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Rumor: Lakers, Kawhi Leonard share mutual interest

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The Spurs seem like they won’t trade Kawhi Leonard.

That won’t stop teams from trying.

There’s a clear disconnect between Leonard and San Antonio. Even the potential of a player as good as Leonard becoming available has teams salivating.

The Clippers are reportedly assembling a trade offer for the L.A. native. Los Angeles’ other team – the Lakers – are also apparently expected to factor prominently.

Sean Deveney of Sporting News:

“I think they go in hard for Leonard once the season is over and once the dust settles in San Antonio,” one executive told Sporting News. “(Leonard) wants to go to LA. There probably won’t be public demands on that, but he has leverage. He is going to be a free agent (in 2019). He’s an LA guy and he can just let teams know he won’t re-sign next year with anyone but the Lakers.”

But make no mistake, the Lakers are the favorite here.

“I would say that’s the most likely thing,” another general manager told Sporting News. “He’s going to be their target any way you look at it, this summer or next summer. There’s not many other ways to explain what’s been going on with that situation other than him trying to get out of San Antonio.”

Of course, every team wants Leonard. He’s an elite two-way player when healthy. But teams will go to differing lengths to pursue him. If the Lakers will “go hard for Leonard,” that means something beyond just desiring him.

Under Magic Johnson, the Lakers have made no secret of their plan to acquire stars. That has largely been centered on 2018 free agents, but with that well drying up, talk has turned to 2019 free agents. If the Lakers can get a top 2019 free agent – Leonard – sooner, why wouldn’t they?

One reason is the cost. Trading with San Antonio would require dealing at least some combination of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma. Signing Leonard outright in 2019 would be simpler.

But a trade is the only surefire way of getting Leonard. If the Lakers don’t trade for him, another team could. With promising young players and cap space, the Lakers have the tools to make an intriguing offer for Leonard.

Or, more likely, the Spurs could keep him. Their relationship isn’t necessarily beyond repair, and they can offer him a super-max contract extension this summer.

They might not offer it. Even if they do, he might not take it. If he doesn’t, he could pledge to re-sign with only certain teams – like the Lakers – and steer trade talks that way. You can see how the thinking develops:

Leonard might be unhappy in San Antonio. He grew up in Southern California. Therefore, he’ll engineer his way to the Lakers?

Maybe, and maybe these anonymous executives know something to that effect. But this mostly sounds lazily speculative.

Stephen Curry, Warriors lead NBA in merchandise sales. Again.

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Fans still love them some Stephen Curry. And the Golden State Warriors. For the past two seasons, when it came to player jerseys sales, Curry has been on top of the list of players. His Warriors have been the top seller of team merchandise.

That did not change this past season.

The NBA released the Top 15 players in jersey sales this season, and some familiar names were at the top.

Top 15 Most Popular NBA Jerseys:
1. Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
2. LeBron James (Cleveland Cavaliers)
3. Kevin Durant (Golden State Warriors)
4. Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)
5. Kyrie Irving (Boston Celtics)
6. Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder)
7. Kristaps Porzingis (New York Knicks)
8. Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)
9. James Harden (Houston Rockets)
10. Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers)
11. Kawhi Leonard (San Antonio Spurs)
12. Lonzo Ball (Los Angeles Lakers)
13. Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)
14. Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors)
15. Jimmy Butler (Minnesota Timberwolves)

The top three remained the same as last year, but Antetokounmpo leapt up to fourth from ninth as his popularity continues to skyrocket. Irving moved up a spot with his move to Boston. Porzingis and Leonard remained in the top 10 despite injuries on the court limiting their play. Lonzo being above Lillard just seems wrong on a gut level, but that’s the world we live in.

As for team merchandise, which is now made by Nike:

Top 10 Most Popular Team Merchandise:
1. Golden State Warriors
2. Cleveland Cavaliers
3. Philadelphia 76ers
4. Los Angeles Lakers
5. Boston Celtics
6. Milwaukee Bucks
7. Oklahoma City Thunder
8. New York Knicks
9. Chicago Bulls
10. Houston Rockets

If LeBron is on the move again this summer, it will shake up the team rankings considerably.

How Allen Iverson dropping 41 on him taught Kobe Bryant about preparation

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Kobe Bryant’s reputation as a guy who studied the game and had coach-like preparation was well deserved. When teammates were playing Bourré and gambling on the plane, Kobe was back with the coaches watching film. That’s how he was wired.

Allen Iverson taught him that lesson.

Bryant joined CBS Radio’s Jim Rome on his podcast, and among the stories Kobe discussed was what Iverson taught him — Iverson dropped 41 and 10 on Bryant back in 1999.

“That put him on my permanent radar. Now he’s my obsession. I’m going to figure him out. This is never happening again. I kept the stat sheet. It just sat with me. From that point forward I read everything about him. I watched every game he played…Sometimes you have those moments where great players bring the best out of you. And he certainly did that for me because he helped me find another gear of preparation.”

Kobe was always a perfectionist. This taught him about obsession — and that served him well.

Kobe also discussed how winning the Oscar was thrilling in compared to winning an NBA title — he had only expected one of those things.

Winning a championship, I expected to do that. Going into Indiana, Shaq being hurt, me trying to have to finish this game here at 21-years-old, I dreamt of doing that. I felt comfortable, I felt confident that I could absolutely execute that. And writing “Dear Basketball” and producing that film, I didn’t know if I could do it. I’m not known to be a writer, let alone be a producer on a project with Glen Keane and John Williams. I was unsure of myself, man. And when you take a leap of faith to that extent to be rewarded at the highest level of the industry for our first project out, it’s beyond comprehension.”

 

Dallas, Chicago biggest winners in NBA draft tiebreakers

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When the league is so bunched up that heading into the final day of the season not one playoff matchup was set, there were bound to be a few teams tied when all things were said and done. In the final days of the season, that led to a lot of stories and flowcharts about possible outcomes.

After the season ended, all ties had to be broken to clarify the NBA Draft — and draft lottery. That happened Friday.

The biggest winner is the Dallas Mavericks — they won the coin flip and will pick No. 3 while the Atlanta Hawks will pick No. 4. For the draft lottery, the chances are split as close to evenly as possible, so the Mavericks have a 13.8 percent chance of getting the top pick while Atlanta’s chances are 13.7 percent.

The other big winner was the Chicago Bulls, who won the tiebreaker and get the No. 6 pick, while Sacramento will choose seventh. Both teams have a 5.3 percent chance of winning the lottery and getting Deandre Ayton the top pick.

Out of the lottery and into the playoff teams, Miami’s pick — which belongs to Phoenix — will be 16th, while the Milwaukee Bucks will go one later (if the Bucks had gone 16th their pick would have conveyed to the Suns, but now that rolls over a year). Next, San Antonio will choose 18th while Minnesota’s No. 19 pick will go to Atlanta.

Finally, the big four-way tie shook out this way: the Oklahoma City Thunder pick (which belongs to Minnesota) is No. 20, the Utah Jazz are No. 21, the New Orleans Pelicans (which belongs to Chicago) is No. 22, and the Indiana Pacers are No. 23.

So, here is your complete draft order heading into the lottery (picks 15 and beyond will not change):

1. Phoenix
2. Memphis
3. Dallas
4. Atlanta
5. Orlando
6. Chicago
7. Sacramento
8. Cleveland (from Nets)
9. New York Knicks
10. Philadelphia (from Suns and Lakers)
11. Charlotte
12. LA Clippers (from Pistons)
13. LA Clippers
14. Denver
15. Washington
16. Phoenix (from Heat)
17. Milwaukee
18. San Antonio
19. Atlanta (from Timberwolves)
20. Minnesota (from Thunder)
21. Utah
22. Chicago (from Pelicans)
23. Indiana
24. Portland
25. L.A. Lakers (from Cavaliers)
26. Philadelphia
27. Boston
28. Golden State
29. Brooklyn (from Raptors)
30. Atlanta (from Rockets)

76ers look dangerous when adjusting for playoff rotations

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Kyrie Irving significantly affected the Celtics’ record this season. Isaiah Thomas held a defining role on the Cavaliers for a while. Tristan Thompson played plenty for Cleveland, too.

But Irving (injured) and Thomas (traded) will have nothing to do with Boston’s and Cleveland’s playoff fortunes. If Thompson falls from the Cavs’ postseason rotation, neither will he.

Yet, any season-long metrics – including win-loss record – commonly used to predict the playoffs factor in those players. So, I’ve found how many points per 100 possessions teams score and allow when five players projected to be in the postseason rotation are on the floor together.

This is hardly a perfect measure. Teams rarely announce their playoff rotations, so we’re left with my predictions of which players will receive regular playing time in the first round. The minutes distribution among players in the adjusted rating can vary from what it’ll be during the playoffs. This doesn’t take into account opponent quality. Some teams have larger samples than others. Home-court advantage is not considered.

But I find it useful, another data point among the many necessary to evaluate the upcoming playoffs. It shows how the players we project to see on the court the next couple weeks have played together, without someone else affecting the chemistry.

Here’s each team’s offensive, defensive and net ratings adjusted from the regular season to counting only lineups that include five players projected to be in the first-round playoff rotation (using nbawowy! to calculate):

Eastern Conference

3. Philadelphia 76ers

  • Offensive rating: 110.6 to 110.1
  • Defensive rating: 106.1 to 99.4
  • Net rating: +4.5 to +10.7

1. Toronto Raptors

  • Offensive rating: 116.1 to 118.5
  • Defensive rating: 107.8 to 108.2
  • Net rating: +8.3 to +10.3

7. Milwaukee Bucks

  • Offensive rating: 111.1 to 116.7
  • Defensive rating: 111.4 to 109.1
  • Net rating: -0.3 to +7.6

4. Cleveland Cavaliers

  • Offensive rating: 115.0 to 116.4
  • Defensive rating: 113.9 to 109.1
  • Net rating: +1.1 to +7.3

8. Washington Wizards

  • Offensive rating: 111.2 to 113.4
  • Defensive rating: 110.6 to 108.1
  • Net rating: +0.6 to +5.3

6. Miami Heat

  • Offensive rating: 108.2 to 112.1
  • Defensive rating: 107.8 to 107.4
  • Net rating: +0.4 to +4.7

5. Indiana Pacers

  • Offensive rating: 111.2 to 111.7
  • Defensive rating: 109.7 to 108.0
  • Net rating: +1.5 to +3.7

2. Boston Celtics

  • Offensive rating: 109.7 to 106.6
  • Defensive rating: 105.9 to 104.1
  • Net rating: +3.8 to +2.5

Western Conference

1. Houston Rockets

  • Offensive rating: 118.0 to 124.3
  • Defensive rating: 109.1 to 112.1
  • Net rating: +8.9 to +12.2

5. Utah Jazz

  • Offensive rating: 109.5 to 111.9
  • Defensive rating: 105.3 to 100.7
  • Net rating: +4.2 to +11.2

6. New Orleans Pelicans

  • Offensive rating: 111.2 to 115.2
  • Defensive rating: 109.7 to 105.3
  • Net rating: +1.5 to +9.9

3. Portland Trail Blazers

  • Offensive rating: 111.2 to 113.6
  • Defensive rating: 108.5 to 108.1
  • Net rating: +2.7 to +5.5

8. Minnesota Timberwolves

  • Offensive rating: 115.1 to 116.5
  • Defensive rating: 112.9 to 111.4
  • Net rating: +2.2 to +5.1

7. San Antonio Spurs

  • Offensive rating: 109.6 to 112.4
  • Defensive rating: 106.5 to 108.1
  • Net rating: +3.1 to +4.3

2. Golden State Warriors

  • Offensive rating: 115.1 to 109.0
  • Defensive rating: 108.6 to 106.7
  • Net rating: +6.5 to +2.3

4. Oklahoma City Thunder

  • Offensive rating: 112.9 to 114.2
  • Defensive rating: 109.3 to 111.9
  • Net rating: +3.6 to +2.3

Observations:

    • The 76ers’ projection doesn’t include Joel Embiid, who expects to miss Game 1 against the Heat. Replace Richaun Holmes with Embiid, and the 76ers’ offensive/defensive/net ratings jump to 116.9/98.6/+18.3. Wow!
    • These rankings could overrate the 76ers, though. Their schedule softened late, after Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli arrived post-buyout. Counting those two in the postseason rotation could skew the sample.
    • Nearly all teams annually see their net rating improve once adjusted for the playoff rotation. This year, three teams get worse with the adjustment. All three – Celtics (Kyrie Irving, Marcus Smart, Daniel Theis), Warriors (Stephen Curry) and Thunder (Andre Roberson) – are missing key players due to injury.
    • The adjustment pegs four lower seeds ahead of their first-round opponent – Bucks over Celtics, Jazz over Thunder, Pelicans over Trail Blazers, Spurs over Warriors.
    • Utah became a different team once Rudy Gobert got healthy.
    • The Pelicans projected postseason rotation is especially tight. They might need to rely more on lesser players than projected here, lest they risk getting worn down.
    • Whichever team drew depleted Boston was clearly in (relatively) good shape. The Bucks might be the best of the teams – also, Heat and Wizards – that were in the running.
    • I expected the Cavaliers to improve even more with the adjustment. Isaiah Thomas trying to play his way back into form was so destructive for them. Perhaps, LeBron James dialing it up will be enough for them to win the East again.
    • The Rockets’ offense will be awesome. They’ll miss Luc Mbah a Moute defensively.