If the Toronto Raptors are serious about making a playoff run this season they will need Kyle Lowry at the point. At 22-21 they currently lead the Atlantic Division and would be the four seed heading into the playoffs, and in the East the idea of the Raptors making the second round of the playoffs if they remain a sixth seed or higher is a reasonable one.
But being the third best team in the East this season is fool’s gold and Raptors GM Masai Ujiri knows it, he knows he needs to build long term. He also knows it is likely Lowry bolts Toronto via free agency this summer.
Which path is Toronto going to take?
Marc Stein of ESPN says other people around the league think they will be moving Lowry.
Toronto is in a good position here.
This is a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2008 and has only gone twice in the past dozen years. A playoff run, even one that just lasted one round, is something the fans would enjoy (especially since the Andrew Wiggins dream is all but dead for them). As long as Toronto keeps Lowry they are almost a lock to make the playoffs in the East (although streaking Brooklyn could catch them for the Atlantic Division lead).
And if a team does present Toronto with a good offer for Lowry, they take it and build for the future. Which is what is happening there this year whether they take a one-year detour into the postseason or not.
The bottom line, expect a lot of Lowry Trade rumors the next few weeks as we race toward the Feb. 20 trade deadline.
Joakim Noah said in January he wanted to re-sign with the Bulls. Chicago reportedly wants to keep him.
A perfect match?
Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:
According to a Bulls player, Noah has been telling teammates the last few weeks that he was done with the organization once free agency begins, and “has no trust in the front office getting this in the right direction.’’
The player was asked if Noah’s feelings had anything to do with first-year coach Fred Hoiberg and the he said, he said that went on early in the season when Noah lost his starting job, and insisted that Noah didn’t offer up that as an explanation.
What was offered up, however, was the fact that there seems to be a complete mistrust that multiple players have toward general manager Gar Forman, with Noah leading the way.
Noah and Hoiberg publicly disagreed about whose choice it was for Noah to come off the bench. Hoiberg said it was Noah’s. Noah said it was Hoiberg’s.
That looked like a petty problem, one both sides could – and maybe did – get over. But it seems Noah has deeper concerns.
This has been a rough year for the Bulls, who missed the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons. That unexpected downturn takes a toll on chemistry and brings buried problems to the surface. That’s especially true considering Chicago fired Tom Thibodeau – a coach who looks better in hindsight. If players miss Thibodeau, that opens the door for them to turn on Forman, who forced out Thibodeau.
That said, the Bulls are probably better off letting Noah walk. He’s 31 and has been banged up the last couple years. I wouldn’t commit big money to him with Taj Gibson, Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis under contract and the need for faster players to run Hoiberg’s system. Chicago can’t quickly solve its Jimmy Butler–Derrick Rose issue, because Butler is worth keeping and Rose is under contract another year on a difficult-to-trade deal. But shedding Noah and using the resulting cap flexibility elsewhere gets the team headed in the right direction.
For his part, Noah can seek a fresh start – how about with Thibodeau in Minnesota? – and find a team that suits him, either a win-now squad or a younger group seeking veteran leadership.
An Indiana player – Thomas Bryant – who likely would’ve been a first-round pick didn’t even declare for the draft without an agent.
Another Indiana player – Troy Williams – who might not even get picked will stay in the draft.
Gregg Doyel of The Indianapolis Star:
Williams, a 6-foot-7 small forward, is an excellent athlete. He’s not strong enough and hasn’t shown enough awareness to project him defending well in the NBA yet. But his length, quickness and leaping ability give him potential on that end. That and transition offense will have to carry him for now, because his outside shot is unimpressive.
There are players like Williams in every draft. It’s on him to convince a team that he has the work ethic and intelligence to refine his game.
The Warriors are taking a beating on the court, but their turmoil reached heartbreaking levels in Klay Thompson‘s press conference after Game 4.
Thompson, scanning the box score for any semblance of hope, applauded Golden State’s “40 assists” – which would have been the most in a playoff game since 1994. But he quickly realized that couldn’t be right, looked again and sadly announced Golden State had just 15 assists.
Thompson was probably looking at the Warriors’ rebounding total (which was 16 below the Thunder’s).
When Draymond Green kicked Steven Adams in the groin, it did more than create mass debate about the appropriate punishment.
Green hurt Adams badly, it sounds like.
John E. Hoover of The Franchise Tulsa:
Once you finish wincing, take a moment to appreciate how tough Adams is. He kept playing in the game and then came out in Game 4 throwing bullet passes.