Boston Celtics v Charlotte Bobcats

Report: Clippers nearing two-year deal with free agent big man Byron Mullens


The Clippers have had a strong offseason, shoring up plenty of areas on the roster with a variety of moves intended to push the team to the league’s top tier, or at the very least, further than the first round of the playoffs.

The one area that L.A. is still sorely lacking in is frontcourt depth, however, and the team’s most recently reported acquisition will likely only help in that regard as a technicality, at best.

From Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:

Free-agent center Byron Mullens is nearing an agreement on a two-year contract with the Los Angeles Clippers, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

The proposed deal, which would include a player option for the 2014-15 season, is on course to be finalized late Wednesday or Thursday, sources said.

The thinking here is that the Clippers need another big body to replace the departed Ronny Turiaf, and one that will hopefully play better than the woefully ineffective Ryan Hollins. But Mullens has yet to prove capable of filling that role through his first four NBA seasons.

Mullens is that elusive “stretch four” that teams with a strong presence at the point guard position are clamoring for, but while he has no trouble taking outside shots or even launching plenty from three-point distance, they tend to go in at a very low percentage.

Last season with the Bobcats, Mullens shot 208 three-pointers, and connected on just 66 of them, good for a mark of 31.7 percent. He also shot 33.3 percent 10-15 feet from the basket, and 33 percent when he was 16-23 feet out. Most troubling, given these numbers, is the fact that 7.5 of his 10.6 field goal attempts per game came shooting jumpers from one of these spots on the floor.

Mullens isn’t known for his abilities on the defensive end either, but the Clippers needed size more than anything else at this point. Despite his known shortcomings, Mullens averaged 10.6 points and 6.4 rebounds in 26.9 minutes per game in Charlotte last season.

It’s clear right now that L.A.’s biggest challenge will be holding onto the leads built by the starters. Because once you get past Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, you’re looking at Hollins and now Mullens to come in off the bench and spell the guys who can actually play.

In other words, expect the Clippers to play a lot of small ball with the second unit next season.

51Q: Does Ty Lawson vault the Rockets into the top tier of championship contenders?

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets controls the ball against Ty Lawson #3 of the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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I see five clear upper-echelon championship contenders –  Warriors, Spurs, Clippers, Thunder and Cavaliers.

Do the Rockets belong in that group, or do they fill the next tier by themselves?

Ty Lawson – acquired for pennies on the dollar – could put Houston over the top.

But, really, this premise might not be fair to the Rockets. They earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference last season and reached the conference finals last season. James Harden finished second in MVP voting. Dwight Howard looked like a star during the playoffs. The supporting cast – Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Patrick Beverley, Corey Brewer and even Jason Terry – played better than anyone expected. Young players like Clint Capela, K.J. McDaniels, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell could make a leap at any moment.

There’s a case to be made we should have taken Houston more seriously even before trading for Lawson.

I didn’t, though, and I don’t think many others did either.

I suspect one of the biggest reasons is the Rockets’ balance. Houston – 12th in points scored per possession, sixth in points allowed per possession – was one of only two teams to win more than 51 games last season without ranking top five in either category. Of the seven teams with so many victories, the Hawks – sixth, seventh – were the only other. Atlanta was a darling team, winning 60 games after going 38-44 the season prior. The Rockets’ modest win increase, from 54 to 56, drew less attention.

But balance shouldn’t be punished. Houston’s surprisingly strong defense should be celebrated. Lawson might push its middling offense over the top.

There are reasons to question that, though.

The biggest is Lawson’s sobriety. If he’s not focused and engaged, this all goes out the window. His comments about going to rehab only because it was court-ordered raise doubts, though they hardly foretell anything.

Let’s say Lawson’s off-court problems are behind him. How big of an upgrade is he? The Rockets already had a pretty good point guard who fit well with Harden in Beverley. Lawson is a clear offensive upgrade, but in the biggest moments, the ball will still run through Harden. At that point, would you rather have Beverley or Lawson on the floor? Beverley is a far superior defender, and his off-ball offensive game isn’t far from Lawson’s. Beverley is is a fine spot-up shooter, and Lawson’s strengths involve having the ball and creating. Lawson’s biggest boost could come when Harden sits, but that was fewer than 12 minutes per game last season.

Sure, a secondary ball-handler could ease pressure on Harden throughout a long regular season. Lawson and Harden can take turns running the attack.

But we’re talking about title contention, and in those high-leverage situations, it’s Harden’s show. How much does Lawson matter then?

The Rockets have a chance to win a championship. As good a chance as the NBA’s five best teams? I’m not so sure.

UNLV following Kentucky’s lead with combine for NBA scouts

Goodluck Okonoboh, Patrick McCaw
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Kentucky held a two-day combine last season for NBA scouts.

Now, LSU and UNLV are following suit.

Rob Dauster of NBC Sports:

The Runnin’ Rebels will hold their event on October 23rd and 24th at the Mendenhall Center, UNLV’s practice facility, sources told The expectation is that all 30 NBA teams will be in attendance.

LSU has potential No. 1 pick Ben Simmons and another first-round prospect in Tim Quarterman.

UNLV features lottery prospect Stephen Zimmerman.

This won’t replace scouts attending games and watching practices, but the fact that all 30 teams plan to attend shows how seriously the pro league takes these. No college team wanted John Calipari to have that competitive advantage in recruiting, so the smart ones are leveling the field with their own combines. Soon, more college teams will follow.

As the calendar gets packed, NBA teams might have to pick and choose which they attend. At that point, we might get little clues about which prospects they’re scouting hardest.