Team USA going small ball, but how many bigs do they keep on the bench?

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LAS VEGAS — Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry, Paul George, Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis.

For the second day in a row coach Mike Krzyzewski rolled out that five-some out as a unit for scrimmages at the end of the Team USA practice and it looked like the starting group. Behind that guys like Klay Thompson, James Harden, John Wall, Derrick Rose, Bradley Beal and a number of other guards and wing players seem to be getting long, hard looks. Chandler Parsons got run as a stretch four on Monday.

Team USA is going small. Three guard lineups with what would be an NBA three serving as an athletic stretch four.

“Everyone talks about match-ups (with big teams such as Spain), people have to match-up against us, too,” Krzyzewski said. “What you have to do is put your best 12 together and then make adjustments with the best 12. Obviously we’re not going to have 12 guards, but that’s what we’ve done. You try to get eight or nine guys that are going to be the core, then three or four guys who complement them. We’ll see how that works out.”

That small ball has worked out well the last four years with gold medals at the 2010 World Championships and the 2012 London Olympics. Remember on that London team LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony were the primary power forwards, and they overwhelmed teams with athleticism and defensive pressure. Yet a lot of talk around Team USA seems to be about the guys not here, such as Kevin Love and Blake Griffin.

“The big men we lost are not centers. We’ve never really had… well in Beijing (2008 Olympics) we did, we had Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh (back when Bosh played more in the post),” Krzyzewski said. “But since then we had Tyson (Chandler) but he didn’t play large minutes. At both the World Championships and in London (2012 Olympics) we had LeBron, Carmelo, Kevin (Love), they were the four/fives. Actually in Istanbul (2010) it was Lamar Odom, who played great, Kevin (Durant), Rudy Gay, Tyson, Kevin Love as a young guy, as a 21 year old. We’re accustomed to (playing small).”

What Team USA is trying to figure out now is who the main rotation guys will be, USA Basketball President Jerry Colangelo told ProBasketballTalk. But at some point they need to think about the bigs.

“We talk about having a core group of players, and that number could vary depending on the people you’re working with, could be eight, could be nine, and then looking for individuals who are specialists, if you will,” Colangelo said. “High energy people, three point specialists, defenders, and that will really be determined by who ends up in our core of eight or nine players.

“This is a very deep roster. We don’t have a lot of bigs, we have a lot of perimeter players, terrific guards for sure. That structure, in our case, may be you carry an extra big or two, just because of our strengths — which will be wings, and the point and the two guard — but you need to protect yourself with a couple of bigs.”

DeMarcus Cousins seems to be getting a lot of run with the main units, but Andre Drummond is making plays and getting a lot of praise from Krzyzewski. The question is fit.

“DeMarcus brings a different big man than Anthony (Davis),” Krzyzewski said. “Just like (Andre) Drummond does. And we have to see how we might incorporate that into what we’re doing.”

What team USA wants is versatility — and that includes their big men, which is why Anthony Davis is a lock.

“What you would hope to have is a roster that would be adaptable and can play against whomever the opposition would be,” Colangelo said.

Report: Clippers take Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumor ‘very seriously’

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Want to laugh off that Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumor?

The Clippers aren’t joining you.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Clippers should be concerned. Losing Paul would unravel their entire foundation, dropping them from the fringe of championship contention to out of the title picture completely. It could even help usher out Blake Griffin, who will also be an unrestricted free agent this summer. (To be fair, Paul leaving could also help convince Griffin to stay.)

About a month ago, the Clippers reportedly expected Paul to stay. They even reportedly struck a verbal agreement with him to re-sign before that. But they can’t officially sign him until July, and that leaves the door open for him to leave.

The Clippers should be heartened by their advantages – a prime market and a projected max offer of $205 million over five years.

The most another team projects to be able to offer is $152 million over four years, and San Antonio will have a hard time doing that. Even if they trim their roster to Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Danny Green and Tony Parker, the Spurs would still have to shed two of those players to clear max cap space.

So, never say never, but the Clippers’ concern might be rooted more in the dire consequences of Paul leaving rather than the likelihood of it.

Report: Raptors, Magic can’t trade with each other for a year

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The Magic will send the Raptors a 2018 second-round pick for hiring Jeff Weltman, who was Toronto’s general manager.

But that’s not the only consequence of hire.

Yahoo Sports:

The move invoked the NBA provision that Toronto and Orlando are not permitted to trade players with each other until the earlier of May 24, 2018, or the conclusion of the 2017-18 season for either organization, league sources told The Vertical’s Shams Charania.

The NBA made a similar ruling when the Clippers sent the Celtics a first-rounder to hire Doc Rivers, and I don’t like it now, either. It’s needlessly restrictive, preventing talent from flowing to the optimal locations.

At least Orlando isn’t a logical destination for the Raptor most likely to be dealt: Jonas Valanciunas. The Magic already have enough centers with Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo – a lesson that influenced their last trade with Toronto, dealing Serge Ibaka.

2017 NBA playoffs have been historically uncompetitive

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The NBA Finals so many wanted to see – Cavaliers-Warriors III – is here.

At least it will be.

Today is the first of six off days before the 2017, which begin June 1 in Oakland.

The lengthy delay is the product of an underwhelming postseason featuring few competitive series and numerous blowouts.

Golden State swept its way through the West, and Cleveland dropped only one game (to the Celtics in the conference finals) while winning the East. There have been only two Game 7s, but considering the magnitude, neither felt that compelling. Blake Griffin‘s injury undercut the Clippers against the Jazz, and Celtics over Wizards felt inevitable with home teams winning each game of the series. Between, there have been several lackluster games and series.

There have been just 74 playoff games this year – the fewest before the Finals since since the NBA instituted a best-of-seven first round in 2003:

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That’s 74 of a possible 98 games – 76%, the lowest since 1999 and seventh-lowest ever.

Even if the Finals go seven games, it will be the fewest games in a postseason since 2007. If the Finals go five or fewer games, it’ll be the shortest postseason in this playoff format.

And it hasn’t just been quantity. The quality of games has been lacking, too.

Though there were more blowouts last year by nearly any measure, the 2017 postseason’s average margin in pre-Finals games (13.5) is fifth-highest all-time and second-highest since 1959 (behind 2016, 14.2).

Combine the two factors, and these are the drabbest playoffs in nearly 50 years. Here’s each postseason plotted by average margin in pre-Finals games and percentage of possible games pre-Finals:

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This probably just confirms what you’ve seen: The 2017 playoffs have been in a rut.

We’re all counting on the Cavaliers and Warriors to salvage this postseason, but considering how deep the hole is, anything less than an epic Finals probably won’t cut it.

Kyrie Irving crosses over Avery Bradley, hits 3-pointer (video)

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Avery Bradley got around one screen then, thanks to Kyrie Irving‘s excellent ball-handling, lunged at another that wasn’t coming as Irving hit a 3-pointer.