Mavs Willing To Give Up On Dennis Smith

Teams talk to each other commonly and inquire about the other’s players equally so. So it’s not unusual you’ll hear that the Dallas Mavericks and the Phoenix Suns discuss the idea of the former trading 2nd year point guard Dennis Smith Jr. to the latter – for what, hasn’t been specified.

Smith is an athletically gifted, but headstrong player and long-standing head coach Rick Carlisle isn’t accustomed to mentoring players who frequently go off script. One of the reasons why Carlisle favors rookie Jalen Brunson over Smith is the former is a steady hand at the wheel next to Luka Doncic. A better compliment to the supreme talent they have growing at shooting guard, last thing Dallas wants is a guard who prefers to have the ball in his hands taking shots away from their superstar.

That all being said, the Brunson / Doncic backcourt is only marginally better than Smith and Doncic…

Dennis Smith / Luka Doncic stats together
687 minutes
100.9 ORtg
105.8 DRtg
– 5.0 Net
56.3 TS%

Jalen Brunson / Luka Doncic (No DSJ)
336 minutes
106.9 ORtg
109.9 DRtg
– 3 Net
55.9 TS%

Brunson and Doncic aren’t particularly athletic, not nearly on the level of Smith so the defensive ceiling for the combo is severely limited. Part of what makes Brunson so seductive is he is very stable and you know who he basically is, a carbon copy of Mark Jackson. If you’re Carlisle, that’s assuring.

For Smith, his comp is the equally unpredictable Steve Francis. You can probably guess Carlisle doesn’t care for guards cut from the same cloth Francis is, even if they are one of the best off the dribble.

Historically, the team giving up on young point guards leads to disastrous consequences for said team. The Boston Celtics learned this the hard way with Chauncey Billups. It takes a long time for guards to carve out their niche in this league – longer than any other position.

I Hate The Warriors

In the third installment of the Golden State Warriors/Kevin Durant team-up, you’d think they’d be more complacent after two championships and their biggest competitor will likely never be seen in June again. Yet, these mighty Goliaths are stronger than ever. An off-season that saw the departures of JaVale McGee (Lakers) and David West (retirement) hasn’t yielded the negative results I expected.

Fans aren’t clutching their pearls as they anticipate the return of DeMarcus Cousins to shore up their front court rotation, little heralded free agent signee Jonas Jerebko is already doing that. While Jordan Bell is still learning the ropes, and Damian Jones is proven more of a negative than a positive when on the floor, the emergence of Jerebko crashing the defensive glass (Warriors DRB rate is an astronomical 82.4 when J.J is on the floor) saves Kerr the trouble of relying on Durant and Draymond Green early in the season. Jerebko also sparks the team’s offensive rating to 131.7 when on the floor, compared to a still impressive 120.9 with him off.

Another perceived weakness in this Warriors squad is the age of their rotational, crucial role-players, Andre Iguodala is 35, showing signs of slowing down and Shaun Livingston, 33, has missed 5 of the season’s first 9 games to start the year. Have no fear! Alfonzo McKinnie is here. Who?! Yah, the 26-year-old is basically Iguodala from the season before, averaging right around the same points and rebounds. It doesn’t matter first-round draftee Jacob Evans hasn’t panned out, Kerr plugs in the hungry McKinnie and the team barley misses a step.

An underlying issue I don’t see many people touching on, probably because Stephen Curry is looking like a bonafide MVP candidate once again, is backcourt teammate Klay Thompson is having his worse campaign shooting. 43.9% is nearly a 5 percent drop from last season; and 31.3% from three is his worst mark for his career by a country mile.

Adopting the Patriots mantra of “Ignore the Noise” the rumor mill is running loud about Durant jumping ship after this season (for whatever reason) if the Warriors win it all again. The players and coaches don’t seem concerned.

The Warriors are our national basketball nightmare and I have no clue when it’ll be over. Their infrastructure is to die for and things just always seem to work out for them. It’s a damn shame.

Will The Spurs Miss The Playoffs?

DeJounte Murray’s absence places a lot of emphasis on Patty Mills for the Spurs to make the playoffs. Can the 30-year-old meet expectation?

In August I posted on Twitter my half baked projections of the NBA standings for the upcoming 2018/19 season. I held high hopes for many, some teams I had no idea how we believed in them at all. Back in August, I looked at the San Antonio Spurs as an exciting dark horse to make a run at the Western Conference Title. No, really! With LaMarcus Aldridge coming off a All-NBA season and scorer DeMar DeRozan aiding him in the backcourt, the Spurs possess the ability to be the most electrifying team in their franchise’s history since George Gervin.

Unfortunately, the losses of forward Kyle Anderson to the Grizzlies in free agency, and Dejounte Murray to season ending ACL tear leaves two gigantic holes in the Spurs once well-rounded rotation. Previously, the Spurs were a Kawhi Leonard away from winning 50-games and possibly sneaking back into the final four. As unspectacular San Antonio was to watch, coach Gregg Popovich lead a team of responsible players who all tried very hard on both ends of the floor. Even Rudy Gay, the turnstile he is, seemed to have a come-to-Jesus moment upon entering the Spurs organization.

If you are to simply add DeRozan to this team who’s won 47-games without their MVP candidate and also subtract two-way wing player Danny Green, the ceiling for San Antonio is higher than we give them credit for. But, this is not the reality. History says never bet against the Spurs – it’s as foolish as proclaiming the Patriots dead in early September. Year, after year they’ve tended off the enviable regression. Unlike New England, fans aren’t crossing their fingers for their 41-year-old star to defy Father Time for another season. Aldridge and DeRozan are still relatively in their primes and are not fossilizing – at least right now.

To believe the Spurs can win over 45-games you need to believe there’s another level for 30-year-old Patty Mills to reach. Mills is a fine, adequate point guard. His field goal percentage fell off from 44% in 2016-17 during a contract season, to 41.1%. While a bounce back isn’t unexpected, the Spurs need more than just 44% of his shots to go into the hole. They’ll need Mills to pick up the slack on efficiency and on the defensive end, seeing as Aldridge and DeRozan aren’t much of defenders themselves. At 6-0 Mills isn’t intimidating no one, the Spurs regularly don’t make in-season trades but under these circumstances a call to Ainge inquiring him about Terry Rozier or to Cleveland for George Hill shouldn’t be ruled out.

Is this the year San Antonio finally falters and misses the playoffs? I certainly hope not. Not because I’ve adopted the Spurs as my second team, I just have too much respect for them and what they’ve accomplished in 20-years. If they are to regress, the Nuggets, Clippers and Lakers surely are the favorites to take their spot in the pecking order.

Hornets Sting Celtics to In Pre-Season Opener

To kick off the pre-season the Boston Celtics opened against the Charlotte Hornets in the confines of the North Carolina Tar Heels. Under the college atmosphere, the Dean Dome was packed with not light blue shirts to start, but kelly green. Bostonians travel well to see their team now happy and healthy, and while they did not come away victorious, even in the closely contested 97-104 Hornets win did the Celtics walk away with all the more reasons to feel supremely confident going into what should be a stellar season.

The starters did not come out guns a blazing. For the entire game Boston’s issues shooting the ball primarily seemed that of rust. As a team they shot 19.1 per cent from deep; the starters finished 5 of 21 – third year perimeter player Jaylen Brown lead the starters with three makes from deep off eight attempts.

Outside of Kyrie Irving, the starters didn’t really impress. Gordon Hayward, who just under a month ago began competing in 5-on-5 scrimmages, did not seem sluggish running up and down the floor, but his timing defensively seemed off and his jump shot was anything but automatic. His less than ideal 2 for 7 shooting did not deter him from scoring 10 points mostly from the free throw line, of where he went 5 of 7 in 23-minutes on the floor.

Irving was the only Celtic who looked in control and settled early on. Breaking the ice early with a fantastic left handed lay-up, controlling his dribbling and body just perfectly to kiss it off the glass. Irving was afraid to let it fly, being that it’s the pre-season I do not know if i can blame him. Taking four long twos, 10 shots in total and six threes, the 26-year-old point guard had just 9 points as he was outplayed slightly by his UConn counterpart Kemba Walker.  

The stars of the game was the Celtics bench unit. Terry Rozier and Marcus Morris enjoyed the free flowing spacing that’s become a staple of Brad Stevens’ offense, using the exhibition nature of the contest to play a looser brand of individual basketball that wouldn’t be excused in a more competing setting. The two shoot-first bench players were 10 of 21 combined for 23-points. It was the bench units led by them, sparking a large 20-point Celtics lead with under 3-minutes left in the first half. Aided by Aron Baynes two solid putbacks off Celtic misses, Boston wasn’t pushed around on the boards until the very end when the end of the bench finished the game.

It was two-way contract player Walter Lemon Jr who scored Boston’s last five of their six points, as Charlotte put the clamps on Boston to edge them out in a good game that of course is very meaningless.

Robert Williams, Guerschon Yabusele and Brad Wanamaker moonlighted for a time very late, but didn’t do anything particular of note besides take spot up shots and set screens. Perhaps in the follow up matchup against these two teams on Sunday they’ll be more time for the end of the rotation personnel to shine.

The Warriors Achillies Heels

Remember when the Miami Heat repeated as champions in 2013 and the rest of the NBA cowered under their boots? Seems so long ago. Little did we know how gentile Miami’s foundation was. Behind the Herculean efforts of LeBron James and Dwayne Wade, Miami laid waste to a league unable to contain either of them. So what eventually brought these titans down? Age… specifically, D-Wade’s. And Shane Battier, Ray Allen, Chris Anderson and various other role players who provided key assistance in championship runs in the past fossilized over the course of a summer.

Coming off their second straight championship, their third in four seasons, the Golden State Warriors possess the same hubris and internal flaws that’ll surely bring them down… one of these days. Perhaps it’ll be this year their eagerly awaited demise arrives and the NBA will ceased to be “ruined” and return to a nirvana that never really existed.

Forget the noise surrounding the DeMarcus Cousins signing. The reason no one offered anything significant, which lead to this apparently earth shattering deal is because historically Cousins is a moody player and relies heavily on athleticism to get his points. Coming off an achilles injury he’ll be rehabbing until February and there’s no telling what he’ll look like once he returns to the hardwood. At best, Cousins is a complete zero on defense. Will Steve Kerr be able to inspire constant effort on the defensive end when previously there was never any? He’s more likely than to squeeze that out of the similarity egotistical, aging star Carmelo Anthony than Cousins.

The departures of veteran centers David West and ZaZa Pachuila hurt this team more than we’re letting on. Even Pachuila was still setting quality screens and effective in the pick-and-roll (1.32 points per possession)in a noticeably down year. West, though pushing 37, is the superior passing big and a clear-cut professional. West was also an alternative to Draymond Green as the Swiss-army knife in a small-ball lineup when Kerr wanted to rest Green. With that option gone, you’ll see an awful lot of Kevin Durant at center. Which isn’t bad, but there’s a reason the Al Horford’s and Anthony Davis’s of the world don’t like playing the position – it’s awfully taxing on the body to have people Cousins’s size jump on your back every thirty-seconds. With K.D pushing thirty, a history of injuries to his lower body, is it wise for Kerr to put his star through the ringer in such a manner?

The other free agent signing of former Utah Jazz Jonas Jerebko performs better as a stopgap center than Cousins. Yes. That is something I just said. You want to know why? Because it’s true. I’ve watched Jerebko play during his time in Boston and let me tell you, he’s a great hustler. Surely able to guard the likes of backup power forwards and centers such as Montrezl Harrell, Trey Lyles, Patrick Patterson and maybe even slow footed starters like Tobias Harris.

A frequent spot-up shooter, his 49.1 freq% rate last season was higher than Danny Green. Jerebko posted a solid 1.12 PPP in spot-up situations, and 41.4% from three-point land on 2.1 attempts per game. His lone season was Jerebko’s finest, I expect nothing less from him in Golden State.

To discuss the situation in the backcourt, I can in no way explain how fucked the Warriors are if Stephen Curry misses 30-games again. The price never dipped far enough for Wayne Ellington for the Warriors to offer the $5.3 million they have to Cousins; Ellington later signed a $6.3 million deal to stay in Miami. And they drafted Cincinnati forward Jacob Evans, someone who acts more as a specialist 3-and-D personnel rather than a playmaker like Villanova guard Jalen Brunson would’ve acted as if selected. Evans did maintain a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio in Cincinnati.

Curry doesn’t just shoot threes. He passes, creates constant movement in the offense and raises havoc in opposing defenses. With him on the bench it’s easier quell the likes of Durant or spot-up shooter Klay Thompson. It’s astonishing they didn’t just offer a pick to Boston for Terry Rozier just to see if Danny Ainge bit.

There is no playmaker besides Curry on this Warriors team that can conceivably play point guard. As great as Shaun Livingston is, he’s pushing 33 and his assist total last season was just 2. He’s a fine placeholder for Curry – for now. Will he be this year? An awful lot depends on it.

The Good, The Bad, The Meh

We are in a time of the year where everyone is still in love with their teams. Ask any Celtic fan, they wouldn’t give up Guerschon Yabusele unless it was to guarantee them an All-Star in the process. The water is still warm, stats speaking louder than results because their hasn’t been any action for months.

Little do we know what lays ahead for our teams. But we can read the various tealeaves, there’s a team that was one game away from knocking off the Warriors, only to fall to a statistical anomaly.

The Good, The Bad, The Meh

The Bad:

The Houston Rockets are the first team I want to touch on. They are on the downswing, falling from title contenders to mere pretenders thanks to the losses of veteran forwards Trevor Ariza (Phoenix) and Luc Mbah a Moute (Los Angeles). In their place, journeymen James Ennis, Michael Carter-Williams and the recently acquired Carmelo Anthony have big shoes to fill. Any viable option to defend Durant is gone, replaced with players who barley graze the bar of average and, in Anthony’s case, a washed up has been.

It’s a damn shame. The entire Rockets franchise is a damn shame. So much losing on one squad, neither the brilliance of Daryl Morey, Mike D’Antoni, James Harden and Chris Paul could conquer their demons. Arguably, if the ownership of Tilman J. Fertitta wasn’t as tight with his pocketbook as previous owner Leslie Alexander, Houston would be the odds on favorites to dethrone Golden State. Unfortunately, for Houston, Fertitta is one of those capitalist who merely bought the team because he could and wanted to elevate his status in his social circle. That’s why the Rockets are in the middle of an awkward, bone-chilling stare-down with center Clint Capela instead of just paying him like the Celtics did Marcus Smart earlier this week. Morey has to squeeze Capela for every penny in these negotiations because this expensive team is already laying down the groundwork to cutting cost in the future.

The Good:

A team on the upswing is the Utah Jazz. They haven’t done very much other than draft Duke shooting guard Grayson Allen, who averaged 10 points in Summer League despite shooting just 6-of-29 from the field. Showing the ability to get under the opponents skin like he did at Duke.

Fairly above-average at every position, Utah is well positioned to take the mantle of second best in their conference. While the contingent of perimeter players Alec Burks, Thabo Sefolosha, Royce O’Neal, Joe Ingles and Jae Crowder leave much to be desired, you could do worse. Thabo and Crowder can defend their positions predominantly well, as Ingles is an elite shooter, making 44% of his threes.

Ricky Rubio and Derrick Favors enjoyed bounce back years – Favors especially, his 56.3 field goal percentage ranks ninth in the NBA. While his fit next to the dynamic center Gobert remains unfounded, Favors rebuilt himself from the injury riddled power forward who saw his value depreciate over the years. Rubio soared in production after the All-Star Break, three-point percentage jumping from 32.4 to 40.9, postings +16.9, averaging 15 points per game. Rubio can defend Stephen Curry fairly well.

The Meh:

To round this column out, the Philadelphia 76ers, 50-Game winners the previous season are lucky if they’re to reach that mark next season. Losing Ersan Ilysova in free agency, trading backup center Richaun Holmes and promising forward prospect Timothe Luewawu-Cabarrot. Not that they helped a whole bunch last season, it’s possible they’d take a considerable leap this year. Their most notable additions Mike Muscala and rookie Zhaire Smith aren’t projected to be better then what Philadelphia lost at least for this season. Smith can defend, but his offensive game is lacking. As for Muscala, his effects on offense is a little overstated. Ersan played solid defense aided mostly by his effort, but Muscala is a complete liability.

The Sixers possess the best 1-2 combos in the conference, but are so underwhelming everywhere else the buyout market is going to be where management looks for the second consecutive year to raise their ceiling. The addition of Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler is a nice pick-up. Though the last thing Philly needed was a wing who could not shoot, the floor will be incredibly cramped as the only floor spacers will be star Joel Embiid and shooter J.J Redick. If number one overall pick Markelle Fultz sophomore year is to be loss, then it be wise of Brett Brown to consider starting the young T.J McConnell at point guard as his growth as a scorer and creator is a potential ace in the Sixers hole.

Philadelphia is set for the next however many years the Simmons/Embiid duo are together. They needed just one player to make them serious title contenders in the east, that player SHOULD have been Nemanja Belicja, who spurned Philadelphia last minute to apparently sign in Europe, then Vlade Divac of Sacramento offered him 3-years at $20.5 million.

I feel terrible labeling the Sixers off-season as a failure, even though it is, because they tried and seemed to have come out on the other side of the Jerry Colangelo burning account fiasco as fine as possibly can be. They swung big and whiffed on just every pitch. It won’t be the same story in the future, but it’s another year the Sixers reasonably could have grabbed control of the league is lost.