#NBAPlayoffs Teams with Local Connections: Eastern Conference

With the NBA playoffs underway, here’s a look at the NBA players with local connections playing on teams that made it to the postseason. Without an NBA team in Seattle, we tend to cheer on local players or players with connections to the state of Washington. It should also be pointed out that the team from Oklahoma missed the playoffs (insert synonym for the word “happy” here).

Eastern Conference

Atlanta Hawks: Austin Daye

Austin Daye isn’t from Washington, but spent his college years at Gonzaga where he was a prolific shot blocker and led the Zags to NCAA tournament berths in each of his seasons in Spokane. Daye was the 15th overall pick in the 2009 NBA draft by the Detroit Pistons and now suits up for the Atlanta Hawks. He’s also played for the Memphis Grizzlies, Toronto Raptors and San Antonio Spurs. He won a ring with the Spurs in 2014.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Joe Harris

Joe Harris was born in Chelan, Washington and attended the University of Virginia where he played for four years under former Washington State head coach Tony Bennett. The former All-ACC performer has per-game averages of 2.7 points, .8 rebounds and .5 assists in his first season in Cleveland and in the league.

Chicago Bulls: Aaron Brooks

One of the NBA’s best “instant-offense” guards (which tends to be a common trend among Seattle-area guards), Brooks has had a fairly successful NBA career with the likes of the Houston Rockets, Denver Nuggets, Sacramento Kings, Chicago Bulls and Phoenix Suns. He currently plays for the Chicago Bulls where he has averaged 11.6 points a game off the bench this season in a similar role to the one fellow Washingtonian Nate Robinson played for the Bulls.

Toronto Raptors: Terrence Ross

Oregonian Terrence Ross played two years at the University of Washington before going pro and being selected with the eighth overall pick in the 2012 NBA draft. He’s started at least 61 games per season over the past two years for a successful Toronto club. He’s averaged 9.8 points and 2.8 rebounds a game this season and is a prolific dunker.

Washington Wizards: Martell Webster

After being drafted sixth overall by the Portland Trailblazers in the 2005 NBA draft, Webster has carved out a role as a bench scorer. After scoring 9.7 points a game for the Wizards last season, he’s down to 3.3 points a contest this year.

Boston Celtics: Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk

Starting with Tacoma natives Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley, Boston has some strong ties to the Pacific Northwest. Thomas has joined another Washingtonian, Jamal Crawford, among the best offensive options off the bench. At 26-years-old, he looks to be part of the Celtics core for the long haul and is already off to a promising start as his level of play propelled the Celtics from a lottery-bound team to the Eastern Conference’s seventh seed.

Joining him in the Boston backcourt is Bradley who is a lock-down defender and solid offensive threat. The former McDonald’s All American averaged 13.9 points a game to go along with 3.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.1 steals per contest.

Rounding out Boston’s group of players connected to the Pacific Northwest is Thomas’ partner in crime on Boston’s second unit, Kelly Olynyk. The former Gonzaga big man continues to improve in the NBA after averaging 8.7 points a game in his rookie season, he’s up to 10.3 points a contest this season. The center can step out to the three-point line and has a solid, low-post game.

All stats courtesy of http://www.basketball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.

Up Next: Players with local connections on Western Conference playoff teams.

Where are They Now: Players the Minnesota Timberwolves Acquired for Kevin Garnett

With Kevin Garnett once again a fixture in Minnesota sports thanks to a deadline trade that sent him from Brooklyn to Minnesota for Thaddeus Young (you can check out what I thought of the trade here) it’s time to look back at the players Minnesota received from the Celtics when they traded away Garnett eight years ago.

The Trade:  Minnesota Acquires: Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Al Jefferson, Theo Ratliff, Sebastian Telfair, a 2009 first-round pick (Wayne Ellington) and a 2009 first-round pick (Johnny Flynn).

Boston Acquires: Kevin Garnett.

The Players:

Ryan Gomes

Combo forward Ryan Gomes would have some solid years in Minnesota after coming over in the trade. He averaged 12.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game during his tenure with the Timberwolves.

Minnesota traded him and Luke Babbitt to Portland for Martell Webster. Gomes was soon waived by the Blazers and caught on with the Clippers, where he spent two seasons, averaging 5.8 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.2 assists per contest in a reduced role. He played five games with Kevin Durant’s team last year and has not appeared in an NBA game this season.

Gerald Green

Gerald Green bounced around after leaving Boston. He only spent 29 games with Minnesota before moving on to Houston. He also had stops in Dallas, New Jersey and Indiana before winding up with Phoenix where he currently fills the role of “bench scorer”. The former Celtic is averaging 14.1 points per contest since joining the Suns.

Since the Garnett trade, Green has been involved in trades for Kirk Snyder (Houston) and was dealt to Phoenix with Miles Plumlee and a future first-round draft pick for Luis Scola.

Al Jefferson

Possibly the most accomplished player on this list, Jefferson certainly had the scoring touch while he was in Minnesota. Big Al averaged 20.1 points per game as a Timberwolves player, including a career best 23.1 points per outing in 2008/2009. He was later dealt to Utah for Kosta Koufos and two future first-round picks (Donatas Motiejunas and Terrence Jones were later selected).

Jefferson spent three seasons in Utah before departing via free agency for Charlotte where he has elevated the now-Hornets to playoff contender status.

Theo Ratliff

Theo Ratliff lasted only 10 games with Minnesota before being waived and signing with Detroit. Ratliff would later play for Philadelphia, San Antonio, Charlotte and the Lakers before playing his final NBA game in the 2010/2011 season.

He averaged 6.3 points per contest as a member of the Timberwolves.

Sebastian Telfair

After two seasons of receiving the lion’s share of starts in Minnesota, Telfair spent 2009/2010 with the Clippers and Cavaliers, before returning to the Twin Cities the next season.

“Bassy” Telfair has bounced around in the NBA, along with Boston and Minnesota, he’s suited up for Portland, Los Angeles (Clippers), Cleveland, Phoenix, Toronto and Kevin Durant’s team. He was Durant’s teammate up until November 26th of last year, but was waived.

For his career, Telfair averages 7.4 points per game, 3.5 assists per contest and 1.6 rebounds a game. He also commits 2.1 fouls per contest.

Wayne Ellington

Fun fact: Wayne Ellington has been involved in two salary-dump trades in his career. He was shipped, along with Josh Selby, Marreese Speights and a future first-round pick, to Cleveland for the considerably cheaper Jon Leuer.

Later on in his career, he’d be on the other side of the trade being acquired in exchange for a large salary. The Knicks acquired him from Dallas with Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Shane Larkin and two 2014 second-round draft pick (Thanasis Antetokounmpo and Cleanthony Early) for Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton.

He would eventually end up with the Lakers where he is averaging 9.6 points per contest in 52 appearances (27 starts).

Johnny Flynn

After a somewhat promising rookie campaign in which Flynn posted 13.5 points, 4.4 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game, he struggled to find consistent playing time.

The point guard only started eight games in his second season after starting 81 in his rookie year. He averaged 5.3 points per outing in his sophomore campaign and was out of Minnesota soon after that.

Flynn split his third season between the Rockets and Trail Blazers, and has been out of the NBA ever since. He signed a contract with Pistons in 2012 but was unable to make the team.

All stats courtesy of http://www.basketball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.

NBA Trade Deadline Losers: Denver Nuggets

Losers: Denver Nuggets

Introducing one the most puzzling teams in the NBA, ladies and gentlemen, the Denver Nuggets!

Puzzling, that’s certainly one way to describe the Nuggets. The team started off with some positive trades, for a rebuilding team (which Denver clearly should be given that they play in the West), then proceeded not to unload a bevy of veterans who could have brought in a return anywhere from decent to sizeable.

First with the good—the Nuggets somehow managed to extract two first-round picks from Cleveland for Timofey Mozgov (the Carmelo Anthony trade, the gift that keeps on giving) earlier in the season.

The Nuggets later traded Aaron Afflalo to Portland for a first-round pick, which is a positive. The team also acquired young players Will Barton, Victor Claver and former fifth overall pick Thomas Robinson in the deal only to waive Claver and Robinson. Essentially, they got Barton and a first-round pick for Afflalo. It’s not outstanding, but it’s not too bad either.

After that, the moves (as well as lack of moves) started to become puzzling.

Denver burned a first-round pick to rid themselves of JaVale McGee’s contract by sending the pick and the center to Philly (one of my trade deadline winners, you can read about that here). For a rebuilding team, ridding themselves of a first-round pick doesn’t make too much sense.

While losing Mozgov, Alonso and McGee would signal a tear-down rebuild in Denver, the team didn’t trade away any of its other veterans who could have fetched some sort of return.

Wilson Chandler’s name was thrown around as a potential trade candidate, but is still on Denver’s roster. Similarly, Ty Lawson could have been moved. While extremely talented, the point guard’s age (27) likely prohibits him from being part of a rebuilding process. Considering the high-returns fellow point guards Reggie Jackson and Michael-Carter Williams fetched in trades, it may have been prudent for Denver to deal the former Tar Heel if they were all-in on rebuilding.

Additionally, over-30 guards Jameer Nelson and Randy Foye could have brought in some kind of return given the pair’s respectively modest salaries.

While Denver could have traded all those players, the team didn’t. It’s as if they have one foot in rebuilding mode with the other firmly planted in the land of contending.

If anything, the fact that Lawson, Danilo Gallinari and Kenneth Faried are still on the roster, coupled with an attempt to stockpile assets and clear salary means Denver will likely try and reload for next season.

The team’s brass will have its work cut out for them in the offseason. Having major contributors like Lawson, Gallinari, Chandler and Faried in their respective primes signals an intent to win. The presence of veteran role players like Nelson and Foye only reinforce that notion. However, while half of the roster is built for contending, the other half may not be. Younger players like Jusuf Nurkic, Gary Harris and Barton need major minutes to flourish, they likely wouldn’t get major minutes on a contending team.

Check out Know Hitter’s series on the NBA Trade Deadline Winners and Losers. The Winners: BostonDetroitMiamiPhiladelphia and Milwaukee. The “Losers”: Los Angeles (Lakers), Phoenix , Denver and coming soon—Minnesota.

NBA Trade Deadline Losers: Phoenix Suns

After compiling 48 wins last season, the Suns brought in Isaiah Thomas to augment current guards Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe. With Bledsoe the only member of the trio still on the roster, it’s safe to say that the Phoenix Suns destroyed their point guard situation.

Phoenix shipped Dragic to the Heat and Thomas to Boston.

What was there return for two point guards capable of scoring 20 points per game? Brandon Knight, Marcus Thornton and some picks.

Both transactions also saw the Suns acquire John Salmons, Kendall Marshall and Danny Granger. However, Salmons and Marshall were both waived, and Granger could still be bought out.

Phoenix did acquire first round picks in 2016, 2017 and 2021, but the cost to acquire those picks was high. The 2016 pick is Cleveland’s and will likely be somewhere in the 20’s. Miami’s pick in 2017 could be in the 20’s as well, if not the late teens. 2021 is the lottery ticket. If the Heat are dreadful at that point, it’ll be a nice consolation prize, albeit an extremely late one.

The Suns also lost recent first-round pick Tyler Ennis in the trade (who also happens to be a point guard), an out-of-favor, but still young and useful center in Miles Plumlee.

Dragic was likely to depart via free agency over the offseason, so maybe the Suns did well to move on from him, but the return they received isn’t exactly outstanding considering what Reggie Jackson was moved for and Dragic’s talent in general.

The return for Thomas is another move that benefits the other team in the trade more than Phoenix. Thomas may not have been a perfect fit with the Suns’ other pieces, but a pick in the mid-to-late 20’s and the expiring contract of Marcus Thornton isn’t exactly anything to write home about—especially considering Thomas’ offensive capability.

The addition of Brandon Knight will help the Suns recover, but they just simply gave up more assets than they acquired.

Check out Know Hitter’s series on the NBA Trade Deadline Winners and Losers. The Winners: Boston, Detroit, Miami, Philadelphia and Milwaukee. The “Losers”: Los Angeles (Lakers), Phoenix and coming soon—Minnesota and Denver.

All stats courtesy of http://www.basketball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.

NBA Trade Deadline Winner: Boston Celtics

Winner: Boston Celtics

Like Philadelphia and Houston, the Boston Celtics were particularly active at the NBA Trade Deadline, taking advantage of Phoenix’ point guard mess by stealing Isaiah Thomas. They also moved Tayshaun Prince back to Detroit for Jonas Jerebko and Luigi Datome.

Boston’s backcourt was already in good hands defensively with Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart. Adding Thomas for relatively little in return will help the unit offensively. Similar to fellow Washingtonians Jamal Crawford and Nate Robinson, Thomas provides instant offense. In five games with Boston he’s scored 21.8 points per contest. This is nothing new for the Tacoma native, who averaged 20.3 points per game in Sacramento last season.

A backcourt rotation of Thomas, fellow Tacoma native Bradley and Smart is a pretty solid foundation for the future (all are 26-years-old or younger) and the present.

What did Boston mortgage to acquire Thomas? Cleveland’s 2016 first-round pick and Marcus Thornton.

The Cavs’ pick is top-ten protected and will likely fall at the end of the first round should the Cavs continue to evolve into the championship contender everyone thinks they will. Thornton is a useful bench scorer, but his contract expires after the season, and he likely wasn’t part of the long-term outlook in Boston anyway.

Adding a long-term piece in Thomas for an expiring contract and a first-round pick likely in the late 20’s make this an easy win for the Celtics.

In addition to Thomas, the team also brought in Jerebko and Datome. Both have expiring contracts and will be auditioning to see if it’s worth Boston’s time to keep them beyond this season. At his best, Jerebko is a floor-spacing power forward who can rebound while Datome is a three-point marksman.

You can read more of Know Hitter’s coverage of the NBA here. For more Trade Deadline coverage, check out the site’s other “winners”, Miami, Milwaukee and Philadelphia.

All stats courtesy of http://www.basketball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.

LeBron James: The Potential of the King in Cleveland

LeBron James could be a Cleveland Cavalier next season. Of course the operative word there is “could”. LeBron could opt out of his contract and become a free agent this summer. “The King” won back-to-back titles in Miami and has an excellent chance at a three-peat this season. Leaving Miami would be tough after a potential three-peat, but there are long-term questions about whether the Heat can continue to add pieces financially.

While the short-term potential in South Beach is tantalizing, the long-term potential in LeBron’s old home of Cleveland could be amazing.

Why Cleveland? Not only would James return to try and win a ring and a sense of redemption in his home state, he would also join an up-and-coming Cavaliers side.

Cleveland won’t exactly be pouting if their hometown hero stays in Miami. After all, they’re likely bound for the lottery again this season, and the potential to add one of Dante Exum, Julius Randle, Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker to a nucleus of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett is ridiculous.

Throw in Tyler Zeller, Anderson Varejao and Andew Bynum and you have a scary team.

(Let’s say that for all intents and purposes, the Cavs draft Exum, as suggested in this CBS piece, and start Varejao at center.)

How about this for a rotation-

PG Kyrie Irving

SG Dante Exum

F Anthony Bennett

F LeBron James

C Anderson Varejao

Bench-

G Jarrett Jack

G Dion Waters

F Tristan Thompson

F Tyler Zeller

C Andrew Bynum

F Earl Clark

Cheap, Ray Allen-like Signing

Players would be lining up to play for this team. Not only do you have LeBron, but you also have a soon-to-be superstar in Irving and another potential superstar in their draft pick. It might not be Exum who the team takes, but with the depth in the upcoming draft class, whoever the pick is, they’re going to have tremendous upside.

The long-term potential in Cleveland for LeBron is undeniable. What’s more is that if, at age 35, LeBron can’t physically carry the team like he carries Miami now, Cleveland can turn to Irving or their young draft pick as the focal point of the team. They can then use LeBron in a more complimentary, less physically taxing role.

I’m not putting it past LeBron to carry a championship contender at age 35, but who knows what will happen when he gets up there in age.

The short-term potential in Miami is better than Cleveland, but I’ll pose it this way, if you were LeBron, do you want to be playing with the declining Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in your later career years? Or do you want to be playing with a younger, more exciting Cleveland team where you don’t have to do as much?

It should also be noted that Wade and Bosh are going to be paid a lot of money down the road, as is LeBron. Thus making it difficult to add more pieces to compete for rings.

LeBron to Cleveland. Makes a lot of sense.

 

 

The Celtics Plan Without Rajon Rondo

This isn’t the kind of injury that you can replace with a game-manager or fill in/expiring contract to replace a starter. This is Rajon Rondo we are talking about. Rondo probably means more to his team than a lot of other stars mean to theirs. Knowing this, it’s going to take someone special to replace Rondo in the short term, and even then the replacement probably won’t be up to Rondo’s par.

Not many players even have the potential to be on Rondo’s level. This trade I’m going to throw out there might fix the Celtics’ problems short term and long term. Let me explain.

(It’s a four-team trade, so you’re excused if it’s confusing. It’s making my head hurt,and I haven’t even written it yet.)

 

Boston acquires Tyreke Evans from Sacramento and Steve Blake from the Lakers.

Sacramento acquires Courtney Lee and Fab Melo from Boston. Devin Ebanks and Jodie Meeks from LA and Omri Casspi from Cleveland.

Los Angeles acquires Leandro Barbosa and Chris Wilcox from Boston and Tyler Honeycutt from Sacramento.

Cleveland acquires Francisco Garcia from Sacramento and a future second-round pick from Boston and LA.

 

Now we get to the explaining part.

First off is Boston. The Celtics get two point guards to at least do a half-decent job of filling in for Rondo. Obviously no one is going to replace Rondo, but Evans has the potential to be very good. Blake is one of the more consistent backup point guards in the league.

Boston also gets help long term. Not only would Boston have the option to re-sign Evans before anyone else does in free agency (that’s a huge stretch, but the Celtics would have the option,) but if they feel Evans doesn’t work, then they can let him walk and save the money that they owe long term to Lee. Blake gives them value this year, but also next year as a more-than-appealing expiring contract in a trade.

Sacramento. I have a little trouble with this if I’m the Kings Sonics. And the only problem I have is with Lee, more specifically, Lee’s contract. That is a lot of money long term for a starter-on-a-bad-team-bench-guy-on-a-good-team player. Sacramento Seattle gets another look at Casspi, plus Melo, a high upside big. Meeks’ contract is very team friendly in terms of what he can do. Ebanks is another guy on an expiring deal who could pan out given the chance. Sacramento gets rid of Garcia’s and Honeycutt’s contracts going forward.

The Lakers would love this trade if they made it. The one upside of Blake’s recent injury is the emergence of Duhon as more than just a trade throw in. That and the ever looming Darius Morris make Blake expendable. He’s even more expendable due to the fact that LA wants to save money. Dealing Blake would do that. LA also gets a Barbosa-Nash-D’Antoni reunion. (Side note, how many Phoenix fans envisioned that within five years of each leaving the Suns? The answer is one. That one guy who wants to rebuild and trade away anyone who isn’t 22 with big potential. We’ve all met them.) LA also gets more big-man insurance with Wilcox. Plus the fact that (and I’m no salary cap aficionado) Honeycutt’s contract might be non-guaranteed. Thus the team waves him, or buys him out, keeps a roster spot and saves enough money to buy the whole team lunch for a month or two.

Cleveland gets picks going forward, but also gets an interesting piece in Garcia. Yes, he costs them an extra four million, but has the potential to, like Blake, be a very appealing option as an expiring contract next year in terms of trade value.

I think the smartest thing for Boston to do is to go get Evans. You obviously aren’t going to finish with the best record in the conference, but maybe Evans finally figures it out under the tutelage of Doc Rivers, KG, Paul Pierce and a hobbling Rondo. Maybe Evans stays long term and plays well alongside Rondo in the future. Those “maybes” might turn into something better than a regular season conference title.

Making Sense of the Phoenix Suns.

I’m going to give you three NBA teams who aren’t so high in the standings: the Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Throw Phoenix into the mix and you have four struggling teams.

Remember the old Sesame Street bit where they sang, “One of these things is not like the other?” This is similar, in the sense of how the teams built their current rosters.

Sacramento has gone the rout of putting as many young, high potential guys who like to shoot the ball (not much else) together.

Houston has a young group of interesting roster decisions. The point there is that they are young. Agree or disagree with how Darryl Morey got the players, the Rockets have exciting youth.

Cleveland rounds out the list with multiple lottery picks littering the roster.

The underlying theme in this is that the teams are young, and however frustrating it is to watch the team on the court (Sacramento), they have potential.

Phoenix however is different. There is no mention of a young building block with the potential or aptitude for stardom (i.e. Kyrie Irving, James Harden or DaMarcus Cousins). Continue reading

The Best in World of Sports: An Atlas of Atlases

In Greek mythology there is a Titan named Atlas who held up the world, or held up the sky so that it didn’t crash down on the Earth.

In the world of sports, each team has its own “Atlas” who keeps the team from falling flat.

Some of the best “Atlases” in recent sports memory:

  1. LeBron James- Cleveland Cavaliers. During LeBron’s tenure the Cavaliers were essentially James and a never-ending roll call of role players. Shaquille O’Neal and Ben Wallace were the only really good players who James played with in Cleveland. And at that point both were in the respective twilights of their careers, and Wallace wasn’t scoring much (as per usual). Cleveland was so bad without “King James” that they set an NBA record for the longest losing streak: 26 games after he made the decision to go to South Beach.
  2. Derrick Rose- Chicago Bulls. A small sample size, but while Rose dominated Game One of the first round of the playoffs versus Philly, he tore his ACL towards the end of the game. After holding on for the win in that game the Bulls went on to lose the series 4-2 to the eight-seeded 76ers. As a follow up, this year with Rose out for an extended amount of time, most pundits and talking heads have Chicago in the 6-8 seed range in the playoffs. Quite a drop-off for the team who had the best record in the East last season.
  3. Luis Suarez- Liverpool. If you take away Suarez’s fantastic production, the Reds would likely be in the relegation zone if not in last.
  4. Dwight Howard- Orlando Magic. Orlando is so bad without Howard it compelled me to write an entire piece on it, you can see that here. Orlando is going nowhere fast.
  5. Steve Nash- Phoenix Suns. Obviously earlier on in Nash’s career he had Amare Stoudamire and friends, so the team wouldn’t be that bad off without him. However, the Suns of the past couple years have needed Nash to help them stay out of the cellar. With him they were camped on the stairs going to the cellar; now they’re the cellar’s likely tenants.
  6. Mike Trout- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Trout supporters love overusing the stat about the visible improvement of the Angels’ record with him, as opposed to their record without him. Take away Trout and a lineup that includes Albert Pujols, Kendrys Morales, Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells goes nowhere offensively. Continue reading