘ many disappointing groups that was saved only by Thompson’s rebounding prowess.

Grade: C-

 

To Be Decided

Currently, the Cavaliers have six power forwards on the roster, including 17 players overall.

There’s a few problems here.

First, no team needs six players at any position. There’s just not enough minutes to go around. Second, NBA teams are only permitted 15 players overall, which means some changes will need to be made.

Besides Love, Thompson and Marion, the Cavs also employ Malcolm Thomas, Erik Murphy and Dwight Powell. The first three are very much safe. The same cannot be said for the second group.

Thomas and Murphy were acquired in a trade with the Utah Jazz (along with guard John Lucas III) for guard Carrick Felix.

While both are young and carry some upside, their primary value lies in their contracts.

Thomas and Murphy are on the books for a combined $1.8 million this season, via ShamSports.com. Between the two, only $100,000 of that is guaranteed, meaning they become attractive trade chips for any team looking to dump salary and save money. If no trades are completed and the Cavs need to clear roster space, the two could be waved and hardly cost the team much at all.

Powell should be considered the safest of the second three to make the team. The Cavs signed Powell to a two-year, $1.35 million contract following a trade from the Charlotte Hornets this summer for Scotty Hopson. His $507,336 salary for this season is guaranteed, with the second year being non-guaranteed, per Spotrac.com.

The ensured money helps Powell’s chances of making the team, as does his size. The Cavaliers need help at center behind Anderson Varejao, and at 6’11″ and 234 pounds, Powell is bigger than Thomas and Murphy.

Powell played four years of college ball at Stanford, averaging 14.0 points, 6.9 rebounds and 0.8 blocks as a senior in 2013-14.

With the roster still yet to be trimmed, look for some combination of Thomas, Murphy and/or Powell to be moved before the start of the season.

 

This Year’s Rotation

After a year stuck watching Bennett and Clark clank jumper after jumper, the Cavaliers now get one of the best offensive big men in the league today.

Love is a refreshing change and upgrade for Cleveland. He’s the only player in NBA history to average at least 20 points, 12 rebounds and one three-pointer made per game.

Cavs GM David Griffin had to this to say at Love’s introductory press conference, via ESPN.com‘s Brian Windhorst:

This is culmination of a year and a half of conversations to trade for [Love]. This is a player that, quite frankly, fits us as well as any player could have. LeBron makes a great deal of these things possible by his presence alone. That piece had a great deal to do with Kevin’s comfort with joining us. Hopefully we’ll [have] him for a very long time.

Just for fun, let’s compare Love’s numbers to all the Cavaliers’ power forwards last season and see where he would have ranked in the league’s 4s by himself.

Love vs. PFs PTS REB AST BLK FG% FT%
Cavs‘ PF’s 2013-14 17.5 12.7 1.3 0.6 45.9 67.5
Love 2013-14 26.1 12.5 4.4 0.5 45.7 82.1
Love’s Rank 5 7 3 30 23 3

Remarkably, Love would have ranked in the top five of three major team power forward categories by himself.

While his defensive deficiencies help explain the poor block total, Love’s low shooting number comes from his, well, love of the three-point line.

Zach Harper of CBS Sports helps explain how Love will now fill the floor-stretching big man role next to James previously manned by Chris Bosh:

Love would fit into the Chris Bosh role on offense, but in a much more heavily utilized role. Bosh was a pick-and-pop master with James, providing an incredible safety valve on drive-and-kicks as well. The difference between Bosh and Love in the pick-and-pop role is that Love’s range isn’t working on extending out to 3-point range. He’s already out there and thriving from that distance. He’s a career 36.2 percent shooter and set the Wolves’ franchise record for 3-pointers made in a season with 190 in 2013-14.

Love on the Cavaliers gives them their best offensive threat at the position since Shawn Kemp of the late 1990s, and Larry Nance before that. Neither possessed Love’s tremendous combination of scoring and rebounding, however.

Thompson now moves to the backup power forward spot and should see a good amount of time at center as well. His role shifts to rebounding, defending and doing the dirty work instead of scoring and cleaning the glass.

Marion should be the primary backup to James at small forward, but will also be used to fill it at the 4. Last season with the Dallas Mavericks, Marion spent 35 percent of his minutes at power forward, and 54 percent the year before that. At 6’7″ and 230 pounds, he can play either spot while taking defensive pressure off players like Love and James.

If Powell, Thomas or Murphy make the team, look for their minutes to be scarce or come at the end of lopsided games.

Cleveland should be playing Love 34-36 minutes right away, with Thompson collecting a healthy 15-20 as a reserve. Marion’s minutes should fluctuate based on the opponent’s lineup, as his versatility off the bench will be key for coach David Blatt.

Gone are Bennett and Clark.

It is possibly the best power forward group in the league today, with a four-time All-Star and NBA champion also added to the mix.

The combination of Love, Thompson and Marion is a strong trio to work around and a major upgrade from a season ago.

It may take some time for players like Thompson and Marion to adjust to their reserve roles, but once they do, this position may very well end up being the best the Cavaliers have overall.

 

Greg Swartz has covered the Cleveland Cavaliers for Bleacher Report since 2010. Connect with him on Twitter for more basketball news and conversation.

All stats provided by Basketball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.

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Pittsburgh Basketball: Panthers Who’ll Take the Biggest Leap Forward in 2014-15

For the first time in what must have felt like a long time to fans, Pitt did not immediately fizzle in conference tournament play this past March, though its NCAA tournament woes continued in the round of 32. To borrow a phrase from former school official Beano Cook, the Panthers simply need “better material” in order to improve upon a fifth-place finish in the ACC and enjoy a lengthier postseason run, and they’ll have to find some of it internally.

While head coach Jamie Dixon tries to stretch his recruiting tentacles, he needs several of his returning players to pick up their respective games in order to make his team a better one this season. The Panthers will need plenty of offense from their big men, and they’ll also need more consistent guard play.

The potential for those improvements do exist in a few such players. Let’s meet the ones who could enjoy breakout seasons for the 2014-15 Panthers.

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Illinois Basketball: Illini Who’ll Take Biggest Leap Forward in 2014-15

The 2014-15 version of Illinois Fighting Illini basketball enters the upcoming season with increased expectations. A season ago, Illinois came a win or two short of making the NCAA Tournament, after bowing out of the Big Ten Tournament on Tracy Abrams’ missed floater at the buzzer against top-seeded Michigan.

Illinois lost seniors Jon Ekey and Joseph Bertrand, but added Aaron Cosby, Ahmad Starks, Leron Black and Michael Finke to this year’s roster. On top of those four newcomers, Illinois returns all five starters, along with a trio of sophomores in Jaylon Tate, Maverick Morgan and Austin Colbert.

Seniors Rayvonte Rice, Abrams and Nnanna Egwu all appear to be mainstays in the starting five. Rice was Illinois’ top scorer and best player from a season ago. While he won’t need to shoulder as much offense as he did last season, look for Rice to lead the team in scoring once again.

Abrams became a starter midway through his freshman season, while Egwu entered the lineup as a sophomore following Meyers Leonard’s departure for the NBA. Abrams provides tough on-ball defense and a secondary scorer, while Egwu is one of the league’s top shot-blockers and has a smooth mid-range jumper for a player his size.

This leaves sophomores Kendrick Nunn and Malcolm Hill as the two players who’ll take the biggest leap forward in 2014-15. While they finished sixth and seventh on the team in scoring, respectively, it’s no secret that Illinois played their best basketball following John Groce’s decision to plug the then-freshmen into the starting lineup on February 9, a game Illinois won over Penn State.

Illinois went 7-5 from that point on, including winning five of six games from February 19 to March 13. During that time, Illinois beat Nebraska at home, Minnesota, Michigan State, Iowa and Boston U on the road, and Indiana in front of a pro-Hoosier crowd at the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis.

Before struggling in Illinois’ two NIT contests, Nunn ended his freshman season by reaching double figures on seven occasions in a 10-game span. This included 19-point performances against both Penn State and Minnesota. Nunn also hit 19-of-36 three-pointers during that hot streak, nine of which came during those victories over the Nittany Lions and Golden Gophers.

Nunn‘s final season stat line came out to 6.2 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game, in 19.5 minutes of action. During his late season surge, Nunn averaged 32.1 minutes of playing time, enabling him to be honored as part of the Big Ten All-Freshman Team.

Nunn shot 39 percent from three-point range and is a fearless driver to the basket. He is an excellent perimeter defender, who isn’t afraid to back down to anyone, including one of the league’s top players in Penn State’s D.J. Newbill. Nunn was able to get under Newbill‘s skin, leading to his eventual ejection in Penn State’s January visit to Champaign.

While Nunn will have more competition on the wing with Cosby’s transfer from Seton Hall, I’d expect to see the former Simeon product retain his role as a starter. In fact, I predict Nunn will be a Third Team or Honorable Mention All-Big Ten selection in 2014-15.

While Hill and Nunn entered the starting lineup at the same time, Hill was given a tighter leash when it came to playing time. While Nunn was regularly surpassing 30 minutes of action, Hill only played over 24 minutes once last season. Hill was the starter, but power forward Jon Ekey was the team’s closer at that position, as evidenced by his game-winning three-pointer at Iowa to cap off the regular season.

Hill reached double figure scoring five times as a true freshman, his career-high being 11 points in that road win at Penn State. The 6’6″ Hill is a natural small forward who bumped up to the 4 slot due to the team’s thin frontcourt.

He’ll likely find himself starting at power forward again this season, though four-star freshman Leron Black won’t go down without a fight. Darius Paul, younger brother of former Illini Brandon Paul, would have also contended for minutes there, before his arrest in the spring led to Paul transferring and taking the junior college route for his redshirt sophomore season.

Hill, who only turned 18 years old last October, came to the Champaign-Urbana campus as a lanky and frail youngster from Belleville, Ill. Hill has since put on an incredible amount of muscle, while maintaining a low body mass index, and he now checks in at 230 pounds. This should allow Hill to become more comfortable defending the likes of Michigan State’s Branden Dawson and Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes.

He can also hit the boards harder, while continuing to be a smooth-shooting threat from the perimeter. Hill averaged 4.4 points, 2.4 rebounds and 0.7 boards, pulling in a career-high eight boards in the team’s comeback victory in the NIT over Boston U. After Rice, there are plenty of candidates to be Illinois’ second leading scorer. Hill’s natural scoring mentality could help him regularly reach double figures as a sophomore.

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Villanova Basketball: Wildcats Who’ll Take Biggest Leap Forward in 2014-15

With the 2014-15 season just around the corner, a few players are beginning to find themselves under the microscope in regard to their performance in the upcoming season. 

For Villanova, two specific players are going to face the critics the most because of their roles on the team and their showing during the 2013-14 campaign. 

Junior point guard Ryan Arcidiacono and junior center Daniel Ochefu will need to boost their respective numbers from last season for the Wildcats to succeed during the new season.

Ryan Arcidiacono

Arcidiacono burst on to the scene as a freshman two years ago, and he made a strong impact on a Wildcats team that needed someone to step up.

Last season, the point guard took a backseat in the scoring department to James Bell, who emerged as the team’s best scorer in his final year on the Main Line. 

With Bell gone and Darrun Hilliard no longer an unknown quantity, Arcidiacono will be tasked with once again being the on-court offensive general and a major provider from beyond the arc. 

After averaging 11.9 points per game as a freshman, Arcidiacono’s production slipped a bit, dropping to 9.9 points per game because Bell and Hilliard became integral parts of the offense.

His shooting from beyond the arc also slacked off, as he attempted 12 less shots from three-point range last season than in the 2012-13 season. 

That drop-off in shots from downtown resulted in a better three-point average for Arcidiacono, but he will need to improve on those numbers with his role growing as a junior. 

He may not be the No. 1 scoring option in the offense, but he is certainly a solid second or third option whom head coach Jay Wright has to rely on. 

If he is able to enhance his numbers from last season by a few points per game, and shoot over 40 percent for the first time in his career, Villanova could hit opponents from all angles of the backcourt. 

 

Daniel Ochefu

Last season was an adjustment process for Ochefu, as he became a starter for the first time at the center position. 

Ochefu started 32 of Villanova’s 34 games and averaged 5.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, which are solid numbers for a sophomore. 

As a junior, Ochefu will be asked to step up more in the paint, which would let JayVaughn Pinkston drift out into space more to create mismatches against some vulnerable Big East opponents. 

For those numbers to improve, Ochefu needs to command the ball more on offense and play with an edge on defense. 

In his 34 games last season, Ochefu attempted 128 field goals and converted 59.4 percent of them. 

If he can show the same efficiency down low, he can become a more reliable scoring option, which is something the guard-heavy lineup needs to succeed. 

On the other side of the court, Ochefu has a chance to average close to 10 rebounds per game if he plays physical every game, and keeps his foul total low, like he did last season. He committed 95 fouls, which equates to 2.8 per game. 

A disciplined big man is a valuable commodity in the Big East, and that is what Ochefu needs to be for the Wildcats to replicate last season’s success. 

 

Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90

All statistics obtained from Villanova.com.

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Michigan State Basketball: Spartans Who’ll Take Biggest Leap Forward in 2014-15

Most of Michigan State’s returning players from last season’s Elite Eight team are specialists. Nearly all of them have something they must vastly improve within their skill sets.

As for the offseason, despite surrendering its top three scorers to graduation or the NBA, MSU has taken strides to improve. There have been reports that Tom Izzo is ecstatic with the team’s progress. Much of that should be attributed to the collective work ethic of the squad.

So which Spartans will take the biggest leaps?

The following players have been selected based on past performance, improvement in the offseason and opportunities available for them in the 2014-15 campaign.

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Breaking Down Miami Heat’s Small Forward Position for 2014-15 Season

LeBron James is out, Luol Deng is in, and the Miami Heat are facing a major change at the small forward position. But it isn‘t as simple as that.

James didn’t play 48 minutes at small forward. Also contributing to the Heat at the 3 last season were Shane Battier, Rashard Lewis, James Jones and Michael Beasley in varying degrees. Even Ray Allen was used in three-guard lineups with Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers.

Of all positions, small forward is the one in which Miami faces the biggest change, giving the position a new identity and role in the team’s scheme for the 2014-15 season.

 

Grading Last Year’s Performance

Few teams have been in a better situation at small forward than the Heat were last season—like, in the history of the NBA. James is the most versatile, singularly dominant small forward the game has ever seen, and he was in his prime during his last season in Miami. 

James is listed as a small forward, but he often played power forward in Erik Spoelstra‘s positionless approach. According to basketball-reference.com, James played power forward 82 percent of the time. Battier, Lewis, Beasley and Jones would all be seen playing a small forward-like position at times, too. However, either forward spot’s distinction was nominal in nature. The 3 and the 4 were interchangeable in Spoelstra‘s scheme, depending on the matchup. 

As for the other small forwards on the roster, Battier looked like a guy who should have retired after the Heat won the Finals in 2013. He couldn’t close out on defense, defend 4s anymore or hit his three-pointers (just 34.8 percent last season).

That led to Spoelstra yanking him from the starting lineup in favor of Lewis, who had a nice stretch in the playoffs but couldn’t make it last into the NBA Finals. The Heat signed Beasley before the season as a low-risk, high-reward guy. He never panned out, coming in and scoring in spurts but overall being unreliable to fulfill his assignments within the scheme.

Still, with James in the fold, few teams could have asked for a better situation. When Battier was playing top-notch defense, though, the Heat as a team were also. In 2013, I would have given the 3 spot an “A+,” but I’ll settle on an “A” given the lack of depth last season.

 

What’s New?

In a word? Everything.

James, Battier, Lewis and Jones are all gone. In comes Deng, Danny Granger and James Ennis.

Deng comes over from the Cleveland Cavaliers and ensures that the small forward spot isn‘t a weakness in Miami despite the departure of James. The Heat also signed Granger, who is coming off a few leg injuries, and brought last year’s second-round pick Ennis back from Australia. Both are guard-forward tweeners with specific skill sets.

Still, going from historically excellent to above average at a position is quite the drop-off. It’s like if you replaced Tom Hanks in “Forrest Gump” with John Travolta.

 

What Will the Position Look Like This Season?

The only true small forward on the roster, Deng should get the lion’s share of the minutes here. In his last three seasons in Chicago, he averaged more than 38 minutes per game. Miami will probably give him a similar work load, especially if Granger has to miss time and assuming Ennis takes a while to adjust to the NBA.

It’s no secret that James mailed it in at times on defense last season. With the scoring load firmly set on his shoulders, it’s hard to blame him. Deng won’t face nearly the same demand on offense, which will allow him to do what he does best. He’ll play the best perimeter defense on the team, hustle for loose balls and rebounds while letting the game come to him on offense. He isn’t a particularly dangerous offensive player, but knows his limits.

Check out his efficiency shot chart, via NylonCalculus.com. Shot efficiency measures a player’s points per shot compared to the rest of the league, measuring not only a player’s field-goal percentage from a particular location but also the volume at which that player shot from that location. 34 percent of Deng’s attempts came near the basket, while no more than five percent of his attempts came from any other location.

Granger, then, can come in and bring the scoring punch. Looking at his efficiency chart, Granger shot better than 44 percent from four different spots beyond the arc with 13 percent of his attempts coming from the corners.

For a comparison of what the 3 spot will look like, think of the Dallas Mavericks small-forward rotation the last few years with Shawn Marion and Vince Carter. Marion was the reliable starter, playing plus defense and shooting threes. Then Carter would come in to add a scoring flare. With those teams, Marion averaged about 30 minutes per game while Carter played about 25.

Because Granger’s injury concerns and Deng being used to playing nearly 40 minutes a game, figure that split to be something closer to 35-20 with Deng in the Marion role and Granger in the Carter role.

As for Ennis, it will depend on how quickly he can get accustomed to NBA action. He is, by far, the most athletic on the three. He can get in the paint and play above the rim. He is very raw and needs to learn the intricacies of the game—playing within Miami’s defense and offense—before he sees a significant playing time. For now, he figures to be seated near the end of Miami’s bench.

When judging the impact of losing James, you have to look further than simply who replaces him at small forward. James did so much for the Heat—from initiating the offense from the perimeter or the post, defending the opponent’s best player, being the scoring leader and bringing the ball up—that it will take a team effort to replace even a percentage of what he brings to the court.

When you really think about it, Miami didn’t have a true small forward for the past three seasons. Even Battier played more of a faux stretch-4. The biggest change between last season and this season will be the fact that the Heat will be playing with a true small forward for the first time since James joined the team in 2010.

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Michigan Basketball: Wolverines Who’ll Take Biggest Leap Forward in 2014-15

For the Michigan basketball program to keep playing at an elite level, the Wolverines will need a few of their players to take big leaps in their games in 2014-15.

With the loss of Nik Stauskas, Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford, Michigan will need some of its complementary players to step up and make progressions in their games if it wants to contend for another Big Ten title as well as a deep run in the NCAA tournament.

In the following slideshow will be five players (listed alphabetically) who’ll likely take the biggest leaps for Michigan in 2014-15. Excluded from this list will be any true freshmen, as we don’t know nearly enough about them to accurately judge them.

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After trade, Dudley looks forward to Bucks (Yahoo Sports)

Looking for a fresh start, Jared Dudley couldn’t be happier to have landed with the Milwaukee Bucks. Milwaukee acquired the veteran forward last week from the Los Angeles Clippers, who also gave up a conditional first-round draft pick, in exchange for Carlos Delfino and Miroslav Radulijca, both of whom were waived this week. Dudley is looking to bounce back from a rough season in Los Angeles. ”It was probably the most injury-plagued season I’ve had,” Dudley said Tuesday at the Bucks’ training facility.

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After trade, Dudley looks forward to Bucks

After trade, F Jared Dudley looks forward to role with remodeled Milwaukee Bucks

      
 

 

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