Community Shootaround

Community Shootaround: Western Playoff Race

As is the case over in the Eastern Conference, the teams at the top of the Western Conference standings as the 2017/18 season nears its two-month mark are unsurprising. While it’s notable that the Rockets (21-4), currently riding a 10-game winning streak, have held off the Warriors (22-6) for the No. 1 spot so far, we expected those two clubs to hold top seeds, along with the Spurs, who have improbably gone 19-8 without Kawhi Leonard.

After the top three though, things get a little messier. The Timberwolves (16-11) and Nuggets (14-12) were popular picks to make the leap into the top eight this season, and so far they’ve delivered on that promise, but neither club has been dominant. They’re followed by a pair of .500 teams led by a star backcourt and frontcourt duo respectively, in the Trail Blazers (13-13) and Pelicans (14-14).

For all the talk coming into this season of the Western Conference being more competitive than ever, the eighth seed is held by a sub-.500 club, with the Jazz (13-14) hanging on for now. It seems like just a matter of time until the Thunder (12-14) figure things out and make their way into the playoff picture, but we’ve been expecting that for weeks and it still hasn’t happened.

Further down the standings, teams like the Mavericks, Kings, and Suns don’t appear to be postseason threats, as expected. But it’s a little surprising to see the Grizzlies (8-19) in the bottom four along with them. The two Los Angeles teams round out the conference, with identical 10-15 records — both clubs remain within striking distance of a playoff spot, but the Clippers will need to get healthy and the Lakers will need more consistent production from their young players.

We’ve still got a lot of basketball to play before playoff seeds are determined, but based on what you’ve seen so far this season, which eight teams do you expect to make the postseason in the West? Can middling teams like the Blazers, Pelicans, and Jazz hold off current lottery teams? Will the Thunder displace one of them? Is there another dark horse contender for a postseason berth in the West?

Jump into the comment section below to share your thoughts on the race for the playoffs in the Western Conference!

Community Shootaround: Eastern Playoff Race

A shaky start to the season by the Cavaliers and a season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward on opening night created some uncertainty back in October about the Eastern Conference playoff picture this season. However, as we near the two-month mark of the 2017/18 campaign, the top of the standings in the East look like what we’d expect — the 23-5 Celtics lead the way, followed by the Raptors (17-7) and Cavs (19-8).

After those top three teams, there are a couple more familiar contenders. The Bucks (15-10) took a roundabout route to fourth place in the East, starting off slow and then catching fire after acquiring Eric Bledsoe. As for the Wizards, they’ve been a little underwhelming, with their 14-12 record tying them for sixth in the conference. But once John Wall gets fully healthy, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Washington make a strong second-half run.

Outside of those five teams, the Eastern Conference playoff race is a bit less predictable. The Pacers, who were expected to be a lottery team, are currently riding a four-game winning streak to a 16-11 overall record, good for fifth in the conference. The Pistons (14-12) and the Knicks (13-13) round out the current playoff picture in the East, though neither team has played its best ball lately — Detroit, in particular, has struggled, having lost its last six games.

The Bulls and Hawks are out of the playoff race entirely, as they battle for the best odds at 2018’s first overall pick. The Hornets (9-16), Magic (11-17), and Nets (10-15) are probably long-shots for the postseason too, though they could hang around within striking distance of that No. 8 seed. The current lottery teams that represent the greatest playoff threats are the Sixers (13-13) and Heat (12-13), who have been inconsistent, but have real upside.

We’ve still got a lot of basketball to play before playoff seeds are determined, but based on what you’ve seen so far this season, which eight teams do you expect to make the postseason in the East? Are the Pacers for real? Can the Pistons and/or Knicks hang on to a top-eight seed? Will the Sixers and/or Heat crack the top eight, or will another lottery team make a run at a playoff spot? And when it comes to seeding, will the Celtics hang onto the No. 1 spot?

Jump into the comment section below to weigh in on the Eastern Conference’s race for the playoffs and let us know what you think!

Community Shootaround: All-NBA First Team

With the regular season nearly a third of the way through as of this past week’s games (Boston, Golden State, Orlando, and Phoenix have all played 27 games), we thought now would be a good time to contemplate which five players are most deserving of being a First Team All-NBA selection for the 2017/18 season.

While there is obviously still a lot of basketball left, there have surely been enough games played so far to begin making a reasonable estimation of certain players’ chances. Players like James Harden and LeBron James have certainly done nothing so far to relinquish their hold on a first team spot come May, and the Warriors‘ dynamic duo of Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant will garner legitimate consideration as well, but other stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kyrie Irving will push their way into the discussion also if they continue to impress the way that they have to begin the season.

Perhaps the most interesting position to watch is at center, with at least four early candidates making a push for their inaugural All-NBA First Team selection, none of whom made an All-NBA team a season ago.

  • Joel Embiid is averaging 23.5 PPG and 11.1 RPG, one of only two players with averages of 23 and 11 so far this season. Embiid is also averaging 1.95 BPG, good enough for fourth best in the league, while leading the Sixers to a 13-11 start, putting them in the playoffs as the eighth seed if the season ended today.
  • DeMarcus Cousins is the other aforementioned player, averaging 26.3 PPG and 12.6 RPG to go along with an impressive 5.1 APG.  Those per game numbers rank first, third, and first among all centers, respectively. The Pelicans are also squarely in the playoff race, currently sitting at the eighth position just like Philadelphia.
  • Andre Drummond leads the NBA in rebounding, averaging 15.3 per game. Given his limited scoring output, however, his candidacy would likely need to be buoyed by his team’s success. The Pistons were once in second place in the Eastern Conference, but have since slipped into a tie for sixth with Washington.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns is one of only three players (along with Embiid and Cousins) to average over 19 PPG and 11 RPG, currently sitting at a respectable clip of 19.8 and 11.6. Of the four centers named herein, the Timberwolves currently have the best record at 15-11, good enough for fourth in the Western Conference.

What do you think? Assuming the regular season ended today, which five players are most deserving of being named First Team All-NBA? Remember that unlike the All-Star game, All-NBA teams are comprised of two guards, two forwards, and a center. Jump into the comment section below to share your thoughts!

Community Shootaround: Best Fit For DeAndre Jordan

DeAndre Jordan is the hottest new name on the trade market, put there by the Clippers’ poor start, a slew of injuries to teammates and his body language as the season continues to crumble.

A Friday night report from Gery Woelfel says the Bucks are aggressively pursuing Jordan, with L.A. asking for John Henson, Malcolm Brogdon and Khris Middleton in return. Milwaukee may not be willing to part with all three, but it’s easy to see why the Bucks would like to add Jordan’s elite interior defense. They would become serious challengers to the Cavaliers and Celtics with a team built around Jordan, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Eric Bledsoe and Jabari Parker once he returns from from a torn ACL, which is expected in February.

But the Bucks aren’t the only team trying to acquire Jordan, Woelfel reports, as the Raptors, Wizards and Timberwolves have all expressed interest. Haley O’Shaughnessy of the Ringer sees Washington as a prime location, proposing a trade that would send Marcin GortatJason Smith, Tomas Satoransky and a 2019 unprotected first-rounder to L.A. in return.

The other two locations are a tougher fit, as Toronto would probably want to unload center Jonas Valanciunas, who still has two more seasons and more than $34MM left on his current deal. Jordan would be an awkward match beside Karl-Anthony Towns in Minnesota and his addition would mean less playing time for Taj Gibson, who just signed with the Wolves this summer.

Another rumor, addressed last week by Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com, has the Cavaliers getting involved with a package of Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert and possibly the unprotected pick from the Nets. A league source told Vardon the Cavs would likely consider such a deal if they thought it would help them beat the Warriors.

Publicly, the Clippers are downplaying talk of rebuilding, but the prospect becomes more real as they sink in the standings. L.A. is 4-13 since a 4-0 start and currently sits in 10th place in the West, two and a half games out of a playoff spot. Patrick Beverley is out for the year, Blake Griffin is sidelined for two months and Danilo Gallinari and Milos Teodosic haven’t returned from early-season injuries. Jordan has a player option for next season worth $24,119,025 and could opt for unrestricted free agency if he thinks the Clippers’ best days are over.

We want to hear your opinion. If the Clippers decide to move Jordan, where would be the best fit and what should they ask for in return? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Community Shootaround: Anthony Davis

The Pelicans may be without superstar big man Anthony Davis for the foreseeable future, a painful realization that’s become all too familiar for the New Orleans franchise.

Although no details about Davis’ latest set back – an apparent groin injury – have been announced, he appeared to be in considerable pain in the fourth quarter of the team’s loss to the Jazz Friday night and allegedly left the locker room on crutches.

While Davis was jostling to box out Jazz center Derrick Favors at the time of the injury, it didn’t look as though the pain was related directly to the contact, although that’s merely a non-medical observation.

For the first five seasons of his career, Davis struggled to stay consistently healthy, suffering a series of unrelated injuries that suggest a general fragility more than any one particular troublesome area. Last year, however, he managed to stick it out through a career high 75 contests.

Our question for readers is a simple one, will Davis – unbelievably still just 24 years old – ever shed the injury prone level that has dogged him throughout his career? If you were at the helm of an NBA franchise, could you ever trust investing substantially in a player with Davis’ track record?

It won’t be long before the details as to the extent of the injury are made public and hopefully it’ll have simply looked worse than it actually was.

Unfortunately in Davis’ case, it’s only natural to expect bad news.

Community Shootaround: Next Coach Fired

The NBA has already seen two coaches fired since opening night, with Phoenix axing Earl Watson just days into the season and Memphis parting ways with David Fizdale after an eight-game losing streak. Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders wonders who will be the next coach to be sent packing.

The Magic have gone just 3-11 since the calendar turned to November and they face a tough week ahead. Orlando gets matchups against the Oklahoma City and Golden State before a back-to-back against the overachieving Knicks and underachieving Hornets.

Kyler hears that the Magic remain committed to Frank Vogel, who has approximately $11MM remaining on his contract over the next two seasons. However, Kyler speculates that a 12-15 loss stretch, coupled with the possibility of Doc Rivers becoming available, could change Orlando’s position.

Rivers has one year at nearly $12MM left on his deal and while the Clippers are clearly under-performing, it’s not clear that a coaching change would help them in the win column. With Blake Griffin slated to miss somewhere in the two-month range because of an MCL injury, it’ll be difficult for Los Angeles to make major improvements. Having a new coach take over and implement changes only to have to make new adjustments eight weeks later is not a recipe for success. The franchise may be better off waiting out the season before letting Rivers depart.

Sources tell Kyler that Fred Hoiberg is likely to finish the season with the Bulls, but the team owns the league’s worst record and it’s a situation worth monitoring.

Tell us what you think? Do you believe Vogel, Rivers or Hoiberg will be the next coach to go? Could there be a surprise firing that no one saw coming or will every current coach remain on their respective sidelines through the season?

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below. We look forward to what you have to say!

Community Shootaround: Derrick Rose’s Future

It’s that time of the year when Derrick Rose‘s health brings up questions about how much longer his battered body can sustain the rigors of an NBA season. We noted yesterday that Rose is currently away from the Cavaliers and evaluating his NBA future. A source told ESPN that the former NBA Most Valuable Player is “tired of being hurt and it’s taking a toll on him mentally.”

Rose, 29, showed he can still score this season as he averaged 14.3 PPG in seven starts for Cleveland. But Rose has not suited up for the Cavaliers since November 7 and was expected to miss 2-3 weeks with an ankle sprain. The Cavaliers have experimented with several different lineups in Rose’s absence. The good news is that Isaiah Thomas, who was acquired in the Kyrie Irving trade, is making progress in his rehab from a hip injury.

“I don’t think it means too much for the team, but I think more importantly as one of his brothers, that’s somebody we got to know these last couple months,” LeBron James said about Rose’s injury (via Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon). “We want, whatever he decides to do, we want the best for him. At the end of the day, you can’t substitute nothing for happiness.”

Head coach Tyronn Lue said he has communicated Rose and despite all the reports, expects the point guard to return at some point. If Rose were to retire, it would also have massive financial ramifications. While his NBA deal is a one-year, $2.1MM veteran’s minimum deal, Rose still has approximately seven years and $80MM left on his endorsement deal with Adidas, according to ESPN’s Nick DePaula. If the former Bulls standout were to file retirement paperwork, he would not receive a full payout from the endorsement deal, DePaul writes.

Rose entered the 2017/18 season with confidence. Last season in New York, Rose played in 64 games and averaged 18.0 PPG, his best work since his MVP season in Chicago. The Cavaliers made a minimal investment and Rose said to Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press that he will prove he can still be an impactful asset.

“When I get on a good team and I’m still hooping the same way, what are you going to say then?” Rose said. “The only thing that you’ll can say is that I can still play.”

Rose has shown he can still play but has not proven he can stay healthy.

What do you think? Do you think Rose will suit up for the Cleveland again this season? Is it smart for him to walk away from a lucrative endorsement deal? If he does resume his career, what would be the best way to manage his workload?

Community Shootaround: 2017’s Best Offseason Deals

We’re about five and a half weeks into the 2017/18 NBA season, which means we’ve seen enough action to start shaping clearer opinions about this offseason’s roster moves from around the league. Signings that we may not have paid much attention to back in July could be paying off in a big way now.

We can’t offer up any Black Friday deals here at Hoops Rumors, but in honor of the biggest shopping day of the year, we’re taking a look back at this summer’s free agent signings to identify some of the best deals of 2017.

Here are a few candidates:

  • Jeff Green (Cavaliers): Lost amidst the drama surrounding David Griffin, Kyrie Irving, and several other current or former members of the Cavaliers this summer was Green accepting a one-year, minimum-salary deal to join the defending Eastern champs. So far this season, Green has been far more productive than he was on a $15MM salary in Orlando last year. Although he’s playing just 20.4 minutes per game for Cleveland, Green is scoring 10.2 PPG with a career-best .492 FG%. He has also been one of the few Cavs playing solid defense.
  • Tyreke Evans (Grizzlies): With the Grizzlies once again impacted by the injury bug this season, the oft-injured Evans has been healthy, and he’s been a godsend in the Memphis backcourt. The former fourth overall pick is averaging 17.9 PPG, 5.2 RPG, and 3.6 APG with a scorching .502/.417/.814 shooting line through 17 games, and his per-minute production is easily the best of his nine-year NBA career. Evans is doing all that on a one-year, $3.29MM contract.
  • Rudy Gay (Spurs): At the time, Gay’s two-year, $17.23MM contract was viewed as a below-market deal for a player of his caliber, but a reasonable rate given his ongoing recovery from Achilles surgery. Gay’s Achilles recovery progressed faster than anticipated, however, and he has been an important contributor for the Spurs in the early going, particularly with Kawhi Leonard sidelined. While his per-game numbers are modest, given his reduced role, Gay’s per-36 numbers (19.3 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 2.6 APG) are all above his career averages.
  • Jonathon Simmons (Magic): Gay essentially replaced Simmons in San Antonio, allowing the Magic to get a good deal on the veteran swingman, locking him up to a three-year, $18MM pact. Simmons has been everything Orlando hoped for so far, averaging an impressive 14.1 PPG in just 24.8 minutes per contest. He’s also chipping in 3.1 RPG, 2.1 APG, and a .497/.385/.763 to go along with reliable defense.

While the players listed above have been great investments for their respective teams so far, there are plenty of other free agent deals from around the NBA worth recognizing. For instance, it’s almost too obvious to mention, but having taken less than his maximum salary to allow the Warriors to make other moves, Kevin Durant is a terrific bargain at $25MM this season.

What do you think? Which 2017 free agent signings have represented the best deals so far in the 2017/18 season? Jump into the comment section below to weigh in!

Community Shootaround: Top 20 NBA Players

In a Friday episode of The Bill Simmons Podcast for The Ringer last week, Simmons and guest Joe House discussed and debated which players should be considered the NBA’s best at this point, ultimately putting together a top-20 list.

The rankings were for the 2017/18 season only, so factors like contract status and long-term potential weren’t taken into account. That means Karl-Anthony Towns, whose defensive game is still a work in progress, didn’t make the cut, even though virtually every NBA general manager would take him over many of the players on this list if they were starting a franchise from scratch.

The podcast is worth listening to in full to hear Simmons’ and House’s arguments for and against certain players, but here’s the list they ultimately settled on (they mistakenly included 21 players instead of 20):

  1. LeBron James (Cavaliers)
  2. Kevin Durant (Warriors)
  3. James Harden (Rockets)
  4. Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks)
  5. Kawhi Leonard (Spurs)
  6. Stephen Curry (Warriors)
  7. Anthony Davis (Pelicans)
  8. Russell Westbrook (Thunder)
  9. Kyrie Irving (Celtics)
  10. DeMarcus Cousins (Pelicans)
  11. Draymond Green (Warriors)
  12. Klay Thompson (Warriors)
  13. Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks)
  14. Ben Simmons (Sixers)
  15. Blake Griffin (Clippers)
  16. Joel Embiid (Sixers)
  17. Paul George (Thunder)
  18. Marc Gasol (Grizzlies)
  19. Nikola Jokic (Nuggets)
  20. Chris Paul (Rockets)
  21. Andre Drummond (Pistons)

In addition to Towns, players who missed the cut included John Wall (Wizards), DeMar DeRozan (Raptors), Jimmy Butler (Timberwolves), Mike Conley (Grizzlies), Rudy Gobert (Jazz), Isaiah Thomas (Cavaliers), Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers), and many others.

As Simmons noted several times during the podcast, the list is subject to change over the course of the season, and it’s possible they might make a few tweaks to it already, just a few days after the fact — by season’s end, it will likely look much different. If Embiid stays healthy for the full season, for instance, it’s easy to envision him moving up a few spots. For now though, those are their picks for the NBA’s 20 (or 21) best players.

What do you think? Do you agree in general with the list, perhaps quibbling with a few rankings here and there, or would your own top-20 list look drastically different? Which players in Simmons’ and House’s list do you think are undeserving of inclusion, and which players who missed the cut should be added?

Jump into the comment section below to share your thoughts!

Community Shootaround: DeAndre Jordan

A disastrous November got even rougher for the Clippers today with the news that Patrick Beverley will miss the rest of the season after undergoing knee surgery.

Beverley’s return Monday after missing five games was supposed to help L.A. right its ship. Instead, doctors determined that he needed surgery for a microfracture and a meniscus injury. His rehab is expected to take nine months.

With fellow opening-night backcourt starter Milos Teodosic sidelined indefinitely with a plantar fascia injury to his left foot and Danilo Gallinari out with a strained left glute, the Clippers have cratered. They entered tonight’s game with a nine-game losing streak and a 5-11 record.

Amid all this misery comes a report from Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post that several teams have made inquiries about center DeAndre Jordan. The 10-year veteran remains one of the league’s best rebounders and shot blockers, but there’s no guarantee his future will be in L.A. Jordan has a player option for next season worth nearly $24.12MM and could be tempted to test the market come July.

Jordan’s decision will go a long way in shaping the future of the franchise. The Clippers could have roughly $40MM in cap space next summer if Jordan, Teodosic, Austin Rivers and Wesley Johnson all opt out, or they could be well above the cap if everyone opts in. Beverley’s salary of slightly more than $5MM for 2018/19 is non-guaranteed, so it’s not certain that the team will bring him back.

The Clippers could wait for Jordan to determine their fate or they could make that decision themselves with a trade. L.A. is only two games out of a playoff spot, but it’s hard to envision a quick turnaround with Beverley already lost for the season and the other injuries continuing to linger.

What do you think? Should the Clippers try to trade Jordan now and get some young talent to rebuild around Blake Griffin or should they hold onto him and the other veterans and hope to turn the season around? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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