Dwight Howard

Mock NBA expansion draft
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Mock NBA expansion draft: Warriors, Clippers, Lakers, Suns, Kings

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The NBA season is on hiatus. NBC Sports is not – even if we have to venture into fantasy.

We’re holding a mock NBA expansion draft. Keith Smith is setting protected lists for existing teams. Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman will run two new teams as this project culminates in an expansion draft.

Current teams can protect up to eight players. Each team must make at least one player available. If selected, restricted free agents become unrestricted free agents. Pending options can be decided before or after the expansion draft at the discretion of the option-holder. Anyone selected in the expansion draft can’t return to his prior team for one year. Players entering unrestricted free agency and players on two-way contracts are essentially ignored.

We’re unveiling protected/unprotected lists by division (here is the Atlantic Division and the Central Division). Players are listed with their 2020-21 salary. Up now, the Pacific:

Golden State Warriors

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 5

Ineligible – 0

Analysis: The Warriors have their core together with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins. Ky Bowman, Marquese Chriss, Damion Lee and Eric Paschall provide value on minimum contracts. That’s all the Warriors need to protect.

Golden State wouldn’t mind seeing Kevon Looney or Jordan Poole selected to get the salaries off the cap sheet. The rest of the players are ones the Warriors won’t lose any sleep over if they’re drafted.

L.A. Clippers

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 2

Ineligible – 4

Analysis: L.A. has its main guys with four starters under contract. They aren’t being exposed here. The other three players are key bench contributors on good contracts. And Kabengele and Mann were just drafted. Easy decisions across the board for the Clippers.

L.A. could lose Green as a free agent. The Clippers also bet he does undrafted and could return. Rodney McGruder makes too much money for his role.

Los Angeles Lakers

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 2

Ineligible – 5

Analysis: The Lakers and Anthony Davis will work out that he’ll opt out before the expansion draft, which makes him ineligible. The rest of the players are role players that Los Angeles would rather keep around LeBron James than risk losing.

Los Angeles won’t be upset to see Quinn Cook or Rajon Rondo selected. They’re both replacement-level players for the Lakers at this point.

Phoenix Suns

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 5

Ineligible – 1

Analysis: Phoenix keeps it simple and protects all the guys who are part of its core. The Suns could have left Dario Saric unprotected, but by protecting Saric, they keep the flexibility to re-sign him as a restricted free agent. The rest are all easy decisions.

Of the unprotected players, none of have established themselves as NBA rotation players. If any are selected, Phoenix won’t lose any sleep over it.

Sacramento Kings

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 2

Ineligible – 4

Analysis: The Kings will protect their five starters and three key reserves. Cory Joseph is a decision-point, but considering De’Aaron Fox’s injury issues, Joseph is too valuable to let walk away.

Sacramento won’t mind if Jabari Parker is selected, but they aren’t going to pay anyone to do it. Justin James has been an interesting prospect, but the Kings won’t stress if he gets selected.

Report: Joakim Noah to sign 10-day contract with Clippers

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At the trade deadline and on the buyout market, the Clippers were looking for some more depth at center. They have Montrezl Harrell, who scores 18.7 points per game and is in the running to win Sixth Man of the Year but is considered a bit undersized at 6’7″. They start seven-footer Ivica Zubac and he has been a good defender for them, but is he the starting center on a championship team?

After looking around, the Clippers have turned to Joakim Noah, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This will start as a 10-day contract and could be extended from there, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

This is a low-risk signing by the Clippers, someone to provide depth and eat some minutes down the stretch to keep their key guys fresh. Noah had a solid second half of last season with Memphis, coming off the bench and providing good defense plus 7.1 points per game. He was moving reasonably well and fit in as a role player at 16.5 minutes a night.

If the Clippers get that kind of production out of the former Defensive Player of the Year, they will be ecstatic. If not, they will just move on.

Noah has not played in the NBA this season (meaning he would be playoff eligible for the Clippers if they want). The Lakers worked Noah out before the season but decided to go with Dwight Howard. Dallas had talks with Noah but those never came to fruition.

 

James Harden on teams targeting his defense: ‘Come try it, and the s*** won’t work’

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“It’s hard to post linebackers.”

When the Rockets go small, the natural instinct is to say “beat them by going big.” Just have a center set a pick out high to force a switch, send him to the low block, get him the rock and let him back down the smaller player, and it’s an easy two.

As Brad Stevens notes in the quote above, it’s not that simple.

The Rockets may be undersized, but the roster is stocked with long and strong players. Good luck backing down P.J. Tucker. Russell Westbrook is unquestionably strong. Robert Covington has a 7’2″ wingspan.

And then there’s James Harden, the guy often targeted (including during the All-Star Game). He has always been difficult to back down in the post of his lower body strength. Speaking to Tim MacMahon of ESPN, Harden almost dared teams to target him.

“Come try it,” Harden said, “and the s— won’t work.”

So far, it hasn’t. Teams have not been able to consistently exploit the Rockets’ size — Houston’s defensive net rating in its last 10 games (109.7) is almost identical to its season average (109.6). Scouts told MacMahon that just going inside to score is not enough against these Rockets.

“Teams think they have a mismatch by going inside,” a scout from an Eastern Conference team said, “and they don’t.”

“You can’t try to play matchup basketball,” a Western Conference head coach said. “That’s what they want. You have to beat them with [ball] movement.”

It’s the second part of that — which the Knicks had some success with during their win against Houston — that will be put to the test in the playoffs. It’s not like the Lakers are going to just post up Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard (and LeBron James), but they will find ways to get those guys the ball on the move. Then, with that little bit of space, they can get a clean shot off. Same with the Clippers and Marcus Morris and Montrezl Harrell. Same with Denver. And the list goes on.

Right now, however, everything is clicking for the Rockets, their defense has been solid.

If teams want to try and change that by targeting Harden, he is good with that.

Anthony Davis scores 37, leads Lakers past stumbling Sixers 120-107

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LOS ANGELES — Anthony Davis scored 18 of his 37 points during a phenomenal second-quarter surge, and the Los Angeles Lakers held off the injury-depleted Philadelphia 76ers 120-107 on Tuesday night.

LeBron James had 22 points, 14 assists and seven rebounds for the Lakers, who moved to 47-13 with their ninth win in 10 games. Davis hit four 3-pointers while going 13 of 19 from the field and grabbing 13 rebounds.

The Lakers needed every bit of their All-Stars’ brilliance to hold off a solid effort by the undermanned Sixers, who played without injured starters Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Josh Richardson.

Glenn Robinson III matched his career high with 25 points and Tobias Harris had 18 for the Sixers, who have lost nine consecutive road games since Jan. 20.

Philadelphia lost twice at Staples Center to start its four-game California road trip despite this persistent effort against the powerhouse Lakers.

Philly’s role players and backups got off to an impressive start, taking an early 13-point lead. That’s when Davis took control as part of a 42-10 run by the Lakers in 10 minutes spanning halftime.

With Davis hitting three 3-pointers, making all seven of his second-quarter shots, and even throwing a crossover dribble at Al Horford along the way, the Lakers made 17 of their 19 shots during the impressive streak.

Dwight Howard had 11 points without missing a shot at the line or in the field for the Lakers.

The teams split their season series. The 76ers beat the Lakers 108-91 on Jan. 25 while James passed Kobe Bryant for third place on the NBA’s career scoring list. Bryant died in a helicopter crash the next morning, several hours after congratulating James on the accomplishment.

Three Things to Know: Bulls’ Coby White is red hot — and the latest Jim Boylen controversy

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday during the NBA regular season we are here to help you break it all down. Here are three things you need to know from yesterday in the NBA.

1) Bulls’ Coby White is red hot — and latest Jim Boylen controversy. Will Jim Boylen be the coach of the Bulls next season? Current management — the Gar/Pax team — has his back and loves his old-school ways, but that duo has already lost some power (Gar Forman has seen his role reduced) and John Paxson is about to. A new GM (or whatever title) is coming in this summer — talks have started, and there was a lot of buzz about that around All-Star weekend — and you can bet that person will want a say in who coaches his team.

Bulls players are reportedly not Boylen fans. Bulls fans are with the players and there is a long list of grievances from his heavy-handed practices to the odd (read: poor) use of late-game timeouts.

Now add Coby White to that mix.

White, the rookie backup point guard for the Bulls, is on fire. He had consecutive 33-point games coming into Tuesday night, but White’s mentor and former AAU coach, Chris Paul, promised an end to this trend.

That’s not what happened. White dropped 35 on the Thunder, shooting 13-of-21 overall and 6-of-9 from three (in another Chicago loss).

The last Bulls rookie with three 30+ point games in a row? Some guy named Michael Jordan.

As noted by K.C. Johnson at NBC Sports Chicago, White and Zach LaVine have each scored 30-plus points in consecutive games, and the last Bulls’ teammates to do that were Bob Love and Chet Walker in 1969. Beyond the stats, White brings a level of dynamic play and energy to the Bulls nobody else on that roster seems able to.

For the last three games, White and LaVine have formed an electric offensive backcourt. Starting point guard Kris Dunn is out for the season. A lot of people are calling for White to get the call and start games.

So coach Boylen, is it time to make White the starter?

No. Boylen is going to keep White coming off the bench (and play his veterans, in general), rather than move White into the starting lineup.

“I keep getting this question and I’m just going to answer it one more time,” Boylen said. “Coby’s in a good place. We’re going to keep him in a good place. Let’s let Coby keep playing and lets let him keep developing.”

Don’t change what’s working is a good philosophy.

If it’s actually working. Which, in the big picture, is the real question in Chicago.

John Paxson will remain the Bulls president and he fully buys into Boylen’s style. Normally that would mean Boylen is safe, but the ground is shifting in Chicago with front office changes coming. How much they change remains to be seen, but any GM coming needs to have new ideas and bring change — otherwise what’s the point of bringing him in — and that will include on the coaching front. The ground is shifting in Chicago, and that makes it difficult for Boylen to remain standing.

2) Zion Williamson comes to Los Angeles but LeBron James steals the show, drops season-high 40. Zion Williamson made his debut against LeBron and the Lakers — and he did some very Zion things. Like dunk.

And show off the kind of hops where he can grab a rebound away from Dwight Howard.

Despite that, Tuesday night was the LeBron James show — the MVP candidate got whatever he wanted. Wherever he wanted. The results was a season-high 40 points (and a 118-109 Laker win).

Los Angeles has won six in a row and is in control atop the West.

New Orleans is now four-games behind Memphis in the loss column in the chase for the eighth seed — and the right to face the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.

3) Bucks remind everyone they own the East. The Milwaukee Bucks have been the clear best team in the East — rather, the best team in all of basketball — this season. It’s not up for debate. The calendar hasn’t even flipped to March yet and the Bucks have 50 wins.

If you want more evidence, take a look at the Bucks schedule. Last Saturday, Milwaukee dismantled Philadelphia (largely without Ben Simmons, but still).

Then on Tuesday night, on the second night of a back-to-back (and the team’s third game in four days), Milwaukee went into Toronto and took care of a red-hot Raptors team. It was a balanced attack. Giannis Antetokounmpo had 19 points and 19 rebounds (plus eight assists), Khris Middleton had 22 points, Eric Bledsoe had 17, and Brook Lopez had 15 as the NBA-leading Bucks won their fifth straight and 18th of 20.

Antetokounmpo said yes, he was motivated by the fact Toronto is where the Bucks lost in the playoffs last season — you have to love that attitude.

We keep talking ourselves into teams that will challenge the Bucks in the East — right now the Celtics are trendy on that list — but then you watch the Bucks play and realize it is them and then a big gap to everyone else.