Wednesday NBA playoff previews: Will we have a close game?

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The NBA got us hooked on close games in the thrilling first round of the playoffs, then proceeded to give us four blowouts to start the second round. Will that change on Wednesday?

Washington Wizards at Indiana Pacers (Wizards lead series 1-0). David West tried to have a come-to-Jesus meeting with Roy Hibbert after Game 1, because the Pacers need Hibbert if they are going to even the series Wednesday night. Just as importably, the Pacers have to defend the three point line better — that starts with Paul George, who lost Trevor Ariza more than once. If the Pacers can do all that then we can start to talk about fixing their offense. Meanwhile, John Wall and Bradley Beal are playing with more confidence each game and if they get another combined repeat performance — 38 points, 12 rebounds, 16 assists, six steals — the Wizards will be sitting pretty going home.

Los Angles Clippers at Oklahoma City Thunder (Clippers lead series 1-0). You’re going to hear some fans (and maybe some talking heads) say something along the lines of “if Kevin Durant is a real MVP he will carry his team to a win.” Which completely misses the point on why the Thunder were blown out in Game 1 — team defense. Particularly their perimeter defense. OKC packed the paint to take away easy layups and the Clippers shot over the top of them for three all night ling. The Thunder will change up their pick-and-roll defense on Chris Paul (they switched bigs on to him, Paul stepped back and nailed threes over them) but more than just that the Clippers moved the ball well and the Thunder rotations did not keep up. The Clippers got too many uncontested clean. Of course, more Durant wouldn’t hurt but what the Thunder need on that end is good ball movement and a third scorer to step up. OKC will get its points with Russell Westbrook and Durant. But they need to get stops more.

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 building — but this coming season has a lot of talent at the top of the board who could win. 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 better 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 this (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.

This year a whole lot of guys can fit that bill, more than are mentioned here. It’s going to be a wild ride.

Check out the first NBA 2K18 trailer (VIDEO)

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The NBA season is coming… and that means NBA 2K18 also coming.

To whet the appetite of you gamers out there, check out the first trailer for the upcoming game, with music by Mobb Deep.

You can pre-order the game now.