Five top candidates for NBA Rookie of the Year

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Eight of the last nine NBA Rookie of the Year winners have fit the same mold: A player on a bad team where the coach puts the ball in his hands and asks him to make plays and put up numbers. Michael Carter-Williams did it last year, Damian Lillard the season before that, Kyrie Irving the season before that and so on (Blake Griffin being the exception).

This season we may see another exception — the guys in the best position to win are a lot of big men who play inside.

Here are the five most likely players to win the Rookie of the Year Award.

1. Nerlens Noel, Philadelphia 76ers. Consider the Blake Griffin effect — an entire season to work out, add muscle, improve your game, and an entire year to watch the NBA game up close and learn. Griffin admitted it was an advantage for him, Noel has that advantage now. Add to that the fact Noel was the most impressive player I saw in limited minutes at Summer League in Las Vegas and you have a real candidate. Noel is on a bad team and going to get plenty of shots, plus the runs the floor well on a team that will play at one of the fastest paces in the league. Noel could put up both impressive numbers and a lot of highlights. That said he’s not been great in the preseason and has battled through some minor physical issues.

2. Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks. This is the guy 75 percent of general managers picked to win the award (and more than a third think he will be the best player in five years from this class). Parker entered the draft with the most mature offensive game of anyone in the lottery (he can score in a variety of ways and has a nice first step), now he goes to a young Bucks team that is going to give him the rock a lot. In the preseason that has meant some impressive nights (21 and 11 against the Timberwolves, for example). I don’t know about five years from now, but I think he will have an impressive rookie season on a Bucks team that will be very entertaining.

3. Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves. Wiggins is the No. 1 overall pick, a heralded pick, a freak athlete, a guy who has shown a nice midrange game, and he seems to learn quickly. There’s a lot to like, and he’s going to put up some decent numbers as well as some real highlight dunks. The question in Minnesota is how much run does Flip Saunders give Wiggins, that team has solid veterans on the wing like Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer. Ricky Rubio is going to throw Wiggins some sweet lobs but Rubio is going to have the ball in his hands most of the time. Wiggins’ personality is to fit in with teammates, not just take charge all the time. Combine all of that and I wonder if he’s really going to get enough touches to win the award.

4. Julius Randle, Los Angeles Lakers. He’s going to come off the bench behind Carlos Boozer in Los Angeles, but the Lakers bench is going to be more fun to watch than the starters most of the time anyway. Randle should get a lot of touches on what will not be a good team, but will veteran-friendly coach Byron Scott really let the kid loose. Randle has been up and down in the preseason. Kobe Bryant says Randle could win it if he would just %$(*#% listen to him and not blow it.

5. Bojan Bogdanovic, Brooklyn Nets. The guy can shoot the rock and Lionel Hollins likes guys that can shoot the rock, he may well start and certainly will get plenty of burn in Brooklyn. That said, with his years of international experience, I’m not sure voters will want to vote for him as a rookie, plus with Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez on that team there just are not a lot of touches left.

Honorable mentions:

• Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics. I put him here because one GM gave him one vote in the GM survey, and him winning is about as likely as any of the other dark horses. Smart can defend but his offensive game is a work in progress, and he’d going to spend most of the season behind Rajon Rondo anyway (unless Rondo is traded).
• Doug McDermott, Chicago Bulls. A lot of fans like him, and I like his game and fit with the Bulls, but he’s just not going to get enough run — if you think Thibodeau is going to lean heavy on a rookie I’m not sure what Thibs you’ve been watching.
• T.J. Warren, Phoenix Suns. If you’re looking for a rookie who can score, Warren is your man. He showed it in Summer League and preseason, he’s strong in transition and the Suns like to run.

Report: NBA ‘snitch’ hotline receiving multiple tips

NBA snitch hotline
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When the NBA created a hotline for players to anonymously report violations inside the bubble, numerous questions emerged. How often would it get used? What consequences would told-on players face? Would other players resent how often Chris Paul called?

Some answers are emerging.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Kings center Richaun Holmes and Rockets forward Bruno Caboclo are each quarantined after breaking protocols. It’s unclear how their violations were detected.

Yes, there is a culture against snitching. That this report is snitching about snitching is truly something.

But there’s too much at stake – health of hundreds of people and a lot of money – to take these protocols lightly. Everyone at the NBA’s Disney World campus is entrusting their safety (and, for players, whose salaries are tied to revenue, livelihood) to those around them. It’s important everyone involved acts responsibly.

Kings forward Harrison Barnes tests positive for coronavirus

Kings forward Harrison Barnes
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The Kings have been hit especially hard by coronavirus.

Buddy Hield, Jabari Parker and Alex Len all tested positive. Richaun Holmes is quarantined after violating the NBA’s bubble protocols at Disney World.

And now Harrison Barnes reveals he was diagnosed with coronavirus.

Harrison Barnes:

Presumably, Barnes was among the 19 players the NBA announced tested positive for coronavirus in July in home markets.

“Primarily asymptomatic” is a strange assessment. Does Barnes mean he’s mildly symptomatic?

The Kings already faced an uphill climb for making the playoffs. At best, several of their players are falling behind in training. At worst, Sacramento will have its rotation depleted when games begin.

Hopefully, Barnes recovers and joins the team as he hopes. He has a personal stake in it. Even during the lengthy hiatus, Barnes stuck with his pledge not to shave or cut his hair until the Kings reach .500 (or, as he amended it, make the playoffs) or the season ends.

Report: Pacers star Victor Oladipo’s remaining salary in dispute

Pacers star Victor Oladipo
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Among the continuing 22 NBA teams, players not playing in the resumption at Disney World essentially fall into two categories:

Pacers star Victor Oladipo lands in the gray area.

Oladipo, who returned from a year-long absence shortly before the season got suspended in March, said he was sitting out due to elevated risk of injury during a quick buildup. But he also traveled with the team to Orlando and is even practicing so well, Indiana is reportedly becoming increasingly optimistic he’ll play.

Is Oladipo healthy enough to play?

At stake for Oladipo:

  • $2,763,158 if the Pacers get swept in the first round
  • $2,993,421 if they play exactly five playoff games
  • $3,223,684 if they play six or more playoff games

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

The union believes Oladipo, who went to Orlando with the Pacers and then cleared quarantine so he could practice, should be paid his remaining salary, sources said.

The league, largely in an effort to set a precedent in case other players who are deemed healthy want to leave Orlando and no longer play, believes Oladipo has opted out and should not be paid, sources said. His public comments about feeling healthy has only solidified the league’s position on the matter, sources said.

The Pacers support Oladipo’s decision and are willing to pay him the salary whether he plays or not, sources said.

Presumably, if Oladipo plays, he’ll get paid like anyone else playing in the resumption. This controversy lingers only if Oladipo doesn’t play.

It’s unsurprising the Pacers don’t want to pick this fight with their star player, especially as he approaches 2021 free agency. Trying to avoid alienating their own players but not necessarily eager to pay for services not rendered, teams collectively want the league to handle these issues.

If teams had ample discretion, the Wizards might have said Davis Bertans – who chose to sit out – had some lingering injury. NBA players are rarely perfectly healthy. There’s always some physical issue to point to. Bertans will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and they want to re-sign him. What an easy way to build goodwill – and maybe even get a discount on Bertans’ next contract.

Obviously, the league doesn’t want those type of shenanigans. That’s why on outside rulings on players’ health can be important.

Oladipo might not be the only borderline case:

Oladipo’s situation might take care of itself if he decides to play. But the league might inquire more deeply into other situations.

Report: Rockets star James Harden ‘feeling fine,’ might travel with Russell Westbrook

Rockets stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook
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When Russell Westbrook revealed he had coronavirus, speculation immediately turned to the Rockets’ other star who also didn’t travel with the team to Disney World.

James Harden is “feeling fine,” working out and might travel with Westbrook to Orlando, according to Shams Charania of Stadium:

Was Harden also diagnosed with coronavirus? Is he just waiting for his friend before entering the restrictive bubble? Is there another issue?

These questions beget even more questions.

If both players have coronavirus, they won’t necessarily recover on the same day. Would the first to get cleared wait for the other? Or is traveling together just an idea in case it works out?

If Harden is fully healthy and just waiting for Westbrook, how do their teammates inside the bubble feel about that? Those already at Disney World are spending more time away from friends and family in less-than-ideal conditions.

If there’s another issue… who knows?

The lack of transparency around the situation only invites rumors and guesses.

At least it’s good news that Harden feels fine.