Dan Feldman

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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.

Report: ‘Continues to be distance’ between Kristaps Porzingis, Knicks

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The Knicks ousted Phil Jackson – who went out of his way to alienate Kristaps Porzingis – and promoted Steve Mills, who said he had a “hectic texting relationship” with the young big man. They exercised Porzingis’ 2018-19 team option. Porzingis said he wants to spend the rest of his career in New York.

So everything is now smooth between Porzingis and the Knicks?

Not necessarily, especially not with Kyrie Irving on the trade block.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Porzingis has emerged as a primary Cleveland target, but that’s a conversation that can occur only with Cleveland’s willingness to unburden the Knicks of the three years and $55 million left on Joakim Noah‘s contract. For now, the conversation is a nonstarter for the Knicks, league sources said.

For the right All-Star player, though — Irving or otherwise — multiple NBA teams are seriously questioning how emphatic of a “no” that will stay for New York. There continues to be distance between Porzingis and the organization, and how the Knicks truly value Porzingis’ future could become clearer once they’re together to begin the season.

I am shocked that a regime that paid Tim Hardaway Jr. $71 million over four years and Ron Baker $9 million over two years – and gave both player options! – hasn’t elicited complete confidence from Porzingis.

Porzingis still has two seasons before restricted free agency. There’s still plenty of time for this relationship to fully heal.

Porzingis is also more valuable than Irving. Noah, who carries highly negative value, could bridge the gap to the Cavaliers star. But I wouldn’t trade Porzingis and Noah for Irving. The Knicks are likely to be mediocre for the rest of Noah’s contract, anyway. Better just to ride that out and still have Porzingis at the end of the tunnel. There’s no such guarantee with Irving, who will become an unrestricted free agent in two years.

But it sounds as if the Knicks must still work to get Porzingis back fully on the same page.

Marvin Bagley III goes from potential No. 1 pick pick in 2019 NBA draft to potential No. 1 pick in 2018 NBA draft

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The 2019 NBA draft just added a potential No. 1 pick.

Now, it subtracts one.

Marvin Bagley III reclassified to enroll at Duke for the upcoming season. He’ll be eligible to declare for the 2018 draft.

A 6-foot-11 big man, Bagley is skilled and athletic. He still must prove his toughness and motor, but playing for Duke should serve him well.

Bagley already 18, so he’d be a natural fit in the next draft.

Projecting the strength of a draft this far out is usually a fool’s errand. But Bagley, Michael Porter, Luka Doncic, Mohamed Bamba and DeAndre Ayton seem to form a strong group at the top of the 2018 class. That’s good news for teams likely to pick high like the Celtics, Hawks and Bulls.

Report: Fearing LeBron James leaving, Cavaliers prioritizing young star in Kyrie Irving trade

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The Cavaliers are reportedly prioritizing youth in a Kyrie Irving trade.

Make no mistake what that means about LeBron James.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Cleveland is determined to get an elite young player for Irving, which means this: The trade plan the Cavaliers would have prioritized, with James committed for the long term — veterans to surround James and draft picks — isn’t in motion.

The process of building out the franchise’s roster long term has accelerated with Irving’s trade request. The Cavaliers have witnessed James’ exit strategy twice — once to leave Cleveland and once to return — and the Irving trade request has left them unwilling to squander the opportunity to replenish young assets on a roster that could be crippled in a post-James Cavaliers era that is stocked with high-priced veterans.

The Cavaliers find themselves far more fixated on a young star, including New York’s Kristaps Porzingis, Boston’s Jayson Tatum, Phoenix’s Josh Jackson and Denver’s Jamal Murray, league sources told ESPN.

This is not the strategy I’d take.

The Cavaliers are as much on the cusp of a title as any other team can be while these Warriors exist. It’s so hard to reach that point, I wouldn’t downgrade even a faint chance at a championship this year for a boost in rebuilding back to this point in some vague future. The Cavs, without shame, could go the entire career of whatever player they get for Irving without contending for a title. They know the opportunity is in front of them right now.

If LeBron committed to Cleveland long-term, I’d prioritize players who could help the next 2-3 years. If he won’t commit long-term, I’d push all-in for this season – one last chance to win a championship with LeBron. That means targeting players whose value is mostly derived from the upcoming season – players on expiring contracts and older players. (The Cavs already missed on the player who, by far, best fits that mold: Paul George.)

LeBron might be less likely to return to a team ravaged by 2018 free agency and aging, but a title this season would last forever. It also might be harder for him to leave a defending champion.

The Cavaliers’ actual strategy seemingly has a clearer effect. If LeBron hasn’t made up his mind, this could push him out. He might even be leaning toward re-signing with the Cavs. But that becomes far less appealing if the team stocks up on young players not ready to win.

Ultimately, LeBron must bear the weight of Cleveland going down this path. He allows rumors about the Lakers to linger unchecked – even feeding into them. If he wanted the Cavaliers to build around him, he could signal his commitment. Instead, he has only expressed his dismay – directly and indirectly – with their offseason.

I think this is largely about power – LeBron wanting the Cavs to commit to him without him committing to them. They do all the heavy lifting of building a roster for him, and he might return, or he might not. It’s a game they’ve played before, and one I’d play again. They seem tired of it.

It’s technically not too late for LeBron to privately pledge loyalty and send the organization on a different trade route. This report might even be from Cleveland, trying to light a fire under him. But it seems extremely unlikely for LeBron to become suddenly committal.

And then there’s Irving. The Cavaliers want a young star? Good luck finding someone better than Irving. Porzingis, Tatum, Jackson and Murray all offer more team control – and that’s extremely important, especially if Irving is unhappy in Cleveland. But the Cavs would be surrendering talent in all deals besides Porzingis – plus the chance Irving rescinds his trade request in a post-LeBron world.

Maybe the Cavaliers should just keep Irving another year and hope the distractions remain mild enough that the team can still compete for a title. If LeBron returns and/or Irving still wants out, they could always trade Irving next summer.

Right now, Cleveland has a shot at the 2018 championship and a 25-year-old four-time All-Star. It seems the Cavs are fine losing both.

Report: Rockets opening season on back-to-back

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The NBA will reportedly reduce the number of back-to-backs – especially around nationally televised games.

That won’t help the help the Rockets, who open with a nationally televised game at the Warriors on Oct. 17 then will reportedly play at the Kings the next night.

Carmichael Dave of KHTK Sports 1140:

It was unclear whether the NBA was prioritizing rest days on both sides of nationally televised games or just before. If the latter, teams might still rest players during nationally televised games to save the players for the following night. (New rest rules will create complications, though we’ll have to see precisely what those are.)

Houston obviously won’t rest anyone the first game of the season. And it’s probably too early to sit anyone in Sacramento. Even if the Rockets gave someone a night off against the Kings – even if it’s James Harden or Chris Paul – at least that game isn’t nationally televised.

But this provides a clue of how the schedule, which will be released at 6 tonight, will be crafted.

On the bright side for Houston, the Rockets (and Warriors, Cavaliers and Celtics) will fit 82 games in 177 days. Nearly everyone else will cram 82 games into 176 days – or fewer. That’s a small difference, but those add up.