Three Things to Know: Picking the 2022 All-Star Game reserves (and snubs)


Three Things is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks going that make the NBA great.

1) Picking the 2022 All-Star Game reserves (and snubs)

It is one of the great annual fights around the NBA. The league keeps the All-Star Game rosters intentionally small — 12 players, down from the 15 that can dress for a regular NBA game — which means when the coaches select the All-Star Game reserves deserving players get snubbed.

We LOVE to argue about snubs.

The five All-Star game starters from each conference are selected by a vote of the fans — with an assist from the players and media — and we know who those are (in a week they will be drafted into Team LeBron and Team Durant… even if neither of those guys likely are playing in the actual game due to injuries).

Here are my picks from the reserves, which by league rules must be three frontcourt players, two guards, and two wildcards (I made these picks first on a PBT Podcast a couple of weeks ago, but this is adapted for the fans voting in Andrew Wiggins as a starter):


G: Chris Paul
G: Donovan Mitchell
FC: Rudy Gobert
FC: Karl-Anthony Towns
FC: Draymond Green
WC: Luka Doncic
WC: Devin Booker

Green deserves to make the team — as a media member I voted him a starter — but it will be a surprise if he plays due to his ongoing back/calf issues. I would replace him with Anthony Davis, who has put up All-Star numbers despite missing a lot of time and still disappointing Lakers fans.

SNUBS: Anthony Davis, Dejounte Murray, Brandon Ingram, Deandre Ayton, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Desmond Bane, Paul Geoge (PG13 was a lock for this team before his elbow injury, and that is the only thing keeping him off, he carried the Clippers for stretches this season).


G: James Harden
G: Zach LaVine
FC: Jayson Tatum
FC: Jimmy Butler
FC: Jarrett Allen
WC: Jrue Holiday
WC: Fred VanVleet

SNUBS: LaMelo Ball, Jaylen Brown, Darius Garland, Khris Middleton, Pascal Siakam, Domantas Sabonis, Bradley Beal.

Tell me where I’m wrong — but if you’re putting LaMelo or Garland on the All-Star team, who are you taking off? Let the arguing begin.

2) The Nets are not good without Durant, fall to Kings for sixth straight loss

It’s time to have a serious talk about just how good — or not very good — the Brooklyn Nets are.

There are legitimate questions: What is this team’s identity? Will we ever see them whole (which would include Kyrie Irving playing home games)? If they get healthy, will the Nets play enough games together to form good habits and an identity? Can they win a title with this isolation-heavy style?

Brooklyn has lost six straight and is 2-7 since Kevin Durant went down with a sprained knee, the latest loss a 112-101 to the Kings in Sacramento.

James Harden and Kyrie Irving combined for 18 points on 7-of-26 shooting — Nic Claxton was the Nets’ best player with 23 and 11. If this were a one-off loss on the road for a team Steve Nash called tired, you could shrug it off. But It is not. Harden is not blowing by guys and being unguardable the same way we remember. Irving is still finding a rhythm. Patty Mills is playing well but his role changes (starter or sixth man) depending on where the game is played.

Kevin Durant’s best MVP argument would be what happened to this team when he went down. (No, he’s not winning the award, he’ll miss too many games to likely even make the top five, but the point of his value still stands.)

Milwaukee should be seen as the favorite in the East, the defending champs have had their issues as well but you see stretches of what they can be (especially if they get Brook Lopez back). Miami has to be in the mix, they are a legit threat to come out of the East. Philadelphia could be if Joel Embiid gets enough help. Chicago still has to prove it can keep doing this come the playoffs, will their defense hold up? Still, the Bulls are an outstanding team. Cleveland keeps on winning.

How many of those teams can the Nets beat in a seven-game series? (I don’t know if they can bet the Bucks or Heat.) Will the Nets even be whole for the playoffs? What is this team’s identity?

There are far more questions than answers in Brooklyn.

3) WNBA gets a major investment — a step in the right direction

WNBA free agency is going on and this kind of sums up the finances of the league:

Courtney Vandersloot, who was critical to the Chicago Sky winning the title last season, got an offer she considered “disrespectful” from the team and is negotiating with a Russian team that will pay her enough to sit out the WNBA season to be rested for its campaign for a Euroleague crown (Holly Rowe of ESPN broke that story). If you don’t think it can happen, Diana Taurasi did exactly that before.

The WNBA needs to grow revenue to get player salaries up to where players don’t have to have two jobs — most WNBA players head to Europe to play for another team after the WNBA season ends, because the pay is better over there. We see a few big names like Candace Parker doing NBA commentary (she is one of the two best studio analysts TNT/Turner has right now) to get that second check, but everyone has two jobs. You can imagine what that year-round play does in terms of wear on a body? Players break down.

Which is why it’s good news the WNBA announced a major investment from a number of people and companies — Nike, Micky and Nick Arison (Heat owners), Joe and Clara Tsai (Nets/Liberty owners), Condoleezza Rice, Baron Davis, Pau Gasol, Swin Cash, Linda Henry (Boston Red Sox, Liverpool FC), and many others — in which those people get a piece of the league.

The money will go to marketing, building a digital infrastructure, “growth of consumer touchpoints,” and basically growing the brand. The WNBA’s popularity is growing, but the league needed this kind of investment to take advantage of that — and ultimately grow the revenue needed to raise player salaries. This is basic “you have to spend money to make money” economics, something the NBA does for itself without thinking but has always held back with the WNBA. It’s always been about not losing too much money, and that has strangled the growth of the league (something the NBA did to itself in its early days, but that’s not a lesson that stuck).

“Our strategy is to deploy this capital to continue to drive the league’s brand as a bold, progressive entertainment and media property that embodies diversity, promotes equity, advocates for social justice, and stands for the power of women,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement. “Having just completed our historic 25th season, with this access to additional capital, we are setting the WNBA up for a successful future and it represents a sign and signal of the future direction of women’s sports as a whole.”

Let’s hope it is that signal. It is undoubtedly a good step forward.

Highlight of the night: Josh Giddey‘s insane pass sends game to OT

Count me among the skeptics won over. I was not sold when the Thunder drafted Josh Giddey, but the rookie has won me over — check out this pass for a layup that forced overtime (and watch Luka Doncic fall asleep on defense).

Luguentz Dort took over scoring 14 in overtime and the Thunder knocked off the Mavericks 120-114.

Last night’s scores:

Orlando 119, Indiana 118
Washington 106, Philadelphia 103
Memphis 120, New York 108
Houston 115, Cleveland 104
Oklahoma City 120, Dallas 114 (OT)
Utah 108, Denver 104
Sacramento 112, Brooklyn 101
LA Lakers 99, Portland 94

Nuggets reportedly trade draft picks with Thunder to help keep title window open


The Denver Nuggets are just two wins from the franchise’s first NBA championship.

While Nikola Jokić and Jamal Murray are trying to pick-and-roll their way to those wins, the Nuggets front office has made a trade to try and keep their title window open. The Nuggets are trading their 2029 first-round pick (protected) to the Oklahoma City Thunder for the No. 37 pick in this June’s NBA Draft and the worst of the Thunder’s 2024-first round picks, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Nuggets now control the No. 37 and 40 picks in the 2023 NBA Draft, plus this additional 2024 pick. The Nuggets will try to use this 2024 first-round pick to move into the first round of this year’s draft, reports Mike Singer of the Denver Post. (Denver’s first-round pick at No. 27 belongs to Charlotte through a series of trades.)

A first-round pick and some high second-round picks allows Nuggets GM Calvin Booth to bring in several low-priced rookies who can potentially be part of the roster and rotation, freeing up money to keep an expensive core of Jokic, Murray, Michael Porter Jr. and the rest. The hope is to find another Christian Braun at the back of the first round who can contribute as a rookie.

With Jokić, Murray, Porter Jr. and Aaron Gordon all locked in on big deals for the next two seasons after this, the challenge for the Nuggets is keeping quality rotation players around them to help them compete for a title without going deeper into the tax than ownership wants. Jeff Green is a free agent this summer and Bruce Brown has a $6.8 million player option that he will certainly opt out of (he will get an offer for more than $10 million a season). The Nuggets already are $7 million into the luxury tax (via Spotrac) and are looking for a way to keep below the second tax apron, making bringing those key players back a challenge.

Hence the trade, as the Nuggets look for ways to fill out their rotation with quality, but affordable, players. Good drafting — like Braun — is a way.

What does OKC get out of this? They have more first-round draft picks than they can use in the coming few years, this spreads a pick out to 2029, which they can use then or trade, depending on their needs at the time.

Heat’s Tyler Herro remains out for Game 4. Will he play in Finals?


MIAMI — With Tyler Herro not cleared to play in Game 3 of the NBA Finals and Game 4 just 48 hours later, it should be no surprise that we won’t see Herro on Friday night.

Herro is officially listed as out for Game 4. He has been out since April 16 with a severe hand fracture suffered in the first game against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Herro went through a brief part of the public practice/shootaround in front of the media Thursday but didn’t speak to the press. Spoelstra said Herro has not yet been cleared for a game.

“This is just part of the process,” Erik Spoelstra said. “You have to go through stages. First part of it was just shooting, then movement, then contact versus coaches, and then the next level of contact in practice. He has not been cleared for a game, and he is still not cleared yet.”

Even if Herro were cleared for later in the series — and the Heat players and coaches say to a man he is putting in the work — how much of a role could he play at this point? While on paper he provides shooting and shot creation Miami needs this series (although he would be a target on defense), he hasn’t played in a game for nearly two months and Spoelstra can’t just throw him into the highest level of basketball in the world mid-series. Maybe he could get in a few non-Jokić minutes off the bench, but it’s a big ask for anything more than that. And maybe it’s too big an ask for even that.

Listening to Spoelstra’s tone, I wouldn’t expect to see Herro in this series.

And this summer, don’t be surprised when Herro’s name comes up in a lot of trade rumors.

Rumor: Suns could make run at James Harden this summer


James Harden is widely expected to opt out of the $35.6 million he is owed for next season because, even if you acknowledge he is not MVP-level Harden anymore, he’s worth more than that in the NBA marketplace. At least $10 million more a season. Harden is reportedly “torn” between returning to Philadelphia or going back home to Houston (the sources NBC Sports talks to around the league have Houston as the frontrunner).

Maybe Phoenix can enter the conversation. There had been talk the Suns might make another big swing this offseason, then came this from ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne appearing on ESPNLA Radio (hat tip Hoopshype):

“I want you to keep your eye on James Harden [going to Phoenix]. I don’t want to report anything, but that was in the wind for the past month or so. Everybody thinks it’s Philly or Houston, but I don’t know, there have been discussions in the wind.”

Interesting. The smart money should still be bet on Houston. Phoenix is a crazy longshot because the Suns don’t have the cap space to sign Harden outright at market value.

The only way the Suns could make a direct trade work is to convince Harden to do an opt-in and trade, where he picks up that $35.6 million and the Suns extend him off that, because if he opts out — as expected — then any sign-and-trade hardcaps the Suns. With Harden, Kevin Durant and Devin Booker on the books, a hard-capped Suns team would have to round out the roster with minimum contract guys. They would have no depth.

Also, who are the Suns sending back to Philadelphia in that deal? The 76ers have no interest in Deandre Ayton, Philly is pretty set at center with the MVP. That means getting a third team involved, one that wants Ayton, and will send players back to the 76ers they want. It gets very complicated very fast. Or, can Phoenix pick up Chris Paul‘s $30.8 million for this season and do a Harden for CP3 swap? Good luck selling that.

No doubt the Suns, with aggressive new owner Mat Ishbia, want to make another bold move or two this summer, but pulling off a James Harden deal would be challenging. To put it politely.

And Harden probably wants to go home to Houston anyway.

Three things to watch, with betting tips, as Miami tries to slow Jokić, Denver offense


MIAMI — Erik Spoelstra, Michael Malone, and their staffs have been pouring over film and losing sleep, trying to come up with adjustments. Minor tweaks that can give their team even a little edge.

But four games into a series, there are not a lot of secrets left. Everyone knows what is coming. It is often more about execution and effort over adjustments.

“I think it’s a little bit of both,” the Heat’s Haywood Highsmith said. “It’s definitely some things we can adjust on, and then it’s also about a little bit more effort and just doing more. You always need more, always can do more… we definitely have to make some adjustments on both ends of the floor, but you know, we’ll figure it out.”

The Heat need to figure it out before Game 4 on Friday night, because they can’t afford to go down 3-1 to the Nuggets in this series. Game 4 is as close as it gets to must-win for Jimmy Butler and the Heat.

Here are two things worth watching in Game 4, plus some betting advice from Vaughn Dalzell of NBC Sports Edge.

1) Miami has to slow the Jokic/Murray two-man game. Somehow.

Denver’s defense has been impressive in these Finals, holding Miami to a 111.1 offensive rating through three games (for comparison, that is 7.2 below their offensive rating against Boston).

Part of the reason is that Nikola Jokić can be a better rim protector and defensive player than people give him credit for. Another key is Malone has been able to lean hard into more defensive-based lineups because the two-man game of Jamal Murray and Jokić has been all the offense the Nuggets need.

The Murray/Jokic pick-and-roll has been a masterclass in this series — the Nuggets have a 126 offensive rating this series when running that play. In Game 3, the Denver stars ran 32 pick-and-rolls, and those plays were the foundation of each of them getting a 30-point triple-double (the first teammates to have a 30+ point triple-double in any NBA game).

“I mean, the Murray/Jokic two-man game is a pretty hard action to stop,” Haywood Highsmith said. “But we got great defensive players, got some of the great two-way players in this game, Jimmy [Butler] and Bam [Adebayo], so we’re gonna figure it out. We got a lot of different bodies we can throw at Murray as well.”

Miami may need to sell out to stop Jokić and Murray and force any other Nugget to beat them. The Heat did blitz the pick-and-roll more in the fourth quarter of Game 3, but that led to Christian Braun cuts to the basket and Denver buckets. Miami may have to live with some of that, they have to keep Murray in particular in check (it feels like Jokić will get his no matter what).

“Whatever you do, you just can’t do it all the time,” Spoelstra said of defending the Nuggets duo. “There’s no absolutes when you get to this level. It’s the highest level of competition. You’re getting the highest level of execution. Understanding what they’re trying to get to, and we try to get them out of their comfort zones as much as possible.

“The first half, they really got to that two-man action quite a bit. They were getting a lot of traction, so they didn’t need to go to any other part of their playbook.”

Miami needs to see the rest of that playbook.

2) Miami has to make shots, rebound, set defense

The best way for Miami to limit the Jokic/Murray action and the Denver offense in general is to slow the game down. Make them go against a set defense every time down. That didn’t happen enough in Game 3 — Denver was free-flowing on offense when Miami needs the game played in the mud.

For the Heat to change that dynamic two key things need to happen.

First, Miami has to make shots. It’s simplistic but it’s true. Denver isn’t going to run if they are taking the ball out of the net.

That starts with 3-pointers, because as has been noted everywhere the Heat are 6-1 when they shoot 45% or better from 3 this postseason (including Game 2 against the Nuggets), and unreasonably hot shooting has sustained their run to the Finals. The Heat starters were 5-of-19 (26.3%) from beyond the arc in Game 3, which is simply not good enough — Max Strus, Gabe Vincent and the rest of the role players must step up and knock down shots. However, the bigger concern in Game 3 was the Heat shooting 38.2% within eight feet of the basket. The Nuggets’ size is clearly bothering the Heat. Jimmy Butler needs to get downhill and then make the shots, Bam Adebayo has to get the floater to fall, and the Heat need to attack and get to the free throw line.

Second, the Heat can’t let the Nuggets win the rebounding battle by 25. Denver’s size advantage has played out in this series in many ways (including how they contested 3s in Game 3), but it is most clearly on the glass. Miami is getting one shot and they’re done, but the Nuggets grabbed the offensive rebound on 36.1% of their missed shots in Game 3, and if you give them that many second chances you will pay.

It will take gang rebounding and effort, but the Heat must be stronger on the glass.

3) Vaughn Dalzell’s betting recommendations

Over/Under: The total continues to drop from game-by-game starting at 219.5 then going from 216.5 to 214.5 and now 210.5 for Game 4. Denver and Miami have struggled with consistency when it comes to scoring, Miami a little more than Denver. The Nuggets are shooting 51% to Miami’s 41% from the field and averaging 10 more free-throw attempts per game. The pace and tempo of this series has barely changed through three games and if it wasn’t for Miami’s 38-point fourth quarter in Game 2, the Under would be 3-0 in this NBA Finals. I will keep riding the Under.

Player Props: In this series there have been four players worth betting overs; Jamal Murray, Nikola Jokic, Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. On the other hand, there have been some very good fade prospects for unders such as Kevin Love, Max Strus, Caleb Martin, Michael Porter Jr. and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who are all shooting 31% or worse from the field. When betting player props in the NBA Finals, keep it simple stupid (KISS).

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