NBA power rankings

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lebron_allstar_game.jpgRanking all the NBA teams, whether they want it or not. The Cavaliers and Lakers are 1-2 now, which is who everybody thinks makes the finals if the playoffs start today. Sorry Dallas.

1. Cavaliers (43-11) Win streak is up to 13, home court throughout if the playoffs started today. And they want to make a major trade and shake up things because?

2. Lakers (41-13) Wins over Utah and San Antonio without Kobe or Andrew Bynum get them moved up the ladder. But will they keep playing defense like this when everybody is back?

3. Magic (36-18) They had a loss this week to Cleveland, but can you hold that against them? They are the other contender right now.

4. Jazz (32-19) It was nice of Deron Williams to get all his bonehead plays out of the way during the All-Star game as not to drag down Utah in real games.

5. Nuggets (35-18) The most obvious thing from the All-Star game — Carmelo Anthony wanted to be MVP. Nobody puts up 11 first quarter shots otherwise, but you got to hit the late ones to get it.

6. Thunder (30-21) Winners of six in a row, that will get you moved to number six.

7. Hawks (33-18) A West Coast road trip this week should be a good test. Watching Atlanta’s athletes run with Golden State should be one of the more entertaining games of the week.

8. Suns (31-22) Trade rumors swirling about off the court could distract them on the court, where good Dallas and Memphis teams await.

9. Raptors (29-23) They are 8-1 in their last nine, and Chris Bosh has fans in Chicago and Miami drooling with his recent play. Oh yea, Toronto fans, too.

10. Spurs (30-21) Lose to the Lakers without Kobe or Bynum, then turn around and beat Denver in Denver. The Spurs remain a roller coaster.

11. Celtics (32-18) Rumors are the Celtics want to trade Ray Allen for a young star shooter. Well, duh. I want to drive a Maserati, doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.

12. Bucks (24-27) Why is Brandon Jennings hair so fascinating? I should not spend this much time thinking about a man’s hair.

13. Mavericks (32-20) All the talk is about Butler, and he is an upgrade, but Haywood is the real steal of this trade.

14. Blazers (31-24) Turns out it’s hard to make a trade if you’re not willing to give anything good up in return.

15. Heat (26-27) Quality win against the Hawks on the road last week. Oh, and D-Wade guy looked pretty good Sunday. They should try to keep him, he may turn into something.

16. Bobcats (26-25) The Bobcats turn it around with a couple wins. Up this week, the opposite ends of the spectrum: New Jersey (Tuesday) then Cleveland (Friday).

17. Hornets (28-25) Darren Collison continues to impress, filling in for CP3. It’s tough to judge how good offensively a player is coming out of Ben Howland’s system at UCLA.

18. Sixers (20-32) Four wins in a row without Allen Iverson, with the Green/Holiday backcourt looking good. Yea, it’s going to be fun when AI returns.

19. Rockets (27-24) Lots of trade rumors, but what this team really needs is to get Yao Ming back, and looks like that won’t be until next season.

20. Bulls (25-26) Tyrus Thomas for sale! Get your Tyrus Thomas here!

21. Grizzlies (26-25) Everybody starts raving about what a nice roster Memphis has and how the team plays together, then the Griz go and drop four in a row. Great timing, guys.

22. Kings (18-24) Tyreke Evans is starting to really pull away as rookie of the year. Will Kevin Martin be there to see the rest of his season?

23. Knicks (19-32) Charles Barkley was right — there were a lot of Knicks represented All-Star weekend, despite the team’s record.

24. Warriors (14-37) They get an easy win because the Clippers come out and try to run with them. Foolish, foolish Clippers.

25. Timberwolves (13-30) Was it warmer in Minny than it was in Dallas All-Star Weekend?

26. Clippers (21-31) Every once in a while you hear from people how LeBron James should come to the Clippers. Those are the people you should drug test.

27. Pacers (18-34) How can a team that plays at such a fast pace be so boring to watch.

28. Wizards (17-33) On paper this team should get worse, but sometimes teams and players rise up after their stars are traded.

29. Pistons (18-33) Looking around for good news for the Detroit fans… still looking hold on…

30. Nets (4-48) If ever there was a team that should get extra ping-pong balls in the lottery…

As expected, Blake Griffin reportedly opted out of contract with Clippers

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Doc Rivers says he wants Blake Griffin back with the Clippers next season.

The bigger question: Does Blake Griffin want to be back with the Clippers next season?

The decision is in Griffin’s hands as he has done what was expected, opting out of his contract for the coming season, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

A number of teams — Boston, Miami, and others — are expected to take a run at Griffin. (In Boston’s case, he’s a backup plan to Gordon Hayward, but there will be conversations.)

What Chris Paul — also expected to opt out and become a free agent this summer — and Griffin choose to do will help set the market. They are two of the biggest free agent names out there where they could switch teams (Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant are staying put). If they take their time making a decision, it leaves the Clippers in a bind — they have to wait to hear from these two before starting replacing or rebuilding, but by the time they know other players may have decided — and could bottleneck the free agent process.

The Clippers are going to be one interesting team to watch this summer.

Pistons’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope suspended two games for DUI

AP Photo
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This is the standard penalty for coaches and players hit with a DUI. I don’t think the penalty is stiff enough in general for a serious issue, but this is the precedent that has been set.

Detroit Pistons’ guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been suspended two games by the NBA for “pleading guilty to operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, in violation of the law of the State of Michigan,” the NBA announced. He will miss the first two games of next season.

This will not stop Caldwell-Pope from getting PAID this summer.

A quality wing defender who hit 35 percent from three last season, he plays a position of need for a lot of teams and he is a restricted free agent. Other teams with cap space — Brooklyn and Sacramento come to mind — could step in and give him a max or near max offer. Then Stan Van Gundy needs to decide if he is going to match. He may not have much of a choice, if he wants to keep Andre Drummond and build an inside-out team around him, he needs Caldwell-Pope, and the Pistons don’t have the cap space to replace him.

One way or another, Caldwell-Pope is in line for a massive pay raise. This suspension will not slow teams, it just takes a little money out of his pocket.

 

Lonzo Ball tops Rookie of the Year early betting odds

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If you are betting right now on next year’s NBA Rookie of the Year award, you are a die-hard fan of your team and their new addition. Or, you have a problem and need to seek help. Maybe both.

Either way, the people at the gambling site Bovada have posted the early betting odds for the ROY award for next season.

Lonzo Ball (Lakers) 5/2
Ben Simmons (76ers) 3/1
Markelle Fultz (76ers) 5/1
De”Aaron Fox (Kings) 7/1
Josh Jackson (Suns) 9/1
Jayson Tatum (Celtics) 9/1
Jonathan Isaac (Magic) 16/1
Malik Monk (Hornets) 16/1
Dennis Smith (Mavericks) 16/1
John Collins (Hawks) 20/1
Justin Jackson (Trail Blazers) 22/1
Lauri Markkanen (Bulls) 22/1

Yes, Ben Simmons is in the mix.

The two bets I like here, if I were a gambling man, are Jackson in Phoenix and Dennis Smith in Dallas. I doubt Smith wins it, but Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said after the draft Smith will start for them next year, which means he gets opportunities and can rack up assists feeding Dirk Nowitzki at the elbow for a year.

Jackson is going to be unleashed in an up-tempo Suns offense where he will be the defender they need on the wing, play with high energy, and get buckets in transition. Winning ROY is as much about fit and opportunity as talent, and Jackson has landed in a good spot.

Paul George-Gordon Hayward-Celtics rumor doesn’t add up

AP Photo/George Frey
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Paul George reportedly wants to play with Gordon Hayward. George is also reportedly willing to join his desired team (universally accepted to be the Lakers) by means that don’t guarantee the highest salary.

Could the Celtics – who are pursuing Hayward in free agency – leverage those conditions into getting George?

Adam Kauffman of 98.5 The Sports Hub:

I don’t what George would do, but it’d be a MAJOR financial disadvantage to go this route.

There a couple ways it could happen – George getting extended-and-trade or George getting traded then signing an extension six months later. The latter would allow George to earn more than the former, but even if he pledged to sign an extension, would the Celtics trade for him knowing he’d have six months to change his mind if he doesn’t like Boston as much as anticipated?

There’s a bigger issue, anyway. Both extension routes would leave George earning far less than simply letting his contract expire then signing a new deal, either with his incumbent team or a new one.

Here’s a representation of how much George could earn by:

  • Letting his contract expire and re-signing (green)
  • Letting his contract expire and signing elsewhere (purple)
  • Getting traded and signing an extension six months later (gray)
  • Signing an extend-and-trade (yellow)

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Expire & re-sign Expire & leave Trade, extend later Extend-and-trade
2018-19 $30.6 million $30.6 million $23,410,750 $23,410,750
2019-20 $33.0 million $32.1 million $25,283,610 $24,581,287
2020-21 $35.5 million $33.7 million $27,156,470 $25,751,825
2021-22 $37.9 million $35.2 million $29,029,330
2022-23 $40.4 million
Total $177.5 million $131.6 million $104,880,158 $73,743,861

Firm numbers are used when it’s just a calculation based on George’s current contract. When necessary to project the 2018-19 salary cap, I rounded.

The Celtics could theoretically renegotiate-and-extend, but that would require cap room that almost certainly wouldn’t exist after signing Hayward.

Simply, it’s next to impossible to see this happening. It’d be too costly to George.