Warriors

NBA rumors: Clippers have great chance to land Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard

NBA rumors: Clippers have great chance to land Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard

The NBA landscape could look a lot different next season.

The power obviously currently resides in the Bay Area, with Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and the Warriors vying to win their third consecutive NBA title and fourth in five seasons. 

But with a number of stars either slated to hit the free-agent market this summer or expected to opt out of their contracts, the dynamic of the league could shift pretty drastically, and based on the latest report, it could shift to Southern California.

No, we aren't talking about the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Los Angeles Clippers long have been thought to be the favorites to land Kawhi Leonard in free agency, but Stephen A. Smith said Wednesday on ESPN's "First Take" that he's hearing there is a "better than 50 percent chance" the Clippers will sign both Leonard and Durant this summer.

Durant, the two-time NBA Finals MVP, has the option to opt out of his current contract with the Warriors this summer -- a move that everyone expects him to make.

At the moment, the Clippers have enough salary-cap room to sign one max free agent, but with a little financial maneuvering, they could open a second slot.

Leonard, a Riverside native, is expected to leave the Toronto Raptors for his hometown, with the Clippers being seen as the heavy favorites over the Lakers.

[RELATED: Here are potential scenarios for Warriors vs. Rockets Game 1]

As for Durant, he has made a point that he has not yet decided his future. Rumors have swirled all season about the possibility of Durant leaving the Warriors to head to the New York Knicks and join forces with Kyrie Irving, who also can opt out of his contract and become a free agent.

Both the Warriors and Raptors have looked dominant so far in the playoffs, so perhaps Durant and Leonard can discuss their summer plans during what would be an epic NBA Finals matchup.

What Warriors' long-term forecast is for Alec Burks, young centers

burksusatsi.jpg
USATSI

What Warriors' long-term forecast is for Alec Burks, young centers

Editor's note: Grant Liffmann (@grantliffmann) is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 60 minutes after every game. Each week, Grant will drop his Outsider Observation on the state of the Dubs.

The Warriors' ugly season hit its lowest point yet with the loss to the New York Knicks on Wednesday night.

The team owns the worst record in the NBA, and despite getting healthier and returning some key veterans, they seem to be regressing and stalling in their development. This has been nothing short of a nightmare season for the franchise, but with a very bright light at the end of the tunnel with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson rehabbing for next season, the panic and fears of the fanbase have been rather subdued.

Trades and draft picks have been the focus for most discussions surrounding the team, distracting many from the immensely unsuccessful season. At the moment, all eyes look toward the future for the Warriors, so here are notes checking in on some players and their long term forecast.

In his career, Alec Burks owns a 42.3 percent overall mark from the field. This season, inconsistency has plagued Burks as he has had games in which he has played very well, followed by a highly inefficient night.

Some examples of these nights include a three for 17 performance against the Thunder, three for 11 at Dallas and two for 13 at New Orleans. It has been widely speculated that the Warriors will attempt to trade Burks at some point this season, in order to potentially receive a modest return from a contending team in need of a prolific bench scorer.

But to actually receive something back of note, Burks would have to step up and become more consistent, which he has done.

Over the last four games, Burks is 22 for 40 from the field, raising his season shooting percentage from 39.8 percent to 42 percent. His shot selection has improved as he has started to limit the amount of reckless, overly aggressive drives to the hoop. If he can continue this trend of efficient scoring nights, his value to the Warriors and potentially to other teams, will skyrocket.

Willie Cauley-Stein recorded his third game this season, of 23 games played, in which he blocked three shots. Last season, Cauley-Stein accumulated only five such games of 81 games played. It has been a rough season so far for the big man, as he missed all of training camp and the beginning of the season due to injury, and has had to learn a new system and how to play with a new team while trying to shake off the rust and regain his conditioning. Recently there have been signs of him shaping into form, which has been an encouraging sight for the coaching staff.

However, every game there are moments where Cauley-Stein seems to float around defensively and seem a bit lost. On the bright side though, his rim protection has been better than advertised so far. In his four seasons with the Kings, Cauley-Stein owned a rate of 1.2 blocks per 36 minutes played. This season, he has almost doubled that number, averaging 2.1 per 36.

The Warriors are hoping to see the seven-footer continue to find his groove, as Cauley-Stein has a player option for next season and may possibly stick around (barring a trade). 

Speaking of centers, Marquese Chriss and Omari Spellman have continued to impress. Chriss was one of the lone bright spots from the loss to the New York Knicks, collecting six offensive rebounds and blocking three shots in just 24 minutes of action. His overall play from the center spot has improved tremendously as the season has gone along, and it is almost a foregone conclusion at this point that his contract is guaranteed for the rest of the season when the time comes.

This is Chriss's fourth season in the NBA, and yet he only turned 22 years of age in July. Spellman meanwhile also turned 22 in July and has become a valuable rotation piece as his conditioning has improved.

[RELATED: D-Lo explains worst part of Warriors current situation]

The big man is shooting just under 37 percent from deep, and collecting about 11 rebounds per 36 minutes of action. He already had his option picked up for next season, so the Warriors see the value in his development.

Looking ahead, the team may have a plethora of very young centers with immense potential moving forward when you add 23-year-old Kevon Looney and 19-year-old Alen Smailagic to the mix to go along with Chriss and Spellman. 

Loss to Knicks shows Warriors have earned NBA's worst record on merit

drayknicksus.jpg
USATSI

Loss to Knicks shows Warriors have earned NBA's worst record on merit

The bottom, thought to have hit rock last week in Charlotte, dropped even lower for the Warriors on Wednesday when they came into Chase Center relatively healthy and were handed an “L” by the most dysfunctional franchise in the NBA and perhaps all of America sports.

Cue the rising volume of the tanking crowd.

Losing at home, in overtime, to the Knicks, who were on the second night of a back-to-back set – they were thrashed by 28 on Tuesday in Portland – on the surface makes a persuasive argument in court of public perception to convict on the charge of tanking.

Except there is considerable evidence of a generally respectable effort. Draymond Green posted a triple-double over 39 laborious minutes. D’Angelo Russell scored 32 points, including a game-tying triple that forced OT. Centers Willie Cauley-Stein and Marquese Chriss combined for 19 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks.

On the surface, such numbers appear gaudy enough to send the atrocious Knicks to their 11th consecutive defeat. But the Warriors sabotaged their effort in the same areas as they did last week in losing successive games to the Hawks, who had dropped 10 in a row, and the Hornets, who had lost seven of nine.

The lapses of execution were startling, the inattention to detail indefensible.

The most incriminating moments were those with New York’s Marcus Morris repeatedly finding open shots beyond the arc. He entered the game shooting 48.4 percent from deep, placing him third in the NBA – put undoubtedly first on the scouting report of any team facing the Knicks.

If coach Steve Kerr and his staff had instructed players to let Morris fire, daring him to make them, there’s your proof of tanking.

That did not happen. Indeed, I’d venture to say the troops were reminded several times to stay with Morris, who scored 36 points on 10-of-18 shooting, including 5-of-9 from deep.

“We watch film,” Glenn Robinson III said after the game. “We tried to correct some things. We’ve got to be connected on the same page. Having Draymond out there, he does a great job talking, so we try to feed off him.

“We can try to know our personnel a little bit more. Sometimes we don’t have to fly at guys who can’t it shoot as well.”

When Robinson says “know our personnel,” he’s referring not to the Warriors but to their opponents. Knowing New York’s personnel means not leaving Morris. Knowing Charlotte’s personnel means not leaving Devonte Graham, who was ignored at an alarming rate despite having more 3-point makes than anybody in the league except Houston’s James Harden. Graham scored 30 of his 33 points off 10 triples.

Winning in the NBA is hard, but even bad teams manage to do so 25 percent of the time. It’s inevitable, because there always are seven or eight teams going nowhere and well aware of it.

The Warriors over the past 10 days have played a schedule as soft as nurse’s cotton, seeing five teams among the league’s bottom eight. They are 1-4, beating the Bulls but losing to the Hawks, the Hornets, the Grizzlies and the Knicks, who are widely considered the absolute worst.

“We’re not as talented as most teams,” Green conceded late Wednesday night. “We’re so young.”

As usual, Green was speaking truth. The Warriors, as currently constituted, are destined to lose more often than they win. They will be in the lottery because their roster isn’t good enough to avoid that fate, which obviously comes with long-term benefit.

Losing to this version of the Knicks, barely a shell of a grand vision that included, or so they thought, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, ought to serve as an insult to every player and coach on the Warriors’ payroll.

[RELATED: Run TMC's return reminds Warriors of what could have been]

After trailing by 22 in the second quarter, the Warriors wiped out the deficit in the second half, taking a lead and sending the game into overtime, where they had a decided edge. Overtime on the second night of a back-to-back should have been a direct route to New York’s demise, and also given the Warriors a mild and temporary rebuttal to the incessant tanking noise.

They couldn’t pull it off. And now, seven weeks into the season, the Warriors are seven games behind the Kings and 17.5 games behind the Lakers.

The Warriors do not have the worst personnel in the NBA. They do not have the worst coaching staff. They have the worst record, though, and the last 10 days testify they’re earning it on merit.