Who has the best off-hand in the NBA?

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Nash_Suns.jpgFrom a young age, every basketball player is told to get comfortable using their off hand around the basket and on drives, but few players master the skill. Even at the NBA level, the vast majority of players have a dominant hand that they would prefer to drive to, and most of them are good enough to get away with it. After his crossover was done, AI would usually end up driving to his right. Dirk Nowitzki and Sam Cassell love/loved driving to their left to set up their mid-range jumper. Mega-prospect John Wall shoots righty, but favors going left on drives and finishes. 

However, there are some guys who have put in the time and are just as comfortable with their bad hands as they are with their dominant ones. As former player Charles Shackleford would have put it, these guys are almost completely amphibious. Again, this list is in no particular order:
1. Steve Nash 

Despite the fact he’s not particularly fast or tall, and certainly can’t jump very high, defenses have always had trouble keeping Steve Nash from getting into the paint and making layups. A large part of that is because Nash is just as comfortable using his left as he is using his right. Nash can confidently dribble with his left hand, make passes with his left, and can use either hand for one of his signature shots around the basket, a one-handed finger roll that Nash gets off without ever having to gather the ball. Because of how unpredictable Nash is around the basket, he shoots a LeBron-like 71.5% on shots at the rim. 
2. Kobe Bryant

Spoiler alert: If I were to make more of these lists, Nash and Kobe would be on a lot of them. Bryant is equally likely to drive lefty as he is to drive to the right, and no perimeter player has more range or touch with his off-hand than Kobe. Kobe’s left helps him both on drives and in the post, where he’s light years ahead of any other perimeter player. Kobe has been in a contest with teammate Pau Gasol to see who can make the most lefty baskets this season — according to Kobe, Bryant is winning easily. 
3. David Lee

Lee is naturally left-handed, but broke his arm at a young age and learned to become completely ambidextrous. Lee has expanded his perimeter game for the Knicks this season, but his bread-and-butter will always be his ability to get baskets in the paint using either hand.
4. LeBron James
James does everything but play basketball left-handed, and he’s pretty good with his left on the court as well. James is actually slightly more likely to drive to the left in isolation situations, and he finishes strong with his left at the basket as well as anybody — it’s not easy to make 75% of your shots at the rim, no matter how athletic you are. James is also capable of making great passes with his left hand, and his ability to block shots with his left has made some of his more spectacular chase-down blocks possible. Now, if he could just add a lefty hook over his right shoulder in the post…
5. Carlos Boozer

Growing up in Alaska, Boozer developed his left hand when he lost one of his mittens at the beginning of one winter and was forced to shoot baskets with his left hand throughout the winter months so that he could keep his dominant hand warm. Okay, I made that up. However it happened, Boozer is excellent at using his left hand around the basket, and that ability helps him get tons of buckets around the rim from odd angles. 

Lakers’ recruiting pitch for Paul George leaks

AP Photo/R Brent Smith
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LeBron James doesn’t want elaborate pitches in free agency.

Paul George never said that, though.

So, the Lakers are apparently planning to put some showbiz into their recruitment.

Robin Lundberg of Sports Illustrated, citing a “Hollywood source,” revealed a Lakers pitch for George. The direction:

Less Morgan Freeman/Denzel Washington, and more Jamie Foxx. A bit more edge an attitude to their voice, and a bit less aspirational

The text:

When you were just a kid

In your room
Dreaming from Palmdale

We were dreaming too.

While you dreamt, we built – built for your arrival

And while we dreamt, you built too
Becoming one of the world’s greatest.

Life’s most powerful dream are the one we realize ourselves.

The ones that turn us into legends.
That kid from Palmdale always knew it
Now the world will, too

Who wrote this, noted storyteller Kobe Bryant?

My bigger question: Did or did not the Lakers, who’ve gone to great lengths to make their interest in George known, want this to leak before the official start of free agency?

Report: No divide between Chris Paul and Rockets over contract

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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That rumor of tension between Chris Paul and the Rockets over his contract?

Sam Amick of USA Today:

As for the recent report from Fox Sports’ Chris Broussard that there are rising tensions between the two sides because Paul wants the full max and isn’t sure if he’ll get it, two people with knowledge of the situation refuted the idea there is any friction between the sides.

Remember, everyone who leaks something has an agenda. But I find this report far more credible than the initial rumor.

Paul’s max projects to be about $205 million over five years. That’s a lot to commit to a 33-year-old, but Paul took a discount to facilitate an opt-in-and-trade to Houston last year. He expects to be made whole.

Until Broussard’s report, all indications were the Rockets would appease him. Barring more information, that should remain the expectation.

Report: LeBron James not planning to sit for elaborate pitch meetings in free agency

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LeBron James held court in Cleveland in 2010, listening to pitch after pitch as teams flew in to recruit the superstar during free agency. That approach became a model, and Kevin Durant followed it in the Hamptons in 2016.

But maybe once is enough.

Durant announced months ago he’d stay with the Warriors. And now LeBron – who could definitely leave Cleveland – is making clear he doesn’t want the hoopla, either.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

sources close to the situation tell ESPN that he has no intention of hearing elaborate pitch meetings from teams.

league sources believe he and his agents Rich Paul and Mark Termini have enough understanding of the stakes and NBA landscape to handle the process without much fanfare.

LeBron is still haunted by The Decision. He’s a great player and philanthropist and does plenty to connect with fans. Yet, people still dislike him purely because of how he changed teams eight years ago.

If I wielded as much power as LeBron, I’d want suitors wining and dining me. He wants to avoid more backlash.

This will probably look similar to 2014 – LeBron’s agents hearing out teams then LeBron meeting with only the most serious options, though the final announcement will likely come via Uninterrupted rather than Sports Illustrated.

The Lakers, Cavaliers, Rockets and 76ers are commonly viewed as the favorites for LeBron. This approach makes it less likely for a longshot to emerge – though, for what it’s worth, we don’t know those four teams are his favorites right now.

Report: Nuggets re-signing Nikola Jokic to five-year max after declining team option

AP Photo/Matt Slocum
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The Nuggets are building around Nikola Jokic.

But a second-round pick turning into a franchise player so quickly creates complications. Denver is resolving one by declining Jokic’s team option, which will send him into restricted free agency (as opposed to unrestricted free agency next year) and paying him.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

This ought to please Jokic. He would have earned just $1,600,520 next season if Denver exercised his team option.

Jokic is one of the best-passing full-time centers ever. He also shoots and rebounds well, though he must improve his defense to become worthy of this contract. At just 23, he’s worth betting on.

That said, I’m surprised the Nuggets didn’t get him on a slight discount. Though they clearly didn’t want to risk him testing unrestricted free agency next year, they gave him a MASSIVE raise (about $24 million) next season when they didn’t have to.

Jokic’s exact max salary won’t be determined until the salary cap and luxury-tax line are set this month. But this clearly puts Denver in cost-cutting mode now.

As constructed, the Nuggets are in line for about $24 million in luxury-tax payments. That’s without considering Will Barton, who’ll be an unrestricted free agent. Expect Denver to look to unload Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur, Wilson Chandler and/or Mason Plumlee.

Jokic was always going to be in Denver next season. The Nuggets have now secured him far longer. It will cost them next year – an important season to them – but they also clearly value a future with Jokic.