Tag Archives: Isaiah Thomas

Brad Stevens and Boston Skip Tanking for Winning

The Boston Celtics are far from a focal point of conversation these days as the NBA season inches closer the playoffs, yet it’s hardly been a disappointment. You’d be hard pressed to find a single Celtics fan who really believed this team would have any realistic shot at being a playoff team. Trading Rondo and Jeff Green were inevitable moves that most C’s fans (myself included) thought were going to improve chances of “tanking” the season in an effort to acquire a coveted lottery pick and a potential franchise player. However, the reality is that this continues to seem like a less likely outcome as the season progresses. Let’s not forget the season ending surgery for the promising Jared Sullinger. There have been moments this season where fans thought that this team would implode and rapidly trend towards being forgettable, yet Brad Stevens has managed to keep the ship afloat with what seems to be a continually revolving roster of players. Don’t get me wrong, this team is by no means spectacular in any fashion, but Stevens is showing that the popularized “tanking” notion is not the fail proof method for rebuilding franchises. He’s creating a culture that allows players to thrive, and his players are responding.

There have been quite a few pleasant surprises for Celtics fans this season to help restore some of the faith that was lost in Danny Ainge. I think the most fascinating development has been the emergence of Evan Turner. When you look at this current roster, Isaiah Thomas certainly may be the most talented player, but Turner has been the leader. Stevens’ best move this season has been moving Turner to the point. He has really thrived as a facilitator and is running an offense that currently ranks sixth best in assist ratio AND is tied for seventh lowest in turnover ratio in the league. Turner has quietly had two triple doubles this season as well as twenty-three (!) games of at least 10 points/five rebounds/five assists. His scoring is not very consistent but he is a capable enough ball handler for Stevens to place trust in him to run the offense. And why not?

This Celtics roster right now is entirely comprised of players that can score at least ten points on a given night. Besides Tyler Zeller, they can all shoot the three. Why is this important? Floor spacing. That’s one of the more underlooked aspects when planning defensive schemes against this Celtics team. They have no single player that will be the primary focus of a defensive game plan which actually makes them intriguingly problematic for their opponents.

One of the more promising things that Celtics fans can look forward to is Brad Stevens’ willingness to commit to team basketball, as noted in a recent NESN article. Stevens has been able to get the most value out of his players this season while building great team chemistry. In addition to the aforementioned Evan Turner, the recently acquired Isaiah Thomas has thrived as well. Thomas is a unique player as he can score as good as anyone but is likely not a true starter at point guard due to his size. The truth is, he is a perfect security blanket as a backup combo guard for any playoff contender.

Although it’s been a relatively small sample size, Thomas is averaging 21.4 points per game while averaging under 28 minutes a game in Boston. He is scoring at a higher average currently with this Celtics team than he did when he had his best scoring year with the Kings, when he averaged over 20 points per game. He’s also playing seven less minutes per game with the Celtics as a player coming off the bench than as a starter with the Kings. Thomas has proven his ability to score the basketball and is certainly someone that teams account for in the scouting report. However, he plays in a free flowing offense where players share the ball to get the best shot. This has been the main reason that his scoring efficiency is the highest of his career.

The Celtics will wrap up the season with the hopes of snatching the eighth and final playoff spot in the East where they could potentially be in a tough matchup with a Hawks team that has been remarkably good all year. While the Celtics would be far more likely to get swept than win the series, that would certainly be a matchup of interest to hardcore fans as both teams play very similar styles of basketball. Regardless of how the season ends for this young Celtics team, it is certainly reassuring to see Brad Stevens’ continued focus on playing the right way and the team’s ensuing improvements. If you call yourself a Celtics fan, you are thrilled to have Stevens at the helm for the foreseeable future given everyone’s expectations for them and what they have shown this season. This team plays to win, not to tank. As a Boston sports fan, you really have to admire the fight against the odds. It is the attitude carried by the city and its fans who are used to seeing their teams thrive. Brad Stevens is a winner, and this team will be too if they continue to show this progression.

Advertisements

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.

KG minny

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.

goran dragic fox sports

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.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 11.34.25 AM

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.

DFS Trade Deadline Hidden Gems

When building a DFS lineup, we all know the big stars to consider. Even the novice DFS player knows to target LeBron, Anthony Davis, James Harden, Stephen Curry, etc. However, when it comes time to take down a Guaranteed Prize Pool (GPP) tournament, the key is to find the hidden gem in that night’s slate of games. In DFS, gems do not stay hidden for long, so it is imperative to be the first one to find that prize. If you are one day late, that could be the difference between infamy and glory.

Let’s focus on the players that may become hidden gems after the all-star break. With the trade deadline looming this Thursday at 3 PM, DFS players should get a shovel and get ready to start digging.

Miami Heat v San Antonio Spurs - Game Four

Dwyane Wade

Alright, Wade is hardly a hidden gem, but the way that the media speaks about him it’s as if he hasn’t been an elite player in years.  Truth be told, when Wade had been on the court this year, he’s been stellar with the 3rd highest usage rate at 32.2, 10th in points per 36 mins at 23.9, and he has the 13th highest PER at 22.49. He’s due back from his latest injury Friday, and the Heat will be “all in” trying to make the playoffs.  Look for Wade to play significant minutes and produce at a superstar level (while on the court). Get him in your lineups while his price on DFS sites is still low – this is probably the lowest it’s going to be all season. He may get hurt again, but before he does, he may win you a GPP.

Kelly Olynyk

Only because I love you readers, will I share with you this vital secret. Danny Ainge’s valentine was Kelly Olynyk. Oh, you think I’m kidding. Well, I’m not. Ainge and the Celtics front office are infatuated with pony tailed Kelly. While Olynyk hasn’t been consistent yet in his brief NBA career, he has shown flashes of brilliance. Even after losing his starting job to Tyler Zeller, Kelly erupted for a game of 30 points on 17 shots, three three pointers, nine rebounds, two blocks and three steals. How many centers are capable of a line like that? And a closer look at his stats shows that he averages 16.3 pts per 36 mins. That’s higher than Jrue Holiday, Andrew Wiggins, Bradley Beal and Michael Carter-Williams. And this guy shoots 50 percent, averages 5.4 rebounds, two blocks, and a three pointer per game in only 24.5 minutes per game. He is one monster game away from winning us all some serious cash. And if he starts getting big minutes…look out.

nik and zach

Nikola Pekovic

It’s hard for the strongest man on plant earth (according to Dwight Howard) and a villain in Super Man II (Google “Superman Villain Non”) to stay hidden. But that’s the case with Pekovic. Everyone assumes the Wolves are tanking and want to play young guys (and this probably is true), but they haven’t gone this route yet. While it’s possible the Wolves may move veterans K-Mart, Thaddeus Young, and even Pekovic by 3pm Thursday – I’m staying bullish on this guy even if he does get traded. True, he doesn’t fill up a stat sheet, but he currently averages 17.9 pts per 36 mins. That’s more than Kevin Love, John Wall, and Tyreke Evans, among others.  If Pekovic stays healthy and gets minutes (he’s still starting for Minnesota ahead of Dieng), he can bully his and your way past Superman and into a high GPP finish. While his price is still low on DFS sites, he makes for an excellent contrarian play.

Cleanthony Early/Lance Thomas

Now that Carmelo has brought an NBA championship to New York…oops, I mean an All-Star appearance to New York, look for him to shut it down in the next couple days. That opens up a lot of minutes and tons of shots for the Knicks. Lance Thomas might be the immediate beneficiary at small forward (and lots of DFS players will flock to Tim Hardaway Jr. as a solid option at SG) but don’t sleep on Early (known for his steals and threes). Derek Fisher loves this kid and is going to find minutes for him on the floor. The Knicks only goal from now on is to see what talent (if any) they have on the roster. 

Isaiah Thomas

The Dragic trade rumors are reaching peak level, and if he gets dealt, get ready to make Thomas a staple in your DFS lineup. He’s been a decent DFS option with only 25.7 mins per game this season, but he has the 21st highest points per 36 minutes at 21.4 and a usage rate of 24.6. Accordingly, if he gets starter minutes on Phoenix, he’ll be an immediate elite fantasy player in the Suns up-tempo offense.

paul-george-george-hill

George Hill

The cruelest words in DFS are “questionable” and “minutes restriction.” And Hill has been the epitome of the latter this year. However, the restrictions are finally going to be lifted. The Pacers have absolutely zero quality playmakers on their team (sorry Rodney Stuckey and others, you don’t count), so Hill is going to dominate the ball and the stat sheet the next few months. His numbers with the minutes restriction were already impressive (14th highest PER at 22.30 and 24th highest points per 36 minutes at 21.2) so the unleashing of Hill should be fun to watch.  Note: the Pacers are shopping for a point guard, so if they land someone like Ty Lawson that will surely hurt, but not kill, Hill’s value.

 Mo Williams

Mo was traded to his seventh NBA team last week (the Charlotte Hornets), as the Brian Roberts experiment at point guard was an utter disaster. With the Hornets vying for a playoff spot in the weak Eastern Conference and Kemba Walker out until at least mid-March, Williams will immediately step into a starting gig for the Hornets. He posted consistently solid numbers in his 19 starts this season with the Timberwolves (16 pts, two three pointers, eight assists, three rebounds, and a steal per game), and he should post similar numbers feeding Big Al and the Hornets.

 Jameer Nelson

Yes, he is still in the league currently backing up Ty Lawson.  But several teams actually want to acquire this guy for the second half of the season…especially the Miami Heat who have been dying at point guard. The Heat are going to be in desperation mode the final 30+ games to grab a playoff spot, and if they acquire Nelson, he’ll be locked into heavy minutes ASAP. Last year starting for Orlando he averaged 12 points, seven assists, two three pointers, three rebounds and a steal per game. It’s not crazy to think he could post similar numbers in Miami.

 Rodney Hood

If you know the names Joe Ingles and Elijah Millsap (brother of Paul), you are probably a savvy DFS player. Both of these guys (mostly Ingles) have been sneaky plays in DFS land. However, they were only getting big minutes due to the injury of the rookie Hood. The Jazz are eager to get Hood back on the floor, as they hope he’ll be a vital piece of their future, along with Hayward, Exum and Gobert. Accordingly, he should be in line for consistent minutes and starting for the Jazz at shooting guard after the All-Star break.

 Carl Landry

Jason Thompson is doing everything in his power to get traded out of Sacramento. If he does, someone has to play power forward for them. Enter Carl Landry. New coach George Karl will love this energy guy, and starter or not, should give him ample minutes for the Kings. How soon we forget that Landry was in the running for Sixth Man of the Year while on Golden State a couple years ago. He could easily post similar numbers (11 points and six rebounds) to that season if given the chance.

Hopefully, this will allow you to target key players that you might have overlooked. And hopefully one or more of these players will assist you in winning some cash in a GPP very soon. If you want more information or have any questions, do not hesitate to email me at dagreen35@gmail.com or message me on twitter @DanielAGreen1.

2014-15 League Pass Legends: Phoenix Suns

(image via Bleacherreport)
(image via Bleacherreport)

Last season, my League Pass Legends squad shattered expectations and comfortably made the playoffs in a stacked Western Conference. While I wouldn’t be shocked if Phoenix had a similar breakout, expectations are generally much higher than they were for this team a season ago. Last season, projected by many to win 20-25 games, the Suns burst out of the gate and never truly slowed down, finishing 48-34. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to crack the top eight in the absurdly stacked Western Conference (The Bulls and Raptors each won 48 games as well, and received home-court advantage in addition to making the playoffs out East).

This year, the Suns would likely have to win 50 games to qualify. That’s gonna be tough, but certainly not impossible. Phoenix is bringing back star guards Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe (fresh on a new long-term deal!) in addition to most of last year’s team. Dragic emerged as a stud last year, averaging 20.3 PPG on insane 50.3% FG shooting and 40%+ from downtown. That is some next level stuff right there. If Bledsoe can play 75 games, watch out. The kid is an athletic freak and in his first starting gig last season, he proved it.

The one key departure Phoenix is faced with is that of Channing Frye. Frye has had an up and down career in the NBA, including missing the entire 2012-13 season for heart surgery. He came back strong last year and provided a dangerous weapon in the Suns’ offense by spacing the floor as a big man. Frye is in Orlando now, and the Suns will struggle to fully replace his contributions with the Morris twins.

(image via NBA)
(image via NBA)

Speaking of the Morris twins, Markief and Marcus, they’re another fantastic reason to watch Phoenix on League Pass this year. The Suns, knowing the brothers prefer playing together, knew they could only afford to pay a combined $52 million to them. Rather than trying to figure out how to distribute the money, the Suns were upfront with the twins and let them decide how to split it. The Morris twins were locked up, the Suns received good deals on both players, and everyone’s happy. The Morris bros. should see a lot of playing time this year and their development, especially from range, is key to Phoenix staying afloat out West.

The biggest offseason addition the Suns made comes in the form of the NBA-tiny Isaiah Thomas. The Suns stole Isaiah on a four year, $28 million deal. The last pick (!) of the 2011 draft, Thomas has emerged as an elite scoring guard who can pass the ball as well. Thomas averaged over 20 PPG in Sacramento last year, which makes it all the more insane that the Kings think they improved by replacing him with the ever-mediocre Darren Collison. Thomas will be a huge addition to the Suns bench, and it’s hard to imagine a more fun/potentially great backcourt then a rotation of Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, and Isaiah Thomas. I’m giddy just thinking about it!

(image via fansided)
(image via fansided)

Oh, and possibly most importantly…ZORAN DRAGIC!!!! The Bros. ‘oran Dragic are an incredibly fun thing about the Suns. I mean two talented, chippy, LEFTY, Slovenian guards playing on one team? And they’re brothers? So down. (Note: I don’t think Zoran will be particularly good or important to this team on the court.)

Overall, it’s going to be extremely tough for Phoenix to displace Memphis, Houston, Dallas or another Western Conference playoff team. However, this extremely talented core of young players combined with year two of the potentially great Jeff Hornacek at head coach means the Suns are a team I will rarely miss on League Pass.