That is what James Harden brings to the table — elite level scoring. He can flat out knock it down.
That three gave Harden 17 points in the fourth quarter as the Rockets came from 13 back to force overtime on the shot above, then in OT Harden and Jeremy Lin (9 points in the fourth, six in OT) pushed Houston to a 118-113 win over Portland. Harden finished the night with 41 points, Lin added 26.
Houston again largely did it with offense over defense (the Trail Blazers still had an offensive rating of 103.2 points per 100 possessions) — actually they really did it with threes. Houston started the game 4-of-19 from three and nothing seemed to fall, but they made 5-of-10 3-from beyond the arc to close out the game and close up the gap the Trail Blazers had made.
This week the Rockets beat the Heat, Pacers and now Trail Blazers — they have passed this test with flying colors and look every bit the contender in the West.
Portland faced another tough loss — early in the season these close games went their way, but things have a way of leveling out. LaMarcus Aldridge had another big game with 28 points, 12 rebounds, Wesley Matthews added 26 points and Damian Lillard had 21 points despite a night of foul trouble.
When asked my prediction for the 2017 NBA champion, I say the Warriors have about a 50-50 chance. Some call that a copout answer – but it’s really not.
For a team to have even odds against 29 others combined entering the season is extraordinary.
Just how rare is it?
David Purdum of ESPN:
Jeff Sherman, head NBA oddsmaker at the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas, remembers the 1997-98 Bulls team, which was coming off a 72-win season, being around a minus-125 title favorite entering that season.
But Sherman and other sports betting industry veterans struggled to recall another team — in basketball, baseball or football — that was an odds-on favorite to start the season.
Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman and Scottie Pippen led Chicago to the championship in 1998 (which was actually two seasons removed from the 72-win year).
Will Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson also meet their oversized expectations and deliver a title this year?
Flip a coin.
Tyus Jones has a lot to like — he’s a point guard who makes good decisions, his shot is developing (40 percent from three at Summer League), and he’s got skills. Minnesota won the Summer League championship because of Jones’ leadership — just drafted and highly touted Kris Dunn was out for the title game, that’s where Jones shined.
But Dunn is the future at the point in Minnesota, and Ricky Rubio is still there. So Minnesota is seeing what might be out there for Jones, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.
Minnesota has had talks with Philadelphia, New Orleans, and others about Jones for a while.
Jones is likely a steady backup point guard at the NBA level — he’s a smart passer, knows how to run a team, and as his shot develops he becomes more dangerous. His downside is defense, but as a reserve that’s less of an issue.
For a team like the Sixers — without Jerryd Bayless to start the season — or while New Orleans waits for Jrue Holiday‘s return, Jones makes some sense. The only question is the price going back to Minnesota.
The Bucks got a rude awakening about Greg Monroe‘s value when they tried to sell low on him this offseason – and still got no takers.
Now, Milwaukee seems to have gotten the picture. Monroe – whose agent claimed the center could name his contract terms from multiple teams last year – might opt into the final year of his deal, which would pay $17,884,176.
Zach Lowe of ESPN:
Milwaukee is already preparing for the possibility Monroe opts into his deal for 2017-18, league sources say.
The Bucks indicated this thinking when they extended Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s contract, putting a large 2017-18 salary rather than a relatively low cap hold on the books to begin next offseason. If Monroe opts in, the difference in Antetokounmpo’s initial cap number is far less likely to matter. (Though Antetokounmpo’s extension wasn’t a complete giveaway into Milwaukee’s Monroe expectation, because the Bucks saved over the life of the extension.)
Don’t put it past Monroe to opt out if he believes he can find a better situation. After all, he signed the small qualifying offer to leave a tough basketball fit with Andre Drummond in Detroit. Monroe also took the risk of a shorter detail in Milwaukee. He’s secure enough in himself to at least consider moving on if he’s unhappy.
It’s also possible he finds a satisfying role with the Bucks. They’ll bring him off the bench, which could hide his defensive shortcomings and give him a chance to mash backup bigs. Heck, he could even play well enough to justify opting out.
There’s still a full season before Monroe must decide on his option, and a lot can change by then. But it seems Milwaukee now has a realistic expectation.
The NBA is reportedly closing in on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, and the new deal will still call for owners and players to split Basketball Related Income about 50-50.
So, July’s projection of a $102 million salary cap in 2017-18 still carries weight – except it’s been updated.
Brian Windhorst of ESPN:
Why the change?
Perhaps, the shortfall adjustment – which increases the cap when teams don’t spend enough the previous year – is being revised in the new CBA.
More likely, the league anticipates more revenue. These projections tend to start conservative then rise as July nears.