Our grades from Sunday around the NBA, or what you missed while watching where in the world people are dropping F-bombs on twitter….
San Antonio Spurs’ starting five. The Spurs starting five of Tony Parker, Danny Green, Marco Belinelli, Boris Diaw and Tim Duncan only played 12 minutes together against the Knicks Sunday, but they shot 72 percent from the floor, hit 5-of-6 from three and accounted for +23 of the Spurs 31-point win. Yes, they did it against a sieve of a defense (without Tyson Chandler) but the fact they attacked and put the game away early was to getting rest late.
Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder. He’s had to carry the load with Russell Westbrook still shaking off the rust (4-of-16) — plus Westbrook got ejected with the Thunder down 10 and just over 3 minutes left. Durant shouldered the load with 33 points on 23 shots, plus he hit the pull up three to send the game to overtime. The Thunder went on to win the game and Durant had four in the overtime.
Phoenix Suns’ defense. While nobody has been watching Jeff Hornacek has his Suns playing good defense — they are sixth in the NBA allowing 96.7 points per 100 possessions, and they held the Pelicans to 97.2. New Orleans shot just 47.7 percent inside 8 feet and 37.5 percent in the midrange (plus 4-of-13 from three). Defense at the NBA level starts with effort and buying into the system and Hornacek’s Suns are doing that and they are 5-2 because of it.
Los Angeles Lakers’ defense. On the top of the Lakers pre-game white board Mike D’Antoni wrote to get back in transition (to force Minnesota into half court sets) and close out on shooters — the Lakers did neither of those. Not even close. They had no energy or commitment to the system. Especially in the first quarter when the Timberwolves shot 76.2 percent overall and hit 7-of-9 from three, plus went on a 27-2 run. For the half Minnesota shot 53.2 percent and added another 10 points at the line. The Lakers escape with a “D-” because they did better in the second half, although much of that seemed to be Minnesota taking its foot off the gas. Ricky Rubio had a triple double (12 points, 14 assists, 10 rebounds). The Lakers are 22nd in the NBA in defensive efficiency and their occasionally good bench play can’t bail them out of that.
When the Nuggets signed Darrell Arthur with their room exception last summer, I praised the deal for Denver then added:
If Arthur continues to develop his jumper, this signing could be a major steal. I wouldn’t count on that, but there’s a little upside with the 27-year-old.
Well, Arthur posted career highs in 3-pointers made (45) and 3-point percentage (38.5).
So, he doesn’t want to be a major steal any longer.
Arthur, who would’ve made $2,940,630 by opting in, should get a substantial raise in this cap environment. At age 28, this is his chance to secure a major contract.
Once again, Denver defended far better with him on the floor – 103.5 points allowed per 100 possessions with him on, 108.3 with him off. The combo forward is extremely versatile in the range of players he can guard, and his basketball IQ is high on that end. At 6-foot-9, 235 pounds, he’s not the best rebounder, though.
Nearly every team could use someone like Arthur. At least a few will likely bid for his services.
There seems to be more demand and value for the services of Jamal Crawford — the three-time Sixth Man of the Year — outside the Los Angeles Clippers than inside that front office. Doc Rivers has said he plans to keep the core of the Clippers together for next season, but Crawford may be the guy he’s not willing to pay to keep.
Don’t take my word for it, here is what Crawford himself tweeted Sunday.
I don’t think he was talking about Beyoncé at the BET Music Awards.
Crawford still has value on the court. He has one of the best crossovers in the game, a streaky jump shot, he scored 14 points a game last season, racking up a lot of those points thanks to his love of pull-up jumpers. However, at age 36 he is showing declining efficiency at age 36, and he is not a good defender.
Rivers may want to keep him — he did have the ball in his hands with the second unit a lot when Chris Paul rested — but not at the price tag other teams are willing to pay. We will get a sense of what those numbers are — and what teams will pay them — when free agency tips off Friday.
Pau Gasol is not coming back to the Chicago Bulls next season. Joakim Noah is not coming back to the Chicago Bulls.
Taj Gibson may be on his way out, too.
The Bulls are testing the trade market for Gibson, reports Joe Cowley at the Chicago Sun-Times.
To add some further clouds to the Bulls frontcourt rotation, a league source said that the Bulls have been talking to several teams about the possibility of moving Taj Gibson. The power forward is in the final year of his contract, scheduled to make $8.9 million.
If they do in fact send Gibson elsewhere, that would leave a frontcourt of Robin Lopez, Nikola Mirotic, Bobby Portis and Cristiano Felicio, and some serious money to spend.
The Bulls are going into a retooling mode, keeping Jimmy Butler saves it from being a full rebuild. Gibson may be the best trade piece they have outside Butler — he is a rock solid defender, provides rim protection, doesn’t score a lot but plays within himself and is efficient in putting up points. Plus with that contract, a lot of playoff and contending teams will have interest.
The question is who would the Bulls get back? Young players that fit better into coach Fred Hoiberg’s system ideally. The market should be fairly robust for Gibson.
The Bulls are going to take a step back this coming season, but hopefully start to develop a team identity around Butler and Hoiberg. They need to go after free agents that can fit into that system and guys they can take risks with.
It’s going to take time, but we’ll see if the Gar/Forman front office can execute that vision.
Outside of Mike Conley, Jeremy Lin is arguably the most attractive free agent available at the point guard position. He’s going to have plenty of suitors after a resurgent year with the Hornets, and he said over the weekend that he’s going to listen to all offers.
“I’ve played 6 years, in the NBA, I’ve played on five different teams. I’ve played for two D-League teams — so seven cities in six years. I’m tired of boxes, I’m tired of moving companies and I want to find a home,” Lin said in an interview with the World Economic Forum over the weekend.
“I want to see how good I can become,” Lin said in the World Economic Forum interview. “I’m 27 and an athlete’s prime, or at least in the NBA, your prime is usually 27-30. That’s when you kind of peak physically (and) mentally and that’s where most players perform their best. So I’m going into my prime and I want to see how great I can be as a player and that’s my purpose in free agency so I’ll just exhaust every opportunity to see which one will be the best for me.”
Lin has bounced around the league since his explosion in New York in 2012. He spent two seasons in Houston, followed by one with the Lakers and one in Charlotte. He recently told the Charlotte Observer that he enjoyed his season with the Hornets and would love to return:
“This is the most fun I’ve had in my six years” in the NBA, Lin said. “Being around a great group of guys and a coaching staff that really cares. I’ve learned so much about the game of basketball, particularly at the defensive end.”
“My biggest thing is I want to have fun and be happy,” he said. “I’ve been paid on the lower end and had a blast, and I’ve been paid on the higher end and not enjoyed it at all.
“Honestly, money has never been the most important thing. Money is important because it shows how a team values you. But beyond that I don’t care all that much about money. Me coming here (for slightly more than $2 million a season) showed that.”
Lin said the chemistry the Hornets developed this season was special and rarer than fans might realize.
“I definitely want to play with these guys and this coach,” Lin said, referring to Steve Clifford. “When you bounce around a lot the way I have, seeing a lot of organizations, there’s a lot about this one that I can appreciate in terms of my experience, that maybe I didn’t have in other situations.”
If the Hornets are willing to pony up the money (Lin should command upwards of $10 million per year in this market), they wold appear to be the leaders in the clubhouse to sign him. But with the amount of money flying around and Charlotte also having to make big free-agent decisions on Nicolas Batum
, Courtney Lee
, Marvin Williams
and Al Jefferson
, somebody will have to be the odd man out.