Timberwolves Injury Update: Kevin Martin may need right wrist surgery

The Minnesota Timberwolves fell to the San Antonio Spurs on Friday by the score of 121-92. The blowout loss dropped the Timberwolves to 3-8 on the season, fourth in the Northwest Division. Anthony Bennett lead the Timberwolves with 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting in 32 minutes off the bench. The Timberwolves were without Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin, both out with wrist injuries. The bad news on Martin is that his wrist is fracture and he may need surgery.TonyTheTiger via Wikimedia Commons Rotoworld.com reported that  Martin will have his wrist examined in the coming days to determine whether or not he’ll need surgery. It appears that Martin will be out at least six weeks, which is a significant loss to the Timberwolves. In absence, expect Chase Budinger, Corey Brewer and Mo Williams see the majority of the minutes in the back court and small forward. Martin, in his 11th NBA season out of Western Carolina, is averaging 20.4 points and 3.7 rebounds per game this season. The veteran guard has played f

View full post on Yardbarker: NBA

Do Chicago Bulls Really Need Healthy Derrick Rose to Contend for NBA Title?

The Chicago Bulls can be a dominant two-way force without a fully healthy Derrick Rose.

But the line separating really good teams from full-fledged contenders is one Chicago can only cross with the former MVP at his best.

After getting only 49 games out of Rose the past three seasons, the Bulls have learned to live without him. Thanks to a combination of internal development and external acquisitions, they have even started to thrive in his absence.

They are 8-3 on the season, having scored four of those victories while Rose was sidelined by ankle and hamstring injuries. They are one of only four clubs—one of only two in the Eastern Conference—with top-10 rankings in both offensive (eighth) and defensive (seventh) efficiency.

Those are the tell-tale markings of an elite NBA team. The fact that those numbers have largely been compiled without Rose’s assistance highlights the tremendous depth on this roster.

“They may have two or three All-Stars minus Derrick,” Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers said, per Bleacher Report’s Josh Martin, “so they’re a good basketball team.”

And Rivers’ praise came before the Bulls, missing both Rose and Pau Gasol (calf), reeled off a double-digit road victory over the Clippers.

The Bulls have both star power and a deep supporting cast.

Gasol, the prized piece of Chicago’s offseason haul, has seamlessly transitioned into his new home. The skilled 7-footer leads the team in rebounds (10.6) and blocks (2.5), while ranking second in scoring (18.6).

Chicago’s only player pumping in more points is fourth-year swingman Jimmy Butler. The Marquette product, who is slated to hit restricted free agency at season’s end, has exploded out of the gate. He currently holds career highs in points (21.3), field-goal percentage (50.8), rebounds (6.2), assists (3.9) and player efficiency rating (22.5).

“Jimmy Butler, what can you say?” coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters after Butler tallied 22 points, eight assists and six rebounds against the Clippers. “When that game was on the line he made big play after big play. He’s playing great basketball.”

Center Joakim Noah, an All-Star in each of the last two seasons, has been rounding into form after undergoing left knee surgery over the summer. Learning to play alongside a low-post weapon like Gasol has been another adjustment Noah has had to make.

The high-motor big man has dished out six assists in five straight games and grabbed 12-plus rebounds two of his last four times out. As a defensive cog and offensive catalyst, he positively impacts the game in so many different ways.

Those are Chicago’s stars. Add Rose’s name to the mix, and it becomes an embarrassment of riches.

But the supporting cast might be equally impressive.

Taj Gibson remains one of the league’s top reserves. He’s shooting a career-best 56.9 percent from the field and has matched his previous high with 13.0 points a night. His energy level on both ends of the floor is as high as it’s ever been, and his importance to Chicago’s success hasn’t diminished a bit despite all the new weapons around him.

“Taj is probably the most selfless player in the NBA,” Noah said, per Bulls.com’s Sam Smith. “A guy who is depended on all the time and never gets the credit he deserves. I appreciate everything he does. We can’t get to where we want to get to without Taj.”

Decorated rookie forward Nikola Mirotic has only found 12.1 minutes a night, which speaks volumes about this team’s talent.

Ditto for rookie sharpshooter Doug McDermott and his 12.5 minutes per game. It’s hard to find him time when veteran sniper Mike Dunleavy is converting his long-range looks at a 40.4 percent clip.

Kirk Hinrich is a pesky defender and a major three-point threat (39.5 percent). Aaron Brooks is a wildly effective scorer (19.4 points per 36 minutes on .483/.469/.789 shooting) and willing passer (6.3 assists per 36 minutes). Tony Snell adds to Chicago’s collection of shooters and provides another athletic presence on the perimeter—if he’s able to make it off the crowded bench.

With Thibodeau at the helm, the Bulls are always going to play a relentless brand of defense. And with all this added firepower, they can now frustrate their opponents on either end of the floor.

“We’re scoring a lot of different ways,” Noah said, per K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. “I remember when the score was 81-76, just fiending to get a basket. Now we’re scoring 100 every night. And I feel like it can get better.”

That’s where it all comes back to the 26-year-old face of the franchise.

The Bulls are showing how good they can be even when Rose isn’t a constant presence in the lineup. But greatness only comes within the realm of possibilities once he can start logging significant minutes.

“As stacked as Chicago’s roster may be,” Martin wrote, “this team would hardly have a prayer of competing for the franchise’s seventh championship without a healthy and effective Rose leading the way.”

There have already been signs of the impact Rose can make.

Individually, he has appeared understandably rusty. The career 46.0 percent shooter has hit only 43.3 percent of his attempts and just seven of his 24 threes. His 18.0 scoring average and 5.4 nightly assists trail his career numbers (20.8 and 6.7, respectively), but that decline has been a direct result of logging a career-low 28.0 minutes a night.

While Rose has had some issues with his shot, he has not had any trouble leading his team.

On the season, the Bulls have outscored their opponents by 6.4 points per 100 possessions. That’s good enough for the sixth-highest net efficiency rating in the league. With Rose on the floor, that number jumps to 15.4, which easily tops the Dallas Mavericks‘ top mark of plus-12.6. Without Rose, the Bulls have a plus-3.3 net rating, which would check in at 10th overall.

And for the Rose haters conspiracy theorists out there, no, Rose hasn’t planned his absences around avoiding the toughest tests. The five teams he has squared up with have a combined record of 27-31, a .466 winning percentage. The six games he missed came against clubs with a 23-43 record, only a .348 winning percentage.

Rose helps Chicago put constant pressure on a defense. He’s still lightning-quick off the dribble and a devastating finisher at the basket (career-high 68.8 percent conversion rate inside of three feet).

He was a willing passer before he had help. In 2011-12, when Rose averaged 21.8 points and no other Bull topped 15.3, he had a 40.3 assist percentage. Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry, who has had a wealth of scorers around him, has never done better than 39.9.

The Bulls have other weapons, but they all become more powerful when Rose is involved.

Chicago needs Rose to make a championship run. He’s a necessity, not a luxury.

That being said, the Bulls don’t need him on the floor until he’s physically and mentally ready to return. They have more than enough to keep pace in the Eastern Conference without him, especially with the Cleveland Cavaliers struggling to create any chemistry.

Chicago’s depth doesn’t make Rose expendable, it allows this team to play things as safe as it can with regard to his health.

“Everybody on the team, from subs to starters to stars, can play key roles this year,” wrote Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes. “In the early going, depth and Thibodeau‘s ‘we have enough’ attitude can carry the load so the bigger names can rest and recover. As the season progresses, the rotation will shrink and the marquee players can start to take over.”

The supporting cast is growing without Rose, and he is taking every step to put himself in the best possible position.

“[I'm] just trying to do everything right,” he said, per ESPN Chicago’s Nick Friedell. “Eat right, hydrate right, stretch right, work on my flexibility, just trying to put everything on my side so at the end of the day I’m just trying to get better.”

It’s hard to ask for more patience from a franchise that has already spent two years waiting for his return. It’s no easier to avoid thoughts of despair every time his body forces him off the floor.

Still, there’s a chance this all works out for the better.

The Bulls are a two-way wrecking ball, destroying every team in their path regardless of who’s sitting at the controls. The pieces are in place to contend for a title. If this rest period aids Rose in his recovery and helps develop the players behind him, Chicago’s ceiling could continue to climb.

But Rose must be involved to help this team fulfill its massive potential. As has been the case for the last several years, Chicago’s success once again hinges on his health.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Do Cleveland Cavaliers Need More Time or Just More Help?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Superstar trio forms to equal parts fear and fanfare (depending on whom you ask), and expectations reach a fevered pitch, only to have said troika stumble somewhat clumsily out of the gate.

Oh, and then everyone loses his or her mind. Can’t forget that.

The narrative arc of this year’s Cleveland Cavaliers has mimicked that of the 2010-11 Miami Heat so faithfully you’d think Michael Bay was writing the scripts.

And so it is that we find ourselves revisiting a familiar trope: Do these Cavs need more talent or simply more time in order to thrive?

Looking at the roster, the former might sound like a ludicrous proposition. LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, Shawn Marion, Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters—Cleveland fairly reeks of freakish talent and time-tested mettles.

To be sure, there’s plenty of cachet to Cleveland’s credit, exemplified by its second-ranked offensive efficiency (108.3). On this front, the Cavs have slowly but surely began creeping toward their Platonic ideal. Which, if you’re the rest of the league, is a terrifying proposition indeed.

Seldom are titles won on one side of the floor, however. As such, Cleveland’s 26th-ranked defense (108.3) remains the mud-caked elephant in the room. LeBron is still LeBron, of course. But Irving and Love—for all their offensive gifts—aren’t even in the same dimension as Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

The Cavs’ defensive woes are manifold. But if you’re looking for one stat in particular that encapsulates Cleveland’s struggles, it might be this: Per NBA.com (subscription required), in the team’s first eight games, it was surrendering an apocalyptic 65.4 percent on opponent field goals from zero to five feet from the rim. Dead last in the league.

That might sound like a simple case of bad rim protection. But while Love, Varejao and Thompson haven’t exactly been Dikembe Mutombo in the paint, the issues with the Cavs’ interior are much more complex.

Compelled to pen by Cleveland’s woeful pick-and-role defense against the lowly Denver Nuggets, SB Nation’s Jason Patt went a bit more in depth into what’s made the Cavs such sieves on D:

There are several reasons for these major struggles. The Cavaliers don’t exactly have many wing stoppers to limit dribble penetration, with both Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters renowned for being poor defenders. LeBron James has slipped a bit on that end, while Shawn Marion isn’t what he once was. Looking at the rest of the roster, there’s not really a plus wing defender in the bunch. It’s no wonder Corey Brewer is reportedly on Cleveland’s radar in trade talks.

In the frontcourt, nobody from the Kevin Love, Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson trio can really be described as a strong rim protector. Love certainly isn’t; his habit of not always challenging shots in order to avoid fouls has come with him from Minnesota.

If the Cavs indeed have designs on improving their overall depth, defense is sure to be the motivating factor. Patt cites the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Corey Brewer—a rangy havoc-wreaker of a player capable of defending up to four positions—as one stopgap possibility. And there are sure to be others bandied about the rumor mill.

The question is whether and to what degree any potential trade might compromise Cleveland’s certifiably cartoonish offense.

Nobody grasps this need for balance better than rookie head coach David Blatt. Widely considered one of the game’s foremost offensive minds, Blatt—whose European grand tour netted him a bevy of championship wares—isn’t exactly turning a blind eye to his team’s mounting transgressions.

“I can honestly tell you I’m a little disappointed in the moments of lethargy that we have on defense,” Blatt said following a recent 118-111 win over the New Orleans Pelicans (via ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin). “And our guys need to understand that if we want to consistently beat great and good teams and very good teams like the one we saw tonight, we cannot afford to sleep for parts of the game or parts of the quarter.”

To his credit, Blatt has done everything in his power to walk the talk. His most intriguing gambit: Giving rookie guard Joe Harris—lauded as a three-and-D specialist during his four years at the University of Virginia—more minutes off the bench in lieu of the comparably anemic Waiters.

There’s little doubt the Cavs will remain ear-to-ground in the coming weeks and months, ready to pounce should any defense-bolstering trade arise. The strategic conundrum they’ll be grappling with, however, is anything but simple:

Has their offense been good enough soon enough to warrant a bit of patience at the defensive end, or can Blatt and Co. count on similar offensive incendiaries should a trade for a top-tier stopper actually take place?

For his part, James has taken to stressing an all too familiar sermon: patience.

“Our team, it’s a work in progress, and when you have a lot of new players—particularly a lot of new, very talented players—sometimes it’s a little harder to put together,” James told USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt following a brutal loss to the Portland Trail Blazers on November 6. “If you look historically, that’s sort of been the case in many of these situations.”

These Cleveland Cavaliers will never be the havoc-wreaking defensive force that was the LeBron-era Heat—The Flying Death Machine, to borrow a bit of Twitter parlance. If, however, they can manage to somehow sneak above the league fold while maintaining their already rubber-burning basketball ballistics, contention—particularly in a historically weak Eastern Conference—is anything but out of the question.

That these Cavaliers are destined to see a more scrutinizing eye practically goes without saying. The danger lies in said eye posing ultimatums on what the team needs specifically—be it players or patience or anything else—when really the answer is much more simple:

It doesn’t need either. Although it could probably use a little bit of both.

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Mirza Teletovic Turning into Player Brooklyn Nets Need and Hoped For

When Jarrett Jack was asked if he sees many guys as willing to shoot as Mirza Teletovic, the Brooklyn Nets‘ backup point guard responded in the most concise way he could:

“Nope.”

That was it.

Jack did eventually expand after laughing at the simplicity of his own response, but he didn’t need to do so. No one loves to chuck more than Teletovic, and this season, the third-year stretch 4 is becoming one of the Nets’ best offensive weapons.

Teletovic is averaging 10.2 points and 4.9 rebounds in 23.3 minutes per game on the season. He’s hitting 40.8 percent of his 5.4 three-point attempts a night. And for the first time, he’s getting the freedom to do more than just stand around the perimeter and shoot whenever the ball comes his way.

All the numbers are up, career highs across the board. It’s still early, but even if you don’t want to put much stock in the stats, you can look other places to see the development in the Bosnian’s game.

It’s all about confidence, and man, is Teletovic self-assured. 

“Just from the beginning, coach Hollins [said] ‘You know what to do. You just do your job, and we all trust you,’” Teletovic said of what builds up his spirit. “All my teammates, everybody. They wouldn’t pass me the ball if it wasn’t like that.”

Still, absolutely no one believes in Mirza as much as Mirza believes in Mirza, and it’s not unwarranted cockiness. It’s earned arrogance, because in the end, Teletovic is, you know, actually making shots.

He ranks in the top 15 in three-point makes. He’s draining a career-high percentage of shots beyond the arc. He’s posting an elite 60.7 percent true shooting.

Teletovic has shot on a little more than 20 percent of his touches. Think about that. One in five times that a role player touches the ball, he’s throwing it at the rim.

J.R. Smith, whose autobiography will one day be named I Thought That Was Going In (you will definitely read this book), is shooting on just 16.6 percent of his touches. Kostas Papanikolaou, a forward in a role that more mirrors Teletovic‘s, puts up attempts on 13.6 percent of his touches for the Houston Rockets.

Naturally, not all of those shots are preferable.

“He’s done a good job of trying to learn our defensive schemes and trying to learn shot selection,” Lionel Hollins said of his 6’8″ power forward. “But with a guy like Mirza, you live with questionable shots, because he can make them.”

Teletovic isn’t going to find a look he doesn’t like. But even so, in theory—and in practice—he’s the ultimate catch-and-shoot power forward.

Hitting 41.5 percent of catch-and-shoot jumpers is nothing to sneeze at—especially considering his volume.

Only six other players are making such a percentage of catch-and-shoot long balls on as many opportunities as Teletovic: Kyle Korver, Shawne Williams, Klay Thompson, Channing Frye, Ryan Anderson and Trevor Ariza. That is a heck of a list to be on, and Teletovic is deservedly right there.

It’s all about the decisiveness. He knows he’s shooting even before he receives the ball. Actually, everyone knows the court is his personal game of Pop-a-Shot. That’s just Teletovic‘s personality.

“He’s very, very capable,” Jack explains. “I’ve seen a lot of guys who want to shoot that can’t shoot, which is backwards, but Mirza‘s a guy who can make very, very difficult shots…You give him an inch, that’s way too much room for him.”

Last year, Teletovic was all about the catch-and-shoot. But now, under Hollins, he is occasionally showing off expanded parts of his game.

We’re seeing him put the ball on the floor a little more often, though his offensive role has mainly remained the same. Still, he’ll head into the post every now and then. And most importantly, he’s carrying more offensive responsibility. 

Teletovic didn’t go to moves like this all too often last year:

Now, he’s executing them when he gets the one-on-one opportunities, and those chances are showing up far more often. Look at how far Teletovic backs down Aaron Gordon, who’s a strong defensive player even as a rookie. 

“I kind of always had it,” Teletovic said of his broadened repertoire. “But with coach Hollins, it’s really because he lets you do it. When you go to the post, he won’t say, ‘No, get back to three pointers.’ You can post up. I posted up in the preseason. I posted up in the regular season a couple of times now.”

The Nets rely on running plenty of sets out of the post, whether it’s exploiting Joe Johnson mismatches, letting Brook Lopez bang down low or pushing Deron Williams to back down his defender. The Nets wouldn’t want Teletovic on the block often, if only because he provides such a reliable shooting option on the outside, but having the choice always helps.

There’s a reason the Nets average 1.7 more points per 100 possessions when Teletovic is on the floor. It’s the same one that helped them average 1.9 more points per 100 a year ago, though the defense fell off a cliff with Mirza‘s presence. He gives space to an offense that needs it.

“Big guys, guys who are 4-men are in an unusual position to have to go out to the three-point line,” Jack theorizes. 

Forcing a power forward to stray from the paint on defense simply brings him out of his element. Because of that, Teletovic complements the interior-oriented Lopez and Mason Plumlee, allowing the Nets’ centers to man the paint and roll off ball-screens while he spaces the floor.

Defenders don’t want to help off someone so accurate from distance, and ones who aren’t used to guarding on the perimeter show a habit of making bad decisions when you bring them out to the three-point line. It’s a dynamic that makes everyone’s job easier, especially those who play down low.

The Nets offense has been unrealistically successful in the short time it has played Lopez at the 5 with Teletovic at the 4. If that continues, maybe Hollins will begin to move Teletovic into units with four other starters, though such lineups don’t have much of a chance to be successful defensively.

This is a Nets team with inconsistent distance shooting. We’ve seen it go off, like when it made 11 of 23 long-range attempts in a win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. We’ve also seen performances like Saturday’s, when Brooklyn went 1-of-19 from three against the Portland Trail Blazers. The Nets need the stability of a shooter who has drained two or more long balls in six of his nine games.

If offense in today’s NBA is about space, Teletovic is the Nets’ planetarium. On a team that’s shown a propensity to steer away from efficient shots—especially in second halves—only to revert to isolation and mid-range basketball, he offers a valuable piece of the offense no other Net can replicate.

 

Fred Katz averaged almost one point per game in fifth grade but maintains that his per-36-minute numbers were astonishing. Find more of his work at WashingtonPost.com or on ESPNs TrueHoop Network at ClipperBlog.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredKatz.

All quotes obtained firsthand. Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are current as of Nov. 16 and are courtesy of Basketball-Reference and NBA.com.

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

What LeBron and Cavs need to do be successful

USA TODAY Sports’ Jeff Zillgitt breaks down some things the Cavaliers need to do to find their groove.

      
 

 

View full post on USATODAY – NBA Top Stories

Everything You Need to Know About the 2014-15 College Basketball Season

At 11 a.m. ET on Friday, the tipoff between Texas Southern and Eastern Washington will signal the beginning of the 2014-15 college basketball season.

Finally.

It’s been a very long 250 days since Connecticut beat Kentucky in the 2014 national championship. But whether you’ve spent that time forgetting what a basketball looks like or gobbling up all the stories we’ve been feeding you, this is your one-stop shop for a refresher course on the big stories you need to know for the upcoming year.

Does Connecticut have any hope of repeating? Could a team enter the tournament undefeated for a second straight season? Which coaches are on the hot seat while Mike Krzyzewski chases the 1,000th win of his illustrious career? And what the blazes is going on away from the court at North Carolina?

Let’s dive right in with the question that has been permeating most college basketball discussions for the past six months.

 

So, Just How Good Is Kentucky?

Since the moment John Calipari arrived in Lexington, expectations for Kentucky have been nothing short of massive.

For the most part, so have the results.

In this his sixth season as Big Blue Nation’s fearless leader, Calipari has led the Wildcats to four Elite Eights, three Final Fours, two championship games and one title.

But every snarky Joe Schmo on the Internet wants to talk about the one year that didn’t exactly go according to plan.

Even including that Robert Morris fiasco, Kentucky has averaged 30.4 wins per year under Calipari. The Wildcats open the season ranked in the Top Four for the fifth time in six years. Before Calipari’s arrival, they had gone seven straight preseasons without being ranked in the Top Eight.

But enough about Kentucky’s past, because its present is even more ridiculous.

A starting five of Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker, Marcus Lee, Trey Lyles and Dakari Johnson could easily be one of the five best teams in the country.

Too bad that’s Kentucky’s bench.

Including this year, Calipari has brought in an average of 3.8 McDonald’s All-Americans per season since the fall of 2010, and that pipeline has finally hit a bit of a backlog. With the Harrison twins, Lee and Johnson returning for a second season and Alex Poythress coming back for a third year, the Wildcats have nine McDonald’s All-Americans on their roster.

That’s right. Nine.

Connecticutthe team that has won four of the last 16 national championshipshas signed only eight McDonald’s All-Americans in the past 22 years.

This truly might be the best team assembled since Jerry Tarkanian’s Rebels of UNLV in 1990-91. That team opened the season with 34 consecutive wins, winning by an average of 27.6 points per game.

But even that giant wasn’t too big to fall, getting knocked off by Duke in the Final Four.

Can the Wildcats go 40-0 and finish the job UNLV could not?

Probably not. Even the greatest team in history would have a tough time avoiding a loss in a schedule that includes games against Florida (at least twice), Kansas, Louisville, North Carolina, UCLA and Texas.

Don’t let the inevitable loss or two fool you, though. We could be witnessing a once-in-a-lifetime collection of college basketball talent.

 

Something Old

They say you never truly appreciate what you have until it’s gone, but we sure tried to appreciate the heck out of Doug McDermott last season.

In a world obsessed with freshmen and players who jump to the NBA before required, we had ourselves a fine group of outstanding seniors last year. In addition to Dougie McBuckets, players such as Russ Smith, Shabazz Napier, Sean Kilpatrick, C.J. Fair, DeAndre Kane and Cleanthony Early captured our uninterrupted attention in their final year of eligibility.

Though those stars are gone, the great thing about college hoops is that there’s a new batch of incredible seniors each year.

Kilpatrick made headlines when he scored his 2,000th career point, but that’s a milestone Chasson Randle (Stanford), Keifer Sykes (Green Bay), D’Angelo Harrison (St. John’s) and Joseph Young (Oregon) should each eclipse with room to spare as seniors.

Alan Williams (UC Santa Barbara) is all but unanimously headed for the unofficial honor of mid-major player of the year as the greatest stat-sheet stuffer few of us have ever seen play.

Frank Kaminsky (Wisconsin) and Delon Wright (Utah) are seniors on the very short list of players who might win the 2015 Wooden Award.

(Could you even imagine if I had written that last sentence 12 months ago? This game is awesome.)

Throw in Ryan Boatright trying to fill the shoes of both Kemba Walker and Shabazz Napier while Wesley Saunders tries to lead Harvard to a fourth consecutive NCAA tournament berth, and we’ve got more than enough compelling seniors to forget about ol‘ Doug McWhat’sHisName in no time.

 

Something New

As much as we enjoy talking about four-year players, there’s just something about new and shiny freshmen that really sets our hearts atwitter.

Much of that excitement is due to the fact that we spend seven months’ worth of offseason needing to believe that our favorite teams have found and signed players who can either turn things around or keep them going in the right direction.

Until those freshmen actually play a regular-season game, our anticipation just continues to build.

Who wants to talk about a senior who might improve his scoring average by two points per game when you can instead fantasize about what players such as Isaiah Whitehead and Rashad Vaughn can bring to the table?

Another reason we’re preoccupied with freshmen is that they’re better than ever before.

While some would argue that single-sport specialization is to blame for the rise in Tommy John surgeries in baseball, the plus side is that it has led to guys honing their basketball craft in organized environments on a nearly year-round basis.

Finding a truly raw freshman in this day and age is about as rare as finding a restaurant that doesn’t advertise gluten-free menu options.

So it’s not much of a surprise that Jahlil Okafor (Duke) is being heralded as a favorite for the 2015 Wooden Award before ever playing a regular-season college game.

Guys such as Stanley Johnson (Arizona), Cliff Alexander (Kansas), Myles Turner (Texas), Justin Jackson (North Carolina) and Kentucky’s entire freshman class (Kentucky) aren’t quite as lauded as Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker were a season ago, but they will be at the forefront of this entire seasonnot just as great college basketball players but also as likely lottery picks in the 2015 NBA draft.

 

Something Borrowed

Love it or hate it, transfers are as much a part of college basketball in 2014 as recruiting and three-point shooting.

According to the list ESPN Insider Jeff Goodman has been updating, in the past 12 months, nearly 700 D-I players have either transferred to a new school or at least filed the paperwork to transfer. That’s roughly two players per team in a sport with rosters that run an average of only 14 players deep.

In terms of percentage of the population affected, transferring is practically a pandemic. And that doesn’t include the dozens of players who transfer from junior college to D-I.

Let’s be honest, though: At least 85 percent of players fail to do anything more at their new schools than they accomplished at their old ones. For every Ryan Harrow (transferred from Kentucky to Georgia State) and DeAndre Kane (transferred from Marshall to Iowa State), there are dozens of disgruntled players who don’t suddenly become superstars.

So rather than focusing on the sheer volume of guys switching uniforms, you’ll want to key in on a few players who are going to make huge impacts at their new schools.

Rodney Purvis could be the most important piece for a Connecticut team looking to defend a title it won without him.

Kyle Wiltjer and Byron Wesley are high-major talents joining forces at a mid-major program in Gonzaga and hoping to get America’s favorite Cinderella team back to the tournament as a No. 1 seed for the second time in three years.

Bryce Dejean-Jones, Jameel McKay and Abdel Nader join a long list of impact players to transfer to Iowa State in the past few years.

Each transfer will play a huge role this yearnot just on his new team but also on the entire landscape of the 2014-15 college basketball season.

And on the less discussed side of the coin, what type of negative impact could some of this transferring have on big-name programs?

Say what you will about each player who left, but Kansas appears to be lacking in backcourt depth after seeing Naadir Tharpe, Conner Frankamp and Andrew White III transfer this summer. And while Auburn added almost an entire roster via transfers, teams such as Maryland and Oregon lost that many players.

If you think it’s bad now, just wait until Florida goes out and wins 28 games with a roster that is nearly 50 percent former transfers. Unless the NCAA finally cracks the whip and makes players get the degrees they claim to be transferring to receive, we may be seeing just the tip of the transfer iceberg.

 

Something Blew

Speaking of degrees, Rashad McCants blew the whistle on North Carolina’s complete disregard for the academic part of being a student-athlete.

What started out looking like an “innocent” get-rich-quick scheme by a former player blossomed throughout the summer into a full-blown campus-wide scandal.

Just days ago, Tydreke Powell, a former defensive tackle for UNC’s football team, called into a radio show and poured more gasoline on the fire by accusing head coach Butch Davis of saying, among other things, “If y’all came here for an education, you should’ve went to Harvard.”

That came after Kenneth Wainstein published his findings from months of research into North Carolina’s academic integrity.

Here’s the link if you care to read the full 130-page report. Taking the title—”Investigation of Irregular Classes in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill”in conjunction with those comments from McCants and Powell, you get the gist of the kind of mess going on at North Carolina.

Now for the question we’re most interested in: What sanctions are coming North Carolina’s way?

This thing isn’t going away anytime soon, and there’s no chance it ends well for North Carolina. So are we talking vacated wins and championships from previous seasons and a probation period in which classes are closely monitored, or are the Tar Heels headed for some type of death penalty effective immediately?

We’ve seen the NCAA come down with the hammer of Thor on teams and coaches who defile the amateur nature of student-athletes by paying them, but a years-long farcical treatment of education is a whole new ball of wax.

Teams get banned from the postseason for low APR scores, but what about teams with fraudulent APR scores?

 

Coaches on the Hot Seat

The NCAA’s discipline committee will likely determine whether Roy Williams still has a job at North Carolina after (during?) this season, but there are quite a few other coaches whose fates will depend on the success of their basketball programs.

One name that has been more popular than usual is Indiana’s Tom Crean.

He has lost a ton of transfers over the past few seasons, and more than a couple of his players have dealt with off-the-court issues over the past several months, leading many to believe Crean has completely lost control of things at Indiana. Never mind the fact that the Hoosiers’ winning percentage dropped by 275 points last year.

Another (new) Big Ten coach facing similar problems is Maryland’s Mark Turgeon.

The Terrapins lost a ton of transfers this summer. In total, five players transferred away from the school, and a highly rated recruit (Trayvon Reed) was dismissed from the program after committing petty theft at a convenience store. And it’s not as if Maryland was exactly on the up and up to begin with, posting a mediocre 17-15 record in its final year in the ACC.

Lest you think we’re just picking on the Big Ten, Kevin Willard (Seton Hall) and Billy Kennedy (Texas A&M) could be in some serious trouble if they don’t lead their respective teams to the tournament this year. And you better believe Oliver Purnell (DePaul) and Tom Pecora (Fordham) will be on the chopping block if they don’t at least show signs of turning around their perennially awful programs.

Those are just the coaches from major or pseudo-major conference programs you’ve probably at least heard of in your lifetime. There are dozens of others in the minor conference ranks living in fear of the ax.

Really, though, is anyone safe? This offseason, there were 47 head coaching changes among the 351 D-I programs. Last year, there were 46, so it’s not out of the ordinary to see more than 13 percent of the nation’s head coaches bite the dust.

 

Well, At Least One Coach Is Safe

Unless things go unfathomably sour, Mike Krzyzewski will be reaching a milestone this season that no other men’s college basketball coach has ever reached.

With 983 wins in his illustrious career, Coach K is a mere 17 wins away from reaching 1,000.

Should the Blue Devils decide to go undefeated for the first two months of the season, he could reach that 1,000th win on January 17 on the road against Louisville. That is, at best, an improbable proposition, though. More likely, he’ll get there in the final days of January or the first week of February.

Regardless of when it happenshopefully in a home game, because, come on, who wants to make history away from home?you will hear about it nonstop for approximately 10 days before and two days after the fact.

“Is Mike Krzyzewski the greatest coach in college basketball history?”

“Is Coach K the greatest coach in the history of sports?”

Get ready for all sorts of stat-driven pieces with titles along those lines.

Also, get ready for people to start referring to him as Coach 1K once he reaches that milestone. Has that idea been trademarked yet, or can I call dibs on it?

 

Who Is This Year’s Connecticut?

What the Huskies did last season was unprecedented. Only one other No. 7 seed had even advanced as far as the Final Four, and it had been 30 years since Virginia pulled that off in 1984.

So no, we’re not looking another No. 7 seed that can make an unlikely run to win it all.

But which fringe Top 25 team has likable players, a young, animated coach and a snowball’s chance of completely ruining your bracket?

Could it be Connecticut for a second straight season?

After losing Napier, DeAndre Daniels, Niels Giffey, Lasan Kromah and Tyler Olander, it seems unlikely. The Huskies might win the AAC title, but another national championship is a long shot at best.

In his AAC preview, CBSSports.com’s Matt Norlander wrote, “Will Ryan Boatright be the type of leading man in the backcourt that Napier was? Will he revert to some of his erratic ways without that mentor? Can he accept this role? … The Huskies will be interesting again, but it could take them a little while to be undeniably good.”

Could it be one of Connecticut’s conference rivals?

For as loosely specific as those criteria were, Memphis certainly seems to check all the boxes.

In their first year in a “major” conference, the Tigers kind of nondescriptly coasted through the 2013-14 season but showed occasional signs of serious promisea season sweep of Louisville, for example. A lot of people are writing them off after losing all those senior guards, but with Shaq Goodwin and Austin Nichols leading the way in the paint, they’ll be solid.

Another great option could be Utah. Led by Wright and Jordan Loveridge, the Utes won’t be the favorites in the Pac-12, but they’re plenty capable of putting together a nice streak of wins against quality opponents.

 

Who Is This Year’s Wichita State?

What Wichita State did last season was even more unprecedented than what Connecticut did. No other team has ever won 35 consecutive games in the same season.

The odds of it happening in back-to-back seasons are astronomical. It’ll never happen. Blah, blah, blah.

Where’s your sense of adventure?

Instead of being a Debbie Downer, let’s assume there will be an undefeated team again this year and go looking for the top candidate. 

The bold choice is Arizona. Though the Wildcats play in a major conference, they have a very forgiving schedule until road games against Utah and Colorado in late February.

According to KenPom.com (subscription required), Arizona has at least a 59 percent chance of winning each individual game it playsand really, let’s call it 63 percent, because there’s no way Oregon has the best chance of beating Arizona this season.

KenPom.com’s formulas estimate that Arizona has a 0.3 percent chance of going undefeated. That doesn’t include Arizona’s second and third games in the Maui Invitational or its Pac-12 tournament games, but, hey, it’s literally better than nothing.

The less bold choice is Harvard. The Crimson play one extremely difficult road game against Virginia and a somewhat difficult road game against Arizona State. Outside of that, a home game against Massachusetts is the only game they play against any team with realistic NCAA tournament aspirations.

Another reason it’s a less bold choice is that Harvard plays only 28 games before the NCAA tournament, as opposed to 34 for the vast majority of teams that win their conference tournaments. Harvard can’t possibly go 35-0, even if it wins the national championship, but entering the tournament with an undefeated record might not be a completely insane suggestion.

Until the season begins, anything remains possible.

 

And One Last Thing…

Five teams that made the 2014 NCAA tournament as single-digit seeds but won’t be dancing this year: Creighton (No. 3), Saint Louis (No. 5), Oregon (No. 7), New Mexico (No. 7) and Oklahoma State (No. 9).

The five teams most likely to take their places: Utah, Iowa, Georgetown, SMU and Arkansas.

Now bring on Texas Southern vs. Eastern Washington!

 

Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.

Read more College Basketball news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – College Basketball

Los Angeles Clippers Need DeAndre Jordan to Make One More Leap This Season

The Los Angeles Clippers are calling DeAndre Jordan‘s name, and he hasn’t responded—yet. 

The man who finished third in Defensive Player of the Year voting a season ago was supposed to make another leap during his second year under coach Doc Rivers. But so far, DJ has actually regressed following his breakout season.

Jordan’s improvement last year was mental over all else. He didn’t physically develop. He was always a freak athlete. But while playing for Rivers, it all clicked in his head.

DJ hit his rotations more sharply. He understood how to defend the pick-and-roll better. He didn’t bite as often on pump fakes. He boxed out more than he ever had, pulling down a career-high and league-leading 13.6 boards a night. He just looked like a different guy.

It didn’t all happen early either. Jordan may have gotten off to a nice start, but “nice” is hardly great. Through 11 games last season, the Clippers stood 29th in points allowed per possession, leading to countless not-good-enough-defensively-to-win-a-championship labels for L.A. 

But December Jordan was better than November Jordan. January Jordan was better than December Jordan. The Clippers finished eighth in points allowed per possession, and the progression continued until he averaged 15.1 rebounds and 4.0 blocks per game during last year’s first-round playoff series against the Andrew Bogut-less Golden State Warriors.

DeAndre Jordan looked like a different player—and his team became that much more suffocating because of it. The improvement seemed as if it would carry into the 26-year-old’s current season. But it hasn’t.

Jordan has anchored the Clippers to the league’s 21st-ranked defense through seven games, though the poor results aren’t fully DJ’s fault.

The wing defenders have let perimeter ball-handlers slide by them with Michael Jackson-like grace. Opponents are getting to the rim whenever they want, and once they get there, there’s not much for Jordan to do.

That’s partly the Clippers are allowing ghastly 60.5 percent shooting at the rim, good for worst in the league, even with a center who’s thought of as a world-class paint protector.

It’s not all on the wings, though. Jordan also hasn’t been putting himself or his team in a position to succeed, straying from the paint more often than before. He hasn’t been the anchor he was a year ago. And like with his improvement, his regression isn’t physical. It’s all stylistic.

One of the reasons Jordan bolted his way into the top-10 NBA Defenders Club last season was because of his ability to contain and anchor, two necessary traits for a dominant defensive center.

Through the Clippers’ seven games and especially in the first five-and-a-half, Jordan has jumped passing lanes and showed particularly high during pick-and-rolls, leaving the paint unmanned without anyone coming over to help.

He’s been far more aggressive on the defensive end than we saw before, which is not an inherently bad trait. Some of the NBA’s best defenders—Joakim Noah, for example—share that characteristic. But there’s a glaring difference: When Noah leaves the paint to defend the perimeter, he has Taj Gibson or another upper-echelon defender there to rotate behind him. And Jordan’s teammates aren’t helping him. 

Actually, as Jordan has gotten more aggressive on the defensive end, his frontcourt-mate, Blake Griffin, has seen his effectiveness deteriorate.

Griffin was never an all-world defender, though he did bring himself up to capable levels last season. But for some reason, it’s been different in 2014-15.

You can blame it on offseason back issues, flu-like symptoms, lack of effort, disinterest or anything else that I can’t think of off the top of my head. We can’t know for sure exactly why Griffin’s defense has taken such a noticeable dip this year. But whatever the trigger, Griffin’s lost the ability to help the helper, often not even bothering to get into a defensive stance.

With DJ, it all looks antsy, like on this play from a Nov. 5 game, when the Warriors torched the Clippers D for 121 points. Watch Jordan lunge for the pass aimed at Andrew Bogut:

Bogut is not a threat beyond the three-point line as long as there’s a defender in front of him. But when Jordan goes for the interception as opposed to staying back and manning up, he gives one of the best-passing big men in the game a chance to create an open shot.

So Bogut takes a couple dribbles and kicks to a now wide-open Draymond Green, whose man, Griffin, had to jump into the lane to prevent an easy layup. 

Therein lies the issue. When DJ leaves the paint, the Clippers are no longer capable of protecting it.

Ultimately, it’s about recognition, and while Jordan has been incrementally better over the past game-and-a-half (we’ll get to this later), he started the year prioritizing shots outside the paint too much, partly because the Clippers struggled so much guarding the wings.

Just a few plays after the one mentioned above, Jordan contests a Klay Thompson fake in the paint, but when Thompson passes out to the corner, DeAndre gets caught ball-watching and doesn’t notice Bogut slide below the hoop. When he does, DJ jumps the passing lane again and gives up a wide-open, two-handed slam:

This isn’t a horrendous play by Jordan. It’s just not a particularly heady one, and in the end, it’s not what the Clippers should hope for from a guy who they need to be great to find success.

He wasn’t following the ball to a fault much last year. He wasn’t attempting those anxious desperation plays as often either. Granted, the help was coming more quickly when he did.

The Clippers’ communication is far from perfect.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about a play against the Sacramento Kings indicative of a particular rotation with which the Clippers were having trouble. DeMarcus Cousins rocked the Clips in their matchup, partly because of L.A.’s lack of communication on the pick-and-roll. Here was the play in reference:

See how DeAndre Jordan switches from Cousins to the roll man, Jason Thompson, on this play? Griffin doesn’t register the switch and takes a step toward Thompson before darting to Cousins late, only to lean in lazily and foul on the Cousins make.

It’s impossible to say exactly who is responsible here. It could be on Jordan for not communicating the switch in time. It could be on Griffin for not adjusting quickly enough or not understanding the switch. Griffin is, after all, a historically struggling pick-and-roll recoverer

Still, Jordan’s communication, which improved so mightily throughout last season, is not as strong as it was by the time the Clips got to the playoffs a year ago, and the team’s help defenders are suffering for it.

The Clippers can still improve the defense. These are philosophical, mental issues which they already know. They just forgot them. And over the past couple games, they’re slowly starting to remember it all.

Jordan played his best defensive half of the season during the final two quarters against the Portland Trail Blazers on Nov. 8, when the Clippers allowed just 40 points and pulled out a 106-102 victory.

He played another strong game against the San Antonio Spurs two days later, totaling five blocks and containing far better than he did in the first five-and-a-half. He’s starting to rein in the overaggression, the impulsiveness which led to open shots like the Green make and the Bogut dunk.

He’s even commanding the defense better, re-earning the anchor label he was tagged with last year, and the team defense is clearly improving because of it.

Even though LaMarcus Aldridge makes this third-quarter shot, watch Jordan trap Damian Lillard on the screen-and-roll and call for Jamal Crawford to rotate toward a popping LMA as J.J. Redick slides to man Wes Matthews down low:

That’s admirably executed offense which leads to a shot make, but it’s also well-oiled defense, even leading to DJ getting into rebound position in case of a miss. And this wasn’t the only instance of the Clippers shoring up their rotations. They move like this for the whole second half against the Blazers. 

In the play below, Jordan actually stifles two pick-and-rolls on one possession. 

Jordan denies the passing lane to Aldridge on the first pick-and-roll, forcing Portland into another set. The Blazers then go into this formation out of which they would run another screen-and-roll, this time for Robin Lopez. Look at how far from Lopez Jordan stands at the start of the play:

But DJ reads the rim-run perfectly, leaving Aldridge to help on the Blazers center, forcing a pass to the corner without much time left on the clock. 

Of course, Chris Paul reads the lane and closes out on a miss to conclude the play.

This is how the Clippers, who led the league in three-point percentage against a season ago, played for most of last season. They can regain that, especially if Jordan continues to run as he did during the final two periods against the Blazers, a half which should absolutely be on his resume tape.

The Clippers allowed a stifling 80.3 points per 100 possessions during those couple quarters. Even in a loss, they had a 95.3 defensive rating versus the Spurs on Monday. Both of those figures are better than the Indiana Pacers‘ league-leading defensive efficiency from last year. There’s improvement, but Jordan isn’t all the way there. And neither is this defense. 

For a squad with struggling wing defenders, it’s not crazy to say Jordan has to be even better than he was a season ago for the Clippers defense to reach the same levels. Entering his prime, he’s perfectly capable of doing that. We just haven’t seen it yet.

 

Fred Katz averaged almost one point per game in fifth grade but maintains that his per-36-minute numbers were astonishing. Find more of his work at WashingtonPost.com or on ESPNs TrueHoop Network at ClipperBlog.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredKatz.

All quotes obtained firsthand. Unless otherwise noted, all statistics are current as of Nov. 12 and are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com.

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Cavs ‘need’ early struggles, already improving

LeBron James says the Cavaliers are playing better now. But that congeal

      
 

 

View full post on USATODAY – NBA Top Stories

Cavs ‘need’ these early struggles

LeBron James says the Cavaliers are playing better now. But that congeal

      
 

 

View full post on USATODAY – NBA Top Stories

Do Atlanta Hawks Need a Trade to Fix Broken Bench?

The Atlanta Hawks have struggled to get offensive production from their bench to open the 2014-15 season.

In the team’s 2-3 start, Hawks starters have averaged a combined 75.2 points per game, which ranks No. 6 in the league, per HoopsStats.com.

And the reserves?

Atlanta’s bench is scoring just 28.4 points per game, the No. 21 mark in the NBA. Its 42.4 field-goal percentage also ranks No. 21. Those rankings are down from the team’s No. 11 and No. 15 rankings in those categories, respectively, from last season.

Do the Hawks need a trade to bolster their reserves? Let’s examine this question in terms of the bench the team already has, the importance of having good reserves and the players on the market.

 

What’s Happening with the Hawks Reserves?

Seven reserve Hawks have played minutes so far to start the season: Thabo Sefolosha, Pero Antic, Mike Scott, Dennis Schroder, Shelvin Mack, Kent Bazemore and Elton Brand. (They were ordered according to number of minutes played.)

Two of these players, Scott and Schroder, have played very well, while the rest have not impressed.

The 26-year-old Scott is in the midst of a career year. Through five games, the stretch 4 is averaging 10.0 points in just 14.8 minutes per game, and his player efficiency rating is an excellent 21.2. 

Schroder, meanwhile, is soaring to new heights (both literally and figuratively) after a disappointing rookie season. In the table below, notice the sharp increase in the point guard’s numbers from last year to the first five games of 2014-15.

But most of the bench has been ineffective.

Sefolosha, Antic, Mack, Bazemore and Brand are playing just as badly as Scott and Schroder are playing well. All five have registered a PER under 9.0, and Antic leads the quintet with a measly 6.0 points per game.

Aside from Brand, every one of the aforementioned five averaged at least 6.0 points per contest in 2013-14. None of them are bad players, but each is playing badly so far this season.

 

Does a Team Need Bench Offense to Thrive?

Before deciding whether the Hawks should make a trade for a bench scorer, we must assess the gravity of the issue at hand.

Does a successful team really need lots of bench scoring? 

In theory, having a deep bench with several scorers takes some of the pressure off of the starting unit, and can preserve the team’s stars for a deep playoff run. On the other hand, relying on the bench too much may prevent the starters from establishing on-court chemistry and timing with each other.

One way to look at the importance of a good bench is by analyzing how many points past champions have gotten from their reserves.

In the past 10 years, championship teams have been been right around the league average in bench points per game. Although an offensively high-powered bench is a nice bonus, it is by no means a requirement of an elite team.

Considering Atlanta’s starting lineup includes a great all-around point guard (Jeff Teague), the NBA’s quintessential shooting specialist (Kyle Korver), a versatile defensive stopper (DeMarre Carroll) and two All-Star post players (Paul Millsap and Al Horford), the Hawks shouldn’t need an amazing bench to be successful, either.

 

Who’s On the Market?

If the Hawks look to a trade to bolster their bench scoring, they would probably look for a wing with the ability to create his own shot.

Offensively, the second unit is set at point guard (Schroder) and power forward (Scott). Both Sefolosha and Bazemore are more defensive-minded wings, so offense from that spot is a legitimate weakness.

Two wings who could make an impact for Atlanta are the Phoenix Suns‘ Gerald Green and the Minnesota Timberwolves‘ Kevin Martin. According to Sports Illustrated‘s Rob Mahoney, both are prime trade targets.

Green took his offensive skills to another level last season with the Phoenix Suns, averaging a career-high 15.8 points in 28.4 minutes per game. The 28-year-old shooting guard is also a breathtaking leaper, as the below YouTube video illustrates.

However, the Suns’ stacked backcourt rotation of Isaiah Thomas, Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe is stealing some of Green’s playing time. Green is averaging just 21.3 minutes per game in six games this season, down 7.1 from last year. A change of scenery to a team more in need of his explosive scoring could be in order.

The 31-year-old Martin is a bona fide microwave on offense—he’s very is dangerous when he heats up.

Although he’s started 459 of his 625 career games, Martin placed fourth in Sixth Man of the Year voting for the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012-13. His career average of 20.9 points per 36 minutes could be a huge asset for the Hawks off the bench. The Timberwolves may find that Martin’s presence is ruining the team’s youth movement and will want to move him. Trading the veteran would open up more playing time for youngsters Andrew Wiggins, Shabazz Muhammad and Zach LaVine.

Of course, the Hawks need attractive trade bait to get a player of Green’s or Martin’s caliber.

Atlanta’s best option in that area may be their first-round pick in the 2015 draft. According to Pro Sports Transactions, this pick would be the more favorable slot between the Hawks and the Brooklyn Nets in next summer’s draft. So if the Hawks were in position for the No. 20 overall pick and the Brooklyn Nets were slotted to draft at No. 16, the owner of this pick would get to select 16th overall.

 

What’s the Verdict?

Atlanta’s bench would probably improve with a trade for a wing scorer, but the team shouldn’t shake things up just yet.

The No. 21 ranking in bench scoring is not ideal, but that has come with five of the team’s seven reserves playing well below their normal production level. Expect that mark to improve somewhat as Sefolosha and Bazemore acclimate themselves to the Hawks’ system and rookie Adreian Payne returns from a plantar fasciitis injury.

The emergence of Scott and Schroder is also encouraging, but they’re averaging only 14.8 and 11.8 minutes per game, respectively. Head coach Mike Budenholzer must realize that these two are the linchpins of his second unit and give them more playing time.

If the newcomers get used to the system and Scott and Schroder see more court time, the Hawks bench could become a respectable group. 

And, as we found out earlier, a merely respectable bench can still push a team into contention when it is paired with an excellent starting lineup, which the Hawks have. 

Adding a wing scorer like Green or Martin via trade is still a risky move—it could add a new dimension to the bench’s attack, or it could hinder the reserves’ on-court chemistry and cost it valuable future assets.

Unless the bench starts playing worse than it already is, the Hawks should play it safe and resist the impulse to make a trade.

 

Note: All statistics are from Sports-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated. Season stats are updated through all November 8 games.

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Next Page »