NBA Draft: Evan Turner could work with Andre Iguodala, not against him

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iguodala_game.jpgNow that the Sixers hold the No. 2 pick in the draft, they have all kinds of options. Maybe Ed Stefanski will cash in on the pick’s value now, trade it, and get back a proven commodity that can make an immediate impact while dumping Elton Brand’s salary. Maybe Stefanski sees Turner as a franchise treasure, and will attempt to retool his roster to build around Evan as the Sixer of the Future alongside Jrue Holiday. Maybe Andre Iguodala could play shooting guard with Turner starting his rookie season coming off the bench, or maybe Stefanski will trade Iguodala in order to give Turner all the elbow room he desires.

Or, Stefanski and the Sixers could do something absolutely revolutionary: nothing.

Well, let me clarify. Philadelphia needs to do a lot of something to figure out their troubles on offense and defense, and hopefully that introspection has begun with the ongoing head coach search. That something involves creating roster flexibility, infusing more talent, getting more consistent shooting, and solidifying the middle. There’s a lot of work to be done, and Philly’s current roster makes it very difficult.

Trading Iguodala at this point, a topic that our own Matt Moore tossed around yesterday, just seems to make it even more difficult.

For now, Iggy is the best that the Sixers have. He was tops on the team in points (17.1), assists (5.8), and steals per game (1.7), second behind only Samuel Dalembert in rebounds per game (6.5), and tied for the top spot in three-pointers made (1.1) per game. He was second on the team in PER (17.8), first in win shares (6.7), and remains an elite defensive wing.

He happened to start at shooting guard for this team in quite a few games, but is that really a compelling reason to move the top talent on the roster, especially when doing so is so unlikely to get good return value? Despite Iguodala’s talent, he’ll make $56.5 million over the next four seasons, with an average salary of over $14 million a year. That’s a long-term commitment with a big price tag, one that a lot of teams will be reluctant to take on in any circumstances, much less with the new CBA likely to change the salary structure in 2011-2012.

If Philadelphia looks to move Iguodala, they may be able to get salary relief in return, or maybe a young player packaged with a burdensome contract. They will not get anyone that’s as skilled on both ends of the court, and while that doesn’t necessarily justify paying Andre’s ridiculous salary, it’s a concrete reason why Stefanski may be wise not to part with him. The mistake was signing Iggy to such a deal in the first place, but to deal him now, when the Sixers would likely get little in return? That’s an even bigger mistake.

Instead, Philly should take a long look at what could be an interesting three-man core of Holiday, Turner, and Iguodala. All are unselfish, all can create for others, and…none of the three has a consistent three-point stroke. Some things just never change in Philadelphia. Still, all three players can be considered works in progress, so their perimeter shooting could technically improve. In the meantime, the Sixers will have three long, talented players that can both score and defend at a number of different positions.

Is there really any reason to compromise that? Turner has the ability to be a very good defensive player in the pros, and when paired with Iguodala, could make one of the best defensive tandems on the wing in the entire league. If the Sixers can resuscitate the defensive tenacity that made them so fun to watch at the tail end of the ’08-’09 season — and Turner and Iggy both would be an important part of that — you’re looking at a team that could be pretty fantastic at getting out into the open court.

Even with Turner in the mix, the Sixers’ future isn’t bright. Holiday came on strong to close his rookie year, but the mammoth salaries of Iguodala and Elton Brand will continue to gum up the works for Philadelphia. Ditching both of those contracts would obviously be in the Sixers’ best interest, but they can’t truly rebuild unless they can ditch both, not just one. Brand’s deal is just too big and too damaging on its own (he’ll make almost $16 million this season), and right now he’s as close to unmovable as any player in the league.

It’s going to be a long rebuild for Philly, so what’s the rush? Find out of Turner and Iguodala can play well together first, and if there’s nothing there, then move on. Stefanski should take the Kings of last season as a perfect example. Tyreke Evans and Kevin Martin didn’t play all that well together, but the important thing is that Geoff Petrie and the Kings knew for sure. The satisfaction of trying and knowing is what the Sixers should strive for should they select Turner, even if he and Iguodala turn out to be a less-than-perfect fit.     

Report: Kings, Hawks could pass on Luka Doncic if Suns don’t take him No. 1

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Luka Doncic or Deandre Ayton?

That’s the question many NBA fans are asking themselves, but according to one report it’s not the only thing several teams in the Top 3 of the 2018 NBA Draft are thinking about.

ESPN’s Jonathan Givony says that while the Phoenix Suns may still be considering taking Doncic with their No. 1 overall pick, the Sacramento Kings (2) and Atlanta Hawks (3) are not.

The Kings and Hawks are reportedly leaning toward taking an American frontcourt player, which would point us toward guys like Ayton, Marvin Bagley, Jaren Jackson, and Mo Bamba.

Via ESPN:

The growing consensus among NBA decision-makers in attendance at Stark Arena in Belgrade is that the teams drafting behind the Phoenix Suns at No. 1, the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks are likely to pass on European prodigy in favor of American frontcourt players. The question remains whether a team will trade up into the top three to snag Doncic, or if he will fall to the No. 4 (Memphis) or even the No. 5 pick (Dallas) after being heavily scouted in the Euroleague playoffs against Panathinaikos and mostly struggling.

The information we’re missing is whether the Kings and Hawks are turned off by Doncic specifically. Is it because they haven’t scouted him as much as the other guys? Is it because of perceived team need? Do they think Doncic has peaked already? Are they worried about less information being available from a Euro prospect? All are possible.

With all the hype around Doncic, it would be shocking to see him fall out of the Top 3. It’s happened before, but both Ayton and Doncic are the guys atop this draft that people are licking their chops to get.

Could we see a team trade up to get Doncic from the Hawks or Kings if Phoenix goes elsewhere? Is this just false information funneled to the media as a means of depressing the market for Doncic or for ferreting out a big trade offer?

The conference finals aren’t even over yet and here we are talking about the incessant drama of the NBA offseason. I love this league.

Larry Brown once told Trevor Ariza to never shoot

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Larry Brown is a legendary basketball coach, but he’s also been known to ascribe to a certain style. Brown’s regimen has sometimes rubbed players the wrong way, and likewise Brown has been overly attached to players which he likes.

For Houston Rockets wing Trevor Ariza, Brown’s staunch attitude almost ruined his career.

Ariza was a second-year player with the New York Knicks during the lone season Brown coached in the Big Apple in 2005-06. The UCLA product didn’t shoot well from the 3-point line in college or during his rookie season, so when Brown came to town he told Ariza to stop shooting from beyond the arc entirely.

Seriously.

Via Dan Woike and the LA Times:

More than a decade ago when Ariza was a second-year player, his coach with the New York Knicks, Hall of Famer Larry Brown, thought Ariza shouldn’t shoot from the perimeter. Like ever.

“He told me not to even look at the basket or shoot the ball,” said Ariza, 32. “I was definitely afraid to shoot. I just wouldn’t. I would not shoot.”

Woike’s story is pretty incredible, and goes on to detail how Ariza’s trade to the Los Angeles Lakers reignited his career and his confidence to shoot the ball. That’s obviously crucial for the Houston Rockets who need Ariza docked in the corner as Chris Paul and James Harden run pick-and-rolls and isolate.

Stories like this always sound wild, if only because they’re contextually being compared to completely different eras. Ariza was drafted in 2004, and has seen three different eras of NBA basketball (Iverson era, point guard PNR era, 3-point era) pass by during his time.

Larry Brown’s in the Hall of Fame but he whiffed on this one.

Stephen Curry goes berserk, Warriors beat Rockets by 41 in Game 3

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Stephen Curry had yet another big third quarter. Who could have seen that coming?

On the heels of the Houston Rockets’ 22-point win in Game 2, the Golden State Warriors decided to turn up the intensity as they returned home to Oakland on Sunday. The Warriors leapt out of the gate, scoring 31 points in the first quarter and playing monumental defense at the rim. Houston suffered from blown attempts in the paint for the entire first half, but it was their 3-point defense that stabilized their offense. The Rockets shot just 27 percent from beyond the arc in the first two quarters.

Then, perhaps expectedly, came the third quarter. The realm of 2-time NBA MVP Curry.

Golden State’s golden point guard failed to miss a single field goal in the quarter, helping the Warriors rally to start the half as well as fend off a Houston charge midway through the period. Curry completely took over with around six minutes left, dropping five of the Warriors’ next six made baskets.

It was enchanting, and everything we’ve come to expect from Curry when he’s at his best. After a made bucket, there was a shimmy. After a follow-up layup, a defiant stance on the baseline as he yelled to the crowd about Oracle Arena being his house.

Indeed, it was.

Curry and the Warriors did not let off the gas in the fourth quarter, finally burying the Rockets that both sides called a truce with 5:11 left, subbing out their big stars.

Houston was led by James Harden, who scored 20 points with nine assists and five rebounds, although he turned the ball over four times. Chris Paul had 13 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists. Eric Gordon helped with 11 points off the bench. The Rockets turned the ball over 20 times, allowing 28 points off turnovers to the Warriors.

For Golden State it was Curry’s 35 points and six rebounds as the big story. Kevin Durant added 25 points, six rebounds, and six assists. The Warriors shot 41 percent from 3-point range as every starter scored in double-digits. Golden State was also able to limit its turnovers to just eight.

Game 3 exemplified the stratification between the two teams. Houston was arguably the best team of the regular season, with the caveat being that Curry was out for huge swaths of time due to injury. With Curry back on the floor and playing at full tilt, Golden State again looks unbeatable.

Steve Kerr was able to counter the Game 2 strategy from Mike D’Antoni, who ran everything during Houston’s win directly at Curry on defense to tire out the recently-returned star. Kerr’s tweaks resulted in a complete eruption from Curry, one Houston was powerless to stop. Coupled with the continuous pounding from Durant and the incessant, extra pass 3-pointers, the Rockets didn’t have a counterstrike option.

Game 4 is in Oakland on Tuesday at 6:00 PM PST. We’ll see if D’Antoni can work his magic and come up with another new strategy to try and slow the Warriors.

Marcus Morris: II did a s–t job defensively against LeBron’

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The Cleveland Cavaliers aren’t dead. Not yet, at least.

LeBron James helped lead his team to a victory over the Boston Celtics on Saturday, 116-86, to set the series at 2-1 with the Cavaliers trailing.

James was efficient, scoring 27 points on 8-of-12 shooting while adding 12 assists, five rebounds, two blocks, and two steals. As a team Cleveland shot an impressive 50 percent from 3-point range, dwarfing their marks from Games 1 and 2 in the series.

Meanwhile, the team-first strategy implemented by the Celtics finally got its first big test of the Eastern Conference Finals. A top defensive team, Boston was embarrassed by how it played in Game 3 and they weren’t afraid to admit it. Four of its five starters were double-digit minuses in the box score, including Marcus Morris, who many were touting as a LeBron stopper (or LeBron slower).

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Morris gave his honest opinion of how he played vs. LeBron. Meanwhile, Jaylen Brown said he was embarrassed.

Via Twitter:

Sounds about right.

Because you play the same team over and over again, by the time you get to the conference finals it’s all about finding counters to your opponent’s counters. The game-by-game strategy changes so much, and out of necessity.

The Cavaliers finally found their sweet spot, not only from beyond the 3-point line but in limiting the offensive contributions of both Morris and guys like Al Horford.

How Brad Stevens counters Ty Lue’s Game 3 strategy should be fun to watch, and reciprocal changes in the coming games will be the story of the series. Boston still has the edge, but the Cavaliers aren’t letting someone take The King’s crown without a fight.