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Two rights trump one wrong for Pacers

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NBCSports.com’s 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.

If you recall my epically bad assessment of the Pacers’ 2017 offseason and stopped reading this year’s follow-up, I wouldn’t blame you. I gave Indiana an ‘F’ for trading Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis then constructing a roster that appeared doomed to miss the playoffs without landing a high draft pick. Of course, the Pacers had one of the NBA’s very best summers. Oladipo became a star and led Indiana to 48 wins. The Pacers even took the Cavaliers to seven games in their first-round series – the furthest an Eastern Conference team had pushed LeBron James in several years. I learned a lesson in overreacting.

But I once again see Indiana’s offseason as a tale of extremes.

The Pacers had two of the NBA’s best signings and one of its worst.

Evans is coming off a career year with the Grizzlies. Developing into a good 3-point shooter increases his value exponentially due to the off-ball threat. His playmaking will be particularly important in Indiana, as he could punish opponents for trapping Oladipo, a common Cleveland tactic in their playoff series.

O’Quinn is a savvy defender who strikes the right balance between protecting the rim and positioning himself for rebounds. He shoots well from mid-range and has become more comfortable as a passer.

And then there’s McDermott. He’s a very good spot-up shooter, but he’s pretty one-dimensional and a complete defensive liability. The 26-year-old should help this team. But at that cost? I wouldn’t bet on it.

Really, the question looming over the Pacers’ offseason was opportunity cost.

They also guaranteed hefty salaries for Bojan Bogdanovic ($10.5 million) and Darren Collison ($10 million) next season. Could that money have gone to better use? Or would waiving Bogdanovic and Collison and trying to re-sign them for less have just presented too much risk of them leaving?

Could Indiana have done better than Aaron Holiday with the No. 23 pick? He’s relatively established for a rookie after three years at UCLA, but higher-upside options were available.

The Pacers played it safe and emerged with an upgraded version of last year’s breakout squad. The only rotation players lost were Lance Stephenson and Trevor Booker. Evans and O’Quinn should be major upgrades. That makes McDermott just – very expensive – gravy.

Indiana is on track to enter next offseason with a massive amount of flexibility. Oladipo and McDermott are the only players guaranteed more than rookie-scale salaries, though Myles Turner could receive a contract extension this fall.

If the Pacers build on last season as they appear set to, they could be even more appealing to free agents next summer.

Offseason grade: B+

Five free agents still available who can help teams

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The NBA summer is basically over. We are now closer to the start of the new season than we are the end of the NBA Finals and most teams have their rosters set, they are just adding training camp invites. Or, guys who could maybe get the 14th or 15th roster spot.

Still, some name free agents can help teams.

Here are the big five on the market still.

1. Rodney Hood (restricted). At this point, he’s going to remain a Cavalier next season. No team is making an offer the Cavaliers wouldn’t just match (only Sacramento has the cap space to do it, and they are focused on others at the wing), meaning the only question left is if he plays for the $3.4 million qualifying offer or if the two sides work out a different deal.

How his stock has fallen. One year ago he was preparing for a season where he expected to be the go-to scorer of the Utah Jazz. By the end of the season he barely got off the bench in Cleveland (and in one case would not get off the bench).

That said, he can help a Cavaliers team that doesn’t want to just tear it down despite LeBron James leaving (see the Kevin Love contract). Hood is a 6’8” wing who can get buckets, and the Cavaliers could use that. Play well, rehab his image, and he will not be in this situation a year from now.

2. Jamal Crawford. He’s 38 years old (which scares some teams), and his efficiency has slipped, but the man can still get buckets off the bench (10.3 points per game last season) and more than a few teams could use that. Plus he’s seen as good in the locker room. He turned down a $4.5 million player option with the Timberwolves because he wanted a bigger role (he was getting 20 minutes a game last season) but at this point that is apparently off the table. Still, some team is going to pick him up.

3. Dwyane Wade. He’s made it clear, if he comes back it will be with the Miami Heat for one year. While a rumor got going on Twitter Tuesday that he was close to signing a contract with the Heat, I was told by sources that is not the case. Then Wade Tweeted this:

Nobody knows for sure, but I would lean retirement over return at this point. That said, the decision will come when Wade is ready, not before. He’s earned that right.

4. Nick Young. No team could use some Swaggy P? He’s a character, often doesn’t play within the flow in the offense, he doesn’t play great defense, but he just played 17 minutes a game for the NBA champions, hr hit some threes and shot 41 percent from deep, and made some plays. Another guy who is not young (11 years in the league) but some team will likely give a chance (if not at the start of the season, as a mid-season replacement).

5. David West. His role shrank with the Warriors last season — he averaged 6.8 points last season on 13.7 minutes a game — but he was still efficient when he was on the court (a 20.9 PER). Plus, he is excellent in the locker room. A lot of younger teams could use his presence in the locker room, but he may be a mid-season replacement for a team looking for front-line depth.

Honorable Mention: Joe Johnson. He’s 37-years-old and has 17 seasons of miles on his legs, but he still knows how to play the game. He struggled to help Houston or Utah last season, but don’t be shocked if he is a mid-season pickup by a team.

• Added note: Trevor Booker would have been on this list, but he decided to take the cash in China for a season.

Joel Embiid, Richaun Holmes, others react to Bryan Colangelo Twitter story

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Back in September, Kevin Durant had some explaining to do when it was figured out he had a burner account he used to defend himself and criticize other players. Now, that’s now not even the wildest, weirdest Twitter story of the NBA season. This league has gone insane.

Sixers GM Bryan Colangelo may — and we emphasize “may” because, despite a mountain of circumstantial evidence, this is not proven — have had five Twitter burner accounts he used to defend himself, criticize players on his team, take shots at former GM Sam Hinkie, goad Sixers media and push them toward stories, and generally vent. Which would be an incredibly stupid thing for a person in a position of power to do, but then you look around the world at other people in positions of power and say, “maybe he would, stupid is winning the war.”

The Sixers Richaun Holmes was laughing.

Joel Embiid, the Sixers’ star and one of the targets of some of the accounts, had some fun joking around on Twitter about this, but then added this.

It would be. Which is why other executives around the league seem to have doubts.

That said, there is a lot of circumstantial evidence here, both in terms of who was followed by the accounts, the timing of some things, and (as Woj reported) that much of what was said on these accounts mirrors things Colangelo allegedly said to other executives and people around the Sixers.

Nobody is sure what to believe. Check out Trevor Booker‘s timeline.

Other people from the NBA just had fun with it.

Will we see Derrick Rose in the NBA again?

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Corey Brewer was waived by the Lakers and teams lined up for his services, with Oklahoma City (and Brewer’s college coach Billy Donovan) at the front of the line. Joe Johnson had suitors the second he was waived and Houston grabbed him fast. Marco Belinelli and Ersan İlyasova get bought out and the Sixers are lined up to pay them. Philly had to waive Trevor Booker to sign İlyasova, but Indiana instantly grabbed him off the market. Brandan Wright instantly found a new home when he was bought out and waived.

Yet Derrick Rose sits without a contract.

The former MVP was hoping a playoff team, a contending team ideally, would snap him up and there would be a long-term marriage. So far, nothing. (He thought he had a marriage in Cleveland, but that didn’t work out.

Have we seen the last of Rose in the NBA?

The well-connected Ken Berger of Bleacher Report asked around the league about Rose’s prospects.

“The injuries and lack of enthusiasm to play hurts him,” a Western Conference executive told B/R…

To this point, Rose has received a couple of 10-day contract offers, but nothing more attractive or substantial, league sources told B/R. He’s looking for an opportunity that could be a longer-term fit—and one with a team that’s ready to win now, or soon, as opposed to rebuilding…

“When Derrick Rose is healthy,” a league source told B/R, “there are no problems.”

Ay, there’s the rub. Not only is Rose not the player he was before the ACL and other knee issues back starting in 2012 — and he has not added a lot of craft to his game to make up for the reduced athleticism — he has battled injuries every season since and missed time. This season it was his ankle. Plus the past two seasons he has taken time away from the team (a couple of months from the Cavaliers). It has front offices questioning his commitment to the game.

Look at it this way: his old coach Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota has not reached out with any formal communication. Oklahoma City lost a guard in Andre Roberson and waited on Booker rather than reaching out to Rose.

I don’t think a playoff team is reaching out to Rose for the rest of this season (barring one team having a rash of injuries).

This July (or maybe August, maybe September) Rose will take a minimum contract with a team for the coming season as a backup guard. Whether that contract is with a playoff-bound team, and whether it is fully guaranteed is up in the air. H0wever, some GM will talk themselves into the potential of Rose in kind of a sixth-man role — come in off the bench for 15-20 minutes a night and just get buckets in the pick-and-roll. That may not be where Rose sees himself, but it’s hard to envision a team offering much more than that at this point.

 

 

Joel Embiid has 28 points, 14 rebounds leads Sixers to Seventh straight win

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Joel Embiid had 28 points and 14 rebounds, and the Philadelphia 76ers extended their season-high win streak to seven with a 116-105 victory over the Orlando Magic on Saturday.

Six 76ers scored in double figures. Ben Simmons had 17 points and seven assists, and 3-point specialist J.J. Redick added 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting – and just one 3-pointer. Marco Belinelli had 15 points, Robert Covington had 12 and Dario Saric scored 11.

Aaron Gordon led Orlando with 20 points, including four 3s, to go with seven rebounds and seven assists. Evan Fournier scored 16 points, and former Sixer Nik Vucevic had 15 points and nine rebounds for the Magic, who have lost five straight.

Philadelphia led 58-40 at halftime and 71-49 in the third when Orlando used an 11-2 burst, capped by Aaron Gordon’s 3-pointer, to close within 13.

But the Sixers put on a show to finish the quarter.

Embiid overpowered a few Magic defenders for a slam, and then gestured to the crowd after being fouled while soaring to the hoop on a dunk attempt. After Embiid and Trevor Booker swatted consecutive shots in the final seconds, T.J. McConnell used a crossover move to finish a drive at the buzzer and give the Sixers an 87-71 lead entering the fourth.

Orlando used a late 15-2 run to get within nine and nearly cut it to six with 1:21 left, but a 3-point attempt by Mario Hezonja spilled out.

Midway through the first quarter, Philadelphia had more turnovers (three) than field goals (two) and trailed 15-6. The Sixers then erupted for a 21-3 run and ended the quarter up 27-18.

E-A-G-L-E-S

Orlando head coach Frank Vogel wore an Eagles Super Bowl champions T-shirt during his pregame media availability. A native of Wildwood, New Jersey, Vogel makes sure to get a taste of home when he returns to the Philadelphia area.

“Cheesesteaks, Tastykakes, Yuengling beer if we beat the Sixers,” Vogel said. “Wawa coffee, but I get Wawa in Orlando now. I did get a cheesesteak today.”

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz rang the ceremonial Liberty Bell before the game.

“I think it’s awesome,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. “He can come over and ring as many bells as he chooses.”