Dan Feldman

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Report: Nuggets re-signing Mason Plumlee to three-year, $41 million contract

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The Nuggets dealt for Mason Plumlee just before the trade deadline with the intention of re-signing him this summer.

Plumlee didn’t exactly live up to expectations in Denver last season, though. While Jusuf Nurkic thrived in Portland, the Nuggets missed the playoffs. Plumlee and Nikola Jokic merely meandered as a tandem.

Free agency proved particularly harsh for restricted free agents and centers, and Plumlee was both. A $4,588,840 qualifying offer lingered.

But Denver stepped up with a big payday.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

That’s a lot of money for a backup center. Probably too much.

Plumlee is already 27, so while he might remain effective through this deal, he probably has untapped upside. What you see is what you get: A mobile finisher who passes willingly and defends with more effort than ability.

But where does he fit in Denver?

The Nuggets will start Paul Millsap and Jokic, and they’re overstuffed with backup power forwards – Darrell Arthur, Juan Hernangomez, Trey Lyles, Tyler Lydon and Kenneth Faried, who can also play center. There’s clearly a role reserved for Plumlee, given this deal.

But considering Denver’s leverage – with Plumlee being restricted, other teams not appearing interested and the Nuggets’ big man depth – this contract looks even worse.

Did Kevin Durant send third-person tweets criticizing Billy Donovan, Thunder supporting cast?

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Kevin Durant cares what people thinks about him. That much is clear.

We also know a fan tweeted this at the Warriors star:

Did Durant respond with third-person tweets critical of Billy Donovan and the Thunder’s supporting cast for him and Russell Westbrook? These screen shots make it look that way:

If Durant actually sent those tweets, he since deleted them. If these are fake, the fabricators went to decent effort, with different screen shots posted to different long-existing accounts that don’t follow each other.

Fairly or not, Durant is going to be the butt of many jokes today. If he addresses this — even to deny sending the tweets, which look they were intended to come from an account other than his official one — he’ll likely only make it worse.

His best bet is just to hope this passes until he can get back on the court and change the conversation with his excellent play.

Three questions the Philadelphia 76ers must answer this season

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The NBC/ProBasketballTalk season previews will ask the questions each of the 30 NBA teams must answer to make their season a success. We are looking at one team a day until the start of the season, and it begins with a look back at the team’s offseason moves.

Last Season: 28-54, most wins in four years

I know what you did last summer: The 76ers cashed in some of their immense assets, extra draft picks and cap space. They traded up for the No. 1 pick to get Markelle Fultz and signed J.J. Redick ($23 million) and Amir Johnson ($11 million) to one-year contracts.

THREE QUESTIONS THE 76ERS MUST ANSWER:

1) Will Joel Embiid stay healthy? The 76ers found their first sliver of success in years around Embiid. Of the 45 players to play at least 250 minutes for Philadelphia in the last five years, Embiid is the only one with a positive plus-minus:

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Embiid looked like a star when on the court. He was the best defensive rookie in years, and he was relentless on offense with his inside-outside game.

Of course he played just 25.4 minutes per game in only 31 contests last season, his first on the court after sitting his first two professional seasons due to injury. His injuries issues clearly aren’t completely behind him.

There’s a direct link between his health and Philadelphia’s chances of making the playoffs. It’s the team’s biggest variable, but it also leads to a smaller one…

2) How will the 76ers handle Embiid-less time? Not only did Embiid miss most of Philadelphia’s games last season, he played just about half the minutes in the ones he played.

There’s going to be a lot of time the 76ers must manage without him on the court. The better they do that, the more margin for error they’ll have for him missing games/having a minute limit.

They have enough centers to throw at the problem – Richaun Holmes, Jahlil Okafor, Amir Johnson. The key will be improved production from perimeter players, who’ll be tasked with greater roles when is Embiid is out.

Redick will help with his floor spacing, and Robert Covington‘s 3-point shooting regressing to his mean after a down year would compound the effects. But Philadelphia really needs at least one of its younger players like Dario Saric, Nik Stauskas, T.J. McConnell, Justin Anderson and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot to step up.

3) Is Philadelphia’s rookie starting point guard ready to win? Whether it’s Markelle Fultz or Ben Simmons, the 76ers will probably start a rookie point guard. Teams with rookie point guards usually struggle.

Maybe Fultz and Simmons can lean on each other, Simmons running the transition game and Fultz leading the half-court offense. Together, they might not face as large a burden as one rookie point guard would alone.

But neither Fultz nor Simmons is experienced in the nuances of NBA play, and while it’s generally fine for them to learn through their mistakes, Philadelphia is trying to make the playoffs this season.

T.J. McConnell is a nice safety blanket, but his upside is limited. It’s clearly better for the 76ers if they can get Fultz and/or Simmons going – particularly if they don’t have to balance present-vs.-future with that choice.

Three questions the Orlando Magic must answer this season

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The NBC/ProBasketballTalk season previews will ask the questions each of the 30 NBA teams must answer to make their season a success. We are looking at one team a day until the start of the season, and it begins with a look back at the team’s offseason moves.

Last Season: 29-53, missed the playoffs for the fifth straight season

I know what you did last summer: Orlando fired general manager Rob Hennigan, hired Jeff Weltman and… did little else. The Magic are still jammed with Hennigan’s mistakes. At least they drafted Jonathan Isaac No. 5 and signed Jonathon Simmons, Shelvin Mack, Marreese Speights and Arron Afflalo.

THREE QUESTIONS THE MAGIC MUST ANSWER:

1) Are Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac complementary long-term pieces? Gordon and Isaac are Orlando’s most valuable player. But they also might overlap too much on the court.

Gordon is best at power forward, as last year’s experiment at small forward painfully showed. His ball skills are an asset at power forward, a liability at small forward. He also had a surprisingly tough time defensively at small forward, where he looked uncomfortable chasing smaller players around the perimeter. Get him closer to the paint more often, and Gordon should excel.

Isaac is more of a combo forward, mostly because we haven’t seen him in the NBA yet. He’ll likely play small forward for now, not just because of Gordon, but because Isaac isn’t yet strong enough to handle the physicality of NBA bigs. But long-term, his lack of an advanced handle could push him to power forward.

Maybe Gordon and/or Isaac develop enough perimeter skills to complement each other. Or perhaps Orlando finds guards who can handle the ball enough to relieve the forwards.

Obviously, positional designations can be draconian. But, in broad strokes, the differences between small forward and power forward in the modern NBA speak to a potentially incohesive pairing between Gordon and Isaac.

Though Isaac is just a rookie, Gordon is extension-eligible or headed toward restricted free agency. It’d be nice if the Magic knew whether their two most valuable players can optimize their value together.

2) Is Elfrid Payton worth keeping as starting point guard? Payton is also already extension-eligible, which could delay Weltman from ever putting his imprint on this team. On the other hand, Weltman doesn’t want to lose a good point guard before he breaks out.

A lightning rod for the previous regime, Payton played well enough late last season to instill confidence he might be a long-term starter. He must extend that all-around play over a larger sample to prove it.

If he does, the Magic will have a big decision about how much to pay him (unless they’ve already extended him). If he doesn’t, they’ll have to find a new starting point guard, maybe drafting someone and starting this process over (unless they’ve already extended Payton, which would be a major problem).

3) Will Frank Vogel oversee a top-end defense? The Magic are too far along a win-now plan to punt the season before it even begins. Their path to the playoffs starts with tapping a defensive potential not realized last season.

Vogel’s Pacers defenses ranked ninth, first, first, seventh and third in his five full seasons in Indiana. Despite Serge Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo and Gordon being expected to comprise an elite defensive front line, Orlando’s defense ranked just 22nd last season.

Ibaka is gone, and this team shouldn’t have as many problems with being oversized. The athletic Simmons is built to defend the wing. Starting center Nikola Vucevic has improved defensively under Vogel. The 6-foot-4 Elfrid Payton is big enough to disrupt opposing point guards. The lengthy Isaac should terrorize passing lanes in due time.

It all looks solid on paper, but the same was said at this time last year. The burden ultimately falls on Vogel, who was touted as a defensive mastermind when hired – and, not for nothing, is working for an executive who didn’t hire him.

Three questions the Atlanta Hawks must answer this season

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The NBC/ProBasketballTalk season previews will ask the questions each of the 30 NBA teams must answer to make their season a success. We are looking at one team a day until the start of the season, and it begins with a look back at the team’s offseason moves.

Last Season: 43-39 and made the playoffs for the 10th straight year, but had the point difference of a 39-43 team and lost in the first round

I know what you did last summer: Atlanta completed the breakup of the starting lineup that won 60 games a couple years ago, letting Paul Millsap leave in free agency (after trading Kyle Korver at the deadline last season). The Hawks also traded Dwight Howard in a salary dump rearrangement. New general manager Travis Schlenk is clearly rebuilding, adding No. 19 pick John Collins and an extra future first-rounder (acquired for renting cap space to pay a bought-out Jamal Crawford). But Atlanta isn’t jumping full speed into tanking. The Hawks also signed competitive veterans Dewayne Dedmon and Ersan Ilyasova.

THREE QUESTIONS THE HAWKS MUST ANSWER:

1) Will Atlanta compete or tank? The Hawks look far closer to being the NBA’s worst team than a playoff qualifier. It’s hard to see a Mike Budenholzer-coached team starting the season tanking. But if Atlanta can’t surpass outside expectations, the strategy could change. When – or even if – that happens could play a large part in how this season looks.

In a weak Eastern Conference, it’s at least plausible the Hawks remain in the playoff race for a while. Veterans like Kent Bazemore, Dewayne Dedmon, Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli can play.

But if Atlanta drops in the standings, their playing time could get turned over to rawer young players, who’d likely sink the Hawks even further.

2) Is Dennis Schroder – or anyone – a long-term piece? There isn’t a single player on this team to feel confident will still be in Atlanta when the Hawks next win a playoff series, or even just make the playoffs. The Hawks slid into this rebuild after a long postseason streak, which means they haven’t had a top-10 pick in a decade.

Schroder is the closest thing to a blue-chip prospect on this roster, and he’s the only one earning big money (starting a four-year, $62 million extension this season). So, there’s a little more attention on him.

But John Collins, Taurean Prince and DeAndre’ Bembry are all indefinite keepers, too.

If Atlanta isn’t going to make the playoffs, success could be identifying which players to build around long-term.

3) Will Dewayne Dedmon and Ersan Ilyasova establish trade value? Dedmon and Ilyasova are hedges against rebuilding and the early favorites to start at power forward and center. These are proud veterans who will help the team right now – and work against the Hawks securing a high draft pick.

So, why sign those two?

Because Atlanta is surely holding out hope to be good. Teams rarely start the season tanking without first taking a shot at defying expectations.

But also maybe because Dedmon and Ilyasova will have positive trade value. If the Hawks fall out of the playoff race, they might look to deal Dedmon (two years, $12.3 million with a player option) and Ilyasova (one year, $6 million) to winners for younger players and picks. Ilyasova can block any trade, but if Atlanta sinks far enough, why wouldn’t he approve a trade to a better team, the only type of team that’d be interested in him?