Hoops Rumors Polls

Poll: Where Will Jae Crowder End Up This Season?

The curious case of Jae Crowder should be resolved over the next two weeks. If not, there’s more drama on the way regarding the veteran forward.

Crowder has been sitting out this season while awaiting a trade. We’ve seen veteran players in similar situations in recent seasons but this one has a twist. Normally, they’re stuck on a rebuilding team and awaiting a trade to a contender instead of languishing on the bench behind young players earmarked for developmental minutes — think John Wall in Houston.

Crowder chose this path with an organization that won a league-best 64 regular-season games a year ago. He was reportedly frustrated that he was about to lose his starting job and didn’t receive an extension on his three-year contract, which expires at the end of this season.

Phoenix had some legitimate reasons for its reluctance to extend Crowder. The Suns have some major salary cap issues for the next three seasons, especially after matching the Pacers’ offer sheet for Deandre Ayton. A dicey ownership situation also factored into the equation.

Crowder is also 32 years old in a league that has gotten increasingly younger over the years. While he’s considered a 3-and-D specialist, his 34.6 percent career average from deep isn’t particularly noteworthy.

He did play key roles for two teams that reached the Finals – the Heat in 2020 and Suns in 2021. Miami, as well as the Bucks and Hawks, are among the teams reportedly interested in him.

It’s surprising that Crowder hasn’t already been dealt, particularly after mid-December, when many players who signed free agent contracts last offseason became trade-eligible.

According to a recent report, the Suns have been holding out for two of the following for Crowder: A first-round pick, a good young player, and a solid rotation player.

It’s likely they’ll have to drop the price tag to deal Crowder. The acquiring team can’t even be sure how much he’ll help them this season after sitting out for so long. Crowder has reportedly been working out regularly in the Atlanta area but there’s a difference between being in good physical condition and being in basketball shape.

If he’s not traded, it could get even messier. He could choose to sit out the whole season, finally rejoin the team or give back some of this season’s salary in a buyout and then choose his destination after clearing waivers.

That leads us to our poll: Which team will Jae Crowder play for this season, or will he play at all? Vote and then head to the comments to weigh in with your thoughts.

Poll: Will Nikola Jokic Three-Peat As MVP?

I realize that it’s probably too early to ask this question. We’re only a little over 40% of the way through the 2022/23 regular season, and a variety of factors — injuries, team results, etc. — could swing the MVP race in multiple directions, especially with so many strong candidates.

In the first edition of ESPN’s MVP straw poll earlier this month, Celtics forward Jayson Tatum led the field, followed by Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, Warriors guard Stephen Curry and Nuggets center Nikola Jokic. A lot has changed in the two weeks since that poll was conducted, including Curry sustaining a shoulder injury.

Tatum continues to excel as the best player on the league’s best team, a true two-way force. Antetokounmpo has great numbers, though the Bucks are in a rut, having lost four straight games. Doncic has put up mind-boggling statistics the entire season, but especially recently, becoming the first player in NBA history to record a stat line of 60 points, 21 rebounds and 10 assists in the Mavs’ comeback victory over the Knicks on Tuesday, as ESPN’s Tim MacMahon writes.

Sixers center Joel Embiid has certainly climbed the rankings, mostly due to being healthy, leading the league in scoring for the second straight season while carrying Philadelphia up the Eastern Conference standings. The same can be said for Kevin Durant, who is having perhaps his finest season for the resurgent Nets, winners of 14 of their past 15 games.

In another year, stars like Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Donovan Mitchell, and Zion Williamson — all of whom are having phenomenal seasons — would garner significant attention as well. Yet in ’22/23, they are mere afterthoughts.

As John Hollinger of The Athletic noted a couple days ago, Jokic, the reigning back-to-back MVP, might have the strongest case of all, despite a strong sentiment that voter fatigue will work against him (the same thing was said last season).

The Nuggets are 22-12, tied with the Pelicans for the best record in the West. Jokic once again leads the NBA in several advanced statistics, including player efficiency rating (32.3), win shares (6.6), box plus/minus (12.2), DunksAndThrees.com‘s estimated plus/minus (8.3), and FiveThirtyEight.com‘s RAPTOR wins above replacement (9.5, with Doncic second at 7.5), among others.

The 27-year-old’s traditional numbers are just as impressive. He’s averaging 25.7 points, 10.8 rebounds, 9.4 assists and 1.5 steals on .619/.324/.806 shooting through 31 games. Those 9.4 assists per game would be an NBA record for a center, his 68.8 true shooting percentage is the best mark among high-volume scorers, and he’s somehow shooting 62% from mid-range, which tops the league.

Maybe the most staggering statistic of all is the fact that the Nuggets are plus-10.9 with the Serbian on the court and minus-13.4 when he’s off, according to NBA.com. Jokic currently leads Basketball-Reference.com‘s MVP award tracker at 45.1%, trailed by Doncic (21.7%), Embiid (9.6%), Tatum (6.3%), Antetokounmpo (4.9%) and Durant (4.5%).

That leads us to our poll: Will Jokic three-peat as MVP? Vote and then head to the comments to weigh in with your thoughts.

Poll: Which Teams Will Be Trade Deadline Sellers?

In the Eastern Conference, only three games separate the No. 6 seed (the 18-16 Knicks) from the No. 11 seed (the 14-18 Bulls). Both the Magic and Wizards are just 13-21, yet they’re only two-and-a-half games back of the play-in tournament, with the Raptors (15-18) currently holding the No. 10 seed.

Out West, the Warriors have struggled to this point, currently holding a 15-18 record and the No. 11 seed, yet they’re only four games back of the Suns (19-14), the current No. 4 seed. The Lakers dropped to 13-20 on Sunday after giving up a league-high 51 points in the third quarter to Dallas (Twitter link via ESPN’s Tim MacMahon), yet they’re still only three games back of the final play-in spot (currently held by the 16-17 Timberwolves).

The bunched-together standings are a major reason why relatively few sellers have emerged on the trade market with the February 9 deadline just six weeks away. In the West, the Rockets and Spurs are obvious candidates to deal away veterans, while the Pistons, Magic and Hornets figure to make some of their veterans available in the East, though Charlotte hasn’t been mentioned in any real rumors yet.

A couple teams are in a sort of awkward middle ground. The Pacers (17-16, No. 8 in the East) and Jazz (19-16, No. 7 in the West) were viewed as sellers entering the fall and were not expected to have a record above .500 roughly 40% of the way through the regular season, and yet they’re right in the mix for a playoff spot.

Several teams with playoff ambitions have been inconsistent thus far: the Knicks, Hawks, Heat, Raptors, Bulls, Wizards, Mavericks, Blazers, Timberwolves and Warriors (you could even throw in the Clippers and Kings). Out of that group, the Raptors, Bulls and Wizards are eyed by rival teams as possible sellers if they continue to have subpar results.

That leads us to our poll: Which teams will emerge as deadline sellers? Vote and then head to the comments and let us know what you think!

The wild thing is, it’s possible that any (or all) of the five teams listed in our poll could become buyers instead of sellers, and it could be an entirely different group that emerges as sellers in several weeks! That’s both exciting and confusing for trying to get a read on the market.

Poll: Should NBA Adopt Elam Ending For Overtime?

The G League revamped its overtime format this season, as we detailed earlier in the week, replacing a traditional two-minute overtime period with a seven-point target score. Instead of simply tacking on another two minutes to the clock, the G League turns the clock off entirely once overtime begins, with the first team to score seven points winning the game.

ESPN’s Kevin Pelton (Insider link) suggested earlier this week that it’s a tweak we could eventually see make its way to the NBA, and John Hollinger of The Athletic wrote today about that possibility too. According to Hollinger, the rule change has received “generally positive” reviews and NBAGL staffers seem to love it.

The target score – also known as the “Elam Ending” in honor of creator Nick Elam – has been used in the fourth quarter of the NBA All-Star Game in recent years. However, as Pelton observes, it’s a better fit in overtime, since the two teams start the period tied — that simplifies the target score, since both clubs need to score the same amount of points, instead of one team needing, say, 40 points, while the other team needs 27.

Since the NBA’s overtime period runs for five minutes instead of just two minutes like in the G League, an overtime target score at the NBA level would likely have to be higher than seven points — Pelton believes that something around 11 might work.

There would be some drawbacks if the NBA instituted such a change. We’d lose the drama of double- or triple-overtime games, and there would be no possibility of a game ending on a buzzer beater.

However, coaches and front offices may welcome the elimination of those double- or triple-overtime contests, which can result in top players playing huge minutes. With teams more concerned than ever about managing players’ workloads, they could favor the relative certainty of the target-score ending.

As for the lost buzzer beaters, it’s worth noting that the Elam Ending requires every game to end on a made shot, so if the score stays tight throughout overtime, there should still be plenty of excitement in end-game scenarios.

There would likely still be plenty of anticlimactic endings, with games ending via a free throw or by one team pouring in 11 points before the other team has scored more than a basket or two. But that’s an issue with the current overtime format as well.

We want to know what you think. Our poll below simply asks whether or not the NBA should adopt the Elam Ending for overtime, but if you have suggestions for potential variations (perhaps a standard five-minute overtime period followed by a target score in double overtime?), we want to hear them.

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!

Poll: Will The Pacers Make The Playoffs?

Coming into the 2022/23 NBA season, the Pacers were projected to be the worst team in the Eastern Conference and one of the league’s bottom-feeders, a prime candidate to be in the mix for projected No. 1 pick Victor Wembanyama. When we asked our readers in September whether Indiana would win over or under 23.5 games, 62.8% of poll respondents took the under.

Like the Jazz in the West though, the Pacers haven’t looked at all like a tanking team during the first several weeks of the season. After losing three of their first four games while starting center Myles Turner sat out with an ankle injury, the Pacers have won nine of their last 13.

A number of those wins have come over probable lottery teams, including the Rockets, Pistons, Hornets, and Magic (twice). But Indiana has mixed some impressive victories into its run, beating Brooklyn, Miami, New Orleans, and Toronto.

Tyrese Haliburton‘s evolution into a legitimate All-Star candidate has been a key factor in the Pacers’ early-season success. The former lottery pick is leading the NBA in assists per game (10.9) while averaging nearly 20 points per game (19.8) and posting an extremely efficient .484/.388/.863 shooting line.

He’s gotten plenty of help in the backcourt from this year’s No. 6 overall pick, Bennedict Mathurin, who looks like a contender for both the Rookie of the Year and Sixth Man of the Year awards. In 17 games off the bench, the rookie is putting up 19.4 PPG on .444/.433/.817 shooting.

The fact that Indiana’s backcourt of the future is producing at such a high level in the present is the most important reason why the team no longer appears to be involved in the Wembanyama sweepstakes. But Haliburton and Mathurin are surrounded by nice mix of veterans and up-and-comers.

In addition to his usual rim protection, Turner is posting the best offensive numbers of his career so far, including 18.6 PPG and a .452 3PT%; Buddy Hield remains one of the NBA’s best shooters, scoring 17.2 points and making 3.8 threes per game at a 37.6% clip; and former first-round picks Jalen Smith, Chris Duarte, and Isaiah Jackson have emerged as solid rotation pieces, as has rookie Andrew Nembhard.

The Pacers don’t have the talent to contend for a title this season, of course, but they’ve historically done all they can to avoid tanking, and this doesn’t look at all like a bottom-five NBA team. It may not even be a bottom-five team in the East.

At 10-7, the Pacers currently hold the conference’s No. 5 seed, but a number of the teams behind them in the standings – including the Raptors, Sixers, Nets, Bulls, and Heat – have playoff aspirations and will be looking to push Indiana out of top six. The Wizards and Knicks are also just behind Indiana in the standings and look capable of being play-in teams.

We want to know what you think. Will the Pacers fade after their strong start, or should we expect to see them in the play-in tournament – or even the playoffs – this spring?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section to weigh in with your predictions.

Poll: Dennis Schröder’s Next Team

Veteran point guard Dennis Schröder, currently playing for the German national team in EuroBasket action, is the only unrestricted free agent left on our list of the top 50 NBA free agents of 2022.

It’s hard to believe we’re only a year-and-a-half removed from Schröder reportedly turning down an extension from the Lakers worth $80MM+. Last summer he had to settle for a one-year, $5.9MM deal with the Celtics, who eventually traded him to the Rockets in February.

In 64 games (28.7 MPG) split between Boston and Houston during the 2021/22 season, Schröder averaged 13.5 PPG, 3.3 RPG and 4.6 APG on .431/.344/.853 shooting — solid production. Still, when a team trades you away in the middle of an extended hot streak and goes on to make the NBA Finals, that raises some red flags.

Schröder, who turns 29 next week, remains a talented scorer and is a plus ball-handler who can set up both himself and teammates. His ability to create shots is a valuable skill. And it’s not as though he’s past his peak physically — he’s still one of the quickest players in the league.

He’s not without flaws, however, as he’s an inconsistent outside shooter whose defensive effort often fluctuates. He also skews a little on the selfish side, preferring to look for his own shot, even though he’s a good passer when he’s so inclined.

More than two months into free agency, there aren’t many teams with roster openings, so the odds of Schröder landing a deal for more than the veteran’s minimum seem remote. Having said that, I’d be shocked if he doesn’t find a team before training camps start later this month.

Things have been pretty quiet on the rumors front. Marc Stein reported that the Lakers were giving “legit consideration” to signing Schröder a couple of weeks ago, but then they traded for Patrick Beverley, making a reunion more uncertain. A couple of high-ranking Mavericks executives recently watched Schröder compete, and Stein subsequently wrote the Mavs have considered adding a veteran ball-handler, but Dallas might not want to carry a 15th roster spot right away due to the luxury tax. All the other rumors about Schröder are months old.

Even though they haven’t been linked in any way that I’m aware of, the Hornets might make the most sense as a potential match. They only have 13 players on guaranteed deals and don’t have a backup point guard behind LaMelo Ball at the moment.

The Suns and Hawks could also be a fit. Both teams only have 13 players on guaranteed deals. Phoenix has Chris Paul and Cameron Payne at the point, but Paul is one of the oldest players in the league and Payne is coming off a down season. Schröder spent his first five seasons with the Hawks, but they already have Trae Young, Dejounte Murray and Aaron Holiday, so minutes might be harder to come by there.

With training camps less than three weeks away, we should learn pretty soon where Schröder will be headed — assuming he finds a team. In the meantime, we want to know what you think. Which team will sign Schröder in the coming weeks?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your two cents!

Poll: Russell Westbrook’s Future

After the first wave of free agency ended and teams went on vacation following Summer League play in July, four major trade candidates lingered on the market: Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Donovan Mitchell, and Russell Westbrook.

Following another month of rumors, Durant ultimately rescinded his trade request, which seemingly resolved Irving’s situation as well — neither Net is going anywhere, at least for the time being. Mitchell was subsequently sent from Utah to Cleveland, leaving Westbrook as the lone big-name trade candidate who seems like a decent bet to be on the move before training camps open.

The Lakers‘ motivation for seeking a new home for Westbrook has been well documented. The former MVP’s first year in Los Angeles wasn’t a success, as his ball-dominant style and inability to stretch the floor proved incompatible with LeBron James and Anthony Davis during the rare instances when all three stars were healthy and shared the court.

Westbrook also appeared unwilling to take responsibility for his part in the Lakers’ struggles. Despite Frank Vogel‘s insistence on sticking with the point guard, who started all 78 games he played and was part of nearly every closing lineup, Westbrook told reporters at season’s end that he wasn’t given a “fair chance” to be himself and suggested that Vogel had “an issue” with him.

While the Lakers’ disaster of a 2021/22 season made it clear that Westbrook would be on the trade block this summer, his $47MM+ cap hit hasn’t made it easy to find a taker. Los Angeles would love to be able to send Westbrook’s expiring contract to a team in exchange for two or three useful rotation players, but any trade partner open to taking on Westbrook is believed to be seeking multiple first-round picks — at least one for absorbing Westbrook’s salary and another for sending out a couple useful players.

The Lakers only have two tradable first-round picks (2027 and 2029) and have thus far been unwilling to include both of them in any deal that doesn’t involve Irving. The rebuilding Pacers (Myles Turner, Buddy Hield) and Jazz (Bojan Bogdanovic, Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson, Malik Beasley) remain logical matches for the Lakers, since both teams have the ability to trade productive veterans and absorb Westbrook’s money.

But for a deal to be made, the Lakers will either need to relent and give up both their future first-rounders or convince a trade partner to take just one of them (along with perhaps a couple second-rounders and/or first-round swap rights in another year).

With no indication there has been much traction on the Westbrook trade front, Lakers head coach Darvin Ham and owner Jeanie Buss have been talking enthusiastically about the ways they believe Westbrook can fit and succeed with a new-look 2022/23 Lakers team.

I have no doubt that Ham, a first-time head coach who will bring a fresh perspective to the franchise, genuinely believes he can make it work, but it’s hard not to interpret the Lakers’ optimistic comments to the press as spin — if potential trade partners believe L.A. is OK with hanging onto Westbrook and hoping for the best, perhaps those trade partners will reduce their asking prices to get something done.

With training camps less than three weeks away, we should learn pretty soon how serious the Lakers are about retaining Westbrook. In the meantime, we want to know what you think. Will Westbrook open the season as a Laker or be traded in the coming weeks?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your two cents!

Poll: Donovan Mitchell’s Future

When word first broke on July 1 that the Jazz had agreed to a blockbuster trade sending Rudy Gobert to Minnesota, reports from ESPN and The Athletic quickly clarified that Utah had no plans to trade Donovan Mitchell and intended to build its roster around the All-Star guard.

The reports made some sense. After all, there had been rumored tension between Gobert and Mitchell for years. Mitchell, who will turn 26 in September, is four years younger than Gobert and is on a slightly less pricey contract. If the organization was going to choose to move forward with one or the other, Mitchell seemed likely to be the pick.

On top of that, the return in the Gobert trade set up the Jazz for a quick pivot — they could incorporate reliable rotational role players like Patrick Beverley, Malik Beasley, and Jarred Vanderbilt and could conceivably flip some of the first-round picks they got from Minnesota for more pieces to complement Mitchell. Combining those assets with returning veterans like Mike Conley, Bojan Bogdanovic, Jordan Clarkson, and Rudy Gay would provide the Jazz with a solid base.

However, that plan was called into question almost immediately as trade rumors began to swirl around Mitchell. Eleven days after the Gobert trade was first reported, Adrian Wojnarowski stated that the Jazz were open to inquiries on Mitchell. It didn’t take long for the team to engage in discussions with the Knicks, and subsequent reports identified the Heat, Wizards, Raptors, Hornets, Hawks, and Kings as teams with varying levels of interest in the All-Star guard.

Just as a plan to retool around Mitchell could be justified, so too could a plan to pivot to a full-fledged rebuild. Having already traded away Gobert and Royce O’Neale for draft-heavy returns, the Jazz could go all-in on the fire sale by moving Mitchell, Bogdanovic, Beverley, and other veterans for more assets, loading up on draft picks, and charting a new course under CEO Danny Ainge and head coach Will Hardy, both of whom joined the franchise within the last year.

Taking that path would make sense for the Jazz if they have reservations about Mitchell’s ability to be a franchise player. And if that’s the case, it might be the right to move him, while he still has multiple years left on his contract and hasn’t hurt Utah’s leverage by asking for a trade and forcing the club’s hand.

Since that initial flurry of Mitchell trade rumors in July, the rumor mill has slowed down a little. By all accounts, the Jazz are asking for a massive return for Mitchell, seeking the same sort of haul of unprotected picks and solid players and contracts they were able to extract for Gobert.

If no team meets Utah’s asking price, this situation could play out in one of two ways — the Jazz, having already ventured part of the way down this road, could commit to that direction and lower their asking price for Mitchell, accepting the best offer on the table. Or they could shut down trade talks and enter the season with Mitchell on the roster, putting off the possibility of a deal until at least 2023.

Both approaches are risky. The Jazz won’t want to sell off an All-Star in his mid-20s for less than what he’s worth. But by hanging onto Mitchell, they’d run the risk of eventually being forced into trade talks on his terms down the road, should he ask out of Utah. And the closer we get to 2025 (when he can opt out of his contract), the more reluctant some teams may be to give up significant assets for Mitchell without assurances he’d re-sign.

We want to know what you think. How much longer do you expect Mitchell do remain in Utah? Will these trade talks culminate in a deal later this year, or will the Jazz end up retooling their roster around the guard like those initial reports suggested?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to weigh in!

Poll: Best NBA Head Coaching Hire Of 2022

As we outlined in detail earlier today, four NBA teams made head coaching changes this offseason. Those changes were as follows:

  • Charlotte Hornets: Hired Steve Clifford to replace James Borrego.
  • Los Angeles Lakers: Hired Darvin Ham to replace Frank Vogel.
  • Sacramento Kings: Hired Mike Brown to replace Alvin Gentry.
  • Utah Jazz: Hired Will Hardy to replace Quin Snyder.

The Hornets and Kings, two young teams looking to get back to the playoffs, took somewhat similar approaches in their hiring processes, landing on candidates who have plenty of previous head coaching experience and who have led lottery teams to the postseason in the past.

Between them, Clifford and Brown have coached 1,200 NBA regular season games. And despite having underwhelming rosters in Charlotte and Orlando, Clifford has led his teams to the playoffs in four of eight seasons. Brown’s clubs made the postseason in six of his seven full seasons as a head coach.

The Lakers and Jazz, meanwhile, took a different path, hiring veteran assistants who are becoming head coaches for the first time.

It’s an interesting choice for the Lakers, given that they have a veteran roster and title aspirations, but they believe Ham – a former player himself – can command the respect of stars like LeBron James and Anthony Davis and won’t back down from making tough, necessary rotation decisions.

As for the Jazz, their new head coach – who is known for his player development skills – will be the league’s youngest. Hardy’s hiring was perhaps the first obvious signal that the team would be charting a new course this summer. After trading away standout center Rudy Gobert, Utah is either headed for a full-fledged rebuild or intends to reshape its roster around young star Donovan Mitchell. Taking the former route would make some sense based on Hardy’s skill set and the fact that he received a five-year contract.

Based on what you know about these four teams and their new coaches, we want to know which of this offseason’s head coaching hires you liked the best. Obviously, the expectations won’t be the same for all four coaches, so we’re taking potential long-term success and tenure into account, rather than just projecting which team will have the best record in 2022/23.

Which of these four coaches will be the most successful in his new job? Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!

Poll: Western Conference Vs. Eastern Conference

Entering 2021/22, Eastern Conference teams had posted a winning record against Western Conference teams just once in 22 seasons since the turn of the century. That happened during the 2008/09 campaign, when the East put up a 231-219 record vs. the West.

However, the East regained the upper hand last season, ever so slightly, finishing with a 226-224 record against Western opponents. Even though no team in the East won more than 53 games, the conference was deeper than the West, with 10 teams registering at least 43 victories. By contrast, only eight teams in the Western Conference won more than 36 games.

The emergence of Eastern teams like the Bulls, Cavaliers, and Hornets played a part in the conference’s relative success in 2021/22, while disappointing regular seasons by the Clippers, Lakers, Trail Blazers, and Pelicans were factors in the West’s slide.

Of course, many of those Western underachievers dealt with major injury issues — with better health from Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Damian Lillard, and Zion Williamson, those teams are poised to improve in 2022/23.

This summer’s trades and free agent moves don’t appear likely to swing the pendulum drastically from one conference to the other. Most of the offseason’s top free agents re-signed with their own teams, while the most impactful players who changed teams via trade generally remained in the same conference, including Rudy Gobert (Utah to Minnesota), Malcolm Brogdon (Indiana to Boston), and Christian Wood (Houston to Dallas). Jalen Brunson‘s move from Dallas to New York was one of the few instances of a noteworthy player changing conferences.

There are still big-name trade candidates whose eventual destinations could have a major impact on the East/West balance. Those deals could ultimately favor the East more than the West — the Knicks are considered Donovan Mitchell‘s top suitor, for instance, while Kevin Durant has been linked most frequently to the Heat, Celtics, and Raptors since the Suns brought back Deandre Ayton.

We want to know how you view the East and West ahead of the 2022/23 season. Will returning stars help the West reclaim its place as the dominant conference next year, or will the continued growth of improving Eastern squads result in back-to-back winning seasons vs. the West?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section to share your thoughts!