The NBA is set to return to action at the end of July, and numerous questions pertaining to the logistics of the league’s plan remain. While we are learning the answers to those questions gradually, NBA teams must now question how they will perform when the season does return.
With playoff basketball on the horizon, here are the most critical questions surrounding the championship contenders in the Eastern Conference.
Lance Stephenson may be returning to the NBA in the same place where it began for him.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Indiana Pacers are in “strong talks” to sign Stephenson, who is currently playing in China.
Stephenson last played in the NBA last season, where he logged 68 games for the Los Angeles Lakers. He averaged a modest 7.2 points in 16.5 minutes per game for them.
Stephenson has made fairly clear that he feels he has unfinished business with Indiana. The Pacers had the option to keep him for $4.3 million in 2018-19, but chose not to in a move that definitely bothered him. Less than two years later, if this works out, he could boost them for a possible playoff run down the stretch, particularly as a defensive wing.
TJ Warren had his long-awaited revenge game against the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday night, and he proved he was ready for it by leading all scorers with 25 points. Whoever was running the Indiana Pacers’ social media account was just as prepared as Warren.
After Indiana’s 112-87 blowout win over the Suns, the official Twitter account of the Pacers shared a graphic highlighting Warren’s big performance and said the swingman was “just money tonight.”
The Pacers later deleted the tweet, but they left another one up that took a much more subtle swipe at the Suns.
For those of you who don’t understand the backstory, the Suns traded Warren and a second-round pick to Indiana back in October for cash considerations. That’s as close to giving a player away as you can get in the NBA, and Warren made it clear that he felt disrespected by the deal.
Wednesday night’s game was yet another reminder that the Pacers won the deal. Warren is averaging 18 points per game this season, which is the same total he had last year. He has been a key contributor for an Indiana team that is 29-16 and likely headed to the postseason, while Phoenix is just 18-26. Trading a player is one thing, but you can’t blame Warren for feeling like the Suns didn’t place a high enough value on him.
Paul George was once again booed when he returned to Indiana as a visiting player on Monday night, and he responded by having one of his best games of the season. While the star swingman openly admits he embraces the villain role against his former team, he says Pacers fans are directing their taunts at the wrong guy.
After he led the Los Angeles Clippers to a win over Indiana with 36 points, nine rebounds and five assists, George told reporters that he plans to tell the real story behind how and why he left the Pacers. However, now is not the time for that.
“Someday I’ll do a tell all and tell the leading events of how I left Indiana,” George said. “And I promise you, I’m not the one to boo. … I like being the villain. I’m here two nights out of the year. The people they should boo is here a lot longer than me.”
The implication from George is obviously that the Pacers’ front office is to blame for the way he left Indiana. He likely feels they made promises about the future of the team and never followed through, which is why he wanted to be traded.
Of course, Pacers fans are not the only group of NBA fans that likes to boo George, so it’s no surprise he uses it as motivation. He helped keep Indiana in contention for seven seasons before he was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, so perhaps fans will one day thank him for that rather than showering him with boos.
The NBA offseason was one for the ages. A crazy amount of top-end talent changed teams, either by trades or free agency decisions. Six of the 15 players to make All-NBA teams last season are now part of new franchises. The draft has passed, so have many trades, and teams are finally starting to get settled as they prepare for the upcoming season. That means we can assess which teams have improved the most entering the 2019-20 seasons.
Here are seven teams who have done the most to improve themselves over the course of the NBA offseason.
7. Indiana Pacers
The Pacers weathered Victor Oladipo’s absence fairly well last season, winning 48 games and finishing fifth in the conference. Oladipo should be back this season, and the Pacers have made moves to improve the supporting cast around him. The big move was adding restricted free agent Malcolm Brogdon from the Milwaukee Bucks. Other additions like Jeremy Lamb and T.J. Warren will provide forward depth. With Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner already holding down the frontcourt and Oladipo expected back sometime around the start of 2020, they’ll be a formidable bunch, despite the loss of Bojan Bogdanovic.
The NBA trade deadline has passed, which means we more or less know what teams will look like in the NBA playoffs. There will be a few new faces who join playoff teams, but the bulk of these rosters are in place. With most of the season behind us, we also know who will likely be making the playoffs and seeded highly for a Finals run.
Keeping in mind the trade deadline activity, here are the top ten contenders to take home the title in June.
10. Utah Jazz
The Jazz were ultimately quiet at the trade deadline despite being linked to Memphis guard Mike Conley. In the end, they will go with what they had, which isn’t bad. Donovan Mitchell is a star, and Rudy Gobert is playing with a point to prove after being a quite egregious All-Star snub. They’re not really deep enough to challenge the best of the West, and they don’t really have enough in the way of top-level talent, but they’re good enough to cause a few headaches.
Longtime WNBA executive Kelly Krauskopf is leaving the league’s Indiana Fever franchise to make history in the NBA.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Monday that Krauskopf has been hired as the assistant general manager for the Indiana Pacers. While there are a handful of female executives already in the NBA, she will be the first ever to hold the role of assistant GM. Krauskopf will be working directly with Pacers President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard, general manager Chad Buchanan and assistant GM Peter Dinwiddie.
Krauskopf spent 17 years as the president and general manager of the Indiana Fever before relinquishing the GM duties in 2017 to oversee the Pacers’ new esports entry in the NBA2K League. She will no longer be working with the WNBA or esports as she transitions to a full-time role with the Pacers’ front office. Krauskopf has also been part of the selection process for three gold medal-winning USA Basketball women’s Olympic teams.
We recently saw a female interview for an NBA head coaching job for the first time, and Major League Baseball has had two assistant general managers. Krauskopf’s hiring could open the door for other female NBA executives — of which there are currently six — to advance their careers.
Fans and analysts knew this NBA offseason could be crazy, with a number of big-name players potentially changing uniforms — and the league hasn’t disappointed. So far, we’ve seen the unsurprising (LeBron signed with the Lakers), moderately surprising (Paul George is sticking with OKC), and downright stunning (DeMarcus Cousins is headed to the Bay Area).
But the above moves are just scratching the surface of all that’s happened. Other teams improved through the draft and through signing players who aren’t household names but should still make a big impact.
Which squads have made the biggest leap over their 2017-18 iterations? Here’s our take on the 10 teams that have improved the most so far this summer.
10. San Antonio Spurs
The biggest move of San Antonio’s offseason, of course, has not yet happened: the trade of Kawhi Leonard, which seems all but certain to occur. And even though they’ve lost Tony Parker and Kyle Anderson, the Spurs have still had a good summer to date. Marco Belinelli won a title with the Spurs in 2014, and they’re happy to have him back. He was a key piece on the Philadelphia team that at times looked unbeatable late in the season, and he’s one of the league’s best shooters. Snagging him at $6 million a year is a real value. R.C. Buford lucked out landing Lonnie Walker, a cold-blooded creator from Miami, at No. 18 in the draft – one of my favorite picks. He’s shown shades of Dwyane Wade.
Tyreke Evans is arguably the best scoring guard left on the free agent market, and he has drawn interest from several teams. The Indiana Pacers are among those teams, and it sounds like Evans has a decent chance of signing with them.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Tuesday that Evans has a meeting lined up with the Pacers and there is “interest on both sides to get a deal done.”
Evans has also been linked to top Western Conference teams like the Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers, but those teams may not have enough money to sign the 28-year-old if he is looking for a sizable contract.
Evans averaged 19.4 points per game in 52 games with the Memphis Grizzlies last season. That mark was the best since his rookie year.
Wednesday’s game between the Pelicans and Pacers was unable to start at its scheduled time do to a malfunction in the arena.
The game at Smoothie King Arena in New Orleans had tipoff pushed back due to water on the floor that was the result of a leak in the roof.
As Clifton Brown of The Indianapolis Star points out, safety of the players is of the utmost concern in a situation like this. It goes without saying you can’t take the risk of serious injury because of a fall on a wet surface.
They definitely don’t want a situation similar to what happened with the Lakers a few years ago.