It starts with the big questions — if the Dallas Mavericks and Oklahoma City Thunder can’t answer those questions, the little ones will not matter.
That leads us to the big things to watch in Game 1 between the Thunder and Mavericks Tuesday night — can Dallas slow Kevin Durant, and can Oklahoma City slow Dirk Nowitzki.
The Thunder need to answer their question fast — Dallas is coming off a nine-day layoff following their sweep of the Lakers and they are bound to be rusty. They beat the Lakers with superior execution and that my take a while to come back. If the Thunder want to win one of the first two on the road, Game 1 sill be the best chance.
Serge Ibaka is going to get the first shot at Dirk, but he may be ill suited to stopping Nowitzki. We told you want to look for in more detail, but if we had to reduce it to two words, it would be Nick Collison.
On the other side, Shawn Marion is going to get Kevin Durant duty. The book on Durant has been to be physical with him and run him off his spots on the floor, to play heavy ball-denial and to limit his touches. We’ll see if Marion is up to that task.
One other matchup to watch closely is DeShawn Stevenson on Russell Westbrook. Game 7 against Memphis was Westbrook’s best game of the playoffs and if he displays that kind of balance again Dallas could struggle to stop him.
With those two guys to stop, expect to see Dallas use a fair amount of zone defense this series. The Mavs run maybe the best matchup zone in the league and that may be the best way to keep Tyson Chandler on the glass and in the paint to help on defense.
The two other keys for Dallas — don’t foul and don’t turn the ball over. Not fouling was something the Mavs did well, the Thunder got to the line 29 times a game during the regular season but that happened just 24 times against the Mavericks. That has to continue, the Thunder need free throws. They also want to get out and run, Oklahoma City is far more athletic. Dallas cannot fuel that with turnovers.
Lots of things to watch. But it all starts with the two best players on the court.
The Hawks’ rebuild got going with big John Collins. Though they’re reportedly eying Luka Doncic with the No. 3 pick, they could easily draft another big – Jaren Jackson Jr., Mohamed Bamba, Marvin Bagley or Wendell Carter.
And then there’s veteran center Dewayne Dedmon.
He no longer fits in Atlanta (never did, really). But he’s not bypassing a chance to earn $6.3 million.
Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:
There just wasn’t going to be that much money for the 28-year-old Dedmon in a tight market this summer.
Dedmon is a good defender, and he developed his ball skills – as a 3-point shooter and passer – in Atlanta last season. The Hawks could look to trade him. Maybe, in a deal primarily about his expiring contract, he adds extra value to the other team due to his playing ability.
If Atlanta doesn’t move him, Dedmon will be a fine player on a likely tanking team. At least he’s not good enough to subvert the Hawks’ tank, especially with the new lottery format.
Nick Young will say and do nearly anything for attention.
Empowered by the Warriors’ championship, he swung for the fences when asked about Canada passing marijuana legalization.
Young, via TMZ:
“I want people to pass cocaine,” the NBA star told TMZ Sports outside 1 OAK on Tuesday night … “Everybody needs to do cocaine!”
Predictably, that caused a bit of an uproar. Then, Young backtracked:
Too late, Nick. People are already asking questions you don’t want asked.
The 76ers have too many 2018 draft picks – Nos. 10, 26, 38, 39, 56 and 60.
Philadelphia already has 11 players under contract for next season. Plus, the 76ers have the space to add premier players. There just isn’t room for everyone on the roster.
So, Philadelphia unloaded one of those selections.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
This is good return for the 76ers, who everyone knew had to trade a draft pick. The rebuilding Bulls could easily land a higher second-round pick than No. 39 next year.
Why do the Lakers want an extra second-rounder this year? Second-round picks don’t count against the cap until signed, and they can always slightly sweeten a trade offer. They’re helpful for a team with big plans and little wiggle room.
The Knicks have the No. 8 pick, and tomorrow’s draft will be the most important part of their offseason.
Will they also have cap space to add talent in free agency? That hinges on Enes Kanter‘s player option.
If Kanter opts out, New York will have even more room to operate thanks to Kyle O'Quinn declining his $4,256,250 player option.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
The Knicks expected this for a while, and they’re probably not disappointed. Steve Mills and Scott Perry want to put their stamp on the franchise. O’Quinn is a leftover from the Phil Jackson era and a reminder of the recent tumult in New York.
O’Quinn’s combination of block percentage (6.1) and defensive-rebounding percentage (27.8) was unmatched last season. He just really struck a nice balance between contesting shots and remaining in position on the glass. He’s also a smooth mid-range shooter with an improved ability to distribute.
How much is that player worth?
It’ll be a tight market, especially for bigs. For his sake, I hope the 28-year-old O’Quinn already has assurances from other teams. He might get a similar salary or, more likely, a larger overall guarantee on a multi-year deal. But it’s also possible he comes out behind by testing free agency.