Lonzo Ball

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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 room — but this coming season has a deep pool of elite talent who will be in position to put up numbers, the usual formula for winning the award. 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 betting 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 these odds (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. All of the guys on that list can do that, although Ball will be judged more on his passing and how he helps turn the Lakers into an up-tempo team. In addition to the guys on that list, Josh Jackon in Phoenix will get numbers, as might John Collins in a rebuilding Atlanta. There are sleepers down the board with a chance.

This year a whole lot of guys fit the traditional mold of a guy who can win the award, more than are mentioned here. It’s going to be a wild ride.

Lakers unsurprisingly most over-represented in national-TV games based on projected record

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The Warriors have more nationally televised games* than the Raptors, Heat, Pistons, Kings, Suns, Grizzlies, Hornets, Bulls, Pacers, Hawks, Nets and Magic combined.

*Counting only games on ABC, TNT or ESPN. NBATV games don’t carry the same prestige and exposure.

Fair? The NBA and its television partners think so, and that’s ultimately what matters.

The league released its schedule yesterday, and that always provides a telling look at the NBA’s hierarchy. Team strength and market size both matter for getting these marquee games.

Here’s how it shakes out this year, with:

  • ABC in blue
  • TNT in green
  • ESPN in orange

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Using Kevin Pelton of ESPN’s win projections for each team and a linear regression, we can plot how many nationally televised games a team would be expected to have based on projected wins – and where NBA teams actually fall:

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Team Projected wins Nationally televised games Projected nationally televised games Difference
LAL 33 23 4.9 +18.1
CLE 49.2 27 18 +9.0
PHI 33.2 14 5.1 +8.9
OKC 49.5 27 18.2 +8.8
BOS 49.4 25 18.2 +6.8
HOU 55 28 22.7 +5.3
NYK 32 8 4.1 +3.9
SAC 27.4 4 0.4 +3.6
SAS 52.6 24 20.7 +3.3
GSW 62.1 31 28.4 +2.6
WAS 47.5 18 16.6 +1.4
PHO 30.3 4 2.8 +1.2
LAC 48.9 19 17.8 +1.2
ATL 27 0 0.1 -0.1
DAL 34.6 6 6.2 -0.2
CHI 28.5 1 1.3 -0.3
MIN 50.1 17 18.7 -1.7
BRK 29.5 0 2.1 -2.1
DET 35.1 4 6.6 -2.6
POR 43.8 11 13.6 -2.6
IND 32 1 4.1 -3.1
MEM 34.6 3 6.2 -3.2
ORL 32.2 0 4.3 -4.3
NOP 44.2 8 14 -6
MIL 46.9 10 16.1 -6.1
MIA 42.3 5 12.4 -7.4
UTA 44.7 7 14.4 -7.4
DEN 47.2 9 16.4 -7.4
TOR 43.4 5 13.3 -8.3
CHA 44.1 3 13.9 -10.9

Of course, the Lakers top their expected value by double anyone else. That Los Angeles market does wonders, as does an even wider fan base. At least Lonzo Ball should make the Lakers more exciting this year. That beats all the seasons they were bad and boring and still got plenty of national exposure.

The big loser by this method? The Hornets, whose on-court projections would peg them for nearly 11 more nationally televised games than they actually received.

NBA schedule is out, here are 15 must-watch games

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I feel like Steve Martin yelling “the new phone books are here” — the NBA schedule for 2017-18 is out.

There is big news here — the NBA has built a lot more rest into the schedule in an attempt to limit DNP-rest games for stars in marquee games. What we learned with the schedule being released is there is not one four-games-in-five-nights stretch in the entire schedule for any team. In the 2014-15 season there were 70 of those, last season there were 20, but the league listened to the players — and their medical staffs — and cut those out. Which should help players be more rested and reduce the number of healthy DNP-Rest games.

There are a lot of quality games on the schedule — in a deep Western conference matchups like the Clippers vs. Nuggets or Trail Blazers vs. Pelicans could have playoff implications even early in the season. That’s why the NBA has given flex scheduling to all the networks, so they can put on games that matter more as we move through the season.

Factoring in returns, rivalries, and big days, here are our 15 games must-watch games this season, the ones you need to set the DVR for… if you still have a DVR. Otherwise, go over to your parents and set theirs, you know they still have one.

Opening night, Oct. 17: Houston Rockets at Golden State Warriors (TNT). This is the first of 40 — 40! — times the Warriors will appear on national television this season. That is almost half their games. Don’t tune into this one just to see the banner go up and JaVale McGee get a ring… actually, you do want to see McGee get a ring. More than that though, tune in to get a first look at the Houston Rockets with Chris Paul and James Harden.

Oct. 26: New Orleans Pelicans at Sacramento Kings (TNT). DeMarcus Cousins makes his first visit to Sacramento since he was traded last season to New Orleans. Kings fans were frustrated with Cousins while he was there, plenty turned on him, and he is going to hear it.

Oct. 27: Denver Nuggets at Atlanta Hawks. Atlanta starts the season with a five-game road trip, then returns home to find Paul Millsap wearing the powder blue of the Denver Nuggets to meet them. The Hawks moved on from Millsap more than he from them, but how will Atlanta fans respond.

Nov. 15: Philadelphia 76ers at Los Angeles Lakers (ESPN). The 76ers and No.1 pick last June Markelle Fultz take on the Lakers and No. 2 pick Lonzo Ball in the first meeting between these two point guards.

Dec. 13: Oklahoma City Thunder at Indiana Pacers (ESPN). Paul George makes his only visit to Indiana this season, the only place the four-time All-Star had played prior to being traded this summer.

Christmas Day, Dec. 25: Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors (ABC). This is the first rematch of the last three NBA Finals during the new season. LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant… and who else will be on LeBron’s team at this point in the season? This is the best team in the West against the team likely to come out of the East — LeBron has been to seven straight Finals for a reason — and that is always worth watching.

Christmas Day, Dec. 25: Houston Rockets at Oklahoma City Thunder (ABC). With all due respect to LeBron and Curry, this is the best game on Christmas Day. James Harden and Chris Paul against Russell Westbrook and Paul George. We know the Rockets will be an impressive offensive team, but the Thunder should have one of the best defenses in the NBA this season. That makes this an interesting clash of styles.

Jan. 15: Cleveland Cavaliers at Golden State Warriors (TNT). The second and final meeting of the season between these two powerhouse teams is set to highlight the Martin Luther King Jr. Day slate of games.

Jan. 15: Houston Rockets at Los Angeles Clippers (TNT). Chris Paul comes back to Los Angeles to take on the other two parts of Lob City he left behind, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. You can bet DJ is not going to let CP3 just drive the basket without a little physicality.

Feb. 9: Minnesota Timberwolves at Chicago Bulls (ESPN). Jimmy Butler returns to the only city he had played for before being traded this past summer — and he brings with him an impressive team on the rise in Karl-Anthony Towns and the Timberwolves.

Feb. 10: San Antonio Spurs at Golden State Warriors (ABC). This is last year’s Western Conference Finals, and while San Antonio didn’t have a sexy offseason we know they have Kawhi Leonard, and we know they are going to be good. This could well again be the top two teams in the West.

March 11: Cleveland Cavaliers at Los Angeles Lakers (ESPN). LeBron has called Los Angeles home and Tweeted out his love to Magic Johnson, by the time the Cavaliers come to L.A. the “LeBron will be a Laker” rumors will be at a fever pitch. Expect Lakers fans to let him know how much they love him.

March 28: Boston Celtics at Utah Jazz (ESPN). Gordon Hayward is going to get booed as he returns to Utah and the Vivint Smart Home Arena wearing Celtics green after choosing the Celtics over the Jazz last summer.

April 1: Houston Rockets at San Antonio Spurs. These are the two teams in the West with their sights set on knocking off the Warriors, but first they are going to have to get past each other in the playoffs. This could have seeding, or at least statement, implications. Plus, watching Kawhi Leonard guard Harden and Paul is going to be fun.

April 3: Golden State Warriors at Oklahoma City Thunder. At this point in the season, teams like these two who plan to make a deep playoff run are shaking off the long-season duldrums and focusing on a strong finish. Especially if this is a potential playoff matchup (second round) there may be teams looking to make a statement.

April 10: Boston Celtics at Washington Wizards. In the final week of the NBA season, two teams looking to climb the ladder and establish themselves near or at the top of the Eastern Conference face off. Plus, John Wall vs. Isaiah Thomas is always a show.

Lonzo Ball chooses LeBron James over Kobe Bryant

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LeBron James, the first NBA superstar to peak in the social media era, has put up with louder, more ridiculous criticism than his predecessors. At the top of that list: A serious debate of his legacy before his legacy is fully established.

Most recently that has led to Michael Jordan saying he would take Kobe Bryant over LeBron because five is more than three.

Lonzo Ball, the “savior” Lakers fans have pinned unfair hopes upon, went the other direction and took LeBron.

Good on Lonzo — saying Kobe even if he didn’t believe it was the politically safe answer to keep the always so rational Lakers fans calm. He didn’t. Ball went with what he thought. Well done.

Well, that and he might be trying to recruit LeBron a little.

Where you stand Kobe vs. LeBron debate really says more about what you value in a player. It’s not shocking Jordan would gravitate toward the guy who built his game as a Jordan tribute. LeBron has been to the Finals 8 of his 12 NBA seasons, he’s got a more rounded game than Kobe (better passer and rebounder, better at getting teammates involved), he’s been the best player in the NBA longer. Kobe got rings, was willing to take more on himself, and sold his “me against the world” brand better.

But really, maybe we should wait until LeBron’s completed his resume before we debate such things.

 

Lakers bringing Briante Weber in for training camp

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Briante Weber has been hanging around the fringes of the NBA for a couple years, the point guard has played in short stints (usually 10-day contracts) for the Grizzlies, Heat, Warriors, and most recently Hornets. He’s also spent time in the D-League and played for Charlotte in the Orlando Summer league this year.

Now the Los Angeles Lakers are bringing in Weber into training camp to see if he can make the roster, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Lakers have 14 players on guaranteed contracts, so in theory there is one roster spot left open. However, the Lakers may be set at the point — Lonzo Ball will start, but behind him Tyler Ennis and Jordan Clarkson can be the backups. It is possible the Lakers take on another point guard on a deal that carries no salary over to next season (they are being very protective of cap space, trying to set up two max contracts next summer) but it is very possible the Lakers will leave that final roster spot open for flexibility during the season.

The people who should be most concerned about the Weber signing is anyone who likes beer and has courtside seats for a Lakers’ preseason game.