How will Cavaliers score now when LeBron James rests?

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The Cavaliers scored just six points on 12 possessions – an offensive rating of 50.0 – when LeBron James rested during Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

And that was with Kyrie Irving.

Irving played all seven LeBron sat, scoring four of Cleveland’s six points and assisting the other basket. As you might have heard, Irving is out for the rest of the series.

What will the Cavaliers do now when LeBron is on the bench?

Um…

Well…

You see…

Let’s start with reviewing what happened in Game 1.

Here are Cleveland’s three buckets without LeBron, two by Irving and one by Timofey Mozgov from Irving:

Otherwise, the possessions featured nine missed shots, no offensive rebounds, no trips to the free-throw line and no turnovers. Only one of those nine shots – a missed Mozgov layup – came within 15 feet. The Cavaliers just stagnated and settled for jumpers.

Irving generated the only looks Cleveland got going toward the basket without LeBron.

This possession, in which Irving didn’t touch the ball, could preview what we’ll see in Game 2:

So what should the Cavaliers do with LeBron off the court?

The simplest answer if for him never to rest. Can LeBron play 48 minutes per game? He might have to do it only three more nights.

If that proves unrealistic, Cleveland shouldn’t settle for running its base offense through Matthew Dellavedova or Iman Shumpert. That’s unlikely to yield positive enough results.

Potential solutions:

  • Maximize LeBron’s minutes. In basic terms, it’s up to LeBron to determine how much he can handle. But David Blatt could help by intentionally fouling Andre Iguodala and/or Andrew Bogut. Iguodala (59.6 percent free-throwing shooting this season, 71.7 percent for his career) and Bogut (52.4, 56.1) probably aren’t bad enough free-throw shooters to validate the strategy in a vacuum, but there are benefits. It could keep LeBron on the court while resting during defensive possessions spent watching the Warriors shoot freebies. Hack-a-Shaq limits running opportunities, but the Cavaliers don’t push the ball much, anyway.
  • Focus on defense. If the Cavaliers aren’t going to score anyway, they might as well do their best to ensure the Warriors score as little as possible while LeBron rests. Maybe that means a rotation role for Shawn Marion.
  • Slow the pace. If the Cavs bleed the shot clock while LeBron sits – something they naturally did in Game 1, anyway – they can limit the number of possessions LeBron misses. That gives Golden State fewer opportunities to use this time to pull away.
  • Bomb 3-pointers. Cleveland can become a true live-by-the-3, die-by-the-3 team. Let J.R. Smith run wild. If you’re going to take a bad shot, might as well take one worth an extra point if it goes in.
  • Crash the offensive glass. The Cavaliers’ deadly offensive-rebounding combination, Mozgov and Tristan Thompson, didn’t share the court without LeBron in Game 1. But Cleveland could turn to the duo in Game 2. There will likely be plenty of offensive-rebounding opportunities. However, crashing the offensive glass would run counter to getting back on defense. Plus, the Warriors’ defensive game plan against LeBron is more conducive to offensive-rebounding than Golden State’s tamer defense when he sits.

Without Irving, the Cavaliers need to increase variance, period.

Those seemingly doomed minutes with LeBron on the bench would be a great place to start.

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.