Kurt Helin

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Who starts at point for Detroit when Brandon Jennings gets healthy?

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Brandon Jennings was the starting point guard for Stan Van Gundy’s Detroit Pistons last season for 41 games — until he tore his Achilles.

Reggie Jackson was brought in with a trade and started the last 27 games at the point for the Pistons, showing some chemistry with Andre Drummond. Then this summer the Pistons gave him a five-year, $80 million contract.

That deal implies that Jackson is locked in as the starter for the Pistons, but what happens when Jennings comes back, gets healthy and starts pushing for minutes? While Jackson put up more points per game last season, Jennings shot better from three, and their PERs were almost identical (19.8 and 19.7). It’s not that clear-cut who should be the starting point guard.

The fourth guy in the Pistons’ point guard rotation, Spencer Dinwiddie (remember they have Steve Blake, too) said he doesn’t know what will happen, speaking to MLive.com.

“When you have two starters and you know only one can start, something’s got to give,” Dinwiddie said. “So I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m sure Brandon’s coming back to be the best player on the floor. Reggie, I’m sure he feels like he obviously is our franchise guy right now, until ‘Dre signs his max deal. So we’ll see. We’ll see what happens. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen with Brandon and Reggie but everybody’s waiting to see, I’m sure.”

It’s going to be Jackson, but the fit will be interesting.

One solution is to play them at the same time — Van Gundy has said he thinks Jennings and Jackson can play together. It works in theory because the Pistons could go a little smaller and play faster, Jennings can play more two on offense where he has the shot to space the floor, and Jackson is good enough defensively to guard twos. It’s not something they would use all the time — Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Jodie Meeks should get a lot of run at the two — but the combo could work at times.

That said, the more likely option is for the Pistons to play Jennings at the point and show him off and hope to do it before the trade deadline — they would love to move him. He is in the last year of his contract; he wouldn’t be expensive for a team to take on as a rental, and then said team can try to re-sign him next summer. However, moving him after an Achilles injury is not going to be easy, and the Pistons will not likely get much in return.

Detroit is a fascinating story next season. Can Van Gundy bring his vision to Detroit and get this team to take a step forward? How does the offense look with Ersan Ilyasova at the four rather than Greg Monroe? Can they make the playoffs in the East?

What happens with Jennings is just another interesting storyline.

Alvin Gentry understands great opportunity, challenge coaching Anthony Davis

Golden State Warriors v New Orleans Pelicans - Game Four
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At any one time in the NBA, there are at best a handful of guys who will go down as legendary, all-time great NBA players. The men mentioned in the same breath as the best ever to lace them up. Right now there is LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan…

And Anthony Davis.

Davis is just 22, and we are a decade from knowing if he should ultimately be compared to the Duncans and LeBrons of the game — but he is on that trajectory. After just three NBA seasons, he is undoubtedly a top five NBA player and arguably in the top two. His PER of 30.8 last season was 11th best all time in the NBA; the only people ahead of him are named LeBron, Chamberlain, and Jordan. He will wear the crown of best player on the planet in a few years. He has an NCAA title, an Olympic gold medal, two All-Star games and one All-NBA Team to his credit, and he’s still just tapping into how great he can be.

It falls in part to new Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry to help him reach his potential.

No pressure.

Gentry talked with NBA.com’s Ian Thompson about that burden, what he has spoken with Davis about, and what he has to do as a coach to guide Davis to that potential.

“It is up to us to make him as good as he can possibly be, and not settle for him to be less than great in this area or that area. I told him that I have no doubt that he is going to be an MVP in this league. And I said to him, ‘We are going to be really, really good if you also win Defensive Player of the Year….’

“It’s like I said to him: As great as he is right now, I see his game expanding in so many areas,” says Gentry of Davis. “And the thing I like about it is he is still willing to learn. I sent Darren Erman, who is my associate head coach and defensive coordinator, to work with him, and he showed him a couple of little things from last year that he had to improve on. And every day Anthony has been working on them. Every single day. Guys usually don’t work on defensive things when you are having a workout, but he has been great at it.

“He is just a special player, and we can’t set limits on him. We have to try to take him to a level that he didn’t feel he could get to — or that no one thought he could get to. We have got to make the sky the limit for him.”

Gentry picked another great player with a legendary work ethic as a potential role model for Davis — Kevin Garnett.

“I told Anthony this — and I think it’s very important — about Kevin Garnett,” says Gentry. “I never had the opportunity to coach him, but I know guys that coached him, and they say that every day Kevin Garnett came into the gym, he had to know that when he left he was a little bit better than he was yesterday.”

Gentry’s style will help here, too. Gentry wants the game to be fun (something he said Steve Kerr emphasized last year). He wants the Pelicans to play faster, which will help Davis both get some transition buckets and get deep position more often. He has emphasized defense (the Pelicans struggled on that end last season). New Orleans is going to take a step forward this season, the only question is now big (and how far they can go in a loaded West).

But in a lot of ways, Gentry’s job (and GM Dell Demps’ job) is to get everything around Davis right. Davis himself will be amazing, but as we have seen through LeBron’s career the players around him will matter, getting those players to buy into the system will matter. Davis isn’t winning rings — which he will need for his legacy — by himself.

It’s a lot of pressure, but there may be no guy more ready for it than Gentry.

Giannis Antetokounmpo blocks shots, knocks down threes for Greece (VIDEO)

Giannis Antetokounmpo
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The Bucks’ future cornerstone Giannis Antetokounmpo is playing for Greece this summer as they gear up for EuroBasket next month (an Olympic qualifying event). While that comes with an injury risk, for a raw young player like Antetokounmpo more time on the court is simply a good thing.

In this video from a friendly against Bosnia, Antetokounmpo is blocking shots and knocking down threes (hat tip Eye on Basketball and BrewHoop).

Blocking shots we expect to see.

However, the 3-of-6 from three in this game for Antetokounmpo is interesting. Last season he took just 44 threes in total (hitting seven) after being instructed to attack the rim by coach Jason Kidd (50.6 of his shot attempts were within 3 feet). As a rookie, he showed potential from the outside (35 percent from three) but he’s going to have to force opponents to respect his jumper to open things up.

Hitting threes in a friendly international against Bosnia and knocking them down against the Cavaliers or Bulls during the season are very different things, but this is a reason to be optimistic.

Life lessons from Swaggy P

Los Angeles Lakers v Denver Nuggets
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Nick Young is an NBA player suiting up for the Lakers and engaged to Iggy Azalea — life is pretty damn good.

Which means people turn to him for advice.

Young was in full Swaggy P mode dishing out life advice on Twitter on Friday.

And:

Young also addressed the fact he got a Tupac tattoo on his right arm, which before had been reserved just for buckets.

Trey Burke knows this is key year for Utah, his career

Trey Burke, Tony Parker
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Utah has become nearly everybody’s trendy pick to climb up into the bottom of the Western Conference playoffs, passing falling Portland (I’m included in that group). The way the Jazz played after the All-Star break — 19-10 record while holding opponents to 94.8 points per 100 possessions (89 points per game) with a great defense that turned heads around the league. After Enes Kanter was shipped to Oklahoma City and Rudy Gobert started at center, Utah was a defensive force.

Another change that mattered for that team — Dante Exum was made the starting point guard. He was a better defender and used less of the offense than Trey Burke, which meant more offensive touches for Gordon Hayward and the better playmakers on the team.

Now Exum is out for next season with an ACL injury, and Burke is being thrust back into the starter’s role. Entering his third NBA season after staring at Michigan, Burke knows this is a key season for him to prove he is a starting NBA point guard who can run a playoff team, something he talked about with the Salt Lake Tribune’s Aaron Falk.

“I haven’t hit the goals that I have for myself,” Burke said between fulfilling autograph requests and posing for pictures at a community fair. “But I feel like they’ve been two solid years. I’ve been learning a lot, especially over this summer and last summer. But I know I have a lot of room to improve and I’m willing to work on those areas….

“It’s always unfortunate to see that,” he said of Exum’s injury. “You don’t want to see that for nobody. But it’s a part of the game and unfortunately it happened to Dante. It’s something that I really felt like [this year] was a opportunity either way. But I guess people see it more as an opportunity now because obviously we play the same position. I have to be ready to step up again and just make plays for the team. I think the biggest thing for the team is just winning. I could sit here and talk about a lot of personal things, but as long as we’re winning everything else will take care of itself.”

Burke is eligible for a contract extension after this coming season. How he plays this season will determine if the Jazz are even interested in that or in moving him so Exum can have a clear path.

There are two personal things Burke needs take care of to get to the winning, at least at the rate the Jazz expect.

First is defense, he did get beat plenty out on the perimeter. That said, playing with Gobert to protect the rim and clean up his mistakes did help — when Burke and Gobert were paired last season the Jazz allowed just 99.7 points per 100 possessions (with Exum and Gobert it was 98 per 100). Burke can be better on this end of the court, but he’ll be in a better position to do so this season.

Second, and more important, is taking fewer bad shots. For Burke, less is more. Burke is confident in his abilities as a playmaker and shooter, but he makes poor choices too often (ones he got away with in college). Last season he took 38.8 percent of his shot attempts from three, and hit just 31.8 percent of them. He doesn’t get to the rim enough, his assist numbers are not great. The Jazz’s offense dipped a very slight 0.9 points per 100 possessions after the All-Star break last season, but the ball was not in the hands of Exum to create plays as much as Hayward. And you saw the potential there. If Burke is going to be the guy with the ball in his hands, he needs to both make better decisions when he has it (make better shot choices) and cede some of that control to Hayward to make plays, or guys like Alec Burks to get their shots. Burke cannot be the offensive fulcrum.

Utah is going to be one of the most interesting teams to watch next season in the NBA — and it’s been a long time since we got to say that.