Three Stars of the Night: All Purpose Big Man Edition

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Defense. Rebounding. Points in the paint. Toughness.

When you think of an NBA big man, these are likely the qualities you’re looking for. You want the guy who can get your team baskets close to the rim, stop the other team from doing the same, and do it all while giving your team a sense of physicality.

Of course, you also want your big man to have great skill and feel for the game. Because while all those other traits are great, being able to play through your big man at the high post is also a tremendous asset. Being able to give him the ball at the elbow, survey the defense, and make the right read to an open teammate, is invaluable.

Tonight, our Three Stars give you the best of both worlds. They are the all-purpose bigs. Let’s go…

Third Star: David Lee (21 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists)

Every night David Lee just continues to prove why he’s making the all-star team next month. Offensively, he’s just a load with touch out to 20 feet and the ability to finish with all varieties of shots in the paint. And, with Andrew Bogut back, Lee’s improved defense should become even more reliable. But the most underrated part of his game is his facilitating, where Lee often works with the ball in his hands around the edges of the Warriors offense playing set up man for their other scoring threats. Against the Raptors, this part of Lee’s game was on full display as he zipped passes to Klay Thompson and Steph Curry for open jumpers and tapped touch passes to Bogut for dunks inside.

Second Star: Joakim Noah (13 points, 18 rebounds, 7 assists, 5 blocks)

There may not be a big man in the East playing a more well rounded game than Noah. Of course, his defense is some of the best in the league, both in the pivot and in blowing up pick and rolls with his quickness and smarts. And while he’s not the biggest scoring threat, he does well enough on that end to help his team. And when you add in his tremendous passing from the high post in the Bulls’ offensive sets where off ball screens are being used to compensate for Derrick Rose’s absence, Noah’s full game is simply a joy to watch. Well, unless you’re the opponent, like the Bobcats were tonight. Noah’s work on the glass and in setting up his mates were just as big to the victory as Jimmy Butler’s continued strong efforts on offense or Nate Robinson getting hot. There really aren’t that many big men that can give you the type of night that Noah did.

First Star: Marc Gasol (27 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, game sealing block)

On most nights, Gasol gives you all-star level impact but not necessarily the numbers to go with it. But, maybe  the West coaches should have chosen Gasol to the all-star team and saved themselves this level of fury, because sine he was snubbed he’s giving the numbers and the impact. Against the 76ers, Gasol brought all aspects of his offensive game, scoring in the paint and from range with his jumper while also bringing his trademark elite passing. His jumper was wet and his defense was rock solid too. And when the game was on the line, he got the block that sealed the game.

Jimmy Butler leaves game with apparently serious right knee injury

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The Basketball Gods have not been appeased, and apparently have dealt the NBA another serious injury to a star player.

Jimmy Butler — Minnesota’s leader, an All-Star, and a guy having a fringe of the MVP ballot NBA season — went down grabbing his knee on this play against the Rockets Friday night.

Butler reportedly said “it’s torn” while being helped off the court.

After the game, Tom Thibodeau said it was a right knee injury that would be re-evaluated with an MRI tomorrow.

This is a non-contact injury that has the appearance of an ACL tear (hope that is not the case). Butler had ripped an offensive rebound away from Nene and was making a move to go back up when he went to the ground grabbing his knee.

Butler leads the NBA in minutes played per game. He was selected an All-Star but chose to sit out that game because he said he needed rest for the rest of the season. His coach, Tom Thibodeau, has a reputation for running players into exhaustion with heavy use (ask Joakim Noah) and does not subscribe to the kind of rest we see in Golden State, San Antonio, and other elite programs trying to keep players fresh.

This is troubling for a Timberwolves team looking to end an 11-year playoff drought — Minnesota is -8.3 points per 100 possessions when Butler is not on the court this season. While tied for the three seed going into Friday night, Minnesota is just four games from falling out of the playoffs in a competitive West.

Jimmy Butler to Lou Williams on All-Star snub: put up $100K for 1-on-1 game

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Jimmy Butler earned his spot on the All-Star team — he’s had an All-NBA, bottom of the MVP ballot level season. He deserved the trip to Los Angeles.

But when he got there, Butler didn’t play in the All-Star Game itself, saying he needed to rest. That frustrated a few All-Star snubs, and Lou Williams called him out on it.

Butler fired back before the Timberwolves took on the Houston Rockets.

“My thing is this, to Lou or anyone else who thinks they’re an All-Star, with all due respect, LeBron and them got $100,000 for winning, so if you got $100k to put up, you guard me I guard you, I’ gonna show you why. All this talk, put $100,000 up and I’ll show you why and where I’m at.” (That may have been paraphrased)

Butler earned his spot, he deserved to be there. He can do as he sees fit.

But if you’re not going to roll out there for even five minutes (LaMarcus Aldridge played four and nobody is saying anything to him), then give the spot up to someone else. You don’t need the $100K that badly.

Kevin Durant no fan of one-and-done, says he would have come straight to NBA

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With the money funneled to future NBA players through agents in the spotlight thanks to a FBI investigation (one that doesn’t even get into the money from boosters and shoe companies), the one-and-done rule the NBA has for players sending them to college for a semester of cakewalk classes one year has come back in the spotlight.

The league and players’ union are discussing changing the rule — with some input from the NCAA. If they want Kevin Durant‘s advice, scrap the whole thing — he would have come straight to the NBA if he could have.

“You want these players to go out there and play on the biggest stage. The Final Four is one of the biggest sporting events in the world, in sports, and they don’t get a dime for it. I don’t think it’s right

“If they want to come out of high school, it should be on them. You know what I mean? You can’t control everything. So if they feel as though they’re ready, that’s on them. They want to make a decision on their life, that’s on them. If they don’t get drafted, it’s on them. You can try to control it, but you’re still not really doing anything.”

Would Durant have come out from high school rather than spend a season at Texas?

“Yeah, probably. I needed the money.”

The NBA is discussing changes, and they want to see the recommendations from Condoleezza Rice’s NCAA commission. But the league’s owners are not all on the same page.

“In terms of the NBA, we’re conflicted, to be honest…” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said All-Star weekend. “And from a league standpoint, on one hand, we think we have a better draft when we’ve had an opportunity to see these young players play an elite level before they come into the NBA.

“On the other hand, I think the question for the league is, in terms of their ultimate success, are we better off intersecting with them a little bit younger? Are we better off bringing them into the league when they’re 18 using our G League as it was designed to be as a Development League and getting them minutes on the court there? And there is also recognition that for some of these elite players, there is no question that they can perform in the NBA at 18 years old.”

There seems to be some momentum toward a “baseball rule” compromise — players can come to the NBA straight out of high school, but if they go to college they have to stay for at least two years. Unlike the last time high schoolers were rushing into the NBA, most teams are far better prepared to develop young players and be patient with them. There will still be busts — there are even with guys who spent years in college — but teams are in better positions to make it work.

The other thing I would want to see: If a player signs with an agent out of high school, does not get drafted, give him the chance to go to college still. Some young men are going to get terrible advice (from family, AAU coaches, friends, a whole lot of people) and they deserve a chance to choose a better path.

Report: Hawks near buyout with Ersan Ilyasova; Bucks, Raptors interested

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This is about as big a surprise as my wife crying during “This Is Us,” but it sounds like it’s about to go down.

The Hawks and Ersan Ilyasova are close to a buyout, reports Michael Cunningham at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The Hawks and forward Ersan Ilyasova tentatively agreed to a buyout of the remainder of his contract, according to a person familiar with the negotiations. Once Ilyasova accepts a buyout and clears waivers, as expected, he will be free to sign with any other team for the rest of the season.

Ilyasova’s contract expires at the end of the season and he is eligible to become a free agent in the summer. Earlier this month, Ilyasova invoked his right to reject the trade offers the Hawks presented to him.

Where might he land on the buyout market?

A lot of teams could use a 6’10” guy who can space the floor as a shooter. Ilyasova signed a one-year, $6 million contract with the Hawks this season. He’s averaged 10.9 points per game, shooting 35.9 percent from three this season, and missed some time with a shoulder injury.

Ilyasova is solid as a spot-up guy but is more dangerous as a screen setter where he can pop out and space the floor, or roll and use his size inside. He’s also good at cutting and working off the ball, plus will get a team a few offensive rebounds. He’s not a game changer, but in certain matchups, he could help teams a lot.