Pau Gasol

NBA All-Star Game 2015

PBT Awards: All-NBA

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Though none of us have a ballot for the NBA’s official awards, we’ll be presenting our choices and making our cases this week for each major honor.

Kurt Helin

First team

  • G: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
  • G: James Harden, Houston Rockets
  • F: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
  • F: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
  • C: Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies

Second team

  • G: Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
  • G: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
  • F: LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers
  • F: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
  • C: DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings

Third team

  • G: Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
  • G: Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
  • F: Pau Gasol, Chicago Bulls
  • F: Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
  • C: Al Horford, Hawks

There are just so many good forwards, you can’t mention them all. Apologies to DeAndre Jordan, who easily could have been that third center.

Brett Pollakoff

First team

  • G: James Harden, Houston Rockets
  • G: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
  • F: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
  • F: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
  • C: Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies

Second team

  • G: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
  • G: Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
  • F: LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers
  • F: Pau Gasol, Chicago Bulls
  • C: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs

Third team

  • G: Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
  • G: Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
  • F: Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
  • F: Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
  • C: Al Horford, Hawks

Sean Highkin

First team

  • G: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
  • G: James Harden, Houston Rockets
  • F: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
  • F: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
  • C: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs

Second team

  • G: Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
  • G: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
  • F: LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers
  • F: Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks
  • C: Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies

Third team

  • G: Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
  • G: John Wall, Washington Wizards
  • F: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
  • F: Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
  • C: Pau Gasol, Chicago Bulls

The first team is self-explanatory. The positional logjam forces Paul and Westbrook onto the second team — it’s a little ridiculous that they can’t be on the first team, but there are only two guard spots and it would be hard to justify not giving them to the top two MVP candidates. Aldridge carried the Blazers through several injuries and even put off thumb surgery until the summer, without falling off at all. The Gasol brothers were great for different reasons. Marc has a legit case for First Team honors, and Pau was the Bulls’ most consistent player while Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler missed time with injuries.

Dan Feldman

First team

  • G: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
  • G: James Harden, Houston Rockets
  • F: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
  • F: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
  • C: Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies

Second team

  • G: Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
  • G: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
  • F: LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers
  • F: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
  • C: Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks

Third team

  • G: Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
  • G: Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
  • F: Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
  • F: Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
  • C: DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers

I could easily flip Horford and Jordan between the second and third teams, and DeMarcus Cousins isn’t far behind.

Putting Butler at forward might be cheating a bit, but he guarded small forwards often enough to qualify in my book. Apologies to Blake Griffin, who would have taken that spot if I hadn’t fudged Butler’s position.

John Wall was the toughest omission otherwise followed by Paul Millsap, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Kevin Love (who regressed from last season, disappointed relative to expectations, didn’t play as well as he’s capable, was misused – and still had a pretty good year).

Kristaps Porzingis, who’s declaring for draft, reportedly has one NBA GM asking: ‘Are you sure he’s not the No. 1 guy’

CCajasol-Obradoiro en San Pablo.
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Kristaps Porzingis steadily climbed 2014 NBA draft boards, probably peaking in the lottery or just outside of it.

Then, surprisingly, he withdrew from the draft.

A year later, he’s back in.

Chad Ford of ESPN:

Latvian big man Kristaps Porzingis will declare for the 2015 NBA draft, his agent, Andy Miller, told ESPN.com.

“He’s an athletic, super-skilled 7-footer who can do everything well,” one GM said. “I was watching him warm up and had flashbacks to when I saw Pau Gasol take the floor for the first time in Spain, only this kid is much more athletic than Gasol but plays with that same fluidity. I’ve been asking my team since then: Are you sure he’s not the No. 1 guy? Are these guys in college really better than him?”

That’s the highest praise I’ve seen of Porzingis, but it’s not totally above and beyond the conventional wisdom on him.

Porzingis is a good shooter and good athlete, and he’s comfortable both handling the ball and blocking shots. Not many players possess that package.

The 6-foot-11 Porzingis projects as a power forward, but it’s possible he plays some small forward while adding strength – the major knock on him. His finishing and rebounding lag a bit behind, because he’s still too weak.

But Porzingis won’t turn 20 until August, so there’s plenty of time to get stronger. Teams will definitely take a chance on someone with his plusses.

The best thing I can say about Porzingis? He put himself squarely on scouts’ radars last year and is rated even higher this year. That usually goes the other way as scouts get more time to assess flaws. Porzingis must be pretty good if he progressed enough to meet increased expectations.

PBT Weekly NBA Power Rankings: Warriors, Spurs, Cavs finish season in top slots

Minnesota Timberwolves v Golden State Warriors
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This is the final PBT Power Rankings of the season, and the goal is to put them in the order they have a shot at winning the NBA title. San Antonio moves in front of Cleveland because I believe today the Spurs are the better team. As for the bottom, it’s the Timberwolves who get the “honor.”

 
source:  1. Warriors (65-15, Last Week No. 1). Steve Kerr has not given his young charges a game off down the stretch, although some have seen their minutes shrink a little. We’ll see if that changes. They have taken their foot off the gas a little of late but will still finish first in defensive rating and second in offensive rating for the season.

 
source:  2. Spurs (55-26, LW 3). They have won 11 games in a row, and may need to make it 12 on Wednesday against the Pelicans to ensure they get the No. 2 seed out West (and in theory they could still miss it). As noted by John Schuhmann of NBA.com, during this win streak the Spurs have outscored opponents by more than 20 points per 100 possessions. That’s insane.

 
source:  3. Cavaliers (51-29 LW 2). Cleveland resting all it’s stars Sunday made it far more likely they get the Celtics in the first round of the playoffs. Coincidence? I wouldn’t bet on it. Boston’s young team will be just happy to make it, a nice, soft first playoff experience for Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

 
source:  4. Hawks (60-19, LW 4). There are a lot of questions about how it happened off the court, but the Thabo Sefolosha injury really hurts the Hawks in a potential matchup with the Cavaliers. He would have seen a fair amount of time on LeBron James, plus his defense was key to their stingy second unit.

 
source:  5. Clippers (54-26, LW 5). They come into the postseason the second hottest team in the league (behind San Antonio) but there is not a lot of faith in them coming out of the West. It all comes down to their lack of depth and the lack of versatility/flexibility that comes with a short rotation. That’s Doc Rivers the GM tying the hands of Doc Rivers the coach again.

 
source:  6. Rockets (54-26, LW 6). They lost both ends of the home and home with the Spurs and that saw them fall to the six seed in the West (although they still could finish as high as the two seed). Even with Dwight Howard playing better of late this seems to symbolize the limits of how far this roster can really go.

 
source:  7. Trail Blazers (51-29. LW 7). They will be the four seed in the West but will not have home court in the first round. The foot injury (sprain) LaMarcus Aldridge suffered could be big trouble if it lingers into the postseason and limits Portland’s best player.

 
source:  8. Grizzlies (54-26, LW 8). Injuries make this team very vulnerable in the first round — Mike Conley has a foot issue, Tony Allen is not yet back, and Saturday Marc Gasol rolled his ankle. Two tough games for seeding issues, at Golden State then Indiana. The good news is they have a lot of tiebreakers in their favor in the middle of a crowded West.

 
source:  9. Mavericks (48-31, LW 10). In his last 15 games, Rajon Rondo is shooting a respectable 47.5 percent. That doesn’t matter. All those teams battling for the 2-6 seeds in the West covet the two seed most of all, they see Dallas as the softest first-round matchup.

 
source:  10. Bulls (48-32, LW 9). Go ahead and make the case that when all of their starters are there — Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Mike Dunleavy, Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah — they are 17-5. Yes, they have played much better at the United Center of late. I still haven’t seen consistent enough defense from the Bulls this season to think they can flip the switch. They are the third best team in the East but well back of the Hawks and Cavs.

 
source:  11. Pelicans (43-36, LW 11). They control their own destiny, a win on the road against the struggling T-Wolves Monday night puts them in a strong position. But if OKC beats Portland Monday the Pelicans may have to beat the Spurs the final game of the season and that will be a tall order and the Spurs likely need that win, too.

 
source:  12. Thunder (43-36, LW 13). Russell Westbrook is trying, but the Thunder defense is the reason they need help to get in the postseason. Huge game Monday, they need to beat the Trail Blazers (because the Pelicans will beat the Timberwolves). Their final game against the Timberwolves should be a win, if they are still in the playoff mix.

 
source:  13. Raptors (48-32, LW 14). As division winners — while the Bulls are not — they have the tiebreaker over Chicago for the 3/4 seed race. They will be home for the first round of the playoffs and may win 50 games. That said, their Swiss cheese defense has them being pretty average since the All-Star break. The Raptors should beat the Bucks if if they are the three seed, but a matchup with the Wizards (who do defend) could be a challenge).

 
source:  14. Wizards (45-34, LW 12). Washington will be the five seed starting on the road in the playoffs, but they are the second best defensive team in the East (behind Milwaukee). That plus John Wall’s attacking style means they can get out of the first round, they will not be an easy out.

 
source:  15. Jazz (37-43, LW 15). The Jazz and their fans need to consider this season a success — they found a front line that might really work for them in Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors. They need to find more offense, but if history is an indicator expect patience from the Utah front office this summer.

 
source:  16. Celtics (37-42, LW 19). Cleveland gave the Celtics a gift Sunday sitting LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and pretty much every other Cav you can name. Of course, that likely means they get the fully-loaded Cavaliers in the first round. Nonetheless, just making the playoffs is a big step for the Celtics and will be a good experience for their young team.

 
source:  17. Bucks (39-40, LW 17). The win over Brooklyn on Sunday secured the six seed for Milwaukee (meaning they face Toronto or Chicago). The last time the Bucks won a playoff series was 2001, and that streak likely continues, but just getting in will be a good experience for a young, growing Bucks team.

 
source:  18. Nets (37-42, LW 18). They should be able to get the eight seed, especially since they have the tie breaker over the Pacers. However, a win over Chicago Monday night would be a big boost to their chances.

 
source:  19. Pacers (36-43, LW 20). They likely need to beat Washington and Memphis — no small feat — and get some help to make the postseason. Paul George did his best to help and even dunked for the first time this season on Sunday, it just may be too much of a slow start to overcome.

 
source:  20. Heat (36-43, LW 21). Obviously there were major roster shifts followed by major injuries, still it is odd to see the four-time NBA Finalists missing the playoffs all together this season. The last team to lose in the Finals then miss the playoffs was the Lakers the year after Shaq was moved.

 
<source:  21. Suns (39-41, LW 16). Would they have won the eight seed if they had not made their deadline trades? It’s moot, they might have been the eight seed and got smacked down in the first round. Better to think and plan long term.

 
source:  22. Pistons (31-49, LW 22). It’s another losing season in Detroit, but at least one where we started to see Stan Van Gundy play a foundation for the future. A future without Josh Smith. Also likely one without Greg Monroe, who will bolt as a free agent this summer. But likely one with Reggie Jackson in the fold.

 
source:  23. Hornets (33-47, LW 23). Their defense went from top five to top 10, a slip that hurt their chances for a return to the playoffs. That and the Lance Stephenson acquisition not working out, look for the Hornets to try and move him this summer.

 
source:  24. Magic (25-55, LW 24). There are moments you see a potential future with Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, and Nikola Vucivic. Then there was the second quarter against the Knicks, when the teams combined to score 15 points, when you are reminded just how far they have to go.

 
source:  25. Nuggets (30-50, LW 25). If you’re looking for a positive, Danilo Gallinari looked much improved at the end of the season. Nuggets management needs to decide what kind of team it want to build then go get a coach to fulfill that — then stick with it for a few years.

 
source:  26. Kings (27-53, LW 26). They made their moves — George Karl is in and Vlade Divac is the big voice in the front office. Now let’s see if those guys can put a team that will take advantage of the force of nature that is DeMarcus Cousins.

 
source:  27. 76ers (18-62, LW 27). They developed a foundation on defense and will add Joel Embiid (plus their own lottery pick) to the mix next season. They could take a nice step forward. But they also may not get any of those conditional picks they have (Lakers, Heat and Thunder picks all have protections).

 
source:  28. Lakers (21-59, LW 28). Jordan Clarkson can play at the point. They get Julius Randle back. They will have whoever they draft Top 5 (they have an 82 percent chance of keeping the pick). That plus Kobe Bryant makes the Lakers more interesting next season — and we haven’t even talked about Rajon Rondo or other potential free agents.

 
source:  29. Knicks (16-64, LW 29). Let the Greg Monroe watch begin. He would be a good get, but what they really need is some lottery luck and a top pick who can be a foundational player to pair with Carmelo Anthony (and just take the best player, don’t worry about position).

source:  30. Timberwolves (16-64, LW 30). Andrew Wiggins will be the Rookie of the Year. Pair him with a healthy Ricky Rubio and Zach LaVine next season — with Kevin Garnett mentoring — and they shouldn’t end the season this low on the list. Well, if Flip Saunders can get these guys to defend.

PBT Awards: Executive of the Year

David Griffin
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Though none of us have a ballot for the NBA’s official awards, we’ll be presenting our choices and making our cases this week for each major honor.

Kurt Helin

1. David Griffin, Cleveland Cavaliers

2. Bob Myers, Golden State Warriors

3. Mike Budenholzer (Danny Ferry), Atlanta Hawks

It’s not for getting LeBron James last summer; LeBron decided that. It’s not for the Kevin Love/Andrew Wiggins trade; LeBron pushed to make that happen, too. No, it was for the smart mid-season change of
course to get Timofey Mozgov and J.R. Smith in while sending Dion Waiters out. That and not panicking with David Blatt.

Officially the Hawks submitted Budenholzer — the acting GM — for this award, but Ferry deserves credit here, too. Even Budenholzer recently said it was Ferry, currently suspended, who constructed most of the East’s top team.

Brett Pollakoff

1. David Griffin, Cleveland Cavaliers

2. Mike Budenholzer (Danny Ferry), Atlanta Hawks

3. Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics

While Griffin may not have had much to do with the Cavaliers landing LeBron James or Kevin Love, bringing in Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith (while jettisoning Dion Waiters at the same time) makes him worthy of the honor. It was tempting to consider the Hawks for the top spot, but Dan Feldman laid out a pretty solid case of why it wouldn’t be appropriate, no matter what moves may have been made by those in Atlanta’s front office.

Sean Highkin

1. David Griffin, Cleveland Cavaliers

2. Danny Ferry, Atlanta Hawks

3. Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics

Yes, your job is a lot easier when you’re gifted LeBron James and Kevin Love in the offseason. But Griffin deserves a lot of credit for the Iman Shumpert/J.R. Smith/Timofey Mozgov trades in January that filled every need the Cavs had and were the catalyst for their transformation into the team to beat in the East.

I realize that Ferry wasn’t officially on the ballot, and that was just about the only thing the Hawks could do given the circumstances around his leave of absence. But Ferry’s done a phenomenal job since taking over the Hawks, and this was the best season in franchise history.

Ainge did a good job collecting assets, picking up a potential long-term piece in Isaiah Thomas, and getting decent value for Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green.

Dan Feldman

1. David Griffin, Cleveland Cavaliers

2. Bob Myers, Golden State Warriors

3. Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics

Of course, LeBron James is primarily responsible for transforming the Cavaliers, and hometown pride guided his decision. But he was not leaving the Heat for Cleveland under just any circumstances. Credit Griffin for making the Cavaliers appealing enough and creating the necessary cap space to lure LeBron. From there, Griffin did right to cash in assets to maximize Cleveland’s chances of winning now. Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith have rounded out the roster, and getting a first rounder for Dion Waiters was impressive. The verdict is still out on the Kevin Love-Andrew Wiggins trade, but Griffin had the right idea.

On that same front, Myers gets most credit for the trade he didn’t make – Klay Thompson for Kevin Love. Myers did most of his heavy-lifting with the roster in previous years, but keeping the group together was a decision, just like breaking it up would have been a decision. This year, the Warriors hired Steve Kerr and surrounded him with excellent assistant coaches – building a collaborative culture that really works. Myers is the front-office face of it.

Ainge successfully tore down the Celtics, probably getting the best haul of draft picks as possible in the process. Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green and Brandan Wright (who was acquired for Rondo) were the prominent outgoing players this year, but Ainge even got a pick for Austin Rivers. Ainge also wisely reversed course somewhat when Boston stayed in the playoff hunt and Isaiah Thomas became available for good value. Best of all, Ainge has created an environment where Brad Stevens has the resources and support to successfully make the college-to-NBA jump.

Gar Forman (signing Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic), Daryl Morey (plenty of mid-level roster tinkering after striking out on star free agents) and John Hammond (acquiring a first-round pick for taking quality contributor Jared Dudley, getting along well enough with Jason Kidd) also drew consideration.

Report: People connected to Tom Thibodeau exploring options if Bulls let him go, including Magic

Tom Thibodeau
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Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls’ front office clearly have issues with each other.

The key question: How significant?

Thibodeau is an excellent coach, in spite of his tendency to run his players into the ground. He’s also under contract for two seasons after this one.

The Bulls could very well want him back next season – but that’s not a certainty. They’re reportedly even enamored with Fred Hoiberg as Thibodeau’s replacement.

So, Thibodeau is seemingly doing the responsible thing and having his people explore his options.

Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report:

League sources say that third parties connected to Thibodeau have been exploring what his potential other options would be, including the Orlando Magic.

The Magic, who fired Jacque Vaughn in February, will have an opening this offseason – and they should want Thibodeau. He’s better than the other coaches mentioned for the job: Brian Shaw, Scott Skiles and Billy Donovan.

But would Thibodeau want the Magic?

They just gave general manager Rob Hennigan a contract extension and a strong vote of confidence. That makes it unlikely Thibodeau gets front-office control, which he might seek after his issues in Chicago.

Beyond that, the Magic have a far less appealing roster than the Bulls, who 47-32 and have Jimmy Butler, Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic.

As always, the best solution for everyone involved is Thibodeau and Gar Forman getting past their differences and continuing to work together.