Community Shootaround

Community Shootaround: Blake Griffin

With the Clippers on the verge of elimination, the franchise is moving closer to addressing the tough decisions it will face this summer. J.J. Redick is definitely headed toward free agency, and Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are almost certain to opt out and join him, leaving owner Steve Ballmer to decide how much it’s worth to keep the current team together.

A recent report suggests that a five-year extension for Paul is a done deal. Redick is a valuable starter, but not a franchise-altering player. So L.A.’s most important choice will be what to do about Griffin.

At age 28, Griffin remains one of the most talented power forwards in the league. He averaged 21.6 points per game this season, topping the 20-point threshold for the sixth time in his seven NBA seasons. He’s a five-time All-Star who will be among the biggest draws on the open market.

But re-signing Griffin won’t be a slam-dunk decision. Injuries, behavior and finances will all factor in, as will the Clippers’ long string of playoff disappointments.

Griffin managed just three playoff games this year before being sidelined for the rest of the postseason with an injured toe. It’s the second straight season that the Clippers have lost Griffin in the first round, as both he and Paul were unavailable at the end of last year’s ouster against Portland. Griffin appeared in just 61 regular-season games, losing part of the season to arthroscopic knee surgery in December.

A year ago, he managed just 35 games and broke his right hand in a fight with equipment manager Matias Testi. Griffin apologized to teammates and fans, but the incident reportedly soured some members of the front office about his future in the organization.

Giving max deals to keep both Paul and Griffin would push the Clippers’ payroll among the highest in the league. Ballmer would be faced with a sizable luxury tax and a huge repeater tax on top of it. Vertical insider Adrian Wojnarowski wrote this morning that it wouldn’t be “realistic” to expect that kind of commitment after another early playoff exit.

One option if Griffin isn’t retained is to revisit a deal for Carmelo Anthony. The Clippers were one of the teams that the Knicks contacted before the deadline. Anthony could at least replace Griffin’s scoring and give L.A. a new Big Three with Paul and DeAndre Jordan.

That brings us to tonight’s question: Should the Clippers re-sign Griffin this summer, and if they don’t, where will he end up? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. We look forward to what you have to say.

Community Shootaround: Boston’s Comeback Chances

The Bulls shocked the Celtics in Game 1 behind Jimmy Butler‘s 30 point performance. Rebounding was a major issue for coach Brad Stevens‘ squad, as Chicago pulled down 21 more boards than Boston did.

Rajon Rondo stepped up in Game 2, nearly bringing home the 2017 postseason’s first triple-double. The Celtics made just 30.3% of their shots from downtown and they appeared overmatched on the defensive end.

That leads us to tonight’s topic: After watching two games, do you think Boston can win this series?

Only 18 teams have ever comeback from 0-2 to win a 7-game series, according to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). The Celtics are the only No. 1 seed in history to drop the first two games against a No. 8 seed in a 7-game series. The 1993 Suns went down 0-2 in a 5-game series as a No.1 seed against the Lakers, but they came back to win that series and eventually won the Western Conference.

Can Boston comeback from the 0-2 deficit? If the Celtics come out victorious this round, how far can they go? Take to the comment section below to share your thoughts. We look forward to what you have to say!

An earlier edition of this post incorrectly relayed the number of teams to come back from 0-2 in a 7-game series. Only 18 teams have done so. 

Community Shootaround: Next Coach Fired

It was an unusually good year for NBA coaches in terms of job security. For the first time in 53 years, an entire season passed without a coach being fired. In fact, it has happened only twice before: during the 1960/61 season when the league had just eight teams and in 1963/64 when there were nine.

But this run can’t last forever, and eventually a coaching change will be made. It may even happen during the playoffs to a coach whose team gets knocked out earlier than expected.

Part of the explanation for the firing-free season is that so many of the league’s lower-tier teams recently made coaching moves. In the East, the Nets, Magic and Knicks all started the season with new men behind the bench, as did the Lakers, Timberwolves and Kings in the West. Earl Watson in Phoenix was hired midway through last season.

So who are the leading candidates to be the next coach fired?

  • Alvin Gentry is rumored to be on the proverbial “hot seat” in New Orleans, with management threatening to ship off him and GM Dell Demps unless “significant progress” was made over the last month of the season. The Pelicans dropped six of their last 10 and finished seven games out of a playoff spot, so we’ll see if that’s significant enough.
  • Fred Hoiberg has been under fire seemingly since the day he took the job with the Bulls. Last year, he was the target of public criticism from Jimmy Butlerand this season featured benchings, quickly followed by non-benchings, for Rajon Rondo and Nikola Mirotic. But the Bulls crawled out of the pack to earn a playoff spot and Hoiberg still has a lot of support in the front office, so he might be safe.
  • Stan Van Gundy has two seasons left on his $35MM deal with the Pistons, but things didn’t go well this year in Detroit. Reggie Jackson‘s physical problems and Andre Drummond‘s motivational issues raised questions about whether it was wise to invest so much in them. Van Gundy has a lot of power in the organization, but he’ll need to get off to a good start next season, especially with the franchise moving into a new downtown arena.
  • Brett Brown has one of the worst coaching records in modern history, but little of it is his fault. The Sixers weren’t trying to win under former GM Sam Hinkie, and now that Brown has some talent to work with, most of it was injured. He should get a chance to coach a healthy Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Jerryd Bayless next season, but Philadelphia fans will get restless quickly if the team doesn’t start to show some success.
  • Jeff Hornacek should be worried when Knicks president Phil Jackson starts using words like “mentoring.” That’s what Jackson plans to do more of next season, which means a greater emphasis on the triangle. If Hornacek can’t adjust, Jackson won’t hesitate to find another coach who will.

We want to get your input. Who do you believe will be the next NBA coach to be fired? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. We look forward to what you have to say.

Community Shootaround: Upsets In The First Round?

As is the case in any NBA postseason, there are several teams with uphill battles in their first round match-ups. It’s difficult to envision the Trail Blazers getting past the Warriors, just as it’s hard to see the Pacers handing Cleveland an early exit. As opposed to the NCAA Tournament, the NBA’s best-of-seven format in each round of the playoffs makes significant upsets a rarity.

…With that said, we’re interested in hearing your thoughts on teams being overlooked this postseason. Over the last decade, we’ve seen the No. 8 seed Warriors top the Mavericks in 2007, the Grizzlies defeat San Antonio in 2011, and Philadelphia upset the Bulls in 2012.

Dieter Kurtenbach of Fox Sports is among the national writers calling for an upset; dubbing the Celtics “the worst No. 1 seed in history.” Bill Reiter of CBS Sports tabbed the sixth-seed Thunder to top Houston, and Danny Chau of The Ringer predicted the Bulls to defeat Boston.

So what do you think: Do any No. 8 seed teams have what it takes to pull off a major upset? Do you see any fifth, sixth, or seventh seeded teams moving past the first round? Let us know in the comments section!

Community Shootaround: Shooting At The Buzzer In Decided Game

Count Courtney Lee among the latest NBA players to complain about opponents putting up shots in the final seconds of a decided game. On Friday night the Grizzlies laid waste to Lee’s Knicks, culminating in rookie Wade Baldwin IV standing at half-court with the ball and a 10-point lead as the game clock neared expiration.

Just before time ran out, however, Baldwin hoisted a deep three and nailed it. The basket pushed the Grizzlies above the triple-digit mark earning Memphis fans in attendance free chicken.

Lee, unhappy to lose by 10 but considerably angrier losing by 13, went after the rookie but was thwarted by a handful of Grizzlies veterans.

For him to do that, what are you doing it for, bro?,” Lee told Marc Berman of the New York Post. “Think about the people who’s doing it. They got bad luck in this league. … I don’t know what made him want to do it.”

Lee’s reaction is a common one among NBA players but should it be?

Just last week Lance Stephenson incited his own commotion by adding a layup in the final seconds of a win over the Raptors. Then, Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan called the moot field goal “disrespectful to the game“. This, naturally, was followed up by Stephenson exposing an instance of DeRozan’s teammate Norman Powell doing similar to the Sixers earlier this season.

Ultimately, the NBA and fan community that drives it need to decide what is permissible in the waning seconds of a ball game and what’s just sour grapes. In response to the Stephenson/Raptors theatrics, Bobby Marks of The Vertical  tweeted “I’m so tired of these unwritten rules in basketball. If you don’t want a player to shoot at the end of the game then play some D.

On one hand, it’s easy to empathize with players like Lee or DeRozan who see the unnecessary field-goal attempts as salt in the wounds of a fresh defeat. On the other, its a thin line expecting everybody to subscribe to the same unwritten rules of a game.

Should players adopt Marks’ stance and play defense if preserving a spread is so important to them? Or should players on the winning end know not to shoot when the game is out of reach?

Factors to consider are that some veterans will go so far as to let the shot clock expire before hoisting a shot at the buzzer resulting in their being assigned a turnover. Another is the fan factor, such as that which was in effect for Baldwin IV. Reaching certain point milestones, usually 100 points, can sometimes trigger benefits for fans in attendance. Does this impact the appropriateness of a last second basket?

You tell us in the comments below!

Community Shootaround: Sixth Man Of The Year

There has been plenty of discussion and debate throughout the 2016/17 season about the top candidates for the Most Valuable Player award, with Russell Westbrook and James Harden among the players posting historic numbers. The Rookie of the Year award has also received its fair share of attention, with Joel Embiid receiving more support than a player who missed 50+ games typically would.

Most of the NBA’s other end-of-season awards haven’t been put under the microscope to the same degree, however, and that includes the league’s Sixth Man of the Year award. With the regular season just a week away from wrapping up, we want to take a closer look at the top candidates to be named the league’s top Sixth Man for 2016/17.

Currently, the two most viable candidates for the award play in Houston, where Lou Williams and Eric Gordon are first and second in scoring among players who have spent most of the season coming off the bench. Williams, who played for the Lakers up until the trade deadline, leads the way with 17.8 PPG on .436/.377/.875 shooting, while Gordon isn’t far behind, at 16.4 PPG on .412/.378/.835 shooting.

Both players fit the mold of a typical Sixth Man of the Year, representing dangerous outside scoring threats who ensure a team’s offense doesn’t fall off too badly when its second unit gets on the court. However, they aren’t the only players worthy of consideration.

Jamal Crawford and Jordan Clarkson also fit the bill of backcourt scorers off the bench, while Zach Randolph, Enes Kanter, and Greg Monroe are among the frontcourt offensive threats playing with their respective teams’ second units.

The offensive numbers posted by those players may receive more attention from voters, but versatile veterans like James Johnson and Andre Iguodala shouldn’t be overlooked either — they’re doing a little of everything, including playing tough defense.

Meanwhile, Wilson Chandler has enjoyed one of his best seasons in Denver, averaging 15.6 PPG and 6.5 RPG for the Nuggets, but the fact that he has started more than 30 games figures to hurt his case for serious consideration.

What do you think? Will Sixth Man of the Year come down to Williams vs. Gordon, and if so, which one should take home the hardware? Do you think another player deserves to be seriously considered? Weigh in below in the comments section with your thoughts!

Community Shootaround: UNC Players In The NBA

University of North Carolina coach Roy Williams came to Chapel Hill in 2003 and he’s led the school to four national title games. During his time at the program, he’s sent countless UNC prospects to the NBA, but not one of the players have made an All-Star game, as Jonathan Tjarks of the Ringer notes.

That led Hoops Rumors to wonder: Out of all the Roy Williams-coached UNC players in the NBA, who’s the best?

Ty Lawson may be the leading candidate. The Nuggets traded away Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony at the 2010/11 deadline and the move gave Lawson an opportunity to take control of the franchise. From 2011 to 2015, Lawson averaged 16.5 points and 8.0 assists while shooting 45.4% from the field and he helped Denver reach the playoffs each season. However, the franchise never won a playoff series while Lawson was the starter.

Danny Green is the most accomplished choice. He has a championship ring with the Spurs and he’s one of the best active UNC products. His role in San Antonio should allow him to be productive for the next several years, giving him longevity over players like Lawson. However, he’s never been an NBA team’s top option, which hurts his candidacy for the distinction.

Marvin Williams is another excellent role player who could be considered the best. He’s never lived up to his No.2 overall draft pick status, but he’s currently one of the Hornets’ most important players.

Harrison Barnes has the potential to be the best NBA player who Roy Willaims coached at UNC. He didn’t get the opportunity to showcase his all of his ability until he signed with the Mavericks this past offseason. He’s scoring 19.5 games in an expanded role in Dallas and he’s sporting an auspicious 16.6 player efficiency rating.

Does Raymond Felton belong in the conversation? How about John Henson? Let us know who you think is the best NBA player to play under Roy Williams at UNC. Is it one of the aforementioned names or is there another player who should be considered the best? Take to the comment section below to share your thoughts. We look forward to what you have to say!

Community Shootaround: Wall Criticizes Refs

John Wall made waves after Friday’s loss to the Jazz, going on a four-minute rant about (what he perceived to be) poor officiating. Wall received a technical foul for making contact with Rudy Gobert on a screen; a video of the play can be seen here. The play was deemed a “hostile act,” setting Wall and his teammates off after the game.

“The way they’ve been officiating today doesn’t make no sense,” Wall told reporters, including Candace Buckner of the Washington Post. “It’s getting out of hand. If you want us to compete at a high level like we’ve been doing – we didn’t lose this game. The refs made us lose this game. We fought hard, we gave ourselves a chance but you don’t shoot no 31 free throws to 16 the way we attack the basket as a team. I tried to get some (technical fouls) rescinded before, it never works for my favor. Other players have and they got it. So, all I can do is just keep my mouth shut like I’ve been doing. I could see if I would’ve got a flagrant-1 but a technical off of that? That’s outrageous.”

Likely adding fuel to Wall’s flagrant-1 argument was Draymond Green‘s wrist punch to James Harden; an act Green admitted to performing in retaliation, and only received an offensive foul for. As Wall alluded to, the chances of his technical foul being overturned are slim-to-none.

“They said it was a ‘hostile act,’” Scott Brooks said after the game. “I’ve been around a lot of fights back when I played. Come on. ‘Hostile act?’ Really? It’s ridiculous.”

What do you think: was Wall’s strike to Gobert a “hostile act”? Should the decisions of referees be held to a higher standard, and if so: how? If Wall receives a penalty from the league, should Draymond as well?

Let us know what you think in the comments section!

Community Shootaround: Hall of Fame Omissions

There were howls of protest out of Houston today when the 2017 class was announced for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Despite making five all-star teams as a player and winning two titles as a coach, Rudy Tomjanovich was passed over once again.

Former teammate Calvin Murphy and ex-Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy were among those protesting the omission. Houston Chronicle writer Jonathan Feigen blasted the move in a column, saying “The exclusion of Tomjanovich and others said nothing about their achievements, and everything about the secret panel’s failure.”

The man known as “Rudy T” was one of the top forwards in the game in the 1970s. He spent 11 years in the NBA, all with the Rockets, and might have played longer if not for the lingering effects from Kermit Washington’s infamous punch in 1977.

After his playing career ended, Tomjanovich stayed with the Rockets as an assistant coach. He took over as head coach midway through 1991/92 and compiled 527 career wins, leading the franchise to its only championships in 1994 and 1995.

But Tomjanovich wasn’t the only significant player to be passed over this year. Here are a few more who have arguably earned a spot in Springfield:

  • Chris Webber — The first pick in the 1993 draft was also a five-time All-Star. He played 15 NBA seasons, seven with Sacramento, and helped the Kings become one of the most successful teams of the early 2000s. He was the 1994 Rookie of the Year and an All-NBA selection in 2001.
  • Sidney Moncrief — Another five-time All-Star, Moncrief was the standout player on some great Bucks teams in the 1980s. He scored nearly 12,000 points in 11 NBA seasons and was voted Defensive Player of the Year in 1983 and 1984.
  • Tim Hardaway Sr. — One of the NBA’s best point guards in his 14 seasons, Hardaway is best known as part of the electric “Run T.M.C.” Golden State teams. He made five All-Star teams, was named to the All-Rookie Team in 1990 and the All-NBA Team in 1997.
  • Kevin Johnson — The former Suns standout ranks sixth in NBA history in assists per game with 9.1 over his career. He played 13 seasons, made three All-Star teams and was named Most Improved Player in 1989.
  • Jack Sikma — The former SuperSonics and Bucks center is the only eligible seven-time All-Star not enshrined in Springfield. He played 14 seasons, scored 17,287 points and won the 1979 championship in Seattle.
  • Bob Dandridge — He was a star forward in the 1970s who won titles with the Bucks and Bullets. Dandridge played 13 seasons, made four All-Star teams and holds the distinction for scoring the most points in the NBA Finals during the 1970s.

We want to hear from you. Which of these players most deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, and who are some others that should be considered? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. We look forward to what you have to say.

Community Shootaround: Rondo, Mirotic

A month ago, it seemed clear that Rajon Rondo and Nikola Mirotic were on their way out of Chicago. Now it’s less certain than it used to be.

Rondo and Mirotic have emerged as unlikely leaders as the Bulls fight for one of the East’s final playoff spots. At 35-39, they entered tonight’s action one game behind the eighth-place Heat but just three games out of the fifth seed.

Rondo has reclaimed the starting point guard role and taken control of the Bulls’ offense. He barely missed a triple double Sunday in a crucial win at Milwaukee and looks comfortable running the team for the first time all season. It’s a far cry from mid-January when he was relegated to the bench and stayed in shape by playing pickup games at an area middle school.

Rondo proclaimed himself one of Chicago’s “three alphas” along with Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade after signing a two-year deal worth nearly $27.4MM in July. But it’s not clear if that view was ever shared by the Bulls’ front office, who traded for one point guard, Michael Carter-Williams, in October, and another, Cameron Payne, last month.

But Rondo may be changing minds with his recent play. Bulls.com beat writer Sam Smith recently stated that it’s “no longer ridiculous” that the team might pick up Rondo’s $13.397MM option for next season. Chicago’s desire for cap room will certainly factor into that decision, as just $3MM of Rondo’s deal is guaranteed through June 30th.

Mirotic’s turnaround may be even more remarkable. He was being held out of games just two weeks ago, but has bounced back to become a key part of the Bulls’ offense. He has scored 28, 15 and 28 points in his last three games. Mirotic will be a restricted free agent this summer, so Chicago will have the option to match any offer he gets.

That brings us to tonight’s question: Should the Bulls bring back Rondo and Mirotic next season or should they look for other players to fill those roles? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. We look forward to what you have to say.

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