Tag Archives: New Orleans Pelicans

BULLet Points: Joakim Noah turns back the clock in Bulls victory

You know the story by now: the Bulls play terribly for most of the game, yet somehow find themselves in a close one, and this time they were able to hold on for a 98-94 victory. This against a Pelicans team that has not won on the second night of a back-to-back this season and are now 1-11 away from New Orleans. Once again, what should have been a relatively easy victory was a grind-it-out game. Attending this game in person at the UC left me feeling detached for three quarters, as the Bulls maintained their habit of giving a low energy performance (see: Exhibit A), looking clueless on offense, settling for bad shots, hanging out around the three point line with bad spacing (see: Exhibit B), and clearly having no understanding of, nor buy-in for, the Hoiberg offense.

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

But the fourth quarter looked and felt different (read: good):

  • The Bulls started with a lineup of Brooks, Hinrich, Mirotic, Noah, McDermott, who actually looked like they were having fun, and gave the Bulls their first lead of the game at 73-70 since the first quarter with a combination of good ball movement, spacing, and energy.
  • Rose was out from mid-way through the third until 4:28 to go in the game, which was probably a good thing. On defense, he’s able to lock down his defender in one-on-one situations, but lacks a team defense concept which leaves the defense vulnerable, he goes through screens lazily and nonchalantly, and offensively he is extremely predictable. Even his step-back over the outstretched monster hands of Anthony Davis to ice the game was totally unsurprising. But it did give me chills.
  • In perhaps his best performance of the season, both statistically and visually, Joakim Noah turned back the clock. Although he *only* posted ten points and nine rebounds in just under 30 minutes, he had four blocks, was 4/4 from the line, and had an incredible unmatched energy that undoubtedly kept Chicago in the game and sparked a comeback. Compared to last year, he looks so much healthier, is much better at finishing around the rim, and can actually jump more than two inches off the ground. It felt so good seeing him do this:

  • Hoiberg finished the game with Rose, Brooks, Butler, Noah, Gasol, and although I don’t like Noah and Gasol on the floor at the same time, which was way overused last year, Noah is more mobile than before and was able to make this work, despite Anthony Davis having his way down low. This was the right lineup to end the game, and I’ll be looking for Hoiberg to utilize Noah more down the stretch and start to play him more than the typical 20 minutes per game.
  • The bench play was outstanding with 52 points, and Brooks put up 15 of his 17 in the fourth quarter. Doug McDermott added 12 points on 5/10 shooting, and Nikola Mirotic finished with 10 points on 3/6.
  • Overall, the Bulls did a better job attacking, going 24/29 from the free throw line, whereas the Pelicans were just 8/11. Of the few things Derrick Rose did well in this game, this was one of them – he was in attack mode all night with a combination of layups and floaters, keeping the defense on their heels, even though he did not convert on many of them, which may have kept Davis at bay just enough to hit the step-back.
  • Quotables
    • Hoiberg on the fourth quarter: “The second unit’s movement, pace, that’s how we want to play…. This is what happens when we play the right way.”
    • Hoiberg on Noah after the dunk over Davis: “I thought he was going to run into the crowd and start chest bumping people.”
    • Noah, when asked about the Davis dunk; is being aggressive something he would like to do more of: “Yes, dunking is something I want to do as much as possible.”
    • Rose on the mask: “It might be over with.”
  • Coming up: the Bulls host the hapless 76ers on Monday. Philadelphia will likely be hunting its second victory of the entire season.

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.

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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.

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.

The Trade Machine Diaries, Part 2

The ESPN Trade Machine has been a great innovation for avid basketball fans like us. If only real trades were able to go down so easily and without everyone’s consent like in your 2K franchise. I tried my best to come up with 15 realistic trades with all 30 teams involved. So when I say “go” everybody grab a dance partner and make a trade…go!

(Disclaimer #1: because you can’t swap draft picks in the trade machine, I ad-libbed and traded picks based on what I thought was fair value. Disclaimer #2: You may or may not be aware that I’m not a real NBA GM, so what I thought was fair value is subjective. Enjoy.)

If you missed Part One of the Diaries, check them out here.

Philadelphia 76ers/Los Angeles Lakers

Philadelphia sends Tony Wroten to Los Angeles for Wayne Ellington and their 2015 second round pick

As good as Tony Wroten has performed in a Sixers uniform, the fact remains that no one player is safe on a team that is winless through its first 12 games. If you ask Sam Hinkie to weigh Tony Wroten against a second round pick that is likely to be in the top 38, he’s going to choose the draft pick every time. It’s nothing against Wroten; Hinkie is all about collecting future assets. The Lakers probably shouldn’t deal this pick because it seems like this year’s draft is going to be a relatively deep one. Lin and Nash are out the door this summer and Wroten has proven to be a valuable commodity. He’s explosive, can get to the basket at will, and might be a player who can build on his recent success. If the Lakers figure Wroten is better than anyone they’ll get at the top of second round, it makes perfect sense to pull the trigger. Tony Wroten is an obvious upgrade at PG compared to whatever the Lakers have lined up for 2015.

Toronto Raptors/Golden State Warriors

Toronto sends Landry Fields, Chuck Hayes, and a second round draft pick to Golden State for Andre Iguodala

It’s been no secret that Andre Iguodala is unhappy with Steve Kerr and his new role off the bench for the Warriors. If the Warriors really want to make a commitment to Harrison Barnes, trading Andre Iguodala would be a good indication. It may not be the most basketball savvy move for Golden State, but their payroll could use the relief. They receive the expiring deals of Landry Fields and Chuck Hayes, which would benefit them in the offseason. They’ve already committed a ton to David Lee, Andrew Bogut, Klay Thompson, and Steph Curry, so this type of “salary shedding” deal is necessary for the Warriors. Messing with your teams chemistry while you’re winning isn’t generally a good thing to do, but adding Iguodala for almost nothing makes the Raptors a legit contender to make the Eastern Conference Finals. Terrence Ross is not yet the model of consistency at the SF position, and adding Iguodala, an all-around player and distributor, will help DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and Jonas Valanciunas.

Memphis Grizzlies/Utah Jazz

Memphis sends Kosta Koufos and a (top 22 protected) first round pick to Utah for Rudy Gobert

In this scenario Memphis is preparing for life after Marc Gasol. The smart money has Gasol leaving for a huge deal elsewhere (MSG?) in the offseason. Utah has an excess of big men, which is a very valuable commodity these days. Utah cautiously chooses to keep Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors over Gobert. In return, the Jazz gets a protected first rounder and the expiring contract of Kosta Koufos. Rudy Gobert is hardly a finished product, but Memphis could do worse on short notice.

Milwaukee Bucks/New Orleans Pelicans

Milwaukee sends Jared Dudley to New Orleans for John Salmons, Jimmer Fredette, Jeff Withey and a future second round pick

Milwaukee has certainly over performed thus far into the season. The Bucks really don’t rely that heavily on Jared Dudley as is, but now with players like Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Greek Freak, emerging even more, it’s harder to justify giving extended minutes to Jared Dudley. Of course veteran leadership is important for a team like the Bucks, but who actually believes that Dudley is an integral part of this Bucks team? New Orleans is a rising team in the West but their second unit could use some improvements. They really lack depth overall when Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, and “the Brow” leave the court. Dudley isn’t the most prolific scorer, but he can at least give the Pelicans a little spark when the starters are on the bench.

(GIF via Tumblr)
(GIF via Tumblr)

Los Angeles Clippers/Denver Nuggets

Los Angeles sends CJ Wilcox and Ekpe Udoh to Denver for Nate Robinson

Right now the Clippers backup point guard is Jordan Farmar. Farmar isn’t the player he used to be when he played with the Lakers championship teams. A bonafide contender like the Clippers should make finding a replacement for Farmar a top priority. At this point, the Nuggets will probably be selling most of their assets, and luckily for Lob City, Nate Robinson is on the block. Besides Jamal Crawford, there isn’t much scoring out there for the Clippers second unit. Knicks fans will begin to pine for the old days when Crawford and Nate were wearing blue and orange. There will be more than enough buckets out there for the two of them when CP3 and JJ Redick leave the game.

New York Knicks/Oklahoma City Thunder

New York sends Iman Shumpert, Samuel Dalembert and Arnett Moultrie to Oklahoma City for Kendrick Perkins and a lottery protected first round pick

It’s entirely possible that Iman Shumpert is not part of the Knicks’ future. Shump is a talented young player but who knows if Phil Jackson has eyes on other potential talent at the two guard spot in free agency. They receive Perkins’ expiring contract as well as a future first rounder from OKC. No, you did not read that incorrectly: for once the Knicks would be receiving a first rounder instead of giving one away. For the Thunder, this could be a last ditch effort at trying to keep Kevin Durant from fleeing to DC. Russell Westbrook, Durant, Serge Ibaka, Shumpert and Steven Adams could contend for the title.

Orlando Magic/San Antonio Spurs

Orlando sends Andrew Nicholson, Dewayne Dedmon and a second round pick to San Antonio for Austin Daye, Jeff Ayres and a future first round pick (top 22 protected)

The frontcourt in Orlando is quickly getting very crowded. The Magic drafted Aaron Gordon fourth overall this year and have big plans for him. They also signed Channing Frye to a four year contract (a questionable signing to say the least) and currently have other bigs on the roster like Kyle O’Quinn and Nik Vucevic and wings in Tobias Harris and Mo Harkless who can play the four as well. The Spurs are the team that would recognize Nicholson withering away on the Orlando bench. This doesn’t really affect Tim Duncan, since he’s immortal and will probably continue playing well into his 50s. But honestly, you’d have to think he only has one or two years left in the tank. Nicholson is kind of a speculative, buy low prospect for the Spurs. They’ve done it before with guys like Danny Green and Boris Diaw. No doubt, if Nicholson were to dress in a Spurs uniform he’d be a solid contributor. Meanwhile, the Magic grab another future asset.

Dallas Mavericks/Washington Wizards

Dallas sends Charlie Villanueva to Washington for Drew Gooden

Hey, these guys are still getting paid to be in the NBA! Finally we’ve reached the end. Sorry that this trade is anticlimactic but those are the breaks of trying to force a deal with every single NBA squad. Some of these trades are bound to be duds.

Follow @jeff_berest for more of my NBA musings and @DRosesAndThorns for more Bulls and NBA coverage.

Your 2018 Eastern Conference Champions…

This article is dedicated to myself for giving my heart and soul to the Sixers even though I’ll be getting nothing in return for a couple years. Also, to the recently released Sixer Chris Johnson, because we all know he never had a shot…pour one out for the homie.

Flashback to Draft Night 2013

The Philadelphia 76ers are coming off an abysmal and disappointing season which ended in the firing of head coach/broadcaster extraordinaire Doug Collins and the release of President and acting GM Rod Thorn. We legit had Thorn running this team in the front office and Doug Collins slowly dissipating any chemistry left on the floor. What’s even more absurd is that as a fan, this duo was actually creating a sense of optimism for the franchise the previous two years. Seems silly right?

Oh yeah, one more thing. We had that whole Andrew Bynum trade really not work out in our favor. We dealt our franchise player (if you can call Andre Iguodala one) as well as the walking double-double Nikola Vucevic. I absolutely was in love with Vucevic when he was a Sixer, such a rare type of talent at the center position, and Doug Collins didn’t even put his ass on the floor during the playoffs. Sorry, just letting out some frustration. I think throughout this article you’ll notice I will do that. As a Sixers fan releasing pent up negative energy in a healthy way is step one in the twelve steps to admitting you’re a Sixers fan.

To sum this digression up: Andrew Bynum while with the Sixers played 0 games and averaged 0 points, 0 rebounds, and 0 blocks per game. In comes the dark and mysterious figure that is general manager Sam Hinkie. To be honest, I knew very little about Hinkie when he was hired as GM. I knew he came from the Rockets organization and he was very into analytics. He also wasn’t Rod Thorn so Hinkie had that going for him. I was on board.

So back to Brooklyn and the Barclays Center. Typically an NBA franchise that has recently fired their head coach hires a new one before an important event like the draft. But obviously the Sixers are no typical franchise with Hinkie at the helm. Sam Hinkie legitimately didn’t care who the future coach would be; this draft was all his. Now obviously the Sixers ownership is involved, but they have basically given Hinkie the only keys to the castle. He makes every decision and the only one that he answers to is god; and even god is like “dude, whatever you gotta do to make this Sixers team competitive is alright with me…”

The Sixers roster before the draft featured a bunch guys with mediocre skills. It was non-descript to say the least. But we had one silver lining and that was 23 year old All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday. He seemed like a legit building block and a guy Hinkie would be able to put pieces around and go forward wi…..and he’s gone! While everyone was salivating at the prospect of Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel playing alongside each other in New Orleans and blocking around 35 shots a game, Hinkie was behind closed doors dealing for the injured Kentucky product (Noel) as well as a future first round pick.

There was a lot of discrepancy in the reporting of this deal during draft night. While all of the facts were being sorted out, the Sixers were on the clock and had selected Syracuse point guard and future rookie of the year Michael Carter-Williams, aka MCW, aka “the Sultan of Steals”, aka “the Prime Minister of Passing” (none of these other nicknames have stuck like MCW unfortunately). After the selection of MCW this basically confirmed that Jrue Holiday was on the move. I had trouble wrestling with this new direction Hinkie was steering us in. But the team was going nowhere and had zero shot of winning anything with just Jrue Holiday, and while the concept of bottoming out and possibly getting Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker was appealing, it was a long way away from next year’s draft.

MCW-and-Noel

By the end of the night I was on board and fully immersed in what I refer to as “Hinkieball”. It’s like “moneyball” except completely different and not involving baseball. Hinkie had completely changed the course of the franchise for the better in about 15 minutes. 15 minutes! That’s a fourth of an episode of Homeland! Hinkie moved Jrue Holiday for what would have been the #1 overall pick if healthy (Noel) and a top three protected first rounder next year from the Pelicans in addition to completely overhauling the cap situation. At the end of the 2013-14 season they had an astounding $36 million available. Teams would kill for a cap situation this good. Literally, Mitch Kupchak would go out on a murdering spree in LA right now to give the Lakers just half as good a cap situation as Hinkie has gotten for the Sixers.

So finally the 2013-14 season is upon us. Sixers fans are ready for the tanking extravaganza to begin. We have our several boxes of tissues to wipe away tears that we were to experience in the upcoming months. We also have our slop buckets to collect all the vomit induced from the sickening feeling of watching Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes take a combined 50 shots a game. I actually want you to keep reading so I’m not going to go into actual detail about the Sixers 2013-14 season.

2013 sixers

Here are the highlights:

  • We beat Miami in the season opener and MCW locked up the rookie of the year award on day one of the season. (Editor’s note: also this. Fuck this.)
  • Sam Hinkie acquired every second round pick in the next three NBA drafts at the trade deadline.

…..and that’s about it.

Also just for a good laugh here are some actual guys who appeared in a Sixers uniform last season.

  • Daniel Orton
  • Lorenzo Brown
  • James Nunnally
  • Adonis Thomas
  • Darius Johnson-Odom

Those five guys could play against you and some friends in pickup ball at the local JCC and you’d probably only lose by a couple buckets.

Finally, last season was the most awkward I have ever felt about the game of basketball in my life and I wouldn’t wish that kind of suffering upon any of my enemies. It was just weird watching a bunch of not-quite fringe NBA players play bad basketball and hoping that they lose night in and night out. It’s hard to sit there and root for your team to lose, but that was truly the only way to get better. It was also the first time as a lifelong Philadelphia sports fan where losing was not only tolerated but encouraged. It’s crazy to think that this little middle-aged white guy from Houston had completely mesmerized a city that is known to have no patience and is absolutely heartless when it comes to their sports teams’ successes or failures. (Obligatory cliché “snowballs at Santa Claus” joke).  But for real, we threw batteries at J.D. Drew for saying he didn’t want to play here. We’re the craziest fan base in the whole world and I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of it.

Anyway we won 19 games last season and finished with the second best odds at landing the #1 pick in June in addition to the Pelicans pick, which ended up being #10 overall. This was going swimmingly for Hinkie and the front office. Sixers fans could finally see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. We ended up landing the third pick, which locked us in at getting Wiggins, Parker, or Embiid. All three of those guys would excite the fan base and reinvigorate the team. Then the Joel Embiid injury threw the whole top of the draft for a loop. Was there a real possibility that the Sixers would take a flyer on an injured big man and sit him for the entire season? I truly couldn’t fathom going through another year like the last.

So obviously and without hesitation, Sam Hinkie took Joel Embiid and put a dagger through the heart of every Sixers fan. To add insult to injury, he traded for Dario Saric and stashed him away overseas, thus twisting the dagger that he had already thrust inside us. What everyone wanted to believe was a one year rebuilding plan ended up being a multiyear process. After hundreds of expletives hurled by me at friends, family, religious statues, and TV media personalities, I finally began to cope with what was going on with my beloved Sixers franchise. In one year Sam Hinkie had gathered a pretty impressive stock. Four top twelve picks (MCW, Noel, Embiid, Saric), approximately $35-40 million in cap flexibility, and the likelihood of gathering another top three pick in 2015. He also acquired Joel Embiid’s Twitter handle, which has been All-Star caliber. The dude hits up Kim Kardashian and Rihanna on Twitter just because. As far as I’m concerned, Joel is the man and we all wish him a speedy recovery.

This brings us into the present and the 2014-15 Sixers squad. It’s definitely been easier to mentally prepare for this current season then it was for last. I’m used to seeing just terrible basketball run across my TV screen, but now it’s being brought to an all-time low. Last year, miraculously we won 19 games. This was largely due to having a combination of Turner, Hawes, Thad Young, and MCW. After Turner and Hawes were dealt at the deadline the team began to plummet down the standings. Not because they were great players, but because instead of acceptable NBA players taking 15-20 shots each a game; those shots were replaced by the likes of Casper Ware and Byron Mullens. This year, the Sixers have no decent veterans who can average 12-15 points a game. This is the reason they are without a win 10 games into the season.

Reasons-The-Sixers-Will-Still-Be-Terrible-Justin-Ford-USA-TODAY-Sports
via Rantsports 

This was the Sixers 2014 opening night starting lineup:

  • PG Tony Wroten
  • SG Chris Johnson
  • SF Hollis Thompson
  • PF Nerlens Noel
  • C Henry Sims

Seriously, this is no misprint. These guys can all call themselves NBA starters. I mentioned above that Chris Johnson was let go, and this is no accident, he really is a dreadful player. Johnson was brought into training camp one week before the season started. The Sixers roster is so pitiful this year, that Brett Brown legit had no other options at the two guard spot but to start a guy who just joined the team a week ago.

This whole scenario is so so sad. The Sixers are not guilty of tanking, as much as obliterating any chance possibly winning basketball games. The Sixers are comprised of MCW, Nerlens, and the longest list of D-list celebrity NCAA players who you may or may not remember when they were on a team that was a 12 seed in the tournament. However, second round pick K.J. McDaniels has been a true bright spot for the team and could actually be an integral part of this Sixers team in the future. Early reports on Nerlens Noel are good as well. He obviously needs to develop his body and gain weight and muscle, but his defensive skills are evident and he and Embiid in the frontcourt are not going to be a friendly sight for opponents in the future.

But why be on board with Sam Hinkie and the direction the franchise is going? Is it because we have no other choice and that believing in something is better than not believing at all? I think that’s true for the most part, but I also do personally believe in this plan. Having beyond awful basketball for the next two to three years is a fair sacrifice so that the Sixers are able to prosper for the next ten years after. I also believe in Brett Brown as a head coach. He’s coaching a bunch of college level guys and trying to get them to play together and improve on a night-to-night basis. His record as a coach is not even close to a direct correlation for the caliber of coach he will become when there is finally a real NBA team in front of him. Right now it’s really no fun being a Sixers fan. But if I had the chance to go back to draft night 2013 and stop Sam Hinkie from trading Jrue Holiday and dismantling the franchise I love so dearly; 100 out of 100 times I’m letting him dial up the Pelicans and make that deal.

Keep calm and Hinkie on my fellow Sixer fans, greener pastures are coming.

@jeff_berest