NBA trade deadline report cards: Portland gets an “A”

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Dwight Howard didn’t get traded and neither did any of Boston’s big three. But there were plenty of moves at the deadline. Here are our grades for each team.

Atlanta Hawks: They wanted to move one player to get themselves under the luxury tax line (they are $440,000 over it). They couldn’t do it. So they quietly sold a second-round pick to the Warriors for cash considerations to cover that tax bill. Grade: C.

Boston Celtics: They shopped the Big Three around hard, but GM Danny Ainge wasn’t going to give up Ray Allen for just a pick or a young player. He wanted both. Kind of the same thing with Paul Pierce. In the end, we get one more playoff run with the Big Three. Is that so bad? Grade: Inc.

Charlotte Bobcats: They shopped D.J. Augustin, but no move. Grade: Inc.

Chicago Bulls: You don’t mess with a contending roster. No moves. Grade: Inc.

Cleveland Cavaliers: They held out because they wanted a first-round pick for Ramon Sessions, and they got one. A pick very late in the first round (the Lakers’ pick), but that’s about as good as you’re going to do for a nice point guard who can opt out (and one the Cavs don’t really need). Grade: B.

Dallas Mavericks: They didn’t make any moves, but they get a good grade because with Dwight Howard staying in Orlando, the odds of them getting Deron Williams this summer just went way, way up. Grade B.

Denver Nuggets: They have had buyer’s remorse with Nene, who signed a five-year, $67 million deal this year and has been injured for stretch of the season and not effective in other parts. I get the concern about four more seasons with this guy. The bet they made is that George Karl can coach up JaVale McGee. That out of Washington the athletic big man will mature. I don’t like that bet. However, out of that deal (they also got Ronny Turiaf) they got a huge trade exception. They save some cash. But it will be three years before we really know if this deal works. Grade: C

Detroit Pistons: They stood pat. This is not a good team, and they had pieces that should have drawn interest, but the didn’t do anything. Pistons fans are right to be a little frustrated. Grade: Inc.

Golden State Warriors: Two moves I don’t really like. They trade away Monta Ellis and get Andrew Bogut. I get why, because when healthy, Bogut is a very good defensive center and solid on offense. But Bogut hasn’t been healthy in three years and it’s a roll of the dice on his health (and Stephen Curry’s health, because he is the backcourt leader now). Then at the deadline they swap out Stephen Jackson (who they got in the Ellis trade) for Richard Jefferson. Jefferson is a nice player, but he is making $11 million next year. That will make it hard for them to get in the free-agent game this summer. Look, both moves were about changing the culture of the team and bringing in professional, hard-working guys. But they really need pure talent, and I think they have less of it. Grade: D.

Houston Rockets: They didn’t get Howard, but they got Marcus Camby out of Portland and that is a fantastic fit for them — they have needed a defensive-minded center. All they gave up was guys such as Jonny Flynn who were not playing anyway. They take on Derek Fisher and get a first-round pick for it, but that’s not going to mean much more than a little depth. Houston is going to be a tough out in the playoffs. Grade: A-.

Indiana Pacers: They picked up a solid backup point guard in Leandro Barbosa, who might not fit their style but only cost a second-rounder. Good move. Grade: B.

Los Angeles Clippers: There are questions about what kind of player Nick Young will grow up to be in three years — and he does need to group up. But he can put the ball in the basket, shoot the three, run the floor and is very athletic — he fits in great with the Clippers. And all they gave up to get him were Brian Cook and a second-round pick. Grade: B+.

Los Angeles Lakers: They didn’t hit the home run that their fans demand, but their fans underestimate Ramon Sessions. This is a big upgrade at the point guard spot — Sessions is a slasher who looks to dish, not shoot. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum will love him. They will miss Derek Fisher in the locker room, but it’s not that big a loss on the court (except in the final 10 seconds of a game). With Sessions, the Lakers may be the biggest threat to the Thunder in the West. The grade falls a little because they shipped out both of their first-round picks this year. Grade: B.

Memphis Grizzlies: They traded Sam Young to the 76ers in a move that gets them under the luxury tax line. That’s what this was about. Grade: C.

Miami Heat: See the Bulls entry. Grade: Inc.

Milwaukee Bucks: They got Monta Ellis a couple days before the trade deadline. Personally, I like the Ellis/Brandon Jennings back court. They can up the tempo and now you have a couple dangerous slashers. My real questions are what kind of team the Bucks are building and can Scott Skiles coach it? However, short term, this might help them make the playoffs. Grade B.

Minnesota Timberwolves: David Kahn didn’t make a deadline day move? Something weird is going on here. Grade: Inc.

New Jersey Nets: They lost out on Dwight Howard, so they got Gerald Wallace. In theory their starting five is not bad — Deron Williams, MarShon Brooks, Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez. But Williams and Wallace can opt out this summer and become free agents. You really think they can keep it all together? Neither do I. Grade. D.

New Orleans Hornets: They tried to find a partner willing to take on Chris Kaman, but there were reports they were asking too much. So Kaman will leave this summer as a free agent. Grade: Inc.

New York Knicks: Does Mike Woodson for Mike D’Antoni count for a trade? Grade: Inc.

Oklahoma City Thunder: See the Heat and Bulls entries. Grade: Inc.

Orlando Magic: They kept Dwight Howard in town by calling his bluff. That is as big a win as anybody — except that it is a one-year deal, he’s not opting out early but if the Magic don’t make moves to get this team competing with the Heat and Bulls by next trade deadline we will be right back here. That said, today they celebrate. Grade: A-.

Philadelphia 76ers: They get Sam Young from the Grizzlies for basically nothing, they add some depth. That’s nice. Not thrilling but nice. Grade: B.

Phoenix Suns: No moves expected, none made. Steve Nash is still with team. Check back again in July. Grade: Inc.

Portland Trail Blazers: I love what they did today. Love it. This is not a very good team but they have some nice parts such as LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum. So they got rid of the expensive parts and brought back expiring deals. With today’s moves they will be about $25 million under the salary cap this summer (assuming Jamal Crawford opts out as expected) — they can re-sign Batum and still get a max deal free agent. Plus they have the Nets’ first-round pick this draft. That, my friends, is how you rebuild on the fly. The only thing that would have made it better is finding a taker for Raymond Felton. Grade: A.

Sacramento Kings: No moves… but they got a deal for a new arena! Grade: Inc.

San Antonio Spurs: They got the lesser player in the Stephen Jackson/Richard Jefferson swap. That said, they got the less expensive player, and Gregg Popovich and Jackson have a good relationship. Plus it’s the Spurs. You just know this will work out for them. Grade: B.

Toronto Raptors: They were going to lose Leandro Barbosa anyway after the season, so they got a second-round pick out of it. And they play Jerryd Bayless more. Grade: B-.

Utah Jazz: Stood pat. Grade: Inc.

Washington Wizards: I like bringing in Nene for this reason — it’s about changing the culture. Denver fans will tell you that Nene didn’t play through pain and was not tough, but he’s not a headcase like JaVale McGee. They had to make locker room changes and guys like Nick Young are out. They are not a lot better on the court, but they are making changes that can start to take them down that path. Grade: B-.

Steve Alford: LaVar Ball never meddled with UCLA Basketball

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Is LaVar Ball just a harmless loudmouth, or will he actually undermine the team that drafts his son, highly touted guard Lonzo Ball?

The Lakers, who hold the No. 2 pick, are the most likely team to find out.

President Magic Johnson said LaVar won’t affect whether they draft Lonzo, but coach Luke Walton wants the team to ask UCLA coach Steve Alford about LaVar’s involvement.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times did just that:

Was LaVar Ball around the team much?

“Zero,” Alford said.

Was he ever at practice?

“Never at practice,” Alford said. “Never at practice; never called me.”

Did he ever try to meddle in your coaching?

“Never,” Alford said.

LaVar has said his other sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, will play for UCLA. So, Alford has incentive to maintain a productive working relationship with LaVar. The players’ high school coach had a much worse experience dealing with LaVar.

Alford vouching for LaVar means something, but the total picture is more complex.

Still, LaVar would hardly be the first difficult parent of an NBA player. He’s just the most public. Even if he’d try to meddle into the Lakers, they might be willing to handle that to get his talented son.

John Wall: Bench was Wizards’ ‘downfall’

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John Wall left the Wizards’ season-ending loss to the Celtics talking about how badly Washington’s bench got outscored.

Now that he has time to reflect and isn’t just speaking with raw emotion shortly after a devastating loss, how does he feel?

Wall, via CSN Mid-Atlantic

“We need to help our bench,” Wall told CSN’s Chris Miller. “Just to be honest, that was our downfall in each series that we had in the [Eastern Conference] semifinals, our bench got out played.”

It starts from upstairs – just building the right bench guys and building the chemistry. That’s all it is.

I think that’s where they won the game at. I heard Marcus Smart say after the game that I had no legs. He’s basically right. I don’t make excuses. I’m going to play. If I miss shots or make shots, I’ll live with it. I know people will say he finished oh for 11, but I play – I took everything I had in me to keep fighting.

It’s just that their bench guys came in and played well. I think Kelly Oubre could’ve played a little bit more. I wish he would’ve played a little more than Jason. But coach makes the decision, and we stick behind him 100 percent. I feel like those two guys could have really helped us.

Wall – eligible for a designated-veteran-player extension but reportedly unsure about signing one – is clearly telling the Wizards what he wants. Marcin Gortat similarly criticized Washington’s bench earlier in the season, and he apologized. Wall has the leverage not to stand by his assessment.

Both Wall and Gortat were right. The Wizards’ bench was the source of much of their problems.

Washington’s starting lineup outscored opponents by 4.7 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs. Its bench (all other lineups) got outscored 15.5 points per 100 possessions.

Only the Thunder had a similar split in net rating:

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The Wizards knew their flaw and tried to hide it. Washington’s starters played 34.2 minutes per game together in the postseason – second only to the Pacers (34.5). Wall’s heavy workload contributed to him running out of gas late in Game 7 against Boston, which Marcus Smart noted.

What can the Wizards do to upgrade their bench? Spend.

They sound committed to keeping Otto Porter, a restricted free agent this summer. But that would push them near the luxury tax – so they could scrimp on the bench in a variety of ways:

  • Don’t re-sign Bojan Bogdanovic, another restricted free agent. He’s in line for a raise.
  • Trade Marcin Gortat, elevating Ian Mahinmi into the starting lineup and therefore weakening the bench.
  • Trade Jason Smith, who might be expendable at his salary (especially given Wall’s comments about not wanting him to play as much) but at least still provides depth.
  • Don’t use the mid-level exception. That’s Washington’s best mechanism for adding outside help, but it’d be costly.

Will the Wizards take any of those cost-saving measures? Wall is certainly watching.

Don’t like the wait for this year’s Finals? Here’s the top 10 plays from the last two (VIDEO)

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Que the Tom Petty

Nobody is enjoying the week-long break between the end of the Eastern Conference Finals and the start of the NBA Finals (except maybe a few of the older Cavaliers players trying to get healthy). For those of us basketball junkies, we just want to get on to the two best teams in the league battling it out.We need a fix.

Here’s the best we can do today: The top 10 plays from the last two NBA Finals, the last two Cavaliers/Warriors showdowns. Courtesy the folks at NBA.com. There’s plenty of LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and a big shot by Kyrie Irving made the list. Enjoy. And just try to be patient.

Warriors’ center Zaza Pachulia cleared to play in Game 1 of NBA Finals

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These playoffs, the Golden State Warriors have been 15.4 points per 100 possessions better when Zaza Pachulia is on the court as opposed to on the bench. That’s a bit misleading, the reason for the gaudy number is he rounds out the dominant starting lineup, which has outscored teams by 32.6 points per 100 this postseason (that is actually better than the legendary “death lineup” in these playoffs). Pachulia is just the first big in the rotation with four All-Star, powerhouse players, but he fills his role well.

Pachulia was slowed by a sore right heel against the Spurs but is 100 percent and ready to go for the Finals when they tip-off Thursday night at Oracle Arena. Here are the details via Anthony Slater of the San Jose Mercury News.

Zaza Pachulia, the only injured Warrior rotation player late in the Spurs series, has participated in all parts of all three practices, without restriction on that sore right heel. He is on track to start Game 1 of The Finals on Thursday.

“We’ve done running, had scrimmages and he’s done everything,” Mike Brown said.

He will have a crucial role on the glass against the Cavaliers. Cleveland brings two dominant rebounders to the party with Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love (plus that LeBron James guy can get some boards), the Warriors will use Pachulia to counter. Before you roll your eyes, he had 13 boards in the second meeting of these teams in the regular season, a blowout Golden State win.

He’s the first big in a rotation of them the Warriors will throw at Cleveland — JaVale McGee may get a little time, but expect a lot of small-ball lineups from the Warriors. If Pachulia can give Golden State a solid 18 minutes a night where he is strong on the glass and helps protect the rim, it will be huge for them.

Pachulia is going to get his shot, he’ll be healthy and ready to go.