Robert Covington

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Giannis Antetokounmpo, Marcus Smart headline All-Defensive teams

7 Comments

NBA teams scored more points per possession this season than ever.

But a few players stood out for slowing the offensive onslaught.

The All-Defensive teams (first-team votes, second-team votes, voting points in parentheses):

First team

Guard: Marcus Smart, BOS (63-19-145)

Guard: Eric Bledsoe, MIL (36-28-100)

Forward: Paul George, OKC (96-3-195)

Forward: Giannis Antetokounmpo, MIL (94-5-193)

Center: Rudy Gobert, UTA (97-2-196)

Second team

Guard: Jrue Holiday, MIN (31-28-90)

Guard: Klay Thompson, GSW (23-36-82)

Forward: Draymond Green, GSW (2-57-61)

Forward: Kawhi Leonard, TOR (5-29-39)

Center: Joel Embiid, PHI (4-72-80)

Also receiving votes: Danny Green, TOR (19-28-66); Patrick Beverley, LAC (14-20-48); Myles Turner, IND (1-37-39); P.J. Tucker, HOU (1-36-38); Pascal Siakam, TOR (0-24-24); Derrick White, SAS (4-7-15); Russell Westbrook, OKC (2-5-9); Jimmy Butler, PHI (2-5-9); Chris Paul, HOU (1-5-7); Robert Covington, MIN (1-3-5); Paul Millsap, DEN (0-5-5); James Harden, HOU (2-0-4); Al Horford, BOS (0-4-4); Kevin Durant, GSW (0-4-4); Malcolm Brogdon, MIL (1-1-3); Josh Richardson, MIA (0-3-3); Kyle Lowry, TOR (0-3-3)
Stephen Curry, GSW (1-0-2); Thaddeus Young, IND (0-2-2); Anthony Davis, NOP (0-2-2); Ben Simmons, PHI (0-2-2); Donovan Mitchell, UTA (0-2-2); Derrick Favors, UTA (0-2-2); Joe Ingles, UTA (0-2-2); Jaylen Brown, BOS (0-1-1); Kyrie Irving, BOS (0-1-1); Ed Davis, BRK (0-1-1); Gary Harris, DEN (0-1-1); Nikola Jokic, DEN (0-1-1); Andre Drummond, DET (0-1-1); Andre Iguodala, GSW (0-1-1); Jordan Bell, GSW (0-1-1); Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, LAC (0-1-1); Mike Conley, MEM (0-1-1); Kyle Anderson, MEM (0-1-1); Bam Adebayo, MIA (0-1-1); Khris Middleton, MIL (0-1-1); Brook Lopez, MIL (0-1-1); Terrance Ferguson, OKC (0-1-1); Damian Lillard, POR (0-1-1); De’Aaron Fox, SAC (0-1-1); Ricky Rubio, UTA (0-1-1); Bradley Beal, WAS (0-1-1)

Observations:

  • This voting could foreshadow a tight Defensive Player of the Year race. The three finalists for that award – Rudy Gobert, Paul George and Giannis Antetokounmpo – each received a high majority of votes, but not unanimity, at their positions. Or Gobert could just cruise to another victory.
  • I have no major complaints about the selections. I would have put Danny Green (who finished fifth among guards) on the first team, bumped down Eric Bledsoe and excluded Klay Thompson. I also would have give second-team forward to P.J. Tucker (who finished fifth among forwards) over Kawhi Leonard. Here are our picks for reference.
  • P.J. Tucker came only one voting point from the second team. If he tied Kawhi Leonard, both players would have made it on an expanded six-player second team.
  • Leonard hasn’t defended with the same verve this season. He remains awesome in stretches, particular in the playoffs. But his effort in the regular season didn’t match his previous level. Defensive reputations die hard.
  • It’s a shame Thaddeus Young received only two second-team votes. My general rule is you can complain about a lack of votes for only players you picked, and I didn’t pick Young. But he came very close to P.J. Tucker for my final forward spot, Young had a stronger case than several forwards ahead of him.
  • James Harden got two first-team votes. Did someone think they were voting for All-NBA? Stephen Curry also got a first-team vote. Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard got second-team votes. Nikola Jokic got a second-team vote. Kevin Durant got a few second-team votes. There’s plenty of All-NBA/All-Defensive overlap with other frontcourt players. There could easily be an incorrectly submitted ballot.
  • But that still leaves a second Harden first-team vote with no other plausible explanation. Someone must really love steals, guaring in the post and absolutely no other aspects of defense.
  • Jordan Bell got a second-team vote at forward. He’s a decent defender, but someone who played fewer minutes than Dirk Nowitzki, Bruno Caboclo and Omari Spellman this season. Bell also primarily played center. Weird.

Loss sends Philadelphia into summer of uncertainty sooner than they expected

8 Comments

Understandably, nobody on the Sixers wanted to talk about the future Sunday night.

“I’m not worried about that right now, after losing. I’m not going to talk about anything but basketball,” Jimmy Butler said when asked about his impressions of the Sixers.

Soon enough all the talk around the Sixers will be about the future.

GM Elton Brand ended “the process” and turned Philadelphia into a “win now” team with a target of the Conference Finals – at the very least — as the goal by trading a lot of assets this season to land Butler and Tobias Harris. Philadelphia entered the playoffs with the second-best starting five in the NBA: Ben Simmons, J.J. Redick, Butler, Harris, and Joel Embiid.

Only two of them are under contract for next season.

And this team only reached the second round of the playoffs (although in part because of a Kawhi Leonard shot that was a punch to the gut).

Coach Brett Brown could be the scapegoat, with reports he would be let go if the team faced a second-round exit.

“The club can respond to that,” was how Brown answered a question about his job security after the loss.

The bigger issue this summer in Philly is Butler, Harris, and Redick are unrestricted free agents. Philly owner Joshua Harris said he will pay whatever it takes to keep this starting lineup together — and the Sixers can offer more money than other teams — but each of those players will have multiple teams calling and offering different roles on the court and potential lifestyles off it. If any one of them were not happy or comfortable, they have options.

For the Sixers, they have yet to really see what this roster — thrown together during the season — can do.

“We haven’t been together for a while with this group but there’s a lot of potential,” Simmons said of the Sixers starting five. He said team grew a lot in the last couple of months.

What did the Sixers learn from the loss? “It’s simple, we got to get better,” Simmons said.

Beyond the three free agents, Brand and Philadelphia need to deal with a couple of big questions.

For one, can Simmons and Embiid win at the highest levels together? No doubt both are talented players — both are All-Stars, and someday Simmons will join Embiid on All-NBA teams — but do their games pair well? Simmons does not have a jump shot to speak of and needs the ball in his hands to drive and create, but Embiid should operate more down low, where he is a beast but clogs the lanes for those drives. Simmons is best in transition but Embiid is never going to be a gazelle running the floor. In the playoffs, as Butler became more and more the primary ball handler and shot creator in the half court, Simmons was relegated to the dunker’s spot. He had some quiet games.

That said, the Sixers were +8.1 per 100 possessions this season when Simmons and Embiid shared the court (in 1,431 minutes) and that jumped to +19.8 in the playoffs.

Philadelphia’s other big question this summer is where do they find more depth. Against the Raptors, Embiid was +90 when on the court, but when he sat the Sixers were -109. Brand traded away a lot of “assets” — Dario Saric, Landry Shamet, Robert Covington, and a couple of first-round picks — to get Butler and Harris, but it sapped Philly of its depth. That was an issue in the playoffs (see Embiid’s +/- number above). The Sixers will have little room to maneuver but need to find quality depth at a fair price.

All that combined is a lot of uncertainty. A lot of decisions need to be made and questions answered.

Nobody was doing that Sunday night, but they will soon.

Playoff Edition Three Things to Know: Portland wins ‘weird game’ to tie series with Denver

Leave a comment

The NBA playoffs are in full swing and there can be a lot to unpack in a series of intense games, to help out we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) In weird game Denver can’t buy a bucket, Portland escapes with a win to tie series 1-1. Nikola Jokic summed it up well:

“It was a weird game for us. They didn’t even play that good, to be honest. They can play better than that. Weird game, weird day.”

Weird in that Denver just could not buy a bucket. Not just weird in the Nuggets shooting 6-of-29 (20.7 percent) from three and going 0-of-10 in the second quarter. Rather, weird as in Denver grabbing 23 offensive rebounds (38.6 percent of their missed shots) but shooting just 6-of-17 on chip-shot putback attempts. Weird in that Nuggets guards Jamal Murray and Gary Harris were 2-of-13 from three and combined to shoot 33.3 percent overall on the night. Weird in that the Nuggets shot 14-of-45 (31.1 percent) on uncontested shots (via NBA.com). Weird in that Portland had an offensive rating of just 102.1 for the game, but that was enough to have them comfortably ahead most of the night as Denver scored less than a point per possession.

Weird, physical, whatever you want to call it, the Trail Blazers will take it. Portland was the more aggressive team, earned the 97-90 win and evened the series at 1-1 heading back to Portland for Game 3.

The game certainly was physical. Nobody got that worse than Denver’s Torry Craig, who suffered a “nasal contusion” when diving for a loose rebound and his face hit the back of teammate Monte Morris’ leg. Craig returned to play with a mask (something he had fitted back in the preseason), and he ended up on the ground late in the game, which sparked a confrontation (see item two).

It was a weird game in that Portland’s Enes Kanter may have had a better game than Nikola Jokic. At least he did in terms of what their respective teams need out of them. Jokic had 16 points on 7-of-17 shooting, he had seven assists (he assisted on 38.9 percent of his teammate’s buckets when on the court, still an impressive percentage), but would have had a lot more if guys had just made shots. Jokic was still making passes like this.

Kanter had 15 points on 10-of-15 shooting and played solid, physical defense down low with Jokic. Kanter came into these playoffs with the Billy Donovan “can’t play Kanter” reputation because of his pick-and-roll defense and what happened to him in previous playoffs, but give the man credit, he has stepped up and performed well in the absence of Jusuf Nurkic this postseason.

CJ McCollum had 20 points for Portland, even if it took 20 shots to get there.

This game felt like a one-off for the series. There were adjustments, but both teams struggled just to make shots they usually hit that it’s tough to tell what worked and what didn’t. Denver needs to attack earlier when the threes aren’t falling, but aside that this was more about missed opportunities than anything else.

Portland does not care. It’s a win. The series is tied and the Trail Blazers are heading home.

2) Late game scuffle could lead to suspensions for Nuggets, Trail Blazers. With 43.5 seconds remaining in Game 2, Damian Lillard sank a free throw that put Portland up seven. That’s when a weird game had it’s “fight.”

Denver called a time out after the free throw, but before that was really heard players started to move back down to the end of the court. Nikola Jokic shoves Enes Kanter, who is off-balance and collides with the already-injured Torrey Craig and knocks the masked man down. Then Jamal Murray and Gary Harris confront Kanter for knocking down Craig and there is a typical NBA “fight” at mid-court with a lot of pushing and posing but no actual punches.

Portland’s Evan Turner sprinted from the bench area to get in the scuffle. Denver’s Jarred Vanderbilt (who made contact with Kanter) and Trey Lyles also left the bench area (and to a lesser extent Brandon Goodwin, Juan Hernangomez, Isaiah Thomas, and Thomas Welsh did as well), but the incident was closer to the Nugget bench and play had been stopped.

The NBA rule is clear: Leave a bench during a fight and the player gets a one-game suspension.

However, there had been a timeout called, and when that happens players often leave the bench to greet teammates coming off the court. Plus, there was no game action.

Will the league suspend players, or just fine them saying there was a time out in the action? My guess is the latter, nobody misses time, but the league is unpredictable on these matters.

There is more riding on this for Portland because the only player who came off the bench for either team that is in the playoff rotation is Turner. His loss would be felt if he misses a game, especially if Maurice Harkless remains out with the ankle sprain he suffered back in the first quarter.

3) Minnesota finds its man in Gersson Rosas to head up their basketball operations. The Timberwolves did things backwards: owner Glen Taylor wanted to keep coach Ryan Saunders and general manager Scott Layden, but wanted to hire their new boss. Whoever was going to head basketball operations in Minnesota was not going to get to hire his own team under him, he was inheriting one.

That person is Gersson Rosas, the right-hand man to Daryl Morey in Houston, according to multiple reports out of Minnesota.

This is a milestone. Rosas will be the first Latino to lead a basketball operations department in the NBA (Rosas was born in Bogata, Columbia). Rosas has earned his shot.

Rosas technically has been a GM before. He was hired by Dallas back in 2013 for that role, but walked away from it three months later. Rosas thought he would have decision-making power in Dallas, but the hammer still belonged to Mavs president Donnie Nelson (not to mention owner Mark Cuban).

This time Rosas has the hammer… and a lot of work to do.

On the bright side, the Timberwolves have an elite center and franchise cornerstone in Karl-Anthony Towns. That level of player is the hardest to get, and Towns seemed to connect with Saunders as coach (now Saunders just needs to get Towns to play consistent defense.

Building an elite team around Towns will be the challenge. Mostly because of a couple anchor contracts — Andrew Wiggins (four years, $122 million remaining), Gorgui Dieng (two years, $33.5 million remaining). Minnesota also has to pay Jeff Teague $19 million next season after he opted in, although at least he contributes a lot on the court. Those guys, however, make it very difficult to maneuver under the cap and bring in more talent.

There are other assets. Robert Covington was mostly hurt after coming over from Philly in a trade but he can be the kind of wing defender the Timberwolves need. Josh Okogie showed promise as a rookie, and they have Dario Saric, who is a solid rotation player and developing. If Teague plays well and everyone stays healthy this could be a playoff team next season. That would be a start.

But Rosas has a lot of work ahead of him to take advantage of Towns’ prime.

Report: Timberwolves hiring Rockets’ Gersson Rosas as president

AP Photo/LM Otero
Leave a comment

In 2013, the Mavericks hired Gersson Rosas from the Rockets as general manager.

Only three months later, he resigned.

He said it wasn’t the right fit, reportedly because he didn’t have enough power beneath Mavericks president Donnie Nelson and owner Mark Cuban. Rosas returned to Houston to again work under Rockets general manager Daryl Morey. Rosas has been a perennial job candidate around the league ever since.

He and another team have finally found what each deems the right match.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Considering his issues in Dallas, it’s surprising Rosas took this job. Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor seemed to prefer keeping general manager Scott Layden and coach Ryan Saunders, reportedly going as far as negotiating a new contract for Saunders before hiring a team president. That’s not exactly an encouraging development for potential presidents.

Hopefully for him, Rosas knows what he’s walking into this time. It’s hard to believe he’d repeat the mistake of taking a job that offers less-than-expected authority.

Maybe Rosas just happens to like Layden and Saunders as much as Taylor does. Maybe Taylor relented and granted Rosas authority to choose his own general manager and coach.

At the very minimum, talking Taylor out of keeping Layden and/or Saunders – especially Saunders – would require Rosas using some of his capital already. Juxtapose that with Magic president Jeff Weltman, who has yet to put a strong stamp on Orlando’s roster and has therefore delayed judgment on his job.

Beyond potentially tricky internal politics, Rosas inherits a middling roster. The Timberwolves have a young star in Karl-Anthony Towns and little cap flexibility. Wiggins (four years, $122,242,800 remaining), Gorgui Dieng (two years, $33,516,853 remaining) and arguably Jeff Teague (one year, $19 million remaining) have burdensome contracts. Barring major lottery luck, Minnesota is already too good to secure a very high draft pick.

If Towns improves his ability to affect games, especially defensively… if Robert Covington stays healthy… if Teague plays well in a contract year… if Dario Saric and Josh Okogie continue on their developmental tracks… if the Timberwolves have the right coach… they could compete for a playoff spot next year. It’s not much of a leap at all.

But assuming the goal is greater than competing for a low playoff seed, Rosas has his work cut out for him – even with a massive head start in Towns.

Sixers fans fly to Minneapolis, greet Dario Saric and Robert Covington after game (VIDEO)

5 Comments

Dario Saric and Robert Covington are now members of the Minnesota Timberwolves. The former Philadelphia 76ers players came to Minneapolis as part of the Jimmy Butler trade earlier this season.

But Sixers fans still love Saric and Covington.

After the 76ers and the Timberwolves squared off on Saturday, a group of Philadelphia fans related to the Rights to Ricky Sanchez podcast waited in the arena to greet Saric and Covington. It was a crowd of around 300 people — most of whom flew to Minneapolis for the game — and they gave the former Philadelphia players a warm reception.

Via Twitter:

The internet fan base in Philadelphia is one of the best in the NBA, and organizing something like this, where they show their appreciation for former players, is par for the course.

For his part, Saric said he would always love Philadelphia.

RTRS apparently does an away game each season, and fans travelled to Sixers-Timberwolves this time out because of the connection between the two teams.

Philadelphia beat Minnesota, 118-109.