Remember just a week or so ago when the Denver Nuggets had lost seven in a row and looked like a team destined to fall far out of the playoff picture in the West?
Now the Nuggets have turned it around with four straight wins, and while they are not in a playoff spot yet they are back in the picture.
The latest of those wins came over a sleepy, uninspired Thunder team on Thursday night, 101-88. It wasn’t that Denver was particularly brilliant, their offensive rating on the night was a tic below their season average — although Randy Foye was hot on his way to 24 points and Denver knocked down 14-of-31 three point attempts.
It’s just that Denver was solid and that was much better than whatever the Thunder were doing out there. (Insert your own “marijuana is legal in Colorado” joke here… or just find the copies of Kevin Durant’s deleted tweets from after the game Thursday night.)
Durant had 30 points on 18 shots, but without Russell Westbrook that is not going to get it done. That’s not meant as a dig at Durant, it’s just a night when the Thunder bench shot 28.6 percent, led by Jeremy Lamb going 1-of-12, Durant is going to have to have a monster scoring night to keep the Thunder in it. And he didn’t. Durant was good but just 1-of-7 from three.
By comparison the Nuggets looked as composed, like the team that has tripped up so many visitors to altitude over the years. Denver had a 9 point lead at the half then opened the third quarter on a 10-2 run, and that was pretty much your ballgame.
Ty Lawson was in great form, using his quickness to get 16 points for himself and create open looks for others. Randy Foye was 6-of-9 from three, which really opened up the entire Nuggets offense, and je finished the night with a team-high 24 points. Evan Fournier had 19 points and the kind of game that demands more minutes soon.
This isn’t a game you read anything into — the Thunder miss Westbrook terribly but we knew that already, and Denver is a team that gets hot and is pretty much right now. They just need to stay hot if they want to make the playoffs. The Nuggets will take the win just the same.
Kevin Ollie made himself one of the NBA’s hottest coaching prospects by leading UConn to the 2014 NCAA title.
He has since resisted NBA overtures, including from the Lakers in 2014 and Thunder last year.
But his peers don’t expect Ollie’s hesitance to last.
Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander of CBSSPorts.com asked more than 110 college coaches, “Which active college coach is best suited and most likely to next jump to the NBA?” The results:
Coach, college Percentage
Kevin Ollie, UConn 20 percent
Bill Self, Kansas 17 percent
John Calipari, Kentucky 16 percent
Jay Wright, Villanova 16 percent
Shaka Smart, Texas 9 percent
Tony Bennett, Virginia 8 percent
Note: Other coaches who received at least three or more votes: Sean Miller (Arizona), Larry Krystkowiak (Utah) and Avery Johnson (Alabama).
Keep in mind 80% of responds didn’t answer Ollie. But he’s still makes sense atop the leaderboard.
Ollie isn’t the typical college-to-NBA coach, and Brad Stevens and Billy Donovan – and maybe eventually Fred Hoiberg – are changing that perception, anyway. Not is Ollie showing his basketball acumen at Connecticut, his 13-year NBA career suggests he can translate his style to the next level.
Of course, Calipari always comes up on these lists. He coaches more future NBA stars than anyone, and he loves the attention that comes with the perception NBA teams are chasing him. But he has the best job in college basketball at Kentucky, so luring him will be difficult.
Self and Wright, the other coaches who got at least 10% of the vote, come up from time to time in NBA rumors. But it never seems to be anything that goes anywhere.
Frank Kaminsky ranked 119th of 165 big men in ESPN’s real plus-minus last season.
The eye test matched.
Kaminsky isn’t strong enough to defend inside, and he’s not mobile enough to defend the perimeter.
The assessment might sound harsh, but coming off his rookie season, Kaminsky put it just as bluntly.
Kaminsky, via Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer:
“I’ve got to be a better overall defender. I was overwhelmed at times,” Kaminsky said. “My preparation, obviously, needs to get better. I so want to be a more consistent player. I’d have a good game and then disappear in the next.”
Kaminsky competes defensively, and Hornets coach Steve Clifford can work with that. Despite his shortcomings, Charlotte still allowed fewer points per possession with Kaminsky on the floor than off. That had plenty to do with whom Kaminsky shared the floor, but it’s evidence his defense is already at least tolerable.
As Kaminsky acclimates to the NBA, his defense could improve. He’ll never be a great leaper, and his length is pedestrian for his position. But he moves alright and plays hard. Add better defensive recognition, and he could be fine.
Los Angeles announced today, August 24, 2016 would be Kobe Bryant Day – presumably because he wore Nos. 8 and 24 with the Lakers, not because 8-24 feels like a common shooting night for him.
But that press release understated the honor.
Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:
Kobe had a great career, and he’s beloved in Los Angeles. Honoring him with a day is a nice gesture.
But as the luster of his retirement tour dims, this will seem overreaching if it’s not just forgotten. The latter is far more likely, but when it’s remembered, Kobe Bryant Day will mostly lead to questions: Why not an annual Magic Johnson Day? Why not an annual Sandy Koufax Day? Why not an annual…
Ready for another Singler in the NBA?
Thunder forward Kyle Singler‘s brother, E.J. Singler, is headed to the Raptors.
Blake Murphy of Raptors Republic:
Toronto as 14 players – one shy of the regular-season roster limit – with guaranteed salaries. Singler will join Fred VanVleet, Jarrod Uthoff, Yanick Moreira and Drew Crawford in a crowded race for the 15th spot.
VanVleet has a leg up, because third-string point guard Delon Wright will miss the start of the season. I also like Uthoff more as a long-term prospect in a vacuum than the other players.
Singler’s advantage? His experience. He’s older than his four competitors, including VanVleet and and Uthoff, who went undrafted out of Wichita State and Iowa this year.
Singler went undrafted out of Oregon in 2013. He has since played overseas and in the D-League, including with the Raptors’ affiliate last season. The 6-foot-6 forward has a nice shooting stroke, but his subpar athleticism limits him all around.
I expect Singler to get a partial guarantee designed to entice to stay in the D-League, where the Raptors 905 still hold his rights, rather than go overseas if he doesn’t make Toronto’s regular-season roster. But first, he’ll have a chance to earn an NBA roster spot in what appears to be a fairly open race.