Miami Heat: Why They Won And Lost The Offseason

Miami Heat: Why They Won And Lost The Offseason
By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…
When I writing the winners and losers of the NBA offseason, I had difficulty placing the Heat. On the left hand their best player and the best player in the NBA, LeBron James went to Cleveland. If you have the best player in the NBA and he signs with another team you cannot be an offseason winner, but on the right, I loved the rest of their offseason, so they cannot be called losers. Yes I just said I cannot call them winners or losers, but I will call them winners and losers. Yes, it’s a technicality, but if you’d like to complain feel free.
Yes, losing LeBron James hurts, they won’t be a better team and likely aren’t a contender, so yes they are losers in that regard, but they have rebounded as well as they could. Pat Riley was able to still keep the Heat one of the 3 best teams in the Eastern Conference. Signing Chris Bosh to a 100+ million dollar contract isn’t perfect, but with no Ja…

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NBA Rookies Reveal Which Player They Would Most Like to Dunk On

Rookies don’t want to put a target on their back by running their mouth before they prove themselves on the court, so it’s intriguing to see how players from this year’s NBA draft class responded to being asked which player they would like to dunk on.

Some rookies had a tough time with the question. Should they give an honest answer or just give no comment? Some rookies gave the politically correct response, but those who did answer with names gave pretty predictable answers.

LeBron James and Blake Griffin better watch out because this year’s rookie class is coming after them.

[NBA]

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Los Angeles Lakers: Why They Lost The Offseason

Los Angeles Lakers: Why They Lost The Offseason
By Mike Elworth: Owner and Publisher/Hoopstuff…
The Los Angeles Lakers are one of the losers of the offseason. As I was ranking the winners and losers they came in 4th among the losers, as they were well, really pathetic. Let’s start with the positives, this will be fast because there were few. I loved their draft choice of Julius Randle 7th, who can be an All Star power forward and a key part of their franchise and foundation. I like the hiring of Byron Scott, who is a veteran, he isn’t elite, but can and will help them win. Also signing Ed Davis for just 1 million was an excellent move, as he can be a starter in this league at power forward. Then there is umm, the uh, well that’s it for the Lakers. Here is why they are one of the biggest losers this offseason.
The biggest failure was that they had the cap space for 2 All Stars or 1 max contract yet the best free agent they signed was Carlos Boozer. The biggest name they were able to …

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Why Team USA Needs Every Point Guard They Have for FIBA World Cup

No more cutting point guards. We’re good now. Let’s move on. 

The John Wall cut leaves USA Basketball with Derrick Rose, Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard as the remaining starting NBA point guards. And hopefully that’s how it stays.

There’s no sense in cutting one of them just to shave down the position, especially when they can afford to keep all four. 

And not only that, but they could each serve a legitimate purpose. 

With Kevin Durant pulling out and Paul George out with a broken leg, Team USA will need as much offensive firepower as it get can get. 

And that might mean playing small ball. Given the versatility of USA’s guards and forwards, coach Mike Krzyzewski should be able to pull it off. 

USA Basketball executive director Jerry Colangelo gave his views last month on his guards and their versatility.

“It’s hard to create more than two pure points (on the roster),” Colangelo told USA Today‘s Sam Amick. “Kyrie is a pure point. John Wall is a point. Derrick is a point. Curry can play point, but he’s a two (shooting guard). Harden is a two-three (shooting guard-small forward). Damian is a tweener also – he goes both ways.”

Though Collangelo mentioned he only planned on going with two point guards, he also said that Curry and Lillard both had 2-guard capability. 

And considering the 6’7″ size of Klay Thompson and DeMar DeRozan, along with the absence of Durant and George, Team USA can play some of their 2-guards at the 3 spot, allowing Curry and Lillard to unleash their perimeter-scoring attack off the ball.

The flexibility Coach K has with the 1-3 positions is tremendous. We could be looking at potent second-unit trios like Irving, Curry and Thompson or Lillard, Harden and DeRozan. I might have trouble sleeping at night if they ended up reducing that flexibility for Kyle Korver.

Right now, Team USA is looking at 15 names. Three cuts have to be made to finalize the 12-man roster.

In terms of the guards, you know Rose isn’t going anywhere. The level of respect he’s earned around the league is just too high. And with Durant going down, it’s Rose, the former MVP, who could now be viewed as the veteran leader of this squad. 

And all reports have been positive regarding his health and performance. 

“He went right at it. The first defensive exchange in the camp, he was all over the ball handler, moving his feet, attacking him,” coach Mike Krzyzewski told ESPN’s Nick Friedell. ”There was a buzz right away because it was basically his saying, ‘Look, I’m not just back. I’m back at a level that’s elite.’”

And don’t expect Curry to go anywhere. His passing and shooting ability add value to any lineup or rotation, while ESPN’s Marc Stein calls Kyrie Irving an “inarguable roster lock.”

Stein also dropped an interesting “what if”—”[What if] Krzyzewski decides he simply can’t resist keeping Damian Lillard alongside Rose, Curry and Irving to form a quartet of small speedsters that the rest of the world isn’t equipped to chase around?”

Now that’s what I’m talking about. There are countries out there that can neutralize Team USA’s size inside. Nobody can match the speed, athleticism or firepower offered by the American guards.

If Colangelo did have to cut a guard, it would seem like Lillard would be the odd man out. But he shouldn’t have to.

Of the three centers, you’d like to think Colangelo will cut one, whether it’s DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond or Mason Plumlee

That leaves two more cuts to be made. 

Not to downplay their talent, but based on the roster and its needs, Korver and Gordon Hayward appear a bit more expendable than others, when you consider the presence of Thompson, Harden, DeRozan and Chandler Parsons at the wing positions. 

The fact is that this roster’s core strengths fall in the backcourt. It’s what this team’s identity is built around now that Team USA’s top two wing players are both gone.

Coach K might not use Rose, Curry, Irving and Lillard each in full-time roles throughout the tournament. But having additional playmakers capable of generating offense on demand could provide some valuable extra cushion in case the offense ever gets stagnant. 

Colangelo will be cutting some of the fat on this roster pretty soon, but hopefully he stays away from the backcourt, where USA packs its most potent offensive punch. 

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Shaun Livingston Finally Gives Golden State Warriors Exactly What They Need

It wasn’t a Kevin Love trade, and it may not be a precursor to one, but landing Shaun Livingston was a huge step in the right direction for the Golden State Warriors.

According to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, “Sources close to the process told ESPN.com that Livingston and the Warriors have struck a deal that will pay him the league’s full mid-level exception for the next three seasons, which is valued at an estimated $16 million.”

General manager Bob Myers and Livingston apparently saw eye to eye on more than money alone.

Per Stein, Livingston told ESPN The Magazine‘s Jordan Brenner, “It’s the fit. Definitely the fit. I want to remain competitive and this is the best opportunity.”

Finding a winning franchise is always a good fit, but there’s more to it than that.

Starting with the obvious, Livingston is an experienced and gifted floor general who seems to be peaking at the perfect time for Golden State.

As NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman notes, “Livingston had the best season of his career in Brooklyn last year. Starting most of the season, he averaged 8.3 points, 3.2 assists and 1.2 steals in 26.0 minutes per game as a secondary ball-handler in the backcourt.”

Livingston told Brenner, “It was the best year I’ve had in terms of consistency.”

As CSNBayArea.com’s Monte Poole notes, “Livingston’s career has been hijacked by injuries, the most grotesque and devastating being a left knee injury as a member of the Clippers in 2007. The injury required extensive surgery and rehabilitation.”

By now the effects of that injury are ancient history.

So the signing comes at a good time for the Warriors. They’re getting a guy who appears to be hitting his stride, understanding his role and finding his niche. And the transition with Golden State should be straightforward enough.

As was the case in Brooklyn, Livingston will spend much of his time playing alongside a point guard who can score.

Stephen Curry did it all for Golden State last season, averaging 24 points and 8.5 assists in a campaign that solidified his status as an emergent superstar. But Curry does some of his best work off the ball, and that’s one reason he’ll co-exist splendidly with Livingston.

The 28-year-old’s ability to handle and distribute the ball will allow Curry to spend additional time running off screens and getting himself the shred of daylight he needs to put a shot up. Livingston will also relieve Curry of some minutes. The elder Splash Brother averaged 36.5 of those minutes last season and 42.3 per contest in the playoffs.

Though the 26-year-old has carried the load quite nicely, an extra breather now and then certainly couldn’t hurt.

Livingston may also embolden Curry to become even more of a shooter, which is probably a good thing given his career’s 44-percent success rate from beyond the three-point arc.

Crucially, Livingston has pass-first instincts. His 26.6 assist ratio ranked just behind Curry himself last season (who scored a 26.7 rating). That didn’t rank him among the very best distributors, but it’s an impressive figure given that Livingston’s usage rate was 60th out of 70 qualifying point guards.

In other words, there was a relatively small sample size by which to measure Livingston’s decision-making. But the eye test confirms that he looked to facilitate more than the average ball-handler.

And the numbers confirm solid overall efficiency. Livingston’s 14.52 player efficiency rating put him ahead of several starters around the league, including Jameer Nelson, George Hill and Raymond Felton.

There are limitations to Livingston’s game to be sure.

He can’t shoot three-pointers, and he turns the ball over a bit more often than you’d like to see from a player who doesn’t dominate the ball. 

The good news is Golden State has plenty of three-point shooters, namely Curry and backcourt partner Klay Thompson. Floor spacing won’t suffer too much when Livingston is on the floor, and he’s learned to make up for his missing perimeter shot with a better-than-average in-between game.

As CBSSports.com’s Matt Moore observes, Golden State, “needed a floor general and perimeter defender more than another shooter anyway.”

About that defense.

The Warriors became a much-improved defensive club over the last two seasons, and that’s in spite of the fact that interior anchor Andrew Bogut has been consistently sidetracked by injury (though the 67 games he played last season were a vast improvement over the 2012-13 campaign, when he suited up just 32 times).

Golden State ranked third league-wide last season in opponents’ field-goal percentage (at 43.6 percent), just behind defensive juggernauts in the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls.

Livingston will only add to that defensive presence with his length and versatility. Though he’s frequently classified as a point guard on account of his handling ability, Livingston can guard virtually anyone in the backcourt or on the wing. In fact, there’s no reason he couldn’t play alongside Curry and Thompson—essentially playing backup to small forward Andre Iguodala, himself a top-shelf playmaker and defender.

The Warriors have been on the verge of contending in each of the last two seasons, appearing just a piece or two away from having what it takes to surpass teams like the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder.

Even as rumors swirl regarding the team’s pursuit of Love, it may be that the less ambitious acquisition of Livingston makes a significant difference nonetheless. 

Unless Myers and Co. are absolutely convinced that acquiring Love is worth disrupting this squad’s core, this roster is better off being tweaked than overhauled. Very little here is fundamentally broken, so the fixes should be modest.

Outside of a trade, the organization couldn’t (and can’t) afford much else.

With Livingston occupying Golden State’s mid-level exception and bringing the club’s salary commitments right up to the hard cap, the remainder of the offseason may be a quiet one. But for the chance of that Love story becoming a reality, quiet isn’t a bad thing.

Nor was adding Shaun Livingston.

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Report: Miami Heat Telling Free Agents They Will Have Money to Spend

With only one player (Norris Cole) under contract, the Miami Heat have over $50 million to spend on free agency this offseason. The only issue now is whether they will have the Big Three back in order to draw free agents to South Beach. 
Heat telling free agents they will have $12+ million to spend, indicating Wade & Bosh ready to take huge pay cuts, sources told ESPN
— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) July 1, 2014

It had previously been reported that both Wade and Bosh were willing to take paycuts after opting out. As it relates to LeBron James, he’s demanding nothing less than the maximum offer he can receive.
The Big Three have previously met over lunch to discuss contract details amongst themselves. They have also given Heat president Pat Riley a window to improve the roster before moving on to other potential destinations.
If Wade and Bosh are indeed willing to take paycuts, the Heat will have a nice amount of money to spend in free agency. Their primary exterior target at…

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Report: Clippers Believe They Have ‘Real Chance’ of Signing Paul Pierce

Could Paul Pierce be headed for a reunion with Doc Rivers after a one-year hiatus in Brooklyn? 

According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Los Angeles Clippers are now of the belief that they have a shot at signing Pierce following Jason Kidd’s departure: 

All this comes after Stein reported back in May that Pierce would be interested in linking up with the Clippers, although that option came with a caveat regarding Kevin Garnett‘s future at the time: 

If KG decides to play on, those who know him well say Pierce’s incentive to stay in Brooklyn naturally spikes. If Garnett decides it’s time to stop, Pierce is bound to be intrigued even more by the scenario that is said to be on his radar already: Reuniting with Doc Rivers in Clipperland in what would also be a homecoming for the Los Angeles native. 

Following a rather underwhelming inaugural season with the Brooklyn Nets that saw Pierce average a career-worst 13.5 points on 45.1 percent shooting from the field, a change of scenery would make sense for the unrestricted free agent. 

And given the organizational uncertainty that’s enveloped the Nets following Kidd’s transition to the Milwaukee Bucks, finding comfort in Rivers’ system out in his native Los Angeles would seem to be a natural for a veteran searching to maximize his remaining years in the Association. 

Bleacher Report’s Dan Favale relayed a similar sentiment after the Nets were ousted from the playoffs: 

“Going on 37, Pierce, as he showed at times against the Heat, can still play. He won’t want to waste what he has left playing for lottery-bound squads or fringe-playoff clubs.”

It’s also worth noting that the Clippers aren’t alone in their pursuit of Pierce. 

According to Stein, several other noteworthy contenders are putting out feelers as the 36-year-old hits the open market: 

“I still think I have something to give a team,” Pierce said following the Nets’ dismissal from the postseason, according to the New York Post’s Tim Bontemps. In addition, Pierce told reporters that he has a year or two left, “at most,” per Bontemps

If we’re to take Pierce at his word, a move to the Clippers would be the most logical one out there. 

Not only does Pierce have an intimate familiarity with Rivers’ scheme from their days in Boston, but L.A. is looking for immediate help on the wing, according to ESPN L.A.’s Arash Markazi

With a starting role feasibly up for grabs, it would behoove Pierce to try and cap his career with a Larry O’Brien trophy or two, even if it comes at a reduced price. 

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Miami Heat’s Draft Is More About LeBron James Than Any Player They Select

MIAMI — The decision was antithetical to everything that we now understand about Pat Riley, all that he readily admits. But that was a different time, back in 2004, when he wasn’t coaching the Miami Heat, but had just watched the team surprise under Stan Van Gundy, with a core of three budding prospects (Dwyane Wade, Caron Butler, Udonis Haslem), one revived talent (Lamar Odom) and two steady hands (Eddie Jones, Brian Grant) pushing a strong Indiana Pacers squad in the second round. 

And so, with the 19th slot in the draft, and with more seasoned prospects such as Jameer Nelson and Tony Allen still available, Riley reached into the prep ranks, for a relatively unknown 18-year-old prospect named Dorell Wright.

More fresh, spry legs for the Heat’s lively, youthful group. 

And then, less than three weeks later, Riley fast-forwarded the Heat’s roster development considerably, trading for Shaquille O’Neal, turning the Heat into an instant contender, and creating a greater need for veterans—or at least, more mature collegians—than some green kid. 

Wright played just 159 minutes over his first two seasons, wasting on the bench for an organization that had understandably gone in another direction, when he wasn’t toiling for the Florida Flame

Such is the nature of the NBA‘s scheduling of its major offseason events—with the draft coming prior to the opening of free agency and the busy trading period. That scheduling is the reverse of what happens in the NFL, in which teams have established the veteran backbone of their rosters before the draft begins. And it is of note again now, as the Heat enter the proceedings with as much uncertainty as any NBA operation.

In fact, what occurred Wednesday afternoon at the Soho Beach House, with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh conducting their anticipated semi-formal meeting about free agency, was infinitely more material to Miami’s ongoing championship chances than anything that occurs Thursday night. 

This may be more valuable for us, for clue collection, than it is for the Heat, for talent collection. 

After all, the most important person on the Heat’s acquisition board is James, now that he’s opted out, and can’t officially re-sign until July 8. Between now and then, he’s scheduled to attend his trainer’s wedding and take his family on another vacation, but he’ll also have his eyes on Heat headquarters.

And, while it’s always dangerous to cater too much to a superstar’s teammate preferences—more on this later—Miami has little choice at this point. 

If James wants it, Riley must try to get it. 

In that context, the ESPN.com report that the Heat were stalking Shabazz Napier, even if it meant including Norris Cole to move up from No. 26, made some sense. And it’s not just because, at nearly 23 years old and with extensive big-game experience, Napier fits the profile of a ready-to-play prospect. James was so enamored with the Connecticut point guard that he tweeted his admiration back in April. 

So, if the Heat take Napier, that’s at least, in part, to send a signal to James that they value his opinion and are trying to accommodate his preference. But what if the Heat trade out of the first round entirely? They did so the last time they entered the evening with a first round selection, in 2012. 

Well, that’s a message of another sort. 

Perhaps they just don’t like anyone enough to pull the trigger there. Or perhaps they don’t want to waste the cap hold (roughly $1 million) on an unproven prospect, when they could add that to the pile of cash that the Heat’s star trio (and Udonis Haslem) may create by all opting out to extend their contracts and take lower 2014-15 salaries. 

If Miami dumps No. 26 for a second-round choice and future considerations, it doesn’t guarantee that Wade and Bosh have all agreed to join James in the opt-out club, or that all three have agreed to part with a healthy chunk of cash. But it makes you think that Miami thinks that something is in the works.

All of this—whether appealing to a superstar or clearing cap space for more veteran help—may not seem like a conventional approach to a draft. But this is the Riley way. He has customarily used his picks as chips, either to dump a bad contract or facilitate something grander (such as the sign-and-trade agreements for James and Bosh), and his current circumstances may compel him to do the same again. He’s 69 years old, in a hurry to win again, and he’d prefer players closer to one-half or one-third, than one-quarter, his age. 

Just listen to his line of thinking, when he was asked last Thursday about the risk of taking a young, skilled teenage big man. 

“I think an 18, just-turned 19-year-old is risky as the top pick in the draft,” Riley said. “I don’t care who he is. Unless it was LeBron or Kevin Garnett or Moses Malone… Kobe (Bryant). There’s about four guys in the history of the draft who came out of high school who were that young, who became superstars. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t want to be in the lottery, I really wouldn’t want to be, because it’s a crapshoot….”

Riley spoke of preferring a “mature 25, 26, 27 year old guy,” even if that guy had bounced around some.

“But because there is a draft and there is a lottery,” Riley said. “And most of the kids are one-and-done kids, or maybe two years at the most, that you really don’t know what you’re gonna get, and how that’s going to translate to the NBA.” 

It’s not hard to figure out how that philosophy—wanting the tree and not the seeds—will translate into action.

Napier is nearly 23. Wichita State’s Cleanthony Early already is. That would seem to make them viable Riley candidates, in the way that Wade (at 21) was, and in a way that Wright really wasn’t, though Riley has tried just about everything once. (That includes foreign players, way back with Sasha Danilovic and Martin Muursepp, but after the latter misstep, Riley has run from overseas options.)

There’s another consideration now, though, beyond whether a player fits the Riley profile. It’s whether the players also complement James, enough to sweeten the Heat’s pitch ever so slightly. And yes, as noted earlier, it can be tricky to trust a player’s eye for talent, or his take on roster composition.

Michael Jordan may have been the greatest player of them all, but he wasn’t much of an evaluator even before his extreme troubles as an executive or owner. Early in his Chicago career, he was angered by the Bulls‘ trade of his friend Charles Oakley for a player he called “Medical” Bill Cartwright. He realized his error later, after Cartwright helped him win his first three rings. 

Kobe Bryant wanted the Lakers to trade Andrew Bynum before Bynum started on two championship teams; the rebuke of Bynum only looks better now as the center’s knees, attitude and career have all fallen apart. 

Wade was a proponent of the Heat drafting O.J. Mayo in 2008. That wouldn’t have been much better than what the Heat did instead, taking Michael Beasley second overall, while Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook and Brook Lopez, among others, were still on the board. 

James believes in his own basketball IQ to such an extent that he also believes he can identify great gifts in others. Perhaps his enthusiastic assessment of Ben McLemore during last year’s draft will prove prophetic, even after McLemore had an uneven rookie season. Perhaps he will prove the scouts wrong, when most have Dante Exum, Elfrid Payton and Tyler Ennis ranked ahead of Napier at the point guard position.

But it almost doesn’t matter.

Nor does it matter that the Heat could make moves Thursday that could look misguided if James ultimately leaves, and Riley really needs to go to a youth movement—the opposite of what occurred in 2004.

All that matters, for now, is giving James something close to what he wants, so, with another stroke of a pen, he does what the Heat need.

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Atlanta Hawks 2014 NBA Draft Big Board: Top 3 Guys for Each Pick They Hold

Picking at No. 15 and No. 43, the Atlanta Hawks will do their best to improve their roster in Thursday’s 2014 NBA draft.

Whom should the team target with its two picks?

Let’s take a look at the top three players the Hawks want to see available at each of their selections, assuming they don’t trade either pick.

Players will be included only if their status in mock drafts and big boards is somewhat near to the pick in question. For example, Andrew Wiggins would be a fantastic get at No. 15, but the smart money says he won’t be available that late in the draft.

Begin Slideshow

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Jimmy Kimmel Asks People If They Can Name a College Basketball Player

Jimmy Kimmel loves testing people’s knowledge of major events happening around the world.

With the 2014 NCAA tournament happening, Kimmel wondered whether these people who call themselves fans could name a single college basketball player. 

Not surprisingly, as we’ve seen with these segments, most fans could not. 

[Jimmy Kimmel Live YouTube, h/t SportsGrid]

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