The Starting 5: A look at some of the best hoops content from around the Internet
The attention Jusuf Nurkic received outside of Denver focused as much on who he was as it did on how he played. But while everyone was making sure “Jusuf Nurkic Dad” was the first thing that showed up on autocomplete when you Google his name and watching him disrespect Markieff Morris, he was turning in an impressive rookie season for the Nuggets. The impressive mix of defensive presence and natural touch at the rim he showed last season make him one of the most intriguing players to watch as Denver tries to remember how to be a basketball team. Assuming, as Kroeger points out, he doesn’t keep fouling after 13 minutes on the floor.
The Clippers’ bench was a bad joke last season, and Austin Rivers spent most of they year as the punch line. Shoring up the weak points was an obvious priority this offseason, and additions like Lance Stephenson and Josh Smith look like they’ll do just that. As Perrin notes however, almost everyone they brought in has a wide range of competency. If Los Angeles gets Pacers Lance, they’ve added a borderline All-Star who can handle the ball when Chris Paul sits and play solid defense. If they get Hornets Lance, they’ve got a bricky gunner with major personality issues. Which one shows up to camp will play a major role in how this Clippers season turns out.
The Clippers adding Stephenson is a commitment like showing up to your high school crush’s house with movie tickets and a mix CD. By that metric, the Raptors picking up Anthony Bennett off waivers is like saying hi when you pass your crush in the hall; it’s not going to get you that far, but what’s the worst that can happen? At the very least, you’ve got the feel good story of Bennett getting another chance to prove himself, this time at home in Toronto. Without the weight of expectations and a first overall pick’s salary, there’s a real chance he could become a productive NBA player. And if seeing his teammate from the Canadian national team taken care of like this by his hometown franchise gets Andrew Wiggins thinking about coming home in a couple years, you’re definitely coming out ahead.
Bennett’s quick rescue from the waivers is not a unique circumstance; many teams with limited cap space turn to the wire when looking to bolster their strength. Here, Kreicas suggests it may be the best choice the Heat could make as they look beyond sophomore swingman James Ennis’s non-guaranteed contract to fill their 15th and final roster spot. The first player mentioned, Bennett, was off the table scarce hours after his piece was published, but the second choice, Kostas Papanikolaou, is likely a better fit. He’s a surprisingly versatile forward who played well for Houston at the start of last season, before being buried on the bench. With a solid passing game and handle, he could help run the offense while Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade sit. More importantly though, we’d get an entire season of Heat broadcasters Eric Reid and Tony Fiorentino struggling with his name. Everyone wins.
There tends to come a time for young NBA teams, after years of losing games and stockpiling lottery talent, when the consensus decides it’s time for them to make a leap. That day has come for the Orlando Magic, who head into the 2015-16 season with a new coach, a strong young core and a puncher’s chance at the eighth seed in the east. That consensus lets us read Tobias Harris and Victor Oladipo’s comments at Media Day as heartening enthusiasm from young players ready to make good, not woefully misguided overconfidence from a group doomed to fail. Whether the team, and especially Harris, manages to lock down on defense under new coach Scott Skiles remains to be seen, but so does everything else about next season.