Category Archives: Dallas Mavericks, Sports, News

Dallas Mavericks, Sports, News

Lowe: Most intriguing NBA players this season

9:00 AM ET

Even though the Warriors are going to curb-stomp everyone, developments outside the Bay still matter. The growth of one player, or one unexpected boom-or-bust trade, can bend the trajectory of an entire franchise.

With that in mind, here’s our annual spotlight on six of the most intriguing players to watch in the upcoming season. We avoid superstars and obvious first- and second-year curiosities. The goal is to find guys in new roles, facing new challenges, who might emerge as X factors for solid teams.

RODNEY HOOD, UTAH JAZZ

The moment Gordon Hayward hit “publish,” Hood became the go-to scorer for this defense-first meat grinder that figures to be in the race for one of the West’s last three playoff spots. The presence of Ricky Rubio means Hood doesn’t have to be Hayward, who served as something of a co-point guard. Quin Snyder prefers an egalitarian offense, but Rubio’s unique game — the combination of horrid shooting and genius passing — means he will probably have the ball more than anyone on last season’s Jazz did.

That will free Hood to score, which is good, because Hood wants to score. He averaged just 2.2 assists per 36 minutes last season, a career low, and a disappointing figure considering how often he commandeered the offense. He sometimes holds the ball too long, and takes one fatal extra dribble toward an open teammate that gives the defense a head start in recovering:

His handle can get rickety:

Hood has flashed good vision; he wraps slick interior dimes to Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors, likely to start together again, and occasionally slings crosscourt lasers to corner shooters. But his assists have stemmed more from crisis response — “Oh, crap, I’m trapped!” — than any proactive reading of the defense. Utah needs a hair more playmaking.

But the Jazz know Hood is a scorer at heart. They just want him to score more efficiently. He pulls up for a ton of tough midrangers:

About 30 percent of Hood’s shots came in the floater zone between 3 and 16 feet from the rim, a share that ranked in the 90th percentile among wing players, according to research from Ben Falk of Cleaning the Glass. Trade a few of those for drives and 3s, and Utah will have something. Hood could average 20 per game this season, but will they be the kind of points that lead to winning?

Hood earned only two free throws per game last season; Utah will ache for cheap points, and Hood can supply some if he drives more. He’ll have to dodge heavy traffic when both Favors and Gobert are on the floor.

He’s already comfortable jacking triples out of the pick-and-roll, and whether he can nudge his accuracy on those pull-up bombs a few ticks above 30 percent — his mark last season — might be the single most important variable in Hood’s evolution.

He’s crafty opening airspace for those shots. He disguises which way he wants to go around a screen, and jukes his defender in the wrong direction with mean shoulder shimmies.

The craft translates into the paint. Hood does the Chris Paul thing where he locks his defender on his hip, slow-dribbles inside, and waits to see what the defense yields:

Blazers, mediocre all season, jolted to 14-5 with Nurkic in the starting lineup, and outscored opponents by nine points per 100 possessions with the Bosnian Beast on the floor, per NBA.com. They went 5-3 in that stretch against playoff teams, and dealt a death blow to Denver’s postseason hopes in an eighth-seed showdown — a game in which Nurkic humiliated his old team.

(By the way: Remember when the Nuggets had a boatload of extra picks? They have none now. They attached one to Nurkic in the Mason Plumlee deal, and gave another to Philly in 2015 as a gift for taking on JaVale McGee‘s contract. The Nuggets basically lit two first-round picks on fire. Yeah, McGee was toxic, with another year left on his deal at the time worth $12 mill. And Denver already had a ton of young guys. Still: That’s not great, Bob.)

Nurkic’s revival is a useful reminder that only a half-dozen or so superstars translate independently across any roster. Everyone else is a plant seeking the right habitat.

In Denver, Nurkic set screens for point guards who inspired no fear. In Portland, he dances with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, lethal pull-up shooters who draw traps 30 feet from the rim. Nurkic suddenly had space to rampage, and holy hell, did he rampage:

He understood defenses would swarm Lillard and McCollum early, and adjusted by slipping screens — darting toward the paint before even setting a pick — way more often in Portland than in Denver, per Synergy Sports. Nurkic isn’t a leaper, but he’s explosive on the horizontal plane; he can zip from the foul line to the rim in a flash.

“We didn’t know the extent of his game,” said McCollum, who watched a lot of film with Nurkic early to accelerate their two-man chemistry. “He’s huge, but he can make plays without being a klutz.”

Nurkic became a fundamentally different player. He migrated outside, and exchanged brute force post-ups for pick-and-roll devastation. (It also helped that he, like, tried.) Most promising of all, he showed the passing chops to run Portland’s offense from the elbows, easing the creative burden on Lillard and McCollum.

Portland’s weaker shooters — and there are a lot — realized right away Nurkic could find them on backdoor cuts if their defenders lunged at McCollum and Lillard popping off picks. And with Nurkic handling, McCollum and Lillard morph into dangerous, Curry-style screen-setters.

Nurkic almost doubled his assist rate in Portland. He even used his post-ups to draw the extra help Plumlee never could, and pick out cutters. He injected some needed unpredictability — a new method of attack — after the league caught up to the cascading flow offense that surprised opponents during Portland’s feel-good 2015-16 season.

Nurkic will have to manage amid tighter spacing with Allen Crabbe jettisoned to Brooklyn. Crabbe allowed Terry Stotts to stagger his worst rotation shooters — Maurice Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu, Evan Turner, Noah Vonleh — so that only one or two were on the floor with Nurkic. That will be harder now. Help defenders might arrive in the paint sooner, and Nurkic isn’t as steady on his feet when the help meets him high on the floor.

“The give and take is that you have more good defenders on the court,” Stotts, Portland’s coach, told ESPN.com. “But we do need to find another shooter.” (The Blazers are confident Harkless and Aminu can stabilize as at least average 3-point shooters; Aminu shot 36 percent from deep two seasons ago, and better than that after returning from injury last season. We’ll see. It will be awhile before anyone guards them.)

On defense, Nurkic returned the Blazers to the conservative dropback style they preferred when Robin Lopez manned the middle.

He’s surprisingly nimble, with sticky paws; Nurkic recorded 1.5 steals and 2.3 blocks per 36 minutes as a Blazer, rare historic territory for a 7-footer. Keeping Nurkic back allows Portland’s wing defenders to stay close to enemy shooters, cracking down on 3-point attempts.

That scheme brings obvious trade-offs. Portland won’t force many turnovers. Lillard and McCollum, both minus defenders, face enormous pressure to scoot cleanly around picks; get hung up, and opposing guards have acres of space to launch 3s. Nurkic will have to scamper out of his comfort zone against centers with 3-point range.

He’s a so-so rim protector who struggles to keep up when opponents run him through two or three actions in quick succession. When he gets tired, his arms drop to his sides, like a winded boxer. Teams are going to test his conditioning. The Nurkic Fever honeymoon will end; adversity will strike, and Nurkic pouted when he didn’t get his way in Denver.

Good news: Nurkic appears to be in great shape. If he stays disciplined, he could become an important part of Portland’s long-term plan.

THE DALLAS FRONTCOURT

It will be fascinating to see how warlock Rick Carlisle meshes three potential frontcourt pillars in Harrison Barnes, Dirk Nowitzki, and Nerlens Noel — the last in a contract year after hilariously turning down a four-year, $70 million offer early in free agency. The trio logged just 122 mostly ugly minutes last season.

The fit between Nowitzki and Noel is obvious: Noel is the new Tyson Chandler, sucking in defenders on rim runs while Nowitzki spots up. But what about Barnes? The Mavs last season shifted Barnes to power forward and turned him into Nowitzki; he isolated on the wing, set picks, and abused switches from Nowitzki’s old office in the middle of the foul line. If Noel is the go-to screen-setter now, what will Barnes do when all three share the floor?

The easy answer would be to give him the ball in the pick-and-roll, but the Mavs barely did that last season, and when they did, it went poorly:

Barnes still hasn’t shown the feel or vision to run an offense; he used just 163 ball screens all season, seventh-most on the Mavs, per data from STATS. If Yogi Ferrell and Dennis Smith run the show with Noel, Barnes will have to spend a lot of time chilling in the corner — decoy duty is beneath max-salary scorers.

Barnes has spent the summer working on his playmaking for exactly this reason. He has set an informal goal of averaging three assists per game, he told ESPN.com. “It’s something I have to do better,” he said. But teams might switch any Barnes-Noel stuff, daring Barnes to beat their bigs or inviting Noel to post up smaller defenders. Noel has barely hit the post over the past two seasons, and often literally falls over when he tries.

There are natural solutions. Barnes will get plenty of time at power forward. Carlisle has long yanked Nowitzki early so that he can anchor second units, often as a center in lineups that bled points last season. Carlisle’s flow offense, with simultaneous motion across the floor, creates organic opportunities outside the central action:

Two of Barnes, Wesley Matthews, and Nowitzki might exchange screens under the rim while Smith and Noel run a pick-and-roll up high. Generate a switch, and any of those three can post up a mismatch.

“Even on plays that aren’t designed for me,” Barnes said, “there will be an option for me.”

The Mavs will still use Nowitzki as a screener, and park Noel under the hoop. Nowitzki’s defenders stick to him out of respect for his jumper, allowing Dallas guards to turn the corner, draw help, and lob to lurking centers:

The Mavs might also play through Noel at the elbow a bit, and orbit him with screens and cuts — another way of involving everyone. Noel is a sneaky-good passer when he resists the temptation to try no-chance thread-the-needle jobs; the Sixers installed inside-out sets to let him dish.

“Nerlens can be an elite high-post passer in a spaced environment,” Brett Brown, Philly’s coach, told ESPN.com.

Noel also has to anchor the defense. Carlisle has a bag of tricks — zones, weird matchups — to hide Nowitzki, but no trick is better than a shot-blocking, steal-swiping center patrolling the paint. Noel’s bad bets have always outnumbered his highlight steals and rejections; he leaps for blocks he’ll never get, lunges wildly into passing planes, and teeters off-balance. Carlisle will demand more discipline.

The Mavs aren’t making the playoffs, but they need to learn whether Noel is worth a big investment — and how he mixes with their other big-money stars.

JUSTISE WINSLOW, MIAMI HEAT

Remember Justise Winslow? Boston offered Charlotte four first-round picks just for the chance to draft him. One head coach told ESPN.com Winslow gave the best pre-draft interview he had ever seen.

The Heat owe Phoenix two first-round picks, and they are capped out for the next three years after splurging on James Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, and the Imperator of Waiters Island. The Heat have unearthed some good young players — Josh Richardson, Tyler Johnson — but Winslow is their swing piece. If they want to leap up the East, or strike a killer trade, Winslow has to rehabilitate his value.

He might have to do it from the bench if Miami starts James Johnson at power forward, as I would expect. The Heat probably would want maximum shooting around Johnson and Hassan Whiteside; Winslow provides none. The Heat’s offense took off last season almost the moment Winslow got hurt.

When Miami plays Winslow on the wing, it has mostly been with an ace shooter — Luke Babbitt last season — as the nominal power forward, a setup that allows Winslow to skulk along the baseline:

Winslow is a good cutter who made huge strides as a passer last season. Playmaking and movement can masquerade as spacing, to some degree. Put enough guys on the floor who can cut, drive, and dish, rapid-fire, through tight corridors, and you can score even if they are so-so shooters. Letting James Johnson handle as a point forward mitigates the Johnson-Winslow-Whiteside spacing crunch, since opponents have to honor the ball.

Hell, Miami wasn’t loaded with fearsome shooters last season, despite borderline career years from Goran Dragic, Waiters and James Johnson. The Heat were just freaking relentless, and in better shape than everyone else.

Winslow can even be an effective pick-and-roll guy when Miami hits the gas, and gets into things before opponents can gird themselves to duck under every pick:

Still: He can’t shoot, and it will be hard to play him in some groups. Opponents hide their weakest defenders on him — even little point guards — which makes it easier to guard everyone else.

Winslow is a better fit as a small-ball power forward in second units with Olynyk at center, but Erik Spoelstra can play those groups only so many minutes.

Winslow just has to be better. Step one: Stop catching the ball in 3-point range, sliding inside the arc, and barfing up 21-footers. Either jack that open 3, or move things along. If Luc Mbah a Moute can work himself into a 40 percent shooter on corner 3s, Winslow can, too. Winslow can drive into the chest of smaller guys and shoot over them, though he has shown zero finesse finishing around the basket; he shot a horrid 47 percent in the restricted area last season.

Winslow will be an elite defender across four positions. He is tenacious. He can be a productive player even if the jumper never comes. The Heat just have to figure out how, and in what lineups.

ANDRE DRUMMOND, DETROIT PISTONS

This is a show-me year for Drummond. All the issues I wrote about in February remain unresolved. If Drummond insists on posting up, Stan Van Gundy wants him to try facing the basket and blowing by fools instead of belching bricky jump hooks. (Drummond shot a ghastly 41 percent on post-ups last season, per Synergy, and rarely got to the line — perhaps fearful of embarrassing himself there.)

On defense, Drummond resisted Van Gundy’s entreaties to venture outside the paint and disrupt pick-and-rolls around the 3-point arc. “There’s a tug of war going on between us,” Van Gundy said then.

The Pistons sniffed out the Drummond trade market for much of the winter, and found little interest, sources told ESPN then.

We know what Drummond is on offense, or what he should be: a dive-and-dunk rim-runner who inhales offensive rebounds before the regular humans around him even get off the ground. Those players have value, even in the era of pace-and-space and stretch centers.

But a lot of their value has to come on defense, and that is where Drummond regressed. He played with low energy, and often let both his man and the ball slip behind him — leaving the rim naked.

Drummond will never be Rudy Gobert. To live up to his contract — and to make it movable for a team up against the tax — he has to at least approximate DeAndre Jordan.

Detroit is optimistic Drummond will play with more effort and verve after offseason surgery to open up his left nostril. His wind should improve, and he just turned 24. But if the Pistons start out slowly, this situation could turn volatile — fast.

JRUE HOLIDAY, NEW ORLEANS PELICANS

So, umm, did the Pelicans — with DeMarcus Cousins‘ free agency looming and limited paths to upgrade if he leaves — just give Jrue Holiday $26 million per year to be an average spot-up shooter next to Rajon Rondo and two All-Star bigs?

They concluded Holiday just works better as a secondary ball handler, a role he has played next to Tyreke Evans, Tim Frazier, and others over four strange years in New Orleans. “I honestly don’t think it changes much for me,” Holiday told ESPN.com. “Rondo makes scoring so much easier.”

The team worried about Holiday’s court vision and shot selection as the undisputed floor general. “The fit with Rondo is going to be much, much better for him,” Alvin Gentry, the Pelicans’ head coach, told ESPN.com. “Anyone who doubts the value of Rondo just has to look at the playoffs last year. [The Bulls] dominated with him against Boston.”

Holiday is a 36 percent career shooter from deep, and right around that number on the catch-and-shoot attempts he should get more of in his new role — decent, but far below sharpshooter status. Nobody is afraid of Holiday letting fly.

At this salary, Holiday has to do more than stand and wait — not easy alongside three dudes who need the ball. Gentry wants Cousins and Anthony Davis to push after rebounds, so that Holiday can run the wing, catch at full speed, and slice into a backpedaling defense.

Things will get dicier in the half court given the Pellies’ shaky outside shooting. Cousins and Davis are skilled playmakers, and Cousins has reinvented himself as an above-average 3-point shooter. (The same reinvention has not happened for Davis.) But there is always a trade-off having your behemoth banger chilling 30 feet from the hoop, and defenses don’t hug up on Cousins out there.

The fifth starting spot at small forward is open, and Gentry might rotate players based on matchups, he said. The bet here is on Dante Cunningham, who shot 39 percent from deep last season — an outlier mark that won’t make opponents pay him any mind.

Gentry and his staff have to get creative. They hired Chris Finch away from Denver, and plan to mimic how the Nuggets ran their offense through Nikola Jokic. Cousins and Davis will handle the ball up high, while the other four players screen for one another. Gentry might even stick one of the bigs in the corner in Rick Adelman-style sets, and have Holiday screen for him there. “Deal with that,” Gentry said.

Holiday will snare dribble handoffs at the elbows, and attack scrambled defenses when Rondo kicks him the ball after a pick-and-roll. He has spent this summer working on quick catch-and-drive attacks. “I am locked in on off-ball actions,” Holiday said. He is in shape after his first summer of health and peace in years.

But he’s undersized at the wing, and he’s not a blow-by athlete anymore. He might find himself taking tough shots over bigger defenders.

He’ll have to guard those same players at times. Gentry plans to use three-guard lineups featuring any of Rondo, Holiday, E’Twaun Moore, and Ian Clark, and he will ask Holiday to defend bigger wings. “The Paul Georges and Kevin Durants — we’re going to ask Jrue to guard those guys,” Gentry said.

The Pelicans have the talent to make noise. Core Boogie-Davis lineups trended up on offense after a brutal start; the Pelicans ended up outscoring opponents by three points per 100 possessions with Cousins, Davis, and Holiday on the floor. The sheer amount of IQ and craft flowing from Cousins and Davis is overwhelming.

But these guys have a lot to figure out, fast, and the wing rotation is the bad kind of scary. They are going to need a monster year from Holiday.

Article source: http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/20777848/zach-lowe-most-intriguing-players-2017-18-featuring-justise-winslow-jusuf-nurkic-nba

Barea waits for word on family in Puerto Rico

5:28 PM ET

As he waits to hear from his parents and other relatives in Puerto Rico, Dallas Mavericks guard J.J. Barea has launched a fundraising campaign to prepare to help people in his homeland after the island was devastated by Hurricane Maria.

Barea and his wife, Viviana Ortiz, organized a relief fund on the same online platform used by Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt to raise more than $37 million to aid people affected by Hurricane Harvey.

Barea’s fund had reached three-quarters of its original goal of $100,000 as of Thursday afternoon.

Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on Wednesday morning as a Category 4 storm with winds of 155 mph, causing major flooding and knocking out electricity and phone service throughout most of the island.

“It’s completely dark over there,” Barea told ESPN on Thursday after playing pickup ball with his teammates in Dallas. “No phone service, no power, no water, no nothing. We’re trying our best right now to help, and whenever we’ve got contact with [family], make a plan and start helping over the next couple of days and next couple of weeks.

“Puerto Rico’s completely destroyed. The water right now is the worst. The wind knocked everything down, but now the water is down and it’s the worst ever. We’ve had some bad ones, but never like this.”

Barea and his family have been through hurricanes in Puerto Rico before, and he is optimistic that his parents, in-laws and other relatives are safe and will contact him as soon as possible. He said he has heard that no fatalities have been reported in Puerto Rico due to the storm.

“What we do is just wait it out,” said Barea, the only active NBA player who is a Puerto Rican native. “I’ve heard from some people that [his hometown, Mayaguez] is good, that there’s a lot of [flood]water but it’s good. I’m just waiting for them to contact me. There’s nothing I can really do right now. All we can do is start raising money so when we know where to start giving, we’re ready to go.”

With the Mavs opening training camp on Monday, Barea has no immediate plans to return to Puerto Rico, where he maintains an offseason home. He is hopeful that he and his wife will be able to organize relief efforts from Dallas with the assistance of relatives in Puerto Rico who will identify how the money can best be utilized.

“The money is going to go straight to my foundation,” Barea said. “I’m going to be the one handling it. We’re going to go straight to the people that need it. We’re not going to give it to anybody else. It’s going to go straight to where it needs to be. I’ve got my people in Puerto Rico, and we’ll know who really needs the most help and go from there.”

Article source: http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/20777999/dallas-mavericks-jj-barea-waits-word-family-puerto-rico-raises-money

Check out Mavericks’ new alternate uniforms

Set to take over as the NBA’s official apparel provider this season, Nike revealed every team’s new alternate uniform designs on Friday. Here’s what the Mavericks’ gear looks like:

The team has not yet announced when, or how often, it will wear the new alternate uniforms.

Article source: http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/20715286/check-dallas-mavericks-new-alternate-uniforms

#NBArank: Our countdown of the Top 100 begins

For the seventh season in a row, ESPN.com is ranking the top players in the NBA. Who will be the best player this season?

To get the final ranking, we asked our expert panel to vote on pairs of players.

Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James. Kyrie Irving vs. John Wall. Russell Westbrook vs. James Harden.

We asked, “Which player will be better in 2017-18?” To decide, voters had to consider both the quality and the quantity of each player’s contributions to his team’s ability to win games.

We’ll roll out our top 100 players over the next week. If you want to get involved in the discussion or just follow along, use the Twitter hashtag #NBArank. You also can follow along @ESPNNBA and on Facebook.

Here are Nos. 76-100.

#NBArank: 76-100


100. Ryan Anderson

Stats Info: Since 2010-11, the NBA has had a new record for 3-point attempts every season. In an age defined by the proliferation of the long ball, perhaps nobody embodies that evolution quite like Ryan Anderson, who is the only player who has averaged at least five 3-point attempts per game in every season since 2010-11. He’s also a beneficiary of Houston’s system, as just 18 of his 506 3-point attempts last season came with a defender within 4 feet.


99. Manu Ginobili

Stats Info: He’s back! Though Ginobili might have lost a (Euro) step, last season proved once again that good things happen when he’s on the floor; for the 14th time in 15 seasons, the Spurs were better with Ginobili in the game than with him on the bench. Of the 350-plus players who have logged at least 12,000 minutes over the past 20 years, Ginobili’s net rating of +10.7 ranks first.


98. Dion Waiters

Stats Info: If you were tasked to assemble a team featuring the league’s best “heat-check guys,” Dion Waiters is snagging a roster spot. And last season, the Heat’s fortunes seemed tied to the ebbs and flows of Waiters, who sported a PER over 10 points higher in wins than he did losses, the largest such disparity of his career. Miami went 12-4 when he scored 20 or more and just 4-8 when he was held to single digits.


97. Dirk Nowitzki

Stats Info: This is Nowitzki’s 20th season in Dallas, and when he steps on the court for the first time, he will tie Kobe Bryant’s NBA record for the most seasons played with a single franchise. Nowitzki also has a shot at climbing into the top five on the all-time scoring list, as he needs 1,160 points to pass Wilt Chamberlain for fifth place. If he plays in 70 games, Nowitzki would need to average 16.6 PPG to move up the list.


96. Dennis Schroder

Stats Info: With the departure of Paul Millsap, Dennis Schroder is now the leader of a rebuilding Hawks franchise and a prime candidate for catchy yet empty box score stats in 2017-18. In 755 minutes he played without Millsap last season, Schroder averaged just under 22 points and eight assists per 36 minutes. Unfortunately for the Hawks, they were outscored by 7.5 points per 100 possessions during that time, a number that would have ranked dead last in the NBA.


95. Trevor Ariza

  • Rockets | SF | @TrevorAriza

  • Last year’s rank: 99

  • 2017-18 projected RPM: 0.65

Stats Info: Ariza’s ability to knock down outside shots and defend both forward spots makes him a crucial piece in Houston. He shot better than the league average on corner 3s for the sixth straight season in 2016-17, while his 3.1 deflections per game ranked in the top 10 among forwards.


94. Derrick Favors

  • Jazz | PF | @dfavors14

  • Last year’s rank: 39

  • 2017-18 projected RPM: 0.67

Stats Info: The tag team of Favors and Rudy Gobert provides hope for Utah in the post-Gordon Hayward era. In the 500-plus minutes in which Favors and Gobert shared the floor last season, the Jazz outscored teams by 10.7 points per 100 possessions, a number that was easily their best in four seasons as teammates and one that actually went up when Hayward was not on the floor with them. Favors will likely play a larger role on offense and, as such, will need to improve upon the 33 percent he shot last season in games in which Hayward did not play.


93. James Johnson

  • Heat | PF | @IamJJ16

  • Last year’s rank: NR

  • 2017-18 projected RPM: 1.09

Stats Info: Perhaps no player enjoyed a career revival last season to the degree that James Johnson did in his first season in Miami, as he nearly doubled his career scoring average while also setting career highs in assists, rebounds and minutes per game. After ranking outside the top 50 at his position in real plus-minus in 2015-16, Johnson ranked eighth in 2016-17.


92. Rodney Hood

  • Jazz | SG | @rodneyhood

  • Last year’s rank: 66

  • 2017-18 projected RPM: -0.1

Stats Info: In the seven games he played last season without Gordon Hayward, Hood averaged 17.9 PPG on 14 shots per game, which led all Jazz players. With pass-first Ricky Rubio subbing in for George Hill, Hood could realistically average close to the 15.8 FG attempts per game that Hayward did last season and is a good candidate to lead the Jazz in scoring.


91. Nerlens Noel

  • Mavericks | C | @NerlensNoel3

  • Last year’s rank: 126

  • 2017-18 projected RPM: -0.03

Stats Info: It’s a big season for Noel, who will be playing on a one-year, qualifying offer after failing to secure a long-term deal as a restricted free agent this offseason. Noel is dripping with defensive potential, as he was the only player to average three steals and two blocks per 100 possessions last season. In fact, the only players his size over the past 30 years to do that while playing at least 1,000 minutes are Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson.


90. Gary Harris

Stats Info: On a per-possession basis, Harris rated as one of the NBA’s most efficient offensive two-guards last season, ranking ahead of Klay Thompson, DeMar DeRozan, Devin Booker and Andrew Wiggins among others in Offensive RPM. Harris connected on 54 percent of his corner 3s, which ranked fourth among the 137 players who attempted at least 50 of them.


89. Cody Zeller

Stats Info: When Cody Zeller was in the lineup last season, the Hornets won games at a clip that would have netted them the 5 seed. Unfortunately, they went 3-17 in the games Zeller missed, resulting in an 11th-place finish in the East. Zeller’s absence was felt mostly on defense as the Hornets gave up 111.1 PPG in those 20 games, 8.5 more than they did with Zeller in the lineup.


88. Nikola Mirotic

  • Restricted FA | PF | @threekola

  • Last year’s rank: 95

  • 2017-18 projected RPM: 2.51

Stats Info: Consistency eludes Mirotic, who remains unsigned following another up-and-down season in Chicago. After averaging just 9 PPG on 30 percent shooting from 3 over the first five months of 2016-17, Mirotic ended on a high note, scoring nearly 16 PPG in March and April, while connecting on 43 percent from beyond the arc.


87. JJ Redick

  • 76ers | SG | @JJRedick

  • Last year’s rank: 52

  • 2017-18 projected RPM: -0.44

Stats Info: The 76ers added a Splash Brother of their own in J.J. Redick, who, along with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, is one of just three players to average at least 15 PPG and shoot better than 40 percent from beyond the arc in each of the past three seasons. Although the 76ers ranked 25th in 3-point FG percentage last season, Redick is a perfect fit for Brett Brown’s system, as Philadelphia ranked second in total spot-up plays last season.


86. Markelle Fultz

  • 76ers | PG | @MarkelleF

  • Last year’s rank: NR

  • 2017-18 projected RPM: N/A

Stats Info: Fultz might enter his rookie campaign with the least pressure of any recent No. 1 overall pick, as three other Sixers rate ahead of him. While much of the focus will be how he fits alongside Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, Fultz has the potential to be an impact defender from day one. Thanks in part to a 6-foot-10 wingspan, opponents shot just 1-for-14 against him in isolation last season in college.


85. Andre Roberson

Stats Info: For all of Roberson’s limitations on the offensive end (he shot 3-for-21 from the FT line in the playoffs), he remains one of the NBA’s best perimeter defenders. An All-Defense selection for the first time, Roberson ranked among the top five in defensive real plus-minus among all perimeter players.


84. Ben Simmons

  • 76ers | PF | @BenSimmons25

  • Last year’s rank: 120

  • 2017-18 projected RPM: N/A

Stats Info: Simmons missed all of last season and did not participate in Summer League, so he’s perhaps the league’s biggest mystery entering 2017-18. ESPN.com’s fantasy projections peg him for 14.7 PPG, 6.6 APG and 5.9 RPG, all-around production that is almost unheard of by a rookie. In fact, the only two rookies in NBA history to reach those thresholds are Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson.


83. D’Angelo Russell

  • Nets | SG | @Dloading

  • Last year’s rank: 62

  • 2017-18 projected RPM: -1.48

Stats Info: Russell gets a fresh start in Brooklyn following a turbulent first two seasons with the Lakers. The lefty did show flashes of playmaking brilliance, averaging over 26 points and eight assists per 100 possessions, benchmarks that, while completely arbitrary, are incredibly rare for a player that young. The only other two players to reach those thresholds by the tender age of 20? Kyrie Irving and LeBron James.


82. Greg Monroe

  • Bucks | C | @M10OSE

  • Last year’s rank: 102

  • 2017-18 projected RPM: 1.36

Stats Info: For the first time in his career, Greg Monroe did not start a single game last season, as his role in Milwaukee continued to diminish. Though not much of a rim protector and perhaps not ideally suited for the modern pace-and-space game, Monroe averaged 18.8 points and 10.5 rebounds per 36 minutes, nearly identical to his per-36 production from each of the two previous seasons.


81. Lou Williams

Stats Info: Williams is an elite bucket-getter in a reserve role, as his 13 25-point games off the bench last season were more than twice as many as any other player. He set career highs in true-shooting percentage and PER, while also leading all shooting guards in offensive real plus-minus.


80. Pau Gasol

  • Spurs | C | @paugasol

  • Last year’s rank: 61

  • 2017-18 projected RPM: 0.33

Stats Info: There were 232 players who launched at least 100 triples last season. The player that ranked first among all of them in 3-point FG percentage? Pau Gasol. The gap between Gasol and the second-best was the same as the gap between the second-best and 94th-best. In a league littered with bigs reinventing themselves in the age of pace-and-space, Gasol has transformed into perhaps the game’s most deadly stretch 5.


79. Markieff Morris

Stats Info: Morris was a part of the Wizards’ 5-man starting lineup also consisting of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and Marcin Gortat that logged nearly 500 more minutes than any other 5-man lineup last season. When those four played without Morris, the Wizards’ net rating dropped from plus-8.1 down to plus-2.0.


78. Victor Oladipo

Stats Info: Oladipo will be the NBA’s 38th-highest-paid player this season after coming off a 2016-17 campaign in which he ranked 111th in win shares and finished with a below-league-average PER. He’ll have chances to be a primary creator in Indiana, though it’s worth mentioning he shot just 42 percent in the 500-plus minutes he played without Russell Westbrook last season in Oklahoma City.


77. Gorgui Dieng

Stats Info: Dieng was a lone bright spot defensively for a Timberwolves team that finished 26th in defensive efficiency last season. The only players to average at least 25 minutes per game and rank ahead of Dieng in defensive real plus-minus were perennial defensive player of the year candidates Rudy Gobert, Draymond Green and Anthony Davis. The dependable Dieng is one of three players to appear in all 82 games each of the past two seasons.


76. Patrick Patterson

  • Thunder | PF | @pdpatt

  • Last year’s rank: 121

  • 2017-18 projected RPM: 2.62

Stats Info: Though Patterson’s move to Oklahoma City received significantly less ink than Paul George’s (and rightfully so), it’s one that could pay huge dividends, as Patterson provides much needed spacing in the frontcourt. He made 94 3s last season in Toronto, 90 more than OKC’s second-half starter Taj Gibson has in his career. Thunder starting power forwards combined to rank 22nd in made 3s and 25th in 3-point FG percentage last season.


Analysis provided by ESPN Stats Info’s Micah Adams.

Article source: http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/page/nbarank76100/nbarank-players-76-100

How some of the mighty have fallen in #NBArank

8:00 AM ET

Father Time is undefeated, to borrow one of Charles Barkley’s favorite lines — one he has been using in discussions about Dirk Nowitzki for at least five years now.

It’s an easy explanation for why Nowitzki, 39, barely made ESPN’s #NBARank top 100 and his two-time NBA Finals foe Dwyane Wade, 35, didn’t make the cut.The drop of 31-year-old Dwight Howard is a bit premature to attribute to Father Time’s merciless powers, but he joins Nowitzki and Wade as former superstars who slid from the #NBArank top five in 2011 to the 40s last year, before flirting with the triple digits after the voting from our esteemed panel was tallied this summer.

With several assists from ESPN Stats Information’s Jose De Leon, here’s a look at the declines of these three future Hall of Famers, of which only one — Nowitzki at No. 97 — managed to crack the current list of the NBA’s top-100 talents.

Howard: Hero for hire

Howard has attempted to modernize his game this summer, working on his 3-point shot. It’s a curious plan for a player who is a career 8.9 percent 3-point shooter (5-for-56), sixth worst in NBA history (minimum 50 attempts).

And while Howard doesn’t turn 32 years old until December, he has already played more NBA regular-season games (954) and minutes (33,291) than Wade despite entering the league a year later.

A better reason for hope that Howard can reverse his recent trend of decline: his reunion with Hornets head coach Steve Clifford, a trusted assistant coach and confidante during the best years of the big man’s career.

“I know what he has to do to play well,” Clifford said after the trade to acquire Howard. “He understands that I know him. I know his game. Being around him in different settings I have a feel for what he likes to do … There is no reason he can’t get back to playing at a really high level.”


Wade: Searching for new home?

Wade can certainly relate to Howard when it comes to awkward homecomings. Wade threw a wrench in the Chicago Bulls’ rebuilding plans when he exercised his player option for this season and was totally transparent about money being his motivation: “24 million reasons,” he told TNT’s David Aldridge, well aware that he wouldn’t have commanded that kind of a salary on the open market this summer.

So Wade and the Bulls are engaged in a staring contest, a buyout ultimately in the best interest of both parties, neither of which is willing to make it a financially painful transaction at this point. If and when Wade and the Bulls agree on a buyout, a question will be answered: How much can he still help a contender?

Wade didn’t help the Bulls much during a .500 campaign last season. They had a plus-2.1 net rating (points per 100 possessions) when he was off the floor and minus-2.4 when he played, the worst swing among Chicago starters.

Wade’s scoring average (18.3 points per game) was certainly respectable, but it was his lowest since his rookie year, which was the last time he wasn’t an All-Star before last season. He had career lows in field goal percentage (43.4) and assists (3.8 per game) as his minutes declined for the fourth consecutive season.


Nowitzki: Down but not out

Precious few players in NBA history have been as productive as Nowitzki was last season at 38 or older. Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Karl Malone and Reggie Miller have averaged more points per game at that age than Nowitzki put up last season, his 19th in a Mavericks uniform.

That’s a positive way to spin a season in which Nowitzki, whose sweet shooting as a 7-footer revolutionized the NBA, had his worst numbers (14.2 points per game, 43.7 field goal percentage) since he was a rookie, and the Mavs finished with a losing record for the first time since 1999-2000.

Nowitzki, the sixth member of the 30,000-point club, remains an elite catch-and-shoot threat. Only Golden State’s Klay Thompson averaged more points on catch-and-shoot opportunities last season than Nowitzki (8.0 per game). Nowitzki’s shooting percentage on such plays (44.5) tied for sixth in the league among players with at least five attempts per game.

The Mavs continue to be a much more efficient offensive team with Nowitzki on the floor, due in large part to the respect defenses must pay him and the space that creates. Dallas averaged 3.7 more points per 100 possessions with Nowitzki on the floor than when he sat once the calendar flipped to 2017 last season, which coincided with the big German fully recovering from the sore Achilles tendon that sidelined him for most of the season’s first two months.

But Nowitzki, who self-deprecatingly refers to himself as a mummy due to his stiffness and lack of mobility, increasingly has to be hidden on defense and is no longer capable of creating on the isolation plays on which he was virtually unstoppable throughout his extended prime. (Harrison Barnes has inherited that section of the Mavs’ playbook.)

“Now, I’m still trying to compete,” Nowitzki told ESPN last season. “I enjoy doing it. Obviously, it’s not as easy as back in the day. All the extra work you have to put in to stay ready. Now dealing with injuries that I really never had, it takes the fun away a little bit, but hopefully I can [stay healthy] and have fun.”

Article source: http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/page/nbarankfallingstars/nbarank-falling-stars-dwight-howard-dirk-nowitzki-dwyane-wade

Noel stays with Mavericks on 1-year deal

1:54 PM ET

LOS ANGELES — Restricted free-agent center Nerlens Noel re-signed with the Dallas Mavericks, the team announced on Monday.

The athletic big man’s deal is for one-year, $4.1 million and he will become an unrestricted free agent in the 2018 offseason 2018, sources told ESPN.

The deal was signed in Los Angeles last week, according to sources.

Noel, 23, recently switched agents, hiring LeBron James‘ agent Rich Paul of Klutch Sports Group after a summer in which he was unable to fashion an acceptable multiyear deal from the Mavericks or garnish an offer sheet elsewhere.

A reported $17 million offer from Dallas was nonexistent in any form, according to sources close to Noel, though league sources say a four-year, $70 million contract was offered to Noel on July 1.

Sources told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon that the four-year offer was pulled when Noel asked for a max deal.

After the closing of the restricted free-agent marketplace, Paul agreed to represent Noel with the understanding that he’d pursue unrestricted free agency next year.

Sources close to Noel, who confirmed the signing of the qualifying offer, maintain this decision should not be viewed as an adversarial move and insist that it allows both parties to evaluate a larger body of work and then assign a proper valuation for Noel after the upcoming season.

Noel averaged 8.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 1.0 steal in 22 minutes per game for the Mavericks after arriving in Dallas at the trade deadline. The Mavs gave up 2015 first-round pick Justin Anderson, Andrew Bogut (who was then bought out) and a pair of second-round picks to acquire Noel from the Philadelphia 76ers.

Noel, the sixth overall pick in the 2013 draft, welcomed a fresh start in Dallas after an up-and-down tenure in Philadelphia.

The 6-foot-11 Noel, whose combination of leaping ability, mobility, quick hands, rim running and rim protection instincts gives him the potential to be a premier defender, averaged 10.2 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.5 blocks in 171 games for Philadelphia.

Article source: http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/20465872/nerlens-noel-signs-1-year-deal-remain-dallas-mavericks