Will the return of Danny Granger strengthen the Pacers or will they look to deal him away before the deadline?
He's going to strengthen them, for two reasons. Either Granger or Lance Stephenson will be coming off the bench, joining with Luis Scola to give Indiana a strong second unit. In their 97-94 loss Wednesday at Miami, the Pacers needed 12 minutes from 34-year-old Rasual Butler, a gifted shooter, but one that spent last season in the D-League. Granger is a 30-year-old former All-Star with an 18.1 career scoring average. That's a big difference.
Not only will they be more talented, but I believe he won't hurt their chemistry. This is not like acquiring an outsider at the trade deadline and hoping he'll fit in. Granger has played for Indiana his entire career. He has watched them turn into title contenders without him as his friend Paul George has become an MVP candidate. He also understands that this is likely his final year with the Pacers because they won't be able to re-sign him. I believe he is going to try to fit into their team rather than use their platform to prove himself.
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If it's a new contract he wants, then he will create demand for himself this summer by making the open shots that are sure to come his way on this enormously talented team. Granger is an excellent three-point shooter (at 38.4 percent for his career) and when he and George are on the perimeter simultaneously it will be harder than ever for opponents to deal with Roy Hibbert and David West around the basket.
Patience will be necessary here. Granger hasn't played regularly since 2011-12, and if his concern is with blending into the team then he may be tentative or uncertain in addition to being out of rhythm (see: Kobe Bryant's first few games back with the Lakers). The Pacers may struggle while working him back into the rotation, but even if he costs them a few wins, the effort is going to be worthwhile. The upside is too high to not find out whether he can help them.
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The one thing they aren't likely to do is deal his expiring $14 million contract, because the luxury tax will prevent them taking back financial commitments beyond this summer. As it is, they're going to have a hard time finding the money to keep Stephenson.
The Pacers are strong in the paint and Granger can make them more dangerous on the perimeter. This is a one-time-only chance to add a star talent to a small-market team that won't be able to afford the luxury of someone like Granger next season when George's new contract kicks in. If he is able to make a comeback, he could make the crucial difference against Miami.
But then the same thing could be said of ... Greg Oden. He's a newcomer to Miami, unlike Granger to Indiana, but Oden's size, defense and rebounding could give the Heat a boost against the big front line of the Pacers in the playoffs. As strong as both teams are now, they could be deeper and better five months from now.
What am I missing? I keep reading about how D12 is so much happier with Houston. How he healthy, playing so much better, is again the dominant center. But then the stats say he not doing any better than when he was with the Lakers when he was supposedly less than healthy. As far as the stats go, rebounding, assists and FT% are up, Steals, Blocks T/O and FG% are negative. Scoring is up but only because D12's FT% is up. So why is not a healthier D12 putting up better stats?
-- Jerry W., The Villages, FL
Two things here, Jerry. The differences you're citing are minimal both ways, for better and for worse. He's more productive while averaging slightly less court time than last year with the Lakers. The Rockets are going to need time to marry their style to his strengths, but the important difference is that they rank No. 5 in defensive field goal percentage after ranking No. 17 last year. At 17-9 they're also three games ahead of last year's pace. Their offense isn't built to emphasize Howard; his impact is going to be felt defensively.
With the Suns open to trading draft picks now, what are the chances that Phoenix will land Kevin Love? And if so, what will they give?
Minnesota is going to trade Love only if he makes it clear that he won't re-sign. That hasn't happened, and it may never happen.
If the Wolves were to believe that Love is on his way out in 2015, then their trade options would be limited to teams that would have a chance to sign him to a long-term deal. So Love would need to signal Phoenix as a preferred franchise.
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Here's something else to consider: If Love were to leave as a free agent then he would also have to think about whether a trade would weaken his new team. The reason, in theory, he would leave Minnesota would be to join a winner. But if his new team would have to give up too many assets to trade for him, then wouldn't Love be better off waiting to sign outright as a free agent?
Emeka Okafor is a huge trade chip. Who can the Suns get for him and a 2014 1st round pick or two?
I don't know that there will be a strong market for Okafor's expiring $14.5 million contract. The Wizards had to attach a first-round pick to Okafor's expiring money in order to land Marcin Gortat. Think about the failure of teams to move expiring contracts at the trade deadline last season: They aren't as valuable as they used to be.
Do you think LeBron will win MVP?
It's hard to imagine him not winning it, so long as he's healthy.
Is Paul George really a legitimate threat to take the MVP from LeBron?
If he beats James in the playoffs this spring, then George will have a chance to take the MVP next season. As well as George has played, the case can't be made that he has a bigger impact on the game than LeBron.
It appears unlikely, but how good would a core of Rondo-Gay-Williams-Cousins be?
It does appear unlikely. It would be good for Rondo, because the other three guys can shoot. Think about the looks that Rondo would create for DeMarcus Cousins. The question is whether the Kings would have enough to acquire Rondo. Their draft picks would go down in value once Rondo was running their team. The Celtics have insisted wisely that they don't want to trade Rondo, which puts the burden on his suitors to make a strong offer. If Rondo is generating this much buzz now, imagine the stir he'll create if he comes back healthy and is putting up numbers amid the urgency of the trade deadline.
Best/fit most likely spot for Jason Collins in 2014: LAC, PDX, DEN, MIN, SA, MIA, WSH, other to none?
That can't be answered now because Collins isn't a priority -- otherwise he would be signed right now. We'll have a better idea in February, after the trade deadline and buyouts have shaken out the market for veteran big men. At the moment there is no urgency for anyone to make a move on him.
Will the Bulls sliding under .500 force management to make a deal soon or will they stand pat until the trade deadline?
I can tell you what I think they should do. My own opinion is that they should double-down on their current rotation. They should extend Luol Deng, whose impact and team-mindedness cannot be replicated. Why go through three years of trauma with Derrick Rose and then not see it through? If Rose were a free agent this summer then there would be a lot of interest in him. In that sense the Bulls are fortunate to have him; which means they ought to gamble on him coming back healthy. If they weaken their team, they'll be kicking themselves if Rose turns out to be healthy next season while the rosters of Miami and Indiana are weakened -- which could happen.
Has there ever been as much talent top to bottom at one position in league history as there is at PG right now?
I'm sure there has been, Matthew; there was a time when every team seemed to have a strong center, for example. I think the appearance of talent at point guard has a lot to do with the rules, which have opened up the floor for smaller, more explosive players to attack the three-point line and the paint. A lot of these point guards are scorers who aren't necessarily sophisticated when it comes to reading and executing against half-court defenses.
Can Tyson Chandler turn the Knicks' season?!
He'll improve their defense, energy and team spirit. As bad as the East is this year, he may help swing them into the playoffs. But they have more problems than he can address.