NBA Trade Deadline Tracker: All the deals, rumors, reports in one place


The NBA trade deadline has passed, here’s a wrap up of the deals and news made on a busy day.

TRADE: Boston trades Daniel Theis to Chicago in three-team deal

Boston gets: Moritz Wagner, Luke Kornet
Washington gets: Daniel Gafford, Chandler Hutchinson
Chicago gets: Daniel Theis, Troy Brown, Javonte Green, and cash from both Washington and Boston

Analysis: This was all about the money for the Celtics, this trade gets them under the luxury tax line. They may waive Wagner and/or Kornet to pick up players on the buyout market. The Bulls also traded for Nikola Vucevic, so Theis is not part of their long-term plans, but he’s a backup and they get cash. The Wizards get to roll the dice on some young players.

TRADE: Dallas adds shooting by picking up J.J. Redick

Dallas gets: J.J. Redick, Nicolo Melli
New Orleans gets: James Johnson, Dallas’ 2021 second-rounder, cash

Analysis: You can never have enough shooting around Luka Doncic, so the Mavericks went out and got a veteran sharpshooter in Redick, plus a big who can space the floor in Melli. Both have had a down season, but around the league the feeling was that once Redick was put in a different system and situation everything would get back to normal. For the Pelicans, they were going to buyout Redick, so this trade is better than nothing. Johnson brings some grit and toughness to the table — with Johnson and Steven Adams, nobody will be punking the Pelicans.

TRADE: Miami adds Victor Oladipo to help with playoff push

Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the news, here’s how it shakes out:
Miami gets: Victor Oladipo
Houston gets: Avery Bradley, Kelly Olynyk, 2022 swap rights (Nets pick)

Analysis: Oladipo was Plan B in Miami, they thought they might land Gordon or Lowry, but when those fell through Oladipo became the option. He’s played better of late and is averaging 20.8 points a game this season, but has not been terribly efficient shooting 40.6% overall and 33.2% from three. He’s just not the same player he was before the injury, but he does give the Heat another playmaker on the wing for the postseason.

March 25: 3:30 p.m.: No trade for Kyle Lowry or Lonzo Ball at the deadline

If you watched the Raptors win over Denver Wednesday night, it had the feel of an emotional goodbye. The end of an era. Kyle Lowry had been linked to strong trade rumors out of Philadelphia, Miami, and Los Angeles (both the Lakers, and even the Clippers at the last minute). It felt almost certain Lowry would be on the move.

Or not. In the end, the Raptors looked at their options and decided to keep the greatest player in franchise history with the team. Lowry was not traded. He will be a free agent this summer, maybe he re-signs in Toronto and maybe he opens a new chapter, but for now he stays in Toronto.

The other hot trade name had been Lonzo Ball with the Pelicans, and he had been linked to the Clippers, 76ers and others. In the end, the Pelicans kept the best lob thrower they have to play with Zion Williamson. However, Ball also is a free agent this summer (restricted) so New Orleans is going to have to pay up to keep him long term.

TRADE: Rajon Rondo headed to Clippers for playoff run in exchange for Lou Williams

Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the news, here’s how it shakes out:
L.A. Clippers get: Rajon Rondo
Atlanta gets: Lou Williams

Analysis: The Clippers are making a bet on playoff Rondo helping them in the postseason the way he helped that team down the hall a year ago. The Clippers needed more shot creation at the point, someone who can organize the offense (not Williams’ strengths) and now they have their guy. Williams will play out the season in Atlanta, a playoff team in the East, boosting their bench. Williams goes back home to George, where he will be near his favorite wings spot.

TRADE: Three-team trade lands George Hill in Philadelphia, Austin Rivers to OKC

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news, here’s how it shakes out:
Philadelphia gets: George Hill
New York gets: Terrance Ferguson
Oklahoma City gets: Austin Rivers, Toney Bradley, and two second-round picks

Analysis: Philadelphia wants help at the point guard spot — whether or not they land Kyle Lowry in a trade (this may be a signal they will not) — and George Hill is that. The veteran in his 13th NBA season is averaging 11.8 points a game, he creates shots (mostly for himself, but he creates), and he’s played on the biggest stages.

With this deal and others, the Thunder have 34 picks over the next seven drafts, 17 in the first-round and 17 in the second (they will trade a lot of those, but they are stocked for a rebuild).

TRADE: Norman Powell headed to Portland, adds shooting to Blazers roster

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news, here’s how it shakes out:
Portland gets: Norman Powell
Toronto gets: Gary Trent Jr., Rodney Hood

Analysis: This is a very good addition for Portland, which adds shooting to an already dangerous backcourt. Powell thrived since being made a starter in the middle of this season in Toronto, averaging 23.1 points a game and shooting 46.5% from three — a ridiculous 68.5 true shooting percentage — in that role. Hood did not work out as Portland hoped, Powell steps into that role. Hood gets a fresh start in Toronto, and the Raptors will love what Gary Trent Jr. brings to the table.

TRADE: Miami Heat land sharpshooting forward Nemanja Bjelica from Sacramento

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news, here’s how it shakes out:
Miami gets: Nemanja Bjelica
Sacramento gets: Moe Harkless, Chris Silva

Analysis: Miami has been looking for help at the four — whether or not they send out Kelly Oubre Jr. in another trade — and Bjelica will help them at that spot. He’s a solid rotation power forward who is a career 38.8% shooter from three, he can put the ball on the floor a little, and just makes solid plays. (His numbers were down this year in Sacramento because he got squeezed as the Kings tried to develop Marvin Bagley; Bjelica should bounce back in a better environment like Miami).

TRADE: Denver Nuggets land Aaron Gordon in big trade with Orlando

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news, here’s how it shakes out:
Denver gets: Aaron Gordon, Gary Clark
Orlando gets: Gary Harris, RJ Hampton, first-round pick

Analysis: Denver felt they were one piece away — not anymore. This was the fit they wanted. Gordon is another shot creator on the offensive end who can draw defenders and get buckets if defenses overload against Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray. Plus, Gordon is a big-bodied quality wing defender who can take some minutes on the huge wings in the West — LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, etc.

For a now rebuilding Orlando, they get a good young player in Hampton and a first-round pick.

TRADE: Boston adds shooting, gets Evan Fournier from Orlando for picks

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news, here’s how it shakes out:
Boston gets: Evan Fournier

Orlando gets: Two second-round picks

Analysis: Boston just added a sniper. Fournier is scoring 19.8 points a game this season in Orlando, shooting 38.8% from three. He’s a free agent this offseason — Boston has to decide if it wants to pay up or if this is a rental — but he’s going to help space the court for Boston and he’s considered good in the locker room (more of a joker, keeps things light). Orlando is rebuilding and will take the picks rather than lose Fournier for nothing (this deal could expand as well).

TRADE: Chicago gets Nikola Vucevic from Orlando

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news, here’s how it shakes out:
Chicago gets: Nikola Vucevic, Al Farouq Aminu
Orlando gets: Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter, two first-round picks

Analysis: The Bulls just got a whole lot better. Carter had not taken a step forward this season — certainly not like Zach LaVine, who made a leap — and the big man had become a drag on their lineups (Thaddeus Young was the center Bulls coach Billy Donovan trusted). Now Chicago has an All-Star center who can space the floor, score inside, and is going to get them 20/10 every night. Vucevic is also under contract for two years after this one (at a reasonable total of $46 million), so this is a bet on the long term. In Orlando, let the rebuilding begin. Carter could develop into a quality center over time, he will get the chance, and the two first-round picks are exactly what a rebuilding team needs.

TRADE: JaVale McGee going to Denver

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news, here’s how it shakes out:
Denver gets: JaVale McGee
Cleveland gets: Isaiah Hartenstein, a protected 2023 second-round pick (through 46), and an unprotected 2027 second-round pick

Analysis: Denver looked ahead to potential playoff matchups, saw that the Lakers are already big and are expected to get Andre Drummond off the buyout market (although the Knicks are in the mix), saw Ivica Zubac with the Clippers off the bench, and decided to get bigger and more physical behind Nikola Jokic. This was a playoff-thinking trade by Denver. Cleveland gets an athletic project at center in Hartenstein they can play behind Jarrett Allen, plus a couple of picks.

March 25: 10:30 a.m.: Toronto in serious trade talks for Kyle Lowry with Heat, 76ers, Lakers

It looks like Wednesday night’s game — in which he was +42 and led the Raptors to an upset of the Nuggets — was Kyle Lowry’s last one in a Toronto jersey. Trade talks to move him are serious and three major suitors — Miami, Philadelphia, and the L.A. Lakers — are all involved, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic. It’s unknown if Lowry himself has a strong preference among those teams (going home to Philadelphia, pairing with his friend Jimmy Butler, or joining LeBron James) or if he’s good with any of those and just wants Toronto to get the best deal.

March 25, 8 a.m.: Bulls, Pelicans talked (talking?) Markkanen for Lonzo trade

In the last 24 hours, the Bulls have emerged as a possible — maybe the most likely — landing spot for Lonzo Ball. The Pelicans and Bulls have talked about swapping restricted free agents to be: Lauri Markkanen for Ball. That according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago:

Markkanen is different. There is interest in him, and the Bulls have had talks with the New Orleans Pelicans centered on Ball. How rich of an offer [Bulls VP Arturas} Karnisovas is willing to make for a player who, like Markkanen, can be signed to an offer sheet in restricted free agency will be revealed by Thursday’s deadline.

Ball wants to be paid like a starting point guard, a deal he hopes will start around $18 million a year or more. Do the Bulls want to spend that much on Ball? How does Ball fit with Zach LaVine? A lot of questions to answer in Chicago, and New Orleans has to decide if it wants to take the chance Markkanen can stay healthy and is worth keeping as a floor-spacing big next to Zion Williamson. Just something to watch.

TRADE: Pistons to trade Delon Wright to Kings for Corey Joseph and picks

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news, here’s how it shakes out:
Detroit gets: Corey Joseph, the Lakers 2021 second-round pick, Detroit’s 2024 second-round pick.
Sacramento gets: Delon Wright

Analysis: Sacramento turns out to be buyers, not sellers, at the deadline as reports are they want to make a play-in/playoff push over the final months of the season. The Kings add some quality guard depth with Wright, who is averaging 10.5 points and 5.1 assists a game, and more importantly is shooting 35.6% from 3-point range. Detroit picks up a third second-round pick in the 2021 draft. Joseph could be a mentor to Killian Hayes (both De'Aaron Fox and Tyrese Halliburton praised Joseph), and if they don’t want to keep Joseph around he is only guaranteed $2.4 million for next season.

March 24, 10:45 p.m.: Pacers are not trading Malcolm Brogdon

The Indiana Pacers may have tested the market for Malcolm Brogdon, just to see what they could get if he were available, but after looking at the market, Indiana has decided not to trade Brogdon, reports J. Michael at the Indy Star. It always seemed unlikely a deal would get done, although don’t be shocked if it is revisited this offseason.

March 24, 8 p.m.: Andre Drummond may be headed to Knicks, not Lakers

While the Cavaliers will drag this out through the trade deadline just to be sure, Andre Drummond will be bought out soon after and become a free agent. It has been assumed for a while now that Drummond — after being on a series of uninspiring teams in Detroit and Cleveland — would sign with LeBron and the Lakers to be part of an expected deep playoff run. However, the Knicks have become a “serious potential destination” for Drummond, reports Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer.

In New York, Drummond would likely start and split time with Mitchell Robinson, that rotation would continue into the playoffs. Also, the Knicks have a lot of cap space and could sign him to a new contract next offseason (there are rumors of a four-year, $60 million offer, which would be more than most would offer him). With the Lakers, Drummond’s playoff role would likely shrink the deeper the team went into the playoffs — Anthony Davis will get more time at the five as the Lakers get into the later rounds — and Los Angeles will not have the cap space to offer much of a contract next season. It comes down to what Drummond prioritizes (and for a lot of players it is not always rings).

March 24, 7:15 p.m.: Minnesota still in mix for Aaron Gordon… if he gets traded at all

From earliest rumors about him being on the move, Minnesota has been one of the more relentless teams in trying to trade for Aaron Gordon. Boston is now the frontrunner to land his services and other teams — such as Houston, Denver, and Dallas — have been in the mix, but Minnesota has always been there. They are still are, reports Marc Stein of the New York Times. How good a D'Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, Gordon, Karl-Anthony Towns core can be is up for debate (that seems a defensive disaster), but the Timberwolves are in the mix.

Yesterday, Gordon talked about his frustration leading to a trade request to the Magic, but now he is having second thoughts and may want to stay in Orlando after all.

Houston’s Victor Oladipo sitting out tonight for personal reasons

The Rockets have been trying to trade Victor Oladipo but finding a lukewarm (at best) market for the services of the soon-to-be free agent guard. In the sign trade talks are still moving forward, Oladipo is sitting out the night before the trade deadline (no reason to risk injury). The Rockets are still in talks with several teams, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Contending teams turning their eyes to JaVale McGee

JaVale McGee has been “plan B” for several teams looking for a big man, and with the deadline approaching more teams are starting to talk in detail with the Cavaliers about a deal, reports Shams Charania at The Athletic. Expect McGee to be traded before the deadline, although where is still very much up in the air.

March 24, 2:45 p.m.: Lakers possible Kyle Lowry destination?

This would be an unexpected blockbuster: Adrian Wojnarowski said “don’t rule out the Lakers trading for Lowry” during ESPN’s Trade Deadline Show.

It’s really difficult to see how this trade comes together. Lowry is making $30 million this season and the Lakers are bumping up against the hard cap. In recent days, sources have told NBC Sports it appears the Lakers would entertain trading Dennis Schroder, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, or Montrezl Harrell for the right deal. Lowry would be it, and the money works if the Lakers send Schroder, KCP, and their 2027 first-round pick to the Raptors. Toronto, however, might rather have Talen Horton-Tucker than the pick (the Lakers have shot down teams that have asked about Horton-Tucker so far). This deal seems a longshot, but it’s interesting.

March 24, 1:30 p.m.: Lonzo Ball to the Bulls? Probably not.

Lonzo Ball has been linked to the Chicago Bulls as a trade target for a while, and that has picked up some around the deadline, but an actual deal seems unlikely. First, league sources have told NBC Sports for a while that there are some Ball backers in the New Orleans front office and to pry him away would require a first-round pick, which is likely more than the Bulls would surrender. Second, the Bulls aren’t the only team questioning if they want to pay Ball starting point guard money next season and for a few years after. Ball may be traded by the deadline, but don’t bet on Chicago as a landing spot.

Boston, Orlando still talking Aaron Gordon deal — now without Marcus Smart

Not only would Aaron Gordon provide another shot creator for the Celtics, but he could also return them to a “we switch everything” defense, which is how the Celtics have looked best under Brad Stevens. But to do that, Boston needs to keep Marcus Smart. That’s the latest buzz, the sides are talking non-Smart trades.

March 24, 11:30 a.m.: Add Houston to mix of serious Aaron Gordon suitors

Orlando is going to trade Aaron Gordon before the deadline — as he requested — and they are working hard to create a bidding war (why do you think there are all the leaks about a potential destination). The latest leak (via Zach Lowe at ESPN) is that the Houston Rockets have had serious talks with Orlando about a possible Gordon trade, one that would be heavy on draft picks. Denver also is interested but now showing the desperation of other suitors, reports Sam Amick at The Athletic. Boston remains the frontrunner to make a deal for Gordon.

John Collins more likely to remain in Atlanta than be traded

The Hawks have shopped athletic big man John Collins around, with Minnesota, Charlotte, and a number of other teams interested. But Collins made a plea Tuesday to stay with the Hawks, Atlanta has kept its price high, and other teams are backing off, reports Zach Lowe at ESPN. Collins doesn’t defend well enough to be a five, and the teams interested in him as a four know they can try to poach him this summer with a max or near-max offer for the restricted free agent. Atlanta would likely match that and the sides would talk sign-and-trade, but that route seems more likely now than a deadline deal.

March 24, 8 a.m.: Lakers not willing to part with Talen Horton-Tucker in trade

With LeBron James out with a sprained ankle and Anthony Davis still sidelined with his Achilles tendon/calf strain issue, the Lakers have dropped three straight. They could use some short-term help at the trade deadline (long-term, they will be fine if those two get healthy before the playoffs, as expected). The problem is teams calling the Lakers are asking for promising young wing Talen Horton-Tucker and GM Rob Pelinka is refusing to put him in deals, reports Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

The Lakers likely will land Andre Drummond on the buyout market, but that may be their only move if Pelinka will not part with THT.

March 23, 10:30 p.m.: Toronto talking Kyle Lowry, Norman Powell trades with multiple teams

We’ve known for a while that Kyle Lowry trade talks had heated up again. Philadelphia wants to bring him back home and pair him with Joel Embiid (once the big man gets healthy), while rumors say Lowry prefers to partner with his friend Jimmy Butler on a Miami team that went to the Finals a year ago. Those talks continue to be on the front burner, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, but neither the Heat nor 76ers are giving Toronto everything it is asking for. There is a reported divide in the Toronto front office about whether to trade the franchise icon, which is why it will ultimately come down to what Lowry himself wants.

Powell would be a fantastic pickup, he has blossomed this season. Powell is averaging 22.8 points a game while shooting 44.6% from three since moving into the starting lineup, and he could help a lot of teams. There are reportedly a dozen teams at least kicking the tires on a Powell trade. He’s also a free agent this offseason and is going to get paid like a starter wherever he lands (Powell has a player option for $11.6 million but he is not going to pick that up and will hit the open market).

March 23, 8 p.m.: Raptors demanding Herro from Heat in any Lowry trade

The buzz has been growing that Kyle Lowry would rather head to sunny Miami and team up with Jimmy Butler rather than go home to Philadelphia. According to multiple reports, including Michael Grange of Sportsnet in Canada, the sticking point is Tyler Herro — the Raptors want him and the Heat don’t want to give him up. (Either Kelly Olynyk or Goran Dragic also have to be in the trade, or both if a couple Raptors players head from Tampa to Miami.)

Lowry is a free agent after this season and is reportedly discussing terms for his next contract with the Sixers, Heat and the Raptors.

Denver looking for power forward help, discussing Aaron Gordon, Harrison Barnes

Denver quietly has been very active heading into the trade deadline — a team that feels it is one piece away is looking for that potential piece. Specifically, they are looking for help at the four and are talking to Orlando about Aaron Gordon (even if Boston is the frontrunner for him) and Sacramento about Harrison Barnes, reports Mike Singer at the Denver Post.

Bulls listening to trade offers for Lauri Markkanen

Lauri Markkanen will be a restricted free agent this summer and the Bulls likely don’t want to pay him what someone on the market will offer, so they are listening to trade offers, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic. Markkanen is averaging 17.7 points, shooting 39.6% from three, and adds 6 rebounds per game. Health concerns surround Markkanen (he missed more than 30 games the past two seasons, and has played just 22 this season), among other questions about his game.

Buyout buzz: Andre Drummond likely headed to Lakers, LaMarcus Aldridge to Heat

The Cavaliers and Spurs are continuing to look for trades for their good-but-over-priced big men, however, it is improbable they find a deal for Andre Drummond (making $28.7 million) or LaMarcus Aldridge ($24 million). Most likely, both will be bought out. Marc Stein of the New York Times reports that Drummond is likely going to sign with the Lakers (Drummond is an upgrade over the current version of Marc Gasol), and Aldridge is headed to Miami (a team desperately in need of help at the four and backup five).

Houston will trade Victor Oladipo but Heat, Knicks staying away

Victor Oladipo has long made it clear he wants to be in Miami, but as the Rockets have looked to trade him, the Heat have had limited interest (they could just sign him this summer as a free agent), and the same is true with the Knicks, another team Oladipo has been linked to.

Oladipo almost certainly will be traded before the deadline. He is averaging 20.8 points a game this season but is inefficient (50.8 true shooting percentage in Houston, well below the 57 league average) and not the All-NBA player he was before his injury.

Boston Celtics reportedly frontrunners to land Aaron Gordon

Forward Aaron Goron has requested a trade out of Orlando, and now comes word from multiple sources that Boston is the frontrunner to land him and maybe Evan Fournier. That would likely mean giving up Celtics’ fan favorite Marcus Smart — their best point-of-attack defender —   but you’ve got to give up something to get something.

Coaching updates from around NBA: Stotts to Bucks, Young paid to stay with Suns

2021 NBA Playoffs - Portland Trail Blazers v Denver Nuggets
Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images

In the 24 hours since the last time we put together a list of coaching updates from around the NBA a lot of things transpired, some expected, some not.

Here’s an update on the NBA coaching carousel.

• As was rumored to be coming, former Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts will join Adrian Griffin’s staff with the Milwaukee Bucks. This is a smart hire, putting an experienced coach known for creative offense next to the rookie coach on a contending team. With the Bucks getting older and more expensive quickly — 35-year-old Brook Lopez is a free agent this summer — the Bucks don’t have time for a rookie coach to figure things out on the job.

• Kevin Young will stay in Phoenix on Frank Vogel’s staff after new owner Mat Ishbia made him the highest-paid assistant in the league at $2 million a year, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Devin Booker reportedly backed Young to get the head coaching job, although how hard Booker pushed is up for debate. Keeping Young on staff — likely in an offensive coordinator role — next to the defensive-minded Vogel could be a good fit.

• Former Hornets coach James Borrego was in the mix for several jobs but has settled in New Orleans, where he will be on Willie Green’s staff. This team is stacked with offensive talent — Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum — if they can just stay on the court.

• There is now just one head coaching vacancy open around the league, the Toronto Raptors, and they are entering the final interview stages, reports Josh Lewenberg of TSN. Among the finalists for the job are Kings assistant coach Jordi Fernandez and highly-respected European coach Sergio Scariolo (the head coach of the Spanish national team and Virtus Bologna of the Italian league).

• The makeover of the Celtics coaching staff could go even deeper than expected because Ben Sullivan, Mike Moser and Garrett Jackson are all leaving Boston to join Ime Udoka‘s staff in Houston, reports Michael Scotto of Hoopshype.

• Former Pacers player Shayne Whittington is now a part of Rick Carlisle’s coaching staff in Indiana.

Hawks’ Trae Young plans to shoot more 3s… is that a good thing?

Boston Celtics v Atlanta Hawks - Game Six
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Quin Snyder wants his teams to shoot 3-pointers. A lot of them. In his final season as coach of the Utah Jazz, they took 10 more 3-pointers a game than his new Atlanta Hawks team did last season after he took over.

Trae Young has heard his coach and is ready to get up more than the 6.3 attempts a game he took last season.

That’s a good thing… but only if they are “good shots.” It’s good only if Young hits more than the 33.5% he shot from 3 last season.

While he has a reputation as a 3-point marksman, Young is a career 35.1% shooter from 3 and has been below that 35% number in three of his five NBA seasons. (Also concerning for the Hawks and Young’s fit with Dejonte Murray, he shot just 20% on the less than one catch-and-shoot 3 he took a game last season.)

Young has had better years, he shot 38.2% in 2021-22 and he is an offensive force as a creator capable of doing that again. That is the Young Snyder needs.

He also needs Young to buy into his system of ball and player movement more. Last season, 45% of Young’s shots came after he had at least seven dribbles — he pounded the ball into the ground and jacked up a shot without getting teammates involved far too often (77.9% of his shots came after at least three dribbles). Young shot 33.3% on the 3s he took after those seven dribbles, and less than that percentage on 3-pointers taken after three dribbles or more, which were the majority of his attempts.

This coming season will be an important one for Young, who has proven he is an All-Star who can put up numbers and drive an offense — he’s made an All-NBA team for a reason. The question facing him is whether he will fit into a team system that balances multiple shot creators, off-ball movement, willing passers and selflessness — what you can see in the two teams playing in the NBA Finals. Snyder will call pick-and-rolls, he wants his team to hunt mismatches at times, but there has to be more of a flow to what is happening. There can’t be many shots after seven dribbles (and that’s not touching on the defensive concerns around Young).

The Hawks will evolve over the next couple of seasons under Snyder. Where Young fits in that will be something to watch.

But we will see more 3-pointers.

Three things to watch, plus betting tips, as Heat try to drag Nuggets into mud


DENVER — Game 1 was what Denver fans wanted after waiting 47 years for the NBA Finals to come to town: Nikola Jokić was dominating with a triple-double, Jamal Murray was attacking downhill, Denver played to its size advantage and got out to a lead that was up to 24 at one point, then coasted in for a 104-93 win and series lead.

It feels like Game 2 will be different.

The Heat had a rough Game 1 (at least for three quarters) and know they need to be more aggressive in Game 2. The Nuggets played what felt like an average game for them, although coach Michael Malone didn’t see it that way.

“I don’t think we played well in Game 1,” Malone said. “I watched that tape, and they were 5-of-16 on wide-open threes. As I told our players this morning, the fact that they got 16 wide-open threes is problematic.”

Here are two things worth watching, plus some betting advice from Vaughn Dalzell of NBC Sports Edge.

1) Can Miami force this game to be played in the mud?

As fans, we have been spoiled watching NBA Finals games over the last decade. There has been a lot of Stephen Curry and the Warriors with their off-ball movement, passing, shooting and beautiful game. There has been the GOAT-level brilliance of LeBron James (complete with his passing skills), the overwhelming athleticism of Giannis Antetokounmpo, There has been beautiful basketball played at the highest level.

If Game 2 is beautiful, the Heat are in trouble.

If Game 2 is free-flowing and up-tempo, it means Nikola Jokić is orchestrating another symphony. If the Nuggets’ off-ball-movement, transition game, passing and shooting run relatively unchecked, the Heat simply cannot keep pace.

The Heat need this to look like a 1990s rock-fight game against the Knicks. That is how Miami got here, by doing exactly that to Boston and Milwaukee, making those powerhouses play a grinding, defensive game. The Heat need to throw sand in the gears of the Nuggets’ offense and drag the game into the mud with their physicality and tenaciousness. Fewer jump shots, more shots at the rim and more trips to the free throw line (the Heat had just two free throws in Game 1).

Jokić only had to defend two shots at the rim in Game 1, the Heat can’t let that happen again.

“I think I’ve got to be more aggressive putting pressure on the rim,” Jimmy Butler said. “I think that makes everybody’s job a lot easier. They definitely follow suit whenever I’m aggressive on both sides of the ball. So I have to be the one to come out and kick that off the right way, which I will, and we’ll see where we end up.”

The challenge a more aggressive Heat team faces is part of what led to all the jumpers in Game 1 — Denver is just a physically bigger team. That size can deter trips to the rim. It can’t if the Heat are going to win this game and even the NBA Finals.

The Nuggets know what is coming. What appears to separate them from the teams the Heat beat before is Denver seems far less likely to get sucked into Miami’s game.

“You just can’t be complacent with this team. You can’t be lackadaisical,” Aaron Gordon said. “You can’t sleep on this team. This team has no quit. They will continue to fight through the entirety of the game. You’ve got to understand that about this team.”

2) Which team hits its 3s

. Much has been made of the Heat’s shooting struggles in Game 1` — Max Strus, Duncan Robinson and Caleb Martin combined to shoot 2-of-23 from 3. As Malone noted, the Heat had 16 open 3-pointers in Game 1 (using NBA tracking data) and hit just five of them. Miami bounced back in the fourth and hit 6-of-12 3-point attempts, but finished shooting an unimpressive 13-of-39, 33.3% from beyond the arc.

That’s better than the Nuggets.

Denver was 8-of-27 from 3, 29.6% in Game 1. Michael Porter Jr. was a dreadful 2-of-11.

“I thought I had great looks,” Porter Jr. said. “Ball felt pretty good coming out of my hands, but yeah, I can’t worry too much about percentages. They were good looks. I’ve got to keep shooting those, work on my shots on these couple days off. Hopefully some more fall next game.”

It’s simplistic but true — whichever team can find its 3-point stroke will win Game 2. Miami is in the Finals partly because of spectacular shotmaking, particularly from their role players, throughout the postseason. A regression now dooms them.

Both coaches told their shooters not to hold back.

“Let it fly. Ignite. Once they see two go down, it could be three, it could turn into six just like that,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, snapping his fingers. “As long as we are getting those clean looks, that’s what matters.”

3) Vaughn Dalzell’s betting recommendations

Over 214.5: The Under hit in Game 1 thanks to a 96-point second-half, but more importantly, an NBA Finals record low two free-throw attempts from the Miami Heat. Dating back to 2002-03, Game 2’s are 43-25-1 (63.2%) to the over when Game 1 went under the total. With both teams struggling from three and Miami expected to be more aggressive, the over 214.5 is a good value play, especially since Game 1’s total was 219.5.

Nikola Jokic and Michael Porter Jr. props: With Denver having so many weapons, take a look at Nikola Jokic’s triple-double prop and Michael Porter Jr.’s three-point props. Jokic triple-doubled in Game 1, giving him a triple-double in six of the last seven games. With Jokic hunting for Finals MVP, take a look at Jokc’s triple-double prop yet again. Porter Jr. struggled from deep in Game 1, knocking down two three-pointers on 11 attempts. MPJ has now attempted at least 10 three-pointers in three-straight games and six or more in eight of the past nine. MPJ’s Over 2.5 made three-pointers also has value in Game 2.

(Check out more from Dalzell and the team at NBC Sports Edge.)

Malone’s message clear to Nuggets: ‘I don’t think we played well in Game 1’


DENVER — Game 1 was a coach’s dream in some ways for Michael Malone and the Nuggets staff.

They got three-quarters of dominating play — the Nuggets were up by 21 entering the fourth quarter — and they got the win. But they also have one quarter of struggling, sloppy play that gives Malone a valid reason to call guys out and have a candid film session.

“I don’t think we played well in Game 1,” Michael Malone said, despite his team picking up an 11-point victory. “I watched that tape, and they were 5-of-16 on wide-open threes. As I told our players this morning, the fact that they got 16 wide-open threes is problematic, and if you think that Max Strus is going to go 0-for-9 again or Duncan Robinson is going to go 1-for-5 again, you’re wrong. The fourth quarter, we gave up 30 points, 60% from the field, 50% from three, 6-of-12 from the three-point line.”

Malone added he thought the Nuggets offense struggled in the fourth quarter because they didn’t get stops so they were constantly going up against the Heat’s set defense.

“That fourth quarter, you know, we came out in the flat,” Kentavious Caldwell-Pope said. “We had a great looks at the basket, we just didn’t knock them down. But we want to get into our offense a little bit earlier than like :14 seconds on the clock and just play normal basketball, our basketball.”

It was all part of a theme Malone wanted to drive home: They are still three wins from a title and those will not be easy to get.

“I told our players today, don’t read the paper,” Malone said (do any of those 20-somethings get an old-school paper?) “Don’t listen to the folks on the radio and TV saying that this series is over and that we’ve done something, because we haven’t done a damn thing.”

There were positives for the Nuggets to take away from Game 1, particularly on the defensive end. Jokić, who does not have the reputation of a strong defender, played well on that end.

“I think when you see the last game, us against Miami, in the first three quarters, they score 65, 68 points [Ed. note: it was 63]. I think that’s really amazing,” Nikola Jokić said. “And then you can see the fourth quarter, they scored 30-something. When we are collectively really good, then I’m really good [defensively], too. But when we are collectively not good, I’m not really good.”

Jimmy Butler had praise for Jokic’s defense.

“He moves his feet well. He’s constantly making guys make decisions whenever they get into the paint. Then his outlet passes from a defensive rebound are very, very elite; that, he’s been doing his entire career,” Butler said. “As much as everybody looks at what he does on the offensive side of the ball, he’s a hell of a defender, as well.”

“I think overall, I think Nikola’s defense has been a real positive,” Malone said. “I think you have to get past the eye test with Nikola because I think most people just think of great defensive players as a guy who is blocking a shot or just making a great athletic play. Nikola does it differently. He has a tremendous IQ. He’s got great anticipation. He’s got unbelievable hands for deflections, blocks. He’s got unbelievable feet for deflections.”

In the postseason, the Nuggets have held their own in the non-Jokić minutes and that continued in Game 1 — the Nuggets were only -3 in the non-Jokić minutes in that game (-1 in the first half and -2 in the fourth quarter).

“Defense,” Aaron Gordon said of the focus in non-Jokić minutes. “So, when he’s sitting on the floor we need to lock in on defense. That’s probably the most important, crucial aspect of the non-Nikola Jokic minutes because that’s how we get our offense, as well.”

In its last couple of series, the other team had to be aggressive with adjustments because the Nuggets were forcing them to. The Finals may prove a little different, we could see some defensive tweaks early from the Nuggets.

Denver’s offense is going to get points, if its defense can be as good as Game 1, Malone is going to have to look hard to find things before the Game 3 film sessions.