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The General’s Top Three Teams In The Joe Johnson Sweepstakes

(photo courtesy of www.fansided.com)

(photo courtesy of http://www.fansided.com)

The trade deadline has come and gone and some players that could affect teams were moved. One notable one is now-Pistons forward Tobias Harris. But after that, is the season where veteran players get to pick the team they want to go to. Yep, buyout season is upon us now and after the trade deadline is usually when it happens. Of course, some players get traded and get bought out with no one to pick them up. But there are some that are coveted but not coveted at the pricetag they were being paid at. Joe Johnson was getting paid 21.9 million this season for the Brooklyn Nets. Plenty of teams were interested in him, but the pricetag was just too high for them. Many teams were hoping instead of trading for him, that the Nets would reach a buyout with him eventually. It may not have happened when many expected it to, but now Joe Johnson is a free agent on the open market. The Nets and Johnson agreed to a buyout of his contract on Thursday. And assuming he will clear waivers, Johnson will be able to pick where he wants to go. More than likely, a contender will take a chance and bring him in for the rest of the season and the playoffs. But the question is which team will he choose? The answer to that question is still up in the air, but here are the three teams (in no particular order) that are expected to make a run at the 34 year old veteran.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have been better under the leadership of Tyronn Lue. The teams seems to be more in tune defensively and Kevin Love is more involved offensively. Even with some of the struggles that they have had this season, they are still the best team in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. But even with that, there seems to be an issue with the shooting they have coming in off the bench. Channing Frye was acquired to add to the shooting off the Cleveland bench, but anytime you have Richard Jefferson coming in off your bench to backup LeBron James, then there is an issue. Johnson is not a small forward, but at 6’7”, he can play the small forward position. He and Iman Shumpert coming in off the bench would be a solid duo because they both have length and size defensively and offensively Joe could balance out the inconsistent shooting that comes from Shumpert and some of the backup guards. Johnson would be a shot in the arm for the backup crew in Cleveland and could also run with starting crew sometimes with LeBron James. And with LeBron’s propensity to break down defenses, Johnson could spot up and nail the three (Johnson is a career 37% three-point shooter). He essentially would help create even more lanes and space for LeBron, especially if they go to the small lineup with LeBron at the power forward position. And more importantly for Johnson, he could play on a team that could potentially get him to the NBA Finals for the first time.

Johnson could definitely help the Cavaliers’ bench, but he could also help the Thunder whether it be off the bench or in the starting lineup. The Thunder have been carried all season long by their superstars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. But what they have had all season is a hole at their shooting guard spot. They filled it earlier in the season with Andre Roberson. The young wing player is in the mold of former Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha in that he is a defensive player and can spot up offensively and can occasionally hit the open shot. But in a playoff series, he helps other teams play four on five. His offensive game is not respected and that causes things to be harder for Durant and Westbrook in crunch time. The other shooting guard the Thunder have is Dion Waiters. The young guard out of Syracuse has been inconsistent at best for his entire career and you never know what you will get out of him, whether it be off the bench or starting. Johnson would give them a career 17 point per game scorer that is feared scoring the ball and could help some of the playmaking pressures off Durant and Westbrook in the playoffs. If he decides to go with that team, that gives them a veteran presence that could conceivably give them enough to challenge for the Western Conference crown.

Johnson would be heading West, but there is another team that should take a look at him. That team: the San Antonio Spurs. Many will probably wonder why he would fit that team. They are pretty deep as it stands right now. But Joe would fit in seamlessly on that team. Manu Ginobli will be back momentarily with this team and they have the energetic Jonathan Simmons coming in off the bench as well. But Johnson adds something that they miss when they look down the bench. Johnson can play the small forward position off the bench in San Antonio and give them some much-needed shooting there. And he can also play the backup shooting guard position as well if Ginobli does not make it back like they expect him to. There will not be huge minutes for Johnson to be had there, but he would be on one of the best teams in the West and a team that some think can knock off the Golden State Warriors. Having a guy like this coming in off your bench is never back for a team that covets guys that can shoot and move the basketball. Joe can become a Black Hole at times with the ball, but I’m sure he could adapt to the play in San Antonio pretty easy.

This decision for Joe Johnson is a huge one for him. It could be the difference between winning a title and going home earlier than expected. Johnson may not have this type of opportunity again in his career, so he may want to examine his fit to each team before making his choice. He brings some good things to all three of these teams and it will be interesting to see which one he chooses, whether it be one of these three or another wildcard team.

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The CBA Is Becoming A Huge Factor In Professional Basketball

The NBA is a dream for a lot of people. They work and work their whole lives to try to hear their names being broadcast on the television as they are called to the stage to get the hat of their new team and shake the commissioner’s hand. But not everyone can make it to the NBA. There are some that don’t get that opportunity. And along with those that don’t get the opportunity, there are some that don’t last as long as they would like. In that instance, some players make the decision to quit playing the game. At that point, their second career starts quicker than they wanted it to. But for others, the decision to go overseas still is there. With that being said, it seems like the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) is starting to become a place where former NBA players and college stars tend to land. And because of that, the CBA has become better and better. And with the NBA becoming a place that not everyone can play in, the CBA is becoming a place where players go.

“People love basketball in China,” says former NBA and CBA basketball player David Harrison. “The national sport is ping pong, but every game I played in was sold out.” Harrison was drafted in the first round (29th overall) by the Indiana Pacers in the 2004 NBA Draft. He played a total of four seasons in the NBA with the Pacers, never averaging more than six points per game. At the end of his fourth year, the Pacers and the rest of the NBA decided to not give him a shot in the NBA anymore. He was out of a job and looking for work. And then came the CBA. David played a total of three years in China and had great production over there for the Beijing Ducks and the Guangdong Southern Tigers, even having a season where he averaged 22 points and 11 rebounds. He was able to extend his career and play somewhere that allowed him to get as many minutes as he could. We have seen some revive their careers to an extent over there, but when asked is it a league to revive you career, Harrison said “I’m not sure about reviving your career to return to the NBA. But it is a viable option. There are millions to be made there for sure.”

But with any league, there has to be some adjustments that have to be made. Besides the language barrier, there is one rule that is very interesting that may still be in play over there. “If you are American, you can only play three quarters of a game. So in that instance, the game became a strategic one as to who you play when.” says Harrison. Another interesting thing over there is the cities that are played in. Some cities are big and there is not much of an adjustment. But in some of the smaller cities, Harrison describes them by saying they are “as bad a third world countries”. And if you’re hoping for good officiating over there, then think again. When asked about the officiating, Harrison said “it is horrible and it makes you definitely appreciate the NBA officiating.” Like Harrison said earlier, there are millions to be made over there in China, but they are given at a smaller rate than in the NBA. The average NBA salary is roughly five million. The highest average salary per season over there is not even over $3 million. To give you an idea, former NBA player Andray Blatche just signed the richest contract in the CBA, making a guaranteed $7.5 million over three years (which the CBA used to only offer one-year deals). The CBA is growing and making some leaps in their history and from Harrison’s thoughts, the league is a legit league.

The CBA will only become a bigger product as more collegiate stars and players who are not in the NBA continue to go over there and make the league better. Guys like Willie Warren (former Oklahoma Sooners guard), Marshon Brooks (former 1st round pick of the Boston Celtics), Dominique Jones (former 1st round pick of the Dallas Mavericks) and Michael Beasley (former #2 overall pick) are just a few of the names that are making serious waves over in China, putting up insane scoring numbers provided they only play three quarters. The next step for China is to get their games broadcast over here in the United States. And with more and more players from the United States going there, the CBA could be coming to a television near you. It isn’t a matter of “when” but “if”. The CBA is here and is becoming the most prominent league outside of the NBA. If you don’t believe they are becoming a factor, read what Harrison said about the CBA: “The CBA has more viewers than the NBA.”

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Remember Andray Blatche?

(photo courtesy of The Philippine Star)

(photo courtesy of The Philippine Star)

The NBA season is heading towards the playoffs and many teams are still looking for help. Some teams out there are hoping veteran players like the Nets’ Joe Johnson and the Timberwolves’ Kevin Martin get bought out by their current teams. But another option people are looking at is the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA). The CBA consists of some former NBA players along with some local Chinese players. And every now and then, there is an NBA player that revives his career overseas. One player that seems to be doing so is Michael Beasley. Currently he is averaging 32 points and 13 rebounds for the Shandong Lions. And even though he is halfway across the world, many NBA front offices have been keeping tabs on how he is doing. Their belief is that Beasley will continue to show his worth and they want to be the team to take a chance on him to make it work. And because of his talent, he will more than likely yet another shot to make the NBA. But one guy that many have seemingly forgotten about is currently playing overseas as well. His name is Aundray Blatche.

Plenty still remember when Blatche came into the NBA. He entered the NBA Draft out of high school in 2005 and fancied himself a first-round pick. But instead of being selected as early as he thought, he was selected with the 49th overall pick in the draft. His selection late meant that he was not assured to make the team and that there would be no big-time money given out to him to sign his rookie contract. He had to play himself onto the roster in Washington that season and he did. He seldom played his rookie season, but he eventually worked his way into being a player that the Wizards were looking to in their future. He was signed to an extension in 2010 that was going to pay him $35 million over the next five years. There was some thinking that he had turned the corner when he signed that deal. But unfortunately, he did not live up to that deal. The first season after signing the big deal, he did average 17 points per game and eight rebounds. But the following season (2011-2012), he suffered a setback in his progress, dropping down to nine points per game and getting in some trouble along with showing up out of shape. The Wizards decided to move on and they did so using the amnesty clause, cutting bait and going as far as to say Blatche was not in their future plans. Blatche would end up playing two seasons for the Brooklyn Nets at a discounted price (he was still getting his paychecks from the Washington Wizards per the amnesty agreement while in Brooklyn). Those two years reinvigorated his career. He was in double-figures despite not playing more than 25 minutes a night and it was thought that he would be highly sought after in the free agent market in 2014. But instead, Blatche went a different route.

Blatche declined his $1.43 million player option in Brooklyn and tested the free agent market. But that test ended up landing him in China. And from there, he has never come back. Blatche signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal in China that season and many thought he was going to come back to the NBA after that time. Instead of coming back, Blatche stayed away, deciding to sign a three-year deal with the Xinjiang Guanghui team in China worth $7.5 million. And the contract he signed included no opt out to come back to the NBA. He has decided that his second chapter will stay away from America (for now) and that he will try to make his career elsewhere at this point. So far he is averaging 23 points and 10 rebounds over in China this year and he seems to be happy there. Beasley is the guy many talk about taking a look at, but Blatche could probably help a team more than him (provided he is in shape). The versatile big man can handle the basketball, shoot and has vision on the court to hit the open man. As far as Beasley, he can score but there is not much else he can do besides that. Beasley has always been a liability in his career and that is something that has hindered him, along with the other off-the-court issues. Blatche may fit in great, but he does not want to fit into the NBA anymore. He instead chooses to go the path less traveled, and take his talents overseas to make a living.

Beasley may be the name many are talking about, but Blatche is the guy that could help teams more right now. But as the years go by, his name will fade more and more from the NBA. Plenty will remember him for his flounders in Washington with he and JaVale McGhee beside each other. But many will forget that he righted himself in Brooklyn only to leave the NBA and not return. Now we will only see Blatche from a distance as he continues his career in China. It would have been interesting to see what he could have been if he signed to play in the NBA again. But we will probably never get to see that one happen again.

Here are some highlights from Blatche in China last season:

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Return To Sender

(photo courtesy of David Zalubowski/AP)

(photo courtesy of David Zalubowski/AP)

It was the chance for a fresh start and a new city. Donatas Motiejunas, Macus Thornton and Joel Anthony were getting ready to play for their new teams (Joel Anthony was traded to the Sixers with a second round pick after he was traded to the Rockets). It was going to be interesting to see how each piece fit where they ended up. But unfortunately, all three of these players will be returning to their former teams. The trade that was going to further shape the Pistons fell through once Motiejunas was not able to pass a physical due to his continued recovery from back surgery. The 7’ power forward had back surgery this past offseason and has had multiple setbacks trying to recover. Needless to say, he has not been on the court much at all this season. And the likelihood is he will not see the court at all this year either.

Joel Anthony will be returning to a team that will have a chance to make the playoffs this year. The Pistons still made one solid trade in getting forward Tobias Harris and it will be interesting to see if they can integrate him into what they do. The result of that trade getting voided is that Anthony goes back to ninth in the Eastern Conference instead of the last place team in the NBA. But you have to wonder what he feels like going back to the Pistons. After all, he has to look in the face of the guy who tried to trade him for the rest of the season potentially. There has to be some uneasy tension there. Many will say that Anthony has to be professional about it, but privately he has to wonder why he has to stay somewhere that the coach/president of basketball operations does not want him. Whether he thinks that or not, Anthony really has survived in the NBA longer than many thought he would. And to be truthful, there were a ton of people that forgot he was in the NBA anymore. After he was no longer a member of the Miami Heat, it seemed like his career went into oblivion. But there he stands and there he is, still getting a game check from the Pistons each time he is there on the bench or in uniform. And for that, he has to be thankful.

As far as Motiejunas, he has to feel some sort of way. He is a productive player when he is healthy, but he was given up despite the potential he has. He is still very young and is a very skilled young big man. So he has to be keeping his focus on getting healthy for either the rest of the season or the offseason. After all, the cap is going up and someone will take a chance on him provided he can pass a physical the next time. But one thing he and Thornton have to go back to is something they probably dread. The feeling in that locker room has to be uncomfortable. With the firing of head coach Kevin McHale early in the season and the team’s stars reportedly both trying to get each other traded, that has to be something that feels more like a circus than a basketball team. In Detroit, at least the feeling there was that they were building something. Motiejunas and Thornton would have been very good pieces on a Pistons team that was going to look like the 2008-2009 Orlando Magic team. But alas, all that is now a dream that Thornton and Motiejunas will have to just imagine for now. They are stuck in Houston for right now. And they both probably realize that the toxic environment there could lead to an interesting offseason. An offseason that could end up with both of them gone anyway.

Anthony is probably the more relieved of the bunch. He gets to stay with a team that could be on the rise. While Motiejunas and Thornton go back to somewhere they would probably like to escape. And meanwhile, that protected 2016 1st round pick the Rockets received in this trade gets returned to its sender. The reshaping of the team in Houston fell flat on its face as the Rockets were not able to move anyone via trade at all. And the NBA’s greatest drama team will continue to go on like an episode of The Haves and Have Nots, with Howard and Harden as the leading actors.

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An Offseason Mistake That Is Costing The Oklahoma City Thunder

(photo courtesy of Chuck Burton/AP)

(photo courtesy of Chuck Burton/AP)

The Oklahoma City Thunder have been trying to get Dion Waiters involved as a part of their team. They tried him in a few different roles last season when they acquired him from Cleveland at the trade deadline. The results were sporadic at best and he did not help them as much as they thought he would. This offseason, the Thunder made a coaching change and also were thinking of signing Waiters to an extension. Both sides were unable to agree on a deal however. But the Thunder expected as Waiters got more comfortable beside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, that he would produce better numbers. He was put in the Sixth Man role and recently has been starting for the Thunder. And even with more familiarity with Westbrook and Durant, he is still get the same type of numbers while playing some lackadaisical basketball still. Add what he is producing with the starter for most of the season at shooting guard, Andre Roberson, and the Thunder still have that hole at the shooting guard position. But if they actually looked down the bench some last season, they may have had the answer right there with them.

Jeremy Lamb has had a career in the NBA that has been known more for who he was traded for them what he has done. For those that may have forgot, Lamb was a player that was included in the trade Houston made for the services of James Harden. When he was acquired in Oklahoma City, it was almost a foregone conclusion that he was going to eventually be the starting shooting guard for them. Well, that never materialized in OKC and he was eventually buried on the bench there. Even though he was a guy that shot the ball relatively well and could defend his position, there seemed to be a short leash with him in OKC under the coaching of Scott Brooks. In games where Durant, Westbrook or both would be out, Lamb would have some good shooting games and others where he would go missing. But even with that, he was still competitive on the defensive end more than Waiters was and gave the Thunder more there. But because of the trade that was made for Waiters, it seemed like OKC was going to force Waiters upon that team to justify trading for him. As a result, this offseason Lamb was traded to the Charlotte Hornets for the services of veteran point guard Luke Ridnour (who was consequently waived by OKC soon after the trade) and a 2016 second round pick.

The trade to Charlotte was a now-or-never trade for Lamb. He landed on a team that needed him to play well on the offensive end. And since he has been a member of the Hornets organization, he has definitely done so. Lamb is averaging a career-high 10.8 points per game off the bench in 21 minutes per game. He is shooting 47% from the field, including 32% from the three-point line, and he is getting 5 rebounds a game. Lamb and Jeremy Lin (who combine to make the highest scoring bench duo in the NBA) have helped Charlotte make it to the seventh spot currently in East. He is making the most of his opportunity and will more than likely be getting paid next season because of it. Taking a look at his numbers, he has actually performed better than Waiters in less minutes. Waiters is averaging 9.7 points per game while shooting under 40% and committing 2 turnovers a game. That isn’t exactly what the Thunder were looking for off the bench this year. And despite the success the Thunder have had this year, they could use a consistent shot in the arm off the bench. And Waiters has yet to provide that consistently. The Thunder thought they were getting that from Dion, but they have not got that one just yet at all.

Looking back at it, the Thunder really did not give Lamb a fair shot at all. If the organization would have stayed with him through the growing pains, he would have been the starting shooting guard for them right now. But instead of doing that, they thought Waiters was the answer. And with that, the search for a starting guard beside Durant and Westbrook still goes on. Oklahoma City has been known for grooming and growing players, but they dropped the ball on this move and it could cost them. Lamb would give them a shooter they need instead of a player they cannot trust.

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The Clippers And Grizzlies Traded Bad For Inconsistent

The trade deadline has not been kind to fans of the Memphis Grizzlies. They saw their best shooter get traded to the Charlotte Hornets and all they got in return was forward PJ Hairston (who has been inconsistent at best), veteran center Chris “Birdman” Andersen (he has been missing in action all season) and four second-round picks that probably will not amount to much. But just when you thought it could not get any worse for the Grizzlies, they made another trade that makes you scratch your head. The Grizzlies traded forward Jeff Green to the Los Angeles Clippers for the services of guard Lance Stephenson and a 2019 protected pick. And with that, the Grizzlies now have lost yet another offensive weapon while taking on another player that is still trying to find himself. All while the Clippers will get to see what they can do with Jeff Green more than likely being their starting small forward eventually. But in reality, what both really did is swap inconsistent (Green) for bad (Stephenson). And in the end, both could end up not being a factor for their respective teams.

In Memphis, the main ballhandler has always been Mike Conley Jr., The dynamic point guard has been the best perimeter player for the Grizzlies for a while now. What the Grizzlies have always lacked is that scoring ability and consistency from the small forward position. They honestly have not had great production from that position since they had the services of Rudy Gay. In Green, they had someone that was at least giving them a pulse at that position. But with him gone, the pulse again goes to a flatline as they try to audition people for that position. And in Courtney Lee’s spot, they will now audition Lance Stephenson potentially. In Stephenson, the Grizzlies get a guy that can play tough defense. But for the Grizzlies, they already have a tough defender in Tony Allen. Offensively, Lance will make them even worse. He has not learned how to play without the basketball yet and the only way he can help this team on the offensive end is if he gets the ball in his hands. If Coach Dave Joerger can allow Stephenson to control the ball some, then maybe they will get some more out of him offensively. If not, then you are looking at another guy on the Grizzlies that cannot knock down an open shot and looks lost off the ball on the offensive end. That will make the Grizzlies even uglier offensively, especially without big man Marc Gasol for a while.

The Clippers are essentially being hailed as the winners in this trade. With what they were getting at the small forward position with Paul Pierce, Stephenson and whoever they threw out there, is nothing compared to what they could potentially get from Green. The veteran forward is averaging 12.5 points per game this season. He can hit the open jump shot, take the ball to the basket and he can play solid defense. And to add to that, he has played for Doc Rivers before (played for Doc in Boston) and he can play the power forward position and you have a player that could help this team. You would think that this would be a move to solidify what they have going on this year. But if you have taken a look at the career of Jeff Green, it can be summed up in one word: inconsistency. Green can come out and have a great game where he scores 20 points and then come out the next week and score two points. And it is that kind of inconsistency that has driven the fans of teams he has played for crazy. With the Clippers, he will be counted on to shoulder some of the offensive load, especially with Blake out for an undisclosed amount of time. It will be interesting to see if he can find some kind of consistency with the Clippers, but he more than likely will not. And that kind of inconsistent play will make Clippers fans loathe him. But fortunate for him, he can hide a little come playoff time because of Blake Griffin being back.

Both Stephenson and Green have not exactly got the best feelings out of fans of the teams they have played for. Stephenson was banished from Charlotte after his play was awful and he has not been the same since he left the Indiana Pacers in free agency. And he more than likely will have Grizzlies’ fans throwing things at their television sets. As for Green, he has been a tease for his entire career. And he will definitely be one for the Clippers. It is only a matter of “when” and not “if”. The trade has being spoken of as a win for the Clippers, but they just traded bad for inconsistent. And there is no telling how that will turn out.

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The Detroit Pistons Get A 2008-2009 Orlando Magic Makeover

(photo courtesy of Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports)

(photo courtesy of Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports)

The Detroit Pistons have been measurably better this season. They are in contention for the playoffs and had seemingly found an identity with players like point guard Reggie Jackson and big man Andre Drummond. But even with those two, there was no assurances that this team would make it far. And going into the trade deadline, the Pistons were a team that could have been a buyer or a seller. They had some pieces that people were interested in with backup point guard Brandon Jennings and even forward Marcus Morris. But they also had players that they desired that were on the trade market. The onus was on head of basketball operations/head coach Stan Van Gundy to make it happen. Would he help his team get better or would he continue to stay the course with what he had while potentially dumping Jennings for something that would not help this team. Well, the trade deadline has come and gone and the Pistons appeared to be more buyers than sellers. And with that, they now are looking just like a team that Van Gundy coached in his past. The Detroit Pistons are now resembling a team that Van Gundy took to the NBA Finals once before, the 2008-2009 Orlando Magic.

The first move in this makeover that Van Gundy started was to move Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova to the Orlando Magic for the services of Tobias Harris. The Pistons gave up a good backup point guard and a stretch forward in Ilyasova, but the move also gave the Pistons something they did not have. Harris was not doing as well in the system that Scott Skiles had in Orlando. But in Van Gundy’s system, he will be likely matched up with forward Marcus Morris in the frontcourt. Both of these guys can handle the basketball, shoot the three and make plays at the rim. But what Harris does better than Morris is make plays. His playmaking skills fit great on this team. What made the Orlando Magic so tough that season was the play of forward Hedo Turkoglu, who was handling the ball and making plays while shooting at an excellent clip from the three-point line. Harris is essentially filling that role on this team and with he and Marcus Morris, they both are the new Rashard Lewis and Turkoglu for Van Gundy. And with Harris handling the ball more, the Pistons just freed up point guard Reggie Jackson even more. But that was not the only move the Pistons made that allowed them to remake themselves.

The next move the Pistons made just made them even more versatile. The Pistons traded away seldom-used big man Joel Anthony to the Houston Rockets along with a top-eight protected first round pick. In return, the Pistons received versatile forward Donatas Montiejunas and guard Marcus Thornton. For a piece that was rarely used, the Pistons received two players that can definitely help Detroit. With Montiejunas, the Pistons get a big man with size that can shoot the three as well. Combine him with forward Anthony Tolliver coming off the bench, you now have two forwards with size and shooting ability that can stretch the floor coming off the bench. But the bonus in this trade has to be guard Marcus Thornton. The veteran guard can get hot at any time. And when he does, he can carry your team for stretches at a time. And he, along with Montiejunas, can spread the floor. Imagine these guys paired with Harris and Jackson at the helm making plays. That could be dangerous.

All these new pieces going along with the old pieces makes this team a dangerous threat because of the style they will be able to play. They now have pieces that can spread the floor and let Drummond have the entire paint to himself, just like Dwight Howard did when they went to the NBA Finals. Drummond will essentially be the new Dwight Howard (in a good way) for Van Gundy. And if someone is to help off their man to help their big against Drummond, then the Pistons can make them pay with the collection of shooters they have now. And also, the pick-and-roll offense is now even more dangerous because not only can they use Jackson and Drummond together, but they now can use Drummond with Harris like that. The onus will now be on the team’s stars to make it happen. But with what they have now, the Pistons are now armed to make a run in the Eastern Conference. And Van Gundy now has a team he thinks can make it happen. Not bad for a guy that inherited a team that was in such disarray when he got there in 2014.

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The Tobias Harris Trade: What It Means For Orlando And Detroit

(photo courtesy of Brace Hammelgarn/USA Today Sports)

(photo courtesy of Brace Hammelgarn/USA Today Sports)

The NBA trade deadline is quickly approaching. Many fans are anticipating big moves while others are expecting all talk and no player movement to really speak of. Well, to those that that were expecting something unexpected, it happened on Tuesday. The Orlando Magic traded forward Tobias Harris to Detroit for the services of point guard Brandon Jennings and forward Ersan Ilyasova. The trade of Harris was something that no one really expected, especially since the Magic signed him to a four-year, $64 million dollar contract as a restricted free agent. But nonetheless, the Magic felt it was what they needed to do in moving him. And for the Detroit Pistons, they felt they needed to make one more move to strengthen their team while losing another piece. But what essentially does Harris bring to the Pistons? And what does the combination of Jennings and Ilysova mean for the Magic?

The Pistons have been starting Marcus Morris and Ilysova at the forward spots all season long. And to the credit of both, they have played pretty well. But both are not really considered playmakers at the position. And with both at 26 and 28 respectively, the chances of them both developing into a playmaker is not very high. Tobias is having a bit of a down season this year (averaging his lowest points per game as a member of the Magic at 13.7 points per game). But even with that, he is still shooting better than both of these guys are at the forward position. And in addition to shooting the ball better, Harris is much better playmaker in transition and in the halfcourt offense than Morris and Ilysova. Before the addition of Harris, all the playmaking with the Pistons fell on the shoulders of Reggie Jackson. And although he is having a career year, Jackson will be worn out with the scoring and playmaking duties he has to shoulder each game. Harris alleviates that to an extent and can also allow Jackson to play off the ball some because of Harris’ vision on the court. Another good thing that comes with Harris is the versatility of the frontcourt of the Pistons is still maintained. Harris can play the small and power forward positions and that will allow him to play alongside talented rookie Stanley Johnson at times. The Pistons definitely upgraded their team with this move and also increased their expectations. And with veteran point guard Steve Blake there in Detroit, the Pistons could afford to move Brandon Jennings without fear of a huge dropoff.

In Orlando, it seems that Scott Skiles taking over has had an effect on this team. They are playing harder every night and you can see the improvements. But along with the improvements, you can also see who does and does not fit the system that Skiles wants in Orlando. Harris, unfortunately, just didn’t seem to fit what Skiles wanted despite efficient numbers. With them moving Harris, it now opens up more of a youth movement at the forward position. The Magic drafted Mario Hezonja this past NBA Draft and the rookie has been solid in limited minutes off the bench. The Magic looked like they were going nowhere with their current status quo, so they may as well allow Hezonja to get better and that requires more playing time. With Harris out of the way, look for more lineups with Hezonja and second-year player Aaron Gordon at the forward spots. In acquiring Ilysova and Jennings, the Magic get two veteran players that can be solid for them off the bench. The Magic have been backing up second-year point guard Elfrid Payton with Shabazz Napier. Jennings is an immediate upgrade over Napier and brings along some veteran experience that can help Payton grow on the court. He also is a former player for Skiles in Milwaukee. It should be interesting to see how they get along now. But along with his experience, Jennings also brings along an expiring contract at the end of the year ($8.3 million off the books at the end of the season). If the Magic are able to pull off the rumored trade of backup big man Channing Frye to the Los Angeles Clippers for Lance Stephenson(whom they will reportedly buy out if they acquire him), this is where things could get even more interesting for Orlando. The Frye trade and subsequent cut of Stephenson would give them an additional $9 million more in salary cap freed up going into the summer of 2016. Add that additional $17 million to the cap going up exponentially next year and the Magic will have money, young players and options. One of those options will reportedly be re-signing young guard Evan Fournier, who will be a restricted free agent. But even with that, they will still have money to burn on upgrades to their team. As far as Ilysova, he is there for one reason and one reason along: shooting. He is a former Scott Skiles player from his Milwaukee days (like Jennings) and Skiles knows how to get the best out of him, as Ilysova had two of his best seasons under Skiles. With him coming in off the bench, the Orlando Magic now have more firepower when going to their subs.

Both teams got what they wanted out of this one. The Magic got some cap space, options and a backup point guard. The Pistons got another playmaker and an upgrade at the forward spot. No true winner can be determined in this trade until we see how all players fit (or don’t fit) into their new teams. But on the surface, the Pistons committed highway robbery with this trade.

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Dwight Howard To The Boston Celtics Makes Sense

(photo courtesy of www.sbnation.com)

(photo courtesy of http://www.sbnation.com)

Dwight Howard had a decision to make back in the summer of 2013. He was traded that previous year to the Los Angeles Lakers from Orlando that previous year and had one year to check it out. That one year was not very good for him out in Los Angeles. He was fighting through an injury the whole time he was there and when he played, it seemed like he was not himself. Mix that with the fact that he and Kobe’s styles did not mesh and it was not a good experiment bringing him in. But yet and still, the Lakers were one of the teams Dwight was looking at going into free agency. The Lakers gave their pitch to him along with other teams like Houston and Dallas. Between those teams, Dwight turned down additional money he would have made with the Lakers to join star shooting guard James Harden in Houston. The pairing was supposed to take Houston to another level with two star players leading the way. But unfortunately, it has not worked out the way Houston has wanted. The Rockets may have gone to the Conference Finals last season, but it was not due to Dwight Howard’s effect on the team. Howard was not as effective last season because he was injured for most of it and that allowed for other guys to step in and make Houston better. And in year three with Dwight in Houston, it seems like things have gotten worse. The Rockets are on the outside looking in of the playoff picture at this point and the chemistry and play of the team just seems to be off. And right in the middle of it is Dwight Howard still speaking on wanting to be more involved in regards to more touches offensively. Well, it seems like the Rockets have had enough of Howard at this point. Houston has reportedly put Howard on the trading block and are actively looking to move him. And being that he can opt out of the four-year, $87.5 million deal he signed in 2013, it will be interesting what they try to get for him. But nonetheless, it seems like one team’s name has been mentioned more than any in acquiring Howard: the Boston Celtics.

The Celtics were a surprise team to make the playoffs last year. And this season, they have made it to the third spot in the East as they are currently constructed. But even with that, Danny Ainge has his eye on Howard and what he could bring to his team. And with the assets the Celtics have, they could certainly pull this trade off. The Celtics have a glutton of big men available on their team. One player the Celtics could dangle out there to get Howard would be forward David. The Celtics traded for the veteran big man this offseason hoping that he would be able to add to their team. But unfortunately it has not worked out and he has been sitting on the bench more than actually playing. And with the pricetag he is carrying this season ($15.49 million), they can easily move him and not miss him at all. If the Celtics throw him, a first round pick and maybe another frontcourt player. By adding Howard to the Celtics, that gives them a better defender on the backline than what they currently have. And if you pair him with the likes of Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger, he would not really have to worry much about the offensive end of the court. But knowing Dwight, he would want to have the basketball in his hands. Even at 30 years old, he still has not got it that he is not a go-to guy offensively. In Boston, he still would not be that guy that he envisions himself being. And if he ends up not being happy, then you essentially traded for a rental player because Howard has the option to opt out of his current deal. But the potential positives in this one outweigh the negatives in this potential trade scenario. But of course that all depends on the thinking of Dwight Howard whether it works or not.

The Celtics would be getting Howard and all that goes with him, but Houston would be getting rid of a player that was doing more harm than good for them. It seemed like the chemistry in Houston just was not ever going to work out, as Howard seemed like the odd man out a lot. The biggest piece in trading Howard is not actually David Lee, but who would be traded with him. If the Houston Rockets are lucky, they get someone that has an expired contract as well. Guys like Evan Turner and Jonas Jerebko would be ideal players to add in this trade just for their expiring contracts alone. If one of these two is added like Houston would want, that would allow for them to have enough salary cap room with their current situation to go after a big-name free agent. Everyone knows that Houston has had its eyes on Kevin Durant for some time now. And even as far-fetched as it seems, the Rockets would like to make a run at pairing James Harden with Kevin Durant going into next season. But even if that does not happen, the Rockets would love to change the dynamic of this team going into next season. This all falls in line with them needing a new head coach going into next year as well. If Houston loses and does not make the playoffs while making this trade, it actually will benefit them even more. That would give them two first-round picks (if they don’t make the playoffs, they get to keep their first round pick they would have had to give to Denver because of a previous trade) provided they get one from Boston and cap space. In the NBA, that is definitely a good thing to have as the cap space expands next season. Adding a piece like Atlanta’s Al Horford potentially in free agency and putting him at power forward alongside young big man Clint Capela would be something that would also help this team as well. Horford is a better fit with Harden because he is able to space the floor with his shooting and actually has solid post game. And on the defensive end, he can rebound and actually guard power forwards. That leave Capela playing center and just worrying about blocking shots and defending, which is what he needs to be doing at this point in his career. So the trade of Howard could essentially end the Rockets’ playoff push, but it will help set them up for the future with Harden as their unquestioned leader.

The Dwight Howard experiment in Houston has proven to be a failure at this point. The chemistry never was there between he and Harden and the team never really got to where Houston brass envisioned with Howard and Harden. So to rectify this one and get first round picks and create cap space would be huge for them going forward. For Dwight Howard, he has to realize that the clock is ticking and his opportunities for success are fleeting fast. But the big question will always be around Howard and his role on any team he is on. Everyone who knows anything about basketball realizes that he will not be a viable offensive threat but him. And until he realizes that and quits derailing chemistry, then he will continue to miss out on team success. Boston is taking a chance on Howard with this trade. But the good thing for them is they probably would not be trading much to get him and they also would think that he would want to opt out of his deal should it not work out. Stay tuned folks. Howard could be donning green and white soon.

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Traveling With The NBA

(Photo courtesy of The Big Lead)

(Photo courtesy of The Big Lead)

The NBA All-Star game is traveling to Toronto for the first time. In honor of the NBA crossing the boarding and heading to the North, why not honor some really good travels on the court? The NBA All-Star weekend will be doing their best to entertain us, but what is better than watching NBA players travel worse than youngsters who are just learning the game? Let’s give it up for some of the best travels in the NBA!

Corey Brewer has been around for a while now in the NBA. He is known for being a good defender and knocking down threes. But unfortunately he is also known for confusing basketball with the triple jump on this play:

Corey may have got the basket, but he surely traveled a good way to get it.

 

Not to be outdone, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s DJ Augustin definitely had a good one. Just watch his feet go:

If you pay attention to his feet, you may miss that he did a pump fake while traveling to. And to boot, the refs seemed to be so mesmerized that they did not call the travel.

DJ Augustin and Mike Conley Jr both must have trained together because he surely took just as many steps as Augustin did right here:

Conley figured he could not beat him to the rim with the dribble, so he may as well run his way to the rim.

Jeremy Lin may be in Charlotte now, but he did some of his best traveling work when in Houston. Just watch how he takes five steps on the way to the rim:

Lin was definitely trying to fly away there. He could have at least made the layup or go to the foul line with how much effort he put into that travel.

Lance Thomas is a relatively unknown player in the NBA. He got his shot as a member of the New York Knicks last year. He has played solid this year. But this uncalled travel against the Charlotte Hornets last season has to be one of the most comical travels ever.

This travel by Thomas reminds me of the kid that just started playing but has not figured out how to dribble and shoot yet. Glad Lance is doing better now, but this one will never go away.

 

These two were bad, but this one right here has to have people wondering what Kendrick Perkins was thinking. Just take a second and count the steps on this one:

I wonder if Kendrick was practicing his dance routine and forgot he was playing in an NBA game. And if he was practicing, that was a bad version of the Twine.

 

But Kendrick wasn’t the only dance machine on the basketball floor. Although Dwyane Wade is a great player, he once did a little two-step on the Portland Trailblazers’ home court:

Dwyane Wade has had some injury issues over his career. He even looks like he is in pain doing the two-step here.

 

Travels this bad aren’t brand new. In fact, they have been going one for a while now. For instance, check out this travel reel from Michael Jordan himself (this one was actually called folks):

Hey. Even the best take a few extra steps every once in a while. But I bet everyone still loves Michael Jordan regardless.

But the guy that many seem to stay on the most about traveling is one of the best players in the NBA. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you LeBron James:

LeBron may be a great player, but he surely traveled the globe on that play. Maybe he thought it was track that day instead of basketball.

Travels have become commonplace in the NBA in this day and age. And we will probably see more of them happen. But these ones right here not only are funny to watch but will make you laugh as well. Which one is the best in your opinion? Or is there a nominee that you would like to add?

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