Jimmer Fredette trying to find his way, Kings not helping much

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It’s been a rough rookie year for Jimmer Fredette.

In college he was a pure scorer who could do no wrong, racking up big numbers in the face of double teams while setting his teammates. His team won and he was the Golden Child. In the NBA, with its longer defenders, he is shooting just 36 percent off the Sacramento bench as they lose a whole lot of games. He’s scoring 8.5 points per game but needs 8.3 shots to get there. On defense he is getting exposed and intentionally isolated by opposing teams.

His PER of 10.4 would mean you barely get off the bench most places. The Kings just don’t have a choice (and they rightfully think he can improve with experience, so he gets some hard lessons).

What happened to the gunner Jimmer? Sebastian Pruiti does a fantastic breakdown over at Grantland and the answer is he hasn’t been able to adjust to being less athletic than just about everyone on the court yet. And, the Kings have been playing him out of position.

But things are changing.

Regarding positioning, Fredette has gotten a lot of run as a point guard. He was a decent passer in college, but he was a scorer not a set up man. Why the point now? Well, one reason is Paul Westphal, but that coach has been kicked to the curb. The other issue is the Kings don’t really have a choice. They have Tyreke Evans and then, well, why not give Jimmer a shot?

So how often has Fredette been running the point? According to82games.com, 37 percent of the Kings’ point guard minutes have gone to him. The problem? He’s been very bad during those minutes, averaging 4.6 assists per 48 minutes and 3.5 turnovers per 48. He commits most of his turnovers in pick-and-roll situations, where Fredette loses the ball 14.8 percent of the time. Fredette has been such an ineffective pick-and-roll ball handler because he doesn’t put much pressure on defenses when he uses ball screens.

According to MySynergySports.com, 31.9 percent of Fredette’s offensive opportunities come when he is the ball handler in the pick-and-roll, and he shoots 35.6 percent in that situation. As already noted he turns the ball over a lot in that role. Bad combo.

But that’s not how any of us pictured Jimmer — we thought more Ray Allen, a guy who can run off screens and catch-and–shoot. Except he is getting very few chances off screens. And that’s on him.

When Fredette moves without the ball, he runs in straight lines, rarely changes his pace, and almost never creates contact with his defender. This allows his defenders to “lock and trail” him, so when Fredette receives a pass the defense is already smothering him. With the defense too close for a catch-and-shoot, Fredette is forced to create a shot using his dribble.

The athletes in the NBA can keep up with Jimmer in a way the defenders in the Mountain West Conference could not. Every shot is contested by a very long arm that closes out quickly.

But the last couple games it has been different — he is 8-of-12 from three his last couple games.

Coach Keith Smart is still having him work off ball screens. However, there is one significant difference between the ball screens Fredette has been using in the past two games and the ones he used the rest of the season. Now, the Kings are setting more screens for Fredette on the side of the court and not at the top of the 3-point line. Sacramento has been pairing him with another primary ball handler like Evans or Thomas and passing to Fredette on the wing.

It’s a start. He has to score if he wants to see the court. Eventually he’s going to have to improve his defense, which is harder because most of the two guards he’s asked to stick with are faster and a couple inches taller. But there is a role out there for Fredette — he can shoot, and if you can put the ball in the basket teams will find a way to use you.

But we are a long way — and a lot of work — from Jimmer being the guy so many hoped he would be.

Report: Suns inform Josh Jackson he will not be part of any Kyrie Irving trade

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The Cleveland Cavaliers want an elite young player back in any trade of Kyrie Irving.

The Phoenix Suns have come up as a trade partner, because of Eric Bledsoe‘s salary, fit with Cleveland if Irving is gone, and the fact he and LeBron James share an agent.

And those suns have an elite young player — Josh Jackson. Taken fourth in the last draft, Jackson showed fantastic athleticism at Summer League, disruptive defense, the ability to make plays around the rim, and while his jumper needs some work there is genuine promise.

Which is why the Suns are not going to include Jackson in any Irving trade.

If the Suns are involved in an Irving trade, it’s likely as part of a three-team deal. Bledsoe would still go out, and Phoenix might be willing to throw in young players such as Marquese Chriss or Dragan Bender, depending on what they got back.

That is the key — the return. Phoenix is rebuilding, Bledsoe is their best trade chip, and if he is going out the door, they are going to want real quality back in return. They are not in this to be a salary dump location, the Suns are going to want young players who can make a difference and picks. Most of the trade scenarios floating around in public forums use Phoenix as the dumping ground in the three- or four-team deals, just know that is not going to happen. The Suns want value for their best trade asset.

Rumor: Are these the new Cleveland Cavaliers Nike uniforms? (PHOTOS)

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Nike will be taking over the NBA uniforms for the 2017-18 season, and now it looks like we have some leaked photos of the Cleveland Cavaliers’ new look.

A photo posted to Twitter on Tuesday showed a mannequin dressed in what appears to be Cleveland’s new wine-colored uniforms.

Nike released some information about their new uniforms recently, including the naming conventions which will be associated with certain editions of team uniforms. Those editions are called The Association, The Icon, The Athlete’s Mindset, and The Community.

The wine edition of the Cleveland uniform would fall under the category of the Icon.

Via Twitter:

Those certainly seem to go along with some of the uniforms that were released during Nikes original release. It’s also hard understand why someone would have a full dress mock up on a mannequin with the Nike logo on it, especially as it is so close to what we have seen from Nike.

Conrad over at Sports Logos has been kind enough to mock up what the Cavaliers uniforms should look like for both the icon and association additions.

Via Sports Logos:

What do you think? I am liking them so far.

Mike Muscala signs 2-year, $10 million deal to remain with Hawks

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ATLANTA (AP) The Atlanta Hawks have re-signed power forward Mike Muscala to a two-year, $10 million deal.

The 6-foot-11 Muscala, who was an unrestricted free agent, could play a bigger role as he returns for his fifth season following the departures of Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard.

Muscala set career highs by averaging 6.2 points and 3.4 rebounds in 70 games, including three starts, last season. He scored in double figures in 20 games and ranked second on the team by making 50.4 percent of his shots from the field.

The team announced the signing Tuesday.

More AP NBA: https://www.apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

With Allen Crabbe in Brooklyn, what do the Blazers do now?

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Allen Crabbe is now a member of the Brooklyn Nets, this time for good.

The Portland Trail Blazers a traded Crabbe to the team that signed him to a massive four-year, $75 million restricted free agent deal in the summer of 2016. In exchange for Crabbe’s services, the Trail Blazers received Andrew Nicholson, a struggling young big man who the Blazers will reportedly waive using the stretch provision.

The move gets Portland closer to the tax line, shaving off and estimated $43 million off of their luxury tax bill. That’s the primary motivation for this trade of a young, talented 3-point shooter and it sort of begs the question: Just what are the Blazers doing?

To understand the Crabbe trade in context, you have to go back to last summer. Portland was in the hunt for several big name players, including Pau Gasol, Hassan Whiteside, and Chandler Parsons.

Portland, never a big free agent destination, missed out on all three, instead having to panic at the last second. The Nets extended a huge offer sheet to Crabbe on July 7, the same day that Portland agreed to a similarly huge contract with Evan Turner.

With their free agent targets gone, Portland had to do the next best thing: retain talent.

After signing Turner, the Blazers matched Crabbe a few days later. They also signed contracts with Meyers Leonard and Maurice Harkless, and extended C.J. McCollum. Between Turner, Leonard, Harkless, and McCollum the Blazers have committed $62 million to just four players in 2017-18. That’s after wiping Crabbe’s $19 million off the books.

There’s little doubt President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey has been trying to find trade suitors for Crabbe once he got past the RFA trade moratorium. Likewise, the team seems to have soured on Leonard, coming off of a shoulder injury and who told NBC Sports last season that he didn’t feel fully healthy until the end of winter.

The team was massively disappointing compared to their magical run in 2015-16. Still, there hasn’t been reason to panic in Oregon given that Olshey’s plan with this team since last summer was to swap their assets for a powerful starting lineup.

That plan began to flounder when Crabbe didn’t play up to expectations and when Leonard and Harkless didn’t show continued growth on expectations from seasons past.

Crabbe is an excellent 3-point shooter, but he is also thought of as a potentially great defender. In 2016-17 he looked lost at times on defense, especially when it came to defending top-level players or when he was in weak side situations off the ball. His value plateaued.

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That’s to state nothing of the rest of the team’s performance, specifically by Al-Farouq Aminu. Aminu was vastly important to Portland’s bottom-feeding defense, but he became a liability as a 3-point shooter, allowing teams to help off of the pick-and-roll involving Lillard and McCollum. Turner, never a good fit on paper, didn’t really figure out how to play with the team until he returned from injury later in the season. Rumors around Portland have been that Turner has been favored over Crabbe to remain with the team because of the ball-handling relief he could bring to Lillard and McCollum. Jusuf Nurkic came at the deadline, and was a savior for the team until he fractured his leg late in the year.

Portland’s first cause for concern came during June’s draft. Olshey, flush with three first round draft picks, a burgeoning guard in Crabbe, and several players with deflated trade value, could not find a suitable deal. Olshey had to settle, trading two of his first round picks to move up and take Gonzaga’s Zach Collins as Leonard’s replacement.

That move signaled that Portland’s assets weren’t as valuable as Olshey was hoping they would be. Part of that is due to the performance of the players involved, and part was due to the lower standing of Portland’s draft picks. There’s also something to be said about the NBA’s cap not expanding to the level teams projected, making the salaries of Turner, Crabbe, Leonard, and Harkless less palatable.

This is how we end up with a talented but flawed young player like Crabbe getting moved for a salary dump.

No doubt Olshey’s expectation when he matched — which was the right thing to do, by the way — was to use him and his picks in a future deal to return a third or fourth piece to the starting lineup for Portland. But the tone has swung, and now many are suggesting it was commendable that Olshey did not have to include a first round pick in order to offload Crabbe. That is really a head-scratching way to look at things, and a huge swing in expected value.

Portland is in a tough position given that none of their recommended moves from last year seem to have gone their way. Still, Olshey has been a good GM for the Blazers. He spun wheat into gold by trading for Robin Lopez, and grabbed Nurkic, a potential franchise building block center when he’s healthy for a non-championship caliber big man in Mason Plumlee. He locked down Aminu on a descending salary deal. He has done quite a bit.

Portland still has the ability to be a trade partner in deals including Carmelo Anthony, which could net them usable players or potential future assets. But what is getting harder to understand is how Portland is going to get any better outside of the roster they have now given salary considerations, team fit, and ceiling.

Drastic internal development or relenting on either Turner or the Lillard-McCollum backcourt pairing are likely the only two realistic ways the Blazers will be able to make a dent next year. Or perhaps fans in Portland can hope that Olshey will be able to work his magic yet again and turn one of their role players into a playoff spot.

The 2017-18 season has been weird enough as it is. Portland can head south of their competition or finagle their way to the postseason. At this point, neither would surprise me.