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The Starting 5: Joakim Noah Looks to Regain Top Form

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1. Joakim Noah’s California summer could make Bulls a contender — James Herbert, CBS Sports

After finishing fourth in MVP voting in 2013-14, Joakim Noah labored through a rough 2014-15 that began with offseason knee surgery. Determined to regain his high level of play, Noah hooked up with the Peak Performance Project in Santa Barbara to get his biomechanics and training in line. James Herbert details Noah’s intense regimen this summer and goes deep on how new styles of play and training could help Joakim reach a level many thought he’d never get back to. If Noah can get his body in top shape, the Bulls suddenly become a much more serious contender.

2. Changing Miami’s Pick-and-Roll Defense — Mike Honkasalo, Vantage Sports

When LeBron James joined the Heat, Miami structured its defense around hyper-aggressive hedges on pick-and-rolls to force turnovers and create transition opportunities. This style of play helped them dominate the NBA for a few years even as the majority of the league moved in the opposite direction. With LeBron long gone, Mike Honkasalo asserts that the Heat must scale back their scheme to hedge far more on ball-handlers. An aggressive strategy is best suited for super-athletic, rangy teams, which Miami no longer is. Having its bigs hang back more should allow the Heat to improve its defense from last year’s disappointing campaign.

3. Who Is The Most Average Player In The NBA? — Coach Nick, BBALLBREAKDOWN 

Coach Nick is best known for his educational breakdowns of anything basketball-related, but here he hits the keyboard to examine the characteristics of “average” players at each position. Coach breaks down how players at each position excel in different manners and looks at what components make up a typical player at their spot. It’s also interesting to see which positions get paid more, which doesn’t always line up with expectations. A fun way of looking at the league from a big picture perspective.

4. How do the Pelicans avoid Anthony Davis becoming Chris Paul? — Ken Berger, CBS Sports

Chris Paul is a future Hall-of-Famer, but unfortunate circumstances have largely robbed him of many opportunities to advance deep in the postseason. While keen fans understand this well, it’s easy for many to downgrade Chris Paul for his relative lack of success in the playoffs. Anthony Davis is already a star, and he’ll be in New Orleans for a long time now. Ken Berger examines how the Pelicans can build a team around Davis that’s good enough to play until June. Davis is incredibly young, and the other Pelicans certainly have potential, but it’s also possible to envision an NBA where New Orleans can’t quite get to the highest level of contention in the next several years.

5. Jerian Grant makes something out of nothing, Derrick Williams finds a niche — Seth Rosenthal, Posting and Toasting

Seth Rosenthal drops off some insightful notes about several Knicks players. It looks like Jerian Grant was a nice find for Phil Jackson, especially in return for the disappointing Tim Hardaway Jr.. Grant’s shown a really nice ability to stay patient amidst defenders and convert on difficult drives. Derrick Williams has also done good work finding creative ways to score around the basket. The Knicks won’t contend this season, but they should be a far more functional NBA team than last year.

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