As promised, here is Part II of today’s top stories (“bonus coverage”)
– The Pistons Shouldn’t Be This Bad (from Zach Lowe, Grantland.com):
” Every fantasy baseball league has that owner who drafts too many players at one position, hoping to outsmart the group, hoard one asset type, and either make the roster work or find a killer trade down the line. (I may have done this with catchers once during a disastrous draft-day binge involving Russell Martin, Victor Martinez, and beer.) Sometimes the decision breaks right, but it usually ends up with diminishing returns — useless overlap leading to a losing trade.
The Pistons knew they were taking a risk when they signed Josh Smith to a massive four-year contract, slotting him alongside two cornerstone big men in Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. There were other alternatives, but Joe Dumars, flush with cap space for the first time since the 2009 offseason, went all-in for the biggest talent available. Smith has played both forward positions, but he has always worked better as a power forward. The fit with Monroe and Drummond would be awkward, but Detroit banked on sheer talent and smart coaching to win out in the end.
Halfway through the season, higher-ups with the Pistons have to be feeling queasy. Detroit is 16-22, clinging to a postseason spot in a putrid conference.”
Read it here: http://grantland.com/the-triangle/the-pistons-shouldnt-be-this-bad/
– Five under-25 players who could cash in next summer (from Ben Golliver at Sports Illustrated):
Read Golliver’s “look at five under-25 players — four pending free agents and one big man set to be eligible for an extension — who will be in position to cash in come July” here: http://nba.si.com/2014/01/15/isaiah-thomas-lance-stephenson-gordon-hayward-greg-monroe-nikola-vucevic/
“The group features lottery picks and second-round selections alike, and it includes players from both the 2010 and 2011 draft classes.
Notably absent from the quintet is Suns guard Eric Bledsoe, who is sure to see his salary spike next season. Bledsoe was passed over here because he was already included on The Point Forward’s All-Stocking Stuffer Team and because he is sidelined with a knee injury”
– Vogel named East coach after Pacers win (from Candace Buckner, IndyStar.com):
” One of Frank Vogel’s best attributes as a coach is his unwavering belief in his players.
There was no question in his mind Tuesday night that Paul George would break out of a shooting slump against the Sacramento Kings. And he never flashed a look of concern when veterans threw a double-team admonishment toward Lance Stephenson during a very heated timeout in the second quarter.
Vogel has provided the Indiana Pacers enough rope, created the space to be themselves and installed a winning mindset since training camp that has only grown stronger through the season. So after Tuesday night, when Indiana defeated the Kings 116-92, becoming the first Eastern Conference team to 30 wins but still standing apart with the No. 1 overall record and best winning percentage in the league, the NBA announced Vogel as the coach of the East All-Stars.”
Read it here:http://www.indystar.com/story/sports/nba/pacers/2014/01/14/vogel-named-east-coach-after-pacers-win/4485667/
– Warriors get Jordan Crawford in trade with Celtics, Heat (from Sam Amick, USAToday):
Read Sam’s “quick breakdown of each team’s part and how it helps their respective efforts” here: http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nba/2014/01/15/nba-trade-boston-celtics-golden-state-warriors-jordan-crawford-marshon-brooks-toney-douglas-joel-anthony/4491403/
– Playing Five-on-Two with Chris Bosh (from Couper Moorhead at heat.com):
” You’re the head coach of a professional basketball team. It’s the second night of a back-to-back at the end of a five-game week, and you’re missing three starters. The opponent’s starting shooting guard had scored 22 points in the first quarter, and with a minute to play he hit the go-ahead jumper. Your team ties things up. Timeout. Forty seconds left and you need a stop. You look up and down your bench. The shooting guard is going to get the ball. You know it. Your players know it. The kid in the upper deck sucking the last bit of melted ice cream out of his cone knows it. You need to choose a primary defender.
How does your starting center sound?
Erik Spoelstra has long referred to LeBron James as the Miami HEAT’s ‘One Through Five’ – trusted to play and defend any position at any time – but with increasing regularity over the past year Spoelstra has been using the same moniker when discussing Chris Bosh. It’s no secret that the HEAT employ a hyper aggressive defensive style, relying on speed and length to manufacture chaos and turnovers, and even though the notion still appears to be a revelation in some corners of the internet the system doesn’t work without Bosh being able to both cover huge swaths of real estate and capably stay in front of the ball no matter where it lands.
“Chris Bosh is an elite defender in this league and he is proving it every single night,” Spoelstra said earlier last week.
Bosh may not have scored in Game 7 of the NBA Finals, but without his defense that night there’s no champagne, no parade and no rings. Though he hasn’t escaped Miami’s bouts with defensive stagnancy during this regular season, no HEAT player leaves more of a defensive void when he hits the bench. With Bosh on the floor, Miami’s defense has been playing with Top-10 efficiency. With Bosh sitting, the team drops below average.
Still, asking Bosh to defend Joe Johnson straight up – no switching, he’s going to catch the ball and you’re going to stop him defense – with the game on the line is quite the leap.
It also worked.”
Read & view it here: http://www.nba.com/heat/news_recap/playing-five-two-chris-bosh
– The masters of getting to the free-throw line ( from Statcenter):
Statcenter takes a look “the 25 players who are getting to the free throw line the most this season (as measured by FTA / 36 minutes), and how they’re doing once they get there.”
Read it here: http://statcenter.blogspot.co.il/2014/01/the-masters-of-getting-to-free-throw.html
– Mike Conley ; A Point Guard’s Triumph in Turmoil (from Aaron McGuire at Gothiccinobili.com):
The Memphis Grizzlies have had a rough season by any metric you care to look at. They enter tonight’s contest against the Bucks with an 18-19 record, which puts them three games out in the Western Conference playoff picture with a little under half the season in the books. They aren’t struck with any particular bad luck in close games, a la the Timberwolves — their point differential (outscored by about one point per contest) befits that of an 17-20 team. Most people would glance at their tepid injury-tarred season and change the channel, assuming it’s a garden-variety treadmill of mediocrity and small-market woe. Not me, though. And that’s mainly due to the brilliance of one incredible season.
Come, my friends. Meet Mike Conley: all-NBA point guard.”
Read it here: http://gothicginobili.com/?p=7185
What Does the Jennings-Knight Deal Really Mean for Detroit and Milwaukee?
by Zach Lowe (Grantland.com)
“First of all, let’s congratulate the Pistons and Bucks on collaborating for a fitting capper to the NBA’s silly season. It seemed at times like these two were at the center of at least half the free-agency rumors after July 1. The Pistons used their cap space — earned mostly via sacrificing a first-round pick to dump Ben Gordon on Charlotte — to sign one polarizing lefty free agent, and have now nabbed another via sign-and-trade. In between, they signed Italian sharpshooter Luigi Datome, who joins Milwaukee’s Miroslav Raduljica in the club of “international guys only 2 percent of NBA fans had heard of before Detroit or Milwaukee signed them.”
The Bucks, meanwhile, turned over two-thirds of their roster in ditching every perimeter player from their 2012-13 squad, save for Ish Smith. They signed Zaza Pachulia in what might have been a clerical error, and they and the Hawks damn near discussed flipping rosters at one point. The Bucks and Hawks should have worked a token swap of second-round picks into this Brandon Jennings deal, making it a three-team trade that would have worked as a convenient shorthand for the entire non–Dwight Howard portion of the 2013 offseason.
The trade is a little easier to understand from Detroit’s perspective, even if the $4.5 million difference between Brandon Knight’s 2014-15 salary and Jennings’s could be the difference between big-time cap room and middling space for Detroit next summer — in a potentially crowded free-agency marketplace. Jennings is better than Knight, and the Pistons badly want to make the playoffs this season after four straight lottery trips. They got Jennings at a very nice price — Jeremy Lin money — and concluded three years of Jennings at a reasonable $8 million per is worth more in their current state than whatever progress Knight might make in the final two years of his rookie deal. That’s really it.
Knight is only 21 and works really hard, both on the practice court and in the film room. The Pistons love him, and think he is a very nice person. But as I detailed two weeks ago, he has had a frighteningly difficult time reading the floor in the very basic ways point guards must manage. Knight on the pick-and-roll is often out of sorts, slow to spot passing lanes, unable to engineer those lanes, and a step behind in understanding how and where the defense is rotating. Experience and work can refine those skills, but Knight’s struggles have been so profound as to call into question, even at his young age, whether he will ever be a competent starting point guard on a good NBA team.
Jennings isn’t exactly Magic Johnson, and he had become persona non grata in Milwaukee. He fancied himself a max-level superstar even though he never played like one, he dropped hints about his desire for big money and his unhappiness in Milwaukee seemingly on a biweekly basis, and he blatantly dogged it on defense the entire second half of last season. Milwaukee was sick of him, and he was sick of Milwaukee, and the situation was probably beyond repair even before the Bucks signed Jeff Teague to an offer sheet. (The Hawks, of course, matched that offer sheet.)”