Is Rebuilt Golden State Warriors Bench Enough for Next Step?

The Golden State Warriors may have missed out on the home run acquisition of Kevin Love, but minor tweaks and additions to a bench unit that struggled last year might be enough to put them in serious title contention this season.

While it’s always hard to predict what you’re going to get from a new coach, particularly one without any experience on that front, Golden State’s roster for 2014-15 does look a little deeper and more dependable than what was trotted out last season.

Part of that will have to do with health. Andrew Bogut missed time up front, and his backup Festus Ezeli missed the entire season. Starters David Lee and Andre Iguodala were also banged up for much of the year.

Simply by reverting fill-in starters back to the bench in a regular capacity, Golden State should have an improved second unit.

It’s important to note just how badly Golden State’s depth was exposed last season.

Here’s Kurt Helin at ProBasketballTalk with more:

Last season when the Warriors’ starting five were on the court — Stephen CurryKlay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, David Lee and Andrew Bogut — they outscored their opponents by 15.5 points per 100 possessions (or if you prefer 15 points per 48 minutes).

That is impressive. It also means their bench wasn’t nearly as impressive (as a team the Warriors were +4.8 per 48). …

The fact is [Steve] Kerr needs to get more out of this bench. If he can do that, and bring more complexity and motion to the offense, he’s going to look like a smart rookie coach.

By pushing versatile defensive forward Draymond Green back to the bench full-time with Harrison Barnes, the Warriors should have a pretty strong pairing at forward.

Here’s Matt Packer at BlueManHoop:

Draymond Green will continue to contribute as a super-sub at small forward and power forward. While his defense is what got him drafted, his offensive game continues to blossom as he develops range on his jump shot. He’s also an especially adept passer which makes everyone on the second unit more effective.

A big question mark is what direction Harrison Barnes’ game goes. While he may have been over-hyped coming off his explosion vs. the Nuggets and Spurs in the 2013 NBA Playoffs, he underwhelmed by any imaginable metric last year. If Barnes can regain his confidence and attack the rim again, he should rightfully become the focal point of the second unit. Ideally, he’ll also be able to spell Iguodala allowing him to play reasonable minutes and stay healthy.

Add in Shaun Livingston to backup Stephen Curry, and Golden State should be a nightmare for opposing benches to score on. Livingston’s length and intelligence made him one of the better defenders in the league last season, as he covered small point guards and stars like LeBron James all the same.

While stopping opponents shouldn’t be much of an issue for Golden State’s bench, scoring certainly could be. That was the primary problem last year, as creating good offensive opportunities in a stagnant offense was rare.

The hiring of Kerr could help on that front, as Golden State probably won’t be nearly as isolation-heavy as they were under Mark Jackson. Harrison Barnes has a lot of offensive talent, but he needs to be put in good situations.

Even if some progression should be expected from Barnes, he alone shouldn’t be expected to carry the full scoring load.

With that in mind, and with Livingston dealing with toe surgery this offseason, the Warriors bolstered their backcourt by signing Leandro Barbosa. 

Here’s Marc Stein at ESPN.com with the details:

Brazil guard Leandro Barbosa has reached an agreement to sign with the Golden State Warriors for the upcoming season, ESPN.com has learned.

After Barbosa received initial interest from the Miami Heat, Golden State has secured a commitment from the 31-year-old on a one-year deal at the veteran minimum, according to NBA front-office sources.

Barbosa played 20 games last season with the Phoenix Suns, with whom he broke into the NBA in 2003-04. He’s also had stints in Indiana, Toronto and Boston.

The Warriors have been looking for guard depth and happily struck a deal with Barbosa before this weekend’s start of the FIBA World Cup in Spain.

If the Warriors want to play up-tempo basketball, particularly in the second unit, adding Barbosa makes a ton of sense. He can still fly up and down the court, and if his three-point shooting returns to the mean, he could be a great fit next to Livingston in the backcourt. Livingston can always take on the tougher defensive assignment and take care of running the offense, while Barbosa can pick his spots as a scorer.

Overall, this has the look of a pretty strong bench. Green is the best asset of the bunch, as he can play multiple positions and defend at an elite level. Livingston is great insurance for Curry and can slide in with the starters at either backcourt spot whenever necessary. Getting more offensively from Barnes will probably be necessary for this bench to among the league’s elite, though. 

It’s possible that if the results aren’t there right off the bat, both for the starters and the bench, that Kerr will shake things up and play with different combinations. That’s probably a good idea anyway, as the regular season should be a time for experimentation and finding the right groups. Golden State should be a playoff team no matter what, so you can sacrifice a few wins for the greater good. 

Here’s what Kerr said about the starting lineup this offseason, via Diamond Leung of the San Jose Mercury News:

“Andre [Iguodala] started last year, which he probably will [again], but there’s a lot of options that we have because we’ve got really good players in Harrison [Barnes] and Draymond [Green],” Kerr said, adding that he would likely use the same lineup as last season. “But most of it usually comes down to how the combination fits. … How do the pieces of the puzzle fit?”

Kerr is wise to take an open approach, but the rebuilt Warriors bench should provide enough production this season to supplement one of the league’s very best starting lineups. With that in mind, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Warriors take the next step this year and go deep into the postseason.

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Who Will Step Up as Anthony Davis’ Wingman Next Year for New Orleans Pelicans?

Burgeoning New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis is ready for everything.

Ready to be the NBA‘s “next in line,” as he was christened by reigning MVP Kevin Durant in the media. Ready to be Team USA’s “main guy” like coach Mike Krzyzewski told reporters he would.

Most importantly, Davis is ready to put the Pelicans on his back and flyif he can find a co-pilot on this roster.

The front office has tried to deliver one. Several of them, actually.

Last summer, the Pellies parted with a pair of first-round picks to swipe All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday away from the Philadelphia 76ers. A three-team trade brought over former Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans shortly thereafter.

With potential sidekicks Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon already in place, New Orleans appeared to have built something that had a chance to be special. How strong that chance is remains a mystery, as a brutal rash of injuries prevented the Pelicans from getting a clear look at their roster.

All five players lost at least 10 games to injury, and combined they racked up 151 absences. That number was higher than the minutes this quintet logged together (90).

Lessons weren’t learned last season—other than the fact that Davis’ hype is real, warranted and still not as high as it should beand the only problems discovered were physical. Holiday (right tibia), Anderson (spine), Gordon (left knee) and Evans (right knee) have all gone under the knife since last hitting the hardwood.

Before the Pelicans can worry about Davis’ wingman, they need to field a healthy roster around him. It sounds like that hurdle has either been cleared or is in the clearing process now:

That shifts the focus over to finding Davis’ Robin, a steady supporter who consistently makes life easier as the league’s next superstar.

Forget what the Pellies‘ 34-48 record suggests. There are a number of intriguing options to consider.

Outside of Davis, Gordon might have as much talent as anyone on the roster. He has a pair of 20-plus-points-per-game scoring averages on his resume and has averaged at least 3.3 assists in each of the past four seasons.

There’s a reason he’ll be collecting the highest salary on the team next season ($14.8 million).

Then again, there’s also a reason Grantland’s Bill Simmons ranked Gordon’s contract as the seventh-worst in the league last season.

After missing four games his rookie year, he’s missed an average of 32 games since. His old explosiveness has left his legs, and his formerly top-shelf (or somewhere near it) talent may be gone as well.

“The Eric Gordon of old is likely no more,” wrote Joe Gerrity of Bourbon Street Shots, “and the Eric Gordon of new is hardly worth a fifth of his currently salary.”

There’s a chance the new Gordon is no longer even worthy of a starting spot. The buzz about the topic is loud enough that it’s been brought to his attention, but he (predictably) said he wants nothing to do with the idea.

“I won’t get into that because I thought they brought me here to lead and set the tone for the team,” he told John Reid of The Times-Picayune. ”I’ve got a lot to prove in my career and I’m still young (25). So the more durable I am will really show what I’m capable of.”

If Gordon comes out of Monty Williams’ starting lineup, Evans could find his way in.

The 24-year-old had a hard time finding his niche early on, but he broke out in a big way when injuries forced him into the opening lineup. For the first time in what felt like forever, he looked like the transcendent talent who once put up historically significant averages as a rookie.

Those numbers won’t be easy for Williams to look past and might be enough for Evans to get in with the starters.

They aren’t, however, convincing enough to declare him ready for the wingman role. He has had extreme difficulty with repeating success—his scoring average has dropped in each of his last four seasons—and his lack of a reliable three-point shot (career 26.8 percent) can plague his production on any given night.

Davis’ wingman won’t come from the frontcourt, either. It’s not that the players around him (Anderson and newcomer Omer Asik) are poor fits, but the two might work so well in tandem that it could be hard for either to stand out.

New Orleans’ three-headed monster in the middle could be as ferocious as any in the business.

Asik is 7’0″ and 255 pounds of physical interior defense and bone-rattling screen-setting. He’ll wage some of the wars down low that Davis had been fighting on his own, providing some relentless rebounding (career 13.3 average per 36 minutes) in the process.

Anderson brings something entirely different, namely his reliable three-point cannon (38.6 percent for his career). With the 6’10″ sniper spreading defenses thin, the floor is then open for the wildly productive pick-and-roll game that Davis already seems to have mastered.

Of course, someone will need to work that two-man game with the single-browed baller. And that someone just so happens to be the best bet for a two-way sidekick, Holiday.

“I think he’s an elite point guard with size and strength,” Pelicans general manager Dell Demps said of Holiday, via Reid. “I think he’s going to be good for us for a long time.”

Holiday is built perfectly for a Robin-type role. He can blend his game however the team needs on a nightly basis, and his talent extends to nearly every point on the stat sheet.

Only he and Washington Wizards All-Star John Wall have averaged at least 14 points, seven assists and four rebounds in both of the last two seasons. Holiday can run an offense, and his career 37.6 three-point percentage allows him to threaten a defense away from the ball.

For all of his offensive talent, though, his best work might come at the opposite end of the floor:

Holiday could be the key to the Pelicans bringing everything together.

As long as this roster stays healthy, the offense should take care of it itself. But this defense needs to make significant strides after finishing tied for 25th in efficiency last season.

That ranking should really improve with Holiday back in the fold. New Orleans allowed just 103.3 points per 100 possessions with him and Davis on the floor last season, which would have pushed the Pellies up from the bottom tier and into the upper half (would have ranked 13th).

Now that Asik has joined Holiday and Davis, New Orleans should climb even higher:

Davis is New Orleans’ ticket to wherever it can go, so his supporting cast will be graded on well it can complement him.

No one will receive higher marks than Holiday. As Bourbon Street Shots’ Michael Pellissier observed, Holiday’s well-rounded game should help him check off nearly as many boxes as Davis:

Anthony Davis is often referred to as a unique superstar because he is able to make an impact on the game without scoring a point. Jrue is similar, though clearly to a much lesser extent. Jrue’s versatility allows him to make an impact as a scorer, facilitator, rebounder, or defender. Very few NBA players are immune to poor scoring nights, and it is of paramount importance to be able to make an impact elsewhere. Jrue can.

The Pelicans didn’t have the chance to find an identity last season.

They were explosive offensively some nights and razor-sharp at the opposite end on others. More often than not, they fell somewhere in between, neither an unstoppable force nor an immovable object.

They were fortunate enough to employ one of the game’s premier rising stars, but circumstances denied this club the opportunity to follow his lead.

If this team can stay healthy, good things should come in its future. But with a talent as tantalizing as defense, good isn’t good enough.

Davis needs help for this franchise to find greatness. He needs Holiday to fill the critical wingman role.

 

Unless otherwise noted, statistics used courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com. Salary information obtained via ShamSports.com.

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment CEO to step down (Yahoo Sports)

The CEO of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment will step down next year. The company announced Thursday that Tim Leiweke will stay until June 30 or a successor is appointed. The MLSE properties include the Toronto Maple Leafs, Raptors and Toronto FC. In his short tenure, Leiweke helped Toronto land the 2016 NBA all-star game, fired Toronto FC’s president and general manager Kevin Payne and brought in former star player Brendan Shanahan as president of the Maple Leafs.

View full post on Yahoo Sports – NBA News

Los Angeles Lakers: Time for Steve Nash to step up

Steve Nash is one of the best point guards I’ve ever had the privilege of watching in his prime. On the court he was a conductor with the basketball, orchestrating the pace of the game, and elevating his teammate’s play. Injuries have cost him the last two seasons with the Lakers and, although he is clearly past his prime, the Lakers need more than someone playing out his contract ($9.7 million) year. Steve Nash needs to step up in his final season utilizing his experience and on-the-court leadership to give a lift off the bench to help turnaround a 27-55 season.
When the Lakers traded for Steve Nash during the 2012 offseason, the initial thought was that the Suns had lost out on their franchise cornerstone. Little did anyone know that an injury in his first season with the Lakers would reduce Nash’s ability to play with the explosive speed like the younger point guards that are creating havoc around the league (e.g. Chris Paul, Stephen Curry). Giving up 2013 and 2015 first round picks along with two 2

View full post on Yardbarker: NBA

Memphis Grizzlies: Courtney Lee must step up

The Memphis Grizzlies have a lot of returning players that are playing the roles they currently fill strong enough. However, one person that needs to step it up a bit is Courtney Lee.
Courtney Lee during his time with the Boston Celtics.
Lee joined the team in the middle of last season when he was traded away from the Boston Celtics. By giving up Jerryd Bayless, the Grizzlies were grabbing someone who was in the midst of a great season despite only averaging 16 minutes a game. However, when Lee joined the Grizzlies, some of his numbers dropped a bit, specifically his shooting percentages both from beyond the arc and from the field.
Throughout his career, Lee has been able to make shots beyond the arc to some extent. In most of his time in the league before coming to the Grizzlies, Lee shot above 40% beyond the arc. In the first third of last season while he was still on the Celtics, Lee even had a career high shooting percentage of 44.2% from three-point range.
However, in his 49 games as a member of the

View full post on Yardbarker: NBA

Big 3 Opting Out First Step in Rebuilding Miami Heat Super Team

Thanks to the concerted action of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, Phase One of the Miami Heat‘s offseason overhaul is complete.

Per Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com:

After agreeing to all opt out of their contracts together, Miami Heat stars LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade have been discussing financial terms of new contracts among each other, sources told ESPN.com.

Bosh’s agent says his client has not decided officially on whether to opt out, but sources told ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard that the All-Star big man will indeed follow suit and choose free agency by Monday’s midnight ET deadline.

Maybe this doesn’t seem like a big deal. After all, top-tier free agents almost always opt out of their contracts at the first opportunity because the chance to ink long-term extensions is generally a good business move.

But this is different.

The Big Three aren’t opting out to lock in multiyear, max-level extensions. They’re opting out to take less money—at least that’s what it seems like.

Calling this development inevitable is probably a bit of an overstatement, but it was widely expected. Heat president Pat Riley had this to say on June 24, per an official team release:

I was informed this morning of his intentions. We fully expected LeBron to opt-out and exercise his free agent rights, so this does not come as a surprise. As I said at the press conference last week, players have a right to free agency and when they have these opportunities, the right to explore their options. 

Here’s his (prepared) reaction to the next wave of opt-outs:

Today we were notified of Dwyane’s intention to opt-out of his contract and Udonis’ intention to not opt into his contract, making both players free agents. Dwyane has been the cornerstone of our organization for over a decade … We look forward to meeting with Dwyane and Udonis and their agent in the coming days to discuss our future together.

If Riley and the Heat brass weren’t surprised, they must have been at least slightly relieved.

That’s because all these opt-outs pave the way for Miami to build yet another super team.

Practically speaking, the opt-outs had to happen. Without them, the Heat had no way to substantially improve the roster because the contracts of the Big Three alone would have pushed the Heat right up to the brink of the projected 2014-15 salary cap of $63.2 million. That would mean Miami’s options for roster improvement would be limited to veteran’s minimums and the mid-level exception.

Sound familiar?

It should. That’s essentially how the Heat have operated in recent seasons, and this past campaign proved a new approach was in order.

It’s unclear exactly how the Heat will proceed from here. Much depends on the extent of the pay cuts the team’s stars will accept. Make no mistake, though; even with relatively minor salary reductions for James, Wade and Bosh, the Heat will almost certainly have enough cash to pursue another impact player.

From there, Miami can exceed the cap to bring back whichever of its own free agents it desires. So if Ray Allen, Chris Andersen or even Rashard Lewis figure into Riley’s plans, they could return. (The Heat could renounce their rights for all of their ancillary free agents to free up as much cap space as possible, then re-sign them after inking the Big Three.) After that, the Heat can rely on the championship appeal of an improved core to attract more ring-hungry vets at a discount.

More important than the practical, necessary flexibility the Big Three’s triple opt-out allows is the unity of purpose it conveys.

NBA teams are made up of different personalities with different agendas, which makes consensus ridiculously difficult to achieve. By agreeing to walk away from millions of guaranteed dollars, theoretically committing to take much less in the short term, James, Wade and Bosh are making a decision that would seem unprecedented if they hadn’t already done it in 2010.

The fragility of the Heat’s plan is difficult to overstate.

If any one of the Big Three had refused to opt out, the scheme doesn’t work. And Wade deserves more credit for his sacrifice than either James or Bosh because for him, the $41 million he’s giving up over the next two years will be nearly impossible for him to recoup on the open market.

Miami’s grand plan is far from complete, and things could fall through at any moment.

James could wake up on July 1 and decide the Chicago Bulls or Houston Rockets offer him a better chance to win rings. Maybe he’ll feel that familiar tug of his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers. Maybe he’ll suddenly decide he wants to be part of the next Los Angeles Lakers dynasty—a legacy-building position if ever there was one.

The same is largely true for Bosh, who is still young and productive enough to potentially field a max offer from another club.

The dangers of unrestricted free agency are real, and even if there’s already some kind of pre-arranged deal between the Big Three to return to Miami, it’s hard to discount the options that have suddenly become available elsewhere.

We can’t call this process a success for the Heat until all three of their stars are back under contract—along with another impact free agent and at least three or four starter-quality veterans to complete the rotation. We’re a long way from that end point right now.

But the first step is complete.

So, in a summer everyone thought would involve player movement that could redefine the power structure in the NBA, it turns out the biggest moves might be the ones that preserve the status quo.

In a strange way, this all feels familiar.

Nobody thought the Heat could pull such a complicated, risky plan together four years ago, but they did. And in executing that plan, they created a super team that visited the Finals in every season of its existence.

Now, Miami is effecting an even bolder gambit, and to the dismay of the rest of the league, it looks like it’s going to work.

Again.

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

NBA Playoff Teams Poised to Take a Step Back in 2014-15

Sustaining similar success from one year to the next isn’t exactly an easy thing to do in the NBA.

Unfortunately, a number of the 16 teams that made the 2014 postseason are going to find that out the hard way next season.

We’re going to take a look at the five playoff teams most likely to take a step back in 2014-15, with our No. 5-ranked team poised for a small decline and our No. 1 team in store for a big fall.

Begin Slideshow

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

When Will Jeanie Buss Step in and Take over the Los Angeles Lakers?

The Los Angeles Lakers are pretty far away from the championship-caliber franchise they used to be, but they may have a savior waiting in the wings.

Can the power combo of Jeanie Buss and Kobe Bryant revive the struggling Lakers? When will Jeanie step in and assume a more hands-on role with player operations? 

Tune in to the video above to see what our Lakers columnist Kevin Ding has to say! 

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Charlotte Bobcats show next step for tanking teams

The Charlotte Bobcats are winning this season, thanks to a good coach and new star.

View full post on USATODAY.com Feed

What’s the Next Step for Luol Deng This Offseason?

There probably aren’t many players secretly looking forward to the offseason as much as Luol Deng. So what comes next for the Cleveland Cavaliers‘ small forward?

Between a bothersome Achilles injury, a trade he didn’t ask for and playing for a team he’s unimpressed with, Deng doesn’t have much else to look forward to, particularly since he could end up being one of the most sought-after free agents.

Granted, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James are technically available, but both have options they can exercise and stay with their teams.

James isn’t likely to divorce himself from the Miami Heat, the team he has won two championships with, but Anthony might really be a free agent. Other than Deng and Anthony, the only notable name is Pau Gasol, who is on the downside of his career.

So Deng could be the second-best (or if Anthony stays with the Knicks, the best) unrestricted free agent available this summer. That’s in part a testament to just how overrated this summer’s market has been, but that doesn’t matter much if you’re Deng or his agent. Teams with money are going to be looking to spend it, and there are a significant number of them who have apparently set eyes on Deng.

 

The Field

Bob Finnan of the News-Herald says Deng “has rebuffed all talk about an extension with the Cavs, and might want to sign with a contending team in free agency.” So that rules out Cleveland.

Deng already refused the Chicago Bulls‘ final offer, so they aren’t in the picture either.

So who’s interested?

Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News identifies several clubs who are looking in Deng’s direction:

We’re surprised the Cavs did not move Luol Deng. He’ll be gone on July 1, no later than a minute past midnight, and despite an Achilles injury that prevents him from practicing on most days, he’ll be high on everyone’s free-agent list. The Mavs, Lakers, Celtics, Magic and Charlotte are all interested. Why not stay in Cleveland? Kyrie Irving doesn’t make players around him better and Dion Waiters is a me-first player.

There were also discussions for a trade to the Washington Wizards shortly before the trade deadline which “gained no traction,” per Ken Berger of CBS Sports:

Berger also noted that the Phoenix Suns showed interest but didn’t want to trade a first-round pick to rent him:

So that brings the total to seven teams who have shown interest in Deng: the Mavericks, Lakers, Celtics, Magic, Bobcats, Suns and Wizards.

The Bulls offer that Deng turned down was three years and $30 million, so we can assume that it’s going to take more than that to ink him. When you consider the number of teams interested and the potential bidding war, it would be surprising to see him go for less than $12 million a year.

Andre Iguodala, similar in stature to Deng, signed a four-year, $48 million contract with the Golden State Warriors after the Sacramento Kings rescinded a four-year, $56 million offer because they didn‘t want to wait. Similar money is expected for Deng. 

All the teams mentioned above have at least that much cap space to work with, per hoopsrumors.com. However, the Suns, who have P.J. Tucker’s and Eric Bledsoe’s free agency to deal with and either three or four first-round picks, will probably will be priced out of the eight-digit market.*

And, as mentioned earlier, Deng is looking to play for a contender. That’s going to leave Charlotte, Boston and Orlando out of the picture. They are teams on the rise but not on the cusp.

That leaves three teams, listed in order of preference from bottom to top: the Lakers, Wizards and Mavericks.

 

The Lakers

The appeal with the Lakers is Kobe Bryant, who is one of the 10 greatest players in the history of the game. Deng is also a great personality fit with Bryant, who is a complete alpha dog. Deng thrives most when he doesn’t have to try and be something he’s not, and he’s better in a beta role. It would benefit him to go and play the right-hand man to Bryant.

If the Lakers could ink Deng while keeping Gasol and Jordan Hill and have Steve Nash directing the team, they would have a starting five that could compete, provided health isn’t an issue.

Of course, that’s a massive disclaimer considering that none of them has exactly been the poster boy for stability over the last couple of years. That could be a major disincentive for Deng, who has already had his share of heartbreak seeing his superstar leader in Chicago, Derrick Rose, lose two years in a row to injury.

 

The Wizards

The Wizards make a lot of sense for Deng, and he has appeal to them. Trevor Ariza has been one of the more underrated players in the league while he’s been playing in Washington, but he too is an unrestricted free agent this summer, and the Wizards might be looking to change small forwards.

Deng has experience playing with young, explosive, scoring point guards in Rose and Irving. It’s not like he’s going to have to adjust to playing with John Wall, the Wizards’ own young superstar.

Furthermore, the Wizards are taking team chemistry seriously after going through a period in their history with Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton literally drawing guns on each other in the locker room. They’ve worked out their problems and have become a stable franchise.

That means they are more “Bulls” than “Cavaliers” right now, which is important to Deng, who, according to Lawrence said of Cleveland, “The stuff going on in practice would never be tolerated by the coaching staff or the front office back in Chicago. It’s a mess.”

Going to a situation which is not a “mess” would seem to give the Wizards a boost over the Lakers, whose superstar player is lobbing verbal grenades at the owners.

 

The Mavericks

Dallas makes the most sense for Deng for several reasons. First, it’s a perfect situation in terms of fit and chemistry. Deng is a bad first option, okay as a second and fantastic as a third. He could serve that role well playing alongside Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis.

Second, Deng’s a great system player, but he’s not a great at improvising. He needs a structure to fit into, which means he needs a well-coached team. Rick Carlisle is a vastly underrated head coach with a championship pedigree.

Third, the Mavericks have a ton of money to spend. If, as reported by Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com, Nowitzki takes a “significant pay cut,” the Mavs could sign another quality player in free agency. They have about $32 million to spend, per ShamSports.com. If Nowitzki took a Tim Duncan-sized contract, he and Deng would combine for $22 million of that, leaving another $10 million for another free agent.

Let’s just say, hypothetically, they land Pau Gasol with that money. Could a starting five of Jose Calderon, Ellis, Deng, Nowitzki and Gasol win a title? It’s certainly feasible. There’d be some issues defensively in the post, but those could be resolved with the bench.

And Deng’s primary responsibility would be doing what he’s most comfortable with: providing help and perimeter D. Scoring as a third or even fourth option would mean that he could reserve his energy for his preferred end of the court.

And let’s face it: Having an owner in Mark Cuban who isn’t afraid of spending money would probably be a refreshing change to Deng.  

Of all the possible situations this one would seem to be the best fit and the most potentially attractive to Deng. Don’t be surprised to see him in a Mavericks’ uniform next season.

 

*In an intriguing mini-tank situation the Suns have the Minnesota Timberwolves‘ first-round pick, but it’s top-13 protected. Currently the ‘Wolves are in the 13th slot and the Suns are in the 14th. If the Suns slip below Minnesota, they get Minnesota’s pick (unless Minnesota gets a ball drawn).

Read more NBA news on BleacherReport.com

View full post on Bleacher Report – NBA

Next Page »