Orlando Magic guard J.J. Redick traded to the Milwaukee Bucks

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There were plenty of rumblings about Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith going to Milwaukee in a blockbuster three-team deal with Orlando, but that trade died when Atlanta reportedly pulled out of the deal.

That trade falling apart didn’t deter the Bucks from acquiring a piece to help them in their playoff push, however. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports that the Bucks have acquired Orlando Magic guard J.J. Redick in a six-player deal right at the deadline.

The Milwaukee Bucks receive Redick, Gustavo Ayon and Ish Smith while the Orlando Magic recieve Beno Udrih, Tobias Harris and Doron Lamb.

Let’s start with the big piece, which is Redick. The 28-year-old shooting guard is a career 39.8 percent 3-point shooter and has posted career highs in assists per game (4.4) and points per game (15.1) this season. Redick’s career year coincides with a contract season, as he’ll become an unrestricted free agent after this summer. Redick was one of the most highly sought after pieces at the deadline, and should immediately help the Bucks offense with his shooting and playmaking. Milwaukee is 26-27 on the year, hampered mostly by their 24th ranked offensive efficiency.

Efficiency is really the name of the game for Redick. His 59.2 percent true shooting percentage is right there among the shooting guard elite with guys like Ray Allen and James Harden. Redick has a reputation as just a shooter, but he’s made great strides as a defender and as a great distributor.

Redick has done the majority of his damage for Orlando this year coming off screens and either popping a jumper or slipping a nice pocket pass to a rolling big men. Orlando essentially designed an entire offense around Redick’s skills, but it will be interesting to see how Redick will work alongside two ball dominant guards like Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. With Redick and Mike Dunleavy both coming off the bench, Milwaukee’s second unit should see a pretty drastic spike in scoring.

To get Redick, the Bucks parted with a couple of interesting prospects in underutilized small forward Tobias Harris and rookie shooting guard Doron Lamb. Backup point guard Beno Udrih — who was included to match salaries with Redick — is on an expiring deal and almost certainly won’t factor in Orlando’s plans past the next few months.

Along with Redick, the Bucks received Gustavo Ayon and Ish Smith from Orlando. Ayon is a highly intelligent but very limited young big man, and Ish Smith is a similarly limited point guard with great athleticism, elite floor vision, but no jumper to speak of whatsoever. Smith is a career 36 percent field goal shooter, and a 57 percent free throw shooter.

The main focus in this trade, obviously, is Milwaukee’s addition of Redick. Early chatter says that Milwaukee has interest in re-signing Redick this offseason, which would make sense if Monta Ellis truly did opt out of his contract, as Gery Woefel of Racine Journal Times has speculated. The Bucks have a roster filled with shot blocking bigs who don’t space the floor, which makes a pure shooter like Redick a much better future fit than Ellis, who needs driving lanes to be at his best.

For Orlando, Harris and Lamb are two cheap young players still on rookie deals, which is a huge deal to a rebuilding team. While the original talks centered around Milwaukee possibly sending back Luc Richard Mbah a Moute for Redick, Orlando did well to land Harris instead.

Although he’s only played roughly 800 minutes in two seasons, Harris has been a solid producer in his time on the floor, averaging 15.4 points and 7 rebounds per36 minutes with a PER of 13.8. At just 20 years old, Harris is still a long way from being a known entity — which could be a great thing for Orlando. Along with Maurice Harkless, who is just 19, the Magic have a small forward combination they can mold and be patient with.

While you can certainly view Orlando losing Redick and not getting a draft pick in return as a bit of a failure, Orlando at least got two young prospects for a player they were likely uninterested in signing had they not moved him today. That’s better than nothing — especially since they had to take on no future salary to do so.

Milwaukee gets better now with the addition of Redick, but this trade can’t really be graded until this offseason. If the Bucks convince Redick to take a reasonable deal and stay in Milwaukee this offseason, they did very well for themselves. But if Redick and Dunleavy, who both expiring, take bigger deals elsewhere, and if Ellis ends up opting out, the Bucks will have zero returning shooting guards or small forwards on the roster. With Brandon Jennings likely taking up a lot of cap room as a restricted free agent, constructing a suitable wing rotation could be a huge issue going forward.

Backed into must-win Game 4, here are three things Rockets must do to even series

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Three years ago, the Houston Rockets came back from 3-1 down in a playoff series to defeat a Los Angeles Clippers (and give that franchise a punch to the gut from which it has not recovered). It was one of the great Rockets’ moments of the last decade.

Houston is not going to be able to do that against these Golden State Warriors. Go down 3-1 after Game 4 Tuesday at Oracle and the series is all but over.

Which means after the Rockets’ blowout loss in Game 3 Sunday night, Houston finds itself in the same must-win spot it did after Game 1. And unlike Game 2, the Rockets will not get helped out by an arrogant Warriors team not playing at its peak — the Rockets are going to need a near perfect game to beat a full-force Warriors team on Tuesday.

Here are the three key areas the Rockets must improve to win Game 4:

1) Just shoot better — finish shots at the rim and hit some threes. It’s rather obvious and simplistic, but it’s the reality: Houston just has to shoot better in Game 4.

The Rockets took a full one-third of their shots at the rim in the restricted area in Game 3, but they struggled with those making just 13-of-27 (48.1 percent). The Rockets took 42 percent of their shot attempts from three but hit just 11-of-34, and they were 7-of-25 on above the break threes. That’s not good enough, the Rockets are going to need at least 15 made threes in a game to win.

“Those are double whammies,” Rockets’ coach Mike D’Antoni said of the missed shots at the rim. “It’s like we missed layups first half especially and they go down and score. So in transition, you’ve got to keep them out of transition, you’ve got to make layups. We didn’t do that. When they did miss, we didn’t box out all the time, and then we turned it over 20 times. It’s a formula for losing, and for us to correct that, we can’t turn it over. Got to make layups for shots, and get back.”

To be fair, the Warriors contested shooters well all game, especially guys driving the basket, but still, the Rockets need to knock down more of their shots contested or not. It’s the most basic premise of basketball.

2) Houston has to play faster. D’Antoni said it above, the Rockets and their missed shots let the Warriors get out in transition and control the pace. It’s also a simple fact that the team that controls the pace — the team that gets transition opportunities and gets into its offense earlier in the shot clock — will win the games.

Golden State had 26 transition opportunities to 12 for the Rockets, according to the Synergy Sports stats breakdown.

Or, look at it this way (via Cleaning the Glass), in Game 3, Houston started just10.4 percent of their possessions in transition (and scored a dreadful 0.89 points per possession on those plays). For comparison, in their Game 2 win, the Rockets started 18.7 percent of their possessions in transition. On Sunday night in Game 3 Warriors started 19.8 percent of their plays in transition, nearly one in five trips down the court, and they scored 1.44 points per possession on those plays.

The Rockets need to make more shots and then, even when they miss, get back in transition and not let the Warriors get rolling early in the clock. Houston also needs to defend better and force more Warriors misses, which will allow them to run. It’s all tied together, the Warriors were making shots so the Rockets were taking the ball out of the basket and coming up against set defenses; the Rockets were missing shots that let the Warriors come up fast and forcing the Rockets to scramble on defense (Golden State tears apart teams in those situations). It’s a holistic thing, but the evidence it’s working is which team controls the pace, and the Rockets need to do that in Game 4.

3) Houston needs more out of Chris Paul. It’s easy to point to the Stephen Curry eruption in the third quarter as the time the Warriors ended the game, and there is truth to that. Golden State started the third on a 10-0 run (where Curry had five of those points) and the fire was lit, then Curry started hitting 30-foot threes and quickly the game was out of reach. Those Warriors runs are crushers.

However, to me the turning point in the game was when James Harden went to the bench for his usual rest with 2:46 left in the first quarter — the Warriors outscored the Rockets by nine before the quarter was up (part of an 11-0 run to end the quarter). By the time Harden returned with 9:16 left in the second quarter, the Rockets were down 10, a hole they never could get out of (they were down 11 at the half).

CP3 has to be better in that stretch. The Warriors threw bigger, switchable guards at him on defense — Shaun Livingston, Nick Young, and then Andre Iguodala — and Paul couldn’t get separation and make plays against them. Without Harden, the Rockets offense stalled out, and doing that led to the Warriors getting to push the pace and get their transition buckets. Paul looked slowed at points, reaching on defense and not as explosive as we’ve seen.

This isn’t the Utah Jazz. Harden was off in Game 5 against Utah, but Paul picked up the slack (his 41-point, 10 assist game) and Houston got the win. Against Golden State, both Paul and Harden must have good games for Houston to have a chance. The Warriors are too good, too deep, there is no margin for error anymore.

The Rockets have an elite game in them — we saw the blueprint of what they have to do in Game 2. Houston can do that again. The only question is can they do it in the face of Golden State’s pressure, because the sharks on the Warriors smell blood in the water and will be coming hard in Game 4.

Shaun Livingston crossed James Harden so hard it made Greg Anthony mispronounce “meme” (VIDEO)

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The Golden State Warriors embarrassed the Houston Rockets on Sunday night. Stephen Curry scored 35 points, didn’t miss a shot in the third quarter, and helped the Warriors win Game 3 and take a 2-1 series lead by a margin of 41 points.

Not too shabby.

But it wasn’t just Curry who turned the Rockets into shrinking violets. Shaun Livingston, who added 11 points off the bench while shooting 4-of-4, took his turn putting Houston to task.

During one play, Livingston crossed up James Harden on his way to a wide-open dunk. Livingston’s crafty dribble moves also shook commentator Greg Anthony’s brain up a little bit, so much so that Anthony forgot how to say the word “meme”.

Via Twitter:

Even during a 41-point decimation the NBA is still the funniest league on the planet.

Report: Kings, Hawks could pass on Luka Doncic if Suns don’t take him No. 1

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Luka Doncic or Deandre Ayton?

That’s the question many NBA fans are asking themselves, but according to one report it’s not the only thing several teams in the Top 3 of the 2018 NBA Draft are thinking about.

ESPN’s Jonathan Givony says that while the Phoenix Suns may still be considering taking Doncic with their No. 1 overall pick, the Sacramento Kings (2) and Atlanta Hawks (3) are not.

The Kings and Hawks are reportedly leaning toward taking an American frontcourt player, which would point us toward guys like Ayton, Marvin Bagley, Jaren Jackson, and Mo Bamba.

Via ESPN:

The growing consensus among NBA decision-makers in attendance at Stark Arena in Belgrade is that the teams drafting behind the Phoenix Suns at No. 1, the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks are likely to pass on European prodigy in favor of American frontcourt players. The question remains whether a team will trade up into the top three to snag Doncic, or if he will fall to the No. 4 (Memphis) or even the No. 5 pick (Dallas) after being heavily scouted in the Euroleague playoffs against Panathinaikos and mostly struggling.

The information we’re missing is whether the Kings and Hawks are turned off by Doncic specifically. Is it because they haven’t scouted him as much as the other guys? Is it because of perceived team need? Do they think Doncic has peaked already? Are they worried about less information being available from a Euro prospect? All are possible.

With all the hype around Doncic, it would be shocking to see him fall out of the Top 3. It’s happened before, but both Ayton and Doncic are the guys atop this draft that people are licking their chops to get.

Could we see a team trade up to get Doncic from the Hawks or Kings if Phoenix goes elsewhere? Is this just false information funneled to the media as a means of depressing the market for Doncic or for ferreting out a big trade offer?

The conference finals aren’t even over yet and here we are talking about the incessant drama of the NBA offseason. I love this league.

Larry Brown once told Trevor Ariza to never shoot

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Larry Brown is a legendary basketball coach, but he’s also been known to ascribe to a certain style. Brown’s regimen has sometimes rubbed players the wrong way, and likewise Brown has been overly attached to players which he likes.

For Houston Rockets wing Trevor Ariza, Brown’s staunch attitude almost ruined his career.

Ariza was a second-year player with the New York Knicks during the lone season Brown coached in the Big Apple in 2005-06. The UCLA product didn’t shoot well from the 3-point line in college or during his rookie season, so when Brown came to town he told Ariza to stop shooting from beyond the arc entirely.

Seriously.

Via Dan Woike and the LA Times:

More than a decade ago when Ariza was a second-year player, his coach with the New York Knicks, Hall of Famer Larry Brown, thought Ariza shouldn’t shoot from the perimeter. Like ever.

“He told me not to even look at the basket or shoot the ball,” said Ariza, 32. “I was definitely afraid to shoot. I just wouldn’t. I would not shoot.”

Woike’s story is pretty incredible, and goes on to detail how Ariza’s trade to the Los Angeles Lakers reignited his career and his confidence to shoot the ball. That’s obviously crucial for the Houston Rockets who need Ariza docked in the corner as Chris Paul and James Harden run pick-and-rolls and isolate.

Stories like this always sound wild, if only because they’re contextually being compared to completely different eras. Ariza was drafted in 2004, and has seen three different eras of NBA basketball (Iverson era, point guard PNR era, 3-point era) pass by during his time.

Larry Brown’s in the Hall of Fame but he whiffed on this one.