Today’s most expected move: Bucks GM heaps praise on Brandon Knight

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The Bucks made their intentions clear when they went after Jeff Teague (with an offer the Hawks matched) — they were moving on from Brandon Jennings. The problem was finding a trading partner willing to take him on in a sign-and-trade deal, Jennings stock wasn’t high.

Enter Joe Dumars, who has made any signing that has flown in the face of the NBA’s trends on efficiency. He picked up Josh Smith this summer and he was interested in Jennings. A deal was made.

Which means the Bucks got Brandon Knight in return — a guard entering his third season who was once pictured as a point guard but the Pistons started to see as a catch-and-shoot two guard. Knight has said he just needs more time but he can play the point in the NBA.

Bucks GM John Hammond has got Knight now and of course the first thing you do is praise the guy you just acquired. Which is exactly what Hammond did to the Journal-Sentinel.

“He still has tremendous growth ahead after two solid years in the NBA,” Hammond said of the 21-year-old Knight. “He’s a future building block to the organization because of the kind of player and person he is….

“Let’s make it perfectly clear. He’s a starting point guard in the NBA,” Hammond said

That has yet to be determined. The Bucks have solid veteran point guard Luke Ridnour on the roster as well and we know he can start and be somewhat effective.

What Knight will get here is a real opportunity at the point. His decision making has to improve, particularly on the pick-and-roll where he turned the ball over on 20.6 percent of the possessions used and didn’t shoot well at all. He’s quick enough to get into the lane, but he isn’t taking advantage of that when he does. What Knight has been solid at is as a spot-up shooter (and in transition), but he hasn’t shown the ability to lead a half-court offense.

The Bucks are rebuilding, and Knight will get a chance to be the point guard of the future. But it’s on him now; no praise from a GM is going to make your numbers get better. And with Ridnour in house, the Bucks coaching staff has another option.

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.