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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5 NBA Players That Need a Trade to Fulfill Complete Potential

The NBA is a dream come true for the players who work hard enough to make it, but plenty still find themselves one trade away from being in the right situation.

For the five in this slideshow, reaching their full potential may be just around the corner, but getting there will be next to impossible with the teams they currently represent.

Whether it’s a logjam at the player’s position, an issue with management or just the need for a fresh start, there’s a reason to believe each one would be better off individually somewhere else.

They’re in order by age, and each has qualified for the list by being involved in some kind of trade rumor during the last year.

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Best Potential Free-Agent Landing Spots for Greg Monroe During 2015 Offseason

Greg Monroe might not be with the Detroit Pistons too much longer. 

As David Mayo of MLive.com reports, the big man hasn’t yet informed his team he’ll be accepting the qualifying offer, but that remains a distinct possibility: 

Neither Greg Monroe nor his agent has told the Detroit Pistons of the player’s plans to sign a qualifying offer and secure his unrestricted free agency next season, according to Stan Van Gundy, but a USA Today report that the big man intends to take that option could signal a short-term future for him with the team.

If he does sign that qualifying offer, he’ll play the 2014-15 season in Motor City before hitting the market once more, this time as an unrestricted free agent. And if that’s the case, it’s highly unlikely he’d end up returning to Detroit, even if the Pistons would be capable of offering him more money than anyone else.

Again, it’s worth noting that he’s not yet guaranteed to become an unrestricted free agent. That’s just a possibility, given the reports about that qualifying option. 

At least he’ll have plenty of strong choices if he does go down that often neglected route. 

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2014-15 NBA Rookies with All-Star Potential

The 2014-15 NBA rookie class is littered with high-upside picks, so there are a slew of prospects who could potentially become All-Stars.

Not all of them will reach their ceilings, but several will blossom into household names.

Outside of the usual suspects like Jabari Parker and Andrew Wiggins, this year’s crop offers a handful of talented prodigies who have a decent shot at scaling the All-Star hurdle.

Based on their collegiate/international production and transferable NBA skills, who exactly has the potential to reach this lofty status?

 

*Statistics gathered from NBA.com. Player order based on probability of making at least one All-Star team.

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Kobe on potential Wiggins trade: Cavs are making a mistake

TweetBefore Kobe Bryant became the superstar he’s been for the past decade-plus, he was drafted 13th overall in 1996 by the Charlotte Hornets and promptly traded to the Lakers for veteran center Vlade Divac. The rest as they say, is history. With the Cavaliers set to send top draft choice Andrew Wiggins to Minnesota for Kevin Love, Bryant is comparing the move to Charlotte’s blunder: Kobe Bryant: “ Cleveland is making the same mistake that Charlotte made with me ”. — 2014MrBasket (@2014MrBasket) August 14, 2014 Wiggins comes with some question marks as a rookie, similar to Bryant when he entered the NBA right out of high school. No one knew Bryant would go on to become unquestionably one of the best players in NBA history. Wiggins may not turn out to be int he same category, but then again he just might. No one knows for sure. Cleveland could be brokering losing a great future talent in Wiggins in exchange for winning immediately. It could turn out great for the Cavs, or they could live to regret i

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Potential Impact Players Still Available in 2014 NBA Free Agency

We’ve officially hit the slow period of the NBA offseason, as most rosters are close to being filled and the big fireworks have already gone off.

Even with that being the case, there is still a very strong pool of free-agent talent available, including a few players who could make a major impact next season.

Before we get to five of the best candidates, let’s explain why a few big names didn’t make the cut.

Detroit Pistons big man Greg Monroe has informed the Detroit Pistons he plans to sign his qualifying offer, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY Sports. That would take him off the market.

We’ll also leave out free agent center Andrew Bynum, who may take this year off based on what his agent David Lee told Marc Berman of the New York Post:

The 7-foot Bynum may not be reuniting with Phil Jackson’s Knicks or any other team next season because he is seriously contemplating sitting out 2014-15 to undergo the Germany-based knee therapy called “The Regenokine Program’’ that would require an extra long rehab, according to his agent David Lee. But he could be in play for the following season.

“He would be looking at in a longer-term situation,’’ Lee said. “He’s still a baby. If he went to college, he’d be coming off his rookie contract at age 26.’’

Veterans like Elton Brand and Ray Allen barely missed the cut, along with riskier additions like Michael Beasley and Dante Cunningham. Each might make an impact but probably not on the same level as the following five free agents could.

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