It took longer than expected, but the Bulls have made it to the second round, and they get what they wanted — the Cleveland Cavaliers. A banged up Cavaliers without Kevin Love all series and no J.R. Smith the first two games (because he can’t control his fists).
Do the Bulls have a chance in this series? Yes. A legitimate one.
But they are going to have to defend better and play more consistently than we have seen from them at any point this season (including against the Bucks).
If LaMarcus Aldridge leaves the Trail Blazers in free agency this summer – and his own teammates see it as a legitimate possibility – San Antonio seems like a logical landing spot.
And maybe that’s underselling the Spurs.
Marc Stein of ESPN:
sources insist — at, yes, this early juncture — that San Antonio sits near or at the top of Aldridge’s list … unless the Cleveland Cavaliers were to lose Kevin Love and then somehow manufacture a way to sign-and-trade for him.
I still lean toward Aldridge staying in Portland, where can make about $109 million over five years as opposed to about $81 million over four years elsewhere. The Trail Blazers are good when healthy, and Aldridge has a strong connection to the franchise.
But it seems increasingly likely Aldridge leaves.
If the Spurs are already at or near the top of his list, just wait until he gets further removed from his time with Portland. He might have loved his last nine years with the Trail Blazers, but that bond won’t feel as tight in July as it does now. Just a couple days ago, he was still giving Portland his all in the playoffs.
Cleveland would be an intriguing destination, and Aldridge could provide some of the floor-spacing Love did next to LeBron James and Kyrie Irving – though Aldridge doesn’t stretch beyond the 3-point arc like Love did. Aldridge also doesn’t pass like Love, and Aldridge is older.
Keeping Love should definitely be the Cavaliers’ preference, though it isn’t just their choice. Love has a player option, and he’s reportedly at least considering leaving Cleveland.
If the Cavaliers lose Love, signing-and-trading for Aldridge would be difficult. A deal would have to appease the Trail Blazers, who wouldn’t rush to help their All-Star forward leave Portland. And if it’s good enough for the Trail Blazers, Cleveland might be giving up too much.
This is why the Cavaliers should go all-in on keeping Love.
Warriors general manager Bob Myers didn’t do much this year.
Which is why he won the NBA’s 2015 Executive of the Year.
His most noteworthy decision of the year was not trading Klay Thompson for Kevin Love, and Golden State mostly stuck with a roster built in previous seasons. This is a hard award to assess annually, because team-building is done long-term.
But apparently, voters – executives from the league’s 30 teams – decided the time was right to honor Myers.
For what it’s worth, Myers made good moves this year, too. He hired Steve Kerr and surrounded the first-time coach with quality assistants, and Shaun Livingston was a nice addition.
David Griffin, who positioned the Cavaliers to be appealing enough for LeBron James to return home, finished second (and would have had my first-place vote). Griffin also traded Andrew Wiggins for Kevin Love (the verdict isn’t yet in) and rounded out Cleveland’s roster midseason by trading for Timofey Mozgov, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert.
The Hawks’ Mike Budenholzer finished third for doing I don’t know what. Getting votes because executives were salty about not being able to vote for Danny Ferry?
Go further down the results, and it basically becomes a participation ribbon. Seven executives got first-place votes, and 18 made someone’s top three.
Here’s the full voting with executive, team (first-place votes, second-place votes, third-place votes, points):
- Bob Myers, Golden State (13-5-2-82)
- David Griffin, Cleveland (8-7-8-69)
- Mike Budenholzer, Atlanta (4-5-1-36)
- Danny Ainge, Boston (1-3-2-16)
- Gar Forman, Chicago (1-2-3-14)
- Neil Olshey, Portland (2-1-1-14)
- Daryl Morey, Houston (0-2-2-8)
- Stan Van Gundy, Detroit (1-0-0-5)
- Sam Presti, Oklahoma City (0-1-1-4)
- Dell Demps, New Orleans (0-0-3-3)
- Flip Saunders, Minnesota (0-1-0-3)
- John Hammond, Milwaukee (0-1-0-3)
- Mitch Kupchak, L.A. Lakers (0-1-0-3)
- Sam Hinkie, Philadelphia (0-1-0-3)
- Chris Wallace, Memphis (0-0-2-2)
- Dennis Lindsey, Utah (0-0-2-2)
- R.C. Buford, San Antonio (0-0-2-2)
- Masai Ujiri, Toronto (0-0-1-1)
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about the Celtics trying to trade for DeMarcus Cousins.
But this is a bit more definitive.
Marc Stein of ESPN:
Will they open their war chest of future draft picks to try to pry DeMarcus Cousins away from the Sacramento via trade? The early word out there is: Bank on it.
The Celtics sure have a fetish for stars who accuse Boston’s current players of dirty play.
Cousins got ejected from a December game against the Celtics for throwing Marcus Smart to the floor, and the Kings center accused Smart of taking a cheap shot beforehand. More recently, of course, Kevin Love accused Kelly Olynyk of intentionally dislocating his shoulder.
That might hurt the Celtics’ chances of signing Love, who was once reportedly their top target – which leads to Cousins.
Celtics general manager Danny Ainge has said he’d ideally like to trade his treasure trove of first-round picks – up to 10 over the next four years – for veterans. I doubt Ainge would do that at any cost, but that route sure worked well last time with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joining Paul Pierce in Boston.
Cousins isn’t ready to win like Garnett and Allen were, but he’s extremely talented and productive. Of course, for that reason, the Kings probably aren’t in a rush to trade him – even if George Karl says nobody is untradeable.
If Sacramento is willing to deal the center, though, Boston could put together a nice package of picks. Unfortunately, the Celtics’ most valuable player – Isaiah Thomas – probably would neither intrigue the Kings nor fit well with Cousins in Boston.
There are plenty of hurdles to clear before Cousins winds up with the Celtics. The biggest, by far, is getting the Kings on board. But, for whatever it’s worth, it seems the Celtics already are.
Joakim Noah wanted the Cavaliers.
Now, he’s getting them.
The Bulls demolished the Bucks in Game 6, setting up a second-round matchup with the Cavaliers.
That leaves Noah – a noted Cleveland hater – with a funny feeling.
Noah, via Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:
“You know what? I never thought I’d say this, but I’m very excited to go to Cleveland.”
Fueled by Noah, the Bulls have the determination and peskiness to really challenged the Cavaliers. (It also helps that Cleveland is missing Kevin Love for the rest of the playoffs and J.R. Smith for the series’ first two games.)
LeBron James and Kyrie Irving can certainly lead the Cavaliers to the conference finals, but Chicago won’t make it easy.
Noah has made one thing easy, though.
I think Cavaliers fans know their new villain.