Blogtable

Blogtable: Are Knicks a super team?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Your favorite Olympic memory? | Should LeBron chase ghost of Jordan? | Are the Knicks a super team?


> Derrick Rose says the Knicks have built a “super team” this offseason. You buying that? And will we see Rose return to at least an All-Star level in New York?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: No. And, no.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: The Knicks are the sort of “super team” that you might see in late-night infomercials, where the “super” gets tossed around rather haphazardly. By reputation, eh, maybe — they’ve got a former MVP (Rose), a former Defensive Player of the Year (Joakim Noah), a star-in-the-making (Kristaps Porzingis) and a late-prime scorer (Carmelo Anthony) who hasn’t cracked the all-NBA selections or top 10 in MVP balloting, or reached the playoffs, in three years. The Knicks are a super team the way the Shaquille O’NealKobe BryantKarl MaloneGary Payton Lakers were in 2003-04 or the Kobe BryantPau GasolSteve NashDwight Howard Lakers were in 2012-13. All hat, no cattle.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comNo and no. But please, let me have some of whatever he’s drinking.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: I’m absolutely buying that. And that he was looking at the roster of the 1969-70 Knicks when he said it. If he really did mean the 2016-17 Knicks, well, I hope Derrick is feeling better and there are no lingering effects from falling on his head just before talking. We know he has All-Star confidence. As for the actual All-Star game, I don’t think we will see Rose in City To Be Named Later. But I do think he will have a positive season and that the acquisition will turn out to be a good one. The Knicks will improve and Rose will be an important part of those gains.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: It’s a super team … from 2011. Although, let’s put it in perspective: For Knicks’ fans, it’s a super team, considering what they’ve had to witness for much of the last 10-15 years. Snark aside, I do believe Rose will play close to All-Star level, if not a bit higher. He doesn’t have any serious physical issues; it’s his jumper, which is flatter than Nebraska. If he does less shooting and more passing — he’ll have plenty to work with — he can reinvent himself for the better.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: No. Even if you put the health questions aside, New York’s best players are a couple of steps below those we saw in Boston and Miami, or the ones now in Cleveland and Golden State. If they are healthy though, that starting lineup can be very good, and it’s not as old as it seems (Carmelo Anthony and Joakim Noah are just 32 and 31, respectively). They can make the playoffs, but I still don’t see Rose as an All-Star this year. He’s never been a good shooter, and the loss of explosiveness has kept him from being able to finish at the basket as well or get to the line as often as he used to. Among 175 players who took at least 500 shots last season, he ranked 168th in true shooting percentage (scoring efficiency).

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I’m selling … like cheap street meat on the corner outside Madison Square Garden. That “super team” designation is thrown around far to liberally for my tastes, especially these days. Every time you put a couple of All-Stars together people think they’ve got a “super team.” I’m rooting for Derrick Rose to get as close to his top form as is humanly and physically possible, but I won’t be a party to “super team” talk when it is not warranted. The Knicks need to concentrate on making the playoffs in what should be a tougher than expected Eastern Conference. Get to the postseason first, then we can talk about what comes next. But enough already with this “super team” stuff.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Five years ago they would have been a super team. As it is right now, they should be contending for the playoffs, because Carmelo Anthony can perform at a high level and Kristaps Porzingis should be challenging for the All-Star team. But Rose and Joakim Noah are vulnerable physically, based on the injuries they’ve suffered in recent years, which means a couple of major trends must be reversed in order for them to be more than a first-round team — and for Rose to renew his All-Star past.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogWhen Rose said that to me, my eyes may have betrayed any attempt to look nonplussed in the moment. But upon further reflection, I thought Rose said several things in that interview that were probably more newsworthy — the way he was trying to play a less-athletic game this season; his willingness to play off the ball; Hornacek’s adjustments of the Triangle to include more pick-and-roll. I don’t think Rose will ever return to the Derrick Rose that won an MVP, but a more economic Rose might play pretty nicely in the Big Apple.

Blogtable: Should LeBron chase ghost of Jordan?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Your favorite Olympic memory? | Should LeBron chase ghost of Jordan? | Are the Knicks a super team?


> LeBron James told Sports Illustrated this week that his motivation is “this ghost I’m chasing.” He of course was referring to Michael Jordan. Is that chase worthwhile? And how much closer is LeBron after last June’s Finals?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Yes, it’s worthwhile. Who else is going to motivate James at this point of his career, after 13 years and a whole lot of mileage. It’s certainly possible James could get close–he’s got three titles, and no one is going to keep Cleveland out of The Finals from the East any time soon. A Cavaliers team that doesn’t have 52 years of history on its back should play free and easy for a while, and give LeBron a couple of real good cracks to get close before he’s too old to play at this level any more.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comAs soon as I read about LeBron’s motivation, I thought, “Just whom was Jordan chasing?” I’m not sure he was chasing anyone — the GOAT title was tossed around in debates about Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, with occasional Magic Johnson mentions, without any clear victor — and that’s to Jordan’s everlasting credit. He was an original, the guy who became the standard against whom all contenders would be measured both on (basketball) and off (business) the court. No one drew in casual fans like Jordan — as gifted as James is, stylistically he’s still a turbo-charged luxury SUV going against a Ferrari. James already is a Top 5 all-timer in my opinion and this year’s Finals gives him a boost even within that elite group. But he needs three more rings to match Jordan and his success rate won’t ever be as good.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com Of course, it’s worthwhile. After six straight Finals appearances and his performance in the unprecedented 3-1 comeback over the Warriors, I do believe LeBron is a lot closer than the eternal worshippers at the cult of Jordan will ever admit.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: If it motivates LeBron, then it’s worthwhile. That it could become tangible on the court, in the most recent June or others in the future. But that’s the only real value in the chase, because it isn’t a chase. It could become a good debate topic and that’s it. Each ring obviously builds a better case for a player, so, yes, the argument for James did get stronger at the end of 2015-16, not just that the Cavaliers won the championship but that they won in unprecedented fashion with the rally from 1-3. That is the tangible. That is the part of the chase that matters.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Can we please stop? Please? LeBron isn’t on pace, or on track, or within sight of Jordan. That’s a nice little narrative being spun by him and his people and media folks who were too young to have seen Jordan actually win six championships, and the public and its short-term memory. Jordan never vaporized the way LeBron and the Miami Heat did against the Dallas Mavericks in The 2011 Finals. Jordan is 6-0 in The Finals and was clutch as they come. Oh, and that block by LeBron against Andre Iguodala? Contrary to what some announcers said, that was the second-best defensive play in Finals history. Jordan’s sneak-from-behind strip of Karl Malone, which directly led to the championship-winning jumper over Bryon Russell, was the first.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Motivation is a good thing and trying to chase the legend of Michael Jordan will keep you motivated for a long time. It is valid to compare the two, though it’s difficult because their skill sets, team situations and timelines are so different. Pulling his team out of a 3-1 deficit against the best regular season team of all-time will eventually be a big part of LeBron’s legend, and it helps his case that Jordan never did anything similar against a team nearly as strong.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The chase is certainly worthwhile for LeBron. In fact, I don’t know what else he could use to legitimately motivate himself at this stage of his career. He’s already the best player of his generation, a three-time champion and the global icon he’s always wanted to be. He’s also on the short list of guys who should be considered for Top Five All-Time status. That said, he’ll find out the same thing others who have spent lifetimes chasing ghosts know well, that there is no payoff at the end of this journey. You can’t chase what you can’t see. And as magnificent as LeBron’s career has been from the start and for all that he could still accomplish, I feel like he’s in the midst of a trivial pursuit. Sure, he could match Jordan’s raw numbers but he’ll never be able to match MJ’s concentrated greatness. The condensed brilliance of the Jordan era, including the mountains he had to climb to drag the Bulls to a championship level squad and then sustain it, is what separates him from so many other of the game’s all-time greats.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: The chase is definitely worthwhile, and the ghost is within reach because of LeBron’s versatility. He’s 31 with six straight Finals appearances and three championships, and he has a chance to remain at or near the top of the league for years to come because of his size and versatility. So long as he stays in Cleveland, it is going to be hard to prevent him from returning to The Finals year after year. And isn’t it highly conceivable to imagine LeBron reinventing himself as the NBA’s best power forward at age 35?

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogIf there’s anything we’ve learned from awesome sci-fi shows like “Stranger Things,” it’s that the ghosts and the monsters are the ones that chase you, not the other way around. And when you are the one who’s doing the chasing, the ghosts and monsters are not just sitting around waiting to get caught. So if LeBron’s gonna slip into a Ghostbusters suit and chase after that ghost of MJ, more power to him. But also, good luck trying to catch something that doesn’t really exist. The myth of MJ is what makes him so great. And also unlikely to ever get caught.

Blogtable: Best five U.S. Team players for offense

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: NBA rookies eager to watch in Rio | Team with best shot to defeat U.S.? | Best five U.S. Team players for offense | Best five U.S. Team players for defense


>The five players Coach K should put on the floor when he needs scoreboard-busting offense?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com:

G – Kyrie Irving
G – Klay Thompson
F – Carmelo Anthony
F – Kevin Durant
C – Draymond Green

This is a red, white and blue version of Golden State’s Death Lineup, with Irving, Anthony and Durant swapped in for Steph Curry, Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes. When you factor in the shorter 3-point line in FIBA rules, this crew — three of whom will be playing together in 2016-17, along with the reigning two-time Kia MVP — would be scary-lethal. (Note: No disrespect to Barnes, who also is on Team USA, but KD is a clear upgrade and Melo is a professional scorer.)

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comCarmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comKevin Durant, Klay Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins, Draymond Green, Kyle Lowry.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comFirst thought: Kevin Durant. Duh. Second thought: They would be best offensively with Draymond Green’s passing and shooting at the five, especially if Kyrie Irving is at the point. Now add the shooting of Klay Thompson and Carmelo Anthony and they will score rather efficiently.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Start with Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson in the backcourt, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony in the frontcourt and DeMarcus Cousins in the middle and you can blow out a few bulbs on any scoreboard. That first five firepower would be off the charts. Coach K is working with an embarrassment of riches, even when some of the best and brightest don’t make the trip.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com:  Everyone here can create his own shot:
C – DeMarcus Cousins
F – Carmelo Anthony
F – Kevin Durant
F – Klay Thompson
G – Kyrie Irving

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogI would go extra small and use a lineup of Kyrie Irving at the point, with Klay Thompson alongside him in the backcourt. Then a frontline of Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant. Spread the floor, score. Good luck finding someone on that five who can’t take advantage of a mismatch.

Blogtable: Best five U.S. Team players for defense

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: NBA rookies eager to watch in Rio | Team with best shot to defeat U.S.? | Best five U.S. Team players for offense | Best five U.S. Team players for defense


>The five players Coach K should put on the floor when he needs lock-down defense?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com

G – Paul George
G – Klay Thompson
F – Jimmy Butler
F – Draymond Green
C – DeAndre Jordan

The key to this lineup would be Paul George’s ability to make life tough on point guards with his length and quickness. Thompson, Butler and Green are proven two-way players who pride themselves on shutting down their men. And there’s Jordan backing them all up with size, leaping ability and — in these games — a license to take the ball off the rim.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comJimmy Butler, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Paul George and DeAndre Jordan.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comDeAndre Jordan, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Paul George, Jimmy Butler. That would force someone to defend a point guard, but very few opponents will have a PG with the ability to go around Thompson or Butler, for example. If I need a point guard for defense, I go with Kyle Lowry and sit one of those two.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comA long lineup of Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and DeAndre Jordan wouldn’t have too many issues switching everything and would be tough to score on. And it’s a lineup that we very well may see. Krzyzewski has been using George at point guard for a few minutes here and there in the first few exhibition games.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Depending on what type of ball pressure you want to bring to the game, I’d start with Klay Thompson and Paul George as my guards (and I think they could both handle themselves against the point guards in this field). Draymond Green and Jimmy Butler have all the versatility I need on the perimeter and can both play bigger than their listed height and weight. DeAndre Jordan is going to be a revelation to some people in this competition much the way Kenneth Faried was in the 2014 World Cup in Spain, a player capable of dominating the game around the rim with his athleticism and shot-blocking.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comThese five will also be able to transform stops and turnovers into baskets, so long as Jordan is attacking the basket for lobs:

C – DeAndre Jordan
F – Draymond Green
F – Paul George
G – Jimmy Butler
G – Klay Thompson

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogThis is where I’m not sure what the play is at the point, considering neither Kyle Lowry or Kyrie Irving are known for their defense. So maybe you use Klay Thompson at the one, with Jimmy Butler next to him at the two. Then a front line of Paul George, Draymond Green and DeAndre Jordan seems pretty capable, and able to switch just about anything.

Blogtable: Team with best shot to defeat U.S.?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: NBA rookies eager to watch in Rio | Team with best shot to defeat U.S.? | Best five U.S. Team players for offense | Best five U.S. Team players for defense


>The United States will be a heavy gold-medal favorite in Rio, but which team do you believe has the best chance to hand the U.S. a loss?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Australia won’t have Ben Simmons or Andrew Bogut, Spain will be playing without Marc Gasol and the best players on Argentina’s team are all long in the tooth. So I’ll go with France, to whom Tony Parker and Boris Diaw will bring their years of Spurs synergy. Lithuania and Serbia should be more rugged tests, too, than Team USA has been facing in its exhibitions so far.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comFrankly, the answer is nobody. Normally you’d look at Spain, but not without Marc Gasol. If you forced me to make a pick, I’ll take a flyer on France with a roster stocked with NBA talent.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comFrance, then Spain. The French are expected to have Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum, Rudy Gobert, Boris Diaw and others, some with an NBA background, plus many years together that includes reaching the quarterfinals in London. (The surprise was that France left Evan Fournier off the roster.) It won’t be enough to beat Team USA, but that lineup will get the Americans’ attention.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comSpain has better offensive talent, but France has the defenders — namely Nicolas Batum and Rudy Gobert — that can make things interesting against the U.S. They also have a very good coach, Vincent Collet, whose game plan played a big part in their upset of Spain in the World Cup quarterfinals in Madrid two years ago. It would help if Tony Parker was a few years younger, because neither Parker (at 34) nor France’s other ball handlers have the quickness to really make the U.S. defense scramble. While Spain has been able to hang with the U.S. in a couple of high-scoring games in the last two Olympics, France would need a much uglier game to have a shot.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I don’t believe the U.S. is in any sort of imminent danger from the field in Rio. France and Spain always stick out from the crowd, due to the abundance of NBA players on their respective rosters. But the U.S. is the only team that can go up and down the roster and tap NBA All-Stars to hit the floor and play at a high level for short stretches. If things get interesting late in any game, I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comThe leadership of Tony Parker, the shot-blocking of Rudy Gobert, the playmaking of Boris Diaw and the perimeter defense of Nicolas Batum will give France the best chance in the final game of group play — especially if the French are fighting for a higher seed and the Americans are looking ahead to the knockout round. That being said, I don’t see any team capable of beating the U.S. There will be a surprisingly close game or two, but the great players of the traditional basketball powers – Parker, Pau Gasol of Spain and Manu Ginobili of Argentina — have grown old while USA Basketball has continually replenished. The argument can be made that the top eight players (if not more) will be wearing American uniforms.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogThere are several teams stocked with NBA players, but the two I’d be most concerned with are both from Europe: Spain and France. I know Australia has a lot of talent as well, but Spain, as always, basically has a team full of NBA players, and France is the other team I think you can never count out.

Blogtable: Rookies eager to watch in Rio

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: NBA rookies eager to watch in Rio | Team with best shot to defeat U.S.? | Best five U.S. Team players for offense | Best five U.S. Team players for defense


> Several incoming NBA rookies will be suited up for the Summer Olympics, which begin next week.  Which of these rooks are you most eager to see in action in Rio? Why?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I’m curious about Domantas Sabonis with Lithuania. I missed seeing his old man, Arvydas, until he was an older, thicker and different player with Portland (1995-2003) than he had been in international competition. If his offspring can make the transition from Gonzaga to the NBA as effectively as Arvydas did when he arrived at age 31, the Thunder will have something special. Arvydas Sabonis was so gifted, and had such great finesse for a huge man. It’ll be interesting to see how much Domantas relies on guile as he’s adding strength to compete in the paint against the NBA’s grown men.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comAs a resident of Houston, I’ll be most interested in Rockets second-round draft pick Zhou Qi of China.  The 7-foot-2 center has a tremendous wingspan, demonstrated athleticism, touch around the hoop and a decent jumper. But he is downright skinny and I want to see if he can hold his own against physical play. I’ll also have an eye out for Domantas Sabonis of Lithuania.  The son of Hall of Famer Arvydas Sabonis could get big minutes this season for the relaunching Thunder.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comAlex Abrines. I’ve been on the bandwagon for a few years, since before the Thunder took him 32nd in 2013. His previous experience at major international tournaments has only been in the junior events. Now the swingman has extensive experience in Spain, will finally be joining Oklahoma City this season and is scheduled to play for Spain in the Olympics. The Spanish roster is crowded enough that Abrines will not be handed minutes, but his play, especially if a matchup with the United States materializes beyond pool play, will be a measuring stick heading toward his NBA debut. The same goes for Dario Saric as he nears the move to the 76ers.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comTwo of them — Domantas Sabonis and Dario Saric — are lottery picks. Even though Sabonis played college basketball in the States, I’ve seen more of Saric. So I’m more curious about Sabonis, who has been playing a decent amount of minutes in exhibition games for a veteran-laden Lithuania squad. His skills could be a good fit on the Thunder frontline and it will be interesting to see if he gets a chance to contribute as a rookie on a team that will be fighting for a playoff spot.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Seeing his highlights doesn’t do justice to the game so many talent evaluators insist resides in the body of Dario Saric. I’ve been waiting anxiously to see him go all out in a competition like this, just to see if he can justify some of the hype (and there has been plenty). He’s such a critical piece for the Philadelphia 76ers going forward. I want see for my own eyes what he brings to the party in Philly.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comFor two years we’ve been hearing about 6-foot-10 power forward Dario Saric, the No. 12 pick of the 2014 draft who will add to the glut of big men in Philadelphia next season. Will Saric be able to earn meaningful minutes alongside Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor? Which skills will he bring to the 76ers? The best clues will be provided by his play with Croatia in the weeks ahead.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogWait, Ben Simmons is playing? Oh, well then, my options are severely limited. In that case, out of the rookies playing in Rio, I’ll do with Domantas Sabonis, who may end up playing a bigger role than anyone suspected this season for the Thunder following the departure of Kevin Durant.

Blogtable: Biggest team turnaround with new coach?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Thoughts on away-from-play rules changesBiggest turnaround with new coach?Incoming rookie destined for NBA stardom?


> Which team is poised to have the most dramatic jump in winning percentage next season: Tom Thibodeau’s Timberwolves, Scott Brooks’ Wizards, Luke Walton’s Lakers, Dave Joerger’s Kings, Nate McMillan’s Pacers, David Fizdale’s Grizzlies, Jeff Hornacek’s Knicks, Mike D’Antoni’s Rockets, Frank Vogel’s Magic or Kenny Atkinson’s Nets?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Thibodeau’s Timberwolves will improve the most. No one coaches harder in the 82-game regular season, and Minnesota’s three youngest core players — Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine — would naturally take a step or two in their development under almost any coach. Combine that, along with a pretty easy act to top (29 victories in 2015-16) and I’m expected an improvement of 10-15 games.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comThe 17-win Lakers have the most room to work with, but the Lakers are also the farthest away. Frank Vogel’s solid defensive base will make the Magic jump if they can sort out the sudden glut of big men. But I’m making it a two-team race for biggest improvement. The Grizzlies and David Fizzle with a healthy Marc Gasol should go from 42 back to their customary 50-plus level. But I’ll give the nod to Minnesota. All that young talent combined with Thibs’ defensive chops will have the Wolves howling with a possible leap from from 29 to 40+ wins.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comLuke Walton’s Lakers, but in large part because they have the most realistic room to grow. It’s not hard to see L.A. adding 10 wins based on the energy of the coaching change, the experience D’Angelo Russell and (basically) Julius Randle didn’t have last season, the arrival of Luol Deng as a veteran presence and the addition of Brandon Ingram in the Draft. Ten wins is close to a 60-percent jump. A lot of the other options you mention will improve — Minnesota, New York, Orlando — but the Magic, for example, aren’t going to be 60-percent better in the standings. They will have more wins than the Lakers, just not a bigger increase.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: I’ll say the Lakers only because they were mostly dreadful and won just 17 games. Only one way to go, and if they win 30, which is somewhat realistic, that almost a 50-percent jump. Can’t see anyone else in this group pulling that off (where are the Sixers?) But again, it’s a backhanded compliment to the Lakers, who if nothing else should be exciting to watch even in defeat.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: The Wolves are going to the playoffs next season. Tom Thibodeau will have them improve at least 10 spots in defensive efficiency, where they ranked 27th last season. The development of their young players — along with, hopefully, Zach LaVine playing a lot more shooting guard than point guard — should have them improved offensively as well. Karl-Anthony Towns is the league’s next star and should do well with his first summer of work after finding out what the league is all about. He could make a huge leap.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: As entertaining as I believe the Minnesota Timberwolves could be under Tom Thibodeau, I’m going to have to go with Luke Walton’s Lakers. They’ve got as much ground to gain (in percentages and raw numbers) as any team in the league, given their dreadful performance last season and the fresh new look they’ll have under Walton. David Fizdale’s Grizzlies, however, will go into the season as my potential surprise team in the Western Conference (provided they have a healthy roster to work with), where things could shift dramatically with all of the changes that have occurred in free agency.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comThe Timberwolves may reach the playoffs next season because of Thibodeau, who will hasten their development defensively and turn their athleticism into a force. D’Antoni has a history of elevating the value of his players and the Rockets appear to be in the mood to rally around him after embarrassing themselves last year.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogI don’t know if there is a “most dramatic” winner out there. Scanning past those names, I don’t see any one team that immediately jumps out at me and looks like sudden a title contender. If I had to pick one, I’d pick a team in the East, where improvement may be easier to come by, and say either the Knicks (if they are healthy, which is a gigantic if) or maybe Frank Vogel’s Magic show in Orlando.

Blogtable: Incoming rookie that’s destined for NBA stardom?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Thoughts on away-from-play rules changesBiggest turnaround with new coach?Incoming rookie destined for NBA stardom?


> Based on the very small sample size that we call Summer League, which incoming rookie is a can’t-miss, bonafide NBA star in the next 2-3 years?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comIt’s hard not to see stardom for Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons, based on his play in Las Vegas as well as the greater likelihood for a guy picked No. 1 overall. But I’ll include Boston’s Jaylen Brown because, hey, I saw Brown actually get a “star” whistle from one of the referees late in a summer game. Down the stretch against Milwaukee, I think it was, some very questionable contact was adjudicated in his favor. Brown’s floor game was impressive, his above-the-rim game packed some intimidation. He averaged 22 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 3.6 steals in his final three appearances.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comThere’s no reason to doubt No. 1 pick Ben Simmons. He has the talent, the flair and seems to want to embrace the challenge of resurrecting the once-proud Sixers franchise.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: There isn’t one. Obviously a lot depends on the definition of “star,” but Ben Simmons has the best chance. He is not a can’t-miss star until he gets a jumper, though, and teams are forced to play him for something other than drive and pass. Simmons has a chance to be special in time, especially when (if) the 76ers give him some scorers to pass to.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comThe answer is “none” in terms of being a star (my definition of “star” is stingier than most) in such a short amount of time. I will give the edge to Ben Simmons, who’s able to impact games without scoring many points. He has such a special skill-set, which won’t be fully realized until he gets better teammates to pass to in Philly. Oh, and a special shout-out to Tyler Ulis. It’s astonishing to me why some NBA general managers drafted Eurostash in the first round over this kid. He can play. Forget the size. And he’s gonna make those GMs look foolish.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Based on the extremely small sample size, I’m buying Kris Dunn stock. He’s got the edge to his game that I think translates and he’s going to be in an incubator in Minnesota with several other youngsters who are already locked in and headed for big things during the same time span. That entire young cast — led by Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and one of my personal faves Zach LaVine — should give Timberwolves fans plenty of hope for the immediate future now that the Thibodeau program is in place.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comBased on the accelerated development of Kawhi Leonard, Dejounte Murray looks like the next young star for the Spurs. Though he was the No. 29 pick, Murray has the length, athleticism and instincts for scoring and playmaking that can enable him to take over for Tony Parker — so long as he embraces the program.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogWell, Ben Simmons was the best rookie in Summer League and one of the best players overall, so I’d say you have to consider him the leader. There were other rookies who I thought were impressive, such as Brandon Ingram, and I also really like Jamal Murray‘s game. But those guys probably need some time to develop. Simmons can play right now against anyone you put him out there against. And the Sixers are going to be pretty great to watch because of it.

Blogtable: Thoughts on the NBA’s away-from-play rules changes

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Thoughts on away-from-play rules changesBiggest turnaround with new coach?Incoming rookie destined for NBA stardom?


> Last week the NBA announced some rules changes for away-from-the-play fouls. Do you think these changes went too far, didn’t go far enough, or were just right?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comDid not go far enough. This was clearly a compromise, trying to satisfy the players-need-to-make-their-free-throws purists as well as the this-is-unwatchable critics of “Hack-a-…” tactics. It will cut down on the number of incidents but it won’t eliminate it. I’m not a big fan of different rules for different parts of the game. So I’m hoping what we get in the final two minute of each period now, we’ll soon get for all 48 minutes.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comI’m fine with it as long as guys like Isaiah Thomas, Chris Paul, Ty Lawson, Darren Collison, D.J. Augustin, Aaron Brooks and J.J. Barea get to use a step-stool because the basket is too high. And now that I think about it, Dwight Howard should also be permitted to shoot at a basket that is twice as large in diameter all throughout the game because, in addition to his horrible free throw shooting, he also can’t make any kind of shot more than 2 feet from the basket. To paraphrase a famous cartoon character: “Let’s make the NBA dumb again.”

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comJust right. The rule change they got especially right was the automatic for jumping on a player’s back. That’s very reasonable. But altering the away-from-the-play fouls to the final two minutes of every quarter, as opposed to just the fourth period, is a good step. Adopting the D-League rule of every minute of every quarter would have been an option, but also an extreme move. I still say there is no need for that dramatic of a move to address three or four players. Let’s start with this and re-assess.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Just about right. I cringe at the idea of making rule changes just because a small sampling of players can’t perform one of the more fundamental facets of the game. And so the league essentially made a compromise of sorts. It’s going to be good enough for some people, and not enough for Jeff Van Gundy.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comNot far enough. An intentional foul is an intentional foul, no matter when it occurs in the period. And on other levels of basketball, it’s penalized with free throws and possession. Away from the play intentional fouls, as well as intentional fouls meant to stop a fast break, should be penalized as such. And with the latter, we can get rid of the time-wasting and confusing clear path rule.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The rules changes feel as close to just right and reasonable as we’re going to get for fundamental flaws that plague a select few players in the league. I never like to see a league legislating for the few at the expense of the masses, but I agree that something had to be done. With all of the time players spend in the gym in the offseason, I just wish certain guys would fine-tune their free throw shooting mechanics so no one would have to tweak or change the rules.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comI disagree with the fundamental point of view. This little issue is not about whether players can or cannot make free throws. As I see it, these are fouls against the spirit of the game. If you wish to commit a foul cynically, away from the play, then you are committing a foul against the game. Your cynicism should not be rewarded. These fouls are not committed in the spirit of basketball. And so when a coach acts cynically, he should be punished: The other team should retain control of the ball after one or two free throws.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogWell, I was firmly in the camp of not wanting anything to be done, because I felt like changing the rules was in some way rewarding/protecting the small minority who can’t make free throws. So considering the size of the change that was announced, maybe it’s just right? Although part of me suspects if teams really want to Hack-A-Whomever, they’ll figure out a way to do it. I am particularly interested to see how Mike Budenholzer adjusts to it, since last season he used it several times against teams like Detroit to grab a lead, and now he’ll have Dwight Howard on his own team.

Blogtable: More surprising move — Durant to Warriors or Wade to Bulls?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: More surprising move: Durant’s or Wade’s? | Your lasting memory of Duncan? | Assessing Duncan’s meaning to Spurs?


> More surprising move: Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder to join the Warriors, or Dwyane Wade leaving the Heat to join the Bulls?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Wade leaving Miami after 13 years was the bigger surprise. Durant’s decision wasn’t entirely unexpected (although I was in the majority of folks who thought he would re-up with OKC on a short-term deal). But Wade taking his business with the Heat into the street struck me as a leverage ploy rather than an actual disintegrating relationship with Pat Riley & Co. Given the Bulls’ slide toward irrelevancy before they landed him, it makes sense that Chicago provided a comfortable landing spot for Wade and gave him the Kobe Bryant Golden Parachute contract for all he’d done … for a rival team?

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Wade to Chicago, for sure. Because it just doesn’t make sense. I’m not talking about leaving Miami or anything to do with his legacy. I just don’t know what the hell they’re doing in Chicago and don’t see how this move makes the Bulls better. First time Wade’s legs act up, all the homecoming good feeling goes right out the window.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Wade leaving the Heat. Durant’s move is more rim shaking for the league, but was an option all along, even if what seemed to be a slight one at times. Wade taking a one-way ticket out of South Florida never seemed like a real possibility, though, maybe because he had been there about as long as the Everglades and maybe because there had been previous July staring contests with the Heat and everything worked out. They needed him there and he wanted to be there. The same thing would happen this time, right? Wrong.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Wade leaving the Heat isn’t as seismic as Duncan leaving the Spurs prior to retirement, but close. Few players identified more with a city than Wade with Miami, and I’ll even say Wade, three titles later, is the No. 1 athlete in South Florida history, ahead of former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino. But he did the Heat a favor. Pat Riley didn’t want to tie up three years on an aging star. Riley’s allegiance is to owner Micky Arison, the guy who signs the checks, not Wade. So there are no bad guys here. Riley did what he had to do while Wade looked out for himself, even if he left Miami for just $3 million, the difference of his 2-year deal with Chicago and what Miami offered (no taxes in Florida).

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: As shocking as Kevin Durant’s move to Golden State might seem to some, the rumors of the two sides eying each other in free agency cranked up last summer. Dwayne Wade leaving the Miami Heat for his hometown Chicago Bulls was much more surprising, especially when you consider his final season in a Heat uniform. Wade was fantastic, vintage Wade even, as he guided the beat down Heat to the Eastern Conference semifinals. It’s hard to imagine either side wanting things to end the way it did. He’s one of those players you figured would finish his career with one team, a practice of yesteryear it appears in today’s free agent climate.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: I always, always thought Wade would remain in Miami — that both sides would see the bigger picture and come to yet another contractual understanding for one another’s benefit. But it’s less and less that kind of world anymore. Which really puts Tim Duncan’s career with the Spurs into perspective.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Wade to Chicago. While I suspected Durant was likely to stay in Oklahoma City and was rather surprised to hear he was leaving, I don’t think most people even believed a Wade departure was anywhere near the table. In many ways, Wade *is* the Miami Heat, and his departure over a few million dollars is shocking. The Thunder haven’t even been in Oklahoma City all that long, but the Heat and Wade have won titles and made real history together in South Florida, a relationship which is now literally history.