The cult of Jared Sullinger is growing fast in Boston.
The rookie power forward out of Ohio State slipped down the draft board because of injury reports and because he’s not as athletic, he doesn’t play above the rim like some of the guys taken in front of him. But he can play — he’s crafty and scores in the paint. The Celtics players and fans like what they see.
But he’s a rookie and Brandon Bass is a quality NBA veteran. And signs point to coach Doc Rivers leaning veteran when he has to pick an opening night starter against the Miami Heat, reports A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com.
Rivers has said his starting lineup will likely fluctuate depending on the foe and the type of player opponents choose to start….
As good as Sullinger has been in the preseason, seeing him matched up with LeBron James to start his NBA career might be classified as cruel and unusual punishment. In addition, Bass did arguably as good a job as any of his Boston teammates in defending James during their matchup in the Eastern Conference finals last season.
Bass is experienced, he can handle the big stage — and opening night on national television playing a Heat team raising a banner is a big stage. While Sullinger has looked good in the preseason and earned the love of his teammates, he hasn’t yet played an NBA game. His reaction to the moment remains an unknown.
As Blakely notes — Rivers knows he can trust Bass. He’s starting to trust Sullinger, but it’s not the same. Not yet.
Opening night may well go to Bass as the starter. Now, opening night of the playoffs six months from now could be a different story entirely.
It’s going to be a slow NBA trade deadline this year.
The reason it will be relatively quiet on Feb. 7 (the deadline day) this year is reflected in the five players to watch talked about in this PBT Extra. The bottom line: There are far more buyers than sellers.
Take Trevor Ariza in Washington, for example. A number of playoff teams are looking for wings on expiring contracts to help them out — the Rockets and Lakers are at the front of that line — but Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has said the team the team will not tank, so is Ariza even available.
Or, what about Terrence Ross in Orlando? Another wing a lot of teams have interest in, but is Orlando selling?
And while the Dallas Mavericks have made public overtures about reconciliation with Dennis Smith Jr., sources tell me the plan on both sides is still to find a trade, it’s just right now the offers are lowball ones (because the Mavs have no leverage and there will be good young point guards such as Terry Rozier and D'Angelo Russell available in July as restricted free agents, and teams like them better).
Still, there will be trades. These are the guys to watch.
Want to see more dunks like this and this?
Watch the dunk contest during All-Star weekend.
Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:
Miles Bridges, the No. 12 pick in last year’s draft, has quickly proven himself as belonging in the Hornets’ rotation. He’s active, capable of getting to the rim and picks up defensive concepts quickly.
But like most rookies picked in the middle of the first round, he hasn’t yet earned a national profile.
The dunk contest will be his opportunity to change that.
Wendell Carter Jr. has had a strong rookie season in Chicago: 10.3 points a game, 7 rebounds, showing real strength and touch inside and getting 67 percent of his shot attempts in the paint. The advanced stats like him: He’s got an above average PER and Value over Replacement Player, something very rare for a rookie. He looks like a key part of the future in Chicago.
And he’s out for the next two-to-three months.
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune first reported that Carter might have ligament damage in his left thumb requiring surgery, and that coach Jim Boylen said Carter was seeing a specialist. Shams Charania of The Athletic took it to the next step.
That’s a blow to his development but doesn’t really change the trajectory of a Bulls team that will pick high in next June’s draft.
This does not change the Bulls’ plans heading into the trade deadline — big man Robin Lopez is still available (but likely will end up a buyout candidate) reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
Bobby Portis will get more run with Carter out.
The young Bulls have been hit hard by injuries this season. Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Portis have all missed time, and Denzel Valentine has yet to play a game for Chicago this season.
Before the season, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis stated his goals: 50 wins and the conference finals.
Washington is 19-26 and 11th in the Eastern Conference.
Time to shift priorities?
NBC Sports Washington:
Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington:
The Wizards are too talented to tank right now. Led by Bradley Beal, they have a roster of capable veterans. They just traded for Trevor Ariza, making that even more true.
As bad as they’ve been, the Wizards are just 2.5 games and three teams out of playoff position. They will likely miss the postseason, but there’s no alternative better than trying to get there. They’re too far down the road toward winning now to simply pivot into a rebuilding.
But what about if the Wizards get eliminated from playoff contention with games left in the season? They won’t tank down the stretch to improve their draft position? What’s the point of that?
And what about future seasons? Washington will have a tough time building a satisfactory winner after signing John Wall to a super-max extension that kicks in next season. That difficult-to-move contract almost mandates the Wizards prioritize the present. A healthy Wall is good enough to ensure Washington can’t bottom out – for now.
Wall be 32 in the final year of that deal. The Wizards could be in ruins by then. Taking the option to tank off the table would be a mistake.
To be fair, I’m not totally sure Leonsis is doing that. Owners almost never admit to tanking. Most deny it.
But this goes a level beyond. This is far more forceful than Leonsis had to be, which makes me believe it’s actually his plan.
That’s fine right now. Eventually, it could make a futile situation far worse.