Blogtable

Blogtable: Some Summer League musings

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: Knicks or Lakers worse off? | Toughest (and easiest) division? | Talkin’ Summer League



VIDEOKarl-Anthony Towns reflects on achieving his NBA dream

> Las Vegas Summer League is just days away. Which rookie are you most excited to see perform on the big stage? Which veteran will most benefit from Summer League play? And, which player in Summer League in Orlando and/or Utah has most impressed you?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com Among the rookies in Las Vegas, I’m going straight chalk. I want an up-close look at Karl-Anthony Towns simply because he is that rarest of species this side of the Tasmanian tiger: A Timberwolves No. 1 overall Draft pick. We’ve never had one before, but most insiders believe the Wolves got it right, so I want to see more than a glimmer of potential in Vegas. … Among returning players, it’s important for Chicago’s Doug McDermott to play as well as or better than he did last summer (and he was very good). McDermott’s rookie season was washed out by injury and bench splinters, but he has a new coach (Fred Hoiberg) friendly to his style of play and he has vowed the sort of dramatic, freshman-to-sophomore improvement that wowed ’em at Creighton. … As for Orlando/Salt Lake City, Indiana’s Myles Turner has opened some eyes, averaging 16.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.5 blocks while hitting 14-of-22 shots in his first two games. With Roy Hibbert gone, and only Ian Mahinmi and Lavoy Allen ahead of him on the depth chart, Turner – while needing to tighten up defensively – might grab some “stretch-5″ opportunities in coach Frank Vogel‘s promised quicker attack.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: This could be the start of a decade or more of comparing Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor. At a time when people are saying it’s a “small ball” league, I want to see the big dogs hunt. Before he went down with an ankle injury, I was looking forward to seeing Dante Exum’s progress from year 1 to 2. Last year’s first round Thunder pick Mitch McGary is coming back from a fractured foot, a virtually lost rookie season and has now lost nearly 30 pounds and looking like the player OKC drafted. Have to like what Okafor showed, especially in the second half, of his first game in Utah. Along with the totally changed body of McGary, the Magic’s Aaron Gordon has come back for Year 2 with a shot, an energy level that could be contagious and an intensity that’s fun to watch.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: I am most interested to see Kristaps Porzingis and Emmanuel Mudiay in Las Vegas. Karl-Anthony Towns goes somewhere high on the list as well because there’s always the added excitement of seeing the No. 1 pick, but Mudiay has faced very little competition the last year. Porzingis has been challenged, but this will be a big step in a big spotlight. The veteran who will benefit most from summer league? The one that doesn’t get hurt and plays his way into a contract somewhere. As far as Orlando and Utah, Aaron Gordon has jumped out in early play. Not exactly a veteran, but not a rookie either.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: In Vegas, I’d love to see how D’Angelo Russell handles himself and how he can elevate a roster full of dreamers by making them better. It’ll be the first step in proving the Lakers did right by passing up Jahlil Okafor, or not. As for the “veteran” I suspect the Jazz would love to receive some reassurance from Dante Exum in Vegas. In Utah, Okafor had the kind of debut you’d expect from the No. 2 overall pick, especially with his soft touch around the rim. The Sixers are feeling better already. In Orlando, Aaron Gordon and Stanley Johnson clearly stood out. Gordon is flush with confidence after a so-so rookie season and Johnson is clearly a feisty baller, although a ‘tweener.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: I’m curious to see D’Angelo Russell, because he’ll be handed the keys in L.A. right away. Noah Vonleh is a top-10 pick from last year who got injured in training camp, never got a chance to play with the Hornets, and could have a real opportunity in Portland. So these couple of weeks could be big for him. So far, I’ve been most impressed by Myles Turner, a skilled big who could make Pacers fans forget about Roy Hibbert pretty quickly.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: It will be all eyes on D’Angelo Russell in Vegas, and rightfully so. The Lakers put that on him when they passed on Jahlil Okafor. The veteran who will benefit most from summer school is Mitch McGary of Oklahoma City. He reshaped his body and is healthy and showed that his relentless motor is his greatest tool. The Thunder will be loaded with a healthy roster to start the season. I always think Summer League is a better place for second-year guys to show off the improvement in their game than it is an indicator of what’s to come from any rookie, even the ones who dazzle in summer league. Great first impressions from Stanley Johnson, Justise Winslow, Frank Kaminsky and Myles Turner in the early stages of summer have highlighted things for me. They all look like instant impact contributors for their respective teams, based solely on what we’ve seen thus far.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: I want to see Kristaps Porzingis run the floor, defend and shoot from distance for the Knicks, who are desperate for young talent. Summer league is easy to dismiss but Porzingis’s blend of skills, length and agility should speak for itself – for better or for worse. I was going to cite Dante Exum as a veteran with the most to gain; but now that he has suffered a sprained ankle, I want to see whether James Young has matured defensively and off the ball for the Celtics. The breakout player so far has been Aaron Gordon, who has developed a jump shot to go with his driving athleticism.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Let’s see what Karl Anthony Towns can bring at this next level. Is he just a defender, as has been purported, or can he be a two-way player with stretch-5 range? And his teammate, Zach LaVine, was one of the most exciting players I saw a year ago in Vegas, so I’m looking forward to seeing his evolution. LaVine’s incredible explosiveness really lends itself to the pace of Summer League. One guy has stood out to me so far has been Charlotte’s Frank Kaminsky. He can shoot from the outside, but also can pump fake and get to the rim and finish. He already looks ahead of their previous lottery forward, the since departed Noah Vonleh.

Blogtable: Toughest (and easiest) division?

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: Knicks or Lakers worse off? | Toughest (and easiest) division? | Talkin’ Summer League



VIDEODallas is one of the forces to be reckoned with in the Southwest Division

> Provided all the agreed-to free-agent deals happen, which division (as of today) looks toughest and easiest to traverse to the top in 2015-16? And give me a reason or two why you’re picking each one.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com You don’t want to go wandering into that Southwest Division, the NBA’s equivalent of the wrong side of the tracks. It’s nasty down there, full of rough-looking characters on playoff-tested teams. And they’re not just bad, they’re big, with LaMarcus Aldridge and DeAndre Jordan elbowing in alongside Dwight Howard, Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol and Tim Duncan. If it’s a stroll through the park you want, you head to the Atlantic, where Toronto was the only team above .500 last season and might have taken a step back in losing Amir Johnson and Lou Williams. Everyone else in that district is flawed as well, not ready for prime time, with Brooklyn headed down, Boston and Philadelphia still learning and New York pursuing mediocrity as an upgrade from last season.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comThe Bermuda Triangle has nothing on the Texas Triangle for being a potential danger to travelers. Toss in Memphis and New Orleans and the Southwest is clearly the roughest, toughest neighborhood in the league. All five teams made the playoffs last season and they’ve only gotten better. I’ll give you five reasons why the Atlantic is the weakest division — Celtics, Knicks, Nets, Raptors and Sixers.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Toughest: Southwest, and it’s probably not even close. New Orleans won 45 games in 2014-15 and still finished last. Now imagine the division with the Spurs and Mavericks coming off their summers. Easiest: Northwest. Even with the Jazz on track to push past .500, with the demise of the Trail Blazers, it’s still OKC and everyone else.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Seeing as how the league is ready to devalue divisions, the rankings really don’t matter much anymore. But, as you will: The Southwest (Spurs, Rockets, Mavs, Grizz, Pelicans) will lap the field in terms of toughness. You could make an argument for every team making the playoffs, even the Pelicans. Just look at the stars: LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre Jordan, James Harden, Dwight Howard, Anthony Davis, Marc Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, Kawhi Leonard, etc. It’s a division just steep with talent. The Atlantic will be the weakest if only because they’ll be dragged down by the Knicks and Sixers. In that division, only the Raptors are built to last into spring, and they lack the necessary franchise player to go deep.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: The Southwest Division was already the best in the league (0.637 winning percentage last season), added LaMarcus Aldridge and DeAndre Jordan, should have a healthier Rockets team, and has Anthony Davis getting better every year. The Celtics, Knicks and Raptors all made some improvements, but the Atlantic Division will remain the worst in the league, with at least three (and maybe four) teams under 0.500. The second best team (Boston) is still without a real impact player.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The Southwest is going to be a torture chamber. And I’ll give you five reasons, starting with the San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans. All five should be playoff-caliber teams. All five have spent the summer either improving or at least fortifying themselves through the Draft and free agency. They will batter each other in the division and make life miserable for any team that has to pull a Southwest Division swing. The easiest division? I prefer terms like least treacherous. The Northwest and Atlantic both look like they’ll have several teams trying to recover from the offseason (Draft, free agency, trades, etc.), which will keep those divisions from being as strong top-to-bottom.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com The Atlantic remains the NBA’s weakling, in spite of its immense markets: its four big American franchises are rebuilding, while the Raptors have won no more than a single playoff series in 20 years. The powerhouse is the Southwest, which looks capable of producing five playoff teams for a second straight year — and possibly 50-plus wins across the board, pending the continued development of Anthony Davis. Any one of its teams would dominate the Atlantic.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog Well, the Southwest is now the Southbest. As if it wasn’t already tough enough, now you’ve got LaMarcus Aldridge and David West in San Antonio, James Harden and Dwight Howard in Houston, Dirk Nowitzki, DeAndre Jordan and Wesley Matthews in Dallas, and the Grit-and-Grind Grizzlies in Memphis. Poor New Orleans has to satisfy themselves with “just” having Anthony Davis. Meanwhile, the Atlantic Division is still the Atlantis. While the Knicks, Sixers, Celtics and Nets all search for a path to relevance, the Raptors should be on top for a few years to come.

Blogtable: Where will these top free agents land?

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: Where are these 5 going? | Best/worst free-agent move ahead? | Assessing 2015 Draft



VIDEOThe Starters discuss where the top free agents may end up

> Tell us where the following five big-name free agents — LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan, Draymond Green and Dwyane Wade — will be playing come 2015-16 and a quick reason why they are going there.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com

LaMarcus Aldridge – San Antonio Spurs. It sounds like he’s leaving Portland regardless, and the Spurs can lock in on him with the salesmanship of their heavy hitters (Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan) and the closest thing in this league to guaranteed winning.
Marc Gasol – Memphis Grizzzlies. Meeting with just one team, in the city in which he’s grown up and found success, seems like a simple choice.
DeAndre Jordan – L.A. Clippers. The man with bottomless pockets, Steve Ballmer, and the NBA’s most persuasive voice, Doc Rivers, will, er, twist Jordan’s arm to take the max deal, max length.
Draymond Green – Golden State. Green is worth more to the Warriors, in their system, than he is to any other team. They know it, he knows it. No grass is Greener.
Dwyane Wade – Miami Heat. If Wade wants to be Joe Montana quarterbacking Kansas City, Bobby Orr with the Blackhawks or Hakeem Olajuwon as a Raptor, sure, he should go with his pride and sign elsewhere

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com

LaMarcus Aldridge — San Antonio Spurs. The native Texan gets to return home in the perfect place to contend for a championship next season with Tim Duncan and move ahead toward more with Kawhi Leonard.  It’s a seamless transition as L.A. approaches his 30th birthday.
Marc Gasol — Memphis Grizzlies. He’s comfortable and he’s loyal.  Did I mention he’s comfortable and he’s loyal?
DeAndre JordanDallas Mavericks. He wants out of playing third fiddle behind Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, even though it’s a foolish decision that moves him farther from a championship and will expose him as less than a leading man.  But he’ll fall in love with Mark Cuban’s wooing.
Draymond GreenGolden State Warriors. Really?  You have to ask?
Dwyane WadeMiami Heat. If it’s about money, which Wade seems to indicate it is, he’ll eventually realize there’s still more of it to be had with the Heat than anyplace else

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Aldridge will be going to the Spurs, because he is tired of being on one of the better teams in the West and wants to be somewhere with the track record of getting to the very top, and maybe, just maybe, because he wants to get away from the increasing Damian Lillard spotlight. I think LMA is leaving, it’s just a matter of where. It’s more like 50-50 for a DeAndre Jordan departure from the Clippers. I would not be surprised if he stays, would not be surprised if he goes. And if he does go: Mavericks. Wade probably stays in Miami. Gasol definitely stays in Memphis, Green definitely stays in Oakland.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com

LaMarcus AldridgeSan Antonio Spurs. It’s an hour from his home in Austin and he’d immediately make the Spurs a strong favorite. Because Aldridge made big money on his last contract, he doesn’t need to squeeze the last dime (that’s not The Spurs Way anyway) and he’d benefit from no state tax. If they get Aldridge, Tim Duncan may sign up for two more years.
Marc GasolMemphis Grizzlies. He went to high school in Memphis and spent his entire NBA career in Memphis. He’s Memphis.
DeAndre JordanLos Angeles Clippers. I don’t buy whispers about him beefing with Chris Paul and wanting to be a go-to guy offensively.
Draymond GreenGolden State Warriors. He won’t find more money and a bigger role anywhere else.
Dwyane WadeMiami Heat. He’s not throwing away all that goodwill, and besides, they’ll find a cushy gig for him when he retires

John Schuhmann, NBA.com

LaMarcus AldridgeSan Antonio Spurs, because it’s the organization that every player should want to join.
Marc GasolMemphis Grizzlies, because he’s got a pretty good thing going there.
DeAndre JordanLos Angeles Clippers. See Gasol, Marc. If Jordan goes elsewhere, he’s really going to miss Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
Draymond GreenGolden State Warriors. He’s a restricted free agent, and the Warriors will obviously match any offer.
Dwyane WadeMiami Heat, because of loyalty and money, but also because that will be a pretty good team next season.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com

LaMarcus AldridgeL.A. Lakers, where he can serve as the bridge star from the end of the Kobe Bryant era to the future for the Lakers.
Marc GasolMemphis Grizzlies, where he remains the face and backbone of the grit and grind movement.
DeAndre JordanDallas Mavericks, where he can find the bigger role and environment he seeks.
Draymond GreenGolden State Warriors, because you don’t leave a championship situation where you fit perfectly.
Dwyane WadeMiami Heat, because his value is greater (at this stage of his career) than it is anywhere else.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: I believe all will be staying put. Aldridge will be passing up too much money to leave Portland, and he possesses a powerful role within the organization that cannot be replicated elsewhere. Gasol is at home in Memphis and is not to be lured by the more glamorous markets. Why would Jordan leave the Clippers? It is a destination franchise in the league’s most compelling market with championship hopes – in addition to the ability to pay him more than anyone else. Green isn’t leaving a championship team that has the right to match any offer. Wade and the Heat need one another and will ultimately come to an agreement, I believe.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog

LaMarcus AldridgeSan Antonio Spurs, because he’s a Texas guy and this is his best opportunity at winning.
Marc GasolMemphis Grizzlies, because it makes perfect sense for him to stay.
DeAndre JordanDallas Mavericks, because owner Mark Cuban has swung and missed a lot the last few years, and he’s due for a home run … well, maybe a stand-up double.
Draymond GreenGolden State Warriors, because he ain’t going anywhere else.
Dwyane WadeMiami Heat, because I think Wade will discover the big money market may be sparse for a 33-year-old with bad knees who can’t shoot threes.

Blogtable: Assessing the 2015 Draft

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: Where are these 5 going? | Best/worst free-agent move ahead? | Assessing 2015 Draft



VIDEORelive all 30 picks from the first round of the 2015 Draft

> Let’s wrap up the Draft: Which lottery player is in the best position to make an instant impact next season? Which one is in the worst? And give us a later pick (say after No. 20) who you think will impress in 2015-16?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Jahlil Okafor will help Philadelphia immediately, in my view. He’s not coming in for a redshirt year like Nerlens Noel or Joel Embiid. He has low-post scoring potential straight out of the box and seems to bring maturity that will help him transition to NBA life. I don’t like sticking anyone with “worst,” so I’ll just say I’m leery of Kristaps Porzingis’ “hip stiffness.” If that costs him his summer league training and lingers into the season, we might be looking at an unplanned “redshirt” sort of year. Among later picks, I sense Chicago will give No. 22 Bobby Portis every opportunity to succeed, given rehabbing holdovers in the Bulls’ frontcourt (Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah) and an organizational desire to turn the page on the Tom Thibodeau era. Portis seems quite confident and one of those “sponge” learners.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Karl-Anthony Towns is the class of 2015 and fits in perfectly with Andrew Wiggins and shows immediately that the Timberwolves are most definitely on course to eventually be contenders.  Even though Kristaps Porzingas is the right pick in the right place at the right time, New York fans and media will make his life miserable if the 19-year-old doesn’t produce like he’s 29 right away.  Down at the bottom of the draft, Bobby Portis is a skilled big man who’ll make the Bulls stronger up front.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comFirst of all, the draft is never wrapped up. How dare you suggest otherwise. There is no avoiding the truth. Don’t even try. But anyway…. Emmanual Mudiay in Denver and Willie Cauley-Stein in Sacramento are in the best position to make an immediate impact, WCS because he is close to NBA ready after three seasons and Mudiay because he will have that much of an opportunity. He could be the opening-night starter. The Nuggets may give him the ball with instructions to make something happen. The inexperience will be obvious at times, and he is not at the top of any grouping of NBA-ready, but other rookies will dream of the immediate job description. The worst position for an immediate impact? Myles Turner with the Pacers. I think Turner will end up having a nice, long career. He will be good. But he needs time. Much of his situation, though, will depend on what happens with Roy Hibbert and/or David West. That will determine whether Indiana needs bigs to step in or whether Indy will continue to rely on the veterans for another season. Two names for the after-20 crowd: Justin Anderson with the Mavericks and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson with the Nets.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comNot exactly going out on a limb, but it’s hard to imagine Karl-Anthony Towns not having an impact when he’ll be guaranteed heavy minutes and responsibility in Minnesota from day one. In Utah, where the Jazz are pretty set at power forward with Derrick Favors, Trey Lyles might find it hard to get playing time right away. As for the sleeper, I’m gonna cheat and nominate the 19th pick. Jerian Grant is a straight-up baller and should get ample opportunity with the talent-starved Knicks.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: A few guys will have an opportunity to play and put up decent numbers. Jahlil Okafor is one of those guys, but he could make an impact in the standings as well. The Sixers were the worst offensive team in the league by a very wide margin last season, so someone who can put the ball in the basket and draw a double-team will make an impact. Kristaps Porzingis, however, looks like he will need time, which Carmelo Anthony doesn’t have. The timelines of the two most important players on the roster don’t match up, and if the Knicks get a couple of bigs in free agency, Porzingis might not develop very quickly. Justin Anderson is the late first-rounder (21st to Dallas) who could look pretty good this year. He’s a three-year college guy who’s ready to contribute and could have an opportunity if Monta Ellis signs elsewhere.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Justise Winslow and Stanley Johnson have the best opportunities for instant impact because of their skill sets and the need for what they bring to their respective situations. I feel for Kristaps Porzingis … there’s just no way he can escape the pressure of New York. And I like R.J. Hunter as the late pick who will impress in the 2015-16 season. Shooters with ridiculous range always make us take notice. But he’s much more than just a shooter and he’ll be a nice fit for a Celtics team that needs someone to help space the floor.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: D’Angelo Russell is going to be Rookie of the Year: He will fill a huge need for the Lakers, who will be reducing Kobe Bryant’s minutes and weaning him (as best they can) off the ball. Cameron Payne was drafted into a terrific situation with Oklahoma City, but if we’re taking about making an instant impact then we’re probably asking too much. The Thunder are going to be trying to win a championship next season, and rookie backups usually don’t play crucial roles on teams with such high aspirations. R.J. Hunter (No. 28 to Boston) will fill the Celtics’ instant need for shooting and has the maturity to take advantage.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I think Jahlil Okafor is going to have a huge year. It seems strange for the Sixers to draft a guy who is healthy and can play right away, but here we are, and with Nerlens Noel shoring up the defense, Okafor should be able to do what he does best: get buckets. As for a later pick, I’ll give you two that I really like and was surprised to see fall into the bottom third: Bobby Portis to the Bulls, and R.J.Hunter to the Celtics. Boston needs outside shooting, which Hunter can provide. And Portis can go to NBA big man school with Noah, Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic.

Blogtable: Best (and worst) free-agent signing will be …?

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: Where are these 5 going? | Best/worst free-agent move ahead? | Assessing 2015 Draft



VIDEOWhere will the top restricted free agents land?

> Who will end up being the steal of this free-agent class a year from now? And which free-agent signing will we all look back on next year with a hearty dose of SMH?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Tim Duncan is the steal of every free-agent class in which he enrolls, but if we’re talking long-term, I’m going with Greg Monroe – and some wishful thinking. Monroe gambled on himself and, after five season with the Pistons, he’s due for a good run now. A move to possibly regret: Signing Brook Lopez for too long, at too much money. His injury history makes him a shaky proposition, certainly in terms of durability.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comEven though it will take the max to sign him now, the salary cap will jump through the roof next season and it will look positively brilliant when LaMarcus Aldridge is holding up that Larry O’Brien Trophy in the Spurs’ river parade next June.  On the other hand, Tobias Harris can’t shoot from the perimeter and is more of a ball-stopper on offense than he is on defense. Harris and Reggie Jackson could have the most heads shaking.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comTough to say without knowing the terms of the contracts, because that factors into whether someone is a steal. Same with the SMH category. But don’t overlook the big-money guys as steals. Kawhi Leonard, Draymond Green, Jimmy Butler, DeAndre Jordan — they have already or will hit the jackpot, but they are also young guys who will continue to improve with deals that will seem decent, not huge, when the cap goes into the stratosphere. They could be steals despite the 2015 feel. And definitely way to early to say which deal will be the most regrettable in a year. We need a few more panic purchases before making a final call.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: The steal? That’s easy: LeBron James. The Cavs can’t possibly pay what he’s actually worth. The head-scratcher years from now will be Thad Young. Can’t believe the Nets are going all-in on a guy who last had an impact years ago with Philly (honorable mention to Arron Afflalo).

John Schuhmann, NBA.comIf he’s going to take $6 million or less to help the Spurs add a big free agent, then Tim Duncan will be the steal of free agency. Duncan is still a very good player on both ends of the floor, played 77 games this past season, and sets the tone for the best organization in the league. Even if his game falls off or if he doesn’t play more than half a season, he’s well worth mid-level money. Rajon Rondo seems like the obvious answer for the SMH signing, but it sounds like he’ll get a low-risk contract from whatever team signs him (though the Kings make me less confident in that regard). Giving Brandon Knight $70 million, which the Suns will reportedly do, is a questionable move, especially when you have another starting-caliber point guard on the roster.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The cash will be flying around this summer, so it’ll be hard for anyone to be considered a “steal.” But one of the most underrated players, in my eyes, and a great value pick up this summer is Al-Farouq Aminu going to Portland. He reinvented himself last season in Dallas and opened some eyes around the league. He should be a great fit in Terry Stotts‘ system and the opportunity to step into a major role is there, what with all of the holes to be filled in the starting lineup and rotation. The Suns paying Brandon Knight $70 million is my SMH pick. No team has gone through more point guards in the past three seasons. And settling on this kind of money for a solid player like Knight seems like a bit much, even for the Suns.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Tim Duncan will be the steal. If he comes back for anything less than $10 million, then he’ll have a chance to become one of the great bargains in history – especially if his generosity enables the Spurs to steal LaMarcus Aldridge away from Portland, as many believe will happen. As for SMH: In order to recruit Tobias Harris away from the Magic, which has the right to match, a big effort is going to be needed. But buyer beware – Harris has put up impressive numbers for a losing team. Whether he will provide value to a winning organization is unknown

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I think Tobias Harris could be a guy who breaks out next season, whether it’s in Orlando or somewhere else. Still just 22 years old and can fill it up from all over the floor. SMH? Honestly, I’m not sure there will be any SMH contracts out of this group, thanks to the coming salary cap explosion. Once the luxury tax number is up near triple-digits next summer, I don’t know if any contract signed this summer will look bad.

 

Blogtable: Who’s going No. 1-5?

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: Who’s going No. 1-5? | Future for Cousins, Kings? | Riley’s pitch to Wade?



VIDEODraft HQ’s crew holds a mock draft for the first three picks

> Who are you picking 1-5 in tomorrow night’s Draft? And, which player in this year’s Draft will be its Stephen Curry (i.e. the player most consider to be the best in the Draft class) a few years from now and why?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comI get the top five? Wow, talk about a quick rebuilding and a friendly salary-cap hit.

1. Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
2. Jahlil Okafor (Lakers)
3. D’Angelo Russell (Sixers)
4. Emmanuel Mudiay (Knicks)
5. Kristaps Porzingis (Magic)

I think Russell emerges as the “Curry” of this draft, by virtue of his skills and the fat opportunity he’ll have to showcase them should he wind up, as many expect, in Philadelphia. Michael Carter-Williams won a Rookie of the Year award that way.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com

1. Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
2. Jahlil Okafor (Lakers)
3. D’Angelo Russell (Sixers)
4. Kristaps Porzingas (Knicks)
5. Emmanuel Mudiay (Magic)

Sometimes you don’t have to look past the obvious. Karl-Anthony Towns has the most varied skills to go with his size and has the most upside in the draft. In a few years we’ll look back at the No. 1 pick in 2015 and say, “Of course.”

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comIf you mean what I think should happen and not what I think will happen …

1. Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
2. D’Angelo Russell (Lakers)
3. Kristaps Porzingis (Sixers)
4. Jahlil Okafor (Knicks)
5. Mario Hezonja (Magic)

Towns has the highest ceiling, the best chance to impact on both sides of the ball. He won’t be the best player in two years, but he will be for the career. I might go Hezonja second, then Russell.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com

1. Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
2. Jahlil Okafor (Lakers)
3. D’Angelo Russell (Sixers)
4. Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks)
5. Mario Hezonja (Magic)

Obviously Mudiay could be in the top 5. My “next Curry” is Cameron Payne, who like Curry is a point guard form a small school who did rather big things. That is, if all the pre-draft raves about Payne are true.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com

1. Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
2. Jahlil Okafor (Lakers)
3. D’Angelo Russell (Sixers)
4. Emmanuel Mudiay (Knicks)
5. Kristaps Porzingis (Magic)

I’m going chalk with both answers (because my knowledge of these guys is limited), believing that Towns will ultimately be the best player from the Draft. He’s 7-feet tall, has the skills to help his team on both ends of the floor in today’s game, and is a good fit in Minnesota next to Andrew Wiggins.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com:

1. Karl Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
2. Jahlil Okafor (Lakers)
3. D’Angelo Russell (Sixers)
4. Emmanuel Mudiay (Knicks)
5. Kristaps Porzingis (Magic)

The Steph Curry of this Draft will be Justise Winslow, the most versatile and NBA ready player available in the entire pool. He’ll get the Steph Curry Award for having the game and impact most similar to what Draymond Green did for Curry and the recently crowned champion Golden State Warriors. Winslow is the best potential two-way player in this Draft (I’m thinking Jimmy Butler), with Arizona’s Stanley Johnson ranking just behind him in my book. That means something in the small-ball, pace-and-space evolution/revolution that’s going on right now.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com

1. Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
2. D’Angelo Russell (Lakers)
3. Kristaps Porzingis (Sixers)
4. Jahlil Okafor (Knicks)
5. Mario Hezonja (Magic)

Russell figures to be rookie of the year, but Towns should be the best player based on his potential to lead his NBA team defensively while providing versatile offense.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog

1. Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
2. Jahlil Okafor (Lakers)
3. D’Angelo Russell (Sixers)
4. Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks)
5. Emmanuel Mudiay (Magic)
I’m not sure that there is a player like Curry, in the sense that a player is passed up by a few teams and matures into being the best player in his class. To me, Towns is the clear best player in the Draft, and it seems like he’ll go No. 1. Some of the other guys may be great at one facet or another, but I think Towns has the ability to be the best all-around player.

 

Blogtable: Riley’s pitch to Wade?

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: Who’s going No. 1-5? | Future for Cousins, Kings? | Riley’s pitch to Wade?



VIDEOWould Dwyane Wade consider leaving the Heat in free agency?

> If you’re Pat Riley and you’re meeting with Dwyane Wade at some point in the next few days, what is your pitch to get him to opt in/re-sign with Miami?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I appeal to Wade the businessman and try a little role reversal: “Dwyane, if you were in my seat, would you overpay for a gimpy backcourt player who turns 34 next season and has missed 30 percent of his team’s games the past two years?” OK, maybe I’d sugarcoat it a little better than that, but that’s the crux of the matter. Wade doesn’t have to go the Tim Duncan/Dirk Nowitzki route with his paychecks if he doesn’t want to – assuming he can get what he wants elsewhere – but then he might end up in a situation similar to Kobe Bryant‘s, with too much dough committed to the aging star and not enough left for sufficient help. Also, Riley still has this hole card to play: “You’re Mr. Heat, Dwyane. You can make up the money difference over the next 30 years by being a part of this franchise and letting the Arisons pay you from the non-salary-capped budget.”

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: I’d tell him, yes, we’ve used you, yes, we’ve taken you for granted. But the fact is we are still able and willing to pay you more than anybody else in the league. Plus, if we keep Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside and you stay healthy, we’re a pretty good team in the East.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: “Dwyane, this is home. So few players get the chance to play their entire Hall of Fame career with one team. That’s special. You know we’re going to do whatever it takes to surround you with a good roster again. We’ve proven that. We have paid you well before. We will continue to pay you well. It may not be the number you have in mind, but your loyalty is being rewarded. Be part of something big. Again.”

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Riley should give his grass-isn’t-greener speech and remind Wade that, aside from Dan Marino, nobody registers louder in South Florida sports. Miami is Wade’s home, and anyway, Riley should also explain to Wade that he’ll be a part of the Heat family long past retirement, like Alonzo Mourning, and the organization will find a way to keep him on payroll for many years. Owner Mickey Arison will take care of Wade.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comWe can give you the most money. The Dragic/Bosh pick-and-pop is going to be deadly. We’re in the Eastern Conference. And you’ll continue to live in ****ing Miami. But I could really use some flexibility next year to add a new player, so let’s do a two-year deal with an opt out, OK?

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: We know that whole throwing the rings on the table thing won’t work this time. I’m not sure there is a reasonable pitch to be made to Wade when you’re preparing a max offer for Goran Dragic, the heir apparent to the throne as the Heat’s best player. Wade has already swallowed one sizable pay cut in the past five years to ensure the Big 3 era took off in Miami. Asking him to take another hit for the team this time seems like a tough way of showing the greatest player in franchise history how much you love and respect him for what he’s done to help make the Heat what they have been throughout Wade’s tenure in Miami. The last four years of Finals appearances doesn’t happen without Wade’s financial, emotional and on-court sacrifice to accommodate LeBron James and Chris Bosh.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Sell him on the long-term: How few players of this era are going to spend an entire career with the same team? How important will that be over the remaining decades of Wade’s life after basketball? But there is only so much selling that can be done in this relationship that has lasted so long already.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog Well, first of all, I’d have the meeting on my yacht, cruising in the twilight along Biscayne Bay. Then I’d point out that Wade is a 33-year-old guard who can’t shoot threes and can’t stay healthy. So good luck getting anyone else to pay you $16 million this season. Also, with the Heat in a weird salary situation right now, it actually helps the Heat for Wade to opt-in. Last thing: It would be cool for Wade to stick with the team that he’s played for his entire career. Now, let’s park the yacht over near South Beach and enjoy the night.

Blogtable: Future for Cousins, Kings?

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: Who’s going No. 1-5? | Future for Cousins, Kings? | Riley’s pitch to Wade?



VIDEODavid Aldridge says a trade of DeMarcus Cousins isn’t likely before the Draft

> You’re the Kings’ front office … on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being most likely, where does the notion of trading DeMarcus Cousins rank? Also, is it too late to fix whatever kind of rift there is between Cousins and coach George Karl?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I don’t like the idea for the Kings, so I give it a 3. To turn their backs on a player this talented, and still so young, is reckless enough to be considered dereliction of duty. Trouble is, Sacramento has had enough of the big changes – management, coaching, teammates – that ought to have corrected or at least placated Cousins by now, yet he remains a headache. As for Karl, I’m a little surprised he hasn’t bothered to, or been able to, make some sort of peace with the big man. He has dealt with hard cases before (Gary Payton, Sam Cassell). Cousins’ impact on his preferred playing style really must rankle him. Still, Cousins will be putting up 20-10 games long after Karl has his feet up, sipping a cool beverage, visiting Nellie in Maui after coaching his last game.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: I would never have gone as far as the zero chance that is coming from upper management now and probably wouldn’t have rated it more than a 5. But that was before George Karl significantly roiled the water by offering Cousins around the league. With a volatile personality that already had to be handled with kids gloves, the bridge has probably been blown up by this round of events. If the Kings don’t trade him know, things will only explode at the first sign of trouble next season. Just another day, just another rebuild in Sacramento.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: The notion of trading him is a 1. It’s not a move I want to make as the GM. DeMarcus Cousins has a chance to be the best center in the league into the next decade. But the chances of having to do it are more like a 6 or 7 now with the possibility of quickly escalating to a 9. Not before the Draft, though, unless someone blows me away with an offer. (Which should have been the case anyway, regardless of the latest developments.) And as the person in charge of the Kings front office, I will comment on specific trades offers, not the vague question or statement you media jackals use. “Would you trade DeMarcus Cousins?” is a bad way to start. Bring me an offer, then I will tell you if I would do it.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: I’d rate it a 6. I just don’t think it’s easy to move talented big men, even one with warts, and get decent value in return. The Kings aren’t in position to make any bold move without some rather safe assurances that a Boogie trade will help, not hurt, them. Also, I’m not so sure it’s too late to fix anything between Cousins and Karl. The season’s a long ways off. Besides, Cousins is under contract for a few more years and therefore doesn’t have much leverage, at least not right now.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com It’s 5 for me. Let’s not pretend that Cousins is Tim Duncan, in regard to coachability or leadership. And I don’t know that we can make the playoffs in the Western Conference with him as our best player. Still, I’m not sure why we’d want to trade our best player unless we’re getting an incredible package in return. I’m not sure how the Cousins/Karl relationship can be irreparable when they’ve only had 30 games together, but Karl doesn’t have a great history when it comes to player relationships.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I’ll give the notion of trading DeMarcus Cousins a 3 at best, and that’s being generous. We all know how this plays out, George Karl wanting to move someone because they don’t see eye to eye and what not. All this does is serve to completely shred whatever was left of the chance these two stubborn fellas had of mending whatever outstanding issues remain between them. Don’t get me wrong, I love the honesty from both sides. They don’t share the same sensibilities about the fundamental meaning of the words “basketball team.” I think we all get that. Still, this could have been handled better all around. Whatever happens, it’ll be messy when it does end … for whoever must go.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: The answer is 1. They should not trade him. If they choose to do so, then they will regret it for a long time. If they are forced to trade him – if their impulsive changes in leadership have convinced him that he has no future with the Kings – then they will be left to blame themselves. How is small-market Sacramento ever going to come up with a replacement as talented as Cousins?

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog If I’m the Kings’ front office? I would go with 0. Cousins is the kind of player you build around long-term. But of course, that makes too much sense — it feels like the Kings’ front office has multiple ideas and can’t decide where they stand on any of this. Too many cooks? Too many cooks. And maybe I’m too much of an optimist, but I feel like it’s never too late to fix a rift, but it does seem suspicious that there are so many stories about people not getting along with George Karl.

Blogtable: Future for 7-footers?

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: Future for 7-footers? | Going defense-first? | Cavs or Warriors in 2016?



VIDEODebating the merits of playing small vs. big

> After watching the “small ball” Finals, what does the future look like for a 7-footer in the NBA?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Frankly, the NBA better hope that its 7-footers, however rare, aren’t eradicated from the scene. Last I checked, no one was goosing the TV ratings to watch a 6-foot-5-and-under league. Part of the appeal of pro basketball always has been its big men and, in my view, the NBA’s Competition Committee needs to dial back some of the things that favor the shorties. My suggestion: Widen the court and extend the 3-point line an extra foot or two all around. The game has gotten too 3-heavy, diminishing the mid-range game, which always showcased some of the most creative and athletic shot-making. More mid-range ultimately means greater roles for the bigs.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: There will always be a place for skilled big men in the NBA — emphasis on skilled. Going forward, there should be emphasis on developing an all-around game that includes passing and shooting as a way to spread the floor on offense and ability to come away from the low post to defend.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comCan the 7-footer shoot and move? It’s not the size, it’s the skill set. I would have thought Andrew Bogut plays no matter what because he can be a facilitator on offense as well as defend, not some plodding center who can only impact within arm’s reach of the basket. So if he spends a lot of The Finals riding pine, all bets are off. Be mobile or be increasingly worried.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comThe future looks like Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor and the next potentially great center coming from the Draft. I don’t buy the idea that the big man is obsolete. Mediocre big men are obsolete. Crummy big men are obsolete. But the next Hakeem Olajuwon won’t be sitting on the bench in The Finals, trust me.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comThere’s space for seven-footers, and there will be a few — Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan, Brook and Robin Lopez — that will get big contracts this summer. You need to be mobile and bring some skills to the table, preferably on both ends of the floor. But there’s room in today’s pick-and-roll, spread-the-floor offenses for a big guy  (Tyson Chandler is a good example) who just has to be able to set a good screen, roll hard to the basket, catch the ball and finish. Layups are still more valuable than 3-pointers, and a good roll man opens things up for good shooters.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: It depends on what kind of 7-footer you are. The days of big man battleship basketball in the NBA have ended. They went away when Shaquille O’Neal cleared out the big man division. Any dominant big man since then either has been a hybrid/stretch four or a some variation. The skilled 7-footer will always have a place in basketball. So much will depend on the training young bigs get on the way up. If they are schooled in all facets of the game, we’ll see some new hybrids enter into the mix. Work on your free throws and face-up game, young bigs, and you will be fine. I did enjoy the small-ball portion of these Finals, though, and wonder how many more teams will be forced to embrace that approach?

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: It depends where he is playing. If the Cavaliers had entered The Finals at full health then we might now be discussing the renewal of the 7-footer – we may even be talking about it this time next year, based on Cleveland’s potential to go big with LeBron James, Kevin Love, Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov. Small-ball succeeded, but that doesn’t mean the death of traditional lineups. Depending on the size and speed of your team, and the strengths and weaknesses of your stars, there are all kinds of ways of winning the championship – and Mike D’Antoni’s system is now officially among the options.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I’d say it looks brighter than ever. It took David Blatt a game, but once he figured out how to deploy Timofey Mozgov against that vortex of 6-foot-7 players, Mozgov had a pretty big impact on Game 6. Small lineups are the easiest to deploy, mostly because small players are the easiest thing to find. But uncover a seven-footer who can get up and down the court and he can destroy versus a small lineup. One of the oldest maxims in the NBA is height doesn’t grow on trees. And it still doesn’t.

Blogtable: Why not go defense-first?

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: Future for 7-footers? | Going defense-first? | Cavs or Warriors in 2016?



VIDEOHow the Warriors’ defense made life tough on the Cavs in Game 6

> The Warriors are the 19th NBA champion in the last 20 years to have a top 10 defensive rating during the regular season (they were ranked No. 1). So why don’t more teams focus on defense, and what does a defense-first roster look like?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: There are plenty of coaches who believe that defense wins. But NBA rules are set up to facilitate scoring, grinding defense isn’t very entertaining and there might be a player revolt if a team practiced and played defense as intently as this question suggests. Because even when it’s a source of pride, defense isn’t fun. As for what a team built that way might look like, do we really want to see Rajon Rondo, Tony Allen, Kawhi Leonard, Serge Ibaka and DeAndre Jordan laboring for points when their team has the ball?

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Good teams do concentrate on defense, as evidenced by 19 of the last 20 champions ranking in the top 10. The Spurs went away from defensive emphasis for a year or two, slipped back into the pack and then made a renewed commitment that produced back-to-back Finals appearances and the 2014 championship.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comBecause defense isn’t glitzy. It doesn’t sell a lot of tickets. I also think a lot of teams do try to focus on defense, but actually coming up with a good defensive unit is difficult. It didn’t just fall together for the Warriors. They took serious heat for trading Monta Ellis for Andrew Bogut. They lucked into getting Draymond Green in the Draft. There was no way to anticipate Stephen Curry’s improvement on that side of the ball. There is no “look” to a defense-first roster. The best defender can be on the wing or inside. But there has to be at least a couple players who are not only good in that area, but who also have a strong presence in the locker room to have others follow their lead for a level of commitment that does not come with the same glory as scoring 20 points a game. And there obviously has to be a coach using the strengths the proper way.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: I suspect teams do concentrate on D. But not everyone can play it at a high level. The Warriors had athletic players who could guard multiple positions and shut down the perimeter. The Memphis Grizzlies also play terrific D. Any team with a rim protector and quick wingmen will more often than not win games with defense.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Two-way players don’t grow on trees, and teams have to build around the personnel that they have. The Cavs (when healthy) obviously had a higher ceiling offensively, while the Milwaukee Bucks had no choice but to earn wins on defense. Versatility — having guys who can defend multiple positions — is a key. The Warriors (and Bucks) were so good defensively, because they had a lot of like-sized, lengthy defenders, who could switch on screens and prevent dribble penetration. Good offenses get good shots by drawing two defenders to the ball, so having the ability to switch (and keep just one guy on the ball) helps you stay in front of the ball and stay at home on shooters.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Defense doesn’t sell tickets. And at the end of the day, stoking interest still seems to revolve around the idea of playing faster, shooting more 3-pointers and an up-tempo attack. The Warriors nailed the model by fashioning a team that proved to be elite on both ends. With versatile defenders at nearly ever position on a team capable of dominating teams on either or both ends of the floor, they built a champion. That’s as good a place as any to start talking about the ideal, defense-first roster.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Teams haven’t been able to focus on defense at the expense of offense in the years since the old man-to-man rules were relaxed: If you don’t put five scorers on the floor then you become too easy to defend. The goal is to find two-way players like Draymond Green; or else to convince scorers to commit to the defensive end, which is what the 2008 Celtics were able to do with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce (and what Cleveland will try to do next season with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love). The Warriors are the ultimate example of a team that commits first to defense – and then knows how to convert those stops and steals into offense.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogI read so many stories yesterday about how Warriors had embraced the Mike D’Antoni style of play and were going to change the way NBA teams were built going forward. To which I thought, I don’t remember those D’Antoni teams being all that good on defense. Because to me, as great as the Warriors were offensively — and make no mistake, they were a juggernaut on that end — it was their commitment and ability defensively that made them NBA champions. But sure, it’s probably more exciting to focus on the 3-pointers and the fast pace. But as we all know, defense wins championships.