All posts by Jeff Berest

I'm your resident stereotypical Philadelphia fan. I've forgotten more about sports than you'll ever know. @jeff_berest

Making Sense of Trade Deadline MADNESS

This past Thursday was the most amazing trade deadline in years for us basketball junkies. So much occurred in the 11th hour before the clock hit 3:00 PM EST. Twitter was a tweeting as deals were being reported left and right and everything was coming at us at once. All of this was really hard to digest right away, and still a few days later it’s not entirely clear what every team was thinking. So here’s your guide through what actually went down, and why.

Before we get to the “nitty-gritty” and the game of “point guard roulette” that was played, lets quickly recap all the minor trades that transpired. I’m going to skip over the really inconsequential moves because nobody wants to hear my rambling thoughts on Pablo Prigioni going from New York to Houston, or why Ramon Sessions was traded for the 147th time. Here we go…

Celtics acquire Isaiah Thomas from Suns for Marcus Thornton and a 2016 first-round pick from the Cavaliers

Why did it happen?

The Celtics have been pretty fond of Isaiah Thomas dating back to last off-season. Danny Ainge saw an opening to get him and in exchange gave away one of their many future 1st round picks. The Celtics are the most “un-tanky” of all the “tankiest” teams in the league (those are words now). Boston is really not helping themselves only being bad enough to secure the somewhere around 11th pick in lottery. Suns pick up a future asset and cut their losses with the ill-fated Thomas signing.

76ers trade K.J. McDaniels to Rockets for Isaiah Canaan and 2015 second-round pick

Why did it happen?

K.J. McDaniels is on a goofy one year deal and because of his play this year some team is likely to give him an offer sheet that the Sixers aren’t interested in paying. Further, many in Philadelphia are saying that Sam Hinkie doesn’t really want to deal with K.J.’s agent after botching the initial contract negotiations. Plus the Sixers really like Isaiah Canaan and have tracked him since last year’s draft, and now have an obvious void at PG. Houston grabs another wing player who can defend really well and could see minutes in the playoffs.

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Brooklyn sends Kevin Garnett to Minnesota for Thaddeus Young

Why did it happen?

Flip Saunders is a genius, and when I say genius, I mean he makes other GM’s look like geniuses. T’Wolves traded a first round pick for 50 games of Thad Young, and then traded Thad so they could have a family reunion with the corpse of KG. Now they may want to extend the contract of said corpse. Flip you continue to amaze us all.

Trail Blazers acquire Arron Afflalo and Alonzo Gee from Nuggets in exchange for Will Barton, Victor Claver, Thomas Robinson and a lottery-protected 2016 first round draft pick

Why did it happen?

Blazers get a key pickup in Afflalo who can provide scoring off the bench, something Portland needs desperately. Only costs them a future first rounder, and likely a pick that will land between 22-30. Nuggets who are now in a rebuild, acquire an asset.

All of this brings us to one of the biggest trade deadline clusterf&*%s we’ve ever seen…let’s dive into it.

In three-team trade, the Thunder acquire Enes Kanter and Steve Novak from the Jazz for Kendrick Perkins, Grant Jerrett and two draft picks (one from the Pistons); Oklahoma City also receives D.J. Augustin and Kyle Singler from Detroit for Reggie Jackson.

Why did it happen?

Let’s start with the Jazz. Kanter publicly announced he wanted out, Utah obliged and picked up some future draft picks. The Jazz are eager to start the Rudy Gobert era, and losing Kanter probably won’t haunt them. Detroit upgraded the PG position in hopes to squeeze into one of the final playoff spots in the East this season and prepare for the future. Reggie is for sure an upgrade from Augustin, and they could choose to resign him this off-season as an insurance policy if Brandon Jennings recovery is stunted. But that is something Stan Van Gundy will have to attend to later. They desperately want to make the playoffs, that’s why the deal went down.

Which brings us to OKC, who is a clear winner in this trade. They discarded an unhappy Reggie Jackson for a low post threat in Kanter, as well as some solid bench pieces in Augustin, Singler, and Novak. This gives OKC a really deep roster which could spur them to a title run this year. Augustin can definitely hold his own as a backup PG; Kanter at times is a very gifted low post scorer and may command double teams on some nights. They also acquire two lights-out three point shooters that could hit some big shots during the playoffs with so much defensive attention constantly going towards Durant and Westbrook.

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In three-team trade, Suns send Goran and Zoran Dragic to Heat in exchange for Danny Granger and two draft picks, while also acquiring John Salmons from Pelicans; New Orleans gets Norris Cole, Justin Hamilton and Shawne Williams from Miami.

Why did it happen?

Dragic was emphatic over the displeasure he had with the Suns front office, and basically forced Phoenix’s hand to deal him before the deadline passed. Pat Riley savvily stole Dragic for essentially nothing: some fringe NBA players and future first round picks that Riley himself will probably never be in office to select. Miami’s league-worst stable of point guards was their one true weakness now that Hassan Whiteside has emerged as the reincarnation of Alonzo Mourning.

Acquiring Dragic, who was second team All-NBA last season, was such a huge acquisition for Miami that for a short 24 hours they perhaps were a dark horse title contender before Chris Bosh’s scary blood clot issue was discovered. But Miami will likely be able to resign Goran during the offseason and could potentially compete in 2016. More importantly, Bosh will be okay. So the Suns acquire more future picks and rid themselves of an unhappy Dragic. They also receive Danny Granger and John Salmons, who both could be waived or just wither away on the bench for the rest of the season. New Orleans get a warm-blooded backup PG in Norris Cole, which is something they need if they are to beat out OKC for the eight spot, though it is highly unlikely. Jrue Holiday’s injury is taking a turn for the worse, and you really can’t have Tyreke Evans playing 40 minutes a night at the point.

In three-team deal, Bucks send Brandon Knight and Kendall Marshall to Suns in exchange for Tyler Ennis and Miles Plumlee; Additionally, Phoenix sends their protected 2015 first-round pick from the Lakers to 76ers, and Philadelphia sends Michael Carter-Willams to Milwaukee

Why did it happen?

This was clearly the most shocking trade of the whole deadline. The Bucks imploding their frontcourt and trading their leading scorer during a playoff run is not a strategy many teams subscribe to. The Bucks must have felt that impending restricted free agent Brandon Knight was worth more to the open market this summer than he was to their organization. Milwaukee is not interested in paying a dollar figure potentially between $12-15 million that Knight will command this summer. So instead they swap in Michael Carter-Williams who is at least under team control for two more years.

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The problem is they’re swapping Knight for possibly the worst shooter in the entire league. They do gain a 6’6″ point guard and now have a stable of players who are extremely long and can defend multiple positions. Jason Kidd likely sees a lot of himself in MCW and must feel that he can work with him to fix his woeful jump shot.

The Bucks definitely improve on defense, but will now really struggle to score the ball in the halfcourt and don’t really have someone to go to in crunch time. That will really hinder them this season, but going forward with Jabari Parker and the Greek Freak, they will surely be an interesting team to watch. They also acquire Miles Plumlee and Tyler Ennis to add more bodies to an already deep bench.

The Suns get a pretty good replacement for Goran Dragic in Brandon Knight. Dragic is much better than Knight, but Knight may fit better into the Suns guard dominated offense. Knight is much more a combo guard than Dragic was and can be a prolific scorer. The duo of Bledsoe and Knight seems like a more natural fit than the Bledsoe and Dragic duo, because Knight can easily transition into the 2 spot. They painted themselves in a corner when they alienated Dragic and were forced to deal him and try and get some value before he became a free agent this summer. Phoenix really screwed this up, but Brandon Knight could pay dividends for the Suns eventually.

What won’t pay dividends is the idiotic move to trade the Lakers top five protected pick to Philadelphia. It’s just insane to let that pick go. They must have proposed multiple deals not involving the Lakers pick before they eventually caved to Milwaukee and Philadelphia’s demands. Losing the pick is bad, but losing Dragic and getting nothing return is worse. So they downgraded from Dragic to Knight and let go of an asset that had the potential to land them a future star this summer. Wow. That’s some Flip Saunders-like ineptitude.

So here’s what the Sixers and Sam Hinkie were thinking when they dealt away the “current” face of the franchise. The Sixers are not in the business of trying to become average; they’re trying to reach greatness. To the Sixers, MCW was just an average prospect who may have hit his ceiling. They did not view him as a future cog going forward; he plays the deepest position in the entire league and is 100% replaceable in their eyes.

Another reason for ditching MCW is that his numbers are inflated because of the run ‘n’ gun style the Sixers play, they have more offensive possessions than most teams. He also constantly has the ball in his hands and only shoots 38% from the field, and 26% from three (I just threw up in my mouth reading those numbers). His numbers are just awful by any standards for a starting guard in this league.

The Sixers want to develop a team around stars and MCW is never going to be one. By acquiring the Lakers’ protected pick, they are just giving themselves another opportunity to hit the lottery and draft a potential building block. They don’t really feel like they are taking a huge step back by shedding MCW either. By draft, trade, or free agency, the Sixers are constantly seeking the right opportunity to nab a superstar. Hinkie himself is one of the guys who orchestrated the James Harden trade. That is a type of scenario that they will be looking for moving forward, besides just drafting talent. Remaining flexible by staying way under the salary cap and gathering tons of valuable assets is what will make the Sixers a desired trade partner when a star from another team becomes available.

It’s not often those types of draft picks like the Lakers’ become available. It has the potential to be great, and the Sixers were selling high on MCW. Especially considering he’s a PG who can’t shoot and whose only viable trait is his height. All of this trying to acquire and develop around stars is easier said than done, I realize. But what the Sixers want to do is build something that will last not just a few years, but possibly for a decade or longer. The Sixers management is dedicated to building something special and you can begin to see through the mist if you squint really hard. The Hinkie strategy may seem outrageous to many and logical to few, but on Thursday they made the easy decision.

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Midseason Love/Hate, Part 2

Houston Rockets

Love: Dwight Howard anointing the Rockets as “Swag Champs”

The Rockets aren’t the first team I think of when I hear the phrase “Swag Champs”. Also I don’t really remember the Rockets winning the “swag playoff bracket” and claiming the title. Although I guess it was pretty swag of Dwight to name his team as champs without actually competing against anyone else.

Hate: James Harden’s beard

I know this is contrary to popular opinion, but if I was James I’d think about shaving it. The constant grooming and filtering through the beard for loose food particles just seems like a huge hassle. Also you know you’d get a great Gillette endorsement out of it. But he might end up being the league MVP so he can do what he wants.

Indiana Pacers

Love: Larry Bird’s stealthy tank job

The Pacers are pretty bad this year and although they probably won’t get a top five pick, they will be relatively high in the lottery. If you combine that draft pick with the return of Paul George, the Pacers become a formidable opponent in the East again next season. Larry Bird trading off some minor assets for more draft picks and clearing cap space could really make this off-season interesting for the Pacers.

Hate: watching the Pacers is the equivalent to watching paint dry

The Pacers without Paul George are by far the most boring team to watch in the NBA. They have zero appeal to anyone who enjoys watching basketball. No thanks Rodney Stuckey, I’ve seen all I need to see. Does anyone really like to watch David West go 6/15 from midrange? Or watch Roy Hibbert foul out in 22 minutes? After a more thorough evaluation of the Geneva Convention, I also found out that forcing POW’s to watch Pacers basketball is an approved form of torture.

Los Angeles Clippers

Love: Steve Ballmer’s enthusiasm

I mentioned his dancing to Fergie earlier, and that was truly epic. But it’s nice to see an owner who is visible and simply loves just being an owner of a sports team. He paid $2 billion for the Clippers and it’s because he straight up really wanted to own a team. I don’t empathize with many billionaire’s but I kind of enjoy the fact that he doesn’t take owning a team for granted… (yet).

Hate: Blake Griffin TV commercials

One or two is fine Blake, but it’s getting kind of ridiculous. I think I’d be more okay with Blake being in so many commercials if the Clippers literally did anything in the playoffs since he’s been there. He needs to have a stipulation in his next contract that says he can only do one commercial spot for every playoff series the team wins. Also I would like to come out and say with conviction that I believe another early exit in the playoffs for the Clippers is likely. Their team chemistry is mediocre, they don’t have the talent on the wings to win four straight series, and their lack of depth off the bench is a problem that will become more evident as the season goes on. They have star power, but I can’t see them getting to the finals unless Blake, CP3, and Deandre Jordan play out of their minds through April and May and just overpower opponents to mask the inefficiencies of the rest of the team.

Los Angeles Lakers

Love: Nick Young recruiting free agents during games

I would really like to live in that fantasy land that Nick Young lives in. How can he possibly think any respectable NBA stars would be willing to play with Kobe (he’s definitely not retiring), himself, and guys like Ronnie Price, Wes Johnson, and Ed Davis. What’s the upside for potential free agents coming to LA? Take less than 10 shots a game and miss the playoffs by a very wide margin. Sorry Nick, but I admire the effort by Swaggy P trying to help out Mitch Kupchak this offseason.

Hate: Julius Randle’s injury

I was really looking forward to getting to watch “Baby Z-Bo” play for the Lakers. Getting hurt in the first game in your pro career must have been extremely devastating to Julius, and Lakers fans being subjected to more Ryan Kelly and Robert Sacre than required is a harsh punishment. But unfortunately Julius will just be part of this injury cursed draft class with Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid.

Memphis Grizzlies

Love: Ground & Pound

Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph dominating the paint on a nightly basis is a pleasure to watch. The Grizzlies really control the tempo of every game with these two behemoths and force opponents to play in the halfcourt which heavily favors their style of basketball. Grizzlies are my pick to come out of the West, so get your tickets for the bandwagon while they last. The addition of Jeff Green was such a major coup for Memphis. Jeff Green as your number one or two option is not a good thing, but Jeff Green as your number four option is such a great asset. He has the offensive talent, and he will have a few games in the playoffs where he will score over 20 points a game and those games can swing a series in the Grizzlies favor.

Hate: I’m not sure how to pronounce “Joerger”

While you were sleeping the Grizzlies didn’t retain Coach Lionel Hollins and hired Dave Joerger. I always want to say [JORG-er] or [YORG-er]. But it’s actually pronounced [YAY-ger]. Case closed!

Miami Heat

Love: that I was proven wrong as a Dwyane Wade doubter

I truly thought Wade had nothing left in the tank after last season, but he has proven many doubters like myself wrong, and has played at an All-Star caliber level. Although he still struggles with injuries, when he has been active he’s been outstanding. I don’t think it’s out of the question Miami could steal a playoffs series, or at least push a quality team to a seven games if Wade is healthy come April. Wade and Bosh have been great, but it’s still a little puzzling how much worse Miami has been without LeBron. Replacing LeBron with Luol Deng, a respectable NBA talent, seemed like a decent move; and a move that would insure them to be over .500 and around a 5 or 6 seed. The difference in wins from this year and last shows the true value of LeBron on the Heat and how he was kind of carrying Wade and Bosh these last few seasons.

Hate: Miami Heat fans

You Heat fans are all frauds and shouldn’t be allowed to have an NBA franchise. There are 28 other teams that don’t have LeBron. Their fans still show up to the games. Shame on you Miami!

Milwaukee Bucks

Love: replacing Larry Sanders with Jason Kidd’s ex-teammate Kenyon Martin

They both played together on the New Jersey Nets 2002 NBA Finals team; that was almost thirteen years ago! I can’t imagine the Bucks even reaching out to Kenyon Martin if Jason Kidd wasn’t the coach. They both played together so long ago that the Nets have moved to Brooklyn since their departure. The Bucks have probably been in some talks with the Mavericks and Grizzlies to bring back Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter too. I feel very nostalgic about the fact that these old teammates have reunited.

Hate: Larry Sanders marijuana addiction

Dude, you’re getting paid millions of dollars to play basketball. You really can’t lay off the ganja? The problem for Larry is that he’s kind of in a Catch-22. He needs money to buy the weed, but the only way he can get money is to play basketball. It’s somewhat hilarious that he’s prioritizing marijuana over extremely large sums of money. If Larry can put down the bong for a few months the Bucks could really use his defensive presence in the playoffs. Teams in the East would feel much better about their chances seeing Zaza Pachulia rather than Larry Sanders.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Love: Andrew Wiggins making the Cavs regret trading him

Andrew Wiggins has really been stellar over the last month and maybe the Cavaliers won’t regret trading him this year, but it seems like Wiggins is going to be a stud for many years to come. There is an increasing likelihood that Kevin Love is going to leave Cleveland this year in free agency and that should really bum out Cavs fans even more. So now they basically traded a future perennial All-Star for a one year rental of Kevin Love, and in a year that they probably won’t win the title. GM LeBron strikes again!

Hate: Flip Saunders hiring Flip Saunders

The definition of “insanity” is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result. Insanity is also the definition of the Timberwolves ownership group giving complete control to Flip Saunders.

New Orleans Pelicans

Love: Anthony Davis’ Player Efficiency Rating

Analytically AD is putting together the best year EVER by an NBA player and is on pace to shatter the previous record for a single season PER. That’s really cool. To put this into perspective, Davis’ PER is 31.82. In the history of the NBA, only ten times has a player recorded a PER greater than 31.00. Of those ten seasons, LeBron James did it 3x, Wilt Chamberlain did it 3x, and Michael Jordan did it 4x. Wilt has the highest PER ever, also at 31.82. Anthony Davis is in some pretty historic territory and exclusive company. The most dumbfounded thing about this is that Pelicans are almost certainly going to miss the playoffs…my head hurts.

Hate: we’ll never get to see Anthony Davis in the playoffs

Monty Williams is a terrible coach, and it doesn’t help that they’re in the toughest division in the NBA. Also the Pelicans roster construction in my opinion is just weird with the trio of Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, and Tyreke Evans; and they have almost no cap flexibility to make tweaks to the roster in the offseason. It will really be a shame if we continue to go without “The Brow” during postseason play for much longer. Now watch this ambiguously racist Pelicans commercial!

New York Knicks

Love: the audacity to ask for a 2nd round pick for Pablo Prigioni

There was a report a few weeks ago that the Knicks were shopping Prigioni and asking for a 2nd round pick in return. What?! Who in the hell would ever give up any type of asset for an almost 40 year old third string PG? Phil Jackson should’ve asked for something more reasonable like a washing machine and maybe a deal would’ve gotten done. Optimistically trying to move your worst player for assets is proof the Knicks are committed to tanking. Phil is doing a fabulous job of setting his team up to fail, but it would’ve been interesting to see what the team could’ve done if Steve Kerr didn’t parlay his offer with the Knicks into a coaching job with Golden State. Credit Kerr for his incredible foresight and savvy to not be Phil Jackson’s pawn and instead move to Cali with Steph & Klay and become one of the frontrunners for coach of the year.

Hate: everything else

Seriously, everything else. There’s literally almost nothing to love about this team.

Midseason Love/Hate, Part 1

We are closing in on the NBA All-Star break and so far this has been a pretty thrilling regular season, especially if you’re only watching the Western Conference. There have already been so many great moments this year. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, and we’ve seen Clippers owner Steve Ballmer dance to Fergie courtside during a game. So I thought I’d put together a completely biased and objective list of the things I love and hate about each team this year with some refined commentary.

Atlanta Hawks

Love: DeMarre Carroll as “the other guy” in the Hawks starting five

The Hawks are the biggest surprise of this season and have been flat out amazing, evidenced by their 19 game win streak. 4/5 of their starters (Teague, Korver, Millsap, Horford) are receiving the bulk of the credit, albeit very well deserved. But their fifth option DeMarre Carroll is the type of glue guy every team needs; he’s scrappy as hell, plays tough defense, and can hit a few timely three pointers. Many of his teammates will be up in New York for the upcoming All-Star game, but without DeMarre the Hawks certainly wouldn’t have the best record in the East.

Hate: People rebranding the Hawks as “Spurs-East”

Yes, Mike Budenholzer used to coach for Gregg Popovich. And yes, the Hawks do play a team oriented style of basketball that echoes former Spurs teams. But that’s not a good enough reason to marginalize what the Hawks have done this season by essentially saying they’re only good because they are mimicking the Spurs. If it was that easy every team would hire Gregg Popovich assistants. A-Town down!

Boston Celtics

Love: Brad Stevens trying to win despite his revolving door of a roster

Coach Stevens is doing his best despite Danny Ainge cleaning house; he has managed to get his team to keep playing hard and is occasionally stealing some games from contending opponents. Instead of just playing young guys who can gain valuable experience, he’s decided to implant Brandon Bass in the starting lineup and is now playing Tayshaun Prince 20 plus minutes a night off the bench. These lineups suggest one of two things; either he’s extremely competitive and hates losing, or he desperately wants to go back to coaching college ball.

Hate: Danny Ainge trading Rajon Rondo to the Mavs for some magic beans

I’m not mad at Danny for taking a first round pick and Brandan Wright (who was traded for two second round picks) in exchange for Rondo. But what the hell was he waiting for? Good GM’s don’t wait until their greatest asset is at its lowest possible value and then pull the trigger. He couldn’t have possibly seen the Celtics as a playoff contender entering this season, and if he did he gave up on that idea pretty early. Also if I’m a Western Conference team and I see the Mavs got Rondo for basically nothing, I’m genuinely going to be pretty peeved at Danny Ainge for affecting the West playoff race. It’s like when a guy at the bottom of your fantasy league trades one of their best players because they are giving up on the season. Danny Ainge is that guy, and we all hate those guys.

Brooklyn Nets

Love: Nets having a white player from Duke participate in the Slam Dunk Contest

That is a phrase I never thought I would say.

Hate: Watching the sad end to Kevin Garnett

It’s a shame KG has to go out like this. He’s one of the best at his position of all-time and to play on this pitiful Nets team is kind of tainting his statuesque career. Kevin Garnett has played so long I honestly can’t even remember his golden years in Minnesota when he was dominant every time he took the floor. The end to KG has similar overtones to Hakeem Olajuwon ending his career in Toronto, and as Mays Gilliam says “that ain’t right!”

Charlotte Hornets

Love: the honeycomb print on the home floor

Honestly, it’s pretty stupid and seems like something a DII college team might do. But for some reason I like that they embraced returning as the Hornets to its fullest extent. When is Time Warner Cable Arena hosting “Baron Davis Night” or “Larry Johnson Night” this year?

Hate: Panic! We’re running out of Lance Stephenson memes

The Lance “blowing air” meme has been pretty strong, one of the greats if you ask me. But it’s kind of a played idea at this point. Lance is going down in flames as a Hornet and he’s not even starting anymore. Lance for the love of god don’t leave us hanging like this, please come up with some new material. In case you didn’t see, he is taking fan suggestions for his next on court antics. Forward all submissions to ConeyIslandKilla6969@hotmail.com.

Chicago Bulls

Love: Renaissance of Pau Gasol

Pau has been a revelation this year and has really turned the Bulls into a true title contender; if they can stay healthy. It’s rare you see a player like Pau who ages, switches teams, and then seemingly gets better. I also think he’s in some silent game of chicken with his younger brother Marc and doesn’t yet want to relinquish the title of “The Best Gasol”. Pau has given the Bulls something that has been lacking in years past, a reliable post presence who the offense can play through in the halfcourt. With Pau commanding double teams it opens up the offense even more for Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler. The one downside however is his defensive skill. It’s hard to overlook his lack of defense, but the offense he brings should override the fact that he is a horrific defender.

Hate: Doug McDermott’s trade value

I know Dougie McBucket’s injury has prohibited us from making a solid conclusion about what type of player he’s going to become, but as of now that draft night trade has a bad stench to it. I believe his ceiling as a player is as a good scoring threat off the bench, I’m not sure that warranted trading the 16th (Jusuf Nurkic!) and 19th (Gary Harris) overall picks for him. Due to injury this season the Bulls are forced to play guys like Tony Snell, Kirk Hinrich, and E’twaun Moore major minutes. The team could use an injection talent off the bench not named Nikola Mirotic. Trading for McDermott only gave away the potential to add another young player to the roster.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Love: LeBron as player/GM

The fact that Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and actual GM David Griffin consult LeBron on all transactions is kind of ridiculous, regardless of the fact that LeBron is the best player on the planet. I feel like he’s always threatening to just opt of out his contract this year, and so David Griffin has to ship off every draft pick he has for the next decade in order to make LeBron happy. Of course trading two first rounders for Timofey Mozgov went down because LeBron doesn’t really care how the Cavs end up in five years. GM LeBron might actually be best for the Cavs anyway, at least he didn’t draft Anthony Bennett. Anything he does from here on out is an upgrade from the previous GM.

Hate: David Blatt not using Kevin Love correctly

Attention David Blatt! Kevin Love is more than a three point shooter! Stop sticking him in the corner and do some actual coaching. I hope trading future star Andrew Wiggins for a glorified three point shooter was not the initial plan when they acquired Love.

Dallas Mavericks

Love: Dirk Nowitzki is still basically unguardable

Dirk is the first of his kind, he’s the “Model-T” of European big men who can shoot from deep and who also have post skills. He has made the Mavs relevant for almost two decades, including this season, and I rarely show affection to anything German so this declaration has some weight to it. Even after all the additions of Rajon Rondo, Chandler Parsons, and Tyson Chandler, if the Mavericks make any noise in the playoffs it will undoubtedly be because of Dirk and that silky smooth jumper.

Hate: decline of the old rambunctious Mark Cuban

Mark, please yell at a ref or accost the league in some way and get fined. We want the old Cubes! Make it rain in the commissioner’s office and let Adam Silver know that those hundred dollar bills are just “fun coupons” and you won’t ever stop being you.

Denver Nuggets

Love: Jusuf Nurkic smack talk

When you’re a rookie and you’re smack talking and jawing at Kobe Bryant, DeMarcus Cousins, and Marc Gasol without any level respect for those guys who are more accomplished than you’ll likely ever be; that takes some guts and deserves a tip of the cap. Even though it’s stupid and unwarranted, I love him for that. I’m making odds on who the first guy to throw a punch at Jusuf in response is. Highest odds are DeMarcus Cousins (revenge) 2-1, JaVale McGee (accidentally) 9-2, and if you’re looking for longer odds Ron Artest (psychopath) 5000-1.

Hate: Ty Lawson’s inability to use Uber

Really Ty? Two DUI’s? C’mon dawg you make millions of dollars a year, shell out a couple bucks for an Uber or call Danilo Gallinari to come pick you up, he’s probably available. Professional athletes receiving DUI’s has almost become a regularity; how teams are not more proactive about this is outrageous. I realize the large majority of this problem is the personal responsibility of the athlete, but teams need to babysit these guys or have harsher penalties. Unfortunately it’s probably going to take someone’s untimely death before the problem is finally addressed further. Sorry that I had to be a little morose to prove a point.

Detroit Pistons

Love: Stan Van Gundy’s balls for waiving Josh Smith

It definitely must have been a tough sell for SVG to march into the owner’s office and say “Hey, so I want to cut Josh even though we still owe him $26 million. You cool with that?” If this move didn’t work and the Pistons ended up worse, I’m not sure how Stan Van would’ve survived. This is the ultimate case of addition by subtraction. I can’t even recall a similar situation where the release of one player created such an upturn in wins. Maybe when Brad Pitt traded Carlos Pena in “Moneyball”?

Hate: Brandon Jenning’s Achilles tendon for crapping out on him

As if sports in Detroit couldn’t get worse. We’re still relatively fresh off the NFL refs screwing over the Lions. The Pistons uptick and winning ways were a silver lining to that horrific Lions loss. Jennings going down for the season is really unfortunate because the Pistons were once again becoming a great team to watch. Brandon Jennings’ game was flourishing without Josh Smith on the floor dominating the ball, and he was directly contributing to the poor man’s “twin towers” Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond wreaking havoc on opponents. At this point, it’s hard not to feel bad for the city of Detroit.

Golden State Warriors

Love: Klay Thompson in 24/7 heat check mode

The kid is straight fire. Every time he launches a three and it doesn’t go in I think my eyes are playing a trick on me. Also he scored 37 points in one freakin’ quarter. I’ve played rec league basketball for over 15 years and I’ve yet to eclipse 30 points in an entire game. Just for fun, here are a couple names of players drafted over Klay Thompson: Derrick Williams, Jan Vesely, Bismack Biyombo, Jimmer Fredette. Those guys could go 4 vs. 1 with Klay and they’d lose.

Hate: Andrew Bogut’s health

The Warriors are a really exciting team to root for, but I’m afraid without a healthy Andrew Bogut they won’t have a shot at the title. It’s entirely possible they can win without him, but it will be a hell of a lot easier with him in the on the hardwood. They need his defensive presence against dominant frontcourt teams like the Grizzlies; his defense will need to hold teams close during the few games that Steph and Klay go cold.

Why the 76ers Will Pursue Jimmy Butler

Rarely do Bulls and 76ers news intersect in this current NBA landscape, considering they are polar opposites in the Eastern Conference standings. But this offseason there could be much to talk about for both teams revolving around budding superstar Jimmy Butler.

Before you Bulls fans immediately dismiss this post and furiously smash your keyboards in disgust with me, I just want to preface this piece by saying I don’t truly believe Jimmy Butler will be able to walk away from Chicago this offseason. So just take a deep breath, and as Aaron Rodgers perhaps most famously says, “relax”. However, I do think it’s necessary to be prepared for other scenarios to arise due to the unpredictability of the NBA, and the nature of the business.

Jimmy Butler is quickly becoming one of the hottest commodities of this upcoming offseason, and although Chicago has privately acknowledged they are prepared to sign the restricted free agent Butler to a max deal this summer, other teams (like the Sixers) will be hot on the trail of the young and gritty swingman.

If you take a quick glance at this Sixers team, there’s one glaring similarity between the players on the roster. But no, I’m not referring to the lack of talent (we get it the Sixers are bad). Sam Hinkie has assembled a roster of absolute athletic freaks: K.J. McDaniels, Jerami Grant, JaKarr Sampson, Nerlens Noel, etc. These guys are long, can jump out of the gym, and they disrupt opponents on the defensive end. The smallest guy on the roster is Tony Wroten, and he’s a wrecking ball at 6’5”. Jimmy Butler fits almost perfectly into what Hinkie is trying to build here in Philadelphia. It also doesn’t hurt that there is an undeniable need for a swingman to complete Philadelphia’s future starting five.

rose dime butler

But the “coup de grace” of why the Sixers are a possible landing spot for Butler is because of something that’s rectangular, green, and has pictures of dead presidents on it. Straight cash homie! The Sixers have cleared all of this cap space over the past few seasons for this exact purpose, to selectively wait for a player whom they target as a potential future cog of the team and pounce when the opportunity presents itself. They have more money to spend than any other franchise in the NBA and can really push Chicago’s hand this summer if they so choose.

Like most NBA teams the Bulls don’t have a ton of cap space. They already have a lot invested in players like Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, and Pau Gasol, who altogether makeup approximately $50 million of the Bulls total team salary. This was one of the reasons why I suggested the Bulls deal Noah before the deadline, due to his injury history, age, and $13.9 million cap hit next season. Although Jimmy Butler certainly looks like he’ll be worth any deal he receives this summer, the Bulls have to know their future may be restricted being committed to so many huge contracts. Last offseason Klay Thompson got a  four year, $70 million deal. Butler’s max deal would be similar to Klay’s, although the Bulls could give Jimmy a fifth year.

In his short time in the NBA, Butler has proven to be a lockdown defender and this season he’s proven to other NBA teams that he can create his own shot, something few believed he’d be able to do when he entered the league out of Marquette. He also has shown that he can lead a team during the grind of the regular season; when Rose was out earlier this season the Bulls didn’t lose a step mostly due to Jimmy’s stellar performance. This enormous improvement to his offensive game is what has made him such an interesting target for other teams this offseason. But his entire skill set is what will drive someone to extend him an offer sheet if the Bulls can’t lock him up first.

(GIF via Gifrific)
(GIF via Gifrific)

Besides the immense dollar figure that may be shelled out by Sam Hinkie to Jimmy Butler, there’s a bright future for the Sixers whether you see it or not; its possible Jimmy could see the light at the end of the tunnel and be swayed and intrigued to become a part of it. He would have a chance to be the team’s leader and possibly over time a face of the franchise, similar to James Harden in Houston after he left OKC.

There are also some concerns about the Bulls future that might influence Jimmy Butler’s decision. Joakim Noah is almost 30 and seems to already be breaking down. Pau Gasol has a ton of mileage and is quite possibly on his last contract. The clouded uncertainty of Derrick Rose going forward will always be a looming problem. Reading between those lines it’s possible the Bulls roster could turnover entirely within a couple years. It’s not entirely inconceivable that in two years, the Sixers will be much closer to claiming a title than the Bulls. Especially if the Bulls let Jimmy Butler walk.

Jimmy Butler signing in Philadelphia could really accelerate the rebuilding process, accelerate it to the point where it’ll be essentially over. A core of MCW, Jimmy Butler, Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric (possible buyout overseas this summer) and a top three pick in the 2015 draft (Jahlil Okafor, Karl Anthony Towns, Emmanuel Mudiay, Stanley Johnson, etc.), is certainly enough to get the Sixers in postseason contention next year in the weak Eastern Conference. The Sixers would present a major problem defensively for any team, and with that core and future draft picks, they’d have more than enough offense to just get by. This is exactly what the Sixers had in mind when we began this rebuilding (tanking) process: collecting as many assets as possible and clearing immense amounts of cap space in hopes that one day a scenario like this would arise.

Realistically it’s unlikely that the Bulls would be willing to let Jimmy Butler sign elsewhere this summer. Butler is the rare wing who plays well on both sides of the ball, and NBA GMs aren’t usually inclined to let young talent just walk out the door. It’s also not really known whether the Sixers are even interested in Jimmy Butler; this is all speculation based off the tendencies of Sam Hinkie thus far into his tenure. Kawhi Leonard is another restricted free agent that the 76ers could throw an offer sheet at as well. Like the Bulls with Butler, the Spurs will almost definitely match any offer sheet that a team proposes to Leonard. But hey, a Sixers fan can dream right?

For the now the Bulls will focus on trying to position themselves higher in the playoff race, while the Sixers will be hunting for second round picks before the trade deadline. But when the dust settles in June and the NBA champions are crowned, whether it’s the Bulls or not, Jimmy Butler and the Chicago front office will be forced to make some tough decisions that could shape both of our franchises for several years to come.

Follow me @jeff_berest for more of my NBA musings and general nonsense and follow @DRosesAndThorns for all your latest Chicago Bulls news/opinions and our informative FanDuel insider info too!

The Midseason Bizarro NBA Awards, Part 2

If you missed Part 1, including the Bizarro MVP and DPoY, you can check it out here.

Coach of the Year

Derek Fisher, New York Knicks

Oh boy, Derek Fisher is just the worst. There isn’t any clever way of saying this, or some silly analogy to describe how gut wrenchingly awful Fisher has been for the Knicks. I’m not 100% sure, but I think Derek is a hologram programmed by Phil Jackson to just stand on the sideline and pretend to be observant during games. If you’re debauched and disturbed enough to actually watch a New York Knickerbocker game you’ll notice that Derek Fisher does absolutely nothing during the 48 minutes. He walks the sidelines like a drone and sometimes he will call a timeout once we’ve all seen enough of Samuel Dalembert, and then he subsequently puts in Jason Smith assuming things will get better. This is because he is blindly ignorant. The Knicks are playing the triangle with the complete opposite personnel you need for that offense. Not to keep putting down Samuel Dalembert, but I’m pretty sure if we asked him how many sides a triangle has he’d get the answer wrong.

I don’t think anyone on the team really respects Fisher as a coach and he really only has his job because Steve Kerr was smart enough to not get stuck in the rat hole that is the NY Knicks franchise. The Knicks have five wins on the season and the Sixers, who are intentionally losing games, still have four wins. The Sixers payroll is also $45 million less than the Knicks. If you need more facts, here’s another. The Knicks are paying more money to Carmelo Anthony and Phil Jackson combined than the Sixers are paying to their entire roster. This has all resulted in just five wins. FIVE! There aren’t many more ways to describe the Knicks ineptitude.

These problems really aren’t Fisher’s fault, but bottom line they should be putting up a much better effort. They’re living in the Eastern Conference where 35 wins will probably get you in the playoffs. If the Knicks can’t reach that with Carmelo Anthony, I’m sorry but maybe your coach is just an inept buffoon. It’s pretty obvious Derek Fisher is Phil Jackson’s puppet, but how long until this embarrassment takes its toll and Phil needs to scapegoat someone. However, congratulations to Derek for still being employed. We might have to re-sculpt our bizarro COY trophy to include a bust of Derek Fisher’s head, because his performance this year is already legendarily awful.

6th Man of the Year

Channing Frye, Orlando Magic

In the offseason the Orlando Magic signed Channing Frye to a 4yr/$32 million contract and this was because the Orlando front office was high on mushrooms or other illegal substances at the time. Here’s the actual phone conversation between Channing Frye and Orlando GM Rob Hennigan from this offseason.

Hennigan: “Hello, Channing this is Rob Hennigan from the Orlando Magic. I’d like to talk to you about signing with us this summer. How does 4yrs/$32 million sound..?

Frye: “You had me at hello”

There really is no logical basis to this. Some people say he received the contract because he provides veteran leadership or because  three point shooting is at premium in the NBA. This all may be somewhat true, but when you’re a young team looking towards the future, you don’t bog yourself down with terrible contracts like this one. Channing Frye has now been relegated to the bench in favor of Kyle O’Quinn, and this is also because fourth overall pick Aaron Gordon has been hurt. Besides the occasional hot shooting night, Channing brings absolutely nothing to the table. He is a very poor rebounder for his size and rarely plays physical enough to earn crunch time minutes down the stretch. Frye could be a valuable asset to a good team, but Orlando isn’t good enough to where he will get a bevy of open looks while on the court.

He’s a basketball metrics disaster and an eyesore when you watch him. He’s also one of those players when you’re watching you go “wow, I didn’t know he was still in the league, good for him…he makes how much??” A great sixth man can provide scoring off the bench and lead your second unit until the starters return. Channing Frye provides semi-occasional mild scoring streaks and really does nothing else besides take away valuable minutes from young assets on the Orlando bench.

Most Improved Player

Lance Stephenson, Charlotte Hornets

WHAT?

What a hot mess this season has been for Lance and the Hornets organization. Just a few months ago we were all enthralled with Lance’s antics and the grit he brought to the table for the Indiana Pacers. He tested free agency and got a contract that he deserved at the time; unfortunately Charlotte is where basketball talent goes to die. I don’t think this season could have gone any worse for Lance. When you sign a huge new contract and then you’re the center of trade rumors 20 games into the season, there might be a problem with your performance. It really seemed like Lance was on the cusp of becoming a great player, but maybe we’re finding out that playing alongside Paul George, David West, and (good) Roy Hibbert inflates your value a little bit. There hasn’t been anyone who has taken this far of a step back in the NBA this season.

Lance is like Willie Mays Hayes in the beginning of “Major League 2”. The last season Willie garnered all sorts of fame because of his outstanding play and now he comes back to spring training and isn’t able to regain form and his ego is completely out of control.

All of those internet memes must’ve gotten to Lance’s head, and now he can’t live up to expectations. But to be fair, it’s hard for a player that is universally famous for blowing air on another player to top that kind of glory. Expectations were too high for Lance and that’s not his fault. The only way he could’ve avoided this award would be if he did the old “you got something on your shirt..” to LeBron and then ESPN did a “30 for 30” on the vaunted on court antics of Sir Lance-alot.