Four-Point Play

The Case To Trade Draymond Green

With one trade, we can solve all of Golden State’s future financial ills and also resolve this Draymond Green controversy that threatens to derail the Warriors NBA championship hopes down the road, whether that is in this playoffs or in the future if the Dubs are unable to re-sign Kevin Durant or Klay Thompson as a result of Green’s contract/antics.

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Let us begin.

If the Warriors are able to sign Durant to the super-max contract (starting pay, $38.2 million) and Thompson to the middle-max (starting pay, $32.7 million) next summer, they would not be able to sign Green to a middle-max contact (starting pay, $35.4 million) in the summer of 2020 because they would already have Curry ($43.0 million), Durant ($41.2 million) and Thompson ($35.3 million) on the books for huge contracts for the 2019-20 season.

There is no way a team can pay four players a cumulative $155 million on a $143 million luxury-tax line. Just completing the roster—let’s say 11 more players at a conservative $28 million—would tally a $183 million bottom line, which would result in $40 million overage over the tax line, resulting in a $175 million repeater luxury-tax penalty for the Warriors to pay.

See what I mean?

Someone has to go.

And there is no time like the present.

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By trading Green now, you:

1. Show Durant he is a most important cornerstone as your franchise moves to San Francisco

2. Show Thompson you will pay him his max to stay

3. Get something for Green now while he still has value to other playoff contenders out there

4. Use DeMarcus Cousins’ roster spot as an insurance chip, should KD sign elsewhere next summer. After all, a Curry/Thompson/Cousins trio is not a bad fallback plan should Durant leave, which I doubt he would do.

Do not get me wrong. I realize it is best not to overreact to the Kevin Durant-Draymond Green skirmish that took place Monday. But this is a move that needs to be done in the future anyway.

We all know Thompson or Green needs to be traded. And a deal can be had now for a first-round pick and expiring contracts if the Warriors want to establish financial sanity today.

That said, this latest Durant-Green blowup simply gives us the impetus to make this deal now.

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Perhaps a better trade date can be had if the Warriors wait until December 15. That is the first date when 2018 free agents can be traded, which gives the Warriors more trade scenarios to get the job done.

One team in particular, the Philadelphia 76ers, has let the League know it is in the market of landing a starting power forward to follow up on its Jimmy Butler for Robert Covington/Dario Saric trade this week.

The Warriors, who would rather sent Green to the Eastern Conference, could become perfect trade partners, and perhaps pursue the likes of forward Wilson Chandler ($12.8 million) and injured rookie guard Zhaire Smith ($2.6 million) to bring fiscal order to their future books.

Chandler could hold down a Warriors starting position for years to come, while the hope is that 19-year-old Smith one day develops into a standout.

The Warriors then would have financial sanity and the team would know their chances of re-signing Durant and Thompson long-term alongside Curry would be enhanced.

This is one way to address the controversy.

Use it to solve a future problem that was going to involve Green or Thompson’s departure anyway.


Bud’s Bucks

Coach Bud—also known as Milwaukee Bucks new head coach Mike Budenholzer—took a good offense and made it elite (ranks second in offensive efficiency in 2018-19)

He took a bad defense and made it elite (ranks fourth in defensive efficiency).

He took a slow team and made it fast (ranks fifth in pace)

In sum, Coach Bud took a .500 Bucks squad and has them playing 10-4 ball this early into the season, currently ranking first in net rating (+10.3 points per 100 possessions).

How did he do it?

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First, Bud made Giannis Antetokounmpo his Tim Duncan. After 17 years in the Spurs organization—finally working his way up on the coaching staff to become Gregg Popovich’s right-hand man—Bud knew he needed to have his star’s full trust if he was going to succeed in Milwaukee. He knew by adding stretch bigs like Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova, he in turn would give his star forward more space to create, both for himself and for his teammates. And that, in turn, would open up Antetokounmpo to take his defense, rebounding and playmaking to all-time high levels, muck like Duncan did.

Second, Bud empowered the first- and second-string units playing alongside Antetokounmpo, letting the starters (Eric Bledsoe, Malcolm Brogdon, Khris Middleton and Lopez) know their roles entering the season, while also letting the key subs know they could be called on to play as much as 12-24 minutes every night (Ilyasova, Donte DiVincenzo, Tony Snell, Pat Connaughton and John Henson all average 14-to-23 minutes per game).

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Third, he let all his players know an attack-offense and tenacious-D was more important than any individual’s playing time. Bud would rather see Antetokounmpo and Middleton giving max-out effort in less playing time (33 and 31 minutes per game this season, in their cases), rather than maxing out their minutes as Coaches Jason Kidd and Joe Prunty did in 2017-18 when they averaged 37 and 36 minutes per game, respectively.

As a result, less Giannis and less Khris has resulted in better Antetokounmpo and better Middleton when it comes to offensive efficiency and defensive effort (Antetokounmpo now is a likely top-5 MVP candidate for the first time, while Middleton has a good chance to play in his first NBA All-Star Game this February).

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Similar improvements can be seen in Bledsoe (career-best defensive box plus-minus), Brogdon (career-best Player Efficiency Rating, true shooting percentage and DBPM) and Lopez (TSP and DBPM), who are also maxing out on efficiency and/or defensive tenacity.

The same can be said of the second-unit players too, who usually play with two starters at a time, with Coach Bud preferring to stagger Antetokounmpo and Middleton’s minutes as the starters rest.

As a result, the Bucks always are able to give max effort on D, while still playing stellar offense on the other side of the floor, currently ranking only second to Golden State when it comes to team true shooting percentage this season (.615 to .596).

It reminds me of the transformation Coach Bud made of the 2014-15 Atlanta Hawks when the Coach of the Year led them to a 60-win season and produced four All-Stars on that squad (Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap and Al Horford).

Coach Bud had a good thing going there in Atlanta until ownership decided to break that team up a year or two later.

Those five starters—including forward DeMarre Carroll—knew their roles and all played scaled-down minutes as opposed to most league starters, averaging only 31-to-33 minutes between them during that 2014-15 season.

As Coach Bud believed, then and now: less is more. And those Hawks became more efficient on O and more tenacious on D, just as his Bucks are today.


Pistons Cannot Fly Without Wings

The Pistons are discovering you cannot fly without wings in the NBA.

Everybody knows Detroit has two All-Star-caliber bigs in power forward Blake Griffin and center Andre Drummond. Critics also know the Pistons are not too shabby either at point guard, with Reggie Jackson and Ish Smith manning the position.

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But at the 2 and 3 spots, they are less than proven, with Reggie Bullock and Glenn Robinson now starting as wings, following previous unsuccessful stints attempted by Stanley Johnson, Bruce Brown and Luke Kennard, before he suffered a bad shoulder injury last month.

None of these Pistons have stepped up thus far to be marksmen complements, which can make things problematic for inside forces Griffin and Drummond moving forward.

Granted, Griffin’s outside game does give Drummond some spacial relief inside, but with the Detroit wings only making 65 of 207 three-point attempts (31.4 percent) this season, it is only a matter of time before opponents start shutting down Griffin (25 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists in 36 minutes per game) and Drummond (19 points and 16 rebounds in 33 minutes per game).

Already, the two athletic giants have seen their true shooting percentages culled down to .564 and .530 as a result.

It is only downhill from here if Detroit does not find a solution to this pending problem.

Perhaps Kennard’s injury recovery next month will be a salve. The Detroit sophomore shooting guard did make 41 percent of his 3s last season as a rookie.

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Perhaps reserve combo guard Langston Galloway, who is the wings’ best shot now at 1.8 three-pointers in 24.5 minutes per game at 34 percent, needs to move into the starting lineup.

Perhaps the Pistons need to deal Jackson or Smith—both fine point guards in their own right—for a quarterback who can hit a three-pointer. As good as Jackson and Smith are, neither offers spacial relief for their bigs, carrying career three-point percentages of .319 and .303.

In a day and age where every team seemingly is built to shoot and make threes in quantity and quality, these Pistons remain stuck in the stone-age, ranking dead last in the NBA in three-point percentage at .313.

It is only a matter of time before this weakness chops down giants Griffin and Drummond from otherwise sparkling seasons.


No New Trails, Just Stay Blazing

Critics had fun beating up on Portland last postseason after New Orleans swept the West No. 3 seed in the first round of the playoffs and turned their 49-win season into fool’s gold when all was said and done.

So what did GM Neil Olshey and head coach Terry Stotts do in response?

Nothing.

And if we learned nothing else from the sitcom Seinfeld, the self-proclaimed show about nothing, it is that sometimes that the show about nothing can turn into the something that nobody saw coming.

Know what I mean?

Ladies and gents, we present the Portlandia Trail Blazers, who are pretty much the same cast as last season, yet now—at 10-4—are playing at an even higher level than the 49-33 squad of 2017-18.

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Indeed, these 2018-19 Blazers still start Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Evan Turner, Al-Farouq Aminu and Jusuf Nurkic.

So not much has changed on that front.

Lillard is still the All-NBA point guard, McCollum his starter complement, with 7-0, 275-pound center Nurkic playing bigger than ever.

The bench is playing top-notch ball too, with new acquisitions Nik Stauskas, Seth Curry and holdover Jake Layman filling in admirably for the departed Shabazz Napier, Pat Connaughton and Ed Davis.

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One tweak Stotts has made with the second unit has been his insertion of Turner as the subs’ point guard, which has been a move that has worked out well for all concerned.

But perhaps the best development in the making is the continued ascension of stretch big Zach Collins, who is already developing into the young standout Olshey and Stotts believe he would one day. The 7-0, 230-pound defensive standout is averaging 10 points in 21 minutes per game on a .657 true shooting percentage in his first 14 games this season.

The sky is truly his limit, as it is with this Blazers team, whose nucleus of first- and second-stringers all range in age from 20-to-30 years old.

That is remarkable upside for a team that has won 59 of its last 100 games, even if that tally does include four disappointing playoff losses from the 2018 postseason.

Moving forward, these Trail Blazers will try to maintain their balance, as the League’s fourth-most efficient offense and sixth-most efficient defense.

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Within this framework—featuring one of the best backcourts and best young big-man duos in the game (Nurkic is 24; Collins turns 21 Monday)—you can only see true upside from this organization that recognized it did not need to make drastic personnel changes to come even better in 2018-19.

Indeed, sometimes it is just best to do nothing and let the storm blow itself away.

Long-time Blazers have picked up the leadership mantle accordingly, with Lillard and McCollum doing their normal quarterbacking, while Turner is also taking a more active leadership role with the reserves.

That nucleus—along with long-timers Aminu, Leonard and injured Mo Harkless—can only help further through the next travails, which are certain to cross the Blazers’ trail in the future.