TrueHoop: Golden State Warriors

#HateHard: Houston's 'not good' idea

January, 23, 2015
Jan 23
7:36
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Elhassan By Amin Elhassan
ESPN.com
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The Rockets don't know how to handle not being able to handle the Warriors.

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The unstoppable Golden State Warriors

January, 19, 2015
Jan 19
2:09
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Strauss By Ethan Sherwood Strauss
ESPN.com
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Why the road to winning the 2014-15 NBA crown goes through Golden State.

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Steph Curry or James Harden for MVP?

January, 15, 2015
Jan 15
2:29
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Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
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No more LeBron vs. Durant. This season, Stephen Curry and James Harden lead the pack.

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Draymond Green is no Kevin Love

January, 12, 2015
Jan 12
6:12
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Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
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At least, David Thorpe doesn't think so. Here's why.

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Upgrade the Warriors!

December, 16, 2014
12/16/14
11:56
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Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
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Golden State is rolling, but David Thorpe says now is the time to fix the shocking lack of guard scoring when the starters sit.

Drama in Golden State

December, 10, 2014
12/10/14
6:55
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Elhassan By Amin Elhassan
ESPN.com
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Ethan Sherwood Strauss discusses the latest drama between Warriors owner Joe Lacob and former Warriors coach Mark Jackson.

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Money matters with Andrew Bogut

December, 2, 2014
12/02/14
12:41
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Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
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Andrew Bogut explains how he made ends meet as a college athlete and why he likes what he hears from new NBPA executive director Michele Roberts.

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Andrew Bogut on Warriors' fast start

November, 25, 2014
11/25/14
12:10
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Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
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Andrew Bogut is making plays, anchoring the Golden State defense and loving life on the 2014-15 Warriors.

Lakers legends too busy to be upset

November, 17, 2014
11/17/14
12:04
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Adande By J.A. Adande
ESPN.com
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The Lakers’ glorious past and pathetic present were both well represented at Staples Center on Sunday night, and normally the confluence of such a disparity is disruptive, like the turbulence when two weather fronts meet.

I still remember Lakers legends Jerry West and Magic Johnson fuming when the Lakers were swept by the Utah Jazz in the 1998 playoffs. West called it “ridiculous” and said players “should be embarrassed.” Johnson said, “I’m really upset at this.”

There was no such anger Sunday night, not even as the Lakers were picked apart by the Golden State Warriors 136-115 to drop their record to 1-9.

Maybe criticism wasn't at the forefront of people’s minds because of the reason they gathered: to celebrate Elgin Baylor’s 80th birthday. Hall of Famer Lenny Wilkens flew in from Seattle. Dick Barnett, one of Baylor’s teammates in the Lakers’ early years in Los Angeles, came out from New York. Former Lakers players Tommy Hawkins, Lucius Allen and Michael Cooper were on hand as well. All of the fans at the game received replicas of Baylor’s No. 22 Lakers jersey, and he was honored at halftime with a lengthy video tribute. All in all, a wonderful homage to one of the NBA’s all-time greats.

Maybe they abstained from criticism because their minds are occupied elsewhere.

When Magic chatted with Cooper, his teammate through five championship seasons in the 1980s, the topic was the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, which Cooper used to coach and Johnson now owns.

As West made his way out of the building, he said, “We’re a fun team to watch.” He was talking about the Warriors, whom he currently serves as an executive board member.

The Lakers are still part of their identities, but they’re no longer their business. West left the front office in 2000 and Johnson sold his ownership stake in 2010. You could make a case that the exodus of the valuable institutional knowledge of Johnson and West is one of the reasons the team is in its current state.

The older generation of Lakers felt more nostalgic than ornery. Hawkins sat next to Baylor and talked about the team’s early days in Los Angeles, when they played at a nearly empty Sports Arena and didn’t have a full-time radio play-by-play announcer. Hawkins recounted one of his favorite stories, the time he and Baylor combined for 78 points -- 71 of them by Baylor.

Jeremy Lin probably won’t have such fond recollections of Sunday night, when he and Kobe Bryant combined to score 44 points -- 44 of them by Bryant. Bryant took 34 shots to Lin’s two.

But watching Kobe shoot and score seemed to be enough to satisfy the fans, who were oddly complacent throughout the game. No boos rained down, not even when the Warriors went ahead by 38 points. Most of the fans even remained in their seats well into the fourth quarter, even after it became apparent that neither Bryant nor the Warriors’ starters would return to the court. Lakers games feel more like a tourist destination than a sporting event these days. Come look at the banners and the Laker Girls and Jack Nicholson, say you’ve seen Kobe do his thing, and don’t worry about the outcome of the game.

One of the patrons who stayed until the end was Shaquille O’Neal, who was “in father mode” and took his kids to the game at their request.

O’Neal said Kobe and all of the residents of Lakerland just need to hang in there.

“It’s not what L.A. fans are accustomed to,” O’Neal said. “Just got to weather the storm.”

There’s sunshine in O’Neal’s life. He has an ownership stake in the Sacramento Kings, who are 6-4. The Lakers legends have moved on. Even on a rare occasion when they were all in the same building again, there was no collective angst about the franchise’s descent to the bottom of the Western Conference.

It’s not their problem.

Can new offense make Klay an All-Star?

October, 20, 2014
10/20/14
12:00
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Strauss By Ethan Sherwood Strauss
ESPN.com
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Steve KerrJuan O'Campo/NBAE/Getty ImagesWill new Warriors coach Steve Kerr bring out the best in Klay Thompson's game this season?
At the Golden State Warriors' practice facility, coach Steve Kerr said something that had merit but little statistical basis: “Klay [Thompson] is at the point of his career where he’s very close to being an All-Star.”

Kerr is not a stupid person, and he’s not exactly prone to happy hyperbole either. One jarring difference from last season is this coach’s candor in discussing shortcomings. You hear terms like “bad practice,” confessions of broken plays, admissions of vulnerability that the previous coach felt too assailed to reveal. While the last guy made basketball seem like a war conquered by confidence, the current one makes it sound like an all-obsessing job, fraught with fallibility.

So how can the Warriors' coach believe that a player who has never notched an above-league average PER stands on the cusp of stardom? How can Kerr be so confident in Thompson when his shooting guard lags in so many categories outside of points?

[+] EnlargeKlay Thompson
Kelvin Kuo/USA TODAY SportsGetting to the rim in the new offense would only make Klay Thompson an even greater offensive threat.
A lot of it rests on the idea that Thompson can quite literally choose to be a much better player. As in, he can take more of the shots he’s incredible at, and fewer of the shots that give little reward. The way Kerr put it after the “All-Star” assessment: “What I talk to him about is getting greedy, but not with bad shots. Getting greedy with good shots.”

Getting greedy with good shots. That painted arc is the line between a bad kind and good kind of selfish. Kerr continued, “He can shoot 25-footers with ease. The floor is his, but he’s got to be efficient and smart with the way he uses it.”

Thompson should be one of the league’s most efficient scorers, thanks to a high-release distance jumper that’s equal parts accurate and unblockable. His scoring efficiency was, like last season’s Warriors offense, disappointingly average. Both Thompson and the Warriors were hyped as offensive juggernauts throughout the year. Both Thompson and the Warriors squandered advantages by relying too much on midrange post-ups. Golden State finished last in the league in passes per possession. Thompson finished last in the league in passes per touch.

Stephen Curry is the superstar and face of the franchise, but at the moment his backcourt partner better symbolizes where the organization is at: its potential, its improved defense, its flaws, its uncertain future. The Warriors are deliberating over Thompson’s second contract, and he’s the player who must improve for them to compete for titles. It’s difficult to envision Golden State as a contender if Curry remains the lone star.

The hope is that Kerr unlocks Thompson’s and this team’s promise with an offense that moves the ball in a manner Golden State hasn’t moved it. All the way from the practice court, through a window, you can see that the walls of Kerr’s office are slathered in dry-erase ink. The wall scribblings conjure something between intricate planning and madness. Prying eyes can’t clock just what the mysterious cave paintings mean. “What’s he building in there?” the part of your brain that sounds like Tom Waits might mutter.

If what we’ve seen and heard is to be believed, he’s building an offense that incorporates elements of Spurs motion and elements of the triangle. With the assistance of former Phoenix head coach Alvin Gentry, there’s influence from the Nash-era Suns as well. The challenge for Golden State is to generate offense without floor-spreading bigs like so many teams have -- like what the Warriors would have had if they’d traded for a certain current Cleveland Cavalier. For Golden State to live up to its billing as some revolutionary, exciting “Splash Brothers” attack, it must thrive with a positively old-school look. The Warriors must score with a center and power forward passing out of the post.

Kerr is sanguine about the possibilities, though. When asked if it’s a challenge to lean on passing (as opposed to shooting) bigs, Kerr exclaimed, “It would be a challenge to not have those guys!" He chuckled, then added, "When you have great passing bigs, it makes offense so much easier. Two things can really stretch the floor: shooting and passing. If you have good interior passing, you can get the spacing that you need.”

Many teams stretch the floor with the mere presence of shooters. The Warriors hope to stretch defenses with their decisions.

It’s not as simple as just rolling the ball out and hoping Andrew Bogut and David Lee pass incisively, though. The team must move in a way that primes the passing. Kerr explained the general idea behind the new offense as, “You take whatever talent you have. What we have is a great shooting backcourt and excellent passing bigs, so that’s why you see us doing what we’re doing. A lot of dribble handoffs, a lot of moving and cutting, because we know we have the skill to move the ball around.”

The dribble handoffs have been a distinct feature of an offense that came firing out of the gate this preseason. Bogut, thought by many to be a defense-only player, operates as the fulcrum of so much offense. He doesn’t simply set screens. He confrontationally dribbles the ball directly at smaller defenders, halts and blocks their path to Curry or Thompson.

Bogut explains, “If I can attack first and then get a better [passing] angle, it creates so much havoc for that big guy guarding me because he has to show on guys like Steph.”

Teammates orbit Bogut as defenders desperately try to get around his wide, jutted body. Defenders who doggedly chase Curry or Thompson around the screen can often be evaded with a cut away from the pick. If this happens, Bogut is more than likely to hit the open man with a crisp pass. If he still has his dribble, you might be treated to the comedy of a fake handoff that tricks everybody, followed by a slow turn and stroll through a vacant paint. It’s a shocking sight, like if the Arc de Triomphe grew sick of the circling traffic, uprooted itself and strolled down the Champs-Elysees past gawking tourists.

Bogut has averaged 7.25 assists per 40 minutes this preseason, and it would appear he’s enjoying a system where, “They obviously want me to be involved more, especially the high post area to utilize my passing.” The ever-wary vet finished that thought with, “I’m not going to say, ‘I hated last year.’ I loved last year. I’m at a point in my career where I play whatever role coach wants me to, and if they want me to handle the ball more, I’ll do that.” Like a few of his teammates, Bogut is careful to stop short of slighting the old regime.

Lee has also thrived in the dizzying circles this preseason, frequently cutting behind the action for points at the rim. He’s claimed a 27.02 PER, and against Miami, he hit all 11 of his shots. Like with Bogut, Lee’s expected to export offensive creativity from inside the arc. In last season’s stilted system, Lee posted his lowest assist average since he was a reserve with the Knicks, back in 2008. More movement might mean more opportunities for Lee to tap into his skill set.

The two Warriors bigs, guys who don’t appear on “Splash Brothers” posters, are subtly linked to Thompson’s story arc. With the burden of creativity shifting from Thompson (and his post-ups) to Bogut and Lee, the thinking is that the shooter will get better shots. So far it’s working spectacularly, at least in this preseason. Thompson’s claimed a ridiculous 34.86 PER while driving more and posting less.

In the background, his agent negotiates his lucrative contract extension with Warriors GM Bob Myers. While the Warriors don’t expect Thompson to average over 34 points per 40 minutes (as he’s doing this preseason), they do expect him to validate the faith that’s implied in the rejection of a Kevin Love trade. Both sides want a deal, though this is complicated by the dizzying array of possibilities created by the NBA’s new TV contract. In theory, Thompson’s long-term Warriors commitment is only a matter of time. As for Thompson making an All-Star team, that could be more a matter of strategy.

Itemized: Klay Thompson

October, 7, 2014
10/07/14
5:05
PM ET
By Jade Hoye
ESPN.com
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Klay Thompson is eligible for a max extension, which must be signed by Halloween. Trick or treat?

Aaron Craft scrapping in summer league

July, 18, 2014
7/18/14
10:00
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Strauss By Ethan Sherwood Strauss
ESPN.com
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Aaron Craft Dominic DiSaia for ESPNUndrafted out of Ohio State, undersized point guard Aaron Craft is trying to stick on an NBA roster.
If it’s possible to lose half your fame in a couple of months, then it’s happened to Aaron Craft. The transition from March Madness to summer league is funny that way. In the spring, Craft is the archetype of college ball grit, a well-publicized symbol of what the NCAA experience means to many of its fans. Come summer, Craft is no longer attached to any of that. He’s now just a defensive-minded, undrafted point guard on the Golden State Warriors’ summer-league team.

Steve Kerr has gushed over the former Ohio State point guard’s defensive effort and it’s apparent in every minute of action in Las Vegas. Craft really does hit the floor more often than a jackhammer. Right now his play looks like the epitome of summer-league striving, but summer-league striving doesn’t sell like college ball scrappiness.

There’s only so much crossover between college and pro basketball fans, so Craft’s massive renown is lost on many NBA followers. To them, being big at Ohio State might as well be like being big in Japan. That also means Craft attracts fewer haters in this phase of his life. Though a good student and by many accounts a good teammate, there was something about the way scrappy Craft was praised by announcers that attracted a fair amount of backlash.

That hate dies in the Vegas heat. Something else also happens out here, for Craft on a personal (not public) level. Like so many of us who graduate from college, he must transition from having a safety net to making his way in a world that can be confusingly anonymous.


What is this transition like for you?

It’s just different, everything’s a little different, from what you do in the hotels with the team, to shootarounds to everything. It’s sort of an overwhelming experience.

How’s the hotel stuff different?

You don’t do much with the team, maybe just because it’s summer league. You have a lot more free time than you do when you’re traveling in college. Meals are on your own, so you gotta find your own meals, which is different. They always gave you team meals, you always ate together, so you’re kind of on your own, you gotta figure things out.

So it’s like graduating college for a lot of people, where there’s less structure and you have to grow up fast?

Yeah, you gotta figure it out. I learned early on that there’s a ton of free time, so you gotta figure out how to maximize, not just waste it. Am I perfect at it? No. But I find some things I enjoy doing and that’s fine.

How do you fill that free time?

You have to actually pursue relationships now, so calling people on the phone, seeing how they’re doing. I’ve read a lot recently.

What are you reading?

I read the Bible a lot, and this book “Recovery and Redemption” by Matt Chandler, got into that, finished a book by John Piper during the pre-draft process. Just trying to fill the time.

Do you feel like there’s less pressure here right now than there was when you were at Ohio State?

There, it’s right at you, you can feel it. Here there’s some pressure because you have no idea where you’re going to be a month from now.

I don’t know much about the college ball scene, but I kept reading and hearing you were a polarizing player. Did you have any thoughts on why that happened?

I don’t know. Either you liked me or you didn’t like me at all?

But why would someone not like you? You seem like a nice guy.

I am a nice guy. There was a lot of stuff, a lot of ideas thrown out there, but for me, if anything it could have taken some pressure off my teammates. I felt comfortable handling it and dealing with it.

What are the ideas that were thrown out about why?

I’m white. I’m short. Other people can do what I do. Things like that. It’s interesting.

Did that feel insulting to you? That people would reduce your talent like that?

No, not at all. It was always about what the coaching staff thought, what our team thought. There’s a lot of people out there thinking they know what they’re talking about and they have no idea. They’re not in practices, they’re not in film sessions, they don’t see the work we put in. I’m fine with it, you know. People want to fill time, and that’s fine with me. I’ve done pretty well to this point and hope to continue to do so.

Do you like the change in the amount of scrutiny or does it not affect you at all?

I tried not to notice it in college. It’s just a different kind of scrutiny now. People kind of dissect your game, tell you what you can’t do now.

Obviously defense was a calling card of yours. Is it different at this level.

There is more space on the floor now obviously with the three point line, there’s less help and gap, so it does change it, but I like the challenge. Picking guys up full court is a challenge in of itself, being in better shape than everyone else is just something I need to do.

How do you maintain the energy for that? What do you do off the court to be able to do that an not die?

It’s a big mental challenge. It’s a big toughness factor kind of thing. If I’m going to make it, I have to be better shape than pretty much any guy on the floor.

The back of the envelope guide to Las Vegas Summer League: The West

July, 11, 2014
7/11/14
10:05
AM ET
By D.J. Foster
Special to ESPN.com
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Julius Randle, Dante ExumGetty ImagesWelcome to the NBA, rooks. High-profile picks Julius Randle and Dante Exum finally hit the pro stage.
There's something for everyone at Las Vegas Summer League. For all the prized rookies in this year’s draft class, it’s a chance to get their feet wet. For the prospects who haven’t found luck in the league yet, it’s an opportunity to jump-start a career. For others, it’s simply a shot at getting on the radar.

The following is our annual "back of the envelope" guide to the Las Vegas Summer League teams, highlighting some of the more promising and intriguing prospects who will take the floor. The West guide is below, and the East guide is here.


Dallas Mavericks


Gal Mekel: Perhaps it was a show of confidence in Mekel’s abilities that the Mavericks were willing to send both Jose Calderon and Shane Larkin to New York. Raymond Felton may be the worst projected starter at point guard in the league right now, so there’s a clear path to playing time for the Israeli point guard. A great summer league could go a long way.

Ricky Ledo: The mystery is no longer there, but the appeal still will be. Ledo came into Vegas last year without a minute of college or international playing time under his belt, but he’s showed glimpses of being a capable wing scorer. He plays with blinders on sometimes and can chuck a bit, but the talent is there.

Ivan Johnson: He’s the only player in Vegas with the distinction of being “banned forever” from the Korean Basketball League, but Johnson can really play despite some dustups over the years. In two seasons for the Atlanta Hawks, Johnson averaged a 15.1 PER and was solid on both ends. After playing in China last season, he’d make a nice bodyguard for Dirk Nowitzki off the bench.


Denver Nuggets


Quincy Miller: One play he’ll look like Kevin Durant, the next he’ll look like Austin Daye. Miller is a 6-foot-10 wing with guard skills and a sweet stroke from deep, but he’s a little too slow and a little too soft to really put it all to good use. You’ll fall in and out of love with him multiple times over the course of a game.

Gary Harris: He had one of the more surprising falls on draft night, but the Denver Nuggets were smart to snatch up a young 3-and-D wing for Arron Afflalo to mentor. Afflalo, on his second tour in Denver thanks to a pre-draft trade with Orlando, suffered a similar fate on draft night in 2007 despite a strong pedigree, but he turned himself into something much more with his great work ethic. Harris should take notes.

Erick Green: Last year’s second-round pick struggled a bit in Italy last season, and this is still one of the league’s deepest rosters. Green has a knack for creating space and finding his own shot, but with Harris and Miller needing to be fed and the Nuggets probably looking for a third point guard, he should focus more on distributing.


Golden State Warriors

Travis Bader: There have been a lot of great shooters in college basketball history, but Bader holds a spot above them all as the NCAA Division I leader in 3-pointers made, with 504. With shooting coming at a premium (here’s looking at you, Jodie Meeks) in free agency, smart teams may opt for a cheaper, younger specialist like Bader.

Nemanja Nedovic: Being dubbed the “European Derrick Rose” has been the highlight of Nedovic’s career thus far. He couldn’t find playing time under Mark Jackson last season, but with Steve Kerr taking over, Nedovic will get a clean slate and a chance to unleash some of the much heralded athleticism.

Rob Loe: After the Warriors missed out on acquiring Channing Frye and shored up the backcourt instead, the big man from Saint Louis might get a long look to fill the Warriors' need for a stretch big man with legitimate size. Although his percentages weren’t great in college, Loe’s mechanics are literally perfect when he parks himself on the 3-point line.


Houston Rockets


Nick Johnson: Most expected the Rockets to go with an international draft-and-stash candidate in this year's draft to avoid taking on salary, but Daryl Morey and company liked the Arizona guard enough to take the plunge. Early returns have been positive -- Johnson’s nasty throwdown in Orlando is the early favorite for the dunk of the summer.

Omar Oraby: Plenty of countries are represented in Vegas every year, but Oraby is looking to become the first player from Egypt to play in the NBA. The USC grad has size on his side (7-foot-2), but he’ll need to show he can protect the rim without fouling before warranting any serious consideration.

Isaiah Canaan: He got a little bit of burn with the Rockets last season, but Canaan was most impressive with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the 3-happy D-League affiliate of the big club. Canaan hit a whopping 3.7 3s per game on 38.7 percent shooting with that squad, and after teammate Troy Daniels temporarily saved Houston’s hide in the playoffs, Canaan could find a role.


Los Angeles Clippers


Delonte West: It’s no secret that Doc Rivers has an affinity for veterans and his former players, and West qualifies as both. Since 2010, West has worked for a furniture store, been arrested for carrying guns in a guitar case "Desperado" style, and has played in the D-League, China and the NBA in stints. This would be quite the career revival.

Keith Benson: The Clippers could probably stand to add some more depth in the frontcourt even after the signing of Spencer Hawes, and Benson might fill a need. After seeing what he did with DeAndre Jordan, a similar big man in terms of size and athleticism, Rivers may decide to take on another project big man with all the athletic tools and very little polish.

Jon Brockman: A summer-league tradition like no other. Brockman made his debut way back in 2009, and for years now he’s provided dogged offensive rebounding and physical play in the paint in this setting. The proceedings wouldn’t feel quite right without him here.


Los Angeles Lakers


Julius Randle: Randle will have a leg up on some of the other post prospects in town, as he’ll get a buffet of touches thanks to Kendall Marshall. The seventh overall pick should be able to put on a nice show for the always-present Lakers contingency as a magnet for the ball with superior motor and athleticism.

DeAndre Kane: If you tuned into an Iowa State game last season, it was tough to keep your eyes off Kane. His age (25) and lack of a true position kept him out of the draft, but Kane plays a very similar style to Lance Stephenson and can make his impact felt all over the court. He’s a serious sleeper.

Kendall Marshall: Great tweeter, better distributor. Marshall averaged 11 assists per 36 minutes last season for the Lakers, and while some of that is inflated by noted point guard whisperer Mike D’Antoni, Marshall also knocked in 39.9 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. He’ll have questions to answer in a new system, but he has staying power.


Minnesota Timberwolves


Zach LaVine: Minnesota is just going to keep acquiring UCLA guys to try and placate Kevin Love, apparently, as LaVine is the third Bruin (Shabazz Muhammad, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute) to join the roster in the last year. With a ridiculous 46-inch vertical leap and a stylish flair, the raw singman’s dunks should set the internet on fire. Unless there’s an up-and-comer out there named Putmeon LaYouTube, LaVine is probably the most appropriately named prospect we’ve ever had.

Shabazz Muhammad: The Las Vegas native returns for a second run at summer league, this time with a year of NBA experience under his belt. With a new coach in Flip Saunders and a possible youth movement taking place in Minnesota, Muhammad’s sturdy under-the-basket post scoring could be an asset. Question is, can he do anything else?

Gorgui Dieng: One of the lone bright spots in an otherwise lost season, Dieng burst onto the scene late and averaged 12.6 points, 13.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per 36 minutes. Although he’s stuck behind Love and Nikola Pekovic for the time being, Dieng’s ability to play out of the high post and protect the rim puts him in pretty exclusive company among fellow big men.


New Orleans Pelicans


Josh Howard: Yes, that Josh Howard. At 34 years old, the former Dallas Mavericks forward is hoping to follow in Rasual Butler’s footsteps by performing well in summer league and landing another NBA contract. Injuries have ravaged his career, but given the need in New Orleans for a glue guy at small forward, Howard should get a fair shake if the body is willing.

Russ Smith: The lightning bug Louisville point guard should perform pretty well here, as he’s been blowing by elite opposing point guards for quite some time now. Unlike a few other guards in attendance, the frantic pace Smith played at with Louisville should transfer over nicely.

Patric Young: The Florida big man is a real grinder, and watching him lock horns with other big bodies in the frontcourt is always a treat. Young has some nice role-player potential behind Anthony Davis and Omer Asik in New Orleans, even if he’s limited offensively.


Phoenix Suns


T.J. Warren: NC State gave him all the possessions he could handle, but it’s hard to say how well Warren’s high-usage attack will translate to the next level. He’s a throwback scorer who lives primarily off the in-between stuff like floaters and below-the-rim finishes, but can he survive as an efficient offensive option without a more reliable jumper and better range?

Alex Len: It’s easy to forget that Phoenix battled for a playoff spot without the fifth pick of the 2013 draft involved, but there’s still hope that Len will become the skilled, mobile rim protector the Suns need in the middle. The fight for playing time with Miles Plumlee, who isn’t on the summer league roster, starts right now.

Tyler Ennis: Canada can trot out a pretty dangerous Olympic team all of a sudden, can’t it? Ennis was a somewhat surprising pick since Phoenix has Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe to run the point, but he has the kind of distributing ability and shake off the dribble that could make him a dangerous player down the line. The point guard rich look like they got richer.


Portland Trail Blazers


C.J. McCollum: If McCollum can stay healthy, it’s not hard to imagine him winning a sixth man of the year award in the near future. At the very least he fits the typical profile - a combo guard with the ability to shoot the lights out and create for himself off the dribble. He could be the answer to Portland’s bench woes offensively.

Thomas Robinson: It feels like Robinson should have already moved on from playing in the summer league since he’s bounced around so much, but the fifth pick in the 2012 draft is still just 23 years old and raw enough to justify another appearance. He’s an elite rebounder, but he needs to bring something else to the table to earn real minutes.

Meyers Leonard: Do you trust recently signed big man Chris Kaman to stay healthy for a full season? Me neither. At some point in the near future, Leonard is going to need to soak up minutes at the 5 for a team with legitimate playoff potential. With that in mind, it would be nice if he didn’t float in the background again this summer.


Sacramento Kings


Ben McLemore: It’s been a while since an otherwise legitimate prospect has been crippled by tunnel vision this severe. Last year’s seventh overall pick seems to be lacking a basic feel for his surroundings, but he’s still trouble in transition when he can make straight line drives to the rim. If the jumper starts falling, there’s some 3-and-D potential here.

Nik Stauskas: The problem in Sacramento, as it always seems to be, is that there might not be enough distributors on the roster. We know Stauskas can shoot and shake and bake, but Sacramento may need him to take on more of a creating role, especially if Darren Collison: Starting Point Guard, ends up being a real thing.

Sim Bhullar: Vegas serves as a home for plenty of P.O.U.S (players of unusual size) this time of year, and New Mexico State big man Bhullar is the biggest of them all. Don’t adjust your screen -- Bhullar is really 7-foot-5 and 360 pounds, and he’s a serious threat to crush a cameraman under the basket at some point. If he’s going down, I’m yelling timber. Also, I’m so sorry.


San Antonio Spurs


Kyle Anderson: How did the rest of the league let this happen? Allowing a young Boris Diaw clone to learn from the real Boris Diaw could have serious consequences for the rest of the league down the line. Yes, Anderson is slower than molasses, but his playmaking, size, ballhandling and intelligence are top notch. This is how the Spurs stay the Spurs.

Deshaun Thomas: He can get buckets in a hurry. It’s a little surprising that Thomas hasn’t found a C.J. Miles-type role for an NBA team yet, but at 22 years old, there’s still plenty of time for that to happen. San Antonio’s roster is understandably crowded, but this guy is too good offensively to ignore for much longer.

Vander Blue: Marquette has a history of pumping out pesky perimeter defenders, and Blue certainly qualifies. If his 3-point stroke finally starts to cooperate, Blue could hold down a steady roster spot. For teams that miss out on Kent Bazemore in free agency, Blue should be an option worth considering if his mechanics are cleaned up.


Utah Jazz


Dante Exum: No more chopped up footage from four years ago -- we’re finally getting the real thing. The Australian guard and fifth overall pick in this year’s draft certainly appears to have all the natural tools you love to have from a lead guard, and he could take on a role in the same vein as someone like Brandon Roy once occupied. That kind of star power is exactly what a franchise like Utah needs.

Trey Burke: How’s the potential backcourt of the future going to co-exist? On paper it seems like a good fit, as both Burke and Exum can swing the ball side-to-side and attack against recovering defenses. This could be the start of a beautiful relationship if the two play off each other instead of simply taking turns, which is always tempting in these types of games.

Rudy Gobert: After exploding onto the scene last season in Orlando Summer League by showing surprising mobility, good hands and natural shotblocking ability, it’s easy to dream on what Gobert might look like with a little more seasoning. Big men typically develop a little slower, but here’s hoping he gets unleashed yet again in the Jazz’s first ever summer-league appearance in Las Vegas.

D.J. Foster is an NBA contributor for ESPN.com, ClipperBlog and others. Follow him, @fosterdj.

Livingston puts a bounce in Warriors' steps

July, 1, 2014
7/01/14
11:42
PM ET
Strauss By Ethan Sherwood Strauss
ESPN.com
Archive
 Shaun Livingston and Stephen CurryBrad Penner/USA TODAY Sports Shaun Livingston will be working alongside Stephen Curry with the Warriors next season.

The Golden State Warriors' three-year, $16 million agreement (third year partially guaranteed) with Shaun Livingston addresses a basketball issue so basic it has been easy to miss: The Warriors need a guy who can dribble. Too much of the offense has been dependent on Stephen Curry, in part due to Curry’s incredible talent and in part due to how the Warriors have lacked for competent ball handlers.

Livingston is a guy you can trust with the rock, as he can drive, dish and post up depending on the situation. What he can’t do is shoot 3-pointers, a staple of Golden State’s perimeter offense. Though he has yet to develop the skill, his .827 free throw mark might speak to some potential in that area.

This is a move the Warriors make even if they aren’t eyeing a future without Klay Thompson, who has been linked to Kevin Love trade talks. That said, the move makes parting with Klay less painful should they choose to go that route.

On the face of it, Livingston and Thompson couldn’t be more different in terms of basketball skills. Livingston handles and passes, while Thompson shoots and, well, shoots. The similarity comes on the defensive end where both players can leverage their length to bother opposing perimeter players. Should the Warriors cast aside their reluctance and deal Thompson for Love, they can ask Livingston to fill in for Thompson defensively.

In Golden State’s defensive system under former coach Mark Jackson, Thompson would defend opposing point guards, leaving Curry hidden on a less talented perimeter player. This strategy allowed Curry some rest, spared him unfavorable matchups and got opposing teams into mismatches when the ball changed sides. The Warriors can resume doing this, even without Thompson. And, should they hold on to Thompson, they’ve just acquired someone who can find him for many a 3-pointer.

Show some Love

June, 23, 2014
6/23/14
4:41
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
David Thorpe says it's a mistake to discount the accomplishments of Kevin Love, and that Klay Thompson is not a max player.

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