Michigan Basketball: Why Mark Donnal, Ricky Doyle Are Potential Breakout Stars

They’re each roughly 6’9″ and 240 pounds. One has an inside game, one has an outside game—and both should be steady contributors to Michigan in 2014-15. 

But don’t ask Wolverines coach John Beilein to pigeonhole either one right now, as redshirt freshman Mark Donnal and true freshman Ricky Doyle have more to offer than what meets the eye:

I need to watch both of them more, but at the end of the preseason here, when we get into November, one will probably have the upper hand on the other, but I can’t make that call yet. We may get situational sometimes, but I wouldn’t discount Mark’s inside game or Ricky’s outside game.

The perception would be that one is one thing and the other is the other thing, but I think both have the ability to play the other’s game, and that’s what we’re working on, so they can be really versatile.

True enough. It’s early (really early), so pegging them into definite roles would be a bit premature. However, there’s no harm in a little projection, as each stands to give Michigan a leg up on the rest of the Big Ten. 

One’s going to have range while the other will live in the paint. Or is that the other way around?

This is a “problem” that any coach would like to have. Once Doyle and Donnal figure out their purpose, Beilein, a professional developer, should have one of best young forward tandems in the Big Ten. 


Fresh Frontcourt

This year’s frontcourt is one of Beilein’s youngest since arriving at Michigan. That’s not a bad thing; he knows how to bring out the best in his athletes. They may not take the Big Ten by storm this season, but the combination of Donnal and Doyle should evolve into something special. 

Michigan’s team trip to Italy yielded great results. Caris LeVert regained health, nearing 100 percent recovery from surgery on his right foot, while Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin also made strides in the right direction. 

But those guys are guards. Well, LeVert can play forward, but let’s keep it simple…

What about the true power forwards/centers? Mitch McGary is gone. So is Jordan Morgan, whose experience and knowledge will be difficult to replace.

As mentioned, the frontcourt is young. But Beilein isn’t complaining about that. Instead, he enjoys watching it grow. 

“Both Ricky and Mark have had interesting games,” Beilein said, per Jake Lourim of The Michigan Daily, UM’s student media source. “One time, Ricky didn’t get a rebound (in Italy) and then Mark all of a sudden had a double-double. Both of them are making really good progress. We’d like to see more, but I like what I’ve seen.”

Bacari Alexander, Beilein’s top assistant, recently discussed the potential of a Doyle/Donnal frontcourt during an interview with Sam Webb on WTKA 1050 (via Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press).

Doyle is “thunder,” and Donnal is “lightning,” he says.

There’s early signs of the potential of all three of our bigs, if you talk about Max Bielfeldt, as well, who’s coming back from a hip procedure. Being able to knock down 15-to-17-foot jumpers. Where that becomes important on the court is when teams are trying to use their defensive big to sag off and disrupt cutting action and things of that nature.

If you can develop those guys to a level where they keep defenses honest with the ability to do that, which all three of the players have shown early on, it give us a different dimension. It gives us an opportunity to explore some different things.

Lots of coach talk. That’s what they do. Everything is technical, tactical and precise (foggy). Allow for a loose translation: These two can ball, and Michigan can’t wait to see what they can do.

There. That sounds better, doesn’t it? 


The Scoop on Doyle

A few months ago, Doyle seemed all but destined for a redshirt. He was too raw. At the time, a year of learning from the bench and not on the court seemed like a smart move—and according to Matt Herting, who coached Doyle at Ft. Myers Bishop Verot, that probably wouldn’t have mattered. 

“His thinking was, he committed to play basketball at Michigan, so he’s going to do everything he can to play basketball at Michigan,” Herting, who saw “50-50″ odds of Doyle redshirting, told MLive’s Brendan F. Quinn in June. “If coming up early is going to give him the best chance to play, then he might as well. I think it was a no-brainer for he and his family.”

According to 247Sports, Doyle was the No. 50-ranked power forward and No. 203-ranked overall prospect of 2014.


The Deal on Donnal

Donnal was the No. 18-ranked power forward and No. 86-ranked overall prospect of 2013. He ended up wearing red for his first year of college.

So he’s a higher-ranked guy who ended up taking a seat on the bench? But this year, a lower-ranked guy is primed for immediate action? And they’re interchangeable and play in similar fashions? 


But personnel played a factor for Donnal, who, unlike Doyle, joined a team with established forwards. Now that he has a year of experience on his resume, he’s ready for action. In a sense, that was the best thing for him, as the Wolverines did fine without him. 

That was Beilein’s developmental touch at work. With Doyle and Donnal ready to pounce, Beilein’s in line to compete for a Big Ten title and extended run through March. 

Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines basketball writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81

Opening quote from John Beilein was obtained via press release from the Michigan athletic department.

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5 Potential Problems with Boston Celtics’ Rebuild

In case you haven’t heard, the Boston Celtics are in the process of rebuilding their ballclub. Of course, rebuilding is not everyone’s favorite decision, especially for a franchise that has won 17 NBA championships, but sometimes, circumstances make it absolutely unavoidable.

Thus far, the makeover has gone smoothly. General manager Danny Ainge has been able to cut ties with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, accumulate a wealth of draft picks and make good use of them and hire a head coach in Brad Stevens who seems like a perfect fit for the current situation.

That being said, nothing is ever 100 percent flawless, meaning that, somewhere along the line, something could go awry for Boston. Perhaps not enough to derail the rebuild completely, but at least enough to cause some bumps along the way.

Ainge has probably envisioned these potential issues already and has prepared appropriately for them, but sometimes, even the most thorough preparations cannot remedy problems right away.

Hopefully for the C’s, they don’t come across any of these hiccups.

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The One Thing Holding Andre Drummond Back from Reaching His Full Potential

Andre Drummond is far from a finished product, but there is one hole in his game that dwarfs all others—free-throw shooting.

Drummond made 41.8 percent of his free throws last season. Only one player in NBA history has posted a worse mark in a season with at least 300 free-throw attempts—Wilt Chamberlain.

Drummond‘s free-throw shooting was similarly bad as a rookie, bad enough to inspire Truehoop’s Ethan Sherwood Strauss to write Drummond a somewhat embarrassing open letter, encouraging him to try shooting free throws underhanded:

We both know your free throw efficiency factors into the intentional fouls. It’s easy to see why defenders would avoid your 60.8 percent field goal shooting in favor of your 37.1 percent free throw shooting. Until the league addresses “hack-a” strategies, you’ll also have to deal with teams fouling you before the play even starts. 

Drummond only averaged four free-throw attempts per game last season. That is a small total and means the difference between his free-throw percentage and a league-average player only cost his team about 1.3 points per game last season.

For a player who does so many things well, and inhabits such a small role on offense, free-throw shooting may seem like a small flaw to be focused on. Drummond was among the best rebounders in the league last season—offensively and defensively. He rarely turned the ball over, was among the best finishers in the league and is well on his way to becoming a defensive force. 

However, this small flaw is an enormous factor in his overall impact.

According to the NBA’s SportVU Player Tracking statistics, Drummond touched the ball 3,266 times last season. He was fouled 259 times over the course of the season, which works out to being fouled on about eight percent of his touches. If we filtered those touches and fouls to only include ones which occurred in the frontcourt, the number would probably be much higher.

Knowing you are going to be fouled regularly, undoubtedly changes the way you play. That fact is especially true when you’ve had experiences like this:

Going back to the SportVU statistics, we see that Drummond touched the ball 40.3 times per game on average last season. But on average, he actually had the ball in his hands for just 0.8 minutes per game. That means his average touch lasted about 1.2 seconds before he passed the ball, shot the ball or—about eight percent of the time—was fouled.

Those short touches are partially a function of how he is used in the offense—primarily as a screener and finisher around the basket. On one hand they are a good thing, as many of those short touches led directly to easy baskets. However, they also show what a small window he has for developing a comfort level with the ball in his hands, a prerequisite for developing new facets to his offensive game.

The fear of being fouled has both Drummond and his team working in concert to make sure that the vast majority of his touches are brief and end with a dunk. It’s a noble goal, but it also lowers his ceiling and solidifies him as the player he is right now. This semi-intentional limiting of Drummond also can be seen in different ways during the course of a game.

The table below shows Drummond‘s offensive involvement throughout the game, measured as possessions used per-36 minutes in each quarter. It also shows what percentage of his offensive possessions ended in trips to the free-throw line in each quarter.

Quarter Poss. per-36 Minutes % of Poss. from FTA
1st 15.0 7.9%
2nd 15.3 13.8%
3rd 13.4 17.7%
4th 12.5 19.3%

You can see that Drummond‘s offensive involvement shrinks as the game goes on. More than twice as many of his offensive possessions in the fourth quarter end in shooting fouls than in the first quarter.

We can’t attribute the entirety of this trend to Drummond‘s poor free-throw shooting, but it’s likely a fairly significant factor. Teams are more prone to foul him quickly down the stretch of games and his teammates, aware of this fact, seem less likely to involve him.

If his poor foul shooting is drawing a noose around both his involvement and his development, then clearly improvement from the line is the key to improvement in other places. However, the statistical track record is not good.

Research by Kevin Pelton at Basketball Prospectus found that, on average, players improve their free-throw shooting by a modest 0.7 percentage points per season up through age 27. At that rate of improvement, Drummond would hit his free-throw percentage peak at 46.7 percent. However, Pelton‘s research is looking at all players not just those who start near the bottom of the barrel.

In the three-point era, 10 players besides Drummond have shot less than 60.0 percent from the line on at least 450 free-throw attempts, across their first two seasons. Of those 10, six eventually pushed their free-throw percentage past 65.0 percent in a season. That group includes some players who actually become respectable from the line—Karl Malone, Rony Seikaly and Blake Griffin.

However, the average rate of improvement for the entire group was about 1.7 percentage points per season. That rate of growth would put Drummond at 53.7 percent by age 27, a huge improvement, but still far from respectability.

Ten players is an extremely small sample, far too small to draw any realistically reliable conclusions about Drummond‘s potential for growth. The small sample size may actually be even more telling here—just 10 other players were as unreliable at the stripe during their first two seasons as Drummond has been, and his numbers are even at the bottom of this group.

It is important to note that despite Drummond‘s poor free-throw shooting, the rest of his game undoubtedly makes him a net positive to have on the floor. His combination of ferocious offensive rebounding and high-efficiency (albeit low-usage) scoring has ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus estimating him as the fourth most effective offensive center in the league last season.

That’s not enough. From the ill-fitting trio of Drummond, Josh Smith and Greg Monroe, Drummond has by far the most potential. He is the center of the Pistons’ present and they would very much like him to be the center of their future as well. Those optimistic visions of the future show a player who is much more dynamic and versatile at the offensive end, one who can elevate the group instead of needing to be compensated for at the end of games. 

Making that dream a reality means making free throws at a respectable percentage. 


Statistical support for this story came from NBA.com/stats, unless otherwise stated.

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Phoenix Suns Betting on Potential over Production by Extending Morris Twins

The Phoenix Suns weren’t finished spending after reaching a five-year, $70 million agreement with emerging star Eric Bledsoe.

On the heels of a surprise 48-win season that nearly qualified the Suns for the playoffs, general manager Ryan McDonough‘s front office had a mandate to keep this young roster intact. That includes keeping the NBA‘s most famous twin duo in the fold for years to come.

In a market increasingly characterized by swelling player values, both of those deals are unequivocal bargains.

“We are excited to be able to extend the contracts of Marcus and Markieff,” McDonough said in a statement on the team’s website, via NBA.com. “They have had great success playing together at every level of basketball, including last season with the Suns…They are just entering their primes and we think they will play the best basketball of their careers over the course of the next five years.”

It’s what you’d expect a GM to say, but the optimism is well-founded. 

Markieff turned heads in his third season out of Kansas, averaging a career-high 13.8 points and six rebounds in 26.6 minutes per contest. He ranked as one of the league’s most effective sixth men, and his ability to stretch the floor becomes even more vital in the absence of Channing Frye, who left via free agency for the Orlando Magic.

NBA.com notes that, “In 2013-14, Markieff finished fourth in voting for the NBA Sixth Man of the Year and 10th in voting for NBA Most Improved Player as he led the league in points scored off the bench (1,115), double-digit scoring games off the bench (59) and double-doubles off the bench (11).”

Marcus commanded a smaller contract, reflecting the extent to which his career has been slightly less productive. Still, he’s coming off a season in which he averaged a career-high 22 minutes and 9.7 points per game.

Markieff was taken by Phoenix with the 13th overall pick in 2011. Marcus was taken immediately thereafter by the Houston Rockets and wasn’t traded to the Suns until 2013, at which point the Morris brothers became just the second pair of twins to join forces in the NBA—the first being Dick and Tom Van Arsdale, also of the Suns, way back in 1976-77 (h/t ESPN.com).

To this point, neither brother has shown superstar potential. They’re strong complementary players, and their versatility fits well with a Suns team that ranked eighth in pace a season ago, per Hollinger’s NBA Team Statistics. Head coach Jeff Hornacek likes to push tempo and look for the long ball, a game plan that privileges 4s who can space the floor.

Only three teams attempted more three-point field goals than the Suns last season, and this team collectively made 37.2 percent of those attempts—tied for the seventh-best mark in the league.

So these extensions are in part of a matter of chemistry. Continuity is always a good thing, but it’s even better when the personnel gel with the system.

But these extensions also reflect a hope that the Morris brothers continue their improvement. Each has undergone steady growth in his first three seasons, and—at 25 years old—McDonough‘s belief that they’re “just entering their primes” isn’t unrealistic. 

History seems to suggest Markieff has the higher ceiling, but he’ll likely be facing greater challenges this season.

As Grantland’s Zach Lowe put it, “Defenses will focus on him, and Morris will share the floor with more accomplished scorers if he replaces Channing Frye in the starting lineup.”

The good news is Morris has an increasingly polished game that very well could withstand heightened defensive attention.

Lowe added that, “Morris was one of the league’s very best post-up scorers last year; he shot 46 percent from the block, drew fouls at a decent rate, and took care of the ball, per Synergy.”

The big question is what kind of strides Markieff can make going forward. Having already made a big leap last season, a more pessimistic school of thought holds that his play will more or less plateau from here on out.

Even if that’s the case, Phoenix may have gotten a bargain. 

As NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman notes, “With the salary cap projected to rise drastically the next few years, neither [deal] will burn Phoenix.”

But the relatively modest dollar amounts attached to these deals should caution against any unreasonable expectations about how much impact either Morris twin will make—now or ever. No one is betting on All-Star appearances.

Rather, the realistic hope is that the Morrises continue taking small steps along with a young roster that’s still finding itself.

“We had to go over and over things last year because it was all new,” Hornacek said, according to The Arizona Republic‘s Paul Coro. “This year, we’ll get into things quicker and be able to play more. We should be able to cover the little things. We did a great job of scoring last season, but now it’s about the little things.”

Last season was Hornacek‘s first in Phoenix. Bledsoe and swingman Gerald Green are coming off their first campaigns with the club. After adding point guard Isaiah Thomas this summer, McDonough‘s roster appears to have taken shape.

Now’s the time for that group to build some connectivity and continue its rapid maturation.

From that perspective, it’s hard to see either of these deals backfiring even a little bit. At worst, the Suns have two good (maybe very good) power forwards in a rotation that tends to rely more on guard play anyway. This was something of a no-brainer for the organization.

Besides, this franchise isn’t going anywhere without taking some chances. 

“In finance, you learn once you’ve spent money, it is a sunk cost and it has no bearing on your next decision,” owner Robert Sarver said of past personnel decisions earlier in September, per Coro. “In this case, some numbers were really big. That makes you pause. You get used to the fact that you’re going to make mistakes. If you’re afraid to make mistakes, you’re going to be afraid to make decisions.”

The Suns certainly haven’t been averse to making decisions this summer. They’ll pay Thomas just $7,238,606 this season, a figure that declines in each of the three years after that. And even Bledsoe‘s pricey contract could eventually prove worth every penny.

Striking deals with Markieff and Marcus was the next logical step in a bid to keep the band together.

It wasn’t Phoenix’s noisiest move of the summer, but it was a crucial one. That will become all the clearer in time.

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5 NBA Teams That Should Gamble on Potential Rajon Rondo Trade

Any talk of trading Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo has to be qualified by the fact that he may or may not even be on the market. 

General manager Danny Ainge‘s most recent declaration expressed more hope than certainty.

The truthful answer is I really don’t know,” Ainge said when asked about the possibility of dealing Rondo, per the Worcester Telegram & Gazette‘s Bill Doyle. “I have no intention. I’m not trying to trade Rondo, but because he’s a free agent this summer, he assured me that he wants to stay in Boston. We’d love to keep him in Boston.”

“The possibility of a trade is not out of the question,” Ainge added. “Nobody is untradeable, but I don’t see that happening.”

That possibility will remain until and unless Rondo makes a long-term commitment to the organization. Otherwise, context suggests a trade may be even more than a possibility. Rondo is accustomed to winning, and it may be some time before the Celtics complete a protracted rebuilding process.

We may have limited insight into Rondo’s wishes and the front office’s intentions, but we do know Boston is nowhere close to becoming the kind of contender the 28-year-old ostensibly prefers.

As CBSSports.com’s James Herbert put it, “Regardless of what Rondo has or hasn’t expressed to Celtics management, trade rumors are bound to persist throughout this coming season if he’s not moved beforehand.”

So if the Celtics do decide to sell, who should consider buying?

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Atlanta mayor: Plenty of potential Hawks buyers (Yahoo Sports)

The mayor has already heard from plenty of potential buyers for the Atlanta Hawks. Flanked by Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins and other city leaders, Mayor Kasim Reed said Tuesday he expects the sale of the team to move briskly after racially charged comments by owner Bruce Levenson and general manager Danny Ferry. ”All six of those prospective buyers will have to go through a process to be vetted by the NBA.

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Can Iman Shumpert Finally Move from Potential to Sure Thing This Season?

Iman Shumpert’s career can be summed up in a single word: potential.

After getting drafted by the New York Knicks with the 17th overall pick in 2011, the 24-year-old guard has failed to realize the immense promise he showed during his rookie campaign.

It’s been three years—how long can one guy have potential?

Though he hasn’t been spectacular, Shumpert is no scrub. The 6’5” swingman is an all-out hustler and one of the NBA’s better perimeter defenders. If the ball is on the floor, you can bet that a flat-top will be scraping the hardwood in a matter of seconds.

Through his first three seasons, Shumpert has averaged pedestrian numbers—7.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.8 steals per game. He’s also showcased crazy athleticism, undying passion and good ball-handling and rebounding skills.

So why hasn’t he gotten better?

Numbers don’t lie. Shumpert, despite all of his potential, has been an average player whose scoring stats have dropped each year he’s been in the league.

Heading into his fourth season with the Knicks, Shumpert has a new coach in Derek Fisher, a different offense and a growing mountain of expectations to live up to.

This could very well be the year that Shumpert finally makes good on his potential. But what’s more likely: the explosive season we’ve been waiting three years for or yet another disappointment?


The Case for a Breakout Year

Shumpert was drafted as a point guard but mostly played shooting guard with the Knicks as a rookie. After tearing his ACL against the Miami Heat in the 2011-12 postseason, Shumpert returned to New York midway through 2012-13 and bounced between shooting guard and small forward.

Last season, he started 74 games at shooting guard but played a lot of SF, too. He deserves a chance to pinpoint a position before we write him off completely, doesn’t he?

Last season, coach Mike Woodson struggled to find a way to maximize Shump’s offensive talents. The 220-pound swingman is as strong as his hair is tall (when he grows it out) and can use his strength to get to the rim almost at will.

But Tim Hardaway Jr. shot his way into the picture last year, diminishing the need to play Shumpert around the three-point line. Thanks to Hardaway, Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith, there weren’t enough outside shots to go around for Shump last year.

Over the summer, Shumpert told Howie Kussoy of the New York Post that he’ll be better in NY’s new triangle offense:

There’s constant action going on. I think I’ll be able to capitalize off that and I’ll be able to use my athleticism a lot more than standing in the corner. … I know this year, this offense, I’ll have a lot more opportunities to cut and get to the basket, so I just want to work on the strength in my leg and be able to jump off and be comfortable.

Woodson’s offense revolved around isolation play and perimeter shots. Fisher’s system, which will be run under the guidance of Phil Jackson, is going to feature an increase in ball movement and drives to the tin.

In other words, we’ll see less of Melo and J.R.’s one-on-one extravaganza and more opportunities for Shumpert, Hardaway and other Knicks to put up points.

Here’s another thing to keep in mind throughout the year: No. 21 is set to hit free agency next summer.

Though he’ll be a restricted free agent with a qualifying offer of nearly $4 million already set by the Knicks, a big year will result in a nice payday.


The Case for a Forgettable Year

While the triangle will probably allow for a bigger role, Shumpert needs to drastically improve his shooting.

Sure, he might be open with more frequency. But what happens when nothing falls?

B/R’s Sean Hojnacki has more on that topic:

Though Shumpert has never been a particularly gifted shooter (39.6 percent from the field over three years at Georgia Tech), his efficiency has regressed in his time with the Knicks. Here are his shooting percentages listed chronologically by season: 40.1, 39.6 and 37.8 on field goals; 30.6, 40.2 and 33.3 on three-pointers; 79.8, 76.6 and 74.6 on free throws.

While Shumpert certainly expends the majority of his energy playing defense, those shooting numbers are borderline unacceptable. Even at the rim, he shot just 53.6 percent, raising questions about his finishing ability. He shot 23.3 percent from three to 10 feet and 29.2 percent from 10 to 16 feet, per Basketball-Reference.

The Knicks have dangled Shumpert as trade bait, almost excessively, over the course of the past two years. However, according to Marc Berman of the Post, Shumpert would appear to be safe with Jackson at the helm of basketball operations.

Back on March 16, Berman reported that “according to a league source, Jackson is a fan of Shumpert.”

Fan or not, Jackson will not hesitate to trade Shumpert if the right offer comes along.

In dealing Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to the Dallas Mavericks in return for a package that included Jose Calderon and a pick that turned into Cleanthony Early, Jackson proved that no Knick other than Melo is truly safe.

Don’t be surprised if more rumors involving Shumpert begin to heat up as the season goes on. And don’t be surprised if the fourth-year man struggles as a result.

Trade rumblings aside, the continued rise Hardaway may push Shumpert further down in the depth chart.

Hardaway put forth a sensational rookie season in 2013-14, averaging 10.2 points on 49.8 percent shooting from two-point range and 36.3 percent from downtown. He played 23.1 minutes a night.

In less playing time, Hardaway made a bigger scoring impact than Shumpert did in his 26.5 minutes last year.

Surely Hardaway will expand his game to more than just catching and firing in 2014-15, which means that Shumpert will have to fight even harder for minutes at shooting guard.

As he’s always done, Shumpert will hang his hat on the defensive end, where he’s worlds ahead of Hardaway.

His quick, physical presence will make him the Knicks’ go-to option on defense, but it’s likely that Shumpert will become the odd man out at the other end.


What Does This Year Hold?

Maybe Shumpert has been misunderstood throughout his whole career and this potential that surrounds him is merely a mirage.

Perhaps he’s just an ordianary player with a cool haircut. Perhaps he’ll never be a star, but rather a solid fifth or sixth option off the bench.

Shumpert’s brand of basketball would be more suited for a contender like the Oklahoma City Thunder or San Antonio Spurs. He works hard and defends with valor, but he struggles on the offensive end.

Shumpert could very well have a breakout season in 2013-14. It’s going to take vastly improved shooting, but it’s not entirely impossible.

What’s more likely, though, is another mediocre year with stats identical to what they’ve been during his whole career.

You know what three years in the league and three average seasons add up to?

An average player.

And that’s what Shumpert is. The potential and the “he’s going to be really good” thoughts are dead and gone. While the triangle might bolster his looks, he’s simply not a great scorer.

More chances don’t necessarily equate to more success. Scoring is not his game.

Shumpert will be a good role player—both this season and for the rest of career—who specializes in defending and doing the dirty work.

Don’t hold your breath waiting on him to evolve into anything more than that.


All stats and contract information are accurate courtesy of Basketball Reference and Spotrac, respectively.

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NBA Rumors: Potential Rajon Rondo Trade Makes Little Sense for Both Parties

The Rajon Rondo trade rumors are not going anywhere, folks, as illogical as they may be.

Now 28 years old, coming off a season in which he only appeared in 30 games and heading into a rebuilding season directed by second-year coach Brad Stevens, rumblings allege that the former Kentucky star would rather throw in the towel and move on than help in the rebuild.

According to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan, via Jay King of MassLive.com, Rondo has told the team he wants out:

“When Frank Isola raised the topic of trading Rondo, MacMullan replied, ‘Oh, I hope so. Just get it done. And it will happen because he’s told them he wants out. And no one believes me, but that’s the truth.’”

Of course, Rondo and his agent, Bill Duffy, quickly threw a counterpunch, as noted by Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald:

“‘Neither Bill nor Rajon know where this has come from, but it didn’t come from them,’ Alyson Furch said in a text. ‘They want this on the record. Neither has spoken to anyone about this.’”

Regardless of all the he-said, she-said drama, the notion that Rondo is on the block has been around for all of two years and counting. It is a thought that will only intensify as the 2014 season progresses now that he is in the final year of his deal, per Spotrac.

For the Celtics, that expiring contract is a critical part of the future as the rebuild rages onward. By the time the trade deadline rolls around next season, franchises who want to obtain Rondo will not have the means to do so and help the rebuild in an adequate manner.

If the front office waits until next offseason, it can cash in by facilitating his next deal as part of a sign-and-trade agreement. Rondo has apparently made it quite clear that he intends to test the market for the first time.

“Though he is not looking to get out of Boston, Rajon Rondo was quick to kill talk of an extension when recently approached by Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge,” ESPN’s Chris Broussard reports (subscription required). “It didn‘t even get to the numbers stage. Rondo is looking forward to becoming an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career in the summer of 2015.”

All of this completely neglects the notion that Rondo can return to form and re-up with Boston anyway. He was miserable on the defensive end of the court last season after his return, but one can surely presume it was more of a rust factor than his talent taking a nosedive off a cliff.

Which is something the Celtics should want to find out, rather than ship off a point guard who can be top five in the league.

For Rondo, a trade now makes very little sense. He would not get to test the market, and he has as little leverage as possible as he comes off a knee injury, not to mention the fact the Celtics just drafted Marcus Smart.

If the rumors have any shred of credibility, it implies that Rondo does not want to waste what may potentially be the remainder of his prime mired in a rebuilding effort. If that is even slightly the case, it means he would prefer to get dealt to a contender and ink an extension.

Question—where would that be, exactly? Cleveland (Kyrie Irving)? Oklahoma City (Russell Westbrook)? Los Angeles Clippers (Chris Paul)? San Antonio (Tony Parker)? Portland, Golden State or even Toronto?

It goes on, but the point is that even if Rondo wanted to ditch his home for the past eight seasons because of a bit of adversity, the grass is not exactly greener in other locales.

At least in Boston he gets to mentor and play with 2014 No. 6 overall pick in Smart. Jeff Green is still around after a career-best 16.9 points per game last season. In the paint, Jared Sullinger (13.3 points and 8.1 rebounds per game last year) and Kelly Olynyk (8.7 and 5.2) are quite young but present a core only in need of a mold before the Celtics can contend in the sloppy Eastern Conference (don’t forget about quality depth such as Evan Turner, Avery Bradley and Brandon Bass, either).

It might just turn out that Rondo finds his current situation much better than previously anticipated. As long as he holds up his end of the bargain in terms of health and on-court productivity, it will result in another major deal and a leadership role on a playoff squad.

Maybe a deal gets done. Perhaps Rondo is a member of the Celtics for the duration of his career. No matter how it pans out, the rumors as they stand now make no sense.

Point guard is not like the NFL’s quarterback position—there are a bevy of talented names in all corners of the league. Rondo has few desirable options on the trade market and a not-so-bad situation around him. The money will come regardless, should he stay on the court.

There is a reason all parties seem to vehemently deny such rumblings, not to mention why a trade seems to be the last thing on anyone’s mind. As it should be, the upcoming season is in the front seat, not fantasy deals that involve a potential top-five player at his position.


Stats via ESPN.


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Dark Horses with Potential to Win Major NCAA Basketball Conferences in 2014-15

Every year, there are a few dark horses who end up winning regular-season championships in the major conferences of college basketball.

I mean, come on, how many people had Virginia beating Duke, North Carolina and Syracuse to win the ACC last year? And I don’t seem to recall anyone picking Villanova to win the Big East while we were busy handing the title to Marquette on a silver platter.

The teams on this list aren’t the favorites or the top challengers to the favorites. In most cases, these teams aren’t even expected to finish in the top three in their respective conferences.

But that doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t happen.

I wouldn’t go betting the farm on any of these teams to claim 2014-15 regular-season titles, but you just might find yourself with a dozen farms if you happen to bet on the right one.

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Biggest Potential Challenges Team USA Will Face During 2014 FIBA World Cup

Team USA has left the proving grounds behind them.

There are no more roster calls to make or “friendly” exhibitions to try to get up for. It’s wheels-up time as this group heads out to the 2014 FIBA World Cup with the same bull’s-eye on its back that it’s been wearing for decades.

Although not as heavy on established stars as it has been in the past, this talented team enters the tournament as an obvious favorite.

Still, that doesn’t mean a waltz to the championship podium awaits these players in Spain. There are hurdles lining the path ahead, and while some might be larger than others, any one could derail USA Basketball’s recent run of international dominance.

The tournament field is sure to throw at least one massive challenge at coach Mike Krzyzewski’s team, but most of these are internal obstacles that must be cleared. With a roster loaded like none other in the world, Team USA’s tallest tasks will largely come from within.

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