Today’s Basketball Intelligence, Part II:
– The Question of Kevin Love (from Zach Lowe, Grantland.com):
” Minnesota fans understandably don’t want to hear this, but Kevin Love is about to become the centerpiece in NBA front-office jockeying over the next several months. In many ways, he already is.
Love has his warts, but just about every executive agrees he’s a top-10 player. He’s not yet 26 years old, he has just one guaranteed year left on his contract, and it’s an open secret around the league that he’s frustrated with the state of the Timberwolves. A player of Love’s caliber and age might become available — really, truly available — once every two or three seasons. This is an event. Every team piling up assets and talking about how they are “open” to acquiring a superstar should one become available is talking in code about Kevin Love.
All those teams have gotten the same impression, directly or indirectly, from the Timberwolves: They are not interested in trading Love ahead of his potential free agency. You can understand that, even if a game of chicken could result in the nightmare scenario of Love walking for nothing — or for the kind of petty returns Cleveland and Toronto got for LeBron James and Chris Bosh, respectively, in gun-to-your-head sign-and-trades.”
– Have the Heat’s role players fallen off? (from Kevin Zimmerman, SBNation):
” The stretch run of the season may or may not answer the Miami Heat’s biggest question: Will the role players be able to contribute enough in the playoffs?”
– Do Warriors have faith in Mark Jackson? (from Ethan Sherwood Strauss, ESPN):
Read it here: http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/67038/do-warriors-have-faith-in-mark-jackson
– Rockets 120, Sixers 98 (from Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle):
” Barely able to recognize the Rockets team that back in 2013 lost to team like the Philadelphia 76ers, including the loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, the Rockets knew they had grown out of that. The clues were ample, from the 25-game losing streak the Sixers brought to town to the Rockets’ three-month run over every losing team they had faced.
The Rockets’ remaining goals had become clear. Get the win without too much difficulty. Have some fun. Make sure no one was hurt.
The Rockets smacked the Sixers, 120-98, with relative ease once they managed to pay attention long enough late in the first half. They enjoyed themselves along the way. Terrence Jones put on a few ballhandling exhibitions. James Harden got his second career triple double without ever removing his warmups in the fourth quarter. Dwight Howard mixed in a few alley-oop slams and highlight-worthy blocked shots to give the highlight shows something to shout about.
They did not, however, check off the final box of the to-do list.
Point guard Pat Beverley left the game after eight minutes with a sprained right knee, walking very slowly and carefully to the locker room. Though he indicated that he was not concerned, he is scheduled for an MRI on Friday. With the schedule turning considerably tougher, starting Saturday against the Clippers, little can be as important as being at full strength.
But as the Rockets head to a game against a team that has dominated them in three meetings this season, with third in the Western Conference standings on the line, they also believe they have grown significantly against the top teams, with even their win against one of the league’s worst serving as proof.”
– The NBA’s best lineups: The elite five-man units for the 2013-2014 season (from Drew Garrison, SBNation):
” Lineups are the foundation for every team. A five-man unit that works within the head coach’s schemes is what every team is seeking. A killer lineup trumps individual statistics and is beautiful to watch.
Before the start of this season, we took a look at the top five five-man lineups in the NBA in point differential from last season. We came up with two Miami Heat units, a San Antonio Spurs group, a consistent Indiana Pacers starting lineup and an unlikely Toronto Raptors quintet. Spoiler: Only one of those lineups is in the top-five this season.
Which lineups are at the top of the NBA this season? Time to find out.”
– The Thunder’s once-deep bench, and how they’ve fallen off a cliff (from Kevin Yeung, welcometoloudcity.com):
– Can the Thunder’s new class graduate in time? (from James Herbert, SBNation):
” Oklahoma City’s sophomores are in a great learning environment. Will they be counted on when the Thunder are tested?”
– Free Agency Not Big in 6ers Immediate Plans (from Keith Pompey, Philadelphia Inquirer):
” The league’s elite free agents will not sign with the 76ers this summer. And it’s not because of the inferior practice facility at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. They wouldn’t sign even if they were practicing in the Taj Mahal. Here’s why: “It’s all aligned to we are not going to be pursuing free agents for a while,” said Sixers coach Brett Brown, whose franchise plans to build a new practice facility in two seasons. “We are about development. Once the alignment with development collides with a bunch of other things in the program, then you can start talking about free agents. No free agent is going to want to come to Philadelphia at this stage. Why would a good free agent want to come in and be a part of a rebuild?”
“The Sixers hope they will be a desired destination for free agents in two seasons.”
– The Western Conference Playoff Derby (from Zach Lowe, Grantland.com):
“ Talk to anyone associated with one of the five teams fighting for the last four seeds in the ridiculous Western Conference, and you’re likely to hear some version of this: “I don’t even care who we play at this point. I just want to get in.”
The Blazers’ stagnation has broken the West into two distinct groups — the top four seeds, and the bottom five. After 60 games, the Blazers were one game up on the Clippers and tied with the Rockets, raising the possibility that Portland — viewed as something of a weak sister because of its unreliable defense — might finish as high as no. 3. That in turn would give one bottom-four seed hope of drawing a vulnerable first-round opponent.
Kiss that dream good-bye. Portland is closer to Dallas at no. 9 than Houston at no. 4, and both the Rockets and Clippers have jumped a level over the last month. If you’re a bottom-four seed, you’re opening the postseason on the road against a juggernaut. Put folks on truth serum, and they’d express a slight preference for one team over another, but the order in which the nos. 5-8 seeds shake out almost doesn’t matter in the first round.
But getting in matters, and this five-team derby is the most exciting story line of the stretch run. It only got more exciting last night, with Phoenix continuing its Eastern Conference rampage and Memphis slogging one out in Utah. No one is yielding.
Read Zach’s take on the five most important games left in the season in chronological order here: http://grantland.com/the-triangle/the-western-conference-playoff-derby/
– Mavericks believe improving Dalembert has been huge bargain (from Dwain Price, Star-Telegram.com):
” As the season has progressed, the Dallas Mavericks have become increasingly pleased with the production of center Samuel Dalembert.
Two games earlier this week serve as a barometer for how Dalembert has played lately.
In Sunday’s game against Brooklyn, Dalembert collected 12 points and season highs in rebounds (15) and blocks (seven). On Tuesday against Oklahoma City, the 12-year veteran finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.
“Sam’s been great,” owner Mark Cuban said. “He’s been going to the offensive boards and having a huge impact, keeping possessions alive even when he doesn’t get rebounds, blocking shots, finishing around the basket, hitting his little jumper.
“He’s doing all the things we hoped he would do when we signed him, and then some.”
– The (Blake) Griffin Force (from Swetha Prabhakar , ClipsNation.com):
” What is the secret sauce behind Clippers wins? Check out the latest scoop from… Swetha Prabhakar, to understand the Clippers’ statistical keys to success.”
– How the Spurs’ starters learned how to score again (from J.Gomez, Poundingtherock.com):
” The Spurs starters are scoring at a much higher rate than early in the season and it didn’t take huge adjustments for them to get there.”
– Film Study: Mason Plumlee has gone above and beyond expectations (from Reed Wallach, NetsDaily.com):
Read and view it here: http://www.netsdaily.com/2014/3/27/5552144/film-study-mason-plumlee-has-made-Nets-great