What’s the upside of trading Steve Nash?

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Steve Nash has made it pretty clear: He’s not asking out of Phoenix. Not going to happen. As he says it, he “signed up for this.” And Lon Babby, Suns GM, certainly doesn’t sound like a guy itching to pull the trigger on any move for Nash, calling him the “sun, the moon, and the stars” of the franchise. Which he is. You’ll never get back equal value for Nash. It’s impossible, to try and get back what a two-time MVP and face of your franchise for six seasons means to you and your fans. So odds are, Nash will remain a Sun until the end.

And that’s a flawed strategy.

It’s over in Phoenix. The playoff contention, the “they’re always dangerous” status, the constant threat that the stars could align, the three-pointers could fall, and the Suns could bury the NBA in a barrage of offense on their way to a title. It’s through. They (still) have no defense, they have no power forward, according to Nash, they can’t rebound, and Vince Carter is an awkward shell of himself and nothing close to the offensive weapon Jason Richardson was. It’s over. The run is through.

And once a franchise that has any self-knowledge or vision realizes the run is through, it’s got to set itself up for the future. Casual NBA fans think the lottery is the worst thing that can happen to you in this league. It’s not. Purgatory is. Constantly flirting with the 8th seed while landing in the back end of the lotter year after year is the worst thing that can happen to you. Cycling through retread veterans trying to push your former star to greatness with some sort of “Space Cowboys”-esque kamikaze mission is the worst thing that can happen to you. False hope is the worst thing that can happen to you.

You have to be careful, that’s for sure. You can’t just detonate things and then go free wheeling into free agency, as the Nets did. That’s why they’re currently contemplating giving up a lung in order to get what amounts to a spleen transplant. It’s not going to help them anyway and what they give up will wind up killing them in the long run. You have to be careful with blowing it up, how you blow it up, and when.

But trading Nash? You’ll never get higher market value. Not at the trade deadline, not this summer, not next year. You could miss out on up to an entire year of Nash’s value in the event of a CBA lockout. He’s still an all-world NBA point guard who can help you win games, and thereby, he has the most value before the back which has plagued him for most of his career takes a turn for the worse or his body simply isn’t able to knock down that smooth pull-up J. It happens to every player, it will happen to Nash. But he’s got an opportunity to really help a team, and should the Suns sell him right, they would set themselves up for the future.

They could land a pick which they could convert into a high lottery pick with other assets (Vince Carter expiring!). They could land a high-upside prospect that they could build around. They could get cap space to horde and wait for the right star to appear in their midst to use as a selling point. No one wants to hear this because it’s hard on business, hard on fans, hard on players. But it won’t be as hard as the fall to irrelevance without upside.

In 2004 the Detroit Pistons won the NBA title. In 2009, they barely had anyone in the stands for their first round playoff series. That’s not what you want, no matter how much that playoff revenue helps.

Seven Seconds or Less is over. Gentry’s Heroes are gone. Trading Steve Nash is the most difficult thing for the Suns franchise to do. But it’s time to pull the trigger, before they find themselves a zombie franchise wandering the countryside in an endless back-lottery haze.

 

Former Lakers forward Michael Beasley signing in China

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Before the season, Michael Beasley said the Lakers “can be exactly where we want to be at the end of the year.”

I doubt he envisioned himself being in China.

But that’s where he’s headed after getting traded to and waived by the Clippers.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Beasley has played in China twice before and dominated. High-volume scorers like him translate well.

At 30, Beasley might be nearing the end of his NBA chances. He can still contribute a little, but the bar is higher for someone who brings headaches and silliness.

If he again plays well in China, he’ll probably get another chance with an NBA team next season. But that’s certainly not a lock.

Blake Griffin enjoying resurgence a year after trade to Pistons

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DETROIT (AP) — Blake Griffin doesn’t need to jump over any cars to be a hit in the Motor City.

A year after arriving in Detroit with his career at a crossroads, a more earthbound Griffin is doing all he can to shake the Pistons out of their decade-long malaise.

“He does a little bit of everything for us. Probably one of our better pick-and-roll players, passers, scorers, leader by example, just so many things,” Detroit coach Dwane Casey said. “His basketball intellect, for me, is one that’s been the most impressive of our players. I didn’t know that about Blake, because when you think about him, you think about the high-flying dunker and the muscular guy in the post, but there’s a lot more to that than just his dunking and athleticism.”

A month shy of his 30th birthday, there are fewer above-the-rim highlights but Griffin’s first full season with Detroit has been one of his best. He’s averaging a career-high 26.3 points per game while making strides as a perimeter shooter, and he earned his first All-Star selection since 2015.

Most importantly, he’s been able to stay healthy, and although the Pistons still have a losing record, they’re in the playoff race, largely because of Griffin.

“As a player, you always believe in yourself,” Griffin said. “I knew I had another level to go to, and being healthy was part of that. … But the beginning of the year, my goal isn’t to only make the All-Star team. It’s much more than that.”

In July 2017, Griffin agreed to a $171 million, five-year deal with the Clippers, the team that drafted him with the first overall pick in 2009. Less than a year later, he was abruptly traded – from glitzy Los Angeles to a Detroit franchise that hasn’t won a playoff game since 2008. It was a risky move for the Pistons, given Griffin’s high salary and the fact that he has only three seasons with more than 67 games played. They gave up a first-round draft pick in the trade, and when they missed the playoffs anyway, that was the end of Stan Van Gundy’s tenure as coach and president of basketball operations.

For Griffin, it was an inauspicious start to the Detroit portion of his career, and there’s been frustration this season as well. The Pistons are 26-30, tied for the final postseason spot in the Eastern Conference. Even if they do make the playoffs, they don’t look like a team ready to make a run.

But for Griffin individually, the season has been a significant step forward. The man who once pulled off a two-handed dunk while jumping over the front of a car is a bit less of an athletic sensation in Detroit, but the blue-collar elements of his game are still plenty effective. The 6-foot-10, 250-pound Griffin can muscle his way to the basket and draw fouls, and he gives the Pistons another tough rebounder alongside Andre Drummond. Griffin is also leading the team in assists.

“I think for me, my job is to make his game as easy as possible on the offensive end. When I get him open, he usually makes the right plays,” Drummond said. “It’s a nightmare for teams. You’ve got to really pick your poison, who you really want to get going, and it’s scary when we both get it going.”

Griffin has expanded his offensive repertoire to include the 3-point shot in recent years. He has already made a career-high 134 3s this season, shooting a credible 37 percent from long distance.

“It helps a lot, especially in today’s NBA, with everybody spacing the floor a little bit more, and playing with a guy like Dre, who’s so effective inside,” Griffin said. “To be able to give him a little bit more space is a good thing. I always see guys working to expand their range, and when you do, you see them add years to their career.”

When Griffin joined the Clippers, he added some legitimacy and excitement to what had been one of the league’s most downtrodden franchises. Now the Pistons are a team that could use some buzz. The results recently have been mixed: Griffin has been terrific, but the team as a whole has remained mediocre.

But Detroit won four of five heading into the All-Star break, and if the Pistons do make the playoffs, they’ll have Griffin to thank.

“He’s thinking the game. He’s a couple steps ahead,” Casey said. “I’ve had a lot of great forwards, power forwards, and he’s right up there with the best, whether it’s Dirk (Nowitzki), (Kevin) Garnett, Detlef Schrempf – just a lot of great players that I’ve been around. He’s right in that category.”

 

Hawks GM: “If we stayed at 3, we would have taken Luka (Doncic)”

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It was the Draft day trade that shook the NBA last June.

In a deal made agreed to before the picks were made, the Atlanta Hawks traded Luka Doncic, taken No. 3, to Dallas for Trae Young (taken fifth), and the Hawks got the Mavericks 2019 first-round pick (top five protected). It forever linked Doncic and Young in the minds of fans (fair or not).

Doncic has gone on to become a historically good rookie — averaging 20.7 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, he is the Mavs best player, is the runaway Rookie of the Year, and is already a star (who fans almost voted into the All-Star Game) — which has led to a lot of criticism for Atlanta in some quarters for not keeping the pick and Doncic. That despite the fact Young has played well after a slow start (20 points per game with 35.9 percent shooting from three in his last 20 games) and the Hawks got another pick in the deal.

On the Woj Pod with Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Hawks GM Travis Schlenk said that the team would have drafted Doncic if they kept the pick (hat tip Real GM).

“Not a lot of people know this…if we stayed at 3, we would have taken Luka. We had worked with his agent, he did a physical with us that morning in New York…but then Dallas came in an hour or so before the draft. I told them all along that it would take another lottery pick for us to slide back, and that’s when the conversations got started.”

Interestingly, Schlenk added that the team’s analytics department, projecting into next season, played a big role in the deal getting done.

“Our analytics staff was predicting Dallas to finish 8th this year,” added Schlenk.

As of right now (and before the lottery shakes things up), the Mavericks are projected to pick ninth. If that remains, Dallas has a 20.2 percent chance to jump into the top four with the new lottery odds. Otherwise, the pick will go to Atlanta.

Despite Doncic’s play, it’s too early to fully judge the trade. How good will Young become? How high is Doncic’s ceiling? What happens with the future first-round pick, and who will the Hawks get with it?

For a rebuilding team like the Hawks, a second lottery pick to move back a couple of spots can make sense — so long as the guy your trading doesn’t become a superstar. Doncic may become that. Atlanta was higher on Young than many teams, and he has rewarded that faith of late, but how good will he ultimately be? It’s not quite a Sam Bowie pick, but some fans may ultimately see it that way if Doncic’s star continues to rise. However, as Schlenk explained, there were logical reasons to make the trade.

One last look back: Best dunks of All-Star Weekend (VIDEO)

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Defense? That’s one thing that rarely makes an appearance All-Star weekend.

Combine that with the game’s best athletes and what you get are three days of insane dunks.

The NBA put this together, the best dunks of All-Star weekend in Charlotte. Enjoy.