Golden State playing some good defense against Spurs, too

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Golden State’s offense has been undoubtedly impressive these playoffs. After David Lee went down and Mark Jackson went small they exposed the Nuggets three point defense. Now the Warriors are making the older Tim Duncan pay for not showing out at the arc on picks, they are not letting San Antonio hide Tony Parker on defense. They are shooting well but they always shoot well, they are just getting the looks.

But they also played some defense in Game 2.

San Antonio had an offensive rating of 98.1 (points per 100 possessions) in Game 2, well off their season average of 105.9 (seventh in the NBA). They shot just 39 percent from the floor. Part of that was the Spurs missed a few looks they normally knock down — they were 3-of-10 on spot-up threes in Game 2, via Synergy Sports — but Golden State is doing a good job taking away the Spurs bread and butter.

Through two games in this series the Spurs have had the most shots taken by the pick-and-roll ball handler and he is 14-of-42 (33.3 percent) shooting. That’s more than just Tony Parker, but he is a healthy part of that and he has had a tough go this series, shooting 41.9 percent through the first two games.

The Warriors have gone small in the absence of David Lee, putting Jarrett Jack in the starting lineup and counting on Andrew Bogut to do everything inside. The Spurs are posting up on just 10 percent of their possessions and are shooting just 7-of-18 when they do. The Spurs have much better success scoring in transition, and should take those opportunities, but they are not a team that wants to get into a track meet with the Warriors.

The Warriors are not a great defensive team but they are on that hustles — they are working hard and contesting everything right now. Bogut is being physical and making Tim Duncan work even on put backs. Tiago Splitter missed a dunk as multiple Golden State defenders wouldn’t let him have an easy look. Curry and guys like Harrison Barnes are long and their hands seem to be in the face of every Spurs shooter.

And in the face of that, the ball movement the Spurs are known for stopped — they had just four assists in the first half against Golden State. There has been a lot more isolation than normal from the Spurs, something they have to rectify. San Antonio needs some easy buckets because they are moving off the ball, then they need to knock down the good looks when they get them (particularly threes).

If Golden State is going to upset the Spurs it will be in large part because Curry and Thompson continue to expose the Spurs perimeter defense and continue to hit pretty much every shot they take inside half court.

But it’s also going to be because they continue to defend with energy and are not letting the Spurs have easy baskets.

Report: Markelle Fultz was available in trade packages on draft night

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The Philadelphia 76ers are saying all the right things about Markelle Fultz — they are patient, they believe in his work with his new trainer to rebuild his jump shot, and they see him as part of the future. Plus, his handles look sharp.

That doesn’t mean the Sixers are not willing to trade him in their pursuit of a star player. In fact, he was available on draft night in packages, reports Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Sixers say they aren’t shopping him. However, there was a report that they had internal discussions about packing him with Nos. 10 and 26 picks to move up into the Top 5 in Thursday’s draft. And multiple league sources have said that Fultz was available to be traded.

But it’s hard to get equal value in return for trading someone relearning how to shoot. The Sixers know that. They also know that if things do come together, Fultz will be a special player. He has the potential to become the type of player they would regret trading away.

Outside of a handful of superstars, every player in the NBA is available in a trade, at least in theory. Fultz is no different. The question in his case is what do they see as an upgrade vs. his potential?

Kawhi Leonard would be an upgrade, unquestionably. Fultz could be part of a package to land Leonard in a trade (Fultz, Robert Covington, the Miami 2021 first rounder, and probably more picks would be a starting point). Once the Spurs get serious about a potential Leonard trade (they are not there yet) how enticing that offer might be comes down to what they think of Fultz and his potential.

The Sixers are not shy about their desire to land an established All-Star to pair with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. If they don’t get Leonard, they will be looking at the next All-Star who becomes available, and Fultz could be part of those deals, too.

Fultz is not playing in Summer League for the Sixers, but if he comes back this fall trusting his jumper and starting to look like the player who was drafted No. 1 that trade value goes way up (and the Sixers may be less inclined to move him).  It may be then before the Sixers can get a respectable return on any Fultz trade.

Report: Indiana to retain Bojan Bogdanovic, he could start again next season

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Bojan Bogdanovic is the kind of floor spacing shooter the Pacers need next to the attacking Victor Oladipo. He started 80 games for the team, scored 14.3 points per game and shot 40.2 percent from three.

Bogdanovic is due $10.5 million next season, but the Pacers can buy him out before next Friday (June 29) for $1.5 million.

They’re not going to do that, the Pacers are going to retain Bogdanovic, reports Ben Gibson at the Pacers site 8points9seconds.com.

The Indiana Pacers currently plan to retain Bojan Bogdanovic — whose contract is only partially guaranteed for next season — and would be comfortable going into next season with him as a starter, according to a source familiar with the Pacers offseason plans.

There’s no surprise here, it was expected. Bogdanovic provides genuine value to the team — they need him on the court as a shooter, he averaged the second most threes per game on the squad. And, as an expiring contract, he could be used in any potential trades for another star.

The Pacers also have a decision to make on Darren Collison, who is owed $10 million next season but has a $2 million buyout by July 1. They will probably keep him around.

Al Jefferson is owed $10 million next season but can be bought out for $4 million before next January 10. Expect the Pacers to exercise that option and buy him out well before that date.

Carmelo Anthony sends message to haters: ‘Take A Step Back… And Enjoy Life’

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When the expected became official and Carmelo Anthony opted to take the $27.8 million contractually owed him next season, there were groans from the Thunder faithful.

It was Anthony’s right — and everyone knew he was going to take the cash (we all would have done the same) — but his value on the court has shrunk and that’s what eats at the OKC faithful. Anthony’s response on Instagram was, essentially, “relax, it’s just basketball.”

It will be interesting to see if Anthony is back with the Thunder next season, or if he gets bought out. If he does return, how do they better fit him in the offense?

Anthony’s defense has long been a concern, but his offense used to be efficient enough, and his ability to create shots important enough, that teams lived with the defense. However, his efficiency has slid in recent years and, as we saw in the playoffs in April, it’s not enough anymore. The Thunder played better with other lineups. To which Anthony responded he has to get back to his old style of play more.

It’s going to be a wild summer in OKC. Whatever happens.

Suns to sign French point guard Elie Okobo to first-round style contract

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The Suns have an impressive young core four: Devin Booker at the two, Mikal Bridges at the three, Josh Jackson at the four, and Deandre Ayton at center.

The hole: Who will be the point guard?

The Suns like Elie Okobo of France a lot. They drafted him 31st overall, the top pick of the second round, but they will give him a first-round style contract with two guaranteed seasons and two team options after that, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Suns hinted they were going to do this, and it’s a smart move at a fair price if they can develop Okobo (even as a backup).

Okobo has potential. Last season, at the highest level of the athletic French league he averaged 13.2 points on 57 percent shooting (38 percent from three) plus 4.4 assists per game. Okobo is an NBA level athlete who has all the tools to be a good NBA point guard — and he already knows how to score (he had 44 points in a playoff game this season). He’s going to have to round out his game and adapt to the NBA style, but the Suns think they have something.

And they are betting they have with a nice sized contract.