Dan Feldman

CLEVELAND, OH - JUNE 16:  J.R. Smith #5 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots against Stephen Curry #30 of the Golden State Warriors during 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

J.R. Smith: LeBron James and Russell Westbrook deserved MVP more than Stephen Curry


For the first time in NBA history, all MVP voters put the same player atop their ballots.

But that doesn’t mean everyone thought Stephen Curry deserved the award.

Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith, via Michael Singer of USA Today:

“Other than LeBron, I don’t really know who else to vote for,” Smith said on Thursday ahead of Game 4. ”I mean somebody who does everything for a team, whether it’s scoring, getting stops, rebounds, steals, blocked shots. There’s not more of a complete player, so I don’t see how he couldn’t be the most valuable.”

“If I couldn’t vote for somebody on my own team I’d probably vote for a guy like Russ (Westbrook). I mean, he’s energy, effort, consistently, got the total package. You gotta go for a guy like that.”

I can see why J.R. Smith picked LeBron James over Curry. You have to go with the guy who gets you paid.

But Russell Westbrook? As impressive as Westbrook was, that’s a stretch.

Curry had the NBA’s best regular season by far, and that’s what earns MVP. His relatively dismal Finals have no bearing. Curry’s skills beyond outside shooting are ridiculously underrated – and don’t underestimate the importance of his primary skill. Curry’s 3-point shooting is a big reason he’s more productive than LeBron and Westbrook despite them having wider skill sets.

Of course, this isn’t about debating Curry on the merits. Smith – facing Curry in the Finals – knows exactly what he’s doing.

Andrew Wiggins won’t play for Canada in Olympic Qualifying Tournament

Andrew Wiggins, Juan Toscano
AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo

Rudy Gobert, Evan Fournier, Ian Mahinmi and (maybe) Nicolas Batum are out for France in its Olympic Qualifying Tournament

That opens the door for Canada – but its roster won’t be at full strength, either.

Andrew Wiggins is also out.

Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis StarTribune:


Canada could’ve qualified for the Rio Olympics last summer, but Canada fell to Venezuela in the FIBA Americas semifinals. Wiggins called it the worst loss of his career. Canada surely would’ve loved to see him avenge it, but that won’t happen this summer.

The Timberwolves have a promising future with Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. Tom Thibodeau surely has big plans for playing those two. I can see why Wiggins would need a little extra rest to prepare for the upcoming season.

Andrew Bogut: Warriors have seen Kevin Durant rumors and sometimes ask ‘Why?’

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 28:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder handles the ball against Andre Iguodala #9 of the Golden State Warriors and Andrew Bogut #12 during the first half in game six of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 28, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 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 Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Even as the Warriors charged through a record-setting 73-win season that ends in the Finals – maybe with a second straight championship – some Golden State executives and players were predicting the team would sign Kevin Durant this summer.

One problem: Even with the salary cap skyrocketing, the Warriors won’t have enough cap space for Durant.

They can get there fairly easily by clearing some combination of Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, Andre Iguodala, Festus Ezeli and Shaun Livingston.

How do those players handle the rumors while trying to help this team win a title?

Bogut, via Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com:

“Guys have definitely asked questions,” center Andrew Bogut told NBA.com. “We’re not immune to it. We’ve seen it. We’ve seen the rumors, heard the rumors, all that kind of stuff. Different guys at different times have been scratching their head and thinking, ‘Why?’ The only way we can dispel all that stuff is maybe we’ve got to win five straight. Who knows? It’s one of those things we can’t really control, but we can control trying to make them make a tough decision.”

Why? Simple: The 2016-17 Warriors can’t be the 2015-16 Warriors.

If Golden State were guaranteed to remain a 73-win team as long it kept these exact players, adding Durant would be foolish, even if it meant a chance of winning 80 games. A team that wins 73 games is probably going to win the title.

But the Warriors obviously aren’t guaranteed anything, and all indications are that the players who might be moved will be less valuable next year.

Bogut is 31. Iguodala is 32. Livingston is 30. These players are likely to decline.

Barnes will almost certainly draw max offers this summer, and Ezeli could, too. At minimum, Ezeli will get a huge raise. Those two aren’t as valuable on large contracts, and Barnes being the team’s highest-paid player could cause dissension.

So, don’t look at it as Golden State breaking up a 73-win team for Durant. Look at it as Golden State potentially breaking up a future team with an unknown record – though likely a very good team – for Durant.

Plus, if the Warriors’ theoretical choice isn’t simply Durant or no Durant. It’s Durant or Durant on an opponent. There’s value in disrupting the Thunder, who really challenged Golden State in the Western Conference finals. If the Warriors pass on Durant, he could go to the Spurs and make them even better.

I don’t envy the current Warriors who could be expendable for Durant. Job uncertainty isn’t fun – especially when you’re doing such a great work for your employer.

But it’s Kevin freaking Durant. It’s not that hard to figure out why Golden State is interested.

NBA GM: Lakers should draft Marquese Chriss at No. 2

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 10:  Marquese Chriss #0 of the Washington Huskies dunks against the Oregon Ducks during a quarterfinal game of the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament at MGM Grand Garden Arena on March 10, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The 76ers are reportedly leaning toward drafting Ben Simmons No. 1 overall.

That would leave consensus No. 2 pick Brandon Ingram to the Lakers, right?

Chad Ford of ESPN:

NBA draft chatter from NBA general managers, scouts and agents is arriving constantly via phone, text and email.

And what I’m hearing are provocative comments — from GMs I trust with strong track records of truth-telling this time of year — that will help decide how the draft is shaping up.

Here are some of the quotes I’ve been given this week:

“The Lakers should take Marquese Chriss at No. 2.”

Talking to Lakers sources, I think Ingram is the pick for L.A. at No. 2.

It’s on Ford to evaluate the trustworthiness of the general manager before granting anonymity passing along his comments, because we can’t. If it’s someone whose team is drafting high, it reeks of trying to get Simmons – or another player via trickle down – to fall to his team. If it’s someone picking low enough where the order of the top picks won’t effect his team, it’s far more believable.

I’m not as high on Ingram as most. I like his shooting, length, athleticism and youth, but I wanted to see more of his all-around game at Duke.

But I still have him firmly ahead of Chriss.

I like Chriss’ upside. He’s an athletic power forward with an intriguing shooting touch, and he can block shots. But he’s so much more raw than Ingram. Chriss was a dreadful rebounder for a player his size in college.

Chriss might have a slightly higher ceiling than Ingram, but that’s not enough to outweigh a higher likelihood of Ingram becoming a good NBA player.

John Wall on All-NBA voting: ‘I got snaked twice’

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 21:  John Wall #2 of the Washington Wizards looks to drive against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on March 21, 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia.  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 Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

James Harden said he doesn’t know why he didn’t make an All-NBA team this year.

John Wall – who has never made an All-NBA team – was more direct about his exclusion.

J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic:

“I’m pissed the last two years about that,” Wall told CSNmidatlantic.com on Thursday, when asked if the recognition he received for the NBA Cares Community Assist Award softened the blow. “I got snaked twice.”

Here’s how guards ranked in All-NBA voting points in 2015:

And 2016:

I wouldn’t have had Wall on my All-NBA team this year or last. He was my toughest 2015 omission, and he finished seventh for six guard spots. I would’ve had Wall over Klay Thompson, but I would have had Damian Lillard over both, so Wall doesn’t move. I’m fine with Wall’s standing this year, too.

It’s one thing to call Wall a quality player. He is.

But to say he deserved to make an All-NBA team requires going a step further and saying who should have been bumped for him. I’m with the Wizards’ guard on 2015, when Thompson made it over him. But I’d take up Lillard’s case before Wall’s.