Category Archives: NBA

Anthony Davis Trade Talk: Nets May Push Lakers, Celtics for Star?

The Brooklyn Nets may want in on the Anthony Davis trade fun. Although the chatter surrounding the New Orleans Pelicans star has primarily been around the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, the Nets are lurking in the shadows. Brooklyn has taken steps in the right direction after a few tough seasons and will likely be in the market for a big move this coming offseason.
As things stand, the Nets sit with a 27-23 record, holding the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. Even following a season-ending injury to one of their top players in Caris LeVert, the team has continued to play at a high level, winning six straight as of late. And according to ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith, the nets may be right there in the mix this offseason if and when the trade offers for Davis begin.
During a recent episode of The Stephen A. Smith Show, the analyst spoke about a wide range of topics, but during a stretch about the Lakers, an interesting comment on Brooklyn was made.

Stephen A. Smith Puts Nets in Mix for Anthony Davis Trade
In the midst of stating his concern over the Lakers’ ability to lure a marquee free agent, Smith addressed how the offseason and Davis’ situation will go. He all but guaranteed the New Orleans Pelicans star will tell the team he wants out this summer but believes the Lakers could lose out on the All-Star. Instead, citing the Celtics and Nets as options to watch for him.
“Anthony Davis will let the Pelicans know he wants out this summer. He will announce it publicly, he wants to be traded, make no mistake about it, it’s coming. But the Pelicans still have to cooperate, and it’s not like Anthony Davis is going to say ‘I want to go to the Lakers only.’ He’s going to say he wants out and he wants to be with a contender.” Smith stated.
“So it’s a Boston [Celtics] situation, it’s a Lakers situation, it could potentially be a Brooklyn Nets situation. I don’t think the Clippers, but you never know.”
The Nets have the firepower to make a push to acquire Davis if they opt to go that route. Their roster is loaded with young players and the arrow is pointing up for the franchise also. After three consecutive seasons with 28 or fewer wins, the Nets have nearly surpassed their best win total over that span in just 50 games this year.

Potential Nets Trade for Anthony Davis
The situation involving Brooklyn and their trade for Davis would be an interesting one, as the team has eight players currently on one-year deals. It’s all but certain that a deal would include center Jarrett Allen, who’s improving at a fairly rapid rate and would be a nice addition for the Pelicans.
Beyond that, much of the deal could be centered around draft picks. Along with the Nets’ own selections (with a few second-rounders dealt), they have the Denver Nuggets’ 2019 protected first-round pick and two other second-rounders this year (Pacers, Knicks) coming in. Brooklyn is also set to receive two picks in the second round of the 2020 draft (Nuggets, Blazers) and one in 2021 (Suns), per RealGM.
The Nets also could include Joe Harris potentially or even LeVert, who they’ve reportedly kept out of previous trade talks. Regardless, Brooklyn has the firepower to make a strong offer for Davis if that’s how the upcoming offseason plays out.
READ NEXT: Lakers Trade Talk: 3 Anthony Davis Deals Involving Brandon Ingram

Remember The Brooklyn Nets? They’re Good Now.

For more than four years, the Brooklyn Nets had been more or less irrelevant on a national scale. Whenever the team came up in a larger conversation, it was usually to discuss how one of its first-round picks — dealt in that infamous trade for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce — was benefiting another franchise that got to reap the draft payoff. You have to go back to 2013-14, a full season after the Nets left New Jersey for Brooklyn, to find the last time they finished .500.
All of which makes the Nets — winners of five straight and co-owners of the NBA’s best record over the past month and a half — so compelling. At 26-23, the team is currently holding a playoff position in sixth place in the East. Coach Kenny Atkinson, again, is finding enormous success with his point guards, including D’Angelo Russell, who’s in contention for an All-Star spot. And the club, which in early December was mired in an eight-game skid and couldn’t hold late-game leads, is all of a sudden unbeatable in the clutch. And this is after Brooklyn lost perhaps its best all-around player, Caris LeVert, to a brutal long-term injury.
But underneath all that past losing — and there was a lot of it, given that this team has had three consecutive seasons with fewer than 30 wins — there were several road signs that the Nets were tapping into an array of good strategies to begin a turnaround.
Much of that was rooted in ideology and experimentation, necessities because of how bare the draft-pick cupboard was for a while. The team had to take some creative steps (read: accept salary dumps) in a bid to get some talent on its roster. And the club’s front office, led by Sean Marks, had to identify talent that was being ignored or undervalued, like guard Spencer Dinwiddie, and trust its own ability to help develop players like him into everyday rotation pieces.
The hiring of Atkinson, a longtime NBA assistant, was a key catalyst. Well before the wins started outnumbering the losses, and before there was enough talent to expect playoff berths, the 51-year-old quickly began changing the team’s shot profile on both ends of the floor.
During the 2015-16 campaign, a year before he came on, the Nets ranked 26th out of 30 in quantified Shot Quality, which measures the likelihood of shots going in, if taken by an average NBA player, according to stat database Second Spectrum. The club completely overhauled that at the start of Atkinson’s tenure, though, as Brooklyn finished fifth and fourth in 2016-17 and 2017-18, respectively. And this season, the Nets rank ninth in the metric.
In layman’s terms, the Nets have essentially adopted the same offensive principles as the analytically friendly Houston Rockets, coached by Atkinson mentor Mike D’Antoni. (Fitting that these clubs combined for an NBA-record 106 3-point attempts in a game last week.) Russell, who leads starting ball-handlers with 61.5 pick and rolls per 100 plays, will run you around screens all day, and he and his Brooklyn teammates generally avoid midrange shots, instead probing for much higher-percentage looks. No NBA team has driven to the basket more than the Nets, and this would mark the third consecutive season that Brooklyn ranks in the top 10 in free-throw rate.
Defensively, the story is much the same. The Nets have excelled at forcing opponents to walk the analytics plank, ranking among the top five in 2016-17, 2017-18 and again this season in terms of how often they coax teams into longer midrange 2-pointers. When teams are fortunate enough to get to the basket, they’re often met by 20-year-old Jarrett Allen, a big man who has erased some of the game’s biggest names at the rim while sometimes playing a one-man zone. The Nets also rank near the top of the NBA in boxing out, to finish those defensive possessions.
That combination — continuing to take the most efficient shots possible on offense while taking those same shots away on the other end — has been the NBA equivalent of Andy Dufresne’s rock hammer in “The Shawshank Redemption.” The team’s strategy and talent, combined with its newfound maturation in the clutch, have finally set it free.
Brooklyn basically looked shackled at the ends of games last year and at the start of this season. Whether it was inexperience, consistently bad whistles or a combination of the two, the Nets were managing to find new, devastating ways to lose close contests each night.
But even that’s changed of late. The Nets, who were a dismal 4-10 in clutch situations as of Dec. 1, have since gone 11-4 in those same scenarios.
One noteworthy shift there is rooted in Russell and Dinwiddie’s ability to coexist during the hot streak — something that had consistently backfired from a net-rating standpoint over the past two seasons. (Their ability to play together, or lack thereof, will be worth watching because of the decision the Nets have to make about the future of Russell, who’s a restricted free agent this summer. Yet it looks like Russell will have the show to himself, as Dinwiddie, who just signed a three-year, $34 million extension, could miss considerable time with a torn ligament in his thumb.) But other elements also stand out. Joe Harris is one of the NBA’s best perimeter shooters. Latvian forward Rodions Kurucs was a great find and is a fluid scorer at 6-foot-9.
While the Nets are clearly ascending, they still have their issues, too.
Brooklyn has one of the highest turnover rates in the league. The Nets can occasionally find themselves with matchup problems against teams with floor-spacing bigs because of how Allen anchors himself to the paint on defense. The lack of pressure on pick-and-roll ball-handlers hurts their ability to force turnovers. For how well the team gets to the stripe, Russell, its leading scorer, takes fewer free throws than any other volume shooter in the NBA.1 Injuries have nagged Brooklyn all year, and while it’s fair to expect a boost from players if and when they return — especially from LeVert — key players’ roles may have to shrink to accommodate everyone once they’re back. And the Nets, who have enjoyed one of the easiest slates so far, will be thoroughly tested by their upcoming schedule — especially from mid-March to the end of the season.
There’s a reason we hear so much about the Nets eventually landing a player like Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard or Jimmy Butler. Aside from the fact that they’re one of few big-market teams that seemingly has a direction, a blank-enough canvas (in terms of not having a star) and cap space to make something happen, they also would become an instant contender by adding someone of that caliber. Again, the decision on Russell could complicate that. Yet the reality is that getting past the second round likely requires more than this current cast, even at full strength.
For the time being, though, it has been eye-opening to watch the 22-year-old Russell play this well since the turn of the new year, a span in which he’s averaged 24 points and nearly eight assists on 49 percent shooting from the floor, along with his rainbow-arc triples falling at a 44 percent clip.
While he’ll never possess the sort of bounce that some of his counterparts have, the former No. 2 overall pick has leveraged the threat of his pull-up jumper into being able to beat defenders to certain spots. When he senses defenders on his hip, he’ll often make use of ball fakes to buy himself more space before shooting.

He’s been more consistent with the ball during that window, too, passing teammates open while logging a 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in 2019 — up from 2-to-1 earlier this season and much better than his career ratio of 1.5-to-1 coming into the 2018-19 campaign.
Certain elements of Russell’s offensive run lately, much like the team’s overall, are going to come back down to earth at some point. But with how hellish things have been in Brooklyn for much of the past five years, and with how sound the team’s strategy has been in digging out of that trench, Russell, the Nets and their fans all have ample reason to be enjoying this — even if they aren’t exactly sure what comes next.
Check out our latest NBA predictions.

DeMarcus Cousins Return: Kerr Says Boogie’s Injury Rehab Has ‘A Ways to Go’

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was very honest in his assessment of DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins, and his hopeful return to the court. The good news is Cousins has begun to practice with the team, but the downside is the Warriors big man is not close to returning to game action.
“Conditioning-wise he’s still got a ways to go,” Kerr told ESPN. “I love how far he’s come, but I don’t want people to get the idea that he’s getting close to coming back. It’s still going to be some time. It’s a totally different deal playing in an NBA game and playing against [assistant coaches] Willie [Green] and Chris DeMarco.”
The team has not released a timeline for Cousins to return, but ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported when Cousins first signed with Golden State that it could be January 2019 before the big man played again. Here’s some footage of Cousins practicing with the Warriors.

Here’s a couple possessions of DeMarcus Cousins scrimmaging. One possession he challenges a shot, then leads a break then gets a dunk in transition.
— Logan Murdock (@loganmmurdock) November 1, 2018

Steve Kerr Called DeMarcus Cousins a “One-Year Rental”
Kerr was surprisingly honest on Cousins’ status beyond this year and admitted the big man is a “one-year rental.” Kerr also went as far as saying Cousins would be playing on another team in 2019.
“We made no bones about it when we signed him,” Kerr noted to ESPN. “It’s a one-year deal. We’re not going to have money to sign him next year, he knows that. So we’d like him to help us win a championship. We’d like to be able to help him get a great contract next year somewhere else. That’s the reality. So the best way to do that is to play really well and enjoy this season and everybody do the best we can and have fun with it.”
Former Pelicans teammate Anthony Davis has already begun his recruitment for the two big men to reconnect.
“He will be a free agent next year,” Davis told The Undefeated. “Hopefully, down the line we can reconnect…I tried to call our GM. He said he had no idea. I tried to call ‘Cuz’ [Cousins], but something happened with his phone. It sucked that it happened. But life goes on… I know the situation [Cousins] was in. He had to make a business move for him and his family. He had to do what was best for his career. You can’t do nothing but respect it.”
Steph Curry noted that Cousins’ presence at practice is already helping the team bring energy each day.
“I know he’s just eager to go out there and play,” Curry explained ESPN. “We all know he’s just chirping at the bit. I feel like what he’s been able to do in practice hasn’t been substantial, but I think he’s playing [in] live action [situations] and ramping it up so I don’t know how long it’s going to take for him to take the next steps and whatnot but just having him out there, having him be part of practice is huge for us and huge for his morale I’m sure. And it’s another step in the right direction.”

Wizards Starting Lineup & Roster vs. Thunder

The Washington Wizards received some good news ahead of their matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday. After a 1-6 start to the season which has left the team looking for answers, they at least have some help on the way. The Wizards will have offseason signing Dwight Howard on the floor for this game, marking the official debut with his new team.
ESPN first revealed the news, which came from head coach Scott Brooks. Howard was able to practice on Thursday after missing the first seven games of the year with a strained muscle in his buttocks. While his return is certainly a big deal, it’s unknown how many minutes he’ll play, but the veteran center should provide an immediate spark.
To this point in the season, the Wizards have primarily started Ian Mahinmi at center. He’s drawn six starts with the other one going to Jason Smith in a game Mahinmi missed. Brooks has opted to play small-ball lineups more often than not to this point, though, as Mahinmi averages just 16.8 minutes per game.
Let’s take a look at how the Wizards’ starting lineup is projected to look Friday against the Thunder.

Wizards’ Projected Starting Lineup and Roster vs. Thunder
*Notates projected starter
C: Dwight Howard*, Ian Mahinmi, Thomas Bryant
PF: Markieff Morris*, Jason Smith
SF: Otto Porter Jr.*, Kelly Oubre, Jeff Green, Troy Brown Jr.
SG: Bradley Beal*, Tomas Satoransky, Jordan McRae
PG: John Wall*, Austin Rivers
It’s expected Howard will enter the starting lineup right out of the gate, but as Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington revealed, he’s still dealing with quite a bit of pain at this point.
“It just doesn’t go away. It’s a lot better than it was,” he said. “I haven’t even been able to sit down. It hurts to sit down. Every time I get home, I can’t watch a movie sitting down. I’ve gotta lay down on the floor. It’s very painful.”
Of the Wizards’ seven games, they’ve seen Wall, Beal and Porter start each of them, with Morris starting six while missing one game due to injury. Green has also drawn one start, taking Morris’ place during his absence. The Wizards are likely to stick with this starting group throughout the bulk of the 2018-19 NBA season. Now, the hope is that the group can flip the script on what’s been a slow start to this point.
READ NEXT: Jimmy Butler Trade: Four Realistic Deals for Timberwolves Guard

Timberwolves Starting Lineup & Roster vs. Warriors

Category : Basketball , NBA , Sports

It seemed originally that Jimmy Butler had grown tired of the Minnesota Timberwolves opting to push his potential trade to the backburner. While the team may be hoping he’ll have a change of heart (highly unlikely), Butler had reportedly put his foot down on the situation. And prior to last game, it seemed the All-Star guard wouldn’t be on the floor for a while.
This came after The Athletic’s Shams Charania revealed that Butler was beginning a six-week process which may include an extended absence in order to push for a trade.

Jimmy Butler is taking next step in six-week-long process aimed at getting the All-Star out of Minnesota by sitting tonight against Utah, and could lead to extended absence for Butler, league sources tell me and @JonKrawczynski.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) October 31, 2018

Butler started contemplating not playing tonight on Tuesday, and the final decision was made Wednesday morning, sources tell me and @JonKrawczynski. Timberwolves termed it "general soreness and precautionary rest,” but Butler informed Tom Thibodeau of his decision.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) October 31, 2018

Although Butler did sit out against the Utah Jazz, Timberwolves analyst Alan Horton revealed that Butler will play Friday against the Golden State Warriors, per head coach Tom Thibodeau. He also revealed that Jeff Teague will be out once again while Tyus Jones will play.
With Butler set to play, let’s take a look at the projected starting lineup for the team, which may include Jones starting at point guard.

Timberwolves’ Projected Starting Lineup & Roster vs. Warriors
*Notates likely starters Friday against the Warriors
C: Karl-Anthony Towns*, Gorgui Dieng
PF: Taj Gibson*, Anthony Tolliver
SF: Andrew Wiggins*, James Nunnally, Keita Bates-Diop, Luol Deng
SG: Jimmy Butler*, Josh Okogie, C.J. Williams
PG: Tyus Jones*, Derrick Rose
After Derrick Rose’s 50-point explosion against the Jazz, there’s a chance he could wind up starting. I do believe the Timberwolves like his scoring off the bench, so leaving him in that role makes sense. Also pairing Rose with Okogie, the team’s first-round pick out of Georgia Tech, would be ideal. He’s flashed upside while averaging 9.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals per game.
The injury to Teague is the big spot to watch, but Butler’s return to the lineup will make the Timberwolves starting group look similar to what fans have become accustomed to seeing. Now, we just have to wait and see how long Butler remains not only in the starting lineup but on the team with trade rumors still swirling.
READ NEXT: Jimmy Butler Trade: Four Realistic Deals for Timberwolves Guard

Dwight Howard Injury: Latest on Status of Wizards Center

The Washington Wizards have had a tough start to the NBA season, going 1-6 thus far with the lone win coming in narrow 125-124 fashion over the Portland Trail Blazers. The Wizards need to right the ship sooner than later, and a large part of making that happen will be the return of center Dwight Howard, who’s yet to play this season.
Howard was signed by the Wizards this offseason, addressing a big need for the team. The obvious hope is that Washington has added a player with the upside to dominate inside while playing alongside two top-tier NBA guards in John Wall and Bradley Beal. And after the slow start, his return to the floor can’t come fast enough.
Let’s take a look at the latest on Howard’s status and any news on his potential role when he returns to the floor.

Dwight Howard Set to Debut Friday vs. Thunder
Wizards coach Scott Brooks provided some good news on Howard ahead of the team’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday. As ESPN revealed, Brooks made it known Howard’s debut is set for this intriguing early-season matchup. The news comes after the veteran center was able to practice on Thursday with a strained muscle in his buttocks.
Howard is expected to start immediately, which will push Ian Mahinmi to the bench after starting all six games he played in. Over that stretch, Mahinmi averaged 4.5 points and 4.2 rebounds per game while playing just 16.8 minutes per game. The Wizards often opted to play small ball instead of using a prototypical center.

Howard’s Role & Comments on Return
Although Howard will play in this game, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington revealed the  32-year-old said he still can’t sit without pain but does feel better than before.
“It just doesn’t go away. It’s a lot better than it was,” he said. “I haven’t even been able to sit down. It hurts to sit down. Every time I get home, I can’t watch a movie sitting down. I’ve gotta lay down on the floor. It’s very painful.”
Howard sounds like he’s just excited to return to the floor and told Hughes that he’s “just looking forward to doing what I can to help this team win.”
As far as his role goes, ESPN revealed that Brooks didn’t shy away from the obvious fact that the Wizards want to get Howard rolling to the rim. The team is also interested in trying to get their big man some mid-range looks as well.
“His strength of his game is rolling. His strength of his game is finishing around the the rim, but he’s also a good mid-range shooter. … He’s going to get his share of those.”
This is Howard’s sixth NBA team and he spent last season with the Charlotte Hornets. The former No. 1 pick in the 2004 NBA Draft averaged 16.6 points, 12.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game while playing 81 games in 2017-18.
READ NEXT: Jimmy Butler Trade: Four Realistic Deals for Timberwolves Guard

Jimmy Butler Trade Rumors: Latest on Future of Timberwolves Guard

The Jimmy Butler trade saga of the 2018 NBA offseason has been one of the most well-documented and head-scratching in recent memory. While Minnesota Timberwolves president and head coach Tom Thibodeau seemingly has no interest in moving his All-Star guard, that may not be a great option.
The Timberwolves could technically opt to hold Butler throughout the season, but they’d eventually lose him in free agency. In turn, this has led to trade talks ramping back up and rumors beginning to fly once again. After the earlier stages of the offseason were loaded with a plethora of rumors and a wide range of options, it’s become far more streamlined as of late.
Butler’s potential landing spot via trade has been narrowed down somewhat, largely due to the fact that many teams pulled back after hearing Minnesota’s high asking price. But let’s take a look at the latest rumors which have come out on a possible deal.

Potential Miami Heat Trade Cools Off
Originally, the Heat seemed to be the most likely landing spot for Butler. They wanted the 29-year-old badly and apparently came closer than any team has to this point. As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first revealed, the Timberwolves nearly had a deal in place with the Heat, but it fell apart when Butler’s current team pushed for more.

ESPN Sources: Minnesota-Miami talks escalated close to a Jimmy Butler deal over weekend – only to see trade fall apart. Minnesota shared Butler’s medical info with Miami, owners were involved and sides prepared to finalize. Minnesota pushed for more, talks fractured.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 7, 2018

The two sides were unable to bounce back from that, at least to this point. And shortly after that news came to light, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel revealed the Heat were reportedly not re-engaging with the Timberwolves.
The Heat, according to a source familiar with the dealings, “are not trying to re-engage” in the talks. The process, however, seemingly remains fluid in light of Butler’s recent behavior and comments.
For now, the talks of a potential move to Miami are on hold, and very well may be dead altogether.

Houston Rockets Offer Their Future in Picks
Shortly after Butler had accepted the fact that he’d be with the Timberwolves to start the season, the Rockets upped the ante a bit. As ESPN reported, Houston offered a deal which included an eye-opening four first-round draft picks. While that wasn’t enough to get the deal done, largely due to the fact that these picks would have been at the bottom of the round, it got the ball rolling again.
The Athletic’s Shams Charania later detailed that along with the first-round selections, the Rockets included Marquese Chriss and Brandon Knight in the deal. After turning down Houston’s previous deal, ESPN’s Malika Andrews reported that Eric Gordon is a “mandatory” piece of any trade for the Timberwolves.
So as of now, it seems that unless Gordon is included in a deal from the Rockets, the Timberwolves won’t send Butler to the Western Conference juggernaut.
READ NEXT: Jimmy Butler Trade: Four Realistic Deals for Timberwolves Guard

The NBA’s Benjamin Button

Somehow, Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina’s game was polarizing before he even officially joined the NBA.
An ESPN analysis of 2017 draft prospects gave him the highest probability of someday becoming an All-Star and the greatest likelihood of being a lottery bust. And to some extent, fans haven’t been any more unified in how they feel about Ntilikina’s game, which isn’t the most well-rounded yet, given the gaps in his role as a ball-handler.
But there’s an argument to be made that many are simply looking at the 20-year-old the wrong way. He may be the pro basketball version of Benjamin Button, a player whose skills age and develop in reverse, with defensive mastery coming before offensive. Once fans accept that possibility, they may be able to better enjoy the unique talent they have on their hands.
Those underwhelmed by Ntilikina would point to his rookie season, in which he averaged 5.9 points a night and hit just 38.5 percent of his shots from 2-point range, one of the worst marks for a first-year player27 over the past 15 seasons, according to (It’s early, but so far, he’s on pace to do the same this season, shooting 38.7 percent on 2-pointers.)
The NBA is more positionless than ever, but Ntilikina’s tweener status on offense hasn’t helped matters. He hasn’t shown enough consistency with his jumper to be a spot-up shooter, but he also isn’t always decisive or aggressive enough to be the lone point guard on the court. (He got his first career start as the only point guard on Friday against Golden State, when his 17 points tied a career high.) When he does drive to the rim, Ntilikina dishes to teammates 41 percent of the time, the NBA’s ninth-highest rate among those who penetrate at least five times a game. In some ways, he’s like a young Ricky Rubio, with less passing skill and far more defensive potential because of his length and versatility.
While it might be challenging for the Knicks’ front office to determine which players fit best with franchise centerpiece Kristaps Porzingis (who’s still on the mend following an ACL tear last season), the club does have some data to use when it comes to Ntilikina. Not all of it is glowing, though. Porzingis shot 8 percentage points worse in 366 minutes alongside the Frenchman than when Ntilikina was on the bench, perhaps a sign that defenses didn’t respect Ntilikina as enough of a threat around the rim to free up his pick-and-pop partner. (New York scored just 102.6 points per 100 possessions with the duo on the court last season, a mark that, over the course of a full season, would have tied the Suns for the worst offense in the league.)
Understandably, these factors together raise questions about how long it will take Ntilikina to develop into a net positive on offense, if that ever truly happens. (Those questions likely explain the additions to the roster of Trey Burke and Emmanuel Mudiay, who often share time with Ntilikina even though the Knicks took him at No. 8 in the 2017 draft.) But it’s also worth acknowledging that good defensive players — particularly young guards — don’t jump off the screen the same way that good offensive ones do for the average fan. This was somewhat true of Kawhi Leonard before he won the NBA Finals MVP in 2014. The same phenomenon seemed to come into play with Denver’s Gary Harris, who has long been solid on defense but began seeing his national profile rise after taking considerable steps on the offensive side.
Take even the slightest glance in Ntilikina’s direction, though, and his best attribute — aside from his 6-foot-5 height or 7-foot-plus wingspan — quickly becomes evident. He has exceptional foot speed and can recover almost instantly even when he gets screened or is beaten with an initial first step. Considering how integral the screen-and-roll game has become in recent years, the ability of teams to neutralize that play call with a solid defender is monumentally important. And in looking at both film and metrics, Ntilikina is not merely good at that skill — he’s great at it.

His 0.65 points surrendered per possession while guarding the pick-and-roll ball-handlers last season ranked best in the NBA among those who defended at least 200 such plays, according to Synergy Sports Technology.28 That’s a laughably low figure considering that he was the NBA’s second-youngest player.
When I spoke with Ntilikina last season, he said he was primarily focused on nailing down how to use his long arms to bother shooters without fouling too much and how to effectively shade and funnel ball-handlers toward the 7-foot-3 shot-blocking wall that is Porzingis. “We want to force teams into shots they don’t want to take,” he said. “Make them shoot over our length.”
While the duo didn’t break scoreboards on offense, it could be a dominant defensive force. With both Ntilikina and Porzingis on the court last season, the Knicks held opponents to 95.9 points per 100 possessions, a mark that would have led the league by a mile over a full season, according to (That’s a welcome sign for a club that has posted a bottom-10 defense a whopping 12 of the 16 seasons since defensive guru Jeff Van Gundy resigned.) Just as encouraging: New York’s 6.7 net rating with the pair on the floor — meaning the Knicks outscored opponents by 6.7 points for every 100 possessions — was the best for any Knick duo that played 100 minutes together last year.
Even without Porzingis, though, Ntilikina has shown an ability to tag and identify cutters while switching to defend several different positions. That includes the post, where he fronts bigs in hopes of denying passes to them — a rare skill for a point guard. Among guards, only Warriors guard/forward Andre Iguodala was stingier than Ntilikina while defending the post29 last season, according to Second Spectrum.

The jury is still out on Ntilikina’s offense, although so far this season, he has shown encouraging signs on that end, too. Almost half of Ntilikina’s shot attempts have been 3-pointers, up from 31 percent last year. And like many Euros who join the league, he has seen steep second-year improvement in accuracy from long range, perhaps having fully adjusted to the NBA’s 3-point distance.
Maybe the most promising development, though, is his use of countermoves to get off floaters in and around the paint. The moves — a bargain bin version of the ones Dwyane Wade has used for years to get his shots off in traffic — do just enough to freeze defenders within reach of Ntilikina.

Knick officials have expressed privately that they have faith that Ntilikina will develop into an impact player on offense because he took over games when squaring off against players his own age in Europe, using stepbacks and torching defenders off of screens.
Perhaps that awareness and dominance will kick in at some point here. But even if it takes a while, or if it never comes, Knick fans — ones who fell in love with those hard-nosed defenses from the 1990s — would be wise to appreciate the skill set that Ntilikina has already shown.
Check out our latest NBA predictions.

LOOK: Jeff Teague’s Deleted Instagram Post After Jimmy Butler Drama

It didn’t take long for Jimmy Butler to create major drama at Minnesota Timberwolves practice Wednesday, and it’s grabbed plenty of headlines. But shortly after the situation unfolded, Timberwolves guard Jeff Teague took to social media and made a cryptic post on Instagram.
*NOTE: Teague deleted the post, but fortunately, Rob Perez of The Action Network posted the following screenshot of it:
Here’s Perez’s full tweet on the topic:

hmmmmm✋🏽✋🏽…. ☝🏾🙏🏾———-🕵🏼‍♂️👨🏽‍💻
— Synchrowob (@World_Wide_Wob) October 10, 2018

Good luck attempting to figure out what that group of emojis means. But if anyone has any idea and wants to toss it my way, feel free.
It could potentially mean … ten against one? Who knows. The situation took a very uncomfortable turn on Wednesday when Butler opted to show up at Timberwolves practice and create a massive scene.

Jimmy Butler Drama at Practice
As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski revealed, Butler’s return to practice was filled with all kinds of excitement. This included “boldly challenging teammates, coaches and front office executives.”
Just one portion which certainly stood out was Butler telling Timberwolves general manager Scott Layden “You f—ing need me, Scott. You can’t win without me.”
This all comes after Butler had requested a trade nearly a month ago, yet Minnesota doesn’t seem all that close to having one done. With the NBA regular season set to begin next week, it’s apparent the All-Star guard is frustrated with the situation and lack of progress on a deal. Time will tell, but as things stand, Butler is still a member of the Timberwolves, and that’s probably not a good thing.
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Jimmy Butler Trade: Pat Riley Cursed Out Tom Thibodeau for Last-Second Change

Category : NBA , Sports

A Jimmy Butler trade was almost conceived by the Minnesota Timberwolves and Miami Heat.
But with the deal on the one-yard line over the weekend, according to ESPN’s Jorge Sedano, Timberwolves president of basketball operations and head coach Tom Thibodeau asked for more, prompting Heat president Pat Riley to call his counterpart a name that can’t be uttered on basic cable.
Sedano said on ESPN Radio:
They finally relented on Josh Richardson, they were giving up Josh Richardson. I think Dion Waiters was going to be the cap filler basically there. And then a protected first-round pick. The medicals were exchanged, which generally means this is a done deal. And then Thibs called back and wanted more picks. And Pat Riley, literally, I was told, called him a mother bleeper and hung up the phone.
Why Jimmy Butler Wants Out
After a contentious practice on Wednesday, Butler opened up about what made him want to request a trade this offseason in an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols:
It just all goes back to telling the truth, and being honest with myself, me being honest with them, them being honest with me, and you just look at it and the whole thing is — I just want to be appreciated. That’s it. It’s not about anything else. Everybody can see who it is, and what we’re missing. Not the defense, not the points, it’s the passion. It’s the heart that I play with on every single possession. And that’s all that it is. All that I’m asking from you is just be honest with me. Don’t tell me — just tell me the whole truth. Don’t tell me half the truth, tell me the whole truth, and that’s what it’s all about.
Pat Riley’s Short Temper
This isn’t the first time Riley’s sworn while addressing a fellow dealmaker of an NBA team.
After the 2012-13 Heat’s 27-game winning streak was snapped by the Chicago Bulls, LeBron James complained about officials through the media.
“First of all Kirk Hinrich in the first quarter basically grabbed me with two hands and brought me to the ground,” James said, according to NESN. “And the last one, Taj Gibson was able to collar me around my shoulder and bring me to the ground. Those are not basketball plays.
“I’m not sitting here crying about anything. I play the game at a high level, I play with a lot of aggression, I understand that some of the plays are on the borderline of a basketball play or not. But sometimes, you know? I don’t know … it’s frustrating.”
Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge had apparently seen the game, and complained to WEEI about James’ complaining.
“I think the referees got the calls right. I don’t think it was a hard foul,” Ainge said. “I think the one involving LeBron against Boozer, that was flagrant. I think the officials got it right.
“I think that it’s almost embarrassing that LeBron would complain about officiating.”
Rather than see his reaction trickle through the press, Riley released quite the statement through a Heat official: “Danny Ainge needs to shut the f— up and manage his own team. He was the biggest whiner when he was playing, and I know that because I coached against him.”