What hurting Thunder need out of Serge Ibaka

Serge Ibaka isn’t limping from the calf injury that crippled the Thunder’s playoff chances.

      
 

 

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What the Thunder need out of Ibaka

Serge Ibaka isn’t limping from the calf injury that crippled the Thunder’s playoff chances.

      
 

 

View full post on USATODAY – NBA Top Stories

5 Questions the Sacramento Kings Need Answered During the Preseason

While the preseason may not count in the standings, it’s still an important time for franchises like the Sacramento Kings to gain information that can be used in the regular season. 

It’s a time when questions about the rotation, filling voids from the previous season and integrating new players into the system can be worked on. For the Kings, they need to find answers in all three categories.

The team needs to figure out how to divvy up minutes between a packed yet inexperienced backcourt. There needs to be a balance between playing the best players but not at the cost of youngsters who are still in the developmental stages of their career.

The same can be said of a power forward position that has many options, although more experienced, who need to be woven into the game plan.

There are questions about the offense, particularly replacing the scoring that was lost when Isaiah Thomas moved on to the Phoenix Suns. Along with that comes integrating new players into the system who were brought in to help fill that void.

All of those things will be important in determining how the regular season plays out. So while the preseason doesn’t count, it’s far from meaningless.

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5 Questions the Sacramento Kings Need Answered During the Preseason

While the preseason may not count in the standings, it’s still an important time for franchises like the Sacramento Kings to gain information that can be used in the regular season. 

It’s a time when questions about the rotation, filling voids from the previous season and integrating new players into the system can be worked on. For the Kings, they need to find answers in all three categories.

The team needs to figure out how to divvy up minutes between a packed yet inexperienced backcourt. There needs to be a balance between playing the best players but not at the cost of youngsters who are still in the developmental stages of their career.

The same can be said of a power forward position that has many options, although more experienced, who need to be woven into the game plan.

There are questions about the offense, particularly replacing the scoring that was lost when Isaiah Thomas moved on to the Phoenix Suns. Along with that comes integrating new players into the system who were brought in to help fill that void.

All of those things will be important in determining how the regular season plays out. So while the preseason doesn’t count, it’s far from meaningless.

Begin Slideshow

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What Detroit Pistons Need from Andre Drummond This Season

The Detroit Pistons have missed the playoffs the past five seasons, and they will need a monster season from Andre Drummond to have a chance at ending that drought. 

Though last season’s Pistons were a major disappointment, Drummond was their lone bright spot. In just his second NBA season, he averaged 13.5 points, 13.2 assists, 1.6 blocks, 1.2 steals and had a player efficiency rating of 22.65. And at 6’11″ and 279 pounds with phenomenal athleticism, the 21-year-old projects to be one of the best big men in the league for years to come.

Drummond was part of the gold medal-winning Team USA squad this summer, and he’s already shown the ability to change games at both ends of the court. But he must be more consistent and assertive this season. If he doesn’t play like one of the best 25 players in the NBA, the Pistons will almost certainly find their season over when the postseason begins.

 

Increased Offensive Role

In his second season, Drummond scored over 13 points per game and shot 62.3 percent from the field, but he was little more than an afterthought in the Pistons offense.

Playing next to Brandon Jennings, Greg Monroe and Josh Smith, he was at best the team’s fourth option. Almost all of his baskets came around the rim—701 of his 769 field goals (91.2 percent) came from within five feet of the basket, per NBA.com. And most of that action came from finishing lobs or putting back offensive rebounds, not on offense that Drummond created on his own.

None of that on its own is a bad thing. Drummond‘s ability to finish around the rim keeps his defender from leaving in help defense. And being a very good offensive rebounder helps the Pistons get extra possessions. But at this point, his low-post game is almost nonexistent. 

If Drummond can develop his game to the point where he has a couple of effective post moves, not only will he score more points, but he’ll also command more double-teams. That in turn will free up shooters and make the Detroit offense more effective overall.

Drummond‘s ability to knock down free throws also must improve from his first two seasons. He’s never made more than 41.8 percent of his freebies. If that doesn’t increase, it won’t really matter how much his post game has developed—teams will just be able to send him to the line. And he’ll be too much of a liability for Stan Van Gundy to use him down the stretch of games.

Drummond doesn’t need to be a dominant low-post scorer this season for the Pistons to make the playoffs. But he does need to be a bigger part of the offense; he needs to be good enough down low for opposing teams to worry about him scoring in one-on-one situations. And he needs to knock down significantly more free throws to keep those teams honest.

 

All-NBA Defensive Team-Type Season

When you watch Drummond play basketball, it’s easy to fantasize about a young Shaquille O’Neal and the dominant scoring ability that comes with the comparison. But Drummond‘s potential to change games is currently much greater at the defensive end.

His physical tools make him look like a taller version of Dwight Howard: a three-time Defensive Player of the Year. He has everything necessary to become an elite shot-blocker who can also defend any opposing big man one-on-one. He has the rare combination of lateral quickness, leaping ability and strength that can make him the best defensive player in the league.

The Pistons need him to make big strides this season toward becoming that player. 

Drummond is already on this end of the court, if on raw ability alone. His season in rebounds, blocks and steals has been duplicated only 13 other times (by seven total players) in NBA history, per Basketball-Reference.com. That alone tells you just how unique of a defensive talent Drummond is; men of his size should not be able to do the things physically that he is capable of.

But for Drummond, it’s a matter of getting better at defensive fundamentals, which may not show up in a stat sheet.

For one, Drummond was a pretty mediocre one-on-one defender last season. Opposing centers posted a PER of 19.2 against him last season, per 82games.com. As a premier shot-blocker, Drummond was susceptible to biting on shot fakes, which led to easy baskets or drawn fouls. He too often was exposed as a defender by veteran players, as was the case in a December loss to Howard and the Houston Rockets.

Howard scored 35 points in 40 minutes on 13-of-18 shooting, the bulk of which came against Drummond. It was arguably the young center’s worst defensive performance of the season and the best piece of evidence to show that physical gifts can only take a player so far.

“It was a baptism NBA-style, a trial by fire of the worst and most painful kind,” Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News wrote following the game.

To be fair, Drummond improved throughout the season, as you’d expect from a 20-year-old. And his defense was good enough this summer to impress arguably the best defensive coach in the league.

“He’s gotten better and better,” said Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, per Keith Langlois of NBA.com. “He’s done a great job here. There’s a lot of things he does you really can’t teach—great instincts around the basket, his ability to react to the ball and protect the rim.”

That is the kind of player the Pistons need on a nightly basis. They need the rim protection. They need the forced turnovers. They need crisp rotations. And they need a guy who can go toe-to-toe with the best big men in the league and come out ahead.

With the type of numbers he puts up and a relatively weak Eastern Conference, it would be a bit of a surprise if Drummond was not an All-Star this season. And if Thibodeau is correct, then votes for the All-NBA Defensive teams should also come.

That is the kind of performance the Pistons will need from Drummond if they plan to make some noise this season. Not too much to ask from a player who just turned 21, right?

 

Jakub Rudnik covers the Detroit Pistons as a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow him on Twitter.


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5 Questions the Los Angeles Clippers Need Answered During the Preseason

The NBA preseason has arrived, and the Los Angeles Clippers have some questions to address.

The Western Conference is stacked with talent. Los Angeles will attempt to navigate through it to an NBA Finals berth. 

Before that journey begins, the Clippers will look for answers. Over the offseason, Los Angeles rejuvenated its already-strong rotation with some veteran pieces and young talent. 

Now’s the time to begin putting them all together. 

The following questions are just some that weigh on the minds of anyone with an interest in Clippers basketball. They’re in no particular order, but each have significance in determining if a title run is feasible. 

Everything in Clipper Land begins with Chris Paul, so that’s where we’ll start. 

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5 Questions the Los Angeles Lakers Need Answered During the Preseason

Preseason results have no bearing on regular-season performance. It doesn’t matter that the Los Angeles Lakers took a 40-point beatdown at the hands of the Golden State Warriors.

What these exhibition games do provide, however, is a chance for guys to audition for new roles, for new teammates to figure out how to play with one another and for the team to put the new philosophies of Byron Scott into practice.

There are myriad questions swirling around the team this preseason.

Here are five that need answering.

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4 Questions the Phoenix Suns Need Answered During the Preseason

It’s preseason time for the Phoenix Suns, which means that head coach Jeff Hornacek has the next couple of weeks to play with various lineups and address some of his questions about the roster.

Though winning in the preseason is not always associated with regular-season success, the games are important nevertheless. This is the first opportunity for fans, as well as the front office, to see the players in action under the spotlight. 

The Suns also currently have 19 players on the roster, a number that will have to be cut down to 15 by the season opener against the Los Angeles Lakers. However, with 15 players already making guaranteed money in the 2014-15 season, you can bet that the other four are out of luck. In some seasons there are battles for roster spots, but this year it’s all about fighting for minutes and increased roles. 

Here are some of the questions that should be answered over the next several games. 

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Do the Pacers Need to Revamp Their Defense?

The title is indeed an interesting question. Over the last 10 years, the NBA has become what pickup elitists and old-timers consider a glorified layup line because of rule changes designed to promote the offensive side of the game. Defense hasn’t at all vanished in the NBA—last year’s Pacers and Tom Thibodeau’s Bulls are obvious defensive stalwarts fans bring up—but the tempo and pace of the NBA has changed almost singlehandedly due to rule changes. The elimination of hand checking isn’t exactly real. Take a look at Paul George chopping Damian Lillard as the latter makes his way to the basket last year: A brief aside: in most professional realms, complacency and normalcy (really, a sense of satisfaction with the real) are both associated with a lack of desire to succeed. It fuels the greed to seek the most ambitious individuals on the planet to occupy positions in all levels of professional services in America—there is simply more energy put into what is next than what exists in …

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Ric Bucher on Which NBA Teams Need to Get Their Priorities Straight

The NBA season is almost upon us, and certain teams are already starting to have their offseason strategies called into question. Which teams need to get their priorities straight, and which teams are not getting enough credit?

Ric Bucher gives his choices when he speaks to Adam Lefkoe in the video above.

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