Community Shootaround

Community Shootaround: Andre Drummond

Unlike the free agent frenzy this summer, next year’s open market will produce precious little drama.

Unless Anthony Davis is serious about testing the waters after the Lakers expended many assets to acquire him, there will be no marquee names on the unrestricted free agent list.

Pistons center Andre Drummond might be the most intriguing and polarizing player on the market.

He can become an unrestricted free agent if he declines his player option of $28.75MM. It might be the ideal time for Drummond to test the waters, considering the lack of star power in next year’s free agent class.

He’s the league premier rebounder, particularly at the offensive end. Despite not developing a 3-point shot — though coach Dwane Casey is willing to give him some chances in the future — Drummond averaged a career-best 17.3 PPG last season.

His free throw shooting is still poor but he’s improved enough to stay on the court in crunch time, going from below 40 percent to around 60 the past two seasons.

He’s adept in pick-and-roll situations and led his team in blocks and steals last season. However, his overall defense often leaves something to be desired.

The Pistons have a dilemma on their hands. They could try to work out an extension with Drummond, who is still only 26 and in the prime of his career.

They could also opt to play things out and perhaps trade him before the deadline if their season goes sour. However, if Drummond has a big year and they hold onto him, they could lose him for nothing next summer and face another long rebuild.

Since Drummond didn’t make an All-NBA team last season, he’s not eligible for the super max. If he wanted a maximum extension, he’d have to decline his player option, then receive a 20 percent raise on his $27MM salary for the upcoming season.

With 8% raises during the ensuing three seasons, Drummond could receive a four-year, $145.65MM extension beginning in 2020/21.

The Pistons have been handcuffed by a bad salary cap situation but beyond Blake Griffin‘s contract, they have few salary commitments after this season and will be in pretty good position to make moves next summer.

That leads us to our question of the day: Should the Pistons offer Andre Drummond an extension? If so, would it be in Drummond’s best interests to accept the offer or should he shop his services in a weak free agent market next summer?

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

Community Shootaround: How Will Cousins’ Injury Impact Lakers?

Today’s news that DeMarcus Cousins has been diagnosed with a torn left ACL is a devastating turn of events for the veteran big man, who had aspirations of returning to full strength in 2019/20.

A strong comeback season at age 29 might have set up Cousins for the sort of big payday that has eluded him over the past couple summers due to Achilles and quad injuries. Instead, he’ll spend most – or all – of the season recovering from yet another major leg injury.

Cousins’ torn ACL is an unfortunate development for his new team too. The Lakers were counting on the four-time All-Star to potentially be their starting center, viewing him as a low-risk, high-reward gamble on a one-year, $3.5MM contract. If he could have come anywhere close to recapturing his old All-Star form, Cousins would have provided offensive firepower alongside LeBron James and Anthony Davis and helped the Lakers compete for a championship.

With Cousins no longer expected to be a factor, the Lakers suddenly look pretty thin at center. Last year’s primary starter JaVale McGee will return, but he only played 22.3 minutes per contest in 2018/19, and I wouldn’t expect that number to increase substantially, if at all.

The Lakers will almost certainly have to ask Davis – who prefers to play the power forward position – to spend more time at the five. With James and Kyle Kuzma expected to be among the Lakers’ most-used players, it makes more sense for the team to play AD at center anyway — leaning on lineups that featured Davis, LeBron, and Kuzma plus a center would have been tenuous with or without a healthy Cousins.

Of course, even if Davis is willing to play more center, the club might have to add reinforcements at the position. The Lakers have at least one regular season roster spot available, and could have two if Cousins is ruled out for the season and they’re willing to release him (he’d still receive his full salary). And there are at least a handful of noteworthy big men on the free agent market, as we outlined earlier this week.

In an Insider article, ESPN’s Kevin Pelton names Salah Mejri and Joakim Noah as his preferred free agent targets for the Lakers, noting that Kenneth Faried and Nene are out there too. Amir Johnson, Marcin Gortat, and Marreese Speights, who worked out in front of Frank Vogel last month, also remain unsigned. None of those guys would move the needle in a huge way, but there are a few that could provide 10-15 solid minutes per game if needed.

As the Lakers determine a recovery timeline for Cousins and mull their frontcourt options, we want your two cents. Do you think the Lakers should target a certain free agent big man? Will they be fine with Davis and McGee handling the center minutes?

Regardless of how the Lakers address their newly-created frontcourt hole, do you think Cousins’ injury significantly affects the club’s ceiling for 2019/20? How will his absence impact the Lakers’ title chances?

Jump into the comment section below to share your thoughts!

Community Shootaround: Spurs’ Playoff Streak

Gregg Popovich found the right solution when he decided to fire head coach Bob Hill early in the 1996/97 season. Popovich, who was serving as San Antonio’s general manager and VP of basketball operations, named himself as coach, taking over a team that was crumbling under injuries to David Robinson, Sean Elliott and Chuck Person. The Spurs didn’t rally to make the playoffs that season, but they haven’t missed since.

Some lottery luck brought Tim Duncan to San Antonio and started one of the most remarkable runs of success in North American sports. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili later became important components of a team that was among the NBA’s best for nearly two decades. Even after all the stars were gone, the Spurs continued to win, extending their playoff streak to 22 games last season, tied for the longest ever with the Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers, who did it from 1950 to 1971.

Keeping that tradition alive seems to get tougher every year. In the Western Conference, where nearly all the contenders made a flashy summer move, DeMarre Carroll and Trey Lyles were the Spurs’ most significant offseason additions. They join a veteran-laden lineup built around LaMarcus Aldridge (34), Rudy Gay (32) and DeMar DeRozan (30). The team’s best hope for improvement lies in Dejounte Murray‘s return from a torn right ACL and continued progress from Lonnie Walker and Derrick White.

Playoff spots will be at a premium in the West this year, and many seemed sewed up before the season starts. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George should keep the Clippers in the postseason, while the Lakers are likely to join them after trading for Anthony Davis. The Warriors will have a different look after five years at the top, but they still have an All-Star backcourt, plus Klay Thompson is expected to return sometime before the playoffs.

The Nuggets, Jazz and Trail Blazers all look strong in the Northwest, and the Rockets should also get in with a pair of MVP guards. That’s seven spots already locked up without considering other potential contenders such as the Pelicans, Mavericks, Thunder, Timberwolves and Kings.

Popovich believes in his system and has shown an ability to adapt and get the most from his players. However, surviving the Western Conference gauntlet and stretching the playoff streak to 23 might be his greatest coaching challenge yet.

We want to get your opinion. Do you see the Spurs as a playoff team, or is this the year the streak finally ends? Please leave your responses in the space below.

Community Shootaround: Top 60 NBA Players Heading Into 2019/20

Magic Johnson turns 60 this week and he’s celebrating the milestone by unleashing a bevy of top-60 lists on Twitter (it’s truly a blessing that the NBA legend stepped away from his Lakers role in order to tweet freely). In honor of Johnson’s birthday, I’ve put together a top-60 list, ranking NBA players heading into next season.

The list is based on recent production as well as projections for the upcoming season. Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and Jusuf Nurkic all would have easily made the top 60, but the trio was kept out due to their respective injuries and uncertain return dates.

Here are my top 60 players heading into the 2019/20 campaign:

60. Steven Adams (Thunder)

59. Bojan Bogdanovic (Jazz)

58. Jaren Jackson Jr. (Grizzlies)

57. Andre Drummond (Pistons)

56. Montrezl Harrell (Clippers)

55. Otto Porter Jr. (Bulls)

54. Julius Randle (Knicks)

53. Zach LaVine (Bulls)

52. Zion Williamson (Pelicans)

51. Brook Lopez (Bucks)

Where do we place Zion Williamson before he officially steps on an NBA court? He could immediately showcase the talent that made him one of best prospects in recent memory or he could come in the league with a bit of learning curve and struggle to live up to the loftiest of expectations.

Sandwiching Williamson between Brook Lopez, who’s proven to be valuable in today’s game. and Zach LaVine, who had an underrated 2018/19 campaign and is still building on his own game, seems like the best way to balance the risk vs. reward in Zion’s debut season.

50. Buddy Hield (Kings)

49. John Collins (Hawks)

48. Justise Winslow (Heat)

47. Kevin Love (Cavs)

46. Eric Bledsoe (Bucks)

46. Jamal Murray (Nuggets)

45. Lauri Markkanen (Bulls)

44. Clint Capela (Rockets)

43. Myles Turner (Pacers)

42. Kyle Kuzma (Lakers)

41. DeMar DeRozan (Spurs)

Jamal Murray improved his game over his first three seasons in the league, parlaying his time in Denver into a five-year, $171MM extension. Further improvement will be needed to justify this ranking (and the extension), though he’ll have the opportunity to do just that as he looks to help Denver navigate through a loaded Western Conference.

40. Chris Paul (Thunder)

39. Kristaps Porzingis (Mavericks)

38. Tobias Harris (Sixers)

37. Khris Middleton (Bucks)

36. Devin Booker (Suns)

35. D’Angelo Russell (Warriors)

34. Al Horford (Sixers)

33. Jayson Tatum (Celtics)

32. CJ McCollum (Blazers)

31. Luka Doncic (Mavericks)

With Kyrie Irving and Al Horford out of Boston, Jayson Tatum is expected to see an expanded role in a system that he knows well. He has a polished game and with the added opportunity, it would be an upset if he’s not in the All-Star conversation next season.

30. Jrue Holiday (Pelicans)

29. Pascal Siakam (Raptors)

28. Danilo Gallinari (Thunder)

27. Kyle Lowry (Raptors)

26. Draymond Green (Warriors)

25. LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs)

24. De’Aaron Fox (Kings)

23. Victor Oladipo (Pacers)

22. Mike Conley (Jazz)

21. Ben Simmons (Sixers)

Simmons, like Murray, received a massive extension this offseason and he’ll need to further improve on his game to make the $171MM deal a team-friendly arrangement. Yet, that’s the kind of upside the 23-year-old possesses. Simmons could easily find his way onto numerous All-NBA teams throughout the deal and it wouldn’t be shocking if his first anointment comes at the end of 2019/20 season.

20. Nikola Vucevic (Magic)

19. Blake Griffin (Pistons)

18. Bradley Beal (Wizards)

17. Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)

16. Kemba Walker (Celtics)

15. Karl-Anthony Towns (Wolves)

14. Russell Westbrook (Rockets)

13. Rudy Gobert (Jazz)

12. Jimmy Butler (Heat)

11. Kyrie Irving (Nets)

Rudy Gobert‘s ranking might seem high, especially after he was snubbed during last season’s All-Star selections, though he’s a defensive force that’s unmatched by anyone in the league. He was fourth in NBA Math’s Total Points Added, a metric which measures the impact a player has on the court and he could be the defensive presence that allows the Jazz to integrate their new parts and become one of the best teams in basketball next season.

10. Paul George (Clippers)

9. Damian Lillard (Blazers)

8. Nikola Jokic (Nuggets)

7.  Joel Embiid (Sixers)

6. Anthony Davis (Lakers)

5. Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks)

4. James Harden (Rockets)

3. Stephen Curry (Warriors)

2.  LeBron James (Lakers)

1. Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)

The top of this list could go a number of ways. Which NBA players do you think should be in the top five? Are there any players on this list who are badly misplaced?

Take to the comment section below to share your thoughts and opinions. We look forward to what you have to say!

Community Shootaround: Schedule Changes

The NBA formally unveiled every team’s schedule on Monday, as well as its national broadcast schedule for the upcoming season. Other than earlier start times for many of its nationally-televised games, there weren’t a whole lot of surprises.

That could change in a couple of years.

Back in June, numerous team executives brainstormed how it could spice up the schedule, particularly during the league’s 75th anniversary season in 2021/22.

A couple of intriguing ideas included a midseason cup and a postseason play-in tournament. That would require a reduction in the usual 82-game schedule for each club.

A midseason tournament would certainly bring more intrigue, though there would have to be some kind of reward for the victor or victors in the tournament. An automatic playoff berth at stake? Home court advantage in the playoffs if the winner is already a virtual lock for the postseason? A big money prize going to the team/players that prevail?

Lots of kinks would have to be worked out and the owners, players and TV partners would have to sign off on it. The play-in tournament could give a few extra teams hope of making the postseason and reduce the incentive to tank or rest players.

Tweaks could always be made and if the tournaments are a flop, the NBA could always go back to the norm.

Altering the amount of games might keep the players fresher but franchise’s revenues are built around playing 41 home games. Local TV partners also pay for a stable amount of games, presenting more complications.

While NBA records are not as revered or as memorable as Major League Baseball marks, it would impact players achieving milestones and single-season bests. Some players also have incentives in their contracts based upon an 82-game season.

That leads us to our question of the day: Would you like to see the NBA hold a midseason cup and/or postseason play-in tournament or would you prefer to keep the schedule the way it is?

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

Community Shootaround: L.A.’s Complementary Players

Los Angeles will be the center of the basketball universe during the upcoming season.

The Lakers’ acquisition of Anthony Davis to pair up with LeBron James and the Clippers’ coup in signing Kawhi Leonard and trading for Paul George has created a new level of excitement in Tinseltown.

The flip side to having two superstars is that it’s difficult to surround them with quality pieces due to salary cap restrictions. However, getting the right role players is essential to winning the championship.

The Lakers, of course, had to trade away several young players in order to secure Davis’ services with Kyle Kuzma being the notable exception. They were heavily criticized for some of the veterans they signed to short-team deals last summer but several have returned.

Rajon Rondo, JaVale McGee and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope were re-signed. The Lakers also brought in a batch of new free agents, including DeMarcus Cousins and Danny Green.

If Cousins can regain some of his All-Star form prior to his Achilles injury two seasons ago, he’d be a steal. But that’s a huge if. Green, of course, was a prominent member of the Raptors’ championship team and is the likely starter at shooting guard.

Avery Bradley, Quinn Cook and Jared Dudley are some of the other reserves signed to fortify the bench.

The Clippers gave up potential star point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the George trade but has a little more roster stability with Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell and Landry Shamet returning.

They re-signed restricted free agents Ivica Zubac and Rodney McGruder and unrestricted free agent Patrick Beverley, who attracted a lot of interest around the league due to his defensive prowess. JaMychal Green was also re-signed to back up Zubac, while Maurice Harkless was acquired in a trade.

That leads us to our question of the day: Which of the two Los Angeles teams has the best group of role players surrounding their two superstars?

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

Community Shootaround: Team USA’s World Cup Roster

While there has been some hand-wringing this summer over the exodus of stars from Team USA’s World Cup roster, the absence of the country’s very best players may ultimately make things more interesting in China next month.

Rather than watching Team USA’s dozen best players run roughshod over their international challengers, we should get a look at some new faces and see a more balanced competition. Although America is still the overwhelming favorite to win gold in China next month, there are no guarantees, since the team will run out a younger roster with less All-Star talent than expected.

USA Basketball’s training camp is taking place this week in Las Vegas, and the program’s decision-makers will ultimately have to pare down a group of 29 participants to a roster made up of 12 players before the World Cup gets underway on August 31. Those participants are as follows:

Main roster:

  1. Bam Adebayo (Heat)
  2. Harrison Barnes (Kings)
  3. Jaylen Brown (Celtics)
  4. De’Aaron Fox (Kings)
  5. Kyle Kuzma (Lakers)
  6. Brook Lopez (Bucks)
  7. Kyle Lowry (Raptors) *
  8. Khris Middleton (Bucks)
  9. Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)
  10. Mason Plumlee (Nuggets)
  11. Marcus Smart (Celtics)
  12. Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
  13. P.J. Tucker (Rockets)
  14. Myles Turner (Pacers)
  15. Kemba Walker (Celtics)
  16. Thaddeus Young (Bulls)

* Recovering from thumb surgery.

Select Team:

  1. Jarrett Allen (Nets)
  2. Marvin Bagley III (Kings)
  3. Mikal Bridges (Suns)
  4. Jalen Brunson (Mavericks)
  5. John Collins (Hawks)
  6. Pat Connaughton (Bucks)
  7. Torrey Craig (Nuggets)
  8. Joe Harris (Nets) **
  9. Jonathan Isaac (Magic)
  10. Jaren Jackson Jr. (Grizzlies)
  11. Mitchell Robinson (Knicks)
  12. Derrick White (Spurs)
  13. Trae Young (Hawks)

** Practicing with main roster.

With the 2019 World Cup around the corner, we want to know what your ideal 12-man Team USA roster looks like. The 16-player training camp roster above is a good jumping-off point, but if there are members of the Select Team who – in your view – deserve to represent Team USA in China, feel free to include them as well.

Adding players to your 12-man roster who have already withdrawn from consideration – such as James Harden, Anthony Davis, and other stars – is a no-go, but if there are some under-the-radar NBA players you would’ve liked to see on the squad, feel free to make note of them as well.

What do you think? What would your ideal 12-man Team USA roster look like, given the limitations imposed by all the players who turned down invitations? Weigh in below in the comment section!

Community Shootaround: East’s Most Underrated Team

The current odds posted by shows a wide gap among Eastern Conference teams.

The Bucks and Sixers are virtual co-favorites to reach the Finals next season, with Milwaukee posted at 5-4 odds and the Sixers at 3-2. The Celtics are a clear-cut third choice at 15-2.

Those are the only teams listed at single-digit odds. Even though Kevin Durant is expected to sit out next season, the Nets are co-fourth choices with the Pacers at 12-1. Indiana could be dangerous if Victor Oladipo can come back strong from a serious leg injury.

The Raptors are 25-1 and the Heat, with the addition of Jimmy Butler, are rated at 40-1. The Magic, who made the playoffs last season and re-signed their top free agents, and Bulls are posted at 80-1.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is that the Pistons, who also reached the postseason and didn’t lose any key players, are listed at 120-1 along with the youthful Hawks. The remaining Eastern Conference teams — the Knicks, Cavaliers, Wizards and Hornets, are all posted at 400-1.

It would certainly be a surprise if any club other than Milwaukee, Philadelphia or Boston gets out of the Eastern Conference but all those teams are vulnerable to a certain degree.

That brings us to our question of the day: Which Eastern Conference team is the most underrated heading into next season?

Please take to the comments section below to voice your opinion. We look forward to your input.

Community Shootaround: Chris Paul

Insurance spokesman Chris Paul finds himself stranded in Oklahoma City at the moment and State Farm can’t help him.

Considered for many seasons as the world’s premier point guard, Paul is stuck on the rebuilding Thunder until GM Sam Presti can find a way to deal his monstrous contract. The Thunder granted Russell Westbrook his wish to be traded in the wake of Paul George‘s trade demand. Presti send the team’s longtime floor leader to the Rockets for Paul, a couple of first-round picks and the right to swap two others.

Paul has played most of his career with contenders that have fallen short in the playoffs. He’s now in an awkward spot with the Thunder, who are looking to build around young point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the top player acquired from the Clippers in the George deal. Dennis Schroder, the team’s sixth man, is also a natural point guard.

The remainder of the roster won’t strike fear into the hearts of opponents. The Thunder will be fortunate to win 30 games next season.

Moving Paul to another team won’t be easy. He’s due $38.5MM next season, $41.4MM in 2020/21 and $44.2MM in 2021/22 if he exercises his player option.

Perhaps a younger Chris Paul was worth all that money but age (34) and injuries have led to a decline. He averaged 15.6 PPG on 41.9% shooting, both career lows, last season.

Paul will probably begin the season with the Thunder and have to wait at least until mid-December, when the latest crop of free agents become trade eligible, to get rescued. A point guard injury could motivate a contender to bring in Paul to save their season.

The Heat have been mentioned as the most likely trade partner but they’d want a couple of first-rounders tossed in to ease the burden of Paul’s salary-cap swallowing contract. The Pistons have also been considered a possible suitor, since they could pair up Paul with former pick-and-roll partner Blake Griffin. However, they’re not keen on Paul’s contract, either, especially with Andre Drummond potentially headed to free agency next summer.

That brings us to our question of the day: Do you think Chris Paul will be on Oklahoma City’s roster all of next season? If not, which team will trade for him?

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

Community Shootaround: Tampering Solutions

Not too long ago, NBA executives used to wait until the stroke of midnight when free agency began, then knock on the door of their top target.

The NBA has moved the start of free agency to a more reasonable hour, but clearly, they didn’t wait for the official start of free agency to negotiate. Commitments were being leaked to the media this summer even before free agency began.

Nearly a week into free agency, another type of potential tampering issue arose. Kawhi Leonard committed to the Clippers but only after he convinced Paul George, who just signed a long-term deal with the Thunder last offseason, to demand a trade and join him there.

Clearly, the league has a problem with back-room deals and wink-wink agreements. Last week, an ESPN report revealed that tampering — particularly before the free agency period was supposed to begin — was the primary topic at a tense owners meeting.

The NBA has launched an investigation and has penalties in place for tampering violations. However, it’s been 20 years since the league voided a contract after determining its free agency rules were circumvented.

Some ideas have been kicked around to try to keep things under control in the future. One proposal is to move free agency before the draft and allow negotiations to begin with free agents after their seasons are over. The league could also crack down on players trying to recruit free agents prematurely, or in the case of Leonard-George, recruiting players under contract to force trades.

This brings us to our question of the day: What can and should the league do about apparent widespread tampering, particularly before free agency?

Please take to the comments section to address this subject. We look forward to your input.