Andre Iguodala

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LeBron James says Dwyane Wade early leader for Sixth Man of Year

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It’s too early to get a good handle on any of the NBA’s end-of-season awards (except maybe Rookie of the Year), but the Sixth Man of the Year race is particularly muddled. Eric Gordon won it last season and has been better this season, but with Chris Paul out injured he has started 13 of his 19 games, not exactly a sixth man (yet). Andre Iguodala was a close second last season, but he’s gotten off to a slower start this campaign. The current leader this season is probably Tyreke Evans, who has stepped up for the Grizzlies (17.2 points per game), with Lou Williams right behind him (18.2 points per game for Clippers), but both of those teams are struggling due to injury and as the teams fade it will hurt their chances. There are other guys on the fringes — Kelly Olynyk has been fantastic in Miami, but 9.2 points per game likely is not enough to get it done; Rodney Hood has moved to the bench in Utah and scored a lot, he could eventually qualify — but the race is wide open.

What about Dwyane Wade in Cleveland?

LeBron James pumped up his boy for the award on Saturday, via Nick Friedell of ESPN.

LeBron believes that Dwyane Wade is the leading candidate for the Sixth Man of the Year Award right now after his early success off the bench: “He’s probably the number one candidate,” James said after Saturday’s shootaround. “Not even being biased, that’s one of my best friends. Just looking at the teams.”

Uh, no.

Wade is scoring 11.1 points per game with a below average true shooting percentage of 49.8 (well below the league average), although the Cavaliers are 8.3 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court (however, most of that is better defense with him on the court, and that’s not due to Wade). That’s not enough right now.

In the last 10 games, when the Cavaliers have been winning and looking like an elite team, Wade is averaging 13.5 ppg and is shooting a little better, a true shooting percentage of 52 (close to the league average).

With the race wide open, Wade getting in the mix is not out of the question. But he’s got some work to do.

Warriors Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant out against Kings

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant are both sidelined with injuries for Monday night’s game against Sacramento, while key backup Andre Iguodala is listed as doubtful with a sore left knee.

Curry has a bruised right hand while NBA Finals MVP Durant was set to miss his fourth game in the last five because of a sprained left ankle. He played in a loss to the Thunder last Wednesday at his old Oklahoma City stomping grounds though coach Steve Kerr said afterward KD should have sat out that one, too.

Reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green was available to play despite a bruised right foot he said he injured in the first quarter of Saturday’s win against the Pelicans.

Kerr doesn’t want to take any chances with his stars. After hosting the Kings, defending champion Golden State goes on a season-long six-game road trip spanning 10 days.

 

Warriors coach Steve Kerr clips nails while waiting for reporters to tweet lineup change (video)

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Andre Iguodala started for an injured Kevin Durant against the Timberwolves tonight.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr revealed that lineup decision in his pregame press conference – then found a clever way to kill time while reporters inevitably tweeted about it.

Draymond Green, Bradley Beal ejected in Warriors’ comeback win over Wizards

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP)  — Golden State lost its emotional leader when Draymond Green was ejected shortly before halftime. The defending champs were sloppy again, even forgetting several plays after one timeout and still somehow won – but it has hardly been easy so far.

Kevin Durant had 31 points, 11 rebounds and six assists to help rally the Warriors from 18 points down and beat the Wizards 120-117 on Friday night, a game marred by a fight between Green and Washington’s Bradley Beal that led to both being tossed.

With 19.5 seconds left in the second quarter, Beal held the front of Green’s jersey with his left hand while grabbing Green around the jaw with his right. That enraged Green, who threw his right arm in frustration and wrapped arms with Beal as if hugging, then other players joined the scrum.

“It was a scuffle. I’m not going to go into details about it. I’ll do that with the league tomorrow,” Beal said. “We just got into it and things got out of hand and we both got ejected. I told my teammates I can’t put myself in a situation like that to leave them out there to battle out against a tough team without me out there.”

Green had to be pulled away from the skirmish by Andre Iguodala and Warriors security personnel. Green was tossed after getting his second technical foul. The back of his uniform was torn from near his right shoulder down to his waist.

“I thought Draymond defended himself and bit the bullet of being ejected for the game,” West said.

Green was hit with his first technical at the 8:05 mark of the second quarter for arguing an offensive foul call. He had six assists, three points, three rebounds and three blocks before his early exit.

 

 

Former Warriors executive: Golden State tanked to get Harrison Barnes

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The NBA is so concerned about tanking, it passed lottery reform – to curb actual tanking or at least the perception of it.

But people in the league keep admitting to tanking.

The latest: Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk, who was previously the Warriors’ assistant general manager

In middle of March 2012, Golden State had a better record than two Western Conference teams and every Eastern Conference team outside playoff position. Continuing at that pace would have given the Warriors just a 4% chance of keeping their first-round pick, which was top-seven protected. Far more likely, they would have conveyed the No. 10 pick to the Jazz.

So, Golden State traded its consensus best player, Monta Ellis, for an injured Andrew Bogut, lost 17 of its last 20 games and “fell” to the No. 7 seed in the lottery – nabbing a 75% chance of keeping its pick. The Warriors stayed at No. 7 and drafted Harrison Barnes.

Schlenk, via the CBS Sports Flagrant Two podcast:

We made that deal knowing two things. One, we’d never had a center in Golden State or a rim protector, when I was there anyway. So, with eyes on the future, if we can get him healthy, get him back. We shut Steph down at the time. And we knew that we had to fall into those bottom seven spots to get our pick, and that was really important to us. Tanking? I guess. It was a conscious decision we made to shoot for next year.

I think you have to, as a franchise, do what’s best for the franchise. And sometimes, that means securing your draft pick if you can.

I think the problem with tanking or the perception of tanking is when teams go out there from day and don’t show any intention of winning. We’re not doing that here in Atlanta.

Bogut was central to the Warriors’ defensive resurgence, and they sent Utah the No. 21 pick the next year. Barnes became a key player on Golden State’s 2015 title team, and the franchise’s rise with him and Bogut helped lure Andre Iguodala and eventually Kevin Durant in free agency.

This is the problem with tanking: It works.

It’s not the only way to win, and it doesn’t always work, though I’d argue that many teams that fail while tanking would fail through other methods of team-building because they’re poorly managed. There are also different types of tanking, Golden State’s seen as more permissible.

I define tanking as any decision a team makes that is at least partially driven by a desire to lose more in order to improve draft position.

The Warriors’ trade (and subsequent strategies down the stretch) clearly fit. So does the most-egregious example – the 76ers’ Process. But setting out a season to tank is rare. Doing it multiple years was unprecedented.

Yet, Philadelphia gets so much attention in these tanking discussions. What Golden State did – wasting the final quarter of its season once the first three quarters produced mediocre results – happens far more often. That’s what the league ought to fight against.

One possible solution: Eliminate the ability to protect draft picks within the lottery. That’d remove incentive for teams to nosedive for artificial – and highly important – cutoff points.

But I’m also unconvinced this is a huge problem. As Schlenk said, his Hawks aren’t tanking (not yet, at least). He wants to develop a winning culture. We’ll see whether that strategy is to their benefit, but many general managers take a similar approach. There’s a level of self-policing happening – even by prior tankers.