Community Shootaround

Community Shootaround: Best Team For Bradley Beal

High-scoring Wizards star Bradley Beal hasn’t issued a trade request yet, but a report this morning that he’s considering it has the rest of the league ready to pounce. Washington is in a precarious position with Beal, who can decline his $36.4MM player option next summer and become an unrestricted free agent.

Beal is said to be considering that the Wizards may start a rebuilding process if they decide to move him, which is no doubt why the report was leaked on the weekend before the draft. Beal would like to join a contender, and sources identified the Warriors, Celtics, Heat and Sixers as possible trade destinations.

Golden State is in the best position if Washington wants draft picks in return. The Warriors hold the No. 7 and No. 14 selections in this year’s lottery and may be willing to part with last year’s No. 2 pick, center James Wiseman, to get their hands on Beal, who is reportedly at the top of their wish list. Andrew Wiggins would likely have to be included to match salary.

In Boston, Beal would be able to unite with his close friend and fellow St. Louis native Jayson Tatum. Washington may ask for Jaylen Brown in return, but the Celtics would be reluctant to part with Brown when they can open enough cap space to sign Beal in 2022. Al Horford‘s $27MM salary would go a long way toward matching purposes, and he is only guaranteed $14.5MM for 2022/23 if he is released before the start of that season. Boston could load its offer with future picks and possibly arrange a sign-and-trade involving free agent guard Evan Fournier, who plays the same position as Beal.

The Heat are at a disadvantage when it comes to draft assets, not holding any picks this year and having future first-rounders tied up as a result of trading a protected 2023 pick. Miami has team options on Goran Dragic ($19.44MM) and Andre Iguodala ($15MM), who can both help with salary matching, but young assets such as Tyler Herro, Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn may not be enough to interest the Wizards.

The Sixers would almost certainly have to move Ben Simmons in a trade for Beal, either to Washington or to someone else in a multi-team deal. Philadelphia is also low on draft assets, but throwing in young players such as Matisse Thybulle or Tyrese Maxey could appeal to Washington.

We want to get your input. Do you believe Beal will be moved this summer and where do you think he should go? Please leave your responses in the comments section.

Community Shootaround: Rockets’ No. 2 Pick

While Cade Cunningham is widely expected to be the first player drafted on July 29, there’s no established consensus about which prospect should be the second player off the board, making the Rockets‘ pick at No. 2 overall one of the most fascinating selections of the draft.

Essentially, there are three directions the Rockets could go. They could keep the pick, trade up to No. 1, or trade down.

Let’s start with the most straightforward – and probably the most likely – outcome: keeping the pick. Even in that scenario, the Rockets will face a difficult decision. You could make a legitimate case for Jalen Green, Evan Mobley, Jalen Suggs, and even Jonathan Kuminga to be the second player selected after Cunningham.

With a pick as high as No. 2, a rebuilding team should always take the best player available rather than focusing on fit. But if the Rockets like Mobley and one of the other top prospects about equally, perhaps concerns about Mobley’s potential fit alongside Christian Wood in the frontcourt push the needle toward the other player.

That “other player” seems most likely to be Green, who is currently projected as the Rockets’ pick in mock drafts by ESPN, Bleacher Report, The Ringer, and others. Of all the players in this year’s draft class, Green is the best bet to rank among the NBA’s leading scorers year-in and year-out, making him a logical choice to be a centerpiece of the rebuild in Houston, where the team traded longtime leading scorer James Harden earlier in the year.

While the Rockets may be happy to stand pat and nab Green or another promising young prospect, one recent report suggested the team has been “fixated” on Cunningham. Another story said Houston has been aggressive in its efforts to trade up to No. 1.

Obviously, the question of whether the Rockets “should” trade up to No. 1 depends in large part on the price. If it’s just a matter of adding the 23rd pick to the No. 2, then sure, that’s a no-brainer. But the cost figures to be much higher than that — in order to move up for a consensus top prospect like Cunningham, Houston would likely have to include an unprotected or lightly-protected future first-rounder in its offer in order to get Detroit’s attention.

If the Rockets really believe in Cunningham’s star potential, that price may be worth it — after all, following the Harden trade, the club has no shortage of future first-round selections to dangle in trade talks.

On the other hand, if the price to trade up to No. 1 is deemed too high and the Rockets’ have no clear preference at No. 2, perhaps trading down is worth exploring. Although Houston did add a number of draft picks and swaps in the Harden blockbuster, the team has also traded away a couple of its own first-rounders and isn’t as loaded with future draft assets as rebuilding rivals like the Thunder or Pelicans.

The opportunity to move down a handful of spots and pick up a few more assets to use during the rebuild may appeal to the Rockets — especially if they’re high on a specific prospect who would still be available in the 4-6 range.

Again, the terms of a potential trade here are crucial in determining whether it’s a viable path for the Rockets, particularly since this year’s draft class has a distinct top tier. If they’re moving out of the top five and not acquiring a ton of assets for their trouble, the Rockets likely won’t be interested. On the other hand, if they’re just trading down a spot or two and receiving a couple valuable future draft picks, that would be much more intriguing.

We want to know what you think. Will the Rockets trade up or down, or will they stay put? If they keep the No. 2 pick, will Green be the pick? Should he be the pick, or would you like to see Houston go in a different direction?

Head to the comment section below to weigh in!

Community Shootaround: Lonzo Ball

Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball will be one of the most intriguing free agents on the market next month.

He’ll be a restricted free agent, unless New Orleans fails to extend a $14.36MM qualifying offer. By giving him a QO, the Pelicans will be able to match an offer sheet for Ball. However, the team won’t be able to execute a sign-and-trade if Ball signs an offer sheet with a rival suitor.

According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the team is unlikely to match a significant offer sheet on Ball. The Bulls and Clippers, both of whom are seeking a long-term solution at point guard, are expected to make a push for Ball. The Knicks, who have tons of cap room, have also been mentioned in some circles as a possible suitor.

Agent Rich Paul told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports that he and his client are “open-minded” about free agency.

“The phone lines will definitely be open come free agency,” Paul said. “At the end of the day, we’ll look to make the best deal.”

Charania’s report suggests the Pelicans are lukewarm at best about retaining Ball. Though Ball averaged a career-high 14.6 PPG this season and improved his 3-point and free throw shooting, New Orleans is looking for ways to improve its mix around franchise player Zion Williamson. With Williamson becoming more of a playmaker, Ball’s skill set might be more suited for a team that puts greater value on his passing ability.

That brings us to our question of the day: Where do you think Pelicans free agent guard Lonzo Ball will wind up in free agency?

Please take to the comments section to weigh in on this topic. We look forward to your input.

Community Shootaround: Antetokounmpo’s Finals Run

When Giannis Antetokounmpo went down with a hyperextended knee in Game 4 of the Bucks‘ Eastern Conference Finals series against the Hawks, it was unclear what it would mean for the his chances at playing in the NBA Finals. His medical status was up in the air until just moments before tip-off in Game 1 against the Suns, but he ultimately was able to suit up.

Even with the Bucks losing the opening game and getting a relatively pedestrian 20-point performance from the two-time MVP, it was clear that Giannis was back. From his 17 rebounds to his work in the post, he found his footing after some early hesitancy.

Antetokounmpo’s following two games were nothing short of spectacular. The Greek Freak joined Shaquille O’Neal as the only two players in Finals history to post back-to-back 40-point, 10-rebound games as the Bucks split Games 2 and 3 with the Suns.

With Game 4 looming on Wednesday on the Bucks’ home court, Antetokounmpo currently has the 12th-highest scoring rate in NBA Finals history at 34.3 PPG, the fifth-highest rebound rate at 14 RPG, and the third-highest free throw rate at 15.7 FTA. Only two points per game separate Antetokounmpo’s scoring rate with the sixth-highest output in Finals history, O’Neal’s 36.3 PPG in the 2000 Finals.

Antetokounmpo’s co-stars, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton, have struggled to contribute at the highest level all series, though Holiday managed to free himself for 21 points in Game 3. If those two players continue to struggle, the Bucks will need Antetokounmpo to continue his Herculean efforts if they want any chance to bring home the coveted Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy.

If the Bucks are to complete the comeback from a 2-0 deficit for the second time this postseason, it will likely be on the back of an all-time, legacy-making Finals performance from Antetokounmpo.

Which leads to the question of the day: Can Antetokounmpo enshrine his name in the pantheon of the all-time Finals performances? Can he lead the Bucks to their first championship since 1971?

Head to the comments section to weigh in on this topic. We look forward to your input.

Community Shootaround: U.S. Olympic Team

After losing their first exhibition game to Nigeria on Saturday, the U.S. men’s basketball team dropped its second pre-Olympics tune-up to Australia on Monday, falling 91-83 to the Boomers. Team USA has now lost four of its last five international contests with NBA players on the roster, dating back to the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

As Joe Vardon of The Athletic writes, conditioning has been an issue for the USA team so far, as has rebounding — the roster is fairly undersized, especially with bigs like Bam Adebayo and Kevin Love playing sparingly.

Reinforcements will be coming for Tokyo, with three players who are participating in the NBA Finals – Devin Booker, Jrue Holiday, and Khris Middleton – set to join the Olympic roster once the NBA season ends.

But it’s becoming increasingly clear that the gap between the U.S. and the rest of the world isn’t as significant as it once was, especially when the NBA veterans representing other international programs – including Australia – have spent so much more time playing together.

“We’re not just going to come out here, roll the ball out and beat these teams,” U.S. point guard Damian Lillard said after Monday’s loss. “We’ve got to play the right way, compete, and we’ve got to come out here to win and do everything to give ourselves our best chance to win. If we don’t, we can be beat.”

While Team USA will still be the overwhelming favorite to win the gold medal in Tokyo next month, the squad’s first two exhibition games have been a reminder that bringing home the gold isn’t a given.

France and the Czech Republic could give the U.S. some trouble in the round-robin group stage of the Olympic tournament, while Australia, Spain, Nigeria, and Slovenia (featuring Luka Doncic) are among the teams that could be threats to pull off an upset in the medal round.

We want to know what you think. Do you still expect the U.S. to win gold? Have these exhibition losses caused your confidence to waver? Do you believe there are flaws in the way the roster was constructed that could be exposed at the Olympics?

Head to the comment section below to weigh in with your thoughts!

Community Shootaround: Expansion

The NHL’s expansion draft for its newest franchise, the Seattle Kraken, will be held in less than two weeks. It comes just four years after Las Vegas was added to the league.

The other major winter sports league doesn’t seem to be in any rush to add new franchises, however. Commissioner Adam Silver was asked about the possibility of increasing the league’s 30-team membership this week. He made it clear that it’s not near the top of his priority list.

“The most important considerations for us when we look at expansion is, will it ultimately grow the pie? Meaning, it’s potentially 30 more jobs if you expand with two teams,” Silver said. “You expand the league’s footprint. How does that help us in varying ways, sort of increased support nationally. So we’ll continue to look at it. I mean, I’ve said this many times before, we’re certainly not suggesting we’re locked at 30 teams. I think at some point it will make sense to expand, but it’s just not at the top of the agenda right now.”

Seattle, which lost its franchise to Oklahoma City, has long been considered the most likely city to get the next franchise. Las Vegas is also a strong contender, but there are plenty of other options.

Domestically, Kansas City, Louisville, San Diego, Nashville, Tampa and Pittsburgh have been mentioned to varying degrees; the league could also look at major international cities such as London, Vancouver, Montreal and Mexico City.

The Players Association would likely endorse expansion, since it would create more opportunities for players to wear an NBA uniform.

That leads us to our question of the day: Should the NBA seriously consider expansion in the near future? If so, which cities are most deserving of a franchise?

Please take to the comments section to weigh in on this topic. We look forward to your input.

Community Shootaround: Remaining Coaching Openings

Seven NBA teams have parted ways with their head coaches – mutually or otherwise – since the regular season ended. Of those seven clubs, four have since hired replacements.

The Celtics and Trail Blazers are making Ime Udoka and Chauncey Billups first-time head coaches, while the Pacers and Mavericks are reuniting with Rick Carlisle and Jason Kidd, respectively.

That leaves three teams in search of new head coaches: the Pelicans, Wizards, and Magic.

[RELATED: 2021 NBA Head Coaching Search Tracker]

Of those three jobs, the one in New Orleans may be the most attractive. The Pelicans‘ core includes a pair of All-Star caliber forwards (Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram), along with several other young players and a boatload of future draft picks. While the Pelicans missed out on the postseason again in 2021, they’re well-positioned to continue improving their roster.

Nets assistant Jacque Vaughn has been the candidate most frequently linked to the Pelicans’ job. He has some head coaching experience, having coached Orlando for two-and-a-half years from 2012-15 and Brooklyn for 10 games in 2020. A former player who has spent over a decade in the coaching ranks since his retirement, Vaughn might be someone the Pelicans envision building a strong connection with their young roster. Bucks assistant Charles Lee and Pelicans assistant Fred Vinson are among the other candidates reportedly receiving consideration.

The Wizards, meanwhile, are the only one of the three teams without a head coach that is coming off a playoff appearance. The job comes with its share of pitfalls though. Bradley Beal could reach free agency in 2022, so his long-term future in D.C. isn’t assured. And the team, which had to win its second play-in game to sneak into the postseason, is capped out this offseason, with Russell Westbrook still owed $91MM+ over two years.

Still, the opportunity to coach one of the most talented backcourts in the NBA will be a draw, and Wizards ownership is willing to make the necessary investments to upgrade the roster wherever possible. Sixers assistant Sam Cassell, Mavericks assistant Jamahl Mosley, and Celtics assistant Scott Morrison are believed to be candidates for the Washington job, though the most intriguing name that keeps popping up is that of Nuggets associate head coach Wes Unseld Jr. His return to D.C., where his father spent the majority of his Hall-of-Fame career, would be a great story.

Finally, the Orlando job poses perhaps the most clear-cut challenge for an incoming coach: Help a roster that’s in the very early stages of a rebuild to grow and develop. With their moves at the trade deadline, the Magic tore things down and reset their timeline, so expectations will be modest for at least the next couple years. Whoever gets this job won’t be expected to turn this club into a title contender anytime soon.

The Magic appear to be conducting a wide-range search and are considering several assistants without NBA head coaching experience, though there’s a belief that they’d prefer a more experienced leader. Kenny Atkinson and Terry Stotts are among the former NBA head coaches who have been repeatedly cited as strong candidates for the job. Penny Hardaway, who has no NBA coaching experience but is a Magic legend and a head coach at the University of Memphis, is also said to be firmly in the mix.

We want to know what you think. Of the Pelicans’, Wizards’, and Magic’s head coaching jobs, which is most appealing? Which candidates do you think those clubs should be targeting? And which coaches do you expect to ultimately be hired?

Head to the comment section below to weigh in with your thoughts!

Community Shootaround: Conference Finals Outcomes

With the start of the NBA Finals around the corner, it’s time to examine who might represent the East and West in the annual championship series this year.

The Bucks and Hawks are currently tied 1-1, with Milwaukee winning Game 2 on Friday night 125-91. Giannis Antetokounmpo led the way with 25 points, nine rebounds and six assists, while Hawks star Trae Young recorded just 15 points and nine turnovers.

In the West, the Suns lead the Clippers 3-1, with Game 5 set to commence on Monday night. Clippers superstar Kawhi Leonard (knee) has already been ruled out for the contest. Game 4 featured some ugly shooting performances from both sides, but Phoenix prevailed to take a commanding lead in the series.

Both the Clippers and Hawks have overcome long odds numerous times during the postseason — the Clippers came back to beat the Mavericks in a seven-game first-round series, then won four straight to beat the Jazz after trailing 2-0 the next round. The Hawks, meanwhile, were not expected to make it here.

“What I like about this team is we always beat the odds,” Hawks center Clint Capela recently said, as relayed by Joe Vardon of The Athletic. “People just don’t expect us to do it. People keep doubting us, and we just keep shocking them. In Houston, it was really a championship mentality every year, so it was almost like a must-win game, every game.”

With that in mind, what do you think? Do the Clippers have enough left in the tank to pull off a third postseason miracle? Will the Hawks win another series despite being widely viewed as the underdogs?

Take to the comments section below to share your opinions!

Community Shootaround: Rockets Lottery Pick

The Pistons hit the jackpot in the lottery on Tuesday, getting the top pick for the first time in over 50 years.

They essentially flipped positions with the Rockets, who finished with the worst regular-season record, as Detroit entered the lottery in the No. 2 slot.

Pistons general manager Troy Weaver didn’t immediately commit to Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham, who has been considered by most pundits to be the top prospect in the draft.

Weaver blew up the Pistons’ roster in his first year on the job, so it’s not out of the question he’ll go outside the box and draft another player or trade down. But the most likely outcome is that the Pistons will select the player who has drawn comparisons to Luka Doncic, Penny Hardaway and another former Detroit lottery pick, Grant Hill.

That leaves Houston in an interesting spot. There’s three players generally considered candidates for the second spot – Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs, USC big man Evan Mobley and G League shooting guard Jalen Green.

The most notable players on the Rockets’ roster are oft-injured guards John Wall and Eric Gordon, big man Christian Wood and All-Rookie First Team forward Jae’Sean Tate. So, there’s needs across the board and the rebuilding team could go in any number of directions.

If they want a solid two-player point guard with superior leadership skills, they could choose Suggs. If they want to a highly-skilled power forward built for the modern NBA game, they could grab Mobley. If they’re seeking a prolific scorer on the wing, they could snare Green.

That leads us to our question of the day: Assuming the Pistons take Cade Cunningham with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, which player should the Rockets select at No. 2?

Please take to the comments section to weigh in on this topic. We look forward to your input.

Community Shootaround: Clippers-Suns Game 2

The Clippers have faced adversity in each of the first two rounds during this year’s playoffs, and the Western Conference Finals seem to be shaping up no differently.

The Clippers rallied from down 0-2 to Luka Doncic and the Mavericks to win Game Seven, thanks to a well-rounded team effort in round one. In round two, they once again started out down 0-2 to the one-seed Jazz, only to win the next four games in a row, weathering the loss of star Kawhi Leonard to take the final two games in convincing fashion. In doing so, the Clippers became the only team to overcome a 2-0 deficit in multiple series during a single playoff run.

Much of the team’s recent success has been due to Paul George‘s stellar two-way play. The All Star wing has averaged 31.3 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 5.3 APG, and shot 43.6% from three over his last six games, while providing lock-down, versatile defense. George previously spoke of the feeling of getting “the monkey off the Clippers’ back” in regard to making it past the second round, and it seems that he’s feeling some of that same looseness personally.

Now, once again, the Clippers find themselves down heading into Game Two. Despite another strong game from George, in which he scored 34 points and defended Suns‘ star Devin Booker well all night, it wasn’t enough, as Booker managed to overcome the defense en route to a 40-point triple-double and a six-point victory. Booker became the third-youngest player to record a 40-point triple-double in the playoffs – only Doncic and Oscar Robertson accomplished the feat earlier – and the first Sun to do so since Charles Barkley in 1993.

The Suns are as hot as they’ve ever been. They haven’t lost a game since the third game of the playoffs, and Booker proved his ability to put the team on his back and be a play-maker in the absence of Chris Paul, at least for one game. The question will be if he can sustain that level of play should Paul’s absence continue.

Even if Booker drops off, though, the Suns have generally had a wide range of players they’ve been able to rely on. Third-year center Deandre Ayton has had a breakout playoffs, and has been a consistent source of two-way production. Jae Crowder, Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, and Torrey Craig have all provided scoring and shooting while forming a tight-knit defensive wing rotation, and Cameron Payne has been solid in his role, stepping up to score 11 points and dish out nine assists as he filled in for Paul.

On the other hand, the Clippers’ role players have been a little more sporadic in their contributions. Reggie Jackson has been a consistent source of offense, and Terance Mann has had moments of excellence, but if the Clippers want any hope at making it to the Finals, they’re going to need more from guys like Marcus Morris, Nicolas Batum, and Patrick Beverley, among others.

This is especially true because, while both players are still on unspecified timetables, it seems likely that Paul could be cleared for a return before Leonard.

All of that makes Game Two a crucial one for the Clippers, who want to avoid a third straight series down 2-0. If the Clippers can split the two road games, and get one while Paul is still out, it bodes well for their chances in the series. If not, they will still have a shot, but it certainly makes things tougher — especially if CP3 does return for the later games.

So the question of the day is: Who will win Game Two between the Clippers and Suns, and who will win the individual duel between George and Booker?

Head to the comment section below to weigh in with your thoughts!