Dan Feldman

Lakers’ David Nwaba throws down nasty alley-oop on Richard Jefferson

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“He’s in the league?” (David Nwaba) bested “He’s still in the league?” (Richard Jefferson on this play.

Iman Shumpert: Cavaliers ‘grabbed me out of hell’ with Knicks trade

AP Photo/Seth Wenig
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It wasn’t the Knicks’ fault Iman Shumpert dislocated his shoulder in December 2014. But they did nothing to lift his spirits, losing their next 12 games.

And then they traded him to the Cavaliers.

Shumpert, via Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype:

For me, it would’ve been cool if [things ended differently with the Knicks]. I was hurt when I got traded, so it would’ve been cool for me if I had at least gotten to play my last games with them. I was sitting out for like a month and by the time I got traded, it was a deflating feeling, especially with that season that we were having. I felt like I didn’t get a chance to help get us out of the hole, you know what I mean? (winces) I just felt bad and felt like we had dropped a bunch of games. I felt bitter that I had to leave on such a bad note. I just remember the feeling [sucked]. It was like, ‘Ah, I’m hurt, we’ve lost a bunch of games in a row and then I’m traded.’ Then, shortly after we walk in and we get to playing with the Cavs, we go on a long winning streak. I kept thinking back to my old teammates like, ‘Damn, I was hurt and we were losing. Now I come here and I’m playing well and the energy is great.’ I just felt like they kind of grabbed me out of hell. And every game was being showcased on TV and we’re winning. It was just crazy. I was happy, but I felt bad too.

Everyone’s situation is different, and Shumpert’s injury clearly contributed to his unhappiness. But Shumpert joins several Knicks, past and present, who’ve expressed dissatisfaction with the environment in New York.

This is not the buzz the Knicks want as they enter free agency with money to spend and major holes to fill.

But don’t worry: The triangle will save everything.

Report: NBA executives mostly say LaVar Ball won’t impact Lonzo Ball’s draft stock

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Lonzo Ball is leading UCLA in the NCAA tournament.

Meanwhile, his dad, LaVar Ball, keeps saying ridiculous things. The latest: Lonzo Ball is better than LeBron James and Russell Westbrook.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr said LaVar Ball is making it harder on his kids, but Golden State has no chance of drafting LaVar Ball, who could go No. 1. So, Kerr’s personal opinion holds limited relevance.

What’s the league-wide consensus on the Balls?

Sam Amick of USA Today:

For all the recent focus on LaVar and his one-man media tour – the endless string of interviews full of cocky claims and premature promises, coupled with insults at everyone from Stephen Curry to Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan – the  consensus among front office executives who discussed the matter with USA TODAY Sports this week was that his draft stock won’t be harmed by his father’s controversial style. As one general manager put it, and many other executives confirmed in various forms when consulted on the matter, “No one’s paying attention to Ball’s father.”

Among the dozen executives who were contacted, only two expressed any belief that LaVar’s ways could negatively impact Lonzo’s draft standing. As one of them noted, the LaVar factor could come into play if a team is torn between him and another prospect when the draft buzzer is about to ring.

“That could be the thing that tilts the balance,” he said.

A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England:

While not speaking about the Ball family specifically, the Celtics appear to be open to the idea of selecting him.

“I would never hold a player’s family against a player if I like a player,” Ainge said on 98.5 the Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich show. “I don’t see too much distractions with parents that are in the media. Usually the players are pretty good and the teams are pretty good.”

You think LaVar Ball would be the first parent of an NBA player who presents difficulties? Hardly. Teams deal with this sometimes.

LaVar Ball is different, because his influence is being heard so publicly. But teams are equipped to handle minor family difficulties, and it seems that’s what this is. LaVar Ball is clearly going out of his way to generate publicity with outrageous claims. That doesn’t mean he’s such a wildcard behind the scenes.

I really liked this quote, via Amick:

“People say to my boys, ‘Hey man, you know your daddy’s crazy?’” LaVar said. “And you know what they’re saying, ‘Tell us something we don’t know. He’s been crazy all our life. When we came out he was crazy.’ So whatever is on the outside, talking about us, it doesn’t matter. It does not matter.”

I believe Lonzo Ball can play productively amid his father’s self-generated controversies. The best evidence: Ball is playing productively right now amid his father’s self-generated controversies.

The NBA is a different animal, and pro teams should investigate Lonzo Ball just as they would any top prospect, including researching how those close to him affect him.

I would be a little concerned about LaVar Ball.

I’d be far more concerned about passing on a superior player.

Gordon Hayward flying up in stature, toward contract conundrum

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
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Auburn Hills, Mich. – Asked about making an All-NBA team, Gordon Hayward gave a stock answer about focusing on team success. Pressed further, he relented and talked about himself.

“It would be really cool, man. It would be,” Hayward said before a lengthy pause, “something that I don’t think I ever thought I would achieve, for sure.”

And then he went right back into Utah’s team goals.

Hayward better get his head around what making an All-NBA team would mean for him personally, because the stakes are high – and tricky.

The NBA’s impending Collective Bargaining Agreement calls for a new class: designated veteran players. They can receive a starting salary of 35% of the salary cap with just eight or nine years of experience, up from the usual 30% for players in the league that long. To qualify, a player must also meet one of three criteria:

  • Win MVP in any of the three seasons before signing
  • Win Defensive Player of the Year the season before signing or both of two seasons before that
  • Make an All-NBA team the season before signing or both of two seasons before that

With all due respect to Hayward, he isn’t winning MVP or Defensive Player of the Year. An All-NBA team is his ticket to a designated-veteran-player extension.

Will he nab one of the six forward slots?

A dozen forwards (or quasi-forwards) were All-Stars this season. Here’s how they stack up in win shares (blue), PER-based Estimated Wins Added (yellow) and Real-Plus-Minus-based wins (green):

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Player WS EWA RPM Wins AVG
LeBron James (CLE) 10.5 18.4 14.9 14.6
Kawhi Leonard (SAS) 11.6 18.0 11.3 13.6
Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL) 10.6 18.7 11.6 13.6
Kevin Durant (GSW) 11.3 17.0 12.1 13.5
Jimmy Butler (CHI) 10.0 15.6 14.1 13.2
Anthony Davis (NOP) 9.4 18.4 10.2 12.7
Gordon Hayward (UTA) 9.2 12.7 7.8 9.9
Draymond Green (GSW) 7.3 5.8 13.1 8.7
Paul Millsap (ATL) 6.1 7.4 10.9 8.1
Kevin Love (CLE) 5.4 7.7 7.6 6.9
Paul George (IND) 4.9 9.0 6.7 6.9
Carmelo Anthony (NYK) 4.6 9.0 4.8 6.1

LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard are All-NBA locks. After that? It’s wide open.

Kevin Durant put up an awesome season before he got hurt, but he’ll remained sidelined while other candidates help their teams. His candidacy is basically a finished product.

Giannis Antetokounmpo (guard), Jimmy Butler (guard) and Anthony Davis (center) could all slide to different positions. The league places players at the position where they receive most votes. The Bucks call Antetokounmpo a point guard (and a forward), but the NBA considered him a frontcourt player for All-Star-starter voting, which could color All-NBA voters. Butler has primarily been a forward this year, but Dwyane Wade‘s season-ending injury could have Butler closing at guard. Similarly, though Anthony Davis has played center twice as much as power forward this season, his lasting impression will be at forward next to DeMarcus Cousins.

Draymond Green leads the other contenders. He was All-NBA second team last season, a telling marker for him in particular. All-NBA voters recognizing him last year show they appreciate his distinctive skill set, and it remains impressive.

Paul Millsap belongs in the mix, though he rarely gets his just due. George, on the other hand, has more name recognition. If he finishes his up-and-down year strongly, he might actually deserve to be All-NBA.

And then there’s Hayward, who’s averaging 21.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. He carries a huge offensive load while shooting extremely efficiently and protecting the ball – in historic proportions. He’s also playing a major role in one of the NBA’s best defenses.

There are just so many good forwards this season. Hayward can’t bank on anything – even the date All-NBA selections will be revealed.

The league announced a new award show for June 26, which will honor the Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Sixth Man Award, Most Improved Player and Coach of the Year. Presumably, All-NBA will also be a part of that show, but nothing is definitive.

Waiting that long would give Hayward just three days to decide on his $16,736,710 player option for next season – a far harder decision than meets the eye.

If Hayward doesn’t make All-NBA, opting out is a no-brainer. His maximum salary – and he’s a no-question max player – projects to be more than $30 million.

Then why would Hayward consider opting in?

Another rule says designated veteran players must have eight or nine full years of experience when receiving the higher salary. Hayward is in his seventh year.

So, if Hayward makes an All-NBA team and wants to sign a designated-veteran-player-extension, he must first opt in. He’d earn $16,736,710 next season, his eighth. Then, the monster extension would begin in 2018-19.

Here’s the max Hayward projects to earn by opting out and re-signing (yellow) or signing a designated-veteran-player-extension (green):

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Year DVP extension Opt out, re-sign
2017-18 $16,736,710 $30,600,000
2018-19 $36,050,000 $33,048,000
2019-20 $38,934,000 $35,496,000
2020-21 $41,818,000 $37,944,000
2021-22 $44,702,000 $40,392,000
2022-23 $47,586,000
Total $225,826,710 $177,480,000
Average $37,637,785 $35,496,000

Remember, this choice is available to Hayward only if he makes an All-NBA team. If he doesn’t, opting out is the easy call.

But if he makes an All-NBA team, the decision is complicated.

A designated-veteran-player extension guarantees Hayward more money, but it’s also over more years. If Hayward signs a new five-year contract, he’d almost certainly still earn something in 2022-23. Enough to offset the nearly $48 million difference? I doubt it.

On the other hand, Hayward might be better off entering free agency at age 32 rather than 33 (or 31 rather than 32 if he can get player options in these deals).

A fresh contract would also give Hayward more money up front, a projected extra $14 million next season.

And that’s comparing just these two (seemingly most likely) options. Hayward could opt out, get his big raise next season on a short-term contract and try to make an All-NBA team in a future season to get the best of both worlds. But that’s really betting heavily on himself to maintain this elite standing. He could leave Utah. The Jazz could balk at giving him the full designated-veteran-player max. (Teams are allowed to specify a starting salary between 30% and 35% of the cap.)

There’s so much at play.

Before he reaches that point, Hayward will soon make his first playoff appearance since shooting 6-for-33 as the Jazz got swept by the Spurs in the first round his second year, 2012. The top of the Western Conference is daunting. Otherwise, Utah looks like the type of team poised to make a deep run.

This sets up to be a whirlwind finish for Hayward – through the playoffs, into award season and then to negotiating the contract of a lifetime.

Report: Marcus Keene, top college scorer in 20 years, declaring for NBA draft

AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
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Marcus Keene averaged 30.0 points per game this season – the most in Division I college basketball in the last 20 years.

He’s also 5-foot-9 and played at Central Michigan.

How will the NBA square those factors? We’ll find out.

Larry Lage of the Associated Press:

A person familiar with the decision tells The Associated Press that the nation’s leading scorer, Marcus Keene, is entering the NBA draft.

Keene benefits from Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas having maybe the best-ever season by a sub-6-foot player. Though Keene should be evaluated on his own merits, Thomas’ success will – implicitly or explicitly – frame evaluations of Keene.

Perhaps a better comparison is another 5-foot-9 point guard who produced huge numbers at a Michigan mid-major: Kay Felder, the Cavaliers rookie who was the No. 54 pick out of Oakland.

Keene holds up as a scorer. He can pull up from anywhere, including deep beyond the college 3-point arc, and bury shots. His floater will likely be a useful tool in the pros, where rim protectors are bigger.

But Felder averaged nearly twice as many assists per minute. Some of that is context-dependent. Oakland built a supporting cast around Felder and asked him to initiate all the offense. Central Michigan had other creators around Keene, who transferred from Youngstown State. On the other hand, Central Michigan played at an extremely fast tempo, offering more opportunities to rack up assists (and points, for that matter). Keene showed some distributing ability, but not enough to erase questions.

Felder also flashed pesky defense in college, even if his overall effort on that level was lacking amid his huge offensive burden. Keene has shown far less defensively, and his size is obviously a major concern.

Lastly, Felder excelled against top competition. Keene – 1-for-4 against Pitt as a freshman, 2-for-9 against Texas A&M as a sophomore, 9-for-23 against Illinois as a redshirt junior – struggled in, admittedly limited, action against major foes.

And Felder is no lock to succeed in the NBA. He was Cleveland’s point guard behind Kyrie Irving while LeBron James was extolling the need for another point guard.

Keene is coming off an impressive season, but for someone bound to reach the NBA, excelling in the Mid-American Conference at age 21 is expected. He’s in the running to be a second-round pick. Despite his gaudy scoring, that’s his standing as a prospect.