Report: Bucks, Suns, Pistons may try to poach J.R. Smith from Knicks

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The Knicks remain the odds-on favorite to retain their second scoring option and Sixth Man of the Year, J.R. Smith.

But there is a limit to how much they can offer him. The Knicks have Smith’s Early Bird rights (and are over the tax line), so they can only offer a deal for 175 percent of what he made last year (which would be $4.9 million) or they can offer just over the league average salary, which would be $5.4 million. The Knicks are expected to make a multi-year $5.4 million offer soon.

But another team with cap space could come in with a better offer and Smith would be forced to choose. A few teams are considering it, reports the New York Post.

The Knicks believe odds are they will retain J.R. Smith, but it hardly is a guarantee considering the bevy of under-the-cap clubs and a weak free-agent class. The Bucks, Pistons and Suns are contemplating throwing money Smith’s way.

Would Smith take a $6 million to move? How much higher does it have to be for him to walk from the Knicks?

Any offer for Smith likely comes a little ways into free agency, once those teams see how their first options work out.

There was some buzz that the Knicks were considering Monta Ellis, possibly as a replacement if they lose Smith. But the Knicks could only offer him $3.2 million a year as a free agent, which would be great value if they could get him but the more likely outcome is Ellis takes the larger paycheck somewhere else.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

AP Photo/Phil Long
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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

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The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

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In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.