Five Things We Learned in NBA Wednesday: The Clippers top six are good. After that….

12 Comments

If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while worrying about what too much wealth would do to your soul….

The Clippers’ top six is good enough to beat Portland. Right now, if Doc Rivers wants to win a big game, he has to lean on the top six guys in his rotation and not much else — that’s what happened in the Clippers win against Portland Wednesday. When it was just the Clippers’ starting five — Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Matt Barnes, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan — or when Jamal Crawford subbed in for Redick the Clippers were +13. They won by 6. This trend isn’t new — on the season the Clippers starting five is +15.6 per 48 minutes, sub Crawford in for Redick and it’s +21.7. Once you get past the top six on the Clippers roster it just drops off a cliff. Spencer Hawes looked like a great addition on paper but his shot has gone AWOL. Nobody else is stepping up, and Doc Rivers is busy on the phone lines trying to find depth (Austin Rivers is not the answer) but the Clippers don’t have the kind of assets that will likely net much in return. So it’s the top six and pray for the Clippers, but that was enough as they knocked down their midrange shots and got the win in Portland Wednesday.

It’s not just a Bulls slump, the Wizards are legit. The playoffs are all about match ups and if the Bulls draw the Wizards this postseason they should be concerned. Washington beat Chicago 105-99 Wednesday. It’s because the Wizards have the size and athleticism to match up with the Bulls. Nene is an underrated player and his physical play frustrated Pau Gasol. Nobody was going to slow Derrick Rose in the first half (20 points on 8-of-10 shooting) but John Wall did a good job on him in the second half and scored 10 points in the fourth quarter. Paul Pierce gives Washington more versatility on offense and he had 22 in this one. Remember this, the Wizards have the seventh most efficient defense in the NBA and third in the East. The Wizards are a team that — so long as Nene is healthy the Wizards are going to be a tough out in the East.

After the game, Marcin Gortat had the tweet of the night.

DeMar DeRozan is back. Fear the Raptors. Rust? What rust? DeMar DeRozan returned to the Raptors lineup after missing 21 games and fit in smoothly with 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting in a win over Philly. When the Raptors came out flat to start the third quarter he made the sits so the Raptors did not have a repeat of their come-from-ahead loss to Detroit. Toronto is just a far more dangerous team with DeRozan back.

Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo could develop into something interesting in Orlando. It’s games like Wednesday night, when the Magic beat the Houston Rockets, that you think this backcourt in Orlando really could work out. Payton and Oladipo outplayed Patrick Beverley and James Harden down the stretch. Payton is a terrible jump shooter (and will never be great, maybe someday with a lot of work he could be an average shooter) but he attacks the rim well and shows a real comfort level just running the offense, plus he’s going to be a good defender. Oladipo on the other hand can shoot and more than that just flat-out score — he had 32 points on 12-of-19 shooting (plus six rebounds and assists). The Magic have scored better than 120 in consecutive games now and this is a team that is starting to look like it’s finding an identity.

The Atlanta Hawks won again. Yawn. I’m not sure what we really learned here — that the Hawks are really good? We knew that. That they are better than the Celtics? We knew that, too. But this win makes it 10 in a row for Atlanta and that needs to be recognized. Maybe the most interesting question about them right now is who makes the All-Star team from the Hawks? You can make a case for Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap and Al Horford, but the reality is one, maybe two, make the roster (and they will be voted in by the coaches). Maybe the only sure thing for the Hawks is that Mike Budenholzer will coach the team because the Hawks are going to be on top of the Eastern standings for a little while.

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

Getty Images
3 Comments

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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’

Getty Images
7 Comments

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

Getty Images
3 Comments

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.