Philadelphia 76ers v Boston Celtics

Trade Deadline Winners/Losers: It’s a good day to be a Pacers fan


It was the day of the role player.

There was a fair amount of action at the NBA’s trade deadline but none of it involved the big names that floated around a little — no Rajon Rondo or Pau Gasol, and Kevin Love was never in play. Still, some teams made smart moves, and some players did not have a good day.

Yes, it’s really too early to know who will be the winners and losers from the trade deadline, but we’re going to do it anyway.

WINNER: Evan Turner and the Indiana Pacers. Indiana rolled the dice here but you have to love a contending team willing to take smart risks to get better. Larry Bird showed some stones with this move. Evan Turner could be a big winner too — and could make himself a lot of money. Indiana shipped out Danny Granger, who since his return from knee surgery was a shadow of his former All-Star self — 8.3 points a game with a true shooting percentage of 49.1. Evan Turner is better scorer right now than Granger — he’s not better from three (although Evans showed a much better touch shooting 36 percent from deep last season) but he is a slashing volume scorer putting up 17 points a game and doing it with a true shooting percentage of 50.4 (below the league average but better than Granger). Turner brings to the Pacers’ second unit the kind of attacking Lance Stephenson brings to the Pacers’ first unit — just not nearly as efficiently. That is the key. Turner has benefited (and inflated his scoring totals) with the fast pace the Sixers play at, but the Pacers are betting he come in and put up numbers off the bench for Indiana. The question is how will he fit the system? Can he be effective when not pounding the rock for seven seconds than driving? Can he work off the ball? Can he defend? Can he play well with C.J. Watson and Luis Scola and blend in as a scorer? If the answer to those questions is yes not only did the already imposing Pacers get better, they got deeper (Lavoy Allen also can add some shooting to the bench). And if he shows he can fit in with a team like this, Turner will make himself more money as a free agent this summer.

LOSER: Thaddeus Young. Evan Turner is competing for a title with the Pacers now. Spencer Hawes is going to Cleveland to get passes from Kyrie Irving and see if he can help lift a team that won six in a row into the playoffs. Thaddeus Young is stuck in Philadelphia without those guys. Young is a proud, professional veteran and this kind of losing and struggling with a young team can’t be fun. Now he gets to do it alone… well except for Danny Granger.

WINNER: Golden State Warriors. Klay Thompson is second in the NBA in total minutes played. Stephen Curry is 15th on that list. That’s a lot of minutes for a guy in Curry with an injury history. Mark Jackson has had to ride his starting backcourt because of a lack of quality guard depth — Steve Blake fixes that. He is rock solid, can play the one and the two, shoots the three ball, plays well in space or in the half court, he is just a top-to-bottom professional guard. Exactly the kind of guy that the Warriors needed. Golden State stumbled before the All-Star break, this is the kind of move they needed.

LOSER: Danny Granger. You can’t feel too bad for a guy in the last year of a $13 million contract, but this had to be emotional and hard for him. Pacers fans on twitter seemed torn — their heads knew this was a smart trade by Larry Bird, but they are still emotionally invested in Danny Granger, and in his comeback. Now he gets ripped out of the place he has ever played as a pro and thrown onto a rebuilding team in Philly. That’s rough.

WINNER: Charlotte Bobcats. Charlotte may not have come into this season looking to make the playoffs, but after their fast start and now as the eight seed in the East, they don’t want to give it up. This move helps that. The Bobcats need floor-spacing shooting — Al Jefferson scores on the block and Kemba Walker is a slasher, but they need shooters and they got one in Gary Neal (36 percent from three this season, 39 percent for his career). Neal will not be asked to play the point and create in Charlotte (which is a good thing for all basketball fans), he just needs to shoot. In addition he has plenty of playoff experience from his time in San Antonio. While Ramon Sessions is a solid guard off the bench, he’s a scoring slasher, he is not a passer. Now the Bobcats bring in a solid, professional backup pure point guard in Luke Ridnour who will orchestrate the second unit. With talent around him he makes good decisions. Charlotte got better with this trade — they are just 1.5 games out of the five seed in the East and they have to look at climbing the ladder now, not worrying about who is behind them (they just swept a home-and-home from the Pistons anyway).

LOSER: Jimmer Fredette. There are just not a lot of Fredette fans in front offices around the NBA. According to reports, the Kings were asking for a second round pick for Fredette and nobody wanted to take that deal. Fredette is making $2.4 million this season and no other team thought that cost and a second pick was worth Fredette, which seems a little bit of a surprise but that is how far his stock has fallen.

WINNER: Andre Miller. Freedom, sweet freedom. He had been banished to Brian Shaw’s dog house in Denver, now he gets a chance in Washington to be the veteran voice in the locker room (along with Nene) and get some quality minutes behind John Wall. Now, Miller is an outspoken veteran and let’s just say not every one of his former players is a big Randy Wittman fan — fireworks are a real possibility — but for now Miller gets to play and be a part of a team again, and that is a win.

LOSER: We the fans. We love trades, we love to play GM and find a way we can get LeBron James and Paul George to our team and all we have to give up is an aging veteran and a case of ankle tape. And in years past we’ve seen some monster trade deadline moves in the NBA. Not the last two years. For one, the new CBA shortened contracts and teams got to amnesty their worst ones, so the day of “take my expiring contract, please” are gone. In addition, teams are hesitant to give up picks both because they like the draft (this year’s in particular but the next couple are also good) and because under the new CBA rookie contracts are important. Also, more and more deals just get done in the summer or earlier in the season (Rudy Gay and Luol Deng this season, for example). I can explain the “why?” That doesn’t make it any more fun — we love big splashy deadline day trades and we haven’t seen those for a couple of years now. And we may not for a while.

51 Questions: Is Mike Malone the key to bringing Denver back?

Michael Malone
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PBT is previewing the 2015-16 NBA season by tackling 51 big questions that we can’t wait to see answered once play tips off. We will answer one a day right up to the start of the season Oct. 27. Today’s question:

Is Mike Malone the key to bringing Denver back?

One incident sums up how bad things had gotten in Denver under the Brian Shaw regime — breaking a fourth-quarter huddle in the final game of February, Nuggets players chanted “1-2-3-six weeks!”

The players didn’t like the coach, some of them didn’t like each other, and with six weeks and 24 games left in the season they had checked out. The young players (and some of the veterans) partied so much Shaw canceled shootarounds because guys couldn’t roll in for them in the morning. Shaw had lost the team long before when he’d tried to fit square pegs into the triangle holes of his offense, and it spiraled out of control from there. The culture in Denver was broken.

Mike Malone was brought in to repair that culture.

The Jeff Van Gundy disciple has shown he can do that before. Malone was starting to build something in Sacramento (they started last season 9-6 before DeMarcus Cousins got sick), where he was asked to repair a franchise culture that by the end of the Maloof era was something akin to the Lord of the Flies. Malone also turned out to be the one coach who had gotten through to Cousins. Even with his defensive mindset and Cousins in the paint, Malone had the Kings playing at the eighth-fastest pace in the league in pace, but the Kings’ owner wanted to play faster (and maybe didn’t want to miss out on the chance to hire George Karl), so Malone got sacked.

The question becomes, is Malone alone going to turn things around in Denver and bring them back to relevance?

Not alone, and not just in one season, but he will get them on the right track.

The first step to show management was behind Malone was the trading of Ty Lawson. No doubt when focused Lawson is a quality point guard (as Houston likely benefits from this season), but he was part of the problem in the end in Denver, to the point of picking up two DUIs in six months (he checked into a rehab facility after the second one). He had mentally checked out and his example was an issue the Nuggets needed to change.

That turns the keys for the offense over to rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who impressed a lot of people at Summer League after bailing on SMU to play in China last season. But he’s still a rookie with a long way to go — as the 15 turnovers in his first two preseason games attest. Things that worked in China and Summer League don’t fly against an NBA defense.

With Mudiay at the point and a team that plays half its games at high altitude, Monroe wants to take advantage of that and get out and run. Expect the Nuggets to get back to their traditional up-tempo games, but with some things Malone loves to run (such as the Rick Adelman corner action).

But for Malone, all things — including good transition basketball — starts with defense. You have to get stops and steals to run well, and the Nuggets were 26th in the league in defensive rating last season (105.5 points allowed per 100 possessions). In the first two Nuggets preseason games, that was the Nuggets focus (with mixed results).

Malone’s challenge starts with getting Kenneth Faried to buy in and play as hard on defense as he does on offense — something Faried has never done. Faried has been a defensive minus since he entered the NBA and that becomes one of Malone’s first major projects (even if it’s just to boost Faried’s trade value). Faried, who clashed with Shaw over his role, has said he’s felt energized under Malone, now the coach just has to steer that energy to the defensive end of the court.

Malone will be searching for the right center to put next to Faried, and I expect that will mean a lot of Jusuf Nurkic (who is young and shows it at times). But also expect to see some small-ball lineups with Faried at the five. Something like Mudiay, Randy Foye, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, and Faried. A lineup with some athleticism and shooting that could put up points, but would they get any stops? If Gary Harris slots in for Foye, does that help the defense (Harris is guy Nuggets fans may see more and more of as the season goes on).

The roster is a work in progress, and if you were to bet on the Nuggets doing one thing this season, it should be making trades. Things are going to change.

There are nice pieces on the Nuggets, but not enough of them and with some real questions about how it all fits together. This is not a playoff team this season, not in the West.

But it’s a team that Malone could have playing a lot better late in the season than at the beginning, once some of those questions start to be answered, and the young players gain experience. That should be the goal in Denver. Begin to change the culture, get buy-in on the system, get guys playing hard again rather than dreaming of Cancun vacations by February. Change can be incremental, but Malone will start the change.

Then in a couple of years, you’ve got the team you want.

Well, so long as the Nuggets ownership doesn’t get impatient and decide it needs to change directions again.

Another Pelicans center down: Omer Asik out three weeks

Omer Asik, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver
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The Pelicans will have to play Anthony Davis at center now.

With backup center Alexis Ajinca already sidelined, starting center Omer Asik suffered his own injury.

Pelicans release:

The New Orleans Pelicans announced today that center Omer Asik is expected to miss the next three weeks with a right calf strain. The injury occurred during Wednesday’s practice.

If that three-week timeline is firm, Asik would miss two regular season games – at Warriors and at Trail Blazers.

Davis figured to be the most natural fit at center in Alvin Gentry’s up-tempo scheme. What happens if the Pelicans excel with him there and then stumble once Asik and Ajinca return? Because New Orleans had Bird Rights for Asik and Ajinca, re-signing them made some sense. And once they’re re-signed, Gentry must find a role for them. But that could get harder if it becomes obvious the team is best with Davis at center.

As long as Asik and Ajinca are out, Kendrick Perkins probably moves into the rotation. Jeff Adrien could also see minutes at center. Suddenly, Adrien, on an unguaranteed contract, has a much better chance of making the regular-season roster. Ryan Anderson probably plays more at power forward, too, with Davis logging more time at center.