Philadelphia 76ers

Dunc'd on Podcast suggest possible landing spots for Bulls' Jabari Parker


Dunc'd on Podcast suggest possible landing spots for Bulls' Jabari Parker

On Wednesday's episode of the Dunc'd on Podcast, hosts Nate Duncan and Danny Leroux wento over the current state of the Bulls and discussed potential teams that could be interested in Jabari Parker.

Duncan and Leroux are two of the more reasonable basketball minds, and they quickly came to the conclusion that it would be tough to find a team that necessarily needs Parker. But they nonetheless went through a couple of teams that could possibly make good use of the 23-year old forward.

Orlando Magic:

Duncan and Leroux weren’t that into the idea of Parker on Orlando but acknowledged that they certainly could use some help in the scoring department.

The Magic are currently 26th in the league in PPG (103.5) but are hovering around a .500 record due to their strong defense and slow pace of the play—the same style of play that has improved the Bulls D while torpedoing their offensive efficiency.

But the Magic do have skilled offensive players like DJ Augustin, Terrence Ross and Nikola Vucevic. All three players have managed to be efficient scorers this season, but only Vucevic and Ross have been able to do it while also shouldering a big offensive workload. Outside of Ross, Jonathon Simmons is the only other Magic bench player who carries a decent usage rate. Parker—for all of his shortcomings—offers more size and upside than Simmons.

On top of that, the Magic are one of the more pass-happy teams in the league, averaging just over 25 assists per game. It would be a solid team to compensate for Parker’s occasional penchant to develop tunnel vision when looking to score.

Parker’s terrible assist-to-turnover ratio wouldn’t hurt Orlando too much either, as they currently sit inside the top 10 in team AST/TO ratio.

Atlanta Hawks:

The Hawks are very short on quality forwards. And that is exactly what Leroux stated when trying to picture Parker on the Hawks:

“[Atlanta] needs depth basically everywhere on the forward line, especially with Taurean Prince out.”

At full strength they place John Collins—a very solid young talent—at the four next to Dewayne Dedmon or Alex Len, with the latter being the much stronger tandem. But with Atlanta rebuilding at the moment, having functional lineups is much more important than having effective ones. And that is where Parker helps them.

According to Basketball-Reference play-by-play information, 41-year old Vince Carter is playing 61 percent of his minutes at power forward. So it is no shocker that he is posting one of the five worst individual defensive ratings on the team.

After Collins and Carter, rookie Omari Spellman and Taurean Prince play the most minutes at PF. Spellman is more of a center and Prince is good enough at guarding small forwards and wings to make it unnecessary for him to play the PF.

Slotting Parker into their rotation allows all the aforementioned players to return to their natural positions more often. At his natural PF position, Parker would be free to slide into a role as a (moderately) high usage player. Trae Young, Collins and Jeremy Lin could actually form quite a potent offensive combination with despite how bad that lineup would be.

But being bad at defense is another key to Parker’s possible success with Atlanta. Out of all the likely NBA lottery teams, perhaps only the Hawks, Knicks and Cavaliers had less expectations than the Bulls, who some (not many) pegged as a possible dark-horse No. 8 seed in the playoffs.

New Orleans Pelicans:

The Pelicans are in the same situation as the Bulls in terms of needing a quality small forward and struggling to attract star free agents. Parker doesn’t help with either of those issues and that is why Duncan suggested he could essentially be a nice depth piece for New Orleans, stating that Parker could help just by being on their roster as “a forward for when [Julius] Randle and [Nikola] Mirotic are inevitably hurt.

Though Pelicans general manager Dell Demps has had his fair share of misses, it is unlikely he would be looking to back up his oft-injured forwards with another injury-prone player. But if the New Orleans front office truly thinks Parker can improve from his current level of play, it would be worth it to part ways with Solomon Hill and salary filler for Parker. Whatever draft compensation Chicago wants would make or break this deal.

But with fellow Chicago-native Anthony Davis drawing tons of attention on his dives to the rim, it isn’t impossible to imagine a world in which Parker scores effectively as a pick-and-roll ball-handler with Jrue Holiday providing some floor spacing.

Philadelphia 76ers:

We’ll keep this one short. Nate Duncan had perhaps the best line of the episode when he stated flatly “they don't need more usage on this team.”

But while the Sixers certainly don’t need more player who want the ball in their hands, Duncan himself brought up the fact that they need more quality players in general. Parker has glaring holes in his game but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t be good in a complementary role.

After the recently acquired Jimmy Butler and Wilson Chandler, the Sixers don’t have many players who can hold down the forward spots. Ben Simmons can obviously play in the frontcourt in a pinch, but the point of Simmons’ uniqueness is that you can keep him at the one and surround him with big, two-way guards and forwards.

So Parker would actually fill somewhat of a need for the Sixers. Again, for all of his shortcomings, I don’t think anyone is going to strongly argue that Mike Muscala is clearly a better backup option at power forward than Parker. Muscala fits better because he is a great 3-point shooter, whereas Parker would cramp the floor spacing in Philly. But Muscala is a terrible rebounder for his position, averaging 4 rebounds per game compared to Parker’s 6 boards a game, which actually leads the rebound-deficient Bulls.

And in a best case scenario where Parker is engaged on defense, he and Simmons could have some great success as a duo in transition.

They both possess the coveted “grab-and-go” ability that allows them to turn quick shots by an opponent into an easy bucket. Parker was around the 60th percentile as a transition scorer in his last year in Milwaukee (which is good) but has fallen off this year on an injury-riddled Bulls team.

A big reason for Parker’s transition offense falling off is his high turnover rate. But the hope would be that Simmons—who also turns the ball over a lot—Butler and Embiid would have the ball in their hands so much that Parker’s turnovers would decrease dramatically.

As far as the framework for this deal? Markelle Fultz, Muscala and Jonah Bolden would be enough to make the trade work. This trade wouldn’t really weaken the Sixers in any way on the court. And off the court, Parker’s expiring deal would be interesting for a Sixers team that will be trying to re-sign Butler while adding depth around the margins.

NBA Power Rankings: Eastern Conference on the rise


NBA Power Rankings: Eastern Conference on the rise

The slow and gradual shift of power to the Eastern Conference seems to be complete. The East has a clear top eight teams and their top-three teams are arguably better than the West's top-three following the additions of Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler to the conference. 

In the Western Conference every team besides the Phoenix Suns are at least 4.5 games back of the No. 1 seed. The Clippers have started to gel in the post-Blake Griffin era, with veterans Danilo Gallinari and Tobias Harris helping lead an elite offense with many ways to attack opponents.

The Warriors will continue to be uneven without leader Stephen Curry but Kevin Durant can do enough playmaking—averaging a career-high 6 assists per game this season—to make up for the temporary absence of Curry and Draymond Green. No one feels sorry for the Dubs, as we are nearing the point of the season where all 30 teams have at least one major contributor dealing with ailments.

Philadelphia’s roster is still due for a roster move or two after the Jimmy Butler trade to take their roster to its full potential. Butler has sealed a couple games with game-winning shots already and he makes the Sixers a real threat to win the top-heavy Eastern Conference

Seeing which Eastern Conference teams provide the most trouble for the Warriors will be a recurring theme all season long as NBA fans thirst to see a new NBA Finals matchup.

The Warriors play the Magic, Raptors and Pistons this week. This should allow us to see how the Dubs match up against some of the stronger squads in the East, including a potential NBA Finals preview in Toronto.

Check out how the league's power structure shakes out in our latest rankings here.

Justin Holiday's breakout year could make him a valuable trade asset

Justin Holiday's breakout year could make him a valuable trade asset

On Wednesday, KC Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reported that the Bulls veteran players are being made available in trade talks. And Justin Holiday specifically, has the skill set to enhance many of the league's best franchises. 

In the Bulls one-point loss to the Denver Nuggets, Chicago hit 16 of their 34 3-point attempts, with Justin Holiday accounting for roughly 15 percent of the makes.

The Bulls have so far become a close to a league average offense, a huge step for a team that was bottom-three in terms of offensive efficiency last season.

Holiday has made himself into a player that can provide tremendous value to an offense and is enough of a gamer on defense to make sure he isn’t a net negative, provided the proper structure.

Holiday is such a solid veteran presence that is would probably benefit the Bulls to keep him around such a young team. But whether he makes it through the rebuild or not, it is clear that Holiday has found his niche in the league.

At 6-foot, 6-inches, Holliday has solid length for the shooting guard position. He has made himself into an awesome offensive player, due to the shifting of majority of his offense to the 3-point line, like Miami's Wayne Ellington, who takes over 70 percent of his shots from 3-point range. Holiday is averaging 11.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists with 1.4 steals per game. 

Because of Zach LaVine's ball-dominant role, Holiday has a career-low in terms of usage rate this season (13 percent). This yet another factor that shows how much more effective Holiday can be when playing next to star players (or more accurately players with inredibly high usage rates). This extends to both sides of the floor, though his defensive benefits haven't been on display much on this year's Bulls team.

Holiday's defense doesn’t hold up well against bigger forwards and he has been tasked with guarding players like this (think LeBron James, Tobias Harris, etc.) for much of the last three seasons. This comes from the fact that the last time Holiday wasn’t on the small-forward-thin Bulls, he was playing for the New York Knicks, who had the defensively-challenged Carmelo Anthony and the average, if uninspiring Lance Thomas playing ahead of him.

When Holiday plays on a team with solid perimeter defense, he is allowed to be aggressive and trust his instincts.

In his lone year with Golden State Warriors (small sample size alert) Holiday posted a 3 percent steal rate (a high figure for that metric) and has not achieved a number near that since the 2015-16 season. And while his defense is solid, he is not a game-changer.

The Bulls need game-changers and Holiday is not that. He is a player who would defensively work best on a team with a sound defensive concept, which Chicago does not have. This season there has been more than one moment in which you can see Holiday visibly frustrated with the team's on-court performance. At 29 years old and with less than 15 minutes of playoff experience, it's understandable.

All that being said, if you are adding Holiday to your roster, you aren’t doing it because of his playoff experience (or lack therof) or value on defense. You are adding him for his versatile fit. Holiday has evolved his skill set to the point where he can fit in with almost any team, but he would specifically open things up for some of the teams around the league that consider themselves contenders. Here is a look at the two best fits for Holiday from the Eastern and Western Conference respectively:

Philadelphia 76ers:

Philadelphia has built their successful offense around the talents of Joel Embiid and uber-unique point forward Ben Simmons. Neither player is a above average 3-point shooter, so the offense’s effectiveness comes from the fact that head coach Brett Brown throws out so many capable shooters around the dynamic duo.

This year, the Sixers have taken a step back on offense. This is partly due to the implementation of another non-shooter (Markelle Fultz) to the rotation and partly due to Dario Saric’s shooting from outside falling off of a cliff. They are in need of a bigger fish, but a solid 3-and-D wing would do wonders for their team.

With Philadelphia having enough size to hide players like J.J. Redick, assimilating Holiday would be easy. And just like in Houston, Holiday would be encouraged to shoot from 3-point range more than ever, despite already averaging a career-high in attempts.

If you look at two-man lineup information for the Sixers, the numbers of the Simmons-Fultz combination stand out. The pair currently has a 88.5 offensive rating, dead-last among the Sixers most played two-man groups. That figure would be a catastrophically low number for a modern NBA team, and what it represents is the fact that the Sixers can not sustain a capable offense with those two on the floor together.

Splitting up the amount of time Simmons and Fultz spend on the floor together should be Philadelphia’s top priority this year. And to do that, they need more players who can guard the one-through-three positions on defense while being extremely aggressive from 3-point range. Enter Justin Holiday.

With the Sixers cupboard still full of interesting draft picks despite being a contender, the time would be now for them to acquire additional veteran shooters to push their offense back to 2017-18 levels.

Houston Rockets:

The Rockets re-emerged on the national stage behind the talents of superstar James Harden and their to-the-extreme four-out, one-in offense that features getting up a hefty amount of 3-pointers. As of late, that offense has tailed off, and this is mostly due to the drop off among their group of role players.

After the loss of competitive two-way players like Luc Richard Mbah Moute and Trevor Ariza, the Rockets find themselves hurting in more ways than one.

Houston is still the best team in the league in terms of 3-point attempt rate, but their percentage of 3-point makes has dropped precipitously (33 percent this year vs 36 percent last year).

The absence of James Harden in a couple of games has obviously played a factor, as he was attempting over 8 3-pointers per game when he went down. If Harden's hamstring issues persist longer, Houston will need shooting guard help, unless they want to find themselves desperate for wins upon his return. 

The Rockets have shown that they are willing to give up draft picks in a trade (see the proposed Jimmy Butler deal), and it is almost too easy to see Holiday fitting into their 3-point happy offense and switching defense. If his shooting percentage from deep holds up, Houston and Chicago would make ideal trade partners.