10 players without household names who can swing a series

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It’s not all about Kobe and LeBron and KG.

Part of the beauty of the playoffs is the little guys (not used literally in the NBA) who don’t get the national media spotlight but often enough suddenly show up and blow people’s doors off. People that couldn’t have picked Tony Allen out of a one-man lineup suddenly love him like a long-lost uncle.

Here are 10 players who are all-too-often overlooked but could swing a playoff series.

Gerald Wallace, Portland Trail Blazers. The forward was in the All-Star game in 2010, but playing for a bad Bobcats team then being traded to Portland seemed to take him out of the spotlight. However, he has played maybe the best ball of his career since the trade, averaging 15.8 points per game. He could key a Trail Blazers first round upset of the Mavericks. Wallace is a versatile player, can defend and is an offensive force, plus can rebound. He’s tough, he gets under your skin (he did with Ron Artest recently). He’s going to get a lot of time on Dirk Nowtizki and if he can keep the German in check Portland has a chance. .

Thaddeus Young, Philadelphia. If the 76ers are going to push the Heat, it’s because Young will be having a great series. He is a hard working defender who slashes to the rim. He has given the Sixers 12 points and 5 rebounds a game off the bench, and big production from the Philly bench will be key for that team against the top-heavy Heat.

Tony Allen, Memphis Grizzlies. He is a hard-nosed, old school defender who got a lot of playoff experience in Boston. Now, Memphis needs him to shut down Manu Ginobili (well, when Ginobili gets back from his injury). He was shooting 60 percent the last 6 games of the season, and if they get offense out of him their chances of pushing the Spurs goes way up. The Grizzlies need the perimeter production.

James Harden, Oklahoma City Thunder. He’s always has been important to the Thunder, but since the Jeff Green/Kendrick Perkins trade he has stepped up his game, averaging 15.8 per game since the All-Star break. A fun player to watch, he just always seems to make the right play. He will be key in the second round and beyond.

Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets. He is key to any chance the Nuggets have against the Thunder. The quick point guard averaged nearly 16 points per game on 57 percent shooting against the Thunder this season. He needs to break down the Thunder defense, and if he can get a couple fouls on Kendrick Perkins that would help.

Ronny Turiaf, New York Knicks. New York’s chances of knocking off Boston will hinge on getting some stops — the Knicks have some guys who can put up points, but can they keep Boston from scoring? Turiaf will be key here, he was their best defensive center with the four starters after the trade. They need him to protect the rim and rebound.

Ryan Anderson, Orlando Magic. He’s a big man with a sweet stroke, hitting 39.3 percent from beyond the arc this season, 41.1 percent in his last 10 games. A real stretch four. He will create matchup problems and if he can wear out guys like Al Horford of Atlanta his team will be a lot better for it.

Jason Collins, Atlanta Hawks. It’s this simple — if he can hold Dwight Howard in check this series, doing so in man-on-man coverage without a lot of help, the Hawks have a chance. During the regular season he was able to single cover Howard and that allowed the other Hawks defenders to stay home on the Magic’s many shooters. He is key to the Hawks chances.

Carl Landry, New Orleans Hornets. He has stepped up big for the Hornets since David West went down injured — in the team’s last 10 games he has been the leading scorer at 14.9 points per game on 51.8 shooting. He will be matched up with Pau Gasol and for the Hornets to have a chance of beating the Lakers he’s got to win that battle.

George Hill, San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs count on their bench guys to come in, play the system, defend and knock down shots. Hill does it beautifully. He shot 37.7 percent from three and gave the Spurs 12 points a game, getting big minutes (28 a game). The Spurs bench has been their undoing (well, part of it) in recent seasons and Hill will be key to changing that this time around.

In wake of Mavericks’ scandal, Adam Silver warns other teams to eliminate harassment

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The sexual harassment and workplace environment scandal that engulfed the Dallas Mavericks shook other NBA teams and forced some internal reassessment long before the league and an independent investigator released their report on Dallas this week. As part of the deal, Mark Cuban is donating $10 million to “organizations that are committed to supporting the leadership and development of women in the sports industry and combating domestic violence,” and the team must subscribe to a number of new reporting procedures.

Just to hammer the importance of the issue home, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver sent a memo to all 30 teams saying they need to think about diversity in management and have a focus on preventing workplace harassment.

While the money from the $10 million goes to good causes and is four times what the NBA could have fined Cuban itself under the current league bylaws, it is not going to hurt a man worth an estimated $3.9 billion. Cuban appeared both repentant and bothered by what was happening under his roof, but the punishment handed down came off as light, even though Cuban did quickly make changes within the organization — long before the report came out, starting at the top with the hiring of Cynthia Marshall as CEO — and was not personally involved nor did he have knowledge of the situation, according to the investigation. There is no right answer here. What would have really sent a message to teams was taking away draft picks, however, Dallas’ basketball side of the operations — players, coaches, etc. — were not implicated in the investigation, and it was instead the opposite, the basketball side was seen as a safe haven. Taking away draft picks felt like punishing the wrong people for the crimes, sort of like the NCAA. There were other options, but all seemed flawed.

Having it happen once can be spun as an outlier by the league, a one-off situation. If it happens again, the conversation changes. Silver does not want that to happen, hence the memo and reminder.

Jimmy Butler’s camp reportedly says concerns about salary “manufactured” by Wolves brass

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There are more spin doctors at work around the Jimmy Butler trade request than there are working congressional campaigns right now.

Among the flood of reports that came out was one that Butler’s primary issue was his salary — he wanted Minnesota to clear cap space so he could renegotiate his current deal to near a max contract, then extend him off of that deal. That the issue was less personal with Towns and more about the money.

Not true, reports Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

To add to the Butler drama there have been multiple reports in the Minneapolis area to come out this week that money was the main sticking point for Butler to demand his departure, but a source in his camp told the Sun-Times on Friday that it was “manufactured’’ by “ownership mouthpieces’’ to make Butler look bad….

According to the source, this is about a philosophy in making an impact in the Western Conference, and in Butler’s mind you can’t run down a dynasty like Golden State when two of the so-called dogs in the pack are in fact kittens.

Two thoughts here. First, this report makes more sense — to give the Butler the kind of raise talked about would have required gutting the Timberwolves roster. Meaning the would have had to dump guys that have value such as Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson, or they would have had to find a sucker to take on the contracts of Andrew Wiggins or Gorgui Dieng, and to do that would have required sending out quality talent or picks as sweeteners. Butler is smart and understands the NBA business, he would know this was never going to happen, he realizes his money was going to come as a free agent next summer. The idea he demanded this always smelled fishy.

Second, Butler and a lot of people want to lump Towns and Wiggins together as players who don’t work hard, don’t have much of a motor, and don’t seem to love the game. Nobody who has watched Wiggins play — especially last season — is going to put up much of an argument about that in his case. Wiggins looks like an anchor contract, unless he suddenly sees the light.

Towns, however, is different. His game has improved year-to-year, he does have a good motor on the court (at least on offense), and he does put in work in the off-season. Maybe he is young and doesn’t wear it on his sleeve like Butler, and certainly Towns was taught some tough lessons in the playoffs by Clint Capela last season, but Towns is not Wiggins. Towns was an All-NBA player last season for a reason. Lumping him and Wiggins together is a mistake.

NBA approves three rule changes, including reset of shot clock to 14 after offensive board

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The three rule changes approved by the NBA owners on Friday are not going to have a dramatic impact on this NBA season…

Until in a close playoff game in May it’s a little harder for a team getting offensive rebounds to just kill the clock. Or in that same playoff game, when clear path foul is called because an offensive player outraced a defender down the court.

As had been expected, the NBA’s Board of Governors — the owners — approved three rule changes for the coming NBA season. They are:

• The shot clock will reset to 14 seconds after an offensive rebound rather than 24 seconds. This has been experimented with in the G-League, the WNBA, and Summer League this year with some success. The goal is to speed up the pace of play, not letting a team get an offensive rebound then back it out and pound the ball for 20 seconds to kill time. Thing is, that was not much of a problem last season, as was noted at Nylon Calculus.

 

<em>Over 30 percent of offensive rebounds result in putbacks (the 0 Duration value on the graph) and 75 percent of offensive rebounds result in a possession that is five seconds or less. Only 6 percent of all offensive rebounds resulted in possessions that are 14 seconds or greater last year. Given that the league average for offensive rebounds was the lowest ever this past season at 9.7 per game, this rule would apply to roughly half a rebound per team per game last year.</em>

When fans will notice it, when it will have the intended impact is end-of-game situations — rather than a team grabbing offensive rebounds then killing the clock for 20 seconds, they will have to get up a shot, which will lead to the other team getting an opportunity.

• The league “simplified of the clear-path rule. The NBA’s old clear path rule was overly complicated and it led to things that looked like clear path fouls not being, and things that clearly were not being fouls. Here is the NBA’s explanation of the new rule, with some video help below.

A clear path foul is now defined as a personal foul against any offensive player during his team’s transition scoring opportunity in the following circumstances: the ball is ahead of the tip of the circle in the backcourt; no defender is ahead of the offensive player with the transition scoring opportunity; the player with the transition scoring opportunity is in control of the ball (or a pass has been thrown to him); and if the foul deprives his team of an opportunity to score.

As part of the clear path foul rule simplification, referees will no longer need to make judgment calls as to whether or not a defender was between (or had the opportunity to be between) the offensive player with the transition scoring opportunity and the basket.  In addition, referees will no longer have to determine whether or not the defender was at any time ahead of the offensive player prior to committing the foul, nor will it be relevant whether or not a defender beat the offensive player with the transition scoring opportunity into the frontcourt.  Further, plays of this nature will no longer have to originate in the backcourt (since transition scoring opportunities can originate in the frontcourt).

• The NBA expanded what is defined as a “hostile act” so that replay can be triggered more easily. Currently, to be a hostile act according to the NBA rulebook it has to be an altercation between players that is “not part of a normal basketball play” or where a player “intentionally or recklessly harms or attempts to harm another player.” Broadening the scope of this will give referees more chances to review off-ball or other altercations, and these are the kinds of serious situations the league should review.

Dirk Nowitzki likely to come off bench this season, coach Rick Carlisle says

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Dirk Nowitzki said something this summer rarely seen from future Hall of Famers who are the best player in their franchise’s history, he was willing to come off the bench.

It looks like Dallas coach Rick Carlisle is going to take Nowitzki up on that offer, reports Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

That might have been happening at the start of the season anyway, as Nowitzki’s injured ankle is not 100 percent and you can be sure the Mavericks are not going to push him.

Nowitzki off the bench just makes more sense for the Mavericks. DeAndre Jordan is the starting center, Harrison Barnes is really a four (56 percent of his minutes were at that spot last season), rookie Luka Doncic is a ball-handling three, Wesley Mathews is finally healthy and should be the two guard, and Dennis Smith Jr. is at the point.

Then the bench is a throwback to Mavericks favorites with Nowitzki, J.J. Barea, plus Yogi Ferrell, Dwight Powell, and Devin Harris.

Nowitzki is going to get the grand farewell tour this season, as he deserves. He’ll start a few games, particularly his final one at home. But for the team this season, which has dreams of a playoff spot (as long a shot as that may be in the West), this is the best move.