NBA fans need to see the ‘Every Player In The League’ Tumblr

There are some things that as soon as you see it, you immediately lose your mind. When Phillip Barnett dropped by in the TSFJ e-offices with a gift, I immediately assumed trickery. The man never brings gifts; usually, he only brings his Los Angeles Lakers fandom and San Francisco Giants stress. I have time for […]
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San Antonio Spurs Need to Make Kawhi Leonard Next Max Contract Star Now

Whether motivated by practical reasons or symbolic ones, the San Antonio Spurs must do everything possible to lock up Kawhi Leonard immediately.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, the max contract Leonard wants—the one that could quickly wipe away present and future uncertainty—isn’t on offer: “As Kawhi Leonard holds firm on his desire for a maximum contract, extension talks with the San Antonio Spurs have failed to gather traction despite a looming Friday deadline.”

Said deadline is Oct. 31, the point at which Leonard must either sign an extension or ticket himself for restricted free agency next summer. San Antonio will retain the ability to match any deal he signs at that point, but the reasons to get an agreement in place now are compelling.

 

Practical Concerns

Leonard is a 23-year-old defensive monster whose year-over-year growth indicates he’s nowhere near his ceiling.

The ability to control an NBA basketball game without scoring is something many veteran stars never master, but the Spurs small forward already does it. And the statistical improvement is nice, but Leonard’s real value is as a gap-filler—a guy who can contribute in whatever area his team needs on a given night.

No, his numbers—12.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game in 2013-14—don’t scream maxed-out superstar. But he posted those averages as a fourth option playing under 30 minutes per game. It’s crazy to assume his statistical production will top out there.

Spurs General Manger R.C. Buford has been watching Leonard exceed expectations since the team acquired him, per David Aldridge of NBA.com: “We’d be foolish to say that we knew Kawhi was going to be the player he is today,” Buford said.

Even if Leonard is done getting better (he’s not), you could make a very strong case he deserves a five-year, $90 million contract as is. How many players on their rookie deals emerge from an NBA Finals spent guarding LeBron James as the series’ MVP?

Moreover, you can’t discuss any potential contract extension without referring to the NBA’s new TV deal—the one that will result in a higher salary cap at some point in the next two seasons, per Grantland’s Zach Lowe.

A total investment of around $90 million sounds like a lot for Leonard, but if the cap spikes by as much as 20 percent, it might end up being a bargain.

Even ruling out the changing economic climate of the NBA, there’s still the basic concept of market value. Things get even less complicated when you consider Leonard’s worth relative to his peers’, according to Kurt Helin of NBCSports.com: “It’s pretty simple from where I sit: “If Gordon Hayward and Chandler Parsons can get big money as small forwards on the open market, Kawhi Leonard is worth that as well.”

Hayward signed a four-year, $63 million offer sheet with the Charlotte Hornets this summer, which the Utah Jazz quickly matched. Parsons inked his own deal with the Dallas Mavericks for three years and $46 million. Younger, already in possession of a ring and steadily improving, Leonard’s value is greater than that of either of those two.

 

Transitions

The Spurs need Leonard to be their bridge.

Tim Duncan is set to hit free agency after this season. So are Manu Ginobili, Danny Green and Marco Belinelli.

Tony Parker re-upped through the 2017-18 campaign, but he’s already 32. We shouldn’t expect a player whose entire game is built on quickness to remain a star in the latter years of that deal.

In short, it’s entirely possible the Spurs would become Leonard’s team as soon as next season. The sheer volume of institutional knowledge and championship lessons in his head is invaluable. If the Spurs want to transport the tenets of their incredible run to another generation, Leonard is the vessel.

They can’t afford to lose him.

That fact gives rise to another: The Spurs aren’t in danger of losing Leonard. Failing to max him out now still gives them a chance to keep him in restricted free agency. They’re in control.

But what if Leonard gets an offer sheet like the one Parsons did, and San Antonio has to match a deal that keeps him in town for far fewer than five years? With the uncertainty surrounding the cap, isn’t a short-term offer sheet (one that would get him to free agency as quickly after the cap spike as possible) be exactly the kind Leonard would want to sign?

Restricted free agency can be controlled—but not totally. The Spurs could find themselves at the mercy of another team’s offer sheet. And it might result in Leonard leaving years sooner than he otherwise would have.

Plus, there’s the personal angle.

Why antagonize such a valuable franchise cornerstone by dragging things out? The Spurs should want the guy who’ll be bridging the gap between the last era and the next one to do it happily, right? Leonard is going to be the main attraction for other free agents (what superstar wouldn’t want to play with him?), so it would behoove San Antonio to lock him up and keep him happy.

And if the Spurs’ veterans all agree to stick around for one more year after this one, that’s all the more reason for the front office to do what it must to keep Leonard around.

San Antonio will only need him to pick up more slack if it keeps the core together for another run in 2015-16.

 

A Symbolic Gesture

It’s tempting to criticize Leonard for breaking with tradition by not immediately taking a discount to stay with the Spurs. Duncan, Parker and Ginobili have all done it, and given his humble demeanor, maybe we thought Leonard would do it, too.

But he’s absolutely within his rights to get whatever he can. And the Spurs need to show prospective free agents that they are prepared to deal fairly.

Replicating the Duncan-era run is going to be impossible for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the anomaly of a transcendent, generational superstar taking far less than his market value. The Spurs would be foolish to go on hoping that every big-name talent they acquire will be wired that way.

San Antonio has to max out Leonard to show it’s ready to join the rest of the NBA in reality, that it is prepared to wake up from the dream it’s been living in for almost 20 years. Other squads don’t get superstar trios to take discounts. Someday, the Spurs will cease to get that special treatment.

Someday, they’ll cease to be special at all.

Whenever this era ends, whenever Duncan, Ginobili and Popovich decide they’re through, the Spurs will see the playing field level out for the first time in years. They’ll have to compete with other teams on equal terms—both on the court and in free agency.

Maxing out Leonard now will show they understand that, and it’ll mean everything for their future.

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Chicago Bulls Need To Send A Message In NBA Opener

The playacting is done.  Preseason is over.  The Chicago Bulls see their NBA quest unfolding in New York, and they have to send a message.
Remind Carmelo Anthony What He Could Have Joined
First of all, and perhaps a bit selfishly, the Bulls need to head into Madison Square Garden with a chip on their shoulder.  After all, they pulled out all the stops in order to convince All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony he would’ve been a perfect fit with them in Chicago.  Instead he chose to stay with the New York Knicks for more money.  It was an honest choice, but that should not stop the Bulls from giving him a nice, stark reminder of what he could’ve joined.
Win On The Road Brings Good Confidence
More importantly though is the game itself.  No team likes to start off an NBA season with a loss.  The Chicago Bulls are no different.  Nothing is a guarantee for them in this matchup, but it’s in the Big Apple with the national media watching.  A win on the road to start the year would do wonders for their conf

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Sensational Rookie Season from Julius Randle Is What Los Angeles Lakers Need

In the middle of an ongoing rebuilding phase, the Los Angeles Lakers need certain things in order to have any success in a loaded Western Conference. One huge priority will be a sensational season from Julius Randle.

The Lakers suffered through their worst loss record in franchise history last season with a meager 27-55 record. Their consolation prize was the No. 7 pick in the draft lottery. When the big night arrived, they chose Randle—a hard-charging freshman power forward out of Kentucky.

The preseason has offered varying degrees of progress for the 6’9″ lefty, whether through strong inside work or leading a fast break like a runaway bull. It has been both promising and maddening.

Would you expect more from a 19-year-old before the regular season even begins?

Randle is drawing plenty of commentary from his first NBA head coach—at times positive, and in other instances, sharply worded.

After an early preseason loss, Byron Scott described the young rookie as follows, per Arash Markazi of ESPN LA: “I thought he was lost, in the first half especially.”

It is a story as old as sports itself—a tough-love coach and a headstrong, yet impressionable pupil. And in the end, we hopefully learn that the Los Angeles Lakers and Randle need each other in equal measure in order to succeed.

One is a grizzled coach who had to sweat three interviews and an extended wait to get hired by a team he used to play for. The other is a teenager who tends to scatter opponents like bowling pins.

Patience, young grasshopper—you have to learn where your place truly is in the basketball universe.

Scott isn’t the only one wielding both a stick and carrot—reigning franchise cornerstone Kobe Bryant has also been playing the part of the caring taskmaster.

Randle’s place is already becoming clearer—the headlong rushes are gaining control, and his jump shots are starting to fall. It appears that he wants to be more than a bull in a china shop.

As Mark Medina for the Los Angeles Daily News recently wrote, a lottery pick who was touted for his low-post moves is pushing the envelope in other ways:

For all the comparisons Randle has drawn to Memphis’ bruising power forward Zach Randolph, Lakers forward Ed Davis noticed that Randle has mirrored more of the modern version of Lamar Odom. Just as the former Lakers forward interchanged roles as a post player, facilitator and ball handler, Randle has provided the same job description:

‘It’s all about putting pressure on the defense when you can outrun the bigs and have the ball too. That’s what Coach wants me to do every time I get the rebound. I’m pushing the ball and making plays. I’ve been doing it my whole life so I’m comfortable with it.’

Much has been made of the Odom comparisons, but remember—the former Sixth Man of the Year was a chameleon in his prime. His full-court sallies occurred sparingly and when opponents least expected it. He spent long stretches setting up his teammates or concentrating on rebounding. His hesitation moves were a thing of beauty.

On Wednesday night during a win against the Portland Trail Blazers, Randle continued to show improvement with 17 points and eight rebounds in 24 minutes of play. More impressive than the total numbers was his efficiency, with 7-of-10 shooting and a nice mixture of interior play and end-to-end romps—this time at a less frenetic pace.

The second unit worked well together, with Jeremy Lin and Jordan Clarkson making their first appearances after missing several games due to sprained ankles and a calf strain, respectively. Ed Davis and undrafted rookie Roscoe Smith provided interior energy and glass cleaning.

After the game, Scott spoke about his young ward’s evolution, per Serena Winters of Lakers Nation:

I don’t think the kid has really ever had to play hard and I know he hasn’t ever had to work as hard as he’s had to this year. I still expect him to work harder but each game he seems to get a little bit better and that’s the progression that you want, and we all tend to forget that he’s 19. So, you’ve got to give him a little slack at times, even though I don’t, I should I guess.

With the start of the regular season looming, the obvious question becomes how much the Lakers need from Randle and how soon.

So far, the rookie is coming off the bench behind Carlos Boozer—the veteran frontcourt player and perennial starter who the Lakers claimed off amnesty waivers from the Chicago Bulls this season.

It’s likely that role will remain for now and that the young warrior’s lessons will continue unabated. Randle could well be the future of the franchise, but the powers that be don’t want to stunt his development through premature expectations.

Randle is where most young players are before they launch into their first regular-season games—a work in progress and untested when it counts in the NBA. But that doesn’t mean he can’t have a sensational rookie season, even if it’s filled with tough love and teaching moments.

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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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