A guide for which teams to watch

8 Comments

Our ideas of fun may be completely different. Personally, I like to pretend I’m playing Supermarket Sweep in the grocery store, but you may like going out on “dates” or “talking to actual people.”

With that said, I can’t in good faith tell you which teams will be fun this year. That’s a decision for you to make, based on your own tastes. What I can do, though, is provide this helpful guide that relates real life activities to watching NBA basketball in an effort to guide you towards some of the more intriguing teams and away from the Bobcats. Far, far away from the Bobcats. To the list:

If you like going out clubbing, you should watch the:

Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets

Entertainment! Egos! Alpha dogs galore! These four teams are the equivalent of going out clubbing – no matter what happens, you’re probably not going to end up bored. Just how crazy are the Lakers? A guy who changed his name to Metta World Peace is now a third-string ego behind Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard. Miami, meanwhile, is defending their title and rolling with a former enemy (Ray Allen) for added fireworks. The Knicks ran Jeremy Lin out of town for Raymond Felton, which couldn’t possibly create any resentment in the Garden, right? Deron Williams may have the quietest wingman in the game next to him (Joe Johnson), but he’s ready to make a lot of noise and try to take New York’s spotlight from Carmelo Anthony. First man to play defense probably wins.

If you like being a parent, you should watch the:

New Orleans Hornets, Houston Rockets, Portland Trailblazers, Detroit Pistons

You can’t truly comprehend the joys of being a parent until you are one (or so I’ve heard), but these teams offer up all the fun with less of the sleep deprivation. Watching a player slowly figure the league out is one of the more rewarding fan experiences, so having the chance to watch New Orleans Hornets rookie Anthony Davis grow into a superstar game by game should be a treat. The Rockets have plenty of exciting rookies as well, but the big draw should be the Jeremy Lin/James Harden backcourt learning to play together. Portland will hand the keys to rookie Damian Lillard in hopes of developing the league’s latest and greatest point guard, while Pistons big man Andre Drummond provides some much needed sizzle to Greg Monroe’s steak. There will be some screaming here from both the kids and the adults, but it’s supposed to all be worth it in the end.

If you like solving puzzles, you should watch the:

Utah Jazz, Atlanta Hawks, San Antonio Spurs

Do you like to solve puzzles and make every piece fit? So do these teams. The Spurs seem to be able to find a home for every piece, don’t they? Two of their biggest additions last year were an overweight guy on the Bobcats (Boris Diaw) and a player more renowned for his dancing on the sideline (Danny Green) than anything else, and it worked out pretty darn well. The Jazz and the Hawks did a good job of following suit, bringing in players this offseason that fit their exact needs. They may not have the frame the Spurs do, but watching a team built with a vision get rewarded with success is just like putting in that last piece of the puzzle.

If you like crashing parties, you should watch the:

Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers

So what if they’re not invited? While no one really expects the Nuggets and Pacers to truly contend for the title, it would be pretty aesthetically pleasing if they did. The Nuggets play one of the most entertaining styles of basketball on the planet, and with Andre Iguodala on board, they should wreak even more havoc in transition than usual. Indiana is easy to forget about — until Paul George or Gerald Green tear down the rim with something nasty. They may not be on the invitation list, but you’ll be glad they came.

If you like getting into bar fights, you should watch the:

Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Clippers

The Celtics and the Clippers are the bro in the $120 t-shirt with skulls plastered all over it. Whether it’s Kevin Garnett stirring up trouble with tiny European players or Blake Griffin uncomfortably staring down a referee for about three minutes too long, the Clippers and Celtics are two of the most hated teams in the league – and they love it. They see it as playing mind games; everyone else just sees it as being obnoxious.

If you like going to bed early and sleeping in late, you should watch the:

Chicago Bulls, Minnesota Timberwolves, Washington Wizards, Dallas Mavericks

In need of a good night’s sleep? How about two months worth? The Bulls can still have success without Derrick Rose for most of the early season, but even the staunchest supporter of defensive play couldn’t recommend watching them on a nightly basis. The Wolves won’t have Ricky Rubio or Kevin Love for the start of the season either, the Wizards will be hopeless without John Wall, and the Mavericks may struggle to break 80 points a game without Dirk Nowitzki. Turn on that soothing league pass music and set your alarm for 2013 if you’re going to watch these teams.

If you like listening to music that everyone else has “probably never heard of”, you should watch the:

Toronto Raptors, Golden State Warriors

Hey, if this band just had a better sound system and the instruments were in tune and the songwriting was better and the drummer wasn’t out all the time — they’d be really good!  The Warriors and the Raptors need everything to break their way to nab a playoff spot. That’s counting on Andrew Bogut, Steph Curry, and Andrea Bargnani all being healthy for a full slate. That probably won’t happen, but if it does, you’re not going to like them anymore, anyway. That’s how that works, right?

If you like going to the gym, you should watch the:

Oklahoma City Thunder, Memphis Grizzlies

Grit and grind. If your fun comes from tireless self-improvement, like it does for Kevin Durant, you’re a lucky individual. One thing you know about the Grizzlies and Thunder – they’ll work hard every single game. You probably won’t find two teams that give more consistent effort, which is nice if you’re opposed to wasting nights watching bad basketball.

If you like playing video games all night, you should watch the:

Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers

You probably won’t have a horrible time or a fantastic time playing video games, and you probably won’t remember many details of what happened the next day. Watching the Cavs, Bucks and 76ers is sort of unremarkable in the same way.  You just sort of do it until you’re done. You don’t get the peaks, but you won’t suffer through the valleys, either. As a bonus, Kyrie Irving, Monta Ellis and Jrue Holiday are really fun to play with in NBA2k13, so there’s that.

If you like rubber necking in traffic during your drive home, you should watch the:

Orlando Magic, Charlotte Bobcats, Sacramento Kings, Phoenix Suns

You don’t really want to look at what happened in the accident on the side of the road, but you can’t help it. You slow down. There are cars, just like you expected. One of them is dented. You drive by and say, “That sucks”. That’s pretty much what the Magic, Bobcats, Kings and Suns have in store for you this season. You’ll stop in and look, expecting something exciting, and then you’ll leave and say, “That sucks.” Proceed with caution.

Report: Kyle Lowry dodging calls and texts from Raptors president Masai Ujiri and coach Nick Nurse

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
2 Comments

DeMar DeRozan hasn’t hidden his disdain for Raptors president Masai Ujiri trading him.

How does Kyle Lowry, a close friend of DeRozan still left in Toronto, feel?

Lowry dodged DeRozan questions while at USA Basketball’s minicamp in July. At media day yesterday, Lowry repeatedly gave an iteration of the same answer about his relationship with the Raptors: He’s there to do his job and try to win, just as always.

Josh Lewenberg of TSN:

per league sources, Lowry had also been dodging calls and texts from team officials, including president Masai Ujiri and new head coach Nick Nurse, who Lowry said he only spoke with briefly right after Nurse was promoted in June.

This obviously isn’t the healthiest arrangement. Teams function best with open communication.

But the team president and point guard needn’t talk regularly, especially now. Lowry is locked up for two more seasons. The status quo is fairly locked in for the season.

Lowry and Nurse not speaking would be a pressing issue, but training camp just opened. It’s too soon to assess how Lowry will respond to Nurse.

Ultimately, what Kawhi Leonard said about how the Raptors can appeal to him also applies to Lowry – win. If Toronto wins this season, Lowry will likely get over his issues with the DeRozan trade.

A half-dozen players with especially intriguing contract-year seasons ahead

AP Photo/Michael Dwyer
Leave a comment

After increasing 7%, 11%, 34% and 5% the previous four years, the NBA’s salary cap increased just 3% this year. Plus, teams were already overstocked with highly paid players signed during the 2016 – and, to an extent, 2015 – cap booms.

That meant many players signed one-year deals this offseason, allowing them to hit the market again next summer, when the cap is projected to rise 7% and many players signed in 2015 and 2016 come off the books.

The result is a deep 2019 free-agent class.

Some potential 2019 free agents, like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, are assured max-contract offers. Even Kawhi Leonard, who missed nearly all of last season due to injury, is practically guaranteed of max offers.

But there are many more players with their future compensation in flux. Here are six players with a ton on the line next season:

DeMarcus Cousins

Cousins shocked the league by taking the Warriors’ taxpayer mid-level exception. It’s probably a one-year rental. The highest starting salary Golden State can offer him next summer through Non-Bird Rights is $6,404,400. This year will give him a chance to get healthy, show he can contribute positively to winning and expand his versatility. Cousins isn’t the perfect fit with the Warriors, and some teams are still scared off by his attitude. But, if all goes well this season, Cousins won’t be able to claim no offers next summer.

Isaiah Thomas

Thomas learned the hard way Brinks trucks typically carry an amount near his $2,029,463 minimum salary – not the nine-digit max contract he hoped for. That dream has probably passed, but Thomas can still land a lucrative contract next summer if he thrives with the Nuggets this season. First, that means getting healthy, as his hip injury still lingers. Then, the 5-foot-9 point guard must show he can still get separation and lift to get buckets. And it’d help if he meshes better with his teammates and coaches. It’s amazing how big of a hit Thomas’ value has taken in the last year, but he has proven his determination before. Will he do it again?

D'Angelo Russell

Russell entered last season as a potential franchise player for the Nets. Then, he got outplayed by Spencer Dinwiddie. Russell missed 34 games due to injury and stagnated in his growth while on the court. The shine is off the former No. 2 pick. But Russell is still just 22 and talented, and point guards tend to develop later. He could earn a huge payday, though it’ll require a major breakthrough. He and Brooklyn can technically sign an extension by Oct. 15, but that seems unlikely – especially with Dinwiddie, another pending 2019 free agent, also in the mix. Most likely, Russell becomes a restricted free agent next summer.

Tobias Harris

Harris reportedly rejected a four-year, $80 million extension from the Clippers this summer. That’s a lot of money to turn down, but the upside is there. Harris could be the Clippers’ focal point this season, especially in the starting lineup (which probably won’t include Lou Williams). Harris is just 26 and has the all-around skills and work ethic to cash in. The Clippers are aiming higher, so Harris might have to leave L.A. to get paid.

Trey Burke

The No. 9 pick in 2013, Burke gradually fell out of favor with the Jazz. He got a change of scenery with the Wizards and struggled even more in Washington than he had in Utah. Burke seemingly blamed everyone but himself. He fell out of the league until the Knicks called him up in the middle of last season. Burke flourished in New York, showing the offensive command everyone expected when he declared for the draft out of Michigan. Burke must fend off Frank Ntilikina and Emmanuel Mudiay – more recent and higher picks – at point guard, and the Knicks’ reported top target in 2019 free agency is point Kyrie Irving. But if Burke maintains his play with New York over a full season, he’ll have lucrative options somewhere.

Marcus Morris

Morris signed a four-year, $20 million extension with the Suns in 2014, taking a discount to play with his twin brother, Markieff Morris. Then, Phoenix traded Marcus to the Pistons. Marcus vowed never to let personal relationships get in the away of business again. Now with the Celtics, he’ll have his chance to maximize his earnings next summer. Marcus is a hard-nosed and skilled combo forward in a league where his versatility is increasingly valued. He’ll try to prove his worth on a stacked Boston team that has too many strong pieces to allow any individual to fully fly.

Report: Kings trying to get involved in Jimmy Butler trade by taking bad contracts

AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King
Leave a comment

The Timberwolves are reportedly seeking, among other things, “salary-cap relief” in a Jimmy Butler trade. But Butler is on a de facto expiring contract, and Minnesota is already below the luxury-tax line this season. There isn’t significant relief to be gained by dealing just him.

So, that likely means unloading Gorgui Dieng, who’s due $48,687,640 over the next three years, including $15,170,787 this season.

That’s a toxic contract that will be difficult to move. Some potential Butler trade partners don’t have viable expiring contracts to trade for Dieng, and some potential Butler trade partners will flat refuse.

Enter the Kings.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

In recent days, Sacramento has been aggressive in courting Minnesota and several of Butler’s trade suitors — offering to use its space as a landing spot for bloated contracts.

The Kings have about $11 million in cap space (not counting Jamel Artis‘ unguaranteed deal). They also have a few ill-fitting veterans on expiring contracts that could facilitate a trade: Zach Randolph ($11,692,308), Iman Shumpert ($11,011,234) and Kosta Koufos ($8,739,500).

In return for taking bad contracts, Sacramento will seek draft picks and young players. This is the exact type of trade the rebuilding Kings should make. They just must hope Minnesota’s best offer involves them.

PBT Podcast: How do Victor Oladipo, Pacers take next step forward?

Associated Press
Leave a comment

Last season Victor Oladipo burst on the scene, making the leap from solid rotation player to All-NBA level star who could score and defend — and he dragged the Pacers up to being a solid playoff team with him.

The Pacers were the surprise of the NBA, which leads to the question: Can they do it again? More than that, how can they take a step forward? Kurt Helin of NBC Sports talks with J. Michael of the Indy Star about the Pacers and their key role players — Myles Turner, Tyreke Evans, Doug McDermott, Thaddeus Young and more — and what has to happen to move this team into the top three or four of the East.

The pair also discusses the East a little, including whether Toronto is for real, and how big a threat will Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks be.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.