Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while reading about how Charles Dickens’ classic “Christmas Carroll” almost didn’t get published…
Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves. Kevin Love is not going to own up to it, but this came off as a “are all of you really voting for Blake Griffin as an All-Star ahead of me?” game. Love was about 20,000 votes back of Griffin for the last starting spot in the West as of a week ago, with that motivate Love came out looking to dominate the power forward matchup Sunday — 45 points on 15-of-23 shooting, plus he pulled down 19 rebounds. (To be fair, Griffin had 32 points and 10 boards, not a bad night.) Love also fouled Griffin out, getting a charge call in OT. That Minnesota didn’t get Love the ball with the game on the line late in this game (Pekovic got the shots) is a crime.
Los Angeles Clippers’ frontline defense. Love and Nikola Pekovic combined for 79 points on just 51 shots, plus pulled down 33 rebounds — that the Clippers won this game talks about getting some good play elsewhere and some luck (thank you Kevin Martin). The Clippers didn’t deserve this the way their front line defended but L.A. made fewer mistakes down the stretch.
Kevin Martin, Minnesota Timberwolves. Minnesota just keeps losing close game after close game — and Martin was at the heart of this one. He had 16 points but he killed them with 6 turnovers. The big one was with 8 seconds to go in regulation and Minnesota up two — they wanted to get the ball in his hands because he is so good as a free throw shooter. Martin ran into the backcourt to recieve the pass, tried to dribble as the defense came to foul and slipped a little, when that happened he got picked clean by Chris Paul, who made a pass to Jamal Crawford for the game-tying dunk. It went to overtime and again the Timberwolves were up two with just more than three minutes left, Martin made a nice play to get an offensive rebound, then he tried a blind pass out top to get away from pressure and threw it away. Darren Collison picked it up, got the breakaway dunk and tied the game.
Lance Stephenson, Indiana Pacers. How do you get a “B” grade when you have a triple-double? When you go hunting for it — he played a spectacular game for three quarters but missed six of his last seven shots and was making plays to go after it. The result was he needed 15 shots to get the 12 points to go with his 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Still, early in the game he was just destroying all things Boston, including Courtney Lee’s ankles.
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.
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.
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.
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.