5 Potential Solutions to Los Angeles Lakers’ Obvious Small Forward Problem

The Los Angeles Lakers face a number of problems this season, not the least of which is a lack of quality depth at nearly every position.

Minus a quality starting center, Lakers management loaded up on power forwards with the hope that Jordan Hill, Julius Randle, Ryan Kelly, Carlos Boozer, Ed Davis and Robert Sacre would address that deficiency. Teams are still destroying the Lakers in the paint.

That left a gaping hole at small forward, despite the presence of starter Wesley Johnson and super sub Nick Young. In Johnson, the Lakers have a 27-year-old former first-round draft pick who continues to underperform, most notably on offense.

So far in 13 games, Johnson has spent 32 minutes on the court, scoring less than eight points per game. His 26.5 percent shooting from beyond the arc is the worst of his five-year career.

Having Nick Young back has helped strengthen the bench, especially on offense. In his first two games following rehab on his injured thumb, Swaggy P averaged 16.5 points on 48 percent shooting in 28 minutes.

By his third game, however, Young disappeared, scoring just five points in 19 minutes against the Mavs.

After Johnson and Young, the small forward cupboard looks pretty bare. The Lakers do have Xavier Henry, but he’s been a non-factor who was injured to start the year and has offered little.

In fact, there is reason to believe if and when the Lakers make a roster move, it will be Henry who gets the pink slip.

Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding wrote earlier this week:

No massive talent upgrade is coming, though if 6’9″ forward Quincy Miller fares well in a tryout this week, expect to see him replace Xavier Henry on the team. Miller, who turns 22 on Tuesday and has rare upside despite no sense of how to reach it after two years with the Denver Nuggets, would at least give the Lakers a little more youth and hope in Julius Randle’s absence.

With a recently awarded $1.5 million Disabled Player Exception (DPE) as compensation for Randle’s broken leg, the Lakers have until March 10 to sign or trade for someone to fill that roster spot. 

The pickings are slim, but the Lakers are mining for any help they can get.

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On the rise: Texas shows its depth, potential

The Longhorns, coming off wins in New York, are relevant in the Big 12 and nationally.

      
 

 

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On the rise: Texas shows its depth, potential in N.Y.

The Longhorns, coming off wins in New York, are relevant in the Big 12 and nationally.

      
 

 

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Bucks’ Brandon Knight Misses Potential Game-Winning Layup, Sends Game to 2OT

Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Knight went from hero to goat in a matter of seconds against the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night.

With the game tied in the final seconds of the first overtime, Knight intercepted a pass by the Nets’ Joe Johnson. Knight was able to get a look at a wide-open layup, but he put a little bit too much on the ball and missed.

Check out the reaction from the Bucks’ bench:

The miss was pretty tough to believe.

The game went to double overtime tied at 105-all.

Ironically, the Bucks guard redeemed himself with a clutch shot in the second overtime. His three-pointer with 19 seconds left in the second extra period tied the game at 112-all and ultimately sent the game to triple overtime.

Luckily for Milwaukee, it was able to pull out a victory eventually. The Bucks pulled out a 122-118 victory in triple overtime. Knight finished the game with 18 points, including two big free throws in the final seconds of the third overtime.

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Potential Big Men the Miami Heat Could Be Targeting This Season

Sure, a Dwyane Wade-less Miami Heat team will struggle to score, defend and win on a nightly basis, but this current lineup has a deeper flaw that’s too big for even “Flash” to handle. Ranked dead last in rebounding (37.4 per game) this season, it’s been Chris Bosh or bust on the boards as the Heat have looked small and inefficient in the frontcourt early on. A large part of that problem rests on injuries and ineptitude at the power forward position, while the remaining chunk of blame goes towards a collection of small forwards and undersized power forwards that are being bullied by bigger studs in the paint. At 6-5 on the year, the Heat either need a 6’10” and up, or a talent that plays like it.
Teams that control the boards usually win in the NBA. As evidenced in the Heat’s mediocre start to the season, that control in the paint isn’t seen on a consistent basis. Perhaps having Josh McRoberts (out with a foot injury) healthy and competitive for this lineup makes this team bigger, b…

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Cavaliers Show Glimpse of Offensive Potential in Record-Setting Win

CLEVELAND — As a player, Dominique Wilkins typically soared high in the air. But when it came to assessing the Cleveland Cavaliers, prior to watching the Atlanta Hawks face them Saturday night, the former Human Highlight Film kept the analysis pretty grounded. 

“People don’t realize, when you have three great players on team, first time all these guys playing together, it takes time,” Wilkins said. “Their tendencies of knowing what each other love to do, is not there yet. Believe me, you’ve the best player in the league, you’ve got three of the best players in the league, they’ll figure it out…. But as fans, you got to be patient. It ain’t gonna happen overnight.”

You wouldn’t have known it on this night, however.  

The Cavaliers put on their most impressive performance of the young season and, in terms of ball sharing and range shooting, one of the more prolific in franchise and NBA history. No team in NBA history had ever made at least nine three-point shots without a miss, until the Cavaliers did that in the first quarter, with three from LeBron James, two from Kevin Love and rising rookie Joe Harris, and one apiece from Dion Waiters and the shot-putting Shawn Marion. No team in Cavaliers history had made more than 17 in a game, until this one sank 19 against Atlanta, led by four apiece from James, Irving and Harris. 

“We felt like we had good energy to start with, they just flat out were shooting the ball real well,” Hawks center Al Horford said, after the 127-94 loss. “They were way better than us tonight.” 

They were way better than they’ve been at any point so far, though there have been signs of such an eruption. The Cavaliers have been increasingly accurate in every outing since the pathetic night in Portland, when they connected at a 36.5 percent rate — to 41.7 percent in the loss at Utah, and then 47.6, 49.4, 50.6 and now 54.4 percent during their four-game winning streak. 

The Hawks had been even hotter coming in, making 51.3 percent and 56.0 percent of their shots in wins against Utah and Miami, respectively, as part of a four-game streak. They had also established themselves as the league’s top assist rate team, buying into Mike Budenholzer’s system like they had last season.

Asked to assess how the Hawks have accomplished that, Cavaliers coach David Blatt put it this way prior to the game:

A lot of times assists have to do with shooting percentages. They got a lot of shotmakers on that team. You’d be hard pressed to find a better shotmaker than Kyle Korver, and his baskets are not coming 1-on-1. They are coming from designed plays. Or fast break, spot up threes that come from a pass. And they do a great job moving the ball. And they’ve got continuity, which not every team enjoys. Which is kind of what I like about our team, in terms of how we’re coming around offensively. Because we didn’t have that kind of continuity, yet here we are, passing the ball and scoring points, and showing good movement of late, which is a very positive thing. 

Then, once the game started, his team out-Hawked the visitors. 

In the loss to Utah on Nov. 5, the Cavaliers had six assists.

“We’ve learned from that,” James said. “We know that, in order to win basketball games, in order for everyone to feel comfortable, we have to share the ball.” 

Saturday, they had five players with at least five. 

Dion Waiters, who had a total of five passes against the Jazz, according to SportVu data, led the team with eight assists Saturday. 

The Cavaliers had 39 in all, on 49 field goals. Seven different players converted at least four shots. 

“A lot of equal opportunity for everybody,” Love said. 

“Everyone was involved, everyone was in tune with the offense, and that was huge,” said James, who scored 73 points on 29-of-47 shooting in the back-to-back wins against Boston and Atlanta. “And that was huge.” 

It led to some huge numbers. 

“The ball was just moving,” Irving said. “Guys were getting open shots in rhythm. Guys were hitting each other in the shooting pocket. Like I said before, guys were setting great screens as well, and getting each other open.”

Which left James feeling like the Cavaliers are getting closer — at least on one end — to what he wants them to be. 

“Offensively, we are,” James said. “We’re on the right page. Still got a long way to go.”

That’s true, even on a night in which Cleveland could hardly miss from long range. 

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5 Players Miami Heat Are Most Likely to Target in a Potential Trade

At 5-4, the Miami Heat are off to a decent start to the 2014-15 NBA season.

While there is much to be encouraged by—such as the strong play of Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade—it’s clear this team needs to improve if it wants to seriously contend in the Eastern Conference.

One way for Miami to improve is to hit the trade market. The Heat aren’t going to pursue a marquee player, with $72 million already on the payroll and a set core of top talent in place.

However, there are smaller deals for this team to consider pursuing. Let’s take a look at five options.

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JR Smith Pulls the Ultimate JR Smith, Bricks Potential Game-Winner off Glass

J.R. Smith arrives in the clutch. Exactly which version of Smith shows up, however, can never be known until it’s way too late.

The New York Knicks shooting guard is a walking roll of the dice, and Knicks fans watched in agony as he dialed up snake eyes in the final moments of Wednesday night’s game against the Orlando Magic.

NextImpulseSports.com’s John Ferensen put together a GIF of Smith’s strong masonry.

With 3.5 seconds left in the game, the Knicks inbounded the ball to Smith, who executed what we can only assume was the exact play coach Derek Fisher drew up: an off-the-dribble three-pointer near the top of the arc. 

Note: This was not the play Fisher drew up.

Nonetheless, Carmelo Anthony approved Smith’s decision as it happened.

Of course, Smith’s shot slapped glass, and the J.R. Smith detractors and disciples immediately went to work.

After the game, Smith went with the Batman defense in explaining his final shot.

“If I forced it to [Anthony], what kind of shot will he really have—a turnaround, fadeaway?” Smith asked, via Marc Berman of the New York Post. “It’s not the best shot we’d want. I don’t think it’s enough time for him to set his feet and do what he wanted to do. I think we went with the best shot and the right shot. I just didn’t make it.”

Anthony said he understands he can’t get the ball every time. 

“[Smith] had an open shot or thought he had an open shot,” Anthony said. “I don’t think I’m going to get it every time.”

Losing to Orlando brings the 2-7 Knicks’ skid to six games. They host the Utah Jazz Friday night.

 

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5 Players OKC Thunder Are Most Likely to Target in a Potential Trade

The silver lining of the injury cloud hanging over the Oklahoma City Thunder is that the role players are getting an opportunity to ply their trade in meaningful NBA minutes against starting-caliber opposition. Not only does this give head coach Scott Brooks the chance to evaluate his depth, but it also raises the trade value of those rotation pieces.

It’s unlikely that OKC pursues a trade this season given the battle awaiting the Thunder as they attempt to claw their way back into the playoffs, the tremendous heart exhibited by this depleted roster and general manager Sam Presti’s tendency to avoid rocking the boat.

But this season is also a perfect reminder that championship windows are fleeting, and there are a few players who could pique OKC’s interest if they were made available.

Similarly, the Thunder have a few pieces of their own that could be moved for the right price. The value of expiring contracts on the trade market has decreased over the last few seasons, but Kendrick Perkins and his $9.7 million contract are coming off the books after this season. It could be a chip that intrigues any teams looking to add frontcourt depth while freeing up cap space for the offseason.

Nick Collison has long been a fan favorite for the franchise and has been an invaluable part of the roster as a glue guy, but his extended three-point range, high basketball IQ and $2.2 million expiring contract make him an enticing option for other teams.

Likewise, OKC could look to sell high on Perry Jones III, who has shown flashes of the immense talent that made him one of the most sought-after college recruits in the nation. And then there’s always the possibility that the Thunder try to get some pieces in exchange for Reggie Jackson instead of potentially losing him for nothing in restricted free agency.

It seems unlikely that any of these players could net OKC enough value to prompt a trade, but here are some potential players of interest who could realistically be available around the trade deadline.

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NBA Rumors: Latest Buzz on Potential Roster Moves Around the League

While teams like the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers and Cleveland Cavaliers worry about positioning for the NBA playoffs early in the season, others like the Philadelphia 76ers already have their eyes on next year.

However, there are still some rumors revolving around the 76ers early in the 2014-15 campaign because they are required to actually play the games on the schedule. Playing the games on the schedule actually means fielding a roster, even if it’s not competitive.

With that in mind, here is the latest from Philadelphia, as well as a rumor regarding a former Big Ten superstar.

 

Philadelphia 76ers

Tom Moore of Calkins Media passed along an update on the 76ers’ big-man situation:

Philadelphia sits at 0-7 and is fresh off a blowout loss at the hands of the Toronto Raptors on Sunday night. This team is not built to compete this season and would be better off losing every game for draft purposes.

Still, as mentioned, it has to field a deep enough roster to play actual NBA games.

Considering Henry Sims and Nerlens Noel are the only healthy centers on the roster while Joel Embiid recovers from injury, adding another center would bolster the interior depth. Sure, there may not be a lot available at this point of the season, but even a replacement-level center would help take some mileage off Noel’s legs.

The good news given the current roster situation is that it won’t be particularly difficult to find a player to cut.

Eventually, the 76ers could field a roster led by Michael Carter-Williams, Embiid, Noel and Dario Saric, but this will be yet another lost seasonregardless of whatever big man they pull off the free-agency pile at this point of the year. 

Hopefully, the fanbase has impressive patience.

 

Aaron Craft

Sportando’s Orazio Cauchi noted that former Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft could have a new basketball home rather soon.

“According to several sources, Aaron Craft is the main target at PG position for the Partizan Belgrade. Craft spent the training camp with the Golden State Warriors and he has the chance to play in D-League for the Santa Cruz Warriors,” he wrote.

Craft is best known for his time as a Buckeye, where he reached the Sweet 16 three times, the Elite Eight twice and the Final Four once. He was never much of an offensive threat (8.9 points a game in his four-year career), but he was an absolute defensive wizard at the college level.

Craft won the 2013-14 NABC (National Association of Basketball Coaches) Defensive Player of the Year and racked up 337 steals in his career, which is the most in the history of the Big Ten.

It is really no wonder that the Partizan Belgrade are interested in landing a perimeter defender who can keep up with almost any ball-handler on the outside and apply full-court pressure when needed. There could also be room for that type of play at the NBA level if Craft was put in the right situation.

He is capable of coming off the bench and speeding up the game for short spurts with pressure defense and forced turnovers.

Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr seemed to think so when he said the following to NBA TV (h/t Bob Baptist of the Columbus Dispatch) during summer league: “Guy’s a baller. He just plays.” 

It looks like Craft may have to turn more heads than just Kerr’s from abroad now if he ever wants to make it in the NBA.

 

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