Dan Feldman

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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?

Chicago Bulls sign center Diamond Stone

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CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Bulls have signed center Diamond Stone.

The Hawks waived him earlier this summer despite him having a guaranteed salary.

Taken in the second round by New Orleans and traded to the Clippers on draft night in 2016, the 6-foot-11 Stone appeared in seven games for the Clippers. The Clippers traded him to Atlanta this offseason in a sign-and-trade for Danilo Gallinari.

Stone played one season at Maryland, averaging 12.5 points and 5.4 rebounds.

Trail Blazers signing Anthony Morrow

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The Trail Blazers have already signed Archie Goodwin and Isaiah Briscoe to unguaranteed or lightly guaranteed deals and C.J. Wilcox to a two-way contract.

Now, Portland is adding a seasoned veteran to the competition for its 15th standard regular-season roster spot – Anthony Morrow.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Portland could use more shooting on the wing, especially after dumping Allen Crabbe. Only Stephen Curry, Kyle Korver and Klay Thompson have matched Morrow’s career efficiency (41.7%) and volume (8.0 attempts per 100 possessions) while playing even half as many minutes as Morrow.

But that he’s left taking an unguaranteed minimum offer speaks to Morrow’s defensive deficiencies. There’s reason Morrow has bounced between the Warriors, Nets, Hawks, Mavericks, Pelicans, Thunder and Bulls in nine NBA seasons.

Morrow is probably the favorite to stick into the regular season, though the Trail Blazers could still sign other candidates. They could also keep just 14 players, especially because they’re still facing the luxury tax.

Report: Rockets GM Daryl Morey frequently fined

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Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is maybe the NBA’s most outspoken executive.

He throws shade at opposing players and owners, jokingly challenges people to fights and can be outright provocative. Active on Twitter, Morey generates plenty of exposure.

The league apparently doesn’t always appreciate it.

Zach Lowe of ESPN on The Woj Pod:

Daryl gets fined so much more than has ever been publicly reported. Daryl is fined all the time.

The NBA sometimes fines people without announcing it. Anyone suspended for marijuana under the last couple Collective Bargaining Agreements was first fined for a previous violation, but the fines aren’t typically announced. Joe Dumars was reportedly fined $500,000 in 2010 for leaking confidential information.

I’d be surprised if Morey was ever docked that much, but it sounds as if smaller fines are just the cost of doing business.

Report: NBA proposal gives Adam Silver broad power to fine teams for resting players

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The NBA is on track to implement rules that punish teams for resting players.

Who determines the fines, and on what basis?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

What’s to stop teams from resting players and calling it an injury? That’s how it used to work, players missing games with “back spasms” or some other mysterious malady. Will teams really be investigated on a case-by-case basis whether their injured players are really hurt or just resting?

That’s a lot of power to hand NBA commissioner Adam Silver. Even with the best of intentions – which I believe Silver would generally have – it’d be difficult to enforce this rule non-arbitrarily.

Most times a player is “resting” involve multiple factors, including minor bumps and bruises. How much must rest factor into the equation for it to draw a fine? 100% 50%? 1%? How will these evaluations be made?

I suspect teams will generally get in line behind the spirit of the rule change and play their healthy players during nationally televised games and stagger other resting opportunities. But if anyone pushes the limit, this could get messy in a hurry.