Dan Feldman

Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James (23) drives past Toronto Raptors' DeMar DeRozan, left, and Patrick Patterson during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 4, 2015, in Toronto. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn)
AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn

Raptors gaining ground on Cavaliers when adjusting for playoff rotations

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The Warriors and Cavaliers were clearly the best teams in their conferences during the regular season.

Adjusting for playoff rotations only furthered those teams’ advantages.

But Golden State fell back into the Western Conference pack when reevaluating for the second round, because of Stephen Curry‘s injury.

Does Cleveland maintain its big lead in the East?

I’ve used nba wowy! to rank Eastern Conference playoff teams by net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating) during the regular season and first round, counting only lineups that include five players in the team’s postseason rotation. Here’s each team’s rating, from the regular season adjusted to only lineups that include five players projected to be in the second-round rotation:

Eastern Conference

1. Cleveland Cavaliers

  • Offensive rating: 111.4 to 117.4
  • Defensive rating: 105.1 to 106.8
  • Net rating: +6.3 to +10.6

2. Toronto Raptors

  • Offensive rating: 110.9 to 113.7
  • Defensive rating: 106.0 to 104.2
  • Net rating: +4.9 to +9.5

3. Miami Heat

  • Offensive rating: 107.2 to 112.5
  • Defensive rating: 105.3 to 106.7
  • Net rating: +1.9 to +5.8

4. Atlanta Hawks

  • Offensive rating: 105.9 to 105.4
  • Defensive rating: 103.0 to 101.8
  • Net rating: +2.9 to +3.6

Observations:

  • The order of these teams matches seed, which leaves the Cavs at the top.
  • The Raptors narrowed the gap – from where they stood overall in the regular season and adjusted for playoff rotation entering the first round – with Cleveland. Key for Toronto: Removing Luis Scola from the rotation. Though he’s a fine player, the Raptors have fared better with him off the court.
  • Gerald Green was barely in the Heat’s first-round rotation. Remove him, and Miami’s adjusted offensive/defensive/net rating jumps to 115.3/106.8/+8.5. That’s still not as good as the Raptors’, but it’s much closer.
  • The Hawks have less ability to change their adjusted rating by trimming their fringe rotation players, Mike Muscala and Tim Hardaway Jr. Drop those two and Atlanta’s adjusted rating gets a little worse: 105.6/102.3/+3.3. If the Cavs play up to their potential, I’m not sure the Hawks have a gear that can match hit. But it will be interesting to see the conference’s best adjusted offense (Cleveland) face its best adjusted defense (Atlanta).

David Blatt expected to interview with Rockets, still in Knicks mix

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 16:  Head coach David Blatt of the Cleveland Cavaliers speaks to the media after their loss to the Golden State Warriors in Game Six of the 2015 NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena on June 16, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Jason Miller/Getty Images
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Are the Knicks actually interested in David Blatt?

Though Kurt Rambis remains the apparent frontrunner, Phil Jackson seems to keep pushing the idea that there’s another candidate.

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

David Blatt “still is in the mix” for the Knicks head job, according to an NBA source.

Blatt is expected to be interviewed for the vacancies with the Rockets and Kings

The Kings’ interest was known, but the expected Houston interview is news. The Lakers and Nets were both reportedly interested in Blatt before they hired Luke Walton and Kenny Atkinson, respectively.

Blatt won 67% of his games and reached the NBA Finals in his only full season. Yes, he had LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and an expensive supporting cast, but that’s still impressive. Blatt has replaced Mark Jackson as the preeminent “I’m not sure he’s actually a good coach, but his record was so darn good that I have to take a look” coaching candidate. That’s clearly getting him interviews, but will it get him a job offer?

Magic Johnson says Lakers should pursue LeBron James, Kevin Durant and DeMar DeRozan, probably tampers

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Magic Johnson is terrible on Twitter.

His tweets are simplistic nonsense. He obviously knows a lot about basketball, but instead of sharing that expertise, he sounds like a cross between a lowest-common-denominator fan and low-rent news service.

He spouts ideas like the Lakers trying to sign DeMar DeRozan, Kevin Durant or LeBron James:

Which OK, whatever. Usually, I’d roll my eyes and move on. Thanks for the brilliant insight, Magic.

But these specific tweets are little different.

DeRozan (Raptors), Durant (Thunder) and LeBron (Cavaliers) are still under contract with other NBA teams, and they will be until July 1. Johnson is a Lakers Vice President.

That’s clearly tampering.

Per the Collective Bargaining Agreement, an employee of an NBA team can’t permissibly “induce, persuade, or attempt to entice, induce or persuade, any Player who is under contract to, or whose exclusive negotiating rights are held by, any other Member of the Association to enter into negotiations for or relating to his services or negotiate or contract for such services.”

Johnson often doesn’t sound like a Lakers executive, and the role is probably ceremonial. But Drake got the Raptors fined for recruiting Durant. Drake obviously isn’t integral to Toronto’s basketball operations. But he holds a title – Global Brand Ambassador – with the team. Why wouldn’t the same rule apply to Johnson?

The simple answer is because the NBA’s tampering rules are vague and arbitrarily enforced. As long as that remains the case, this could end in a number of ways – nothing the most likely, a small fine a close second.

Report: Dirk Nowitzki to opt out of Mavericks contract

Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) celebrates scoring a 3-point basket during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Sunday March 20, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
AP Photo/Brandon Wade
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Dirk Nowitzki has said and re-said and re-said he’d opt into the final year of his contract.

But maybe not?

Dwain Price of the Star-Telegram:

Nowitzki plans to opt out of the last year of his current contract

I’d be absolutely shocked if this about leaving the Mavericks. If Nowitzki is opting out, it’s probably to re-sign on more favorable terms.

But what’s more favorable to Nowitzki? A higher salary? Additional years? A lower salary that would allow Dallas to acquire more support around him? After all, he already took a big pay cut for that reason on this contract.

Nowitzki’s salary if he opts in would be $8,692,184. If he opts out, he’d count $12,500,001 against the cap until signed or renounced. If he’s renounced, the Mavericks couldn’t use Bird Rights to exceed the cap to sign him. So, Nowitzki opting out would increase Dallas’ cap room only if he’s willing to take a lower salary. There’s no way to work the cap for additional room and give Nowitzki his original salary.

If Nowitzki wants a big raise, he could command one. The salary cap is skyrocketing, and his salary is low even by old-cap standards. The 37-year-old is still Dallas’ best player.

That’s also an age where many players sacrifice to win a title, and Nowitzki has shown a willingness to do so. Accepting a lower salary could help the Mavericks sign another player. If Dallas strikes out in free agency, Nowitzki could always re-sign for more than the minimum he was willing to accept.

Opting out would give Nowitzki options, but we’re left with a big question: What are his priorities?

Kristaps Porzingis won’t play for Latvia in Olympic Qualifying Tournament

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 26:  (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT)    Kristaps Porzingis #6 of the New York Knicks in action against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Madison Square Garden on March 26, 2016 in New York City. The Cavaliers defeated the Knicks 107-93.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
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The Knicks got their wish with Kristaps Porzingis.

Andrejs Silins of Sportacentrs.com:

Latvia is set to compete in an Olympic Qualifying Tournament, but reaching Rio will be much more difficult now. I’m not sure Porzingis would’ve put Latvia over the top, but he at least would have made the team more competitive.

Now, he’s more likely to provide that for the Knicks next season. They wanted him training under their watch, and hopefully they provide instruction that maximizes his ability to produce in the NBA. The sky is the limit for Porzingis, and a little more strength and polish would make him only better.