The Extra Pass: The All-Mesh Team and Tuesday’s recaps

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While the Golden State Warriors were giving the Detroit Pistons the proverbial business on Tuesday night, the Warriors’ announcing crew fawned over Andre Iguodala before asking, “who wouldn’t want to play with this guy?”

It was a rhetorical question, of course, but I tried to answer it anyway. For the life of me, I couldn’t think of any joyless, Oscar the Grouchian NBA player who wouldn’t love playing with Iguodala.

And it’s easy to see why that’s the case. Iguodala defends the best player on the floor every night. He looks to distribute before anything else. He’s completely unselfish, yet he requires very little from his teammates in order to be successful. I’d be suspicious of any player who didn’t want Iguodala on their team.

Iguodala is just a player who meshes. It seems a little silly that he has only played in one All-Star game and been named to an All-Defensive team just once in his career, but guys who make a living by fitting in sometimes struggle to stand out.

There are other players like Iguodala out there. Maybe the individual accolades won’t come their way, but at least we can name them to the All-Mesh team.

PG: Pablo Prigioni, New York Knicks

Even if you don’t have a vested interest in the Knicks, watching guys like Amar’e Stoudemire and Andrea Bargnani stand around on the court is enough to make you throw things at your television. Maybe it’s the contrast that makes him so refreshing, but Pablo Prigioni is infinitely entertaining to watch.

Every assumption you probably had about Prigioni before you saw him play was incorrect. He’s 36-years-old and looks unathletic, but Prigioni plays with this non-stop motor defensively that drives opposing point guards nuts. The Knicks were 4.6 points better per 100 possessions defensively with Prigioni on the floor last year, and through six games this year, Prigioni has a true shooting percentage of 84.4 (!) percent.

Prigioni can play on or off the ball, he can space the floor and make the right swing pass, he won’t take bad shots, and he can change a game with his defensive hounding. The Knicks aren’t hard up for players who just want to score and do very little else, and so Prigioni provides some badly needed balance.

SG: Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs

You knew it wouldn’t be long until a Spur popped up on this team. Green is the preeminent “3 and D” guy in the league, but people will still make a funny face when you call him a top-10 shooting guard, for some reason.

While 3-point shooting is his calling card, what I like best about Green is his ability to protect the stars around him.

If Tony Parker is having a rough time staying with an opposing point guard, he has Green right there to take the assignment. Instead of having defenders swarm him in the post, Tim Duncan can jab step to his heart’s content because Green is sitting in the corner and keeping his man with glued to him.

His reputation is still attached to his name instead of his game, but Green is a guy literally every team could use.

SF: Andre Iguodala, Golden State Warriors

I’ve explained why he’s here, and the fact that he has fit in so incredibly well to a team loaded with wings is a testament to his blending abilities. Just thinking about how maligned he was in Philadelphia for not being Allen Iverson and shooting 35 times a game makes me sick to my stomach.

PF: Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks

We’ll cheat by listing Horford as a power forward, which he might actually prefer thanks to the long-standing tradition of talented big man (Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, LaMarcus Aldridge, etc.) not wanting to be considered centers.

If there’s something on a basketball court that Horford can’t do, let me know. He contributes in every single facet of the game, and it’s hard to imagine a frontcourt partner that would be a truly bad fit for him given his varied and balanced skill-set. Every player looks better next to him, and that says it all.

C: Marc Gasol

Before I die, I’d like to write a 40,000 word ode to the Gasol brothers and the beautiful basketball they play, but I’ll spare you for the time being.

Marc resurrected the career of Zach Randolph and conditioned Defensive Player of the Year voters to value positioning over raw blocks totals, which were two things that I thought would never happen in my lifetime.

With Pau on the decline, we should be thanking the basketball gods (or Mr. and Ms. Gasol) that we still have Marc in his prime. There aren’t many players you can say this about, but you can build an entire defense around Marc, and then run your whole offense through him as well. He’s truly a brilliant player.

-D.J. Foster

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Miami 118, Milwaukee 95: The Heat had allowed almost 109 points per game in the team’s three losses this season, and after LeBron James came out and publicly declared that this would be a point of emphasis, you knew the Bucks would be in trouble. Miami led by as many as 28 points before this one was through, and even though Ray Allen missed this on due to illness, James made sure the final outcome was never in doubt with 33 points in just under 30 minutes of action.

Dallas 105, Washington 95: Dirk Nowitzki moved into 16th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list in this one, passing Jerry West with a three-pointer late in the third quarter. As for the game itself, the Wizards were unable to dig themselves out of the hole they dug by scoring just 15 points in the second quarter while falling behind by 12 at the break. Fantasy basketball players have known about Trevor Ariza this season, but he’s starting to drift into the mainstream with performances like the one he put up in Dallas. Ariza finished with a game-high 27 points, seven rebounds, and four steals in the losing effort for the Wizards.

Golden State 113, Detroit 95: This one was over very early, as the Warriors led by 19 points after one and by 21 points at the half. Stephen Curry finished with 25 points on 10 shots in just 29 minutes, and the Warriors assisted on 28 of their 42 shots on the way to shooting 60 percent from the field for the game. Jermaine O’Neal scored 17 points in 23 minutes off the bench for Golden State — that’s how out of hand this game truly was.

L.A. Lakers 116, New Orleans 95: Jordan Hill got his first career start, and it resulted in a career-best 21 point performance, to go along with 11 rebounds. The Lakers shot almost 56 percent from the field for the game and 55 percent from three-point distance — quite a difference from their 85-point output against these same Pelicans in New Orleans just two games prior. Nick Young and Xavier Henry combined for 32 points off the bench on 13-of-19 shooting, and Anthony Davis was held in check this time around after dominating the contest during the teams’ last meeting.

Brett Pollakoff

76ers take 1 big step (and a couple smaller ones, too)

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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

Even the NBA’s worst team has only a 25% chance of getting the No. 1 pick in the lottery.

The 76ers made their own luck.

Philadelphia finished with the league’s fourth-worst record, fell to No. 5 in the lottery, swapped picks with the Kings to move up to No. 3 thanks to a two-year-old trade then traded up to No. 1 by enticing the Celtics with a future draft pick (another pick acquired in that heist of Sacramento, a Lakers pick or one of the 76ers’ own).

Whew, that’s some Process.

No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz is the latest prize in the 76ers’ reverse engineering of the NBA’s system, joining Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. That’s an exciting young core that might be ready to lift Philadelphia from years of tanking to playoff contention.

To that end, the 76ers signed J.J. Redick to a one-year, $23 million contract. The 33-year-old has already shown signs of decline, but he’s an upgrade over any shooting guard on the roster. If their other young players are ready to make the leap, the 76ers didn’t want to learn the hard way they were a starting shooting guard short of reaching the postseason. In securing an immediate boost, Philadelphia essentially paid extra for flexibility. Redick’s salary will almost certainly outpace his production, the 76ers ensured no lasting negative effects beyond this season.

The same logic could apply to Amir Johnson, who signed a one-year, $11 million contract. But Philadelphia’s frontcourt depth and the dreary market for bigs make that deal less defensible – especially if Johnson’s salary could have been reappropriated for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (who surprisingly became an unrestricted free agent) or paying Robert Covington more up front (as opposed to in future seasons, when the savings might matter more) in a renegotiation-and-extension.

With about $15 million in cap space remaining, the 76ers will likely still renegotiate-and-extend Covington once they can in November. He fits well into a deep crop of solid assets beyond the big three: Dario Saric, Richaun Holmes, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Jahlil Okafor, Justin Anderson, T.J. McConnell, Nik Stauskas, Furkan Korkmaz (the No. 26 pick last year who signed this year), all Philadelphia’s own future first-rounders plus one extra (from either the Kings or Lakers – or both, if if Philadelphia’s own pick is conveyed to Boston). The 76ers even added to the pool this summer with a couple draft-and-stash selections – No. 25 pick Anzejs Pasecniks and No. 36 pick Jonah Bolden (who I’m personally quite high on).

That grouping alone would be envy of many teams. And then there are still Embiid, Simmons and Fultz – the trio that will determine how quickly the brighter days ahead arrive in Philadelphia.

The 76ers’ revival is built on Embiid’s back – and feet and knees. He could be a generational player, but injuries have already cost him 215 games in three years and limited him to just 25 minutes per game in the 31 he has played.

Though it’s the one that looms far beyond, Embiid’s health isn’t the only potential pitfall this season. Rookie point guards – whether it be Fultz or Simmons – rarely lead good teams. It’s a position that typically requires fine-tuning.

Still, this is just the start in Philadelphia. Making the playoffs this season would be nice, but bigger goals down the road appear attainable either way.

The 76ers were in great shape entering the summer. They’re in even better shape now.

Offseason grade: B

Report: Wizards signing Donald Sloan

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The Wizards look like they solved their backup-point-guard problems with Tim Frazier.

But they also looked like they solved their backup-point-guard problems with Trey Burke and then Brandon Jennings last year – and look how that turned out.

So, even after trading for Frazier, Washington is still trying to increase stability behind John Wall.
CSN Mid-Atlantic:

The Wizards added some depth to their backcourt on Thursday by signing veteran guard Donald Sloan to a one-year deal, CSN’s Chris Miller confirmed on Thursday night.

The 29-year-old Sloan has played for the Hawks, New Orleans Hornets, Cavaliers, Pacers and Nets in a five-year NBA career. He spent last season in China.

Sloan isn’t much of a scorer, and he’s only a decent distributor. But he makes up for it with all-around adequacy, highlighted by his rebounding for his position.

The veteran will compete with second-year Sheldon Mac, whose salary is just $50,000 guaranteed, to be Washington’s third point guard.

Report: Knicks sign Nigel Hayes to partially guaranteed deal

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Nigel Hayes became a cult hero at Wisconsin for bringing a “BROKE COLLEGE ATHLETE ANYTHING HELPS” sign to GameDay and soliciting Venmo donations, challenging the stenographer in a press conference and “accidentally” calling a stenographer beautiful in front of a hot mic.

After going undrafted, Hayes and his colorful personality are headed to New York, where Knicks fans are starving for fun.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Could Hayes stick into the regular season? The Knicks have just 14 players with guaranteed salaries, leaving one more spot for a player on an standard contract. Chasson Randle has an unguaranteed salary that becomes partially guaranteed around the time training camp opens. The Knicks could also sign other players, though they’re down to just minimum exceptions.

Hayes – a 6-foot-8 forward – has a chance, but he’s most likely ticketed to New York’s minor-league affiliate after being waived by the parent club.

Who is betting favorite to win Rookie of the Year? Lonzo Ball? Ben Simmons? Depends.

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The Rookie of the Year race is wide open heading into next season.

It’s that way every year — if you had predicted Malcolm Brogdon was going to win a year ago, you would have been laughed out of the room — but this coming season has a deep pool of elite talent who will be in position to put up numbers, the usual formula for winning the award. Lonzo Ball, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, Jayson Tatum all have a real shot — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Who is the betting favorite? Depends on where you do your betting.

The William Hill’s Nevada sportsbook (which works with a number of Las Vegas casinos, such as the SLS), has these odds (hat tip ESPN):

Lonzo Ball 9-5
Ben Simmons 5-2
Dennis Smith Jr. 4-1
Markelle Fultz 13-2
De'Aaron Fox 8-1
Jayson Tatum 8-1

The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas has Simmons as the betting line favorite at 9-4

The online betting site Bovda.lv has this line

Lonzo Ball 9-4
Dennis Smith 3-1
Ben Simmons 5-1
Jayson Tatum 5-1
Markelle Fultz 8-1

Traditionally, Rookie of the Year goes to a guy who has the ball in his hands, is aggressive, and puts up raw numbers. It celebrates scorers. All of the guys on that list can do that, although Ball will be judged more on his passing and how he helps turn the Lakers into an up-tempo team. In addition to the guys on that list, Josh Jackon in Phoenix will get numbers, as might John Collins in a rebuilding Atlanta. There are sleepers down the board with a chance.

This year a whole lot of guys fit the traditional mold of a guy who can win the award, more than are mentioned here. It’s going to be a wild ride.