Chicago Bulls v Los Angeles Clippers

Luol Deng says Joakim Noah is best center in East


Who is the best center in the Eastern Conference right now? It’s moot now, but if this was the old NBA All-Star ballot and you had to vote for a center, who would it be.

We can rule out Andrew Bynum indefinitely. How about Al Horford in Atlanta, not a classic center but has played that spot well for years? Want a classic center, how about Roy Hibbert in Indiana (who is off to a slow start this season)? Tyson Chandler? Brook Lopez? Chris Bosh? Greg Monroe?

Luol Deng says none of those. He says it is Joakim Noah in Chicago. From the Post-Tribune (hat tip to SLAM):

“Hell yeah,” Luol Deng stated emphatically when asked if Joakim Noah was the best center in the Eastern Conference.

Noah himself was more diplomatic.

“Am I the best center in the East? Am I the best center in the East?” Noah said, as he thought out loud. “I don’t know man, you tell me.”

Noah is averaging a career high 14 points a game so far, but is also taking almost three shots more a game with Derrick Rose out. His shooting percentage is near his rookie-year level (48.8 percent). His percentage of rebounds grabbed while on the floor is down. His percentage of possessions that end in a turnover is up. Basically, he’s being asked to do more with Rose out and he’s doing his best.

None of that counts for Noah’s great defense and tremendous energy, what he brings is what Tom Thibodeau demands of his team nightly.

But best center in the East… sorry. I’d go with Chandler right now. Or maybe Bosh the way he has played this season. But Noah would be ahead of Bynum.

LeBron James posts photo with Tristan Thompson, sends message to Cavs

2015 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Tristan Thompson is a man without a contract. By not signing the qualifying offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers he put himself in limbo, the rare NBA holdout. Right now his options are to sign the deal on the table (the Cavs still have the five-year, $80 million offer out there), get the Sixers or Blazers to offer him a max contract (which neither team has shown any interest in doing), or hold out and hope the Cavaliers make a better offer. If he holds out for the entire season he becomes a restricted free agent again next summer — exactly like he is right now.

Without signing the qualifying offer and the threat of leaving, Thompson hurt his leverage.

But he has a little leverage. He and his agent Rich Paul had one other card, and it got played Saturday.

Get it done!!!! Straight up. #MissMyBrother @realtristan13

A photo posted by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

LeBron James and Thompson share an agent in Paul. LeBron has largely remained silent through this process but if he wants something in the Cleveland organization, he usually gets it. And he wants Thompson back at practices.

LeBron’s leverage is going to be put to the test. The Cavaliers have let it leak they are not that concerned about LeBron leaving them next summer over this — and they’re right. The damage to LeBron’s brand if he broke the hearts of Cleveland fans again would be crushing, unless he leaves for a very good reason. Overpaying Thompson is not that reason.

However, LeBron’s comment could push the Cavaliers to try to find a compromise.

For the Cavaliers, a lot of how they view all this comes down to their tax bill. The Cavaliers already have $94.9 million in guaranteed salary on the books, putting them $10.2 million over the luxury tax line, at a cost of more than $16.25 million. What this means if (or when) they sign Thompson is his first $10 million in salary would cost them $28.75 million in tax and every dollar above that for the next $5 million costs them $3.75-to-$1. Look at it this way, by my count $14 million this year to Thompson would cost $43.75 million in tax — the total for Thompson at that price is $58 million. While that’s not all on Thompson it’s a lot of cash, and Thompson wants a max deal that starts at more than $16 million a year.

Owner Dan Gilbert is already going to pay the highest tax bill in the NBA this season, but if he balks at those figures it’s hard to blame him.


Hezonja throws down one-handed dunk in preseason debut

Orlando Magic Introduce 2015 NBA Draft Picks
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Mario Hezonja, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, has never lacked for confidence. The Croatian guard made his pro debut in the Magic’s preseason game against the Hornets on Saturday and did this:

Between Hezonja, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon, the Magic have a nucleus of young players that has the potential to be a lot of fun. Even if they’re still a few years away from contending, they’re definitely going to be a League Pass favorite this year.