Antoine Walker D-League

The NBA D-League Showcase Begins Today. Wait, What’s A D-League Showcase?

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The eighth annual NBA Development League Showcase will tip off at 1 p.m. ET on Monday afternoon as executives from all 30 NBA teams (and your’s truly for Pro Basketball Talk) converge on Reno, Nev., to get an in-person look at the top prospects playing in the NBA’s official minor league. The D-League has quite a bit of talent in the league this season, too, meaning at least a couple of call-ups could happen with standout play this week.

Over the next four days, all 16 D-League teams — from everyone’s favorite team, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ own expansion Canton Charge — will play two games as they look to showcase their talents in hopes of moving up to the next level. There’s a pretty good chance of moving up to the next level, too, considering 138 players have already earned their way from the D-League to the big league in the past with the Showcase usually kickstarting that process each season.

The talent at this year’s Showcase is going to be phenomenal. I know what you’re thinking: ‘It’s the freakin’ D-League … How is it possible for you, Mr. New Guy, to come here and say the games are even going to be worth watching, let alone phenomenal?’

Tough crowd.

To answer that question, though, this summer’s NBA lockout forced quite a few players to stay close to home in hopes of making their way into the NBA by way of training camp invites. Not many were able to make it via that route, however, and the majority of overseas jobs were filled by players back in September after the “how u” Tweet ended up being a lot less promising than it sounded on first read.

Training camp cuts aren’t the only well-known names playing in Reno this week, however, as there are quite a few ballers from yesteryear hoping to show scouts and executives in attendance that they’re worth one more contract even if they are past their prime. Some of the more well-known names that will be in action this week include the notorious Ricky Davis, a non-flattopped Greg Ostertag, a still-shimmying Antoine Walker, 12-year journeyman Mikki Moore and (former?) sharpshooter Damon Jones as they look to get called up to the same league they were starters in earlier in their career.

The ‘D’ in D-League does stand for development, however, so there will be a decent number of youngsters in attendance as well. NBA teams have assigned some of their brightest youngsters to get some in-game seasoning this week as three first round picks — Marcus Morris of the Houston Rockets, the Denver Nuggets’ Jordan Hamilton and San Antonio Spurs guard Cory Joseph — join veterans like Yi Jianlian and Sean Williams (yes, the guy who puked all over that can also kiss the rim) as players assigned by NBA teams to get some seasoning until the big club is able to utilize their talents in the rotation.

Along with the aging veterans and players owned by NBA teams that have been sent down on assginment, there are plenty of players available for any NBA team to call-up.

Former NBA Draft picks JamesOn Curry, Gerald Green, Mardy Collins, Terrico White, Orien Greene and Da’Sean Butler litter rosters around the D-League. There are also undrafted players with NBA experience — like Bobby Simmons, Blake Ahearn, Larry Owens, Maurice Baker and Renaldo Major — and guys that aren’t household names quite yet, but could be soon (a la Ivan Johnson last week with the Atlanta Hawks) such as Justin Dentmon, Courtney Fortson, Edwin Ubiles, Charles Garcia and Jeff Foote.

Those players and more will be looking to gain not only the attention of scouts around the NBA this week, but fans of basketball as well as 12 of the 16 Showcase games will be broadcast on NBA TV with veteran play-by-play man Chad Andrus joining Kenyon Murray to call the action from courtside.

A full schedule of this week’s action is available here, but Pro Basketball Talk will provide a preview of each day’s action, interviews featuring the players and scouts in attendance and recaps of the standouts each day — Stay tuned!

Even without Stephen Curry, adjusting for playoff rotations still favors Warriors over Trail Blazers

Portland Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard, right, drives the ball against Golden State Warriors' Draymond Green (23) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, April 3, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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When the Warriors put five players expected to be in the playoff rotation on the floor during the regular season, they outscored opponents by 20.9 points per 100 possessions.

No other team even neared that level with five of its own playoff-rotation players.

The second-place Spurs (+13.1 adjusted net rating) were closer to 10th place than first place.

But Golden State’s supremacy obviously took a hit when Stephen Curry got hurt. How do the Warriors rate without him in the rotation?

As I did before the first round, I’ve used nba wowy! to rank Western Conference playoff teams by net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating), counting only lineups that include five players in the team’s postseason rotation. Both the regular season and first round factored.

I wrote more about the Thunder’s and Spurs’ adjusted ratings yesterday. The East will come after its second-round series are set.

For now, here’s each Western Conference team’s rating, from the regular season adjusted to only lineups that include five players projected to be in the second-round rotation:

Western Conference

2. San Antonio Spurs

  • Offensive rating: 110.5 to 110.0
  • Defensive rating: 99.4 to 96.1
  • Net rating: +11.1 to +13.9

3. Oklahoma City Thunder

  • Offensive rating: 113.6 to 117.3
  • Defensive rating: 106.0 to 104.6
  • Net rating: +7.6 to +12.7

1. Golden State Warriors

  • Offensive rating: 114.9 to 119.7 to 109.1
  • Defensive rating: 104.1 to 98.8 to 103.8
  • Net rating: +10.8 to +20.9 to +5.3

5. Portland Trail Blazers

  • Offensive rating: 108.9 to 111.0 to 110.3
  • Defensive rating: 108.2 to 107.9 to 107.5
  • Net rating: +0.7 to +3.1 to +2.8

Observations:

  • By this metric, there’s a clear main event and undercard here – at least if the Spurs and Thunder don’t keep playing like they did last night.
  • Golden State obviously takes a big tumble without Curry, but this measure shows the limit of saying the Warriors got outscored by 3.7 points per 100 possessions without Curry during the regular season. Golden State’s other top players – Draymond Green (88%), Klay Thompson (85%), Andrew Bogut (85%), Harrison Barnes (66%) and Andre Iguodala (60%) – played a majority of their minutes with Curry. Put them on the court more in these Curry-less games, and it’ll help.
  • With Curry in the rotation (and Ian Clark and Brandon Rush out), the Warriors’ adjusted offensive/defensing/net ratings shoot right back up into the stratosphere: 119.8/98.7/+21.1. Golden State must just holds its ground until Curry returns. This measure suggests the Warriors can against Portland, especially with home-court advantage also in their favor.

Playoff Preview: Four things to watch in Portland vs. Golden State series

at ORACLE Arena on April 3, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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Portland has wildly exceeded expectations this season, making the playoffs as the five seed and getting past a banged-up Clippers team to the second round. But the NBA does not do Cinderellas well, this will be the end of the road. Here are the four questions we’re asking heading into this series.

1) When will Stephen Curry return? If Portland has a chance in this series, they need to do a lot of damage before the past-and-future MVP returns from his sprained knee. The question is when will that be? Curry is out for Game 1 and has yet to do any on court work, but Steve Kerr would not rule him out for Game 2 on Tuesday, although that may be gamesmanship as much as anything. But after Game 2 the teams are off for four days until the Saturday, May 7, and that may be enough time for him to return. Whenever he does come back, the dynamics change and the Warriors become a much more dangerous, much better team — one Portland can’t handle. The Blazers need to get all the wins early in this series they can.

Which isn’t very easy, Curry or no.

2) How will the Warriors defend Damian Lillard? When Lillard has gone up against his hometown team — he’s from Oakland — he averaged 36.5 points per game this season. Expect Klay Thompson to draw the assignment to cover him at the start of games, but also expect the Warriors to steal a page from the Clippers’ strategy and trap Lillard and C.J. McCollum each time they come off a pick. The idea is to force the ball out of the hands of the two best playmakers and make Al-Farouq Aminu or Maurice Harkless or anyone else beat you. Aminu and Harkless will find the Warriors defense works on a string better than the Clippers and their shots will get contested.

However, most of the time, the Warriors will switch the pick-and-roll, which they usually do (especially when they go small) and Lillard will find Draymond Green in his face. Blazers coach Terry Stotts has to find ways to get Lillard playing downhill off those picks to have a chance.

3) Can the Trail Blazers hit their threes? In Portland’s win over Golden State in the regular season (just after the All-Star break), they put up 137 points and made it rain threes — the Trail Blazers need to do that again. However, the Warriors were one of the better teams in the league at defending the arc this season, holding opponents to 33.2 percent from deep (second best in the league) and allowing the second fewest corner threes (although they are more willing to allow threes above the arc). Portland does not have a good enough defense to stop Golden State consistently even without Curry, they will just have to outscore the Warriors, and to do that it has to rain threes again.

4) How will Portland defend Klay Thompson and Draymond Green? Both of these key Warriors cogs had strong regular seasons against Portland — Green averaged 16 points, 12 rebounds, and 8.8 assists, while Thompson averaged 29.3 points shooting 59.4 percent from three. Obviously, that was with Curry on the floor drawing defenders, but Portland is not exactly known for their lock-down defense. Without Curry, expect Aminu to get a lot of time on Thompson, but that alone is not going to slow him. Also, expect the Warriors to post up Thompson, Shaun Livingston, or anyone else that Lillard and McCollum guard — the hardest part about defending Golden State is there is no place to hide weak defenders. The Warriors will expose the Portland defense.

Prediction: Warriors in 6. And that assumes Curry is out until Game 5, if he is back earlier than that the series likely ends in 5.

Report: Heat complained to ‘highest levels of the league office’ about favorable calls for Jeremy Lin and Kemba Walker

Charlotte Hornets' Kemba Walker (15) is congratulated by Jeremy Lin (7) after making a basket against the Sacramento Kings in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Nov. 23, 2015. The Hornets won 127-122 in overtime. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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The Heat and Hornets are clearly tiring of each other, six games of testiness culminating with Game 7 today.

One particular battle line being drawn is over Jeremy Lin (6.3) and Kemba Walker (5.5), who lead players in this series in free-throw attempts per game.

Marc Stein:

ESPN sources say that one of the factors that ramped up the tension between the teams stems from Miami complaints to the highest levels of the league office after Game 4 about what the Heat deemed to be favorable officiating for Jeremy Lin and Kemba Walker.

Lin and Walker relentlessly driven to the basket. That’s why they’ve attempted so many free throws. If Miami wants to keep them off the line, trap them harder on the perimeter.

That said, this is part of playoff gamesmanship. If the Heat plant a seed with referees – through the league office or otherwise – that Lin and Walker are drawing too many fouls, maybe that affects a call today. With the margins so narrow, every little bit helps.

Watch LaMarcus Aldridge drop 38 on Thunder

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Oklahoma City has more than a few adjustments to make after a brutal defensive effort in Game 1 of their series against San Antonio, but at the top of the list is sticking with LaMarcus Aldridge on defense.

He was killing them from the midrange, and more than half of his looks were uncontested — the Thunder know he can knock down that shot, right?

It was a fantastic performance from Aldridge; we’ll see if he faces tougher defense in Game 2.