Dwight Howard developing a jumper would be best offseason move for Magic

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Thumbnail image for howard_Walk.jpgThe Orlando Magic are close. They went to the NBA finals last season, the Eastern Conference finals this season. You can see a championship from where they stand.

But what is it going to take to get into the Promised Land?

It’s about getting more out of what they have, not bringing in anything new. There are already 10 guys set to be paid on the Magic roster next year and it is all the major contributors — Rashard Lewis, Vince Carter, Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson even JJ Redick will all be back (although they need to work out an extension with Redick, he can test the market but the Magic can match or extend a one-year qualifying offer).

What the Magic need more than anything is Dwight Howard to develop a jump shot. Not a Rashard Lewis bombing from three jumper, but a Kevin Garnett/Pau Gasol deadly midrange jumper. A spot along the baseline and near the free throw line where he becomes a deadly shooter that can’t be left alone.  It would change how teams have to defend him, it would open up the paint for slashers. It would make the Magic much harder to stop on offense.

This season you could count on one Dwight Howard shot outside 10 feet every other game (0.7 per game, to be specific). On those he’d shoot about 38 percent. Basically, if he lined up to take it you let him have it.

But if he had a threat from the outside he would be impossible to defend. It would add a little finesse to go with the power. He’s quick enough off the dribble that he could take centers who came out to challenge him. Help defenses would be pulled away from the basket, opening up room for Carter and Nelson to slash to the rim. The Magic would have more options.

Aside that, don’t expect huge moves from the Magic. They already have about $80 million on the books for next season, they are not going to go a lot higher. However, with the new revenue streams that will flow in when the Amway Center opens its doors, they may be able to take on a little more. Like a nice backup power forward for the midlevel exception (although they will have Brandon Bass back, they may want to give him more burn).

The Magic can get one more piece, or make some moves around the edges. But what it really comes down to is getting more out of core the pieces they have. Which is something Dwight Howard seemed to get in his post game comments.

“Next year we have got to have guys that are willing to give everything they have got to get wins,” Howard said in his televised post game press conference on NBA TV. “(Boston) played like they wanted to win the championship the whole series. That’s why they are in the position that they are in now.”

Report: Clippers take Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumor ‘very seriously’

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Want to laugh off that Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumor?

The Clippers aren’t joining you.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Clippers should be concerned. Losing Paul would unravel their entire foundation, dropping them from the fringe of championship contention to out of the title picture completely. It could even help usher out Blake Griffin, who will also be an unrestricted free agent this summer. (To be fair, Paul leaving could also help convince Griffin to stay.)

About a month ago, the Clippers reportedly expected Paul to stay. They even reportedly struck a verbal agreement with him to re-sign before that. But they can’t officially sign him until July, and that leaves the door open for him to leave.

The Clippers should be heartened by their advantages – a prime market and a projected max offer of $205 million over five years.

The most another team projects to be able to offer is $152 million over four years, and San Antonio will have a hard time doing that. Even if they trim their roster to Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Danny Green and Tony Parker, the Spurs would still have to shed two of those players to clear max cap space.

So, never say never, but the Clippers’ concern might be rooted more in the dire consequences of Paul leaving rather than the likelihood of it.

Report: Raptors, Magic can’t trade with each other for a year

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The Magic will send the Raptors a 2018 second-round pick for hiring Jeff Weltman, who was Toronto’s general manager.

But that’s not the only consequence of hire.

Yahoo Sports:

The move invoked the NBA provision that Toronto and Orlando are not permitted to trade players with each other until the earlier of May 24, 2018, or the conclusion of the 2017-18 season for either organization, league sources told The Vertical’s Shams Charania.

The NBA made a similar ruling when the Clippers sent the Celtics a first-rounder to hire Doc Rivers, and I don’t like it now, either. It’s needlessly restrictive, preventing talent from flowing to the optimal locations.

At least Orlando isn’t a logical destination for the Raptor most likely to be dealt: Jonas Valanciunas. The Magic already have enough centers with Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo – a lesson that influenced their last trade with Toronto, dealing Serge Ibaka.

2017 NBA playoffs have been historically uncompetitive

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The NBA Finals so many wanted to see – Cavaliers-Warriors III – is here.

At least it will be.

Today is the first of six off days before the 2017, which begin June 1 in Oakland.

The lengthy delay is the product of an underwhelming postseason featuring few competitive series and numerous blowouts.

Golden State swept its way through the West, and Cleveland dropped only one game (to the Celtics in the conference finals) while winning the East. There have been only two Game 7s, but considering the magnitude, neither felt that compelling. Blake Griffin‘s injury undercut the Clippers against the Jazz, and Celtics over Wizards felt inevitable with home teams winning each game of the series. Between, there have been several lackluster games and series.

There have been just 74 playoff games this year – the fewest before the Finals since since the NBA instituted a best-of-seven first round in 2003:

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That’s 74 of a possible 98 games – 76%, the lowest since 1999 and seventh-lowest ever.

Even if the Finals go seven games, it will be the fewest games in a postseason since 2007. If the Finals go five or fewer games, it’ll be the shortest postseason in this playoff format.

And it hasn’t just been quantity. The quality of games has been lacking, too.

Though there were more blowouts last year by nearly any measure, the 2017 postseason’s average margin in pre-Finals games (13.5) is fifth-highest all-time and second-highest since 1959 (behind 2016, 14.2).

Combine the two factors, and these are the drabbest playoffs in nearly 50 years. Here’s each postseason plotted by average margin in pre-Finals games and percentage of possible games pre-Finals:

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This probably just confirms what you’ve seen: The 2017 playoffs have been in a rut.

We’re all counting on the Cavaliers and Warriors to salvage this postseason, but considering how deep the hole is, anything less than an epic Finals probably won’t cut it.

Kyrie Irving crosses over Avery Bradley, hits 3-pointer (video)

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Avery Bradley got around one screen then, thanks to Kyrie Irving‘s excellent ball-handling, lunged at another that wasn’t coming as Irving hit a 3-pointer.