The Starting Five: Trade rumors and train wrecks
Feb 6, 2014 at 2:15p ET
While we're in the opening week of the NBA's Silver Reign, let's take a look at this episode of The Starting Five.
DOES LEBRON IN L.A. MAKE SENSE?
Right, the Clippers are a bit light on salary-cap room for such an acquisition, so the Heat would have to help facilitate this arrangement through a sign-and-trade deal. And short of the Clippers sending Blake Griffin to south Florida, it's difficult to imagine the Heat being willing participants. But if the return is LeBron, it's not too difficult to believe the Clippers would be on board.
Anyway, should LeBron decide to become a free agent and actually leave Miami, we're pretty certain he'd select a really great basketball situation. He did it when leaving Cleveland.
So, with that in mind, we don't think playing alongside Chris Paul is ideal for a primary ballhandler such as LeBron. Sure, Dwyane Wade likes to have the rock in his mitts, too, but that's nowhere near the level of off-ball buy-in James would be required to make as a Clipper.
Being close friends with CP3 doesn't mean LeBron is going to abandon the luxury of playing next to a point guard who's content to defend and spot up for 3s.
SHOULD EMBIID STAY IN SCHOOL?
We're going with a very strong "no!"
This notion includes, but is not limited to, vigorous indications that the 7-foot Kansas freshman could be the first selection in the 2014 NBA Draft. Despite this chatter, Embiid recently told a reporter he's considering returning to KU for another year. Around the basketball-reporting universe, this news was greeted with enthusiasm. Go back to school and get better? Great!
But better compared to what?
While it's true Embiid has improved considerably since making an appearance as a raw run-and-jump athlete during last spring's all-star circuit, it's also true his progress would accelerate as an NBA employee. Through no fault of their own, the time college coaches are allowed to invest in skill development is limited. Although players at every level of basketball show the most improvement during the summer, colleges are restricted in this area during the fall and spring.
NBA teams now have multiple coaches dedicated to teaching the nuances of how to maneuver in NBA situations. This teaching is available every day of the year, includes elite levels of performance training and provides comprehensive knowledge in regard to physical recovery.
Embiid also would be forced to survive against professional post players instead of receiving limited touches against college defenses that are allowed to loiter in the lane.
SHOULD THE SUNS ACQUIRE GASOL?
The Gasol named in this week's Lakers-to-Suns rumor is the 33-year-old Pau. So, with the older Gasol on the table, our answer is ... maybe.
The variables needed to be satisfied begin with Pau's health, because the crafty 7-footer is a rental -- at least until further notice. With the Suns reportedly considering this transaction as a means to make a big push for a really swell playoff seed, not having Gasol for some period of time would be a big issue.
Another signfiicant variable is what the Lakers supposedly want in return to make this gossip come true. By the way, after an initial report revealed that the Suns are thinking about such a move, we learned that the two teams had yet to actually talk to each other about a Gasol trade. With that qualifier, reporters in L.A. seem to think the Lakers would want more than the supposed take of Emeka Okafor's expiring contract. The "more" would include one of the Suns' stockpiled first-round draft picks. Based on protections and league standings, the Suns currently are poised to have three such selections this June, all outside the lottery.
This makes Okafor (in the short term) Phoenix's greatest asset. But if Gasol's health is an issue, the Suns should hold on to Oakfor's eventual boon to their cap space and save the picks to maintain the option of packaging them for a better long-term investment this summer.
WHERE IS THE NBA'S FOREMOST TRAIN WRECK?
Take a bow, Cleveland. As home of the Cavaliers, you're witnessing a hot mess that might make even the folks in Milwaukee blush.
The Bucks aren't really trying to excel at this point, but the Cavaliers have been. And that's a bit scary.
The latest embarrassment arrived Wednesday when the Cavs were unable to handle a terrible Lakers team that should have been even more terrible than usual. The Lakers, who had lost seven games in a row, suited up eight players. After the attrition of fouls and injury, they were left with a not-so-fabulous five. That list of hotshots featured center Robert Sacre, who should have joined the list of goners by fouling out but survived due to an obscure rule that allowed the Lakers to keep Sacre on the floor with the simple caveat that every subsequent foul he committed was taxed with a technical.
Even with several handicap, the Lakers (who managed to drop 18 3-pointers) prevailed. Steve Blake produced a triple-double.
There's a bright side for the Cavs, however. Previously embarrassing overall No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett exploded (not literally) for 14 points and eight rebounds. Bennett's selection and subsequent disappointment undoubtedly contributed to Thursday's firing of general manager Chris Grant, who oversaw a lot of rebuilding that didn't actually result in much building.
But it's OK, because LeBron should be ready to re-enlist (and play for old pal Mike Brown) at any moment.
WHICH TEAM HAS BEEN THE MOST CONFOUNDING RECENTLY?
We're going with the Warriors, who were just defeated five times in a stretch of seven home games.
Well, they probably weren't all that healthy, right? Actually, the Warriors are pretty physically fit. For the record, we predicted that the return from injury of Andre Iguodala would provoke a run of successful play for Golden State. And that happened ... for a while.
But this week's 75-point effort against the Bobcats in Oakland had us looking for evidence. Did you realize the team with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson riding the perimeter checks in at 16th in offensive efficiency? That's not particularly good, although it might not necessarily be a season-ending problem. Even though coach Mark Jackson couldn't guard a bear in a phone booth as a player, he's been successful at emphasizing defense for a franchise that hadn't performed any in a while. And for now, the Warriors are third in defensive efficiency.
With Andrew Bogut barging into people around the basket, Golden State has an inside presence to go with David Lee. And Iguodala can make life miserable for top perimeter scorers.
Unfortunately, too much offensive flow has been sacrificed with Bogut and Lee on the floor at the same time. With those two teaming up for extended minutes, the lane becomes congested and 3-pointers created by dribble penetration have dipped.
So a team that has lost seven of its last 12 games seems to have changed identities. But if Jackson can continue coaxing defense from this bunch, he should be able to find a happier medium.