Should Los Angeles Clippers Be Worried About Losing DeAndre Jordan?

It’s natural to view Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan as a somewhat dispensable third wheel to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. When you play with two of the best talents in the league, that will happen.

It might even be easy to think that because Jordan isn’t particularly skilled, he could be replaced rather easily.

That’s a dangerous line of thinking, though.

Over the course of last season, Jordan proved that he’s critical to the Clippers’ title hopes as the team’s lone defensive anchor. Once he was finally trusted with consistent minutes and given a clear role, Jordan blossomed throughout the season and became the type of player people always thought he could be.

Here’s what Clippers head coach Doc Rivers told Chris Palmer about Jordan for Bleacher Report:

‘Very few players are willing to accept a specific role like his,’ says Rivers. ‘But early on he realized this defensive and rebounding thing is not bad.’

(…)

‘DJ gives us cohesion,’ says Rivers. ‘He helps create an environment that puts everyone at ease. He’s really good at that, and it’s why our guys get along so well.’

The Clippers could still be a good team without Jordan. Paul and Griffin seemingly guarantee a top-5 offense every single year just on their own. At least on the surface, they might not need Jordan.

But without their big man in the middle, the Clippers would be gutless and maybe a little lifeless. Driving lanes would go uninterrupted, and a dunk or block from Jordan is sometimes worth more than two points, even though technically it’s not. 

Here’s Zach Harper at CBS Sports:

After one season under Doc Rivers, Jordan flourished on the defensive end of the floor. In his first five seasons in the NBA, Jordan was capable of blocking shots, but a lot of them seemed empty. He’d provide the highlight, but it didn’t stop the other team from regularly scoring whether Jordan was on the floor or not. In 2013-14, the Clippers gave up a slightly lower percentage in the restricted area when Jordan was on the floor, but they also gave up 3.0 percent fewer shot attempts in the paint with DeAndre patrolling the key.

His athleticism wasn’t just a highlight factory anymore; he was actually a deterrent at the rim and he got better as the season went along. The Clippers with Jordan on the court after the All-Star break protected the restricted area 4.7 percent better than they had with Jordan on the court prior to the break. Jordan was the leading rebounder in the NBA, had the second most blocks total, and the third highest blocks per game in the league.

Jordan’s improved play and perception brings about another set of problems for the Clippers, even though they’re good ones to have. There’s no doubt that as an unrestricted free agent in the 2015 offseason, Jordan is going to attract some buyers.

Centers always seem to get paid at a premium, and Jordan is unique in that he’ll be hitting unrestricted free agency at the same time he’s hitting his prime as a basketball player. Even though he’s incredibly limited as a scorer and free-throw shooter, Jordan is a player who knows what he is and what he’s supposed to do.

His rare combination of size and athleticism would attract teams on its own, but now with a year of production and the backing of a championship-winning coach like Rivers, teams with a need in the middle will undoubtedly look at Jordan as a way to take care of the defensive side of the floor and the glass.

Here’s Michael Pina of Bleacher Report:

At least one of the NBA’s 30 teams (including the Clippers) will most likely lob a maximum contract in his direction. Wondering whether the flawed but effective big man will receive a huge offer is a waste of time. Jordan is a clear-cut starter with playoff experience and Defensive Player of the Year potential. He’ll finish the 2014-15 season with seven years of experience under his belt, and he will still be three years away from his 30th birthday.

Despite heavy odds against him ever making a single All-Star game throughout his entire career (and not being one of the three most valuable players on his own team last season, depending on where you stand with 2014 Sixth Man of the Year winner Jamal Crawford), cap space will be aplenty for several franchises that view him as a significant draw at a decisive position.

He’ll get paid. The more important question worth asking, then, is: Does he deserve it?

There may be some hesitancy when it comes to paying Jordan a max deal, but the Clippers should hope that they have enough in place to convince Jordan to take a little less. That’s where he’s spent his entire career, after all, and it’s a new day with owner Steve Ballmer taking over for Donald Sterling.

You would think that Jordan will want to stay in Los Angeles, anyway. Rivers is the first coach that has really fully trusted him, and by all means he’s a guy players love to play for. Jordan has also maintained a close relationship with Griffin throughout the years, which should certainly be a pull.

While the Clippers should be worried about what the market dictates as Jordan’s price, they shouldn’t be too concerned that Jordan will bolt to a different situation so long as the money is equal. In Paul, Jordan has the league’s best point guard and distributor, and attaching yourself next to Griffin for the future is a pretty strong idea. Also, Los Angeles isn’t exactly a bad place to call home.

If money is the only real incentive to leave, the Clippers should try to lock in on an extension before Jordan gets to the open market. There’s a pretty good chance he only increases his stock even more with another season under Rivers, so now might be the best time for the Clippers to negotiate.

Ultimately, if push comes to shove, the Clippers can either go into the luxury tax or make salary sacrifices elsewhere, like letting go of Jamal Crawford’s partially guaranteed deal or finding a way to dump Jared Dudley or J.J. Redick. 

While Jordan is a lock to make more than the $11.4 million he’ll be paid this season going forward, a full max offer may be slightly unrealistic to expect from multiple teams, particularly from ones Jordan would consider leaving the Clippers for.

That’s in large part because the center position could potentially be pretty deep in 2015 free agency. Marc Gasol, Tyson Chandler and Omer Asik are all set to become unrestricted free agents barring extensions. Roy Hibbert, Al Jefferson and Brook Lopez all have player options, and Nikola Vucevic is on tap to be restricted.

That’s seven quality starting centers that could be available aside from Jordan, and so the large pool of players could potentially drive the price down a bit. It seems unlikely that Jordan would garner an offer worth $20 million a year if Asik was available for nearly half of that, for example.

Ultimately, the Clippers should be pressing for an extension before the season, even if Jordan likely stands to gain more by waiting to negotiate until free agency.

There should be some natural concern here, but when you have a great player’s coach, the league’s best point guard, one of the league’s richest owners and the benefits of the city of Los Angeles in your corner, you don’t need to be stricken with fear over losing your team’s longest-tenured player. Those days are pretty much gone for the Clippers.

Basically, it’s not about being able to retain Jordan, it’s about the price point and the potential consequences of having a third massive contract.

Is it worth being a luxury tax team for a few years if you’re contending for a title? Is there a replacement for Jordan readily available who will keep the team financially flexible and in the title hunt? Is it worth it to overpay for an asset to maintain steady forward progress?

These are all questions the Clippers will have to answer, but if I had to guess, Jordan won’t want to leave and will be viewed as indispensable by Doc Rivers. There’s too much mutual incentive present for the two sides not to come to an agreement at some point, whether it be this year or next offseason.

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Is There Hope in Sight for Minnesota Timberwolves After Losing Kevin Love?

You’d be forgiven for thinking the Minnesota Timberwolves are cursed after news of Kevin Love‘s departure became official, but the truth isn’t quite so severe as that.

Chronic mismanagement in a situation where the margin for error has always been razor-thin is the culprit. Maybe that’s its own type of curse, but at least it’s one that can be practically corrected.

Thanks to the habitual gaffes of the Wolves front office, Love is gone, per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:

The Minnesota Timberwolves have reached an agreement in principle to send All-Star forward Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Andrew WigginsAnthony Bennett and a protected 2015 first-round draft pick.

Minnesota now has a 100 percent success rate of losing franchise superstars in their primes. Granted, Kevin Garnett was toward the end of his peak when he was dealt to the Boston Celtics in 2007, and there have really been only two such players in the Wolves’ history. But both KG and K-Love departed ringless, in search of better shots at success.

It would take some time to delve into the mistakes that prompted Garnett’s merciful liberation. Suffice it to say seven consecutive first-round outs proved management’s consistent ineptitude during the prime of one of the NBA‘s all-time greats.

Fast forward to Love, a player many forget Minnesota didn’t draft.

Credit where it’s due: The draft-day swap that brought Love over from the Memphis Grizzlies for a package centered around O.J. Mayo was a good one.

But in Love’s formative years, he had arguably the worst coaching imaginable. Randy Wittman kicked things off in Love’s rookie campaign before losing his job. Kevin McHale took over for the balance of Love’s rookie year, and was followed by Kurt Rambis—by all accounts a good guy, but an unquestionably atrocious NBA coach.

Love won 24, 15 and 17 games in his first three years, respectively.

Rick Adelman arrived in 2011, and his experience offered some stability. But those early years had already created a foundation for Love’s growing dissatisfaction.

The Timberwolves’ woes weren’t restricted to coaching. They also extended to some rather spectacular failures in the draft. Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn went ahead of Stephen Curry in 2009. Wesley Johnson was their No. 4 pick in 2010, and Derrick Williams followed at No. 2 overall the next year. In all, Love had to watch the Wolves give up on three of those four players in short order.

Flynn was a spectacular washout, and Johnson and Williams are now clinging to the ends of benches elsewhere.

The root of everything leading to Love’s departure is David Kahn, who occupied the role of President of Basketball Operations from 2009-2013. The ugly drafts are on him, and so is the sub-max deal he offered Love in 2012.

After receiving that four-year, $62 million deal instead of the possible five-year, $80 million pact, Love’s frustration bubbled over, per Wojnarowski:

You walk into the locker room every year, and it’s completely turned over. There’s new guys everywhere. And then it happens again and again. You start to wonder: Is there really a plan here? Is there really any kind of a…plan?

If there was, it never developed to Love’s satisfaction. And now he’s gone. More new guys are headed to Minnesota, only Love won’t be there to see them this time.

Those new guys do provide some hope—especially because Kahn is no longer running the show in Minnesota. That’s Flip Saunders’ job now.

We can’t know how Kahn would have handled the recent Love fiasco, but we can acknowledge that Saunders got exactly the kind of talent the Wolves should have been seeking all along. Minnesota needs young players whose costs they can control through the rookie contract structure because the organization simply doesn’t attract free agents.

With Wiggins and Bennett (and a future first-rounder), the Timberwolves are essentially getting do-overs on some of the missed draft picks they suffered through in years past.

Of course, if the Wolves are serious about shipping Bennett to the Philadelphia 76ers, as a report from Mark Perner of the Philadelphia Daily News indicates, perhaps Saunders has a little Kahn in him after all.

The addition of Wiggins is huge, and if the team commits to Rubio (which seems likely now), it will have a potentially exciting core going forward. Rookie Zach LaVine has all the athletic promise in the world, and veteran Nikola Pekovic remains an excellent offensive center.

Gorgui Dieng has massive defensive potential as well.

Perhaps best of all, Kevin Martin is the only player on the roster (other than Pekovic) with a long-term deal. Serious flexibility isn’t far off.

Wiggins is something of a divisive figure, but the hope in Minnesota now is that he becomes the superstar his draft slot indicates he can be. If the Wolves build around him, trust that Saunders and the rest of the front office won’t strike out in the draft and focus on the future, there’s certainly a glimmer of hope in the distance.

We’ve seen lots of small market clubs that aren’t in destination cities thrive, with the Oklahoma City Thunder being the prime model. It takes smart drafting and plenty of patience, but the Wolves could, theoretically, take a similar approach—as long as ownership abandons any misguided desires to win in the short term, and the fans are willing to accept a longer, more deliberate rebuild.

Maybe it feels like the Wolves are cursed now, in the immediate aftermath of losing their second superstar in less than a decade. But Minnesota got as good of a haul as could be expected for a player who wanted out and was going to leave for nothing next year. That’s something.

The hard work starts now, and it’ll take some time to do it right.

Minnesota can change its fate if it acts deliberately, makes long-term moves and drafts intelligently. For a guide on how to do that, all it has to do is consult the past few years of transactions and do the complete opposite.

Actually, when you think of it like that, the way forward doesn’t seem so hard.

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Was Jrue Holiday Worth Pelicans Losing Nerlens Noel and 2014 Draft Pick?

The 2014 Draft Lottery left the New Orleans Pelicans without a selection slot due to a 2013 transaction that sent Nerlens Noel and this year’s would-be position to the Philadelphia 76ers for Jrue Holiday.

In addition to the former Kentucky standout, general manager Dell Demps also included a top-5 protected pick. The Pelicans wound up drawing at No. 10, thus relinquishing their spot and being shut out from choosing from this year’s crop of college and international players.

For a team that is not in the best financial situation and with few options for addressing roster needs, one has to wonder if last summer’s trade was really in the best interest of the team.

Evaluating the deal can go only so far. Part of the validation is dependent on Holiday’s performance, but he only played in 34 games this past season. Other criteria for substantiating the move revolve around the resources Demps has at his disposal for retooling with the necessary talent.

The draft is certainly out of the question, and the franchise does not have much room to operate in free agency, but they do have other means of tackling their personnel issues.

Although all hope is not lost, the biggest aftershocks of the 2013 deal have yet to be felt.

 

Initial Analysis

Before this exchange, the Pelicans’ backcourt consisted of an oft-injured, sometimes disgruntled Eric Gordon and an underwhelming Austin Rivers. Granted Holiday’s incomplete 2013-14 stint doesn’t put him too high above Gordon, but history shows that he is more durable than fragile.

The former UCLA Bruin is a cornerstone point guard who can anchor this team’s offense for the foreseeable future. His skill set is dynamic enough to where he is just as good at creating for himself as he is at setting up his teammates.

On the contributing side of this give-and-take, the Pelicans first forfeited Noel who had a phenomenal one-year collegiate campaign up until his ACL injury.

More than just a setback, this kept the youngster on the sideline for the entirety of what was supposed to be his first season. This delayed debut makes it hard to assess exactly what was let go in order to acquire Holiday.

As for the 2014 first-round pick, that talent has yet to even get the opportunity to prove his worth, so it seems like the Pelicans organization is ahead in the initial stages of this trade. Philadelphia has to wait on two athletes to develop in order to see how well they made out while, New Orleans already has a pretty good indication of what is to come.

 

The Downside

Being a small market team means that the Pelicans have a tough time adding talent. Major free agents tend to gravitate to teams that offer them maximum exposure.

Demps and company are also hindered by their smaller revenue stream. Teams like New Orleans almost always have to operate within cap limitations since paying luxury taxes could seriously hinder their solvency.

The draft serves as this club’s best option in addressing team deficiencies.

From a technical standpoint, the Pelicans have not added any rookies the past two seasons. Their acquisition of Pierre Jackson, the lesser-known prospect of the Holiday/Noel trade, did not develop into anything as he spent his first year as a professional basketball player splitting time between the NBDL and Turkey.

So now the Pelicans are looking to next season with a roster that has a lot of areas in which it can stand to improve and an unclear outlook on if any actual help is on the way.

 

The Bitter Truth

If the 34-48 record is the only point of reference, then it’s easy to be discouraged about the Pelicans; however, when considering that this team weathered injuries to numerous key contributors at different points throughout the 2013-14 campaign, things don’t look so bad.

If the health of Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis holds up next year, then this club could improve by leaps and bounds. In fact, this team seems like it is one key acquisition away from really turning it around.

That’s where the optimism ends.

Demps can’t add anyone via the draft. His free agency priority will center more on retaining his own players rather pursuing outsiders. If he wants to bring any new talent into the fold, his only option is working out a trade.

Anyone from the previously mentioned quartet would fetch a nice return after the July moratorium is lifted, but they are the core around which everything will be built. That means the best asset Demps has is Gordon.

Under normal circumstances, it would not be hard to move a double-digit scoring combo guard, but when his production does not merit the salary he is paid, the task becomes trying. Throw in the fact that Gordon has played in 115 of a possible 246 regular-season games in the last three years, and it goes from trying to outright Sisyphean.

This is the Pelicans’ dilemma. Without a pick or the money to make any significant additions, they are left with only one viable option that is a long shot in itself.

They desperately need a hard-nosed center who can play solid interior defense and help Davis on the glass. It is highly unlikely they can acquire that kind of player for Gordon.

The former Hoosier is due $30 million over the next two seasons (via ShamSports.com). There are four centers who are due a comparable amount over that same stretch: Marc Gasol, Brook Lopez, Emeka Okafor and Roy Hibbert (via Basketball-Reference.com). An even swap of any of those guys for Gordon is not happening, and the young guard probably can’t fetch multiple role players in hopes that a serviceable prospect would surface.

New Orleans’ options are virtually nonexistent, and it’s all because of the deal that went down one summer ago.

Considering the constraints placed on the front office with the Holiday acquisition, it is clear now that the team painted themselves into a corner. After one season, it would seem like this is one Demps would like to have back.

Moving Gordon for a player the team could use would easily produce short memories about the Holiday trade, but the remoteness of that possibility makes it senseless to ponder. Maybe something significant will happen a couple years from now, but the immediate verdict indicates this move was not the right decision.

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Philadelphia 76ers Tie Franchise-Long Losing Streak with Tough Opponents Ahead

Somewhere, Semih Erden and Christian Eyenga are smiling just a little wider.

The Memphis Grizzlies torched the Philadelphia 76ers Saturday night, 103-77, extending Philly’s consecutive-loss streak to a franchise record-tying 20, per the NBA Guru Twitter account:

But as indicated by this tweet from ESPN Stats & Info, it’s the way in which the Sixers are losing that has many wondering whether we might be witnessing one of the worst teams in NBA history:

With seven more losses (the games cited in the first tweet above), the Sixers will set the league record for most consecutive losses in a single season.

It’s gotten so bad, in fact, that Philly head coach Brett Brown has declared that a win—any win—would, at this point, be an upset. According to Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia’s Dei Lynam:

It’s a sad state of affairs indeed for the Sixers. Until you remember they’re sitting on a whole war chest of 2014 draft picks—one first-rounder and four second-rounders, to be exact

If they have any hope of staving off infamy, the Sixers might have to wait until March 29, when they take on the Detroit Pistons in Philadelphia. Should they lose every game between now and then, they’ll tie Cleveland’s mark of 26.

It seems impossible to think it was these same Sixers (well, minus about nine different players) that upended the Miami Heat on opening night behind a near-quadruple-double from rookie Michael Carter-Williams (22 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds and nine steals—nine).

Whether you want to call it tanking or something more diplomatic—“strategic long-term growth initiative,” perhaps—Philly looks like it knows exactly what it’s doing. But if the Sixers can achieve their high-lottery hopes without rewriting the meaning of NBA infamy, they should, like, try and stuff.

Novel concept, we know.

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Philadelphia 76ers Honing in on Franchise Record 20-Game Losing Streak

Following Monday’s 123-110 loss to the New York Knicks, the Philadelphia 76ers are just three losses away from matching the franchise-record losing streak of 20 games, set during the 1972-73 season, per ESPN Stats & Info.

The Sixers have now lost 17 consecutive games, with their most recent victory coming Jan. 29 against the Boston Celtics.

Over the 17-game stretch, Philadelphia has allowed a whopping 115.2 points per game and scored a mere 96.2 points per contest. The Sixers have lost by an average margin of 18.9 points and haven’t come within single digits of an opponent since losing to the woeful Utah Jazz by a score of 105-100 on Feb. 12.

Looking to more advanced stats, the Sixers rank dead last in both points scored per 100 possessions (92.2) and points allowed per 100 possessions (11.3) over the last 17 games, with the league’s worst true shooting percentage (49.2), effective field-goal percentage (45.1) and turnover ratio (17.5 per 100 possessions) over that stretch. They’ve been a bit better on the boards, ranking 28th in the league with a 45.7 rebounding percentage during the 17-game run of futility.

The Sixers will need to pick things up fast if they want to avoid the franchise-record losing streak, as Wednesday’s contest against the Sacramento Kings is followed by games against the Indiana Pacers, Memphis Grizzlies, the Pacers again and finally the Chicago Bulls. With Memphis, Indiana and Chicago all boasting elite defenses, it’s hard to imagine the Sixers even keeping things close.

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No. 7 Syracuse ends losing streak, tops Florida State

C.J. Fair scored 15 of his 22 points in the second half as the Orange pulled away.

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No. 17 Saint Louis ends 3-game losing streak (Yahoo Sports)

Saint Louis guard Jordair Jett (5) drives past Massachusetts forward Raphiael Putney, upper right, and guard Derrick Gordon, lower right, to score the winning basket in the waning seconds of the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Amherst, Mass., Sunday, March 9, 2014. St. Louis won 64-62. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

Jordiar Jett gave No. 17 Saint Louis more than just a 64-62 road win over Massachusetts on Sunday. His driving layup with 3 seconds left gave the Billikens (26-5, 13-3 Atlantic 10) their second straight outright conference title and snapped a three-game losing skid after a school-record 19-game winning streak. ”We had guys make big plays throughout,” Saint Louis coach Jim Crews said. … I’m really proud of our guys.” Jett finished with 17 points, including the Billikens’ last six of the game.


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No. 7 Syracuse ends losing streak with 74-58 win (Yahoo Sports)

Syracuse forward C.J. Fair (5) makes a 3-point basket in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Florida State, Sunday, March 9, 2014, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)

Syracuse was dangerously close to letting another less talented opponent pull off the upset when C.J. Fair took over Sunday. The seventh-ranked Orange had let a sporadic Florida State team rally late in the first half and get within a point in the second. The senior forward scored 15 of his 22 points after halftime and led Syracuse to a 74-58 victory in the program’s first trip to Florida State. ”We saw right away he got it going,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said.


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Iowa snaps three-game losing streak in win over Purdue

Roy Devyn Marble scored 21 points in the win

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Pitt snaps losing skid; 66-59 over BC (Yahoo Sports)

Pittsburgh's Josh Newkirk (13) and Boston College's Olivier Hanlan (21) struggle for the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Boston, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Talib Zanna scored 11 of his 21 points in the closing 9 1/2 minutes to help Pittsburgh snap a three-game losing streak with 66-59 win over Boston College on Wednesday night. Lamar Patterson added 16 points and Cameron Wright 14 for the Panthers (21-7, 9-6 Atlantic Coast Conference). Olivier Hanlan led Boston College (7-21, 3-12) with 25 points and Patrick Heckmann had 15. The Eagles have lost seven of their last eight games.


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