NBA Draft: Evan Turner could work with Andre Iguodala, not against him

10 Comments

iguodala_game.jpgNow that the Sixers hold the No. 2 pick in the draft, they have all kinds of options. Maybe Ed Stefanski will cash in on the pick’s value now, trade it, and get back a proven commodity that can make an immediate impact while dumping Elton Brand’s salary. Maybe Stefanski sees Turner as a franchise treasure, and will attempt to retool his roster to build around Evan as the Sixer of the Future alongside Jrue Holiday. Maybe Andre Iguodala could play shooting guard with Turner starting his rookie season coming off the bench, or maybe Stefanski will trade Iguodala in order to give Turner all the elbow room he desires.

Or, Stefanski and the Sixers could do something absolutely revolutionary: nothing.

Well, let me clarify. Philadelphia needs to do a lot of something to figure out their troubles on offense and defense, and hopefully that introspection has begun with the ongoing head coach search. That something involves creating roster flexibility, infusing more talent, getting more consistent shooting, and solidifying the middle. There’s a lot of work to be done, and Philly’s current roster makes it very difficult.

Trading Iguodala at this point, a topic that our own Matt Moore tossed around yesterday, just seems to make it even more difficult.

For now, Iggy is the best that the Sixers have. He was tops on the team in points (17.1), assists (5.8), and steals per game (1.7), second behind only Samuel Dalembert in rebounds per game (6.5), and tied for the top spot in three-pointers made (1.1) per game. He was second on the team in PER (17.8), first in win shares (6.7), and remains an elite defensive wing.

He happened to start at shooting guard for this team in quite a few games, but is that really a compelling reason to move the top talent on the roster, especially when doing so is so unlikely to get good return value? Despite Iguodala’s talent, he’ll make $56.5 million over the next four seasons, with an average salary of over $14 million a year. That’s a long-term commitment with a big price tag, one that a lot of teams will be reluctant to take on in any circumstances, much less with the new CBA likely to change the salary structure in 2011-2012.

If Philadelphia looks to move Iguodala, they may be able to get salary relief in return, or maybe a young player packaged with a burdensome contract. They will not get anyone that’s as skilled on both ends of the court, and while that doesn’t necessarily justify paying Andre’s ridiculous salary, it’s a concrete reason why Stefanski may be wise not to part with him. The mistake was signing Iggy to such a deal in the first place, but to deal him now, when the Sixers would likely get little in return? That’s an even bigger mistake.

Instead, Philly should take a long look at what could be an interesting three-man core of Holiday, Turner, and Iguodala. All are unselfish, all can create for others, and…none of the three has a consistent three-point stroke. Some things just never change in Philadelphia. Still, all three players can be considered works in progress, so their perimeter shooting could technically improve. In the meantime, the Sixers will have three long, talented players that can both score and defend at a number of different positions.

Is there really any reason to compromise that? Turner has the ability to be a very good defensive player in the pros, and when paired with Iguodala, could make one of the best defensive tandems on the wing in the entire league. If the Sixers can resuscitate the defensive tenacity that made them so fun to watch at the tail end of the ’08-’09 season — and Turner and Iggy both would be an important part of that — you’re looking at a team that could be pretty fantastic at getting out into the open court.

Even with Turner in the mix, the Sixers’ future isn’t bright. Holiday came on strong to close his rookie year, but the mammoth salaries of Iguodala and Elton Brand will continue to gum up the works for Philadelphia. Ditching both of those contracts would obviously be in the Sixers’ best interest, but they can’t truly rebuild unless they can ditch both, not just one. Brand’s deal is just too big and too damaging on its own (he’ll make almost $16 million this season), and right now he’s as close to unmovable as any player in the league.

It’s going to be a long rebuild for Philly, so what’s the rush? Find out of Turner and Iguodala can play well together first, and if there’s nothing there, then move on. Stefanski should take the Kings of last season as a perfect example. Tyreke Evans and Kevin Martin didn’t play all that well together, but the important thing is that Geoff Petrie and the Kings knew for sure. The satisfaction of trying and knowing is what the Sixers should strive for should they select Turner, even if he and Iguodala turn out to be a less-than-perfect fit.     

Pistons consider shutting down Reggie Jackson for rest of season

AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
Leave a comment

The Pistons have started Reggie Jackson. They’ve brought him off the bench. They’ve sat him entirely.

No role seems right for the point guard as Detroit has lost four straight and seven of eight.

Now, it seems the Pistons might just shut down Jackson, who missed the start of the season with a knee injury. He’s at least doubtful for tonight’s key game against the Heat.

Pistons president/coach Stan Van Gundy, via Fox Sports Detroit:

We’ve been thinking about this, actually for a long time, OK? And he’s been playing at — it’s just hard to put a percentage — but probably at about 80 percent. And as we get into this stretch of games in March where we’re playing a lot, the fatigue is just making it worse.

It wasn’t really fair to him. We were running him out there, putting pressure on him. He’s seeing things he should be able to do, and he just can’t do. He’s not feeling pain, but he just can’t make the plays he wants to make. And we’re trying to put him out there.

We were really struggling, and we just need to have guys who are at full energy and the whole thing. And as much as he wants to, he can’t right now. It’s honestly amazing what he’s done.

To his credit, he fought me on it. He wanted to keep going.

He needs some rest. We don’t know how long it will be. But he needs some rest and to be able to try to get his energy back and see if we can get him at full strength.

He’s been a warrior. He’s tried to fight through it. He’s been frustrated, because he sees openings and things on the court that he just hasn’t been able to get to. I think part of it is a confidence thing.

And I think the thing that we really look forward to, and he looks forward to, is getting a fresh start in the offseason and being able to go through the preparation for a season like he did last year. And not only get right physically, but really get his confidence back to be able to attack and make the plays he’s had.

Jackson hasn’t looked right this season, showing only fleeting moments of quality production. It’s unclear whether that’s his knee, confidence, regression to the mean after a breakout season last year, bad luck or some combination.

But it has the Pistons in dire straights. They’re 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position with tonight’s game against eight-place Miami crucial.

Detroit’s offense and defense have hummed better with Ish Smith, but despite the better chemistry he affords, the talent drop from Jackson is also glaring. It’s not as if the Pistons have soared with Smith. And relying on Beno Udrih for backup minutes is its own risk.

Van Gundy is talking a lot about next season when it comes to Jackson, which seems telling. The coach’s compliments seem designed to soften the blow.

The odds are against Detroit making the playoffs, but they might be higher without Jackson. The fact that that’s even considerable is also telling about Jackson’s season.

Joakim Noah says he’s cleared to play, which will allow suspension to begin

Elsa/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The NBA suspended Joakim Noah 20 games — effective once he’s “physically able to play.”

Noah underwent knee surgery about a month ago, and though it seemed he’d miss the rest of the season, the Knicks said at the time he’d be reevaluated in 3-4 weeks. That gave the team cover to claim his suspension should begin this season.

So, Noah rushed to practice today, and no matter how unlikely he would’ve been to follow this timeline sans suspension, that will seemingly be enough.

Fred Kerber of the New York Post:

New York has eight games remaining, which would leave 12 for Noah to serve at the beginning of next season.

Obviously, the more of his suspension Noah serves during this lost season, the better. The Knicks might be a wreck next season too, but at least there’s a chance they’re ready to win (and a chance Noah can contribute). This year is confirmed hopeless.

 

After fun back-to-back wins, Kings deemphasizing veterans

1 Comment

Break up the Kings.

No, really.

After consecutive thrilling wins — a historic comeback against the Clippers on Sunday and another one-point win over the Grizzlies, Sacramento coach Dave Joerger’s former team, yesterday — the Kings announced a changing of the guard.

Joerger, via CSN California:

This was maybe our last stand for the year, as far as you’re probably not going to see all those veterans play together the rest of the season.

Darren Collison, Garrett Temple, Kosta Koufos, Anthony Tolliver and Ty Lawson played major roles against Memphis. Expect their minutes to be cut down the stretch.

The Kings have “fallen” to the NBA’s eight-worst record. It’s unlikely, but a late-game surge could “drop” them to the league’s 10th-worst record.

That’s unviable for a team that put itself on the tanking track and loses its first-round pick (to the Bulls) if it falls outside the top 10. Sacramento must protect itself from bad lottery luck.

It might not require going full Suns, but the Kings should and will emphasize developing their young players — who, not at all incidentally, are less equipped to help the team win.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

AP Photo/Phil Long
5 Comments

Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.