Community Shootaround

Community Shootaround: Resting Players

A.C. Green has a streak that will probably never be broken, considering the way players and coaches now view the 82-game schedule.

Green holds the NBA record for most consecutive games played with 1,192. Green’s streak looks more and more like Cal Ripken’s MLB Iron Man streak — something that no other player will come close to breaking. In today’s NBA, even a full season of games is considered too much to bear.

Coaches are resting players with increased frequency and commissioner Adam Silver isn’t happy about it. Many fans and the league’s broadcast partners are also irked by the practice of teams giving their stars who are healthy enough to play the night off. It’s become a hot-button issue now that two nationally-televised ABC broadcasts have featured a Warriors’ team sitting all their stars and the Cavaliers doing the same the following Saturday night.

Silver sent out a memo to all team owners imploring them to get more involved in decisions to sit out players, citing the “business ramifications” of these healthy scratches. It’s certainly not good for TV ratings and it shortchanges fans who bought tickets to these games, expecting to see LeBron James and Stephen Curry instead of second- and third-stringers.

Silver also called for significant penalties to be levied on teams who don’t given sufficient notice that they’re going to sit players.

Along with contenders giving their regulars a rest, some non-contenders are shutting down veterans to take longer looks at their younger players. The Suns are in case in point — they had to sign a player to 10-day contract on Sunday just have eight players suit up for a game earlier this week.

The flip side of the argument is that contenders want to keep their best players fresh for the postseason, rather than wear them out to collect a few more regular-season victories.  As James, who has missed six games this season, points out, “A coach’s job is to figure out a way for their team to compete for a championship, not compete for a game.”

That brings us to our question of the day: Do you believe that the NBA needs to curtail the practice of resting players? If so, how should the league address the issue?

Please take to the comments section to voice your opinion. We look forward to your input on this topic.

Community Shootaround: James, Wade, Paul, Anthony

When LeBron James speculated last season about one day joining forces with Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony, it seemed like just a fantasy. But recent events have created uncertain futures for three of the NBA’s four most famous friends.

Wade will miss the rest of the regular season after suffering a sprain and fracture in his right elbow on Wednesday. He left open a chance that he might return for the playoffs, but Chicago has fallen to 32-37 and two games out of the eighth spot in the East. Wade has a $23.8MM player option for next season, which might be tough to top on the open market, but if Wade opts out he may have already played his final game with the Bulls.

Paul is considered a sure thing to exercise his early termination option and forego a $24,268,960 salary for next season. At age 31, Paul will be seeking one last long-term contract to carry him through the end of his NBA career. Whether that deal comes from the Clippers could depend on L.A.’s playoff success. With Paul, Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick all headed to free agency, owner Steve Ballmer will have to decide if huge luxury tax payments are justified to keep the team together. Currently tied for fifth in the West, L.A. is likely to enter the postseason without home-court advantage.

The playoffs aren’t a concern in New York, where Anthony is toiling for the 12th best team in the East. He has been in a long-running feud with team president Phil Jackson and was the subject of trade rumors involving the Clippers, Cavaliers and Celtics prior to the deadline. Anthony is signed through next season, then has an early termination option for 2018/19. There’s a growing feeling that he might be willing to waive his no-trade clause this summer to join a contender and get away from Jackson.

That brings us to today’s question: Where do you think Wade, Paul and Anthony will be playing next season, and will they someday team up with LeBron before they all leave the NBA? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. We look forward to what you have to say.

Community Shootaround: Coach Of The Year

Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy sang the praises of his Jazz counterpart, Quin Snyder, prior to their teams’ game on Wednesday.

“There’s always a lot of good coaching jobs done in this league but you’d have to put him in the top three or four in what’s he’s done with that team and bringing them [up] from last year,” Van Gundy said.

Certainly, Snyder would have to be on anyone’s short list for the NBA Coach of the Year award. The Jazz are cruising along at 18 games over .500 and have moved into fourth place in the Western Conference, ahead of the much-more heralded Clippers and Thunder. Utah suffered through numerous injuries last season and finished two games under .500, just missing the playoffs.

There are a few other coaches who have emerged as candidates for the honor as the regular season winds down. Certainly, the Rockets’ Mike D’Antoni has re-asserted himself as a major force in his profession. Following failed stints with the Knicks and Lakers, D’Antoni seemed to be at the end of his head coaching career.

D’Antoni got another chance in Houston and found the perfect situation because of its commitment to a high-powered offense and the 3-point shot. His decision to make James Harden the primary ballhandler has turned the Rockets into one of the league’s most feared teams, one year removed from a dysfunctional and disappointing season in which the Rockets finished with a .500 record.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is often taken for granted but he’s got his team in position to snatch away the top seed from the Warriors. San Antonio hasn’t missed a beat despite the retirement of Tim Duncan and a backcourt with only one player (Patty Mills) whose PER is above the league average of 15.0.

Over in the Eastern Conference, Wizards coach Scott Brooks has his team within striking distance of the top seed after it finished .500 last season. The Wizards have dealt with chemistry and locker-room issues in recent years but Brooks has them playing harmoniously.
Brad Stevens has continued to keep the Celtics on an upward trajectory, as they currently sit in the No. 2 spot.

The Heat’s stunning turnaround has moved Erik Spoelstra in the conversation. Left for dead at the midway point with an 11-30 record, the Heat have surged into playoff contention despite injuries to several rotation players.

That brings us to our question of the day: Who do you feel is most deserving of the Coach of the Year award and why?

Please take to the comments section to voice your opinion. We look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Community Shootaround: Lottery Picks in Tourney

Right now, most basketball fans are agonizing over their bracket selections for the NCAA Tournament. With no clearcut favorite during March Madness this year, there are a lot of difficult decisions ahead before those brackets are finalized.

Every tournament has some breakout performers who garner national attention — and perhaps improve their NBA draft stock. Most of the projected lottery picks for the June draft will be in action this weekend, trying to lead their teams to the Sweet Sixteen and beyond.

Virtually all of those players are freshmen falling into the one-and-done category. The one who has received the most publicity is UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball. The precocious floor leader tops the nation in assists and is expected to be one of the top two picks in the draft along with Washington’s Markelle Fultz.

Using DraftExpress.com’s current rankings, there are three other freshmen in the top five on serious title contenders. Kansas small forward Josh Jackson was suspended for a game in the Big 12 tournament but it won’t affect his status for the NCAAs. He’s averaging 16.4 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists for that perennial powerhouse. Duke small forward Jayson Tatum posted slightly higher point and rebounding totals than Jackson, while Kentucky point guard De’Aaron Fox engineers the Wildcats’ high-octane attack.

Fox’s team, swingman Malik Monk, can score in bunches as his 20.4 point average attests. Arizona power forward Lauri Markkanen has drawn comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki, while small forward Jonathan Isaac quickly emerged as one of the top players for No. 3 seed Florida State.

Still another freshman, Michigan State small forward Miles Bridges, carried the load for a team riddled with injuries to its veteran players. North Carolina’s leading scorer Justin Jackson breaks the mold by being a junior and he could move up a few spots if the Tar Heels make a deep run.

Of course, it’s not necessary to have a lottery-bound player to win the national championship, as Villanova showed last season. But we’re not asking for your bracket picks here, we’re looking for your opinion on these projected lottery picks.

This brings us to our question of the day: Which of the current projected lottery picks will make the biggest splash in the NCAA Tournament and why will they stand out?

Please take to the comments section to voice your opinion. We look forward to what you have to say.

Community Shootaround: Minnesota Timberwolves

The Wolves beat the Warriors on Friday night in a game that came down to a missed Stephen Curry jumper in the remaining seconds of regulation. Minnesota is 7-3 over its last 10 contests (only the Spurs can claim a better record) and the team’s defense deserves credit for the stretch. The team held Curry to just one made 3-pointer on his eight attempts and as a team, Golden State shot just 29.3% from behind the arc.

Entering their game with the Warriors, the Wolves had the highest defensive rating in the league post All-Star break, as I recently mentioned. It takes time to learn defensive schemes in the NBA and it appears that the team’s young talent is starting to grasp Tom Thibodeau’s playbook.

The franchise enters the day just 2.5 games behind the Nuggets for the eighth seed in the Western Conference, though the Wolves would also have to jump the Blazers and Mavs to punch a ticket to the NBA’s second season.

That leads us to tonight’s shootaround topic: Can the Wolves make a run over the last quarter of the season and make the playoffs or are they a piece or two away from being a playoff team? Let us know if you think Minnesota can climb in the standings or what the team should do this offseason to complement Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. We look forward to what you have to say!

Community Shootaround: Will Cavs And Warriors Hang Onto No. 1 Seeds?

Following tonight’s loss to the Pistons, the Cavs are 42-21- having played to a .500 record over their last 10 games. The return of J.R. Smith bolsters the team’s depth, but Tyronn Lue’s squad continues to miss Kevin Love‘s presence in their rotation. The Celtics aren’t far behind Cleveland’s trail, sitting two games behind the Cavs for the top seed in the Eastern Conference.

It’s been a similar story for Golden State, whose fourth quarter struggles have been well-publicized. The Warriors hardly have a comfortable hold of the Western Conference’s #1 seed, as San Antonio is riding a torrid 9-1 streak. The Warriors have long clinched a playoff spot, but Steve Kerr said he isn’t obsessed with the top seed.

“We still have the No. 1 seed, but I won’t run guys ragged to get it,” Kerr told Connor Letourneau of SF Gate. “We have to manage this stretch right here and get through this week.”

Fox Sports editor Brett Pollakoff has recently predicted the Spurs to overtake Golden State for the top seed, citing the Warriors’ difficult schedule through the rest of the regular season.

“The Warriors lead the Spurs by 2.5 games in the standings but are playing without Kevin Durant for at least a little while longer and have an absolutely brutal schedule this week, which ends with a game in San Antonio on Saturday,” Pollakoff writes. “The Spurs might be able to make up some ground during that stretch and are capable of playing consistently enough to overtake Golden State for the West’s No. 1 seed.”

Five Thirty Eight currently gives the Warriors a 79% chance of hanging onto the #1 seed, and Cleveland a 40% chance. We want to hear your opinion: Do you think each team will hold onto the #1 seed? If not, what will get in their way? Are the injuries to Kevin Durant and Kevin Love ultimately too much to overcome?

Let us know what you think in the comments section!

Community Shootaround: In-Game Music

The Knicks made headlines with their decision to forgo in-game music during the first half of Sunday’s games against the Warriors. As Andrew Joseph of USA Today wrote, the result was a genuinely interesting example of what professional basketball games could be.

We know now, per Chris Haynes of ESPN, that Draymond Green was not a fan of the experiment saying that it interrupted game flow but Joseph and Kenny Ducey (whose videos were embedded in the USA Today piece) aren’t the only ones who appreciated the gesture. Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post thought it was a good idea, too.

Not only did the stadium avoid the in-game music that typically plays sporadically while the clock is ticking and during timeouts, it served the national anthem and starting lineups acapella as well.

What do you suppose you would prefer at the next professional game you attend? And would this differ if you were a player who had grown accustomed to playing under certain conditions?

Finally, should it be up to the discretion of each venue to determine whether music gets played during games or should there be some element of uniformity throughout the league?

Weigh in below!

Community Shootaround: Buyouts

Why make a trade when you can get the players you want for free?

Neither Cleveland or Golden State was active around last week’s trade deadline, but the Cavaliers wound up with Deron Williams and Andrew Bogut, while the Warriors first landed Jose Calderon, then replaced him with Matt Barnes.

The NBA buyout process has always benefited the most successful teams, but the outcry seems louder than ever this year as the rich get richer and their competitors are shut out of the process. Williams knew where he wanted to go as soon as his buyout was complete. Bogut took a few days to consider his options before coming to the same conclusion. For veteran players who want to chase a championship ring, there are two options that stand far above the others.

But is this system good for the league, or does it further damage an already shaky competitive balance? With the Big Three in Cleveland and four All-Stars in Golden State, should these teams be allowed to add even more depth through buyouts?

A lot of their rivals don’t think so, and they’re airing their complaints to the league. Zach Lowe of ESPN.com reported on Friday that several alternatives have been offered, including a “buyout wire.” Under that system, players who agree to buyouts would go up for bid among all the teams with available cap space. The team that submits the highest bid would get the player, who would have no say in where he winds up. If no bids are submitted, then teams over the cap would be able to make offers, possibly in reverse order of records like the waiver wire.

We want to hear your opinion on this topic. Would this be a good solution to the buyout market? Do you have a better idea, or does it need to be fixed at all?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. We look forward to what you have to say.

Community Shootaround: Western Conference Playoffs

Once Kevin Durant made his surprise decision to bolt the Thunder for the reigning Western Conference champions, it seemed a foregone conclusion that the Warriors would once again return to the NBA Finals. There was little evidence to dispel that notion once Durant’s varied skills were assimilated into Golden State’s high-throttle attack.

That all changed in the nation’s capital this week when teammate Zaza Pachulia fell backward onto Durant’s left knee. The perennial All-Star small forward suffered a Grade 2 MCL sprain and a tibial bone bruise.

Durant will be out at least a month and quite possibly several more weeks. He won’t even be re-evaluated for four weeks and the Warriors are certain to exercise caution. There’s a good chance Durant will miss the remainder of the regular season and it could also affect his status for the postseason. Even if he comes back in time for the playoffs, he could be limited and will have to regain his rhythm on the fly.

Durant’s injury suddenly makes Golden State much more vulnerable. The Warriors still have their former Big Three, which led them to a 2015 championship and nearly another one last season. But they no longer have their other two starters from those seasons, Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut, and their bench isn’t very deep.

The Spurs and Rockets, in particular, now look like serious threats to dethrone the Warriors. Kawhi Leonard is averaging career highs in points and assists for San Antonio, LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol form a solid 1-2 punch in the middle and the roster is loaded with playoff-tested veterans.

Mike D’Antoni‘s decision to turn James Harden into Houston’s primary ballhandler has been a smashing success. The league’s second-highest scoring team added even more firepower at the trade deadline by acquiring Lou Williams from the Lakers.

It’s not out of the realm of possibility for the Clippers to catch fire if their Big Three is healthy coming into the postseason. The Grizzlies, who staged a memorable comeback at Golden State this season, also have a veteran, battle-tested roster. The Thunder improved their bench via a trade-deadline deal with the Bulls, and the Jazz possess a solid 1-2 punch of their own in Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert.

This leads us to our question of the day: Do you expect the Warriors to emerge from the Western Conference playoffs even if Kevin Durant is unavailable or limited due his knee injury? If not, which team is most likely to knock them off their perch and why?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. We look forward to what you have to say.

Community Shootaround: Rookie Of The Year

The Sixers announced today that center Joel Embiid will miss the remainder of the season. The good news is that the bone bruise and meniscus tear in his left knee are not related to the foot problems that robbed him of his first two NBA seasons. Embiid should be fully recovered well before the start of training camp.

The announcement signals an end to a rookie season that saw Embiid establish himself as one of the league’s best big men. His impressive numbers included 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game with a restriction that limited him to about 25 minutes per night. Adjust those numbers to 36 minutes and they turn into 28.7 points, 11.1 rebounds and 3.5 blocks, which would have him squarely in the race for MVP.

But the number that might cost Embiid the Rookie of the Year trophy is 31, which is how many games he was able to play. Voters will have to decide if a player can earn a major award in just 38% of a season. Patrick Ewing holds the record low among ROY winners with 50 games in 1985-86 and Bill Walton was named MVP in 1977-78 despite playing just 58 times, so voters have a history of forgiving injuries when players are dominant.

Embiid’s major competitor for Rookie of the Year honors is Milwaukee’s Malcolm Brogdon, who averages 9.7 points, 2.6 rebounds and 4.2 assists through 58 games. He has become an important part of the Bucks’ rotation, but his stats don’t begin to match Embiid’s. Others who might be considered include Sixers forward Dario Saric and Lakers forward Brandon Ingram.

So how would you vote? Are 31 games of brilliance enough for Embiid to win the trophy? Or should the voters value quantity as much as quality?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. We look forward to what you have to say.

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