Watch the down screen Derrick Favors sets on Trevor Ariza to free Redick up — that was better than the blocking than Deshaun Watson got most of Saturday. Kings fans wanted a foul call on Favors, but you’re not getting that call at that point in the game. Sorry.
Richaun Holmes tried to help, but Redick is a veteran who knows how to use his body to create a little space and hit the difficult shot. That’s why the Pelicans got the win.
Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.
1) Phoenix had a plan and it’s working — it’s time to take them seriously. It’s been hard to figure out precisely what the plan was in Phoenix the past couple of years. Sure, they had Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton, but what were they putting around those two? Was there a grand design?
Last season the Suns signed Trevor Ariza only to trade him for Kelly Oubre Jr., then also traded Ryan Anderson to Miami for Tyler Johnson. This past summer they flipped the No. 6 pick in the draft — turned out to be Jarrett Culver — to the Timberwolves for the No. 11 pick and Dario Saric, then they used that pick on Cameron Johnson (a guy older than Booker and considered a reach). Phoenix sent their 2020 first-round pick to Boston for Aron Baynes to be a backup center. There were two objectively smart moves, picking up point guard Ricky Rubio as a free agent, and signing Monty Williams to be the coach. Then this season started with a punch to the gut — Ayton got suspended 25 games (pending an appeal) for taking a banned substance, a diuretic.
Turns out, the Suns’ plan was to put a team of competent NBA players around Booker, then simplify the offense and defense but execute it all cleanly.
Phoenix is 5-2 on the young season with the fourth-best net rating in the NBA (third best if you filter out garbage time as Ben Falk does over at Cleaning the Glass). The Suns are legitimate and — while it’s early, we’re not even 1/10th of the way into the season — Phoenix looks like a playoff team.
Devin Booker looks every bit the All-Star guard, getting revenge on those that thought he was simply an empty calorie guy who could get numbers but not help a team win. He certainly helped the Suns win on Monday with maybe his best game — 40 points on 15-of-19 shooting, while picking apart a good defensive team in the Sixers (granted, one without Joel Embiid due to suspension).
Whether the Suns can sustain this level of play is up for debate — right now they are the only team ranked in the top 10 in offensive and defensive net rating. But even if they come back to earth some, GM James Jones deserves some credit for having a plan and pulling it off — a plan that has the Suns looking like a quality team.
Phoenix hasn’t been to the postseason since 2010 when Amar’e Stoudemire and Steve Nash were running the remnants of seven seconds or less for Alvin Gentry. That looks like it will change this season, Phoenix is back. Things are looking bright in the Valley of the Sun.
2) Brandon Ingram dropped 40, but Kyrie Irving had 39 and Nets out-duel Pelicans for the win. This is what the Pelicans have done all season long — play hard, but come up just short. The Pelicans are 1-6 on the young season, but with the net rating of a 3-4 team. They just keep losing close games.
Monday night that happened against Brooklyn. Brandon Ingram continued his hot start for New Orleans (not coincidentally, in a contract year) and scored a career-high 40 on 17-of-24 shooting, but it wasn’t enough against Brooklyn, where Kyrie Irving dropped 39 on the gray floor.
It wasn’t a surprise that the Pelicans didn’t really get serious in contract extension talks with Ingram, he had missed the end of last season with a blood clot issue and that scares teams because it can be career-threatening (Ingram’s was different from, for example, Chris Bosh’s situation, Ingram’s clot was in his arm, but it’s still a concern). Plus, Ingram had been up and down in Los Angeles, and there remain questions about how well he’ll fit next to Zion Williamson.
Ingram, however, has put in the work — his footwork and handles are lightyears ahead of his lanky, awkward rookie season — and it shows. His game is more fluid now. He is averaging 25.9 points a game this season, shooting 48.6 percent on five threes a game, and is grabbing 7.1 boards a night. He is playing like an All-Star. He’s playing like a guy who will get paid next summer, one way or another.
3) Grizzlies and Ja Morant vs. the Knicks RJ Barrett: how much should teams play rookies? There has become an interesting dichotomy this season, a real debate about how to handle a star rookie player:
Should teams be already thinking load management and watching the minutes of a potentially elite young player on a bad team? Or do you throw the guy out there and let him learn by doing as much as he can racking up minutes?
In Memphis, the plan is to bring Ja Morant along slowly. The No. 2 pick out of Murray State — where he played a lot of minutes because they didn’t have a choice if they wanted to win — is averaging 28 minutes a night, and has played more than 30 just once in six games. Morant is starting, being allowed to make mistakes and learn, and in those limited minutes is still averaging 19.5 points and 5.5 assists per game, shooting 50 percent from three (on two attempts per game). He has a PER of 20.3, which is insanely good for a rookie. Morant is everything that was advertised, a freakish young athlete with a great feel for the game. A franchise cornerstone kind of player.
“We want to, for lack of a better phrase, put some money in the bank moving forward with him,” Jenkins said. “I’ve always been a big believer that when you start playing in the mid-30s, you kinda wear down. Our rookies, including him, have never played 82 games in a season.”
That’s a smart, practical, long-term thinking approach.
Then there’s David Fizdale with the Knicks.
RJ Barrett played 41 min in Knicks 113-92 loss after entering weekend leading NBA in minutes.
"He's got the day off tomorrow," David Fizdale said. "We gotta get off this load management crap. Latrell Sprewell averaged 42 minutes for a season. This kid's 19 years old. Drop it."
RJ Barrett is averaging 37.1 minutes a game and is putting up counting stats — 18.3 points per game, 6.1 rebounds, he’s shooting 35.7 percent from three, and he’s also learning in a trial-by-fire kind of way. He’s just in the fire a lot more, which is how things have been done in the past in the NBA — and former players are good with that.
I averaged 40 min as a rookie. He’s 3 yrs younger than I was. Ended up Playing 13 yrs. He’ll be fine. https://t.co/m82XpDSmkK
Hopefully so. But this approach also comes with more risk. The Knicks seem to have a wing in Barrett who can be a central part of whatever is ultimately built in New York — whatever other players come in via the draft and free agency — and they should be thinking about Barrett three years from now. Barrett can grow — he struggled at points in Summer League, but he’s showing he learned from those experiences. That’s a very good sign.
So long as he doesn’t burn out. Or physically wear down (which makes a potential injury more likely).
Different players can handle different workloads, and they learn differently — there is no one-size-fits-all plan. However, David Fizdale seems to be taking an old-school approach in New York, whereas the Grizzlies seem to be more modern in their thinking about the long term.
We’ll see which philosophy pays off in the long run.
Kings big man Marvin Bagley III out 4-6 weeks with fractured thumb
An ugly opening night loss for Sacramento — 124-95 to Phoenix, a game where the Kings turned the ball over 27 times — just got even worse.
Big man Marvin Bagley III, who started his night at the four but also played more than 14 minutes at center, will be out 4-6 weeks with a fractured thumb, the team announced Thursday. Kings’ coach Luke Walton said Thursday it happened in the fourth quarter, when a Suns player tried to strip the ball and caught Bagley’s thumb.
Here is the entire official announcement:
An MRI conducted this morning on Kings forward Marvin Bagley III revealed a non-displaced fracture (right thumb) sustained during Wednesday’s game vs. Phoenix. Bagley is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. His status will be updated as appropriate.
Hearing that Marvin Bagley’s injury will not require surgery.
That’s a blow to the Kings, who are counting on Bagley taking steps forward in his second season to help push then up the standings and into the playoffs (for the first time in 13 years). It’s going to mean some shuffling of the Kings’ rotation.
With Bagley out, Walton said his initial thinking is to turn to Nemanja Bjelica. That could change between now and Friday evening when the Blazers roll into town.
NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.
I’m reluctant to declare whether a team should or shouldn’t trade a player. It depends on so many factors outsiders don’t know. Mainly, what are other teams offering (or demanding in salary dumps)? The return (or cost in salary dumps) is essential to any trade evaluation.
But the Wizards should have traded Bradley Beal.
Beal is a young star locked up two more seasons and plays a position, shooting guard, in demand around the league. Look at the astronomical returns Anthony Davis and Paul George generated for the Pelicans and Thunder. It’s hard to believe Beal wouldn’t have fetched something similar.
Of course, Washington would like to build around Beal. Right now, he’s saying all the right things about staying.
But the Wizards will likely stink next season. After living through that experience, will Beal actually want to stay long-term? I would’ve rather traded him this summer with an additional season on his contract than wait to find out.
That was never in the cards, especially because Washington went through key portions of the offseason without a permanent front-office leader. That was a failure of Wizards owner Ted Leonsis. He fired Ernie Grunfeld in April and didn’t remove Tommy Sheppard’s interim title until mid-July, once free agency had quieted. This is a 365-day-a-year job. Washington missed opportunities.
Sheppard’s big move was drafting Rui Hachimura No. 9. I rated Hachimura No. 25 on my board. That could just be a difference of opinion. But I fear the Sheppard – unsure of his long-term status – gravitated toward the player with major marketing upside. If Hachimura struggles, it won’t matter that he’s Japanese.
The Wizards had to get creative to form even this barely tolerable roster.
They used most of their mid-level exception on Ish Smith (two years, $12 million). He should be fine as a stop-gap starting point guard. However, I suspect many of contributions will come just through his professionalism amid a losing season.
Washington jumped into the Anthony Davis trade when the Lakers wanted to clear cap space for a run at Kawhi Leonard. The Wizards got a second-rounder for taking Moritz Wagner, Isaac Bonga and Jemerrio Jones. Washington got another young prospect, No. 42 pick Admiral Schofield, for effectively taking $1 million of dead salary from the 76ers.
These new veterans likely aren’t good enough to get the Wizards anywhere. The new young players carry only limited promise.
Washington’s short- and long-term hopes rest mostly on Beal – as long as he accepts that burden.
Offseason grade: D+
Damian Lillard, Shaq have a hip-hop beef. Both drop diss tracks. Seriously.
“I think I rap better than Shaq… People weren’t looking at it like he’s a real rapper. It was like, ‘That’s Shaq rapping.’ So, of course, it was a big deal.”
Shaq was having none of that and on Monday threw down a four-minute diss track aimed at Lillard, being sure to mention his MVP, said Lillard was no Trevor Ariza, and more. (Warning, this is nowhere near safe for work listening.)
Shaq dropped a 4-minute diss track on Damian Lillard!
Legendary I'm a hip hop scholar I'm tryin' to get a billion who gives a f**k about a D.O.L.L.A