Best Potential Fixes to NBA Draft Lottery System

Change is on the horizon for the NBA draft lottery, and we have the Philadelphia 76ers to thank.

Actually, we owe our gratitude (or rancor, depending on your perspective) not so much to what the Sixers have done over the past two seasons, but to their honesty about how they’ve done it. 

Philly has maximized the current incentive structure in the NBA—you know, the one that rewards winners of a race to the bottom with a great shot at the No. 1 overall selection.

If the organization hadn’t been so forthright about tanking as part of its long-term rebuilding plan, it’s hard to imagine lottery reform becoming such a hot topic.

Per Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, the Sixers aren’t happy about what’s coming:

The rough draft of this plan was met with opposition by 76ers management, which is in the midst of a multiseason rebuilding project that is dependent on a high pick next year. The 76ers, sources said, are hoping to get the NBA to delay the plan’s implementation for at least a year because it would act as a de facto punishment while just playing by the rules that have been in place.

The NBA is sending a couple of messages here, the first of which is that it no longer wants teams to aggressively pursue the absolute worst record in the league. The second is that it prefers the old-school brand of duplicitous tanking—disguised and described as rebuilding—to the Sixers’ unabashed, “we’re gunning for the top pick, and we’re cool with it” approach.

Per Grantland’s Zach Lowe, the league’s latest proposal would “squeeze the lottery odds at either extreme toward a more balanced system in which all 14 teams have a relatively similar chance at the No. 1 pick.”

The upshot is that the team with the worst overall record would go from having a 25 percent chance at the top selection to an 11 percent chance, odds shared by the teams finishing with the second-, third- and fourth-worst records.

This isn’t a perfect fix, and it could incentivize other, more troubling forms of tanking. In addition, it would punish the Sixers for playing by the rules. In legal terms, Philly has detrimentally relied on the system in place.

The league is dead set on eliminating tanking, though, particularly the kind Philly has engaged in recently. But maybe there are other ways to achieve that end.

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Best Potential 2014 Free-Agent Landing Spots for Gordon Hayward

Gordon Hayward is undoubtedly one of the more appealing players on the open market, boasting a combination of scoring, passing and rebounding skills that few players can match. But matching is an interesting concept when it comes to the 24-year-old swingman, who last suited up for the Utah Jazz. 

Because Hayward is a restricted free agent, the Jazz can match any offer sheet that he signs. As soon as the ink from his pen finishes leaving a trail on the relevant piece of paper, Utah will have three days to exercise its right of first refusal and bring him back to Salt Lake City. 

Will the Jazz do so regardless of the price? So far, all indications point toward a positive answer. 

“Hayward is one of the top young free agents on the market, but the widespread belief is that the Utah Jazz would match any offer that comes his way,” reports USA Today‘s Sam Amick

However, this is the time of year when smokescreens are plentiful. It’s possible the Jazz are just bluffing, trying to prevent teams from signing Hayward to a max offer sheet because they think they’d be wasting their time and effort. If the swingman actually does draw a max deal, there’s no telling what the conversations will be like in Utah’s front office. 

Hayward might not have control, but he still has options. 

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Michigan State Basketball: Ranking the Spartans with the Most NBA Potential

The lack of NBA-level stars pouring from Michigan State can be viewed through two lenses:

1. Spartans coach Tom Izzo isn’t recruiting enough next-level talent, therefore putting himself out of position to coach future pros.

2. It’d be nice to see more, but Izzo remains in contention on a yearly basis with the most “collegey” of college players.

Six Final Fours, a title…you know the rest. With or without NBAers in waiting, Spartans basketball will survive and flourish while under Izzo’s control. What’s there to really gripe about?

But for the sake of scaling talent, this slideshow will take a look at Michigan State’s expected 2014-15 roster and rank the potential professional-level talent. 

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5 Potential Phoenix Suns Trade Targets Entering 2014 Free Agency

Despite winning 48 games during the 2013-14 season, the Phoenix Suns missed out on postseason action for a fourth consecutive year. General manager Ryan McDonough will aim to end that playoff drought during free agency by upgrading the current roster—be it through signings or trades.

According to AZCentral Sports’ Paul Coro, the Suns have expressed a desire to retain their own free agents—Eric Bledsoe, Channing Frye and P.J. Tucker. Those guys made up three-fifths of the starting rotation and accounted for 15.5 combined win shares, per Basketball-Reference.com. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the front office wants to see them return.

Phoenix has also expressed interest in superstar free agents such as LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony—who hasn’t?

Additionally, they’ve contacted Pau Gasol, Trevor Ariza, Luol Deng, Gordon Hayward, Chandler Parsons, Isaiah Thomas, Ed Davis, Patrick Patterson, Josh McRoberts, Danny Granger and Marvin Williams, per Coro’s article.

Coro explained that the Suns’ interest in those names varies. It’s clear, however, that management is turning over every rock in search of gems that can vault the team into contention.

Signing players is an obvious priority, but what if the Suns decide to target talents via trade? Phoenix still has plenty of cap space, young assets and future draft picks to offer, so pulling off a “win now” swap equates to a viable plan B.

Assuming that the Suns intend to match any offer sheet extended to Bledsoe—and reports suggest that’s the case—the backcourt will remain the team’s biggest strength.

With Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, Gerald Green, Ish Smith and first-round pick Tyler Ennis, Phoenix has a plethora of guards capable of carrying the load. As far as the frontcourt goes, well, that’s a different story.

Tucker and Frye—two frontcourt starters—may not be back next season. Miles Plumlee played very well during his first year as a full-time NBA starter at center, but the interior is clearly an area Phoenix can stand to improve.

There aren’t any realistically available, All-Star-caliber bigs on the free-agent market—aside from an aging Gasol. As a result, the Suns’ front office should consider a variety of trades that could provide upgrades and depth down low. But what big men fall into the category of potential targets?

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Best Potential Free-Agent Landing Spots for Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce is in a complicated free-agency situation, and not just because his former coach, Jason Kidd, with whom he shares an agent, just skipped town after a spectacularly unsuccessful power grab.

Although, obviously, that wacky turn of events didn’t make his plight any simpler.

Heading into his 17th NBA season, Pierce must weigh the options on what will likely be the final contract of his fantastic career. At 36, here’s the truth: The Truth is running out of time.

Fortunately, he’s got enough skill left to intrigue a handful of suitors, many of whom probably prize his value as a veteran leader even more than his on-court production. 

Per ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers have all put in calls to Pierce since free agency began at midnight on July 1. You’ll note every one of those teams is a playoff-caliber squad, which serves as an indicator that the market knows Pierce only cares about winning at this stage of his career.

Non-contenders need not apply.

Pierce deserves to go out on top or, at the very least, with a good team that will appreciate everything he brings to an organization.

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Michigan Basketball: Ranking the Wolverines with the Most NBA Potential

Just more than a week ago, Michigan sent three players to the pros via the 2014 NBA draft: Nik Stauskas (No. 8, Sacramento), Mitch McGary (No. 21, Oklahoma City) and Glenn Robinson III (No. 40, Minnesota). And while they may not have a repeat in 2015, coach John Beilein’s Wolverines are set to push more talent to the Association’s hardwood in the near future. 

This slideshow will rank the NBA potential of everyone expected to be on Beilein’s roster in 2014-15. Criteria for ranking will come from a mixture of what scouts, media and other experts are saying about said prospects. Size for position and ability (or projected ability) to grasp the game—also known as basketball IQ—will also be taken into account.

While somewhat important and certainly interesting, players’ standings in mock drafts won’t carry much weight. For instance, a player could be projected to go in the 2015 draft, but that doesn’t mean that he has greater potential than that of an incoming freshman who isn’t slated to be selected.

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Mark Jackson a potential Jason Kidd replacement?

With reports indicating that Brooklyn Nets head coach Jason Kidd could be on his way to Milwaukee, rumors about who would fill Kidd’s shoes in Brooklyn have already begun. One name that has been tossed around is former Golden State Warriors head coach Mark Jackson. According to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, Jackson’s name has been discussed internally by the Nets as a possible candidate to replace Kidd in Brooklyn. Jackson was fired by the Warriors two days after the team was eliminated from the 2014 NBA playoffs by the Los Angeles Clippers, and has since rejoined ESPN’s NBA broadcast team. Other names on the list for the Nets vacancy if Kidd leaves for the Bucks are George Karl and Lionel Hollins, according to ESPN sources. Both Kidd and Jackson coached an NBA team for the first time last season. Kidd led the Nets to a 44-38 record and a second-round loss to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference playoffs, while Jackson’s Warriors were 51-31 and lost in the first round. Photo via …

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Complete list of potential free agents

LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade have company in being potential free agents.

      
 

 

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Breaking Down Joel Embiid’s Best Potential NBA Destinations

Thursday’s 2014 NBA draft features one of the most polarizing big men to be eligible for selection in Kansas phenom Joel Embiid. Following just one year in Lawrence with the Jayhawks, the dynamic 7-footer is taking his talents to the highest level—and for good reason.

Embiid has shooting range that extends to three-point land, deft touch for his size and supreme athleticism that allows him to shine on both ends of the court. At this early stage of his career, he’s only going to get better.

Health permitting. That’s a big caveat, to be sure.

After missing the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments with a back injury, Embiid sustained a stress fracture in his right foot leading up to the draft. Once thought to be a candidate for the No. 1 overall pick, medical red flags have Embiid‘s stock falling.

But just how far will Embiid fall on draft night? This could be the next great NBA center, or Embiid‘s health problems could plague him for his entire career. At what point does his value exceed the risk of drafting him so high?

That and other pertinent questions will be weighing heavily on front offices. To be frank, things are getting pretty nutty on the eve of the draft, per Jake Fischer of The Boston Globe:

If Embiid slides past franchises in desperate need of a superstar and the youngster takes the Association by storm, it will be a huge opportunity lost. Then again, he could succumb to injuries and never quite live up to his immense potential.

Embiid presents a dilemma of epic proportions. Some teams, though, are in better position than others to invest in him. Below is a ranking of Embiid‘s best destinations based on personnel fit, slot in the draft order and how he’d project in the respective organizations.

 

3. Philadelphia 76ers (No. 3 overall pick)

There is so much uncertainty in Philadelphia at the moment. The main reason for it is that general manager Sam Hinkie has gutted the roster and invested heavily in the future. Whether the Sixers can even compete as soon as next year depends on this draft.

But Hinkie could do worse than to build Philly’s nucleus around reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams, another 2013 first-round pick in Nerlens Noel and Embiid.

BasketballInsiders.com’s Steve Kyler brings up a relevant point regarding Embiid‘s medical history:

So much upside can be had between the aforementioned trio alone. The Sixers also have the 10th overall pick at their disposal, along with a whopping five second-round selections.

Thus, they could move up further in the order and grab a player they may not have been able to acquire otherwise. For that matter, Hinkie and Co. could draft someone else at No. 3 and trade up for Embiid thereafter.

Both Noel and Embiid are rather slender and have injury histories, yet if they can stay healthy, they could form a new-age frontcourt that would be borderline unstoppable. Noel’s offensive game was developing at a rapid rate before his only season at the University of Kentucky was cut short by a torn ACL.

With a redshirt year of sorts, this is the time for Noel to make a big splash. If Embiid were healthy enough to join him on the floor in 2014-15, coach Brett Brown could get extremely creative on offense. Brown acknowledged the possibility that Hinkie could take another flier on a previously injured big in Embiid just as he did with Noel, per 97.5 FM Sixers radio host Brian Seltzer:

With a playmaker like Carter-Williams being able to distribute, get to the rim and guard on the perimeter, all the Sixers would need are a couple of outside shooters to complement them.

Surely those can be found with all the assets Hinkie has accrued. In the meantime, Embiid could be brought along slowly, then be a part of one of the most promising cores in the NBA.

 

2. Los Angeles Lakers (No. 7 overall pick)

A lot of the Lakers’ future depends on Kobe Bryant. How much energy he has left, whether he can return to elite form and if his contract will be too much of an impediment to bring in quality talent will all be huge determining factors for LA in the next two years.

Investing the seventh overall pick in Embiid is great value. Even if the Lakers aren’t able to retain Pau Gasol, Bryant will still serve as a great mentor for Embiid as he acclimates to the pros.

And what better motivator could Embiid have as he continues to rehab from his injury than Bryant? The Black Mamba has dealt with various ailments throughout his career, found a way to play through pain often and become one of the all-time greatest players.

Bleacher Report NBA Senior Writer Kevin Ding weighed in on the possibility of bringing Embiid to LA in a recent piece:

Big men might be less heralded in today’s NBA, but until someone lowers the basket a foot, size still matters in an irrefutable way.  Embiid’s sizable skill set is so proven—the natural, graceful footwork, soft hands and sweet touch to go with shot-blocking timing and tenacity—that it’s mind-boggling to estimate his true upside at 20 and having played the game for just three years.

Similar to how the Sixers are set up, there may not be an opportunity to win right away. Presuming Bryant can hang around through the end of his contract in 2015-16, though, all the pieces should be in place for one last push at the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Another All-Star or two should also be a part of the Lake Show, with Embiid coming into his own in Year 2.

A lot of this fit leans heavily on Bryant’s influence—as it should. Embiid is still so raw yet seemingly limitless in his ceiling. Bryant is someone who can help the rookie realize that, and inspire Embiid to work harder than he might in an alternative, likely losing scenario to start his career.

Plus, landing Embiid could entice free agents to join Bryant and be part of the turnaround for one of professional sports’ most prestigious franchises.

Since his return is estimated at four to six months, if such a physical marvel as Embiid has the genetics to heal and return quicker, that could put him back on the court in January or so. If Bryant and whoever else joins him in LA can will the Lakers to within striking distance of the playoffs to that point, Embiid could net more immediate returns than expected.

 

1. Boston Celtics (No. 6 overall pick)

Unlike the Lakers at the moment, the archrival Celtics have a head coach in place in Brad Stevens, along with more than one guaranteed, promising piece of the puzzle in the current plans. Last year’s first-round pick, Kelly Olynyk, is 7 feet tall but has the skill set to be more of a stretch 4—and a matchup nightmare at that spot.

Where Olynyk falls short is in his ability to defend the paint and protect the rim. Neither of those are problems for Embiid, who averaged 2.6 blocks per contest this last season.

The Celtics have another pick at No. 17, giving them the chance to trade up if need be. They can acquire another perimeter player to offer another guard who can create his own offense. But if Embiid is here in the sixth slot, it’s hard to imagine Boston passing on him.

Point guard Rajon Rondo is among the best facilitators in the game and needs a better supporting cast to thrive. Embiid has the most upside of anyone in this draft. Since Boston can bring in another impact player with its other first-rounder, there is an excellent opportunity to add Embiid in to the rotation as soon as he’s ready.

Brandon Bass is entering a contract year, Jared Sullinger has not quite found a proper frontcourt position and the Celtics offer little if any competition at center. The sheer athleticism and offense Boston could boast with an eventual starting five of Embiid, Olynyk, Jeff Green, a surefire 2-guard and Rondo is fascinating to contemplate.

And in all honesty, yours truly didn’t see this intel from Sports Illustrated‘s Chris Mannix until before this Embiid-to-Beantown section was started:

So there’s a reasonable chance that Embiid lands in either Philly, LA or Boston. All are big-market options with considerable promise. However, with the long-ranging speculation involved with the Sixers and Lakers, there is a little more certainty.

Hinkie has appeared willing to part ways with the assets on his recent rosters so easily, which could come back to burn him. The Lakers are in as tenuous of a state as ever, but they have tradition on their side and still have Bryant—for whatever he can still offer at this point. That leaves Boston as the best option.

There is already supporting talent in place for at least the beginning, formative years of Embiid‘s time in the NBA. Having a fundamentals-emphatic coach in Stevens who so recently coached in college at Butler would allow Embiid to feel more comfortable, too.

All signs point to the Celtics being the best spot for Embiid in the short term as well as the period through his rookie contract at least. By then, we will have a better idea of his ceiling, how much injuries will factor in and, most likely, continue to be captivated by the special talent Embiid is.

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Best Potential Free-Agent Landing Spots for Nick Young During 2014 Offseason

On Tuesday, word broke that one of the NBA’s most recognizable icons—a player whose skills and style have helped shape an entire basketball generation—had officially opted out of his contract.

That’s right, folks: Nick “Swaggy P” Young is officially a free agent, according to ESPN.

Where Young decides to take his talents could completely change the balance of power in the…

Okay, that joke’s run its course.

As one of the few go-to options on last year’s lottery-bound Los Angeles Lakers, Young produced arguably the best statistical season of his seven-year career.

And while InsideSoCal.com’s Mark Medina reports Young could be willing to give the Lakers a “hometown discount,” it’s certainly worth examining what other options might be on the table for the effervescent shooting guard.

Based on potential fit, fortune and off-court fame, we’ve compiled a list of 10 teams on which we could see Swaggy fitting in.

For our purposes, we’re assuming Young fetches somewhere in the neighborhood of three years, $15 million, although these numbers may be altered if the franchise fit warrants as much.

Onward!

 

All team financial information courtesy of ShamSports.com.

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