The Most Important Stretch in Greg Monroe’s Celtics Tenure

Written By: Vinny, @sailboatstudios

Reasons for the Celtics recent struggles are many. For one If was expected Jayson Tatum would hit the rookie wall one of these days; the grind of an NBA schedule is harsh on a rookie. Tatum’s played well past the thirty-seven games he worked in his lone season at Duke. In the first 37 games Tatum splits were a Rookie of the Year worthy 51.5/50/82.4%, averaging 14 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.6 APG and 1.6 Stocks (Blocks + Steals); since then: 42.1/30.3/82.5% splits, 12.7 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.8 Stocks. Add to the exhaustion, defense was never Tatum’s calling card, the Warriors on both occasions showed his vulnerability on zipper action and one-on-one situations.

As a team the Celtics hit their stride after October 24th, the team catapulted to No. 1 in defense posting a league-leading 101.1 DRtg; the Spurs, for the entire season, are second with 104.74. Opponents eFG% was at 48.6, well-below the league-average of 52.1%; opponent’s three-point percentage went capped out at 33.9%; compared to the league-average of 36.1%. This was why people tagged Brad Stevens for Coach of the Year, until recently. The loss of Gordon Hayward didn’t only limit their offense severely, Irving and Horford together can only up Boston’s ORtg to 108, not even close to elite level, it also cost Boston a solid defender on the perimeter. Jaylen Brown is still too skinny to guard many athletic wings (Blake Griffin, LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo); Jayson Tatum is too young; Terry Rozier is undersized; and you can only scheme around these hinderances so many times until you finally get beat.

Soon the cracks started to show. Smart creating a laceration in his hand after punching a picture frame, derailed Boston’s elite defense to somewhere just below league-average. While a 105.2 DRtg, since the loss to the Lakers, isn’t horrible, the 240 points given up at home to Cleveland and the L.A Clippers right before the All-Star Break is. We can point to the simple subtraction of Smart, one of the best on-ball and team-defenders in the NBA, as the cause for this gigantic step back, but the pieces seemingly were in place to prevent the Celtics from missing Smart. The Clippers, Raptors and Cavaliers, scoring 361 points in the three games played against the Celtics, neither of them (besides Cleveland) didn’t have a body to bully starting shooting guard Jaylen Brown or even Tatum. Yet, they still ran rough-shot over the worn down Celtics. Al Horford, Aron Baynes, Marcus Morris and the aforementioned, high-effort Rozier were healthy for all those games. In all reality, this shouldn’t have happened. It’s not crazy to suggest all the Celtics need is some downtime to return to their previous form.

But even if that’s not the solution, it may lay on the bench, twenty-seven-year old center Greg Monroe’s been a solid 5 points, 5 rebounds per game in the four contests he’s suited up in green, since joining the team a week before All-Star Break. After logging in nearly twenty-minutes in his debut against Washington, his time dwindled to 10, 11 and 9 minutes in the final three-games. In those very games, established big forward/center Daniel Theis played nearly 28, 17, 11 and 10 minutes, seeing as he’s a better fit for the modern NBA and was on a good run since December 31st, 56.1%, 40.7% from three, and an offensive rating of 126.

But the following opponents for Boston are exactly why Ainge signed Monroe, Detroit, New York, Memphis, Charlotte, and Chicago. Teams with an established center and Monroe played and had some success against in the past. Like former teammate Andre Drummond, the nine games played Monroe hit 56%, averaged 14.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.5 stocks. Traditional back to the basket centers like Robin Lopez, Enes Kanter, Cody Zeller, Dwight Howard and Jonas Valanciunas are the ideal matchups for Monroe; even though Theis on his best night could create more havoc. But the slow-moving Monroe still proved his worth in a game against the Wizards, a team who’s frontcourt consists of Marcin Gortat, Markieff Morris and Ian Mahimi, Monroe snagged 6 boards and 5 points in the overtime victory.

Like Terry Rozier when Smart was sidelined was the most important two-week stretch of his career, defining his role in the rotation as a trustworthy contributor; Monroe can earn the same if he produces in five of the next six games after All-Star Break comes to a close.

What-If Larry Bird Retired In 1988?

Written By: Vinny @sailboatstudios

 

It’s difficult to understand how great someone from the past really was, especially when you’ve never experienced them firsthand. This probably explains why so many people think LeBron is the greatest player ever. All under twenty-five-year olds have of Michael Jordan is YouTube clips, full games the lack the sense of mystery because the viewer knows how it ends. The cold hard numbers help the narrative that even Kobe Bryant is superior; the numbers don’t tell you Jordan took a sabbatical and missed 99 games. All I’m left with of Larry Joe Bird is the statistics, stories and grainy old footage. We label the 1980s as an overrated era of slow, rugby style basketball that couldn’t possibly work today. The past epic duels between Bird and Dominique, Dr. J, M.J, and Magic are forgotten. By the late-1980s Bird’s status grew to the popularity of where Tom Brady is right now. If there was a stat to describe how many times an athlete came through in the clutch, when fans knew they would, Bird would lead the league.

While the era of Brady lives on, Bird it hung up prematurely at the age of thirty-one. 31. Thirty-one. Reminiscent  of Red Auerbach did before the 1965-66 season Bird announced he was giving the rest of the league “one more” shot at knocking him down. Except Auerbach himself did everything short of getting on his knees to beg Larry not to keep true to his word. Camping out of Bird’s estate in French Lick, Indiana, it wasn’t until September when Red saw Bird laying down gravel in his mother’s driveway did he come to grips with the reality: Bird’s back been giving him trouble since 1985, and it would only get worse from here.

It’s alright, Larry.” He told him. “At Least we still have Lenny.”

And just like that the face of the franchise changed from this skinny gent “The Hick from French Lick” to a physical specimen from Maryland that rivaled Jordan in ego and competitive drive. “If it wasn’t for Bias, I wouldn’t have retired after ‘88.” Bird said in an interview with columnist Bill Simmons.

“What?” He didn’t believe it.

“We’ve just won the title, I finished second in the MVP vote to Jordan… I still felt like I had some good years left in the tank. But I knew the Celtics were in good hands. Lenny was someone I liked the moment I first saw him.

The change was drastic and threw fans into a loop. Fans were expected to toss away their black Converse sneaks in favor of a sleek black, white stripe shoes. Outside of New England the transition was easy; within the area they didn’t know how to feel. The sad era of fans thinking the NBA was “too black” wasn’t a distant memory. When Bird became the coach in 1990, fans chanted “Larry Larry Larry” after every win, Bird could’ve personally told them to stop and they wouldn’t.

Bias eventually won the younger generation over in the early 1990s, out-dueling M.J in the 1990 Semi-Final. Bias was Kawhi Leonard before Kawhi was a twinkle in his father’s eye. Locking up the scoring champ in Game 7, holding him down to sixteen points, five turnovers. “It was the worse game i’ve ever played.” Jordan would confess. Behind the lockdown perimeter defense of Bias and outside shooting of UConn shooting guard Reggie Lewis, the Celtics snuck into the NBA Finals, where they would bow out to the Portland Trailblazers. The team labeled “too old” and simultaneously “too young” the Celtics surprised many, Bias proved his worth as a successor to the legacy of Bird.

How could you not sympathize with the Danny White of the NBA? No matter how well Bias did, he was a mere mortal compared to Bird’s Staubach. Maybe a championship would’ve helped him escape the shadow of The Legend. But basketball is a team sport. The fossilizing of Kevin McHale; Auerbach’s inability to replace the greatest post player in NBA history, passing on Shawn Kemp for Michael Smith in the crucial 1989 NBA Draft set Bias up for failure. Coach Larry Bird tried to get around the aging Kevin’s mcHale by experimenting with the 6’5 Kevin Gamble at the power forward spot, but when playoff time rolled around he went back to the traditional lineup that couldn’t keep up with the speed of the Bulls.

It wasn’t until the death of Reggie Lewis in June of 1993 did fans learn to appreciate the talent before them, realizing how good they got it. Bravely the twenty-nine-year old Bias lead the Celtics through the despair, leading the undermanned Celtics passed the Hornets and heavily favored Knicks en route to a gallant defeat at the hands of Jordan. And thus, the book closed on the Bias era in Boston, fans didn’t know it then.

Three Eastern Conference appearance, two-time runner-up, five Atlantic division titles, getting the best of the GOAT twice(!) in the playoffs. It wasn’t enough. He was Superboy taking over for Superman. Any other team Bias would’ve been revered. But not here, where all that matters is bringing home the Larry O’Brien trophy every year.

The New Look Cavs

By Vinny @sailboatstudios

Visit the @goodtimebball Twitter account.

From constantly working the Trade Machine we now shift to fruitless attempts to getting into the psyche of one Joe Johnson. The Cavaliers dominated the Trade Deadline. Wheeling and dealing everything that wasn’t nailed to the table (LeBron, Love, BKN pick). It was a “Everything Must Go” sale that required collateral. George Hill, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance, Jr. and Rodney Hood are now in Cleveland and expectations have been risen from the dirt by Koby Altman. The Cavaliers tossed out Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye, Jae Crowder and Isaiah Thomas, basically punting on all of what they’ve received from the Kyrie Irving trade – besides the Brooklyn pick.

It’s a tough sell to fans saying the aforementioned names are going to save the Cavaliers season… well, they need to. Course, they have LeBron who’ll be reenergized, reengaged and whatnot. Perhaps they’re now in prime position to win enough games not to drop further than the third seed and then LeBron takes over come playoff time. Certainly that has to be the plan, it happened last year.

Rodney Hood is the wonderful player I’m still shocked Utah traded him for Jae Crowder and the corpse of Derrick Rose. Hood is enjoying career highs in FG (42.4), 3P (38.9), FT (87.6) percentage and points per game (16.8). A starter in Utah and considered a valued prospect until Donovan Mitchell’s ascension ruined his life. In 2015-16 Hood stared 79 games; out of the fifty-nine he was able to suit up for the following year, 55 he started, and this year the number has dwindled to 12 starts. There’s also the issue of his ability to stay on the court, missing thirty-two games his rookie season and twenty-three this season. Course the injuries that sidelined him weren’t ever serious. Just bumps and bruises, but there’s a point to be made that the Cavaliers will need to handle Hood carefully. In Boston Stevens mandates that a player of Irving’s importance is only allowed to play 32 minutes a night and no more. This helps avoid anything cataclysmic *knock on wood*. Cleveland doesn’t have the infrastructure to do this. But, maybe they’ll turn over a new leaf?

On the floor, Hood is a fine shooter and can elevate off the dribble. Unfortunately, consistency isn’t one of his strong suites. For every 12 of 24 or 10 of 18 shooting night, there’s a 1 of 10 and 4 of 17 stinker.

Last year’s Jazz team will never be recognized as anything more than just a forgettable solid team, in part because the core players were never healthy at the same time. But you look at that roster and see the quality of players, none of them outstanding, just solid, helpful guys who’d help you win, that’s what the Cavaliers did to their roster from top to bottom by snagging Hood. They have hope again. And it starts with Rodney Hood.

 

I find it hilarious during Dan Gilbert/Koby Altman’s wheeling and dealings they inadvertently created the necessary cap space L.A pined for to sign to max contract free agents in the upcoming summer. Props to Jeanie Buss or Rob Pelinka… or dare I say… Magic Johnson(?) for managing to get rid of Jordan Clarkson’s contract, due $37.5 million for the next three seasons, and getting a first round pick. Though it did cost them a young, rookie scale contract player in Larry Nance, Jr., the move to take on Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye’s expiring give the Lakers $46.9 million in cap space next summer, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks. The cap space will increase to a whopping $69 million if the Lakers let fourth-year forward Julius Randle walk in RFA and stretch the $37 million owed to Luol Deng over 5 years, according to Bobby Marks of ESPN.

As for Clarkson the player, arguably negated by the George Hill acquisition… but he’s young, the Cavaliers have no way whatsoever to create cap space; the payroll can exceed $150 million with a luxury tax bill of $100 million if LeBron returns to Cleveland, per Marks. The risk is worth it. Clarkson can play both guards spot, averages 14.5 points on a decent 44% shooting, a good 22.9 AST% for someone who splits time between on and off ball. The biggest asset for Clarkson is his ability to finish strong at the rack, 61% in the restricted area. Compare that to where they were before with an angry Isaiah Thomas and the corpse (I know I said that before) of former MVP Derrick Rose, Clarkson will come across as a godsend to Cavalier fans. His shortcomings on defense are prominent and hard to ignore. Will he even be an option during a Golden State series? Probably not. The majority of these moves help Cleveland escape the East.

Another name trading the glitz and glamour of L.A for the cloudy depression of Cleveland, Ohio, 25-year-old Larry Nance, Jr. Since Tristan Thompson up and died, the frontcourt in Cleveland was going to be the main reason they lost in the first round to either Sabonis or Greg Monroe. Nance’s knees aren’t shot. He can jump, 59 dunks this year; to Thompson’s 27 (its kinda crazy the year before Thompson dunked the ball a total of 122 times).

With Nance the Cavs are getting a strong presence offensively in the frontcourt, Nance converts 60.1% (69.9% in the RA) of his attempts, averages a respectable 8.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.9 stocks (blocks + steals). Thompson 6.2 points, 6 rebounds, 0.6 stocks. Cleveland won’t have to cross their fingers the old Thompson returns before the end of the regular season. Expect some “Hack-a“ as Nance shoots 63.2% from the free throw line. But, like the Clarkson move it was just something the Cavaliers had to do.

The Cavaliers go from one of the oldest teams in the league to a more younger, bouncier roster. They’re the favorites in the East again, and as a Celtics fan… it sucks.

 

 

George Hill to the Cavs, Is He Washed?

By Vinny @sailboatstudios

 

Welp. I guess the Cavaliers and Koby Altman could swing a deal given their relatively bare asset war chest. Not satisfied with their current situation in the backcourt, the Cavaliers sought to drastically improve quickly. Left out of the Kemba Walker talks for many reasons (insufficient assets and/or M.J disinterest to rebuild), the Cavaliers turned to west of Charlotte, Sacramento and the floundering Kings saddled with the regrettable $57 million contract owed to thirty-one guard George Hill. Riding the superb 2016-17 season, though only suited up for 49 games, Hill helped send the Jazz to the playoffs for the first time since 2010. An underrated statistical output during his short stint in Utah, Hill ranked 27th among guards in defensive rating (101), averaged 16.9 points, 4.2 assists, 3.4 rebounds, and a win shares per 48 of .182 (Damian Lillard scores .185) and a positive net rating of 8.6; 10th among players who’ve logged at least fifteen-minutes per game.

The Cavaliers are a horrendous defensive team, trotting out liabilities such as Isaiah Thomas, J.R Smith, Iman Shumpert, Dwayne Wade, Derrick Rose and Jose Calderon, adds up to the second-worst defensive net rating in the entire NBA (109.9) better than, Ironically, the Kings. As you can imagine, George Hill hasn’t helped the Kings’ avoid such a distinction. Coming into the season missing action due to a toe injury, Hill’s regression is dramatic. Falling from one of the best defenders at his position to 217th (112.9), below Jamal Crawford and Devin Booker. While doing research on George Hill I found it wasn’t all bad news, in the fourteen games considered “clutch” situations on http://NBA.com, Hill posted an impressive ORtg (123.3), DRtg (93.7) and Net rating (29.6) in 2.9 MPG. So it’s possible the good George Hill hasn’t left us at all. Certainly that’s what the Cavaliers are gambling on.

While Channing Frye and Iman Shumpert aren’t considered assets, both past the prime of their respective careers, they provided salary flotsam that helped facilitate this deal and now that they are off the books the Cavaliers have elected to take on even more money, one that’s harder to get off as Hill’s contract doesn’t get any team-friendly in the coming seasons:

2017-18: $20,000,000
2018-19: $19,000,000
2019-20: $18,000,000

Sure, the gentle decline in cash owed helps but by how much for a team already hamstrung by the albatrosses of J.R Smith, Tristan Thompson, and are starring at paying a thirty-year old, under six foot point guard $100-plus million in free agency this July? Ask GM Altman if any of this matters he’d probably so “no.” Given the circumstances all that matter is this time now, damn the future, maximize the present any way you can.

In the forty-three games Hill’s played in Sacramento he’s averaged 10.3 points on 46.9% shooting, 45.3% on threes (out of 128 attempts), 2.8 assists, 2.7 rebounds, 14.1 P.E.R, a 14 TOV% and a negative 12.6 net rating. There’s glimmers of hope, despite the discouraging stat-line. Hill averages 1.00 points per possession in isolation; 1.37 on spot-up attempt and 1.33 on handoffs. He can still be a lethal shooter, hitting 67.7 eFG% on spot-up, 69 eFG% on handoffs and 64.3 eFG% on cuts.

It isn’t difficult to fit Hill into any system, quite frankly. He’s a decent off-ball player, good enough you can strategically place him at either corner three spot and it wouldn’t hurt you (last three seasons Hill shot 48.1% on corner three attempts). This move effectively puts Isaiah Thomas in a reserve role, a reduction in minutes is probably for the best as he cannot maintain production for the length of time he managed in Boston. Last fifteen games saw Thomas play overused and relied on to be the MVP candidate of season’s past. He no longer has that speed off the dribble and relies heavily on getting fouls. The step, the hop isn’t there. The fact is Thomas isn’t that player anymore, but the Cavaliers seriously can’t consider starting Jose Calderon in the playoffs or ride LeBron the rest of the way and risk burning him out.

Hill is also a better option to guard Kyle Lowry, Kyrie Irving and Stephen Curry than the aforementioned parade of poor defensive guards.

Overall the Cavaliers felt they had to do something. Anything. The disaster on the court is a product of mostly poor effort, but the personnel doesn’t leave much desired since the ceilings are so low. Age isn’t the team’s friend either. The Cavaliers average age was thirty-one years old, now they’re younger with recent transactions that dumped Thomas, Rose, Wade and brought in Hood, Nance and Clarkson. While Hill isn’t a spring chicken he’s a better option than the status quo to help Cleveland escape the East without succumbing to the charging Raptors or Celtics.

It’s Officially “Fit-In” Season

Written By: Vinny @sailboatstudios

Second to only the President, LeBron James’ Twitter account is the most entertaining handle on the website. The delicious dysfunction within the Cavaliers organization hidden in subtweets, almost requiring you to crack a riddle devised by an eight-year old. We’re officially in “Stop trying to FIT-out and just Fit-In” season, LeBron’s camp is already sending messages to voice his displeasure, threatening to take a meeting with the Warriors of all teams just to send the inexperienced front office aflame. To be honest, James deserves Koby Altman and owner Dan Gilbert. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and the reasons for why LeBron will probably depart Cleveland for the second time in eight-years is the fault of the collective braintrust. Say what you want about Gilbert, he’s a petty, sometimes frustratingly cheap man that doesn’t want to give his well-regarded general manager a second contract – pulling the plug on his tenure right as he’s constructing a blockbuster trade for Paul George.

Left to sleep in the bed they made the Cavaliers have fallen off from a team you could pencil into the NBA Finals to in danger of not even making it to the East-Finals, with the rise of Toronto, Boston, Philadelphia and Indiana, the route to the Finals will not be a cakewalk. A aging, injured Isaiah Thomas is where Kyrie Irving used to be. Jae Crowder can’t make a three-pointer. The average age of the Cavaliers are 30.1, making them the oldest team in the NBA. The “LeBron Moves” of signing old friend Dywane Wade, and Derrick Rose haven’t made the job easier on defense; the team backing themselves into a corner paying three-point marksman Kyle Korver $22 million for three seasons is too expensive to be considered a trade chip for a contender looking for a spot-up threat.

The Cavaliers need more than just one player to magically cure them of their ailments. Their defense is terrible. Giving up the fourth most points this season (1,002), ranked 25th in net rating in January (-5.7), capping off the month by giving up 125 points to the Detroit Pistons who traded both of their wing players for the yet to have arrived Blake Griffin.

The aborted George Hill deal may’ve been a blessing, the thirty-one year old guard wasn’t going to magically inspire the distraught Cavaliers to get back on defense and rediscover his own ability to defend at a high level – quite possibly, Hill is the worse defensive guard in the NBA right now. He may be a improvement over Thomas, Wade and Rose, but the minor upgrade isn’t worth paying his $20 million a year contract for three-seasons.

A week prior, the overmatched third-year head coach Ty Lue reshuffled the starting lineup, the big change was merely shifting Jae Crowder to the bench and reinserting Tristan Thompson into the starting lineup. The twenty-seven year old center aged in dog years, like those his size have before him. Fans point to the Nets Pick as a potential asset to be flipped for Clippers center DeAndre Jordan; L.A recently dealing star Blake Griffin to Detroit, and kickstarting a potential makeshift rebuild. Problem being is there’s a rift in the front office whether or not it’s best to mortgage the future on one last year with LeBron. There’s also the fact Jordan gets run off the floor every time he faces the Warriors, his value would be maximized in earlier rounds. All-Star Kevin Love was rumored to be in many fictitious deals for the recently injured DeMarcus Cousins, the aforementioned DeAndre, and even Trail Blazers shooting guard C.J McCollum. A broken hand, expected to sideline him for two-months hampers his trade value and throws the situation in the floor into further catastrophe. Outside of LeBron, Love was the only other player able to create for himself. His presence will be missed to say the least.

If the Nets Pick is off the table, or if Brooklyn wins enough games by February 8th to make the asset distasteful, the Cavaliers should look to trade their expiring contracts and draft picks for good two-way players on bad contracts. Kent Bazemore of Atlanta; Courtney Lee of New York have shot the ball well this season and can contribute to a team in desperate need of what Jae Crowder was supposed to provide when traded from Boston. Jeff Green is their best two-way player on the wing, while Crowder cratered into oblivion. Still, Jae has a good reputation as a hard worker, doesn’t slag off on defense and is on a tremendous contract if he can regain his ability to play basketball. It’s been only five-months since he arrived and it already seems Crowder needs a change in scenery.

The reality is Cleveland can’t be in any conversation to trade for an All-Star without an occurrence of luck. David Griffin may not have been the best general manager, but he knew how to manage egos and perform salary cap gymnastics. The inexperienced Koby Altman just cannot do that. Not yet anyway. Thrusted in quite possibly the most toxic situation in basketball, Altman was doomed to fail once he traded Kyrie Irving and didn’t take the brief moment it looked like fate was giving him a second chance to undo the transaction. It’s Dan Gilbert’s fault Eric Bledsoe and Paul George aren’t in Ohio; it’s Altman’s fault for not backing out of the Irving deal; it’s LeBron’s fault for not stepping up for Kyrie when it looked like the Cavaliers were going to trade him to Phoenix.

The Cleveland Cavaliers don’t need a team-meeting, or a players only meeting. They need an intervention.

Brief Breakdown of Clippers Fleecing of Detroit

By: Vinny @sailboatstudios

And we’re off! The first trade of the new year brings many opinions from self-proclaimed experts, knee-jerk reactions/takedowns of either the Pistons or Clippers as Blake Griffin’s time in California has come to an unceremonious end. Stan Gan Gundy makes the ultimate play to save his team’s season and his job; the Pistons loss eight straight and nineteen of their last twenty-seven since starting the year 14-6. Its no coincidence the Pistons team fell into the toilet once Reggie Jackson’s ankle betrayed him, expected to miss six-to-eight weeks. The core of Jackson – Bradley – Tobias – Drummond is better than whatever SVG is gonna throw out on the floor with Blake Griffin.

The instability in Detroit is insane. In no way Blake is the player he once was; on paper seems like it, but injuries and countless lower body surgeries largely limited his ability to play above the rim. We’ve seen an awful lot of “Point Blake” this season, a role where he’s done great as the floor general, 5.4 assists, he’s shown he can play like Draymond Green. But we’ve seen bouncy players succumb to injuries in the past, and Griffin’s ability to play long stretches leaves me skeptical, he’s already missed time due to injury, his dunk totals haven’t passed 100 since 2014 (mostly because of his injuries). Stan Van Gundy treated Blake as if he were still the third best player in the NBA, giving up the farm (and a lottery pick!) for him to save their season. Who’s playing the shooting guard and small forward positions for Detroit now? Stanley Johnson? Reggie Bullock? Luke Kennard? What a horrible roster this team’s complied and they think they can make the playoffs with just Blake and Drummond? Essentially SVG elected to become the Clippers of last week, only without the standout prospects; whiffing on a couple lottery picks will do that to you.

(A major positive in this trade is for the Celtics, if the Pistons sneak into the postseason they don’t have to worry about facing Avery Bradley in a revenge series)

Willie Reed is a fine backup center, better than Boban. Los Angeles will miss having Reed as a backup to D.J.

For the Clippers, they sit a half-game behind Denver for the eighth seed, two-games behind New Orleans for the sixth spot. It’s feasible the Clippers go on a run the final thirty-three games and finish with a better record than both those teams. The emergence of Tyrone Wallace (shooting 72.7% on cuts”), the return of Miloš Teodosić round out the backcourt. Avery Bradley playing next to Lou Williams basically recreates the Tacoma Backcourt from his Boston days with Isaiah Thomas. Jerry West forced Doc Rivers to coach up younger talent this season, taking away both franchise cornerstones in five-months of showing up. When Gallinari went out of the lineup, Wesley Johnson and prospect Sam Dekker stepped in and produced. Austin Rivers, Teodosić and Beverly being sidelined forced Rivers to turn to rookies Wallace and Jawun Evans. Blake Griffin’s departure thrusts Montrezl Harrell into a bigger role which is what West wants. Stealthily taking away Rivers’ preferred players to build for the future and still be in a position to reasonably compete. Don’t be surprised if the Clippers finish 42-40 and give the Warriors some fits in the first round.

Another factor in all of this is the Pistons gave up what could be a top-10 pick (the protections are 1 thru 4) for a guy who hasn’t made the All-Star Game in three years and has a donut sized hole at their wing positions.

My Grades:
Pistons: F
Clippers: A

 

Why Rodney Hood Isn’t Coming To Boston

By Vinny, @sailboatstudios on Twitter

It’s that time of year again. Names appear in trade rumors – almost as if pulled out of a hat at random. Kemba Walker, Lou Williams, DeAndre Jordan, George Hill all linked to the Cleveland Cavaliers. The sexiest names attached to the team with, seemingly, the most to offer, (Brooklyn pick) while it remains uncertain the value of the Nets pick, it’s still important and an enviable asset. The issue of course is, using it to acquire guard George Hill, an older guard on a massive contract is an overpay. The sad fact is Tristan Thompson cratering in production ruins any possibility of a Cavaliers blockbuster deal, if T.T was the players he was last season Cleveland absolutely could’ve been in the running for somebody like Jordan or Gasol. But now Thompson is a gigantic albatross, if you’re rebuilding there’s no reason to take on Thompson’s contract and not receive a lottery pick in return is borderline lunacy.

In a league where teams don’t have necessary cap space or even digestible contracts to make the idea of a transaction possible, teams in contention already have an established point guard (Milwaukee, Boston, New Orleans); don’t have the assets (San Antonio, Cleveland). So all there’s left are the bottom of the playoff standings, Philadelphia, New York, and Utah. While Orlando and Phoenix can trump an offer of Frankie Smokes and Michael Beasley 2.0, it doesn’t make complete sense for them to sabotage their chances at a high draft pick for two Kemba Walker seasons.

Course, the issues in Boston aren’t the quality of play from their starters, but the uncertainty of Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier. Finding offense outside of Kyrie Irving and Al Horford is a tall order, when Jaylen Brown gets going the Celtics are unstoppable but he too suffers from inconstancy. According to Marc Stein, of The New York Times, Jazz shooting guard Rodney Hood reportedly is on the market. Hood is a classic case of a “He did well his first season, everybody expected him to just keep improving but he stagnated,” at age 25 Hood is no longer a prospect and likely this is the best he’s going to be. Buried under Donovan MitchellMania, Hood’s been solid this season, a career-high in three-point percentage (38.6) and points (16.7). Hood fancies himself a starter and due for a handsome payday. I suppose we cannot blame him. Garry Harris (4-Years, $84 million) and Tim Hardaway (4-Years, $71 million) are either in or slightly below Hood’s level, but this upcoming summer is a terrible time to be a free agent.

So the question, in my mind, is why do the Jazz want to trade him. And more importantly, as a Celtics fan, why would they want Marcus Smart? Why are the Jazz suddenly interested in taking on Smart’s $11,345,050 cap hold for this summer? I get it, their seasons over. But I’d rather have Hood leave for nothing than try to swap him for Smart. If Rozier is thrown in then I’d listen. Rozier isn’t a knockdown shooter, he’s shooting a below-average percentage, if you take out his one-for-seven performance against New Orleans a few nights ago, his percentage is a more respectable 35.5%. The kicker could be Rozier is under team-control until 2019 – and maybe longer since he’s very cheap to hang on to because he was drafted later than Smart.

The Celtics tried to trade Marcus Smart last off-season to make room for Gordon Hayward, but the pickings were so slim they moved Avery Bradley instead. It takes two to tango, Ainge knows how difficult it is to find a willing partner. Don’t hold your breath for Ainge to work his magic in the next month, it’s more likely he uses the DPE to pick up recently bought out Greg Monroe, Tyreke Evans, or if we’re talking bottom of the barrel: Mario Herzonja. It’s easier to just add a player relatively for free than to orchestrate a trade around players below the targeted players value.

But, just for fun, here’s my proposed trade to the Utah Jazz if Dennis Lindsey is reading this for some reason:

Utah: Marcus Smart, Terry Rozier, 2019 Celtics 1st

Boston: Rodney Hood, Raul Neto

Vinny’s All-Stars, 2018, East Edition

Voting for the All-Star game on the NBA.com website is restricting. Plain and simple. You have to choose two guards, three frontcourt players and you absolutely cannot pick a player out of his position. If you cannot decide between DeMar DeRozan and Victor Oladipo and you want to cheat and vote for one as a small forward you can’t. It’s against the rules for NBA.com to acknowledge the NBA uses three-guard lineups. To make things worse my vote for Al Horford for starting center over Joel Embiid won’t be validated, fans susceptible to the bubbling personality omit the fact Embiid shoots under 30% from three and hasn’t played 1,000 minutes yet this season.

The East is an easier conference to nail down your starters. There are two locks, one “The stats don’t show it, but you should be an All-Star” and one starting center that’s not named Joel Embiid. LeBron and Giannis stand as the people you cannot leave out of the conversation. There is no reason for James to be inserted in as the starter of the East All-Stars isn’t anything beyond “He’s LeBron, he’s the best and hasn’t aged.” There isn’t much to talk about when it comes to LeBron’s greatness. He’s the best player in the world.

 

Starting Center: Al Horford

For all the MVP buzz Kyrie Irving’s received, we should also note Horford has a legitimate candidacy. Though the basic stats don’t show it, the thirty-one-year old Horford upped his game and the play of those around him. In just one season Isaiah Thomas went from a fringe All-Star to a top-5 player for the 2016-17 season. In just a few short months Kyrie Irving’s been transformed to a team-friendly player. None of this is coincidental. At age 28, Horford attempted only 65 three-point attempts. This season he’s taken 136 and made 43.4% of them. A testament to his strong work ethic, always improving himself.

Horford proves he’s still the unheralded superstar from his Atlanta glory days, stepping above Joel Embiid and Kristaps Porzingis. Both Horford and Embiid have outstanding net ratings of 8.7 (K.P is 1.7), Al’s 5.2 BPM ranks higher than Embiid’s 2.9. The Celtics are on pace for sixty-wins, while the Sixers continue to fight New York, Indiana and Detroit for the eighth spot. Yet, superficially will demand Embiid start the All-Star Game. Horford will never get his due, will never get the respect he deserves for elevating Kyrie Irving in ways not even LeBron could. It’s a damn shame fans are hellbent on making the All-Star event “fun” not realizing Horford is pretty fun too.

 

Power Forward: LeBron James

Yeah, he’s a four on my roster because I feel like it. It doesn’t really matter where Giannis and LeBron fall on the roster, just as long as they’re on it as starters. If the Cavaliers could get their act together, James has a strong case to make for him being the MVP in a year there seems to be no front-runner. 27.3 PPG, 8.8 APG, 8 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 1.1 BPG it’s hard to fathom how every year he’s somehow found ways to get better even at his age.

There is a time and place to talk about why the Cavaliers have struggled and LeBron’s role in it. But as a lone individual, James is an unstoppable force that continues to feast upon the hopes and dreams of Eastern Conference foes. We seen what he can do by himself in the playoffs last season even with a Cavs squad not jelling. What else can I say about him other than he’s the third-best player in the history of NBA.

Small Forward: Giannis Antetkoumpo

Just like LeBron, Giannis carries the corpse a fledgling roster unable to create when he’s not on the floor. And unlike LeBron, it isn’t Giannis’s fault. The “Greek Freak” became more than an Internet phenomenon, graduating to otherworldly status as. He’s done everything for Milwaukee short of cloning himself. An unheard of comparison for Giannis this year is 2015-16 Kawhi Leonard and 2010-11 Kevin Durant. Despite Giannis’s inability to shoot long range he still converts 54.6% of his field goal attempts, averaging 28.2 PPG, 10.1 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.5 SPG, 1.3 BPG, 417 of his shot attempts coming from the restricted-area. 245 shot attempts coming from anywhere but in the paint. Just like Ben Simmons, Giannis is limited by an inability to extend beyond his comfort zone. But he possesses so much skill it almost doesn’t matter. Unlike Simmons, Giannis’s face does not turn green when forced to heave a mid-or-longer range shot.

His development is right up there with Kevin Durant (2010-11) and Kawhi Leonard (2015-16) were at the point Giannis is right now. In my opinion, K.D in 2011 was either the second or third best player in the league at the time (Behind Howard and maybe Kobe). Kawhi was second best (in my opinion) to the unanimous MVP Stephen Curry in 2016.

Of course, Giannis is the better athlete and the least polished of the three. Out of the 245 shot attempts outside of the paint, Giannis made only 78. He shoots a poor 28.5% on above the break three attempts and smarter teams like Boston, San Antonio, Cleveland, etc, know how to get him away from his bread and butter. Regardless, the Bucks are a hodgepodge of pieces that are either slightly above-or-below average. Prospects such as Jabari Parker and Thon Maker remain in an enigma. Head coach Jason Kidd looks overmatched at times, overthinking and under-thinking in situational spots that aren’t as complicated as they seem.

With an ORtg of 120, Giannis ranks 17th overall in the league. Giannis owns a higher usage rate than Stephen Curry and Anthony Davis. As of now he’s a step below then for the MVP race. If the Bucks can win somewhere close to fifty-games perhaps he’ll be everyone’s favorite Cinderella Pick.

 

Shooting Guard: DeMar DeRozan

DeRozan beats out Victor Oladipo by a hair! This is the toughest decision I’ve had to make on the East ballot. For everything DeRozan is, Oladipo is arguably better because he isn’t the same liability on the defensive side of the court. But I went with DeRozan because how crucial he’s been to the best Raptors squad of the decade. When the season kicked off, All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry stumbled out the gates, first nine games he shot a poor 37.6% from the field. In most instances when your $33 million a year PG falters you’re not winning, but DeRozan kept the Raptors heads above water at 5-4.

DeRozan’s never been one to extend his game beyond being an unbelievable finisher at the rim, over the summer he’s become less reluctant to shoot longer-range shots. Last year, DeRozan attempted 124 threes… this season 137 making 35%. With the steadily declining USG% of Lowry, more emphasis on DeRozan has been put on the offensive end. Shooting a career-high in three-point percentage, averaging the highest assists per game (5.0) and he’s doing this with a turnover rate of 9.6. Which is insanely low considering how much he has the ball. Last twenty-three games, the Raptors won sixteen, with the help of DeRozan scorching the earth 26.9 PPG, 4 RPG, 5.3 APG, 48.6 FG%, 38.6 3P% and an offensive rating of 121.

Throughout the season, DeRozan’s been money, as usual, in the RA, 64.9% on 171 attempts. In 2016-17 DeRozan made 41.2% of his mid-range shots, this year he’s upped it to 46.6%. Shooting 18 of 44 on corner three-attempts, this shows DeRozan isn’t afraid as he was in years past to shoot the ball. In the clutch, DeRozan averages 4.6 points on 45.3% shooting tight situations. He’s an amazing player, possibly the best (pure) two-guard in the NBA.

 

Point Guard: Kyrie Irving

The stats are the same as last year. So why the hell is he getting all this praise? Well, it’s the behind the scenes makeup that makes this season from Irving special. Prior to Boston, Irving’s reputation was of one of a selfish gunner. He didn’t have the right mindset to get others involved, like Mike Conley or the traditional point guards of years past. The assists totals don’t show it, but watching Kyrie this season you’d be hard pressed to argue he hasn’t tried to get others involved and forgone stats for victories. This job is difficult when you take into account he’s sharing the court with inexperienced youngsters Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, and Marcus Smart who couldn’t throw the ball into the Atlantic Ocean.

The case for Irving to start the All-Star is purely above statistics, though he’s been very reliable in the clutch. His fourth quarter heroics rivaling fan-favorite Isaiah Thomas. 48.1% from the field, 4 PPG in the clutch, a 119 ORtg and 8.6 Netrg. A remarkable amount of his scoring in the clutch comes unassisted (73.7%) meaning he an act for creating for himself. Whether it be around the basket or jump shot.

Although he isn’t the best Boston Celtics player, he’s the most compelling and deserves the praise he’s received over the course of the season.

 

Written By: Vinny, @Sailboatstudios on Twitter

The Fall of Jae Crowder

Time after time Jae Crowder remained the unsung hero of the Boston Celtics. Whether it was during the 48-win season, or his underrated 2016-17 campaign, where he shot an incredibly efficient 46.3% from the field and 39.8% from three. Of course the now twenty-seven year old forward isn’t without his flaws. Since 2015, possibly due to J.R Smith’s cheap-shot which tore Crowder’s ACL, his defense ended every season in the toilet. Especially in 2017, ending the postseason with a defensive rating of 114. Regardless, last season was Crowder’s best. Sporting a career high in offensive rating (118), a net rating of 7.1. Crowder reaches his ceiling as a fringe All-Star, three-and-D wing. Shooting 72.8% in the restricted area. 38% on above the break threes. 46.2% on corner three-point attempts, the acquisition of Jae Crowder was an underrated gain for Cleveland when the blockbuster Isaiah Thomas/Kyrie Irving trade happened. In the Finals LeBron succumbed to exhaustion having to guard both Durant and Draymond. Cleveland needed an extra wing that could give James a breather, their options last season were limited to Shumpert and J.R Smith.

But a truly awful summer, in where he lost his mother to cancer, Crowder came into camp in a funk and never looks to be clicking on offense since suiting up for Cleveland. 39.7 field goal percentage, 30.3 three-point percentage and a P.E.R of 9.8! He’s making only 62% of his attempts in the restricted area and 28.3% of above the break three-point attempts. Crowder’s dreadful play isn’t limited to offense. Last season, Crowder brought down 5.8 rebounds per game, this season it’s fallen to 3.3. In contrast, backup forward Jeff Green is emerging as a Sixth Man of the Year candidate. The Underachievers averages for this season are a solid 11 PPG – 3.4 RPG – 1.4 APG – 1 Stocks, 66.4% in the RA and 39% from above the break threes. Basically, Green is giving Cleveland 85% of Jae Crowder’s best year of his career at the age of thirty-two.

Their per 100s, Green vs Crowder’s 2016-17 line are also similar:
JC99: 21.2 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 3.3 APG, 2.1 Stocks (blocks + steals), 118 ORtg
Green: 24.2 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 3.2 APG, 2.1 Stocks, 117 ORtg

This is without a doubt a lost year for Crowder. Completely understandable given the circumstances. Still, he’s only twenty-seven, in a fantastic contract and can be moved. How far his star has fallen is yet to be determined. While writing the first draft of this piece I pitched a deal between Cleveland and New York, with the Knicks taking Crowder and whatever salary flotsam and in return they’d get either Michael Beasley (or Doug McDermott) and Jarrett Jack to replace Jose Calderon as the backup point guard. I needed to put my pencil down and reflect at what I just said… Jae Crowder is a step below Michael Beasley… MICHAEL BEASLEY?!

But, as always, I am not wrong. The man i distinctly remember wearing Spongbob Squarepants underwear while at Kansas State, revamped his career over the last three-seasons. We point to the last month or so of his run as a Knick, but the reinvention of Beasley’s been going on since 2015. In the last 110 games, played for the Rockets, Bucks before ultimately the Knicks, Beasley shot 52.6% from the field, averaging 10.9 points and 4.2 rebounds in that span. His per 100s over the last three seasons are apparently the stuff of legends, overall the numbers are 31 PPG, 12 RPG, 2.9 APG and 2.8 Stocks.

This season Beasley’s shooting an incredible 69.5% from RA, and while he isn’t the three-point threat Crowder was last season, he shoots 75% when he attempts a shot taken very, very early into the shot-clock (24-22); and 62.5% on shots take with zero dribbles. In contrast, Crowder shoots 58.3% very, very early into the shot-clock and 42.5% on zero dribbles.

Course, Beasley isn’t someone who’ll turn the tide in series against Golden State. I recommend caution in sounding the alarm on Cleveland’s hopes of going to a fourth straight finals, they should look into moderate improvements to make their path through the East less rocky. Against the Celtics, even with the Green Team thumping the Cavaliers from tip-off to the buzzer, shooters like J.R Smith and Kyle Korver struck fear into my heart as guys who can jump start any comeback. Cleveland may need an extra jumper cable if they want to bust through Washington and Boston, and maybe even Toronto.

The defensive downside to Beasley aren’t a kidding matter. But neither are Korver and Smith’s. Perhaps if you throw the former No. 2 overall pick into the LeBron washing machine he’ll come out on the other side better than ever. In Kyle Korver’s first thirty-five games next to James, he shot an incredible 49% from downtown and 48.2% on catch & shoot. Of course, Korver is one of the best long range shooters of all-time, but regardless, the same can happen to Beasley (or McDermott) if on this Cavs squad.

With Isaiah Thomas back in the fold the Cavaliers should get better in the coming weeks. With I.T, LeBron and Love all healthy come April the East playoffs should be a cakewalk for them. However, Love and Thomas have suffered their fair share of injuries in the past, perhaps it be wise to add another bullet in the chamber. It’s a damn shame how far Jae Crowder’s sunk in such a short time. There isn’t a doubt in my mind he’ll bounce back next season… but the Cavaliers won’t be title contenders next season.

Three of the Most Interesting RFAs: Niko, Favors, Randle

Players get paid based off past performance and the leverage they have to negotiate. Average starters in the cap spike era (2015, 2016) like Evan Turner, Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov made more than their wildest dreams thanks to just solid production and teams having more money then they knew what to do with. Fast forward to last summer, better players hitting free agency, Kentavious Cardwell-Pope and JaMychal Green are left dangling until the end of the free agent frenzy, due to a competitive teams not having enough cap space to sign either player. Eventually it was the Lakers tossing KCP a bone worth $17,745,894, for one season, and Grizzlies forward JaMychal Green returned to Memphis for $16,400,000 for two seasons; signed on September 27. Turner, Deng and Mozgov combine for $206,000,000 for twelve-years; all sighing on four-years contracts.

Teams aren’t smarter. The pocketbook’s just been somewhat taken away them. To observe the free agent class of 2018 is very murky, probably so unclear not many teams will allow their restricted free agents to hit the auction block. Of course there’s the top tier, LeBron, Durant, Chris Paul, Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins will definitely get a big payday come July 1st. But the second, and third tiers aren’t sexy to the casual fans. A bunch of underachievers, some enjoying a renaissance.

Forward Nikola Mirotic of the Chicago Bulls isn’t getting consideration for the Most Improved Player award, already Victor Oladipo’s name is being engraved on to it. But for a player like Mirotic, one who rose to prominence in the professional ranks, for a short time in his first year rivaled Andrew Wiggins for the Rookie of the Year trophy (which Wiggins won), fell hard soon after. Injuries and inconsistency on the court plagued his career, falling apart on defense and starting only fifteen games in 2016-17. While Mirotic is on the books for 2018-19, for $12,500,000, the Bulls were rumored not to pick up his team-option once it came up this upcoming summer. Instability rocked the franchise from top to bottom. Niko got popped by forward Bobby Portis during a practice and the Bulls sank even lower, becoming the laughingstock of the NBA.

Somehow, even if it was for a short time, the Bulls leadership righted the ship stringing along ten wins in their last fifteen contests. Portis and Niko are having bounce back seasons, the aforementioned Portis just had his team-option for next season picked up. The two have so far put their differences behind them, at least for the moment. A career-best in field goal (49.5) and three-point (46.3) percentages, points (18.4) and rebounds (7.1), assists (1.5) Niko raises the Bulls’ plus/minus rating to 7.7 versus -9.1 when he’s off the floor. Though he hasn’t backed off his willingness to waive his no-trade clause. He’s on a very manageable deal, for the hypothetical team that does trade for Niko they’d inherit his Bird Rights’. You cannot say Niko will continue to produce at this level for the rest of the season. Regardless, this is a nice story and a possible Godsend to the Chicago Bulls organization. Possibly this gives them the opportunity to sell incredibly high on him.

If Portis and Niko have a run-in again, or if some other acts of shenanigans then maybe the Bulls do him a solid and let him out of his deal early. You think I’m crazy for not ruling this out? I think it’s more like Portis decks Mirotic again, than it is that Niko plays at this rate.

Playoff bound teams such as Detroit and Milwaukee could use a stretch power forward next to their rim protecting center or otherworldly franchise star. I’m picturing a Jabari Parker for Nikola Mirotic swap in my head right now.

 

In the great state of Utah, the leadership of the Jazz franchise has been impeccable since the heartbreaking loss of Gordon Hayward. Donovan Mitchell has emerged as a possible Rookie of the Year candidate, and Gilbert Arenas 2.0. Big man Derrick Favors is at his healthiest since 2014. Though starting in all thirty-six contests, Favors mostly goes against opposing teams bench units, with great success. A career-high 55.4%, he’s upped his free throw percentage considerably (73.1), his splits are an admirable 12.5 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.5 APG and 0.9 BPG. Favors doesn’t do one particular thing outstanding, he’s solid on the glass, around the basket and doesn’t kill you on defense. He isn’t DeAndre Jordan or even Greg Monroe on the defensive glass, but Favors can roll to the rim, take advantage of smaller defenders. His 37.1% off of shots taken more than five feet from the basket is piss poor. It makes it even more difficult to see his role in the modern NBA. Favors isn’t a floor spacer, but he isn’t a lane-clogger… if that makes any sense at all.

Derrick Favors without a doubt is a starter quality player at the center position… just not with Rudy Gobert by his side. While it’s understandable, the situation in Utah is very murky. The players the team values the most are Gobert and Mitchell, Favors is a nice guy they wouldn’t mind keeping but hardly want to push stacks of unmarked bills in front of to keep him around. The duo of Favors-Gobert is -5.9 points worse off; -8.3 in +/-, per 100; while the Favors-Jerebko duo scores in at +6.1, their +/- came in at 4.4.

The reasonable thing to do is to have Favors come off the bench. But his status and ego block Utah from doing this, so they’ll have to make good with an awkward situation. A tumultuous December, losing seven of their last nine since Rudy Gobert left the lineup with a sprained PCL and bone bruise in his tibia sustained in Boston. In the six games without his frontcourt mate, Favors averages 14.4 points and shot 56.3%. Utah’s struggles to find a cohesive starting lineup without Gobert going back-and-forth between starting Jonas Jerebko and Duke guard Rodney Hood. The recent stretched out the chances of a surprise playoff run to rest, the Jazz remain 3.5 games behind New Orleans and Portland for the last two playoff spots.

Out of the possible destinations for Favors in free agency, I’d like to see him in Atlanta playing next to John Collins. It’ll be hard to pinpoint the worth of Favors this summer, depending on his statistical output and success of the Jazz he could find himself in a lukewarm market that isn’t interested in an old school center that cannot rebound or defend at an elite level.

 

The last player I want to talk about is Lakers forward Julius Randle, fourth year from Kentucky, the former seventh overall pick in the overrated 2014 Draft enjoyed some statistical success, though it’s done little to move the needle for those uncertain whether he’s someone you break the bank for. The positives for Randle is he’s shooting 58.3% on two-pointers. His 13.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game off the bench is good for Sixth Man of the Year consideration if the Lakers as a team were better.

His per 36 numbers are even more impressive 20.9 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 2.9 APG, 0.7 SPG and 1.2 BPG projections him as a poor man’s Blake Griffin who can’t go to his right hand at all. Here’s Blake’s per 36 numbers from his 2013-14 season in Los Angeles: 24.3 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.6 BPG. That same year Griffin hit 70.8% of his 651 attempts in the restricted area; Randle is currently hitting 70.5% of his 217 attempts.

On the last year of his rookie contract the Lakers are in a tough spot if their big plans don’t come into fruition. Scheduled to become a RFA in 2018, the Lakers can make a qualifying offer to Randle for $5,564,134, the cap hit would be worth $12,447,726 for the 2018-19 season. With younger, probably better players like Larry Nance Jr. and Kyle Kuzma under team-control for a longer period of time and are cheaper alternatives to retaining Randle, Los Angeles holds all the leverage in the negotiations. His net rating this season’s been unimpressive (-2.9), his best month of the season came in December, 14.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists, though it didn’t lead to team success. Though the Lakers offensive rating goes up +3.3 with him on the floor versus with him off.

Randle has shown promise as a ball-handler in transition, 1.11 points per possession in that play type, and though he doesn’t run a lot of pick-and-roll as the ball-handler the small sample shows promise as Randle’s PPP is at 1.50; last season it came in at 0.86 on only a slightly larger sample size. While these are reasons for optimism, teams are prone to leaving Randle open as he converts on only 38.6% of his wide open attempts. In previous years Randle showed a reliance on “hero-ball”, frequently taking shots in isolation when his usual bread and butter was available. In 2015-16 Randle sported a ridiculous isolation frequency of 21.2 percent, almost doubling the unanimous MVP Curry’s. And registered in the 30.2 percentile. This year Randle’s cut down on the poor shot selection. Randle shoots 67.7% on attempts taken touching the ball for less than two seconds, suggesting he’s an uptempo kind of player. His 70.3% shooting on tight coverage (2-4 feet) suggest he can get to his spots whenever he wants. He also shoots an insane 76.6% on shots taken very early in the shot clock (22-18).

Julius Randle is a fascinating player to watch from afar. I doubt we’ll see him in a Lakers uniform in the future, or if he can carve himself out a starting job on a decent team. Like Favors, Randle’s also missed his preferred era by two decades. Now he’s a 6’9 center because he can’t defend threes and doesn’t have a jump shot to succeed as a modern day four. Hence why he’s coming off the bench for a bottom-feeder like the Lakers.