NBA Power Rankings, summer edition: Everyone is chasing the Nets

Nets stars Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and James Harden
Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The offseason is settling down, and while there are some unanswered questions — where will Ben Simmons start next season — the rosters are largely set and we know how things will look. Which is why it’s time for our NBA Power Rankings, summer edition.

Nets small icon 1. Nets (48-24 last season). The clear favorites to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy, with just one serious question: health. One could argue the Nets had the best offseason of anyone by extending Kevin Durant (who looks like the best player on the planet coming out of Tokyo), with James Harden and Kyrie Irving extensions coming up soon. It’s not just that this team has Durant/Harden/Irving… although it’s a lot of that. It’s also that Brooklyn re-signed a rejuvenated Blake Griffin and added Patty Mills, although the loss of Jeff Green will sting. This team is the bar to clear win the title next season… if they stay healthy.

Bucks small icon 2. Bucks (46-26). They are the defending NBA champions, they have Giannis Antetokounmpo and two gold medal winning Olympians (Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday), and they will largely run it back with the roster that won it all, plus a healthy Donte DiVincenzo (although the loss of P.J. Tucker hurts against elite teams in the playoffs). Despite all that, it’s fair to ask if age and health of the role players catches up with the Bucks a little more this season. They could take a step back — not a big step, but a step. The biggest question: Can this team beat a healthy Nets team?

Suns small icon 3. Suns (51-21). They deserve this high ranking after reaching the NBA Finals then having a quality offseason — but count me in the camp that thinks it will be hard for them to repeat last season’s levels of success. The Suns did a lot right this offseason, re-signing Chris Paul (to a deal that looks fair once you see the details) and adding more shooting in Landry Shamet. re-signing Cameron Payne, and they inked gold medalist JaVale McGee to backup Deandre Ayton. Add in the fact the young Suns — Devin Booker, Ayton, Mikal Bridges, both Camerons, and so on — should take steps forward and the Suns likely will be better next season. That doesn’t mean an automatic return to the Finals in a wide-open West, they may ultimately take a step back, but they have the potential to return.

Jazz small icon 4. Jazz (52-20). They had a strong offseason, both doing what they had to do — re-signing Mike Conley — and adding a solid veteran rotation player in Rudy Gay (plus trading for Eric Paschall). They are my pick to have the best regular season record in the NBA again, from there the questions are can they stay healthy entering the playoffs (unlike a year ago), and can their depth and ensemble style compete with the Lakers, Suns, Warriors, and whoever else in a seven-game playoff series. The Jazz did the right thing running it back, but this is all about the playoffs now.

Lakers small icon 5. Lakers (42-30, LW 12). I have so many questions about this team… and still will likely pick them to come out of the West. All the shuffling of the roster (just four players from the 2020 title team remain) can obscure the fact the equation for the Lakers is pretty simple: If LeBron James and Anthony Davis are healthy and playing like top-five players in the league again when the playoffs start, they can win it all. Russell Westbrook‘s fit in the playoffs is problematic but he is an innings eater during the regular season, putting up numbers and taking on a heavy load that helps keep LeBron/AD fresh. Same with Carmelo Anthony and other veterans on the roster. Love the Malik Monk and Kendrick Nunn signings for this roster.

Heat small icon 6. Heat (40-32). My pick for the best offseason of any team… if we’re just looking at the coming season. Miami’s cap wizards in the front office improved the roster while keeping the heart of their strong young core. Father time may make them pay on the back end of the Kyle Lowry contract, same with the three-year Jimmy Butler max extension, but for the next two seasons this team has a chance, especially with P.J. Tucker in the mix. Good price in re-signing Duncan Robinson as a sharpshooter. How well Tyler Herro plays could be a tipping point in key playoff series, they need bubble Herro back.

Sixers small icon 7. 76ers (49-23). Ben Simmons is still a 76er and very well could be come the start of training camp, which means some blown-up bridges need to be repaired. For now. He is still being shopped around, and while Daryl Morey’s asking price will need to come down, nobody is close enough to it now to force that conversation. The Sixers retained Danny Green and Morey is right, the starting five of this team is still very good in the regular season. Philly had the best record in the East last season and remains a threat with peak Joel Embiid healthy.

Warriors small icon 8. Warriors (39-33). Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson may have wanted management to trade their two lottery picks for veterans (and management tried hard to do just that), but the moves Bob Myers and the front office ultimately made could keep this team in contention beyond the Curry era. In three years, we’re either going to be saying, “how did everyone pass on Jonathan Kuminga” or “he’s so athletic, he just makes too many mistakes.” It was a good gamble for the Warriors, and Moses Moody will be solid. This team is on the fringes of contending but needs a lot of things to go right, starting with James Wiseman making a leap.

Mavericks small icon 9. Mavericks (42-30). The only thing that ultimately mattered in Dallas came together: They put a max contract extension in front of Luka Doncic and he signed it. As long as Doncic is on the roster, the Mavericks are dangerous. While the Reggie Bullock addition was a good one, Dallas came into the offseason with bold plans to find a better running mate for Doncic and none of them panned out. It wasn’t pretty. They have a new coach in Jason Kidd and a new front office around Mark Cuban (we’ll see how much that change matters), but the search for a No. 2 option continues (hint: it’s not Kristaps Porzingis).

Hawks small icon 10. Hawks (41-31 LW 13). This team made a leap during the playoffs under coach Nate McMillan (who will be back), then re-signed John Collins to a fair deal for both sides. Atlanta is running it back, and they should. Trae Young made a leap last season and into the playoffs, and that confidence is going to carry over into this season and lift the Hawks up. This is a solid roster with very few holes that could be a top four seed in the East this year if things break right.

Celtics small icon 11. Celtics (36-36). Celtics fans have to feel good about Jayson Tatum stepping up after the way he played in Tokyo, being the team’s second-leading scorer in the gold medal game. New Celtics coach Ime Udoka was with Tatum in Tokyo, and he wants Tatum and Jaylen Brown to take on larger playmaking roles this season. Josh Richardson is a good fit addition, this team can switch anything 1-4 with him, Tatum, Brown, and Marcus Smart (who has been offered an extension). They signed Dennis Schroder at a good price, and he adds playmaking as well. Boston should be better than the .500 team of last season. The question is, how much better?

Nuggets small icon 12. Nuggets (47-25). Denver is essentially running it back behind MVP Nikola Jokic, although bringing in Jeff Green as a backup big is a quality upgrade. We all know the question with this team: Will Jamal Murray return during the regular season from his torn ACL, and if so, how close to 100% will he be in the playoffs? With a healthy Murray, this team is a legitimate contender to come out of the West, but they slide this far down the power rankings because they are not the same level of threat without him.

Clippers small icon13. Clippers (47-25). Kawhi Leonard made the Clippers sweat it out a little (for reasons unknown), but he will be back with the Clippers next season, rehabbing his torn ACL. They re-signed Reggie Jackson and took a reasonable flier on Justise Winslow, but without All-NBA Leonard in the lineup this team is good, not great. If Leonard can return for the playoffs and look like his vintage self, and Paul George stays healthy, this team is a threat, but history would suggest Leonard will be cautious with his return to the court.

Knicks small icon 14. Knicks (41-31). New York had one of the better offseasons of any team, and they still probably take a step back from the No. 4 seed they surprisingly earned last season. They re-signed Julius Randle to a very fair number, added shooting and scoring with Evan Fournier, plus the addition of Kemba Walker for $8 million was a flat-out steal. New York is going to be good in what is a deeper and better East, they may not finish as high as fourth, but they are a more dangerous playoff threat. Plus, the added contracts are shorter-term, good but not exorbitant salaries that can be put together in a trade package to chase a superstar if one becomes available for a trade.

Bulls small icon 15. Bulls (31-41). They got better… and I still don’t like their offseason. I love the additions of Lonzo Ball at the point and Alex Caruso for defense and hustle off the bench, but they dramatically overpaid for DeMar DeRozan (both in terms of salary and giving up the needed defense of Thaddeus Young, and a first-round pick for the right to overpay DeRozan). There is a lot of talent on the roster with Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic, Ball, DeRozan, plus the improving Patrick Williams, but it’s a bit of a Chopped basket that chef/coach Billy Donovan is going to have to make something delicious out of. Also, defense is going to be an issue.

Blazers small icon 16. Trail Blazers (42-30). Swapping out Enes Kanter for Cody Zeller is not exactly what Damian Lillard had in mind when he said he wanted to see more urgency in building out the Portland roster to be contenders. That is why the rest of the league — particularly some people in Philly — are watching and waiting to see if/when Lillard starts to force his way out. The Blazers did re-sign Norman Powell, which was necessary but not game changing. This is still a team looking at the play-in games in the West. Congratulations to CJ McCollum on becoming union president; he’s got some real work ahead.

Pacers small icon 17. Pacers (34-38). This ranking may be a little low for Indiana. They made one big offseason move, bringing in Rick Carlisle as coach, but it’s a move that should make this team better. This is a solid roster without any glaring holes, and if Carlisle can get a little more out of Malcolm Brogdon and Caris LeVert, and mesh Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner a little more smoothly, this will be a tough team to beat every night.

Wizards small icon 18. Wizards (34-38). This may be too low for a team that had a very strong offseason, getting off Russell Westbrook’s massive contract and bringing in some depth to go around Bradley Beal. The Spencer Dinwiddie signing is a coup. The Lakers trio of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, and Montrezl Harrell will help in the regular season. The Wizards aren’t contenders but they will be competitive every night. Is that enough to keep Beal in town on a new contract? Washington is optimistic, but we shall see.

Grizzlies small icon 19. Grizzlies (38-34). They have a franchise cornerstone in Ja Morant, and we will see if Jaren Jackson Jr. can be the No. 2 they need now that he’s healthy and will have a full season. The Grizzlies played the long game bringing in Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams, and we’ll see if Ziaire Williams will pay off farther down that long road (he has shown an impressive, fluid athleticism at Summer League, but he has a lot of development to do before he is impacting games.)

Pelicans small icon 20. Pelicans (31-41). What is the plan? They have an unbelievable talent in Zion Williamson, who is frustrated with the organization and how the roster is being built out, and it’s hard to blame him. Jonas Valanciunas is a slight upgrade in fit over Adams but far from an answer. I like Devonte' Graham, but how well will he play off the ball (Zion and Brandon Ingram remain the first two options)? New coach Willie Green walks into a tough spot, this organization has playoff aspirations and a roster not really built to get there in a very deep West.

Hornets small icon 21. Hornets (33-39). Charlotte might be my early pick for League Pass favorites — they are going to be very entertaining to watch. LaMelo Ball has the keys to the offense and has scorers and athletes all around him: Gordon Hayward, Terry Rozier, Kelly Oubre, P.J. Washington, plus rookies James Bouknight, Kai Jones, and JT Thor. This team is poised to take steps forward on both ends of the floor, do that and they will be in the mix for a play-in spot again in the East (and a higher seed where making the playoffs is possible).

Raptors small icon 22. Raptors (27-45). This team could be better than this ranking — especially back home playing in Toronto — but what will the roster look like when the season starts? What about after the trade deadline? Kyle Lowry is out, but a solid point guard in Goran Dragic is in (along with promising young big Precious Achiuwa). Pascal Siakam is on the trade block, and there is buzz that for the right deal even OG Anunoby could be available (for him it would take a blockbuster). This is a team in transition and a difficult one to project; if the roster stays stable and Siakam has a bounce-back year, they are a play-in level team.

23. Timberwolves (23-49). It was not a big and bold offseason in Minnesota, they are betting on what they already have: Karl-Anthony Towns is an elite offensive center, and Minnesota will have a full season of him paired with De’Angelo Russell and an improving Anthony Edwards on the wing. That should make them mildly better, but there remain serious defensive questions about the roster. The bigger long-term question is how much new co-owners Marc Lore and Alex Rodriguez (Glen Taylor is still around) will change the franchise’s direction (and, maybe, eventually get a new arena).

Spurs small icon 24. Spurs (33-39). The rebuilding is officially underway with DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, and Patty Mills gone. It’s going to be a process despite a nice backcourt with Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker IV, and Derrick White. Second-year player Devin Vassell has looked good at Summer League, and we’ll see if youngster Joshua Primo can develop over the next few years. They rolled the dice on the Zach Collins finding a way to get healthy, but did it at a price that seemed high. Congratulations to Keldon Johnson, who now has a gold medal (and got praise for his energy from Draymond Green).

Magic small icon 25. Magic (21-48, LW 26). The best news for Orlando is that defensive force Jonathan Isaac should return from injury this season. They may have caught a break with tough-minded guard Jalen Suggs falling to them at No. 5, and the rest of their backcourt — Cole Anthony, Markelle Fultz, RJ Hampton — is interesting. They brought in Robin Lopez to be near Disney World, and to back up Wendell Carter Jr., New coach Jamahl Mosley has his work cut out for him developing the players on this roster, but there is some real potential here. Orlando is not going to be good this season, but they will be interesting.

Rockets small icon 26. Rockets (16-53, LW 29). I loved their offseason and they will not be this low in a couple of years (so long as Jalen Green and their other picks develop), but it’s going to be a process. Green is a walking bucket already, and if his game rounds out he will be a force, and Alperen Sengun already has Rockets faithful overly excited (but he has skills and could make a nice backup big man right away behind the returning Christian Wood). Put Green on the court with Josh Christopher, Kevin Porter Jr., and KJ Martin and this is one very athletic team.

Pistons small icon 27. Pistons (20-52). It’s just Summer League, but Cade Cunningham looks like the real deal (and his game isn’t suited for the glorified pickup of SL, he’ll be better in real games). He’s a fluid athlete, sees the floor, and can finish through contact. Kelly Olynyk will provide some floor spacing and shooting around Cunningham, but what is more important to watch is the development of Siddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart, and the rest of the young Pistons under Dwane Casey.

Cavaliers small icon 28. Cavaliers (22-50). Evan Mobley has shown flashes at Summer League, but big men take longer to develop and Mobley needs time (and to get stronger). They re-signed Jarrett Allen to help the team now while Mobley develops, but the $100 million extension turned some heads around the league, that was too much (but could be tradable in a couple of years). The Cleveland rebuild is still a work in progress, they have shopped Collin Sexton around for trades (no takers yet, nobody wants to pay him big money in a year) and brought in Ricky Rubio to help stabilize the backcourt. It will be another tough season in Cleveland, but there is reason for hope with Mobley and Darius Garland.

Kings small icon 29. Kings (31-41). Owner Vivek Ranadive is pressuring the front office to make a move that could vault this team up into playoff contention in the West (they have missed the playoffs for 15 straight years), but that kind of pressure often leads to bad trades. They have Buddy Hield and Harrison Barnes as trade bate. This roster is better than this ranking, but it feels like more upheaval is coming and maybe not for the better. The best chance at the postseason is more likely to come from leaps by De'Aaron Fox and Tyrese Halliburton in the back court. No. 9 draft pick Davion Mitchell looks like he can help on defense now, but his offense needs work.

Thunder small icon 30. Thunder (22-50). Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is special and this team has other talent such as Lou Dort and Derrick Favors, but this is a rebuilding team that will lose a lot. Tre Mann has looked great at Summer League, and Josh Giddey has potential but is going to take time to develop. It’s going to take years to turn this roster around, but they have the picks to get a lot of shots in the lottery, and as some of those pan out things will look very different.

Celtics’ Payton Pritchard reportedly wants a trade this summer

2023 NBA Playoffs - Boston Celtics v Miami Heat
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Payton Pritchard saw his role as a reserve guard with the Celtics shrink this season, which may have had less to do with the changeover to Joe Mazzulla as coach and more to do with the addition of Sixth Man of the Year Malcolm Brogdon.

Either way, Pritchard doesn’t like it and wants to be traded this offseason, reports Jay King and Jared Weiss of The Athletic (in a must-read breakdown of the Celtics’ season and where they ultimately fell short.

With the new onerous CBA rules looming after next season, the front office will likely have to decide in the next 12 months whether it can afford its expensive veteran depth. Payton Pritchard has made it clear he hopes to be traded this summer, according to multiple team sources, so will the Celtics move him if they trade one of their core guards?

Pritchard may not get his wish for the financial reasons mentioned by King and Weiss — Boston has some hard decisions to make coming up. For next season, the Celtics are already $4 million into the luxury tax with 12 people on the roster, and that is without re-signing Grant Williams (if they can) or thinking about the super-max contract Jaylen Brown is about to sign that will kick in for the 2024-25 season. With the draconian threat of the second “lead” tax apron looming in a year, the Celtics must trim salary. One way to do that this summer is to trade one of Marcus Smart, Derrick White or Malcolm Brogdon, which is what is widely expected to happen around the league.

With one of those three gone, minutes open up for Pritchard, who has a team option for $4 million next season. That’s a great value contract the Celtics likely want to keep.

Meaning Pritchard may not get his wish to be sent out of Boston, but if he ends up staying, he should see more run next season.

Heat vs. Nuggets NBA Finals roundtable breaking down series, betting options


The Heat vs. the Nuggets. Jimmy Butler vs. Nikola Jokić. Not the Finals we expected, but it could be an entertaining one.

For NBC Sports Bet The Edge, four analysts from the NBC Sports family came together to break down the unexpected NBA Finals between the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat. You can read it here, watch it above, or check out the podcast form if that is best for you.

The four are Kurt Helin, lead NBA writer for NBC Sports; Jay Croucher, the lead betting analyst for NBC Sports; Vaughn Dalzell a sports betting analyst for NBC Sports; and Drew Dinsick an NFL, NBA, Tennis Handicapper with NBC Sports.

Let’s jump into the discussion.

Jay Croucher: Somber tone today as we lament the Boston Celtics’ +950 ticket when they were down 3-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals going down in flames. Undone by Jason Tatum’s ankle, by Joe Mazzulla’s obsession with playing drop coverage against Duncan Robinson — why’d you do it Joe? Why’d you do it? — and undone by the Miami Heat most of all. And today we’re going to talk about the finals matchup, Heat vs, Nuggets, just as everyone predicted before the playoffs started.

Kurt, we’ll start with you, I just want your theory behind the Miami Heat because this is the most inexplicable Finals appearance that I can recall. Probably I wasn’t paying as close of attention to basketball in 1999 when the Knicks made their eight-seed charge, but what do you make of the Heat ultimately? Do you think that this is largely luck? Do you think that this was team was lurking all season and are actually in that same tier as the Bucks and Celtics who they’ve dispatched? Overall, just what do you make of this team?

Kurt Helin: I think they were better than we thought. I think, going into the season, I had them as a four or five seed, I thought that were maybe a tier below where Boston was, where I thought Milwaukee and Philadelphia were. But I thought they were better than they showed during the regular season, they just couldn’t hit a shot to save their lives was part of it.

But I think it speaks to relentlessness and, look, they’re committed to their system. They know who they are. They don’t vary from it. They keep attacking you regardless and they showed a mental toughness that certainly Boston hasn’t shown. But beyond that, no other team in the East seemed able to match that toughness. It is kind of shocking, I think I picked against them in every round, well, maybe not in the second round, I think I had them over the Knicks, but I’ve been surprised by this the whole way. It speaks to their culture.

Who of us had Caleb Martin for Eastern Conference MVP, because he came ‘this close.’

Jay Croucher: Yeah, it’s unreal, Caleb Martin substantially outplaying Jaylen Brown, who might be about to pick up a quarter of a billion dollars. A pretty key moment in the series. Vaughn. What do you make of the Heat? I think you believed in the Heat a bit more than at least I did coming into this series.

Vaughn Dalzell: Well, I liked the Heat Game 1. I bet the Celtics Game 2 and 3, went back on the Heat in Game 4 and lost that, then watched you guys talk about the Celtics’ comeback and I hated on it.

Yeah, the Heat end up coming through for me, I guess, but I was just really impressed with the 3-point shooting and the way they were able to spread teams out. I mean eight out of 10 rotational players in the postseason hit 35% or better from 3, This Miami Heat Team averaged the lowest amount of points per game in the NBA in the regular season, and they got it going offensively.

They really bought into Jimmy Butler, in my opinion, he’s the only guy on the team that averaged over 17 points per game. Seven different players average 10 points per game for the Heat or more. So just very well balanced. They didn’t even need Tyler Herro for this run, he’s targeting a Game 3 return, which is the first home game for Miami. So if he does come back for that, it certainly be exciting. But Vegas certainly thinks Denver is gonna be far too much for Miami.

Jay Croucher: What about you, Drew?

Drew Dinsick: Well, a couple of things. There’s definitely been playoffs a cycles, entire cycles in our lives, where it was as simple as the best player in the series, that team wins. And so far, Jim Butler has been the best player in all three of the Heat series and they’ve won all three of those series, so it shouldn’t really be shocking to us. On top of that, they have also kind of caught variance in the bottle in terms of getting to go against an injured Bucks team in round one, and then getting to go against the Celtics team in round three that hit the wrong side of variance in terms of shooting when it mattered most. I mean, the poor shooting that we saw from the Celtics, particularly, early and late in that series, those are like 10th percentile type of games for them over the balance of the season and they all happen to happen in the Eastern Conference Finals. Which is wild and tough to explain, and I don’t even really want to give the Heat a ton of credit for the way that they were defending the Celtics because they basically were giving the Celtics really high-quality looks. They just weren’t going in. They weren’t even coming close in Game 7.

So, I think they have done some things that are worth lauding, the development of Caleb Martin into a bonafide No. 2, like at times, he looked like Kawhi Leonard out there and I was like, I could not believe what they were getting from him on both ends of the floor. And it does not look like a fluke, his true shooting was at 78.3, his eFG% was 72.7 in an entire series, and that’s against the Celtics, who have elite wing defense, that’s an amazing, amazing, accomplishment, and congratulations to The Heat for getting here.

But I don’t see any reason to run to the window to bet the Heat now. If you want to go with the best player in the series kind of argument, it’s clearly Nikola Jokic, who has been the best player in the playoffs so far, I think by a margin. For those reasons, and home court advantage, and just in general, the Heat, limping in a bit having had to go seven against the Celtics, I think is kind of influencing the market here, where we’ve seen since the open a pretty sincere appetite for Nuggets bets by a lot of the market makers.

Jay Croucher: Yeah, the Heat, I think they’re incredibly admirable and we have to be respectful that they’re pulling this off.

I’m still just gonna die on the hill, though, that they’re not very good. To me, they are a much mentally tougher, better-coached version of the Atlanta Hawks, who by the way, destroyed them in the play-in game. A slightly better version of the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Toronto Raptors, I don’t think those teams have markedly less talent. But I think that how we’ve gotten here is Jimmy Butler, who is a legit +7 EPM [estimated plus/minus] superstar who ramps up in the playoffs. He had three out-of-body experiences: In Games 4 and 5 of the Bucks series, and then in the last six minutes of Game 2 against the Celtics, where he too smalled Grant Williams, Those three performances combined with the fact that they shot 45% from 3 against the Bucks, and then they shot almost 44% from 3 against the Celtics, while the Celtics shot 30% from 3 and that’s your series. It’s a really solid defensive team.

I think they’re gonna have trouble with Nikola Jokic just because Bam Adebayo is a smaller human being than typically plays center. But I think that their defense was excellent against the Bucks and the Celtics. Also the thing is, we’ve seen repeatedly that the Bucks and the Celtics, as good as they are, those offenses, when they come up against an elite defense, just struggle and can really get in the mud and the Heat preyed on that and they made their 3s and Butler was incredible. And here we are.

Weirdly, I think the series I take the most optimism for the Heat going forward in was the Knicks series because they didn’t shoot well against the Knicks, they couldn’t make a shot against the Knicks. And that Knicks team, while not to the level of Milwaukee or Boston clearly, was a solid 47-win team and the Heat, with Butler limping around not being able to make a shot, still handled them with relative ease, so can’t write them off. But still, it seems like the Nuggets are certainly justified favorites.

Want to take a look at some of these player prop markets in the Finals, points leader, rebounds leader, assists leader, you can bet on all of them. As you would imagine most of these markets are heavily skewed towards the two superstars in Nikola Jokic and Jimmy Butler, but Kurt, is there a player that you think is going to have a really good series in this matchup?

Kurt Helin: That’s a good question. There might be an instinct to go with Jamal Murray, but Miami doesn’t match up well with Nikola Jokic. I think their goal is ultimately to make him a scorer, which everybody tries to do, he just figures everybody out, but try to make him a scorer, not as much of a passer.

And I think what they’re gonna do as part of that is try to wear Jamal Murray down, they might pick him up full court, they are going to go at Murray. Jokic putting up a lot of points I expect, I’m not sure that this is gonna be a great Jamal Murray series, at least early. But they have such depth of shot creation and scoring that if you if you really do take away Murray, Michael Porter Jr. can have his games.

And I think that that’s where you might look, if I were betting on a guy to kind of have a really nice series, Michael Porter Jr. The Heat don’t don’t run anybody out over like 6’7″ right? Outside of Bam. I’ve just got a feeling it’s going to be one of those series where Michael Porter Jr. is going to have some games because, much like the last series, it doesn’t really matter to him, he’ll just shoot over whoever you put on him. If he’s rolling, you are not gonna be able to stop it.

Jay Croucher: Vaughn anyone that you like in the series in one of these markets that matches up well against the other team?

Vaughn Dalzell: Actually, you just mentioned one of them Kurt, Michael Porter Jr. Because, one of the prop markets that we might not be talking about in depth was the 3-point market, I definitely felt like MPJ and Caleb Martin were two clear guys to be taking a shot on there. MPJ is averaging about 8.3 3-point attempts per game. In that Lakers series, he had 20 in the last two games. Caleb Martin, we were talking him up and how he’s a solid No. 2, he made 22 3s versus Boston on 45 attempts, that’s 49% He’s probably the best value on the board for Heat player.

I think if you’re trying to take Jimmy Butler on total points, I think Jimmy would have to go Super Saiyan to win that over Nicola Jokic because, I know we talked about it briefly before, Nikola Jokic dominating Adebayo. Over the last six meetings, he’s averaged 46 points/rebounds/assists —25 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists — and in this playoffs in particular this guy has triple-doubled eight out of 15 times. I mean, you’re not even getting plus money on the triple-double anymore, he’s triple-doubled five of his last six.

So clearly Jokic should be leading all these stat categories. I wouldn’t take any other players. But if you’re talking about 3-point market, I think that’s where the value is, and I’d be looking at MPJ or Caleb Morton, he’s 13-1.

Jay Croucher: Anyone in these markets Drew you think is going to rise up.

Drew Dinsick: The market is telling you right now this is probably going to be a short series, with fewer games comes more variance. And MPJ at 40-1 is pretty insane.

We had two matchups between these two teams this regular season both were meaningful. One in December, one in February, you had pretty decent full strength from both squads in both of these matchups. Nikola Jokic’s offensive rating in these two games? A combined 159. Which is absolutely ridiculous. He wasn’t the primary scorer, he was mostly a facilitator in one of the games and it was pretty much a team effort in both of the Nuggets wins against the Heat this regular season. Both were competitive games.

So, I think the entirety of the Nuggets’ fortunes in this series run through Nikola Jokic’s ability to continue to operate an offense at a level we’ve never seen in the NBA before. And, for those reasons, any Nugget, being kind of the beneficiary of his gravity, I think you take a shot and hope in a short next four- or five-game series Michael Porter Jr. gets hot from 3 a couple of games and all of a sudden that 40-1 is live.

But make no mistake the most important player in the series by far for the Nuggets is Nicola Jokic. And I think, realistically if he has a game that’s not a triple-double you’ll be more surprised than anything else. I thought his defense took a step forward this playoffs from what we saw in the regular season. And I think in general his ability to dominate on the glass against the Lakers is something that you can take directly into this series because he has the same exact sort of size advantage over the Heat squad, even more so, than he had over a Laker squad that was really lacking the second big body out there. So yeah, I think you know Jokic is gonna get it done every which way possible.

Jay Croucher: What I’m most interested in is, the first Nuggets offensive possession, what are the Heat doing with Jokic and how are they going to guard that? Is it just going to be Bam one-on-one and just see how that goes? Is there going to be some zone elements? Are they going to put Kevin Love on Jokic and have Bam be in the help role that Anthony Davis was?

I think the Lakers were probably the best-equipped team in the league to defend Jokic and defended him about as well as you can, and the Nuggets had a 122 offensive rating for the series. So I think you just cannot defend him, and the Heat are gonna have to have to score heavily on the other end and then have some shooting variance go their way.

But Game 1 Kurt, where the Nuggets do have a massive rest advantage, maybe to the point where it could trend to a little bit of rust, what do you expect?

Kurt Helin: I do think that they’re going to be a little rusty from the start. And Michael Malone frankly, in his press conference this week, owned up to it. He’s just been like, you can’t recreate playoff basketball in practice. He was prepared for the first quarter, first half to be a little bit sloppy, I think. Or for his side not to be as sharp as they were going against that Laker defense.

But on the flip side — and I think this is the bigger issue — Miami, as resilient as they are, they put the tank pretty close to E to get here. They hop on that overly, weirdly discussed flight, and now you’ve got to play at altitude. Basically, you get a couple of days but you don’t have that much time to really adjust and then you run into the buzzsaw that is that is Denver. I just got a feeling this is one where Denver in the second half pulls away.

Jay Croucher: Drew, how are you betting the series?

Drew Dinsick: Gentlemen’s sweep. That’s my most likely outcome, by a lot, actually. Surprisingly. And realistically, you’re just asking the Nuggets to protect home court, and split Miami, and then we can call the series at home in Denver and drop the blue and gold confetti on the home fans it’ll be a pretty fun scene. And I honestly I would really just like to see Nikola Jokic to get a chip, to get a title and a Finals MVP because what we’ve seen from him now on a three-year arc has been amazing.

Jay Croucher: Yes, certainly does feel like a coronation for the Serbian King.

UPDATE: Pistons reportedly agree to massive deal to make Monty Williams new coach

2023 NBA Playoffs - Phoenix Suns v Denver Nuggets
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

UPDATE: The Detroit Pistons — specifically team owner Tom Gores — got their man.

The Pistons backed up the Brinks truck and agreed to terms with former Suns coach Monty Williams to be their next head coach, something first reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic and confirmed by Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports, among others.

Other reports have this as even a larger deal, with Yahoo’s Vincent Goodwill saying it could expand to eight years and $100 million with incentives. While some of those incentives are probably very unlikely, it shows how far the Pistons were willing to go to land Williams.

It will be interesting to see how much power Williams will have over player personnel moves in addition to being the coach. Pistons GM Troy Weaver and Williams worked together back in Oklahoma City.

Williams reportedly was planning to take a year off from coaching after being let go by the Suns, but he got an offer he could not refuse.

Gores had interviewed the other top candidates, Charles Lee and Kevin Ollie, and decided to make one more big run at Williams before giving one of the first-timers the job.  Williams is a defensive first coach known for discipline, and those things were on the top of the Pistons’ coaching wish list.

Williams is one of the most respected coaches around the league, but he did have clashes with players on the roster in Phoenix, most prominently Deandre Ayton. The chemistry in Phoenix that looked so good when Williams took the Suns to the Finals seemed much more fractured by the end. New owner Mat Ishbia reportedly never warmed to Williams, and that combined with the second-round exit for a team with Kevin Durant and Devin Booker was enough to make the change.

Now Williams has a new home — and a massive payday.


Not long after Dwane Casey left the bench and moved into the Pistons’ front office, the Pistons called Monty Williams and tried to make a big money offer to entice him to come, something reported at the time by Marc Stein. Buzz grew around the league that Williams — who was let go by the Suns after they fell in the second round — was going to take a little time off from coaching before jumping back into the grind.

The Pistons have gone through their coaching search — reportedly with former Bucks’ assistant Charles Lee and former UConn coach Kevin Ollie as the frontrunners — but before picking one of them the Pistons are going to make one more run at Williams, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Pistons are preparing to offer Williams in the range of $10 million per year, league sources said, which would put him among the league’s highest-paid coaches. Detroit has been hopeful over the past several weeks that Williams would consider accepting the job, sources added…

If Williams declines the proposal, Lee, a Bucks assistant since 2018, is expected to emerge as the likely choice, league sources said.

This report was echoed by Stein, who added details.

The offers have been consistently estimated to me at $50 million over five years or even $60 million over six years. Sources say that two of the Pistons’ previously reported finalists for the post — Bucks associate head coach Charles Lee and former UConn coach Kevin Ollie — were only summoned to meet face-to-face with Pistons owner Tom Gores for a second time after Williams turned them down the first time.

The phrasing from Charania — “Detroit has been hopeful… that Williams would consider accepting the job” — is no accident, that’s a sign of what they expect to happen.

If you were the owner/PR staff of a struggling team — one that the lottery gods just knocked down to fifth in the upcoming NBA Draft — and you were about to hire a deserving but not well-known coach to lead your franchise, leaking about the big offer you made to the big name coach is smart spin. If Williams takes the money, the Pistons land a top-flight coach. If Williams says “no thanks” then you can tell the fan base you tried.

The Pistons entered last season hoping to make a run to the play-in, but those hopes were dashed when Cade Cunningham was injured a dozen games into the season and missed the rest of it. With Cunningham back along with Jaden Ivey, Jalen Duren, Isaiah Stewart, Saddiq Bey, Bojan Bogdanovic and the No. 5 pick, expectations of wins will greet whoever is the new coach.

New York Knicks part ways with GM Scott Perry

New York Knicks Introduce New Signees
Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

When Scotty Perry came on board with the Knicks, they felt like chaos personified off the court, and on the court their best players were Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr.

That era seems like another lifetime ago. Perry, first with former team president Steve Mills and then with the next president Leon Rose, brought professionalism and stability to the New York Knicks not really known in the James Dolan era. The Knicks may not yet be contenders, but they have built a 47-win team behind Jalen Brunson with 11 first-round picks in the next seven years (to use or trade for a star). The Knicks are well-positioned for the future and Knicks fans are as optimistic as they have been in decades.

Which is why it’s news that Perry and the Knicks are parting ways, something reported by multiple sources, including Ian Begley at Perry’s contract was up.

It will be interesting to see where the Knicks go from here. Former Timberwolves president Gersson Rosas was added as an executive last season. The Knicks could give Rosas the full-time position or promote another front office member, such as assistant general manager (pro scouting) Frank Zanin or assistant general manager (college scouting) Walt Perrin. Brock Aller already has a vice president title (Vice President, Basketball and Strategic Planning), so it would be an odd transition for him to move to general manager.

Perry should have interest around the NBA should he want to return to a front office job. He will have options.

New York heads into the offseason poised to chase a star free agent, should the right one become available. They also have a clean cap sheet without bad contracts weighing them down, which anchored the Knicks in the standings for years.

Perry deserves some of the credit for that.