The Outlet: How to Stop ‘Lillard Time’, Plus Other NBA Questions
Photo Credit: Isaiah J. Downing – USA TODAY Sports
Welcome to the Outlet Pass, the best and worst from the National Basketball Association this week. In this edition, five players who can be acquired on the cheap, how the Nuggets snuffed out one of the most dangerous late game threats, why the Sixers are suddenly for real, and how to fix the All-Star Game.
TOP FIVE: Value players who could realistically be traded.
1. Garrett Temple, SG, Sacramento Kings: The veteran guard is primed for a contender to pick him up and add him to the rotation. The 31-year-old currently has 41-37-71 shooting splits along with the experience, size, and ability to actually make an impact on a good team.
Opponents are 8 of 25 vs. Temple in isolation this season via Synergy Sports. Here he is annoying LeBron James into an airball in the post.
Here he is swatting Jrue Holiday on the drive.
The Kings are looking to shed salary. Temple’s on the books for the rest of this season for $8 million, with an early termination option for next season at the same number. He’s exactly the kind of guy you need who can defend and shoot.
2. Ed Davis, PF, Portland Trail Blazers: If the Blazers are moving pieces at the deadline as they try to appease Damian Lillard after his heart to heart with Paul Allen last week and shed their atrocious amount of bad contracts, Davis should be a prime target as a sweetener.
Davis leads the Blazers in on vs. off net rating differential. The Blazers are 5.7 points per 100 possessions better in net rating with Davis on the court. He’s making less than $7 million on an expiring contract, is in the 64th percentile defensively via Synergy Sports, and is shooting 59 percent around the rim.
He’s a bargain. A steal. A low fanfare, high-impact rotation guy. Portland almost certainly can’t afford to retain him this summer, and they have a plethora of big men circling their rotation.
He’s a non-stretch four, which is an issue, but he’s also big play maker.
If a team can take on one of their awful contracts and get Davis as sweetener, it would be worth it for the right price.
3. Marvin Williams, PF, Charlotte Hornets: Charlotte wants to cut salary. Williams plays the most important position in the league. Cut a deal. Williams had a down year from 3 last season at 35 percent but is back up to 44 percent in 2017-18. The Hornets are 5.6 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court.
He’s optimal for a contender pick up. He can switch onto perimeter players, knock down shots from the corner and provide a veteran presence for under $15 million. He has an effective field goal percentage on spot-up plays of 63.5. His contract may be prohibitive over the next two seasons, but he also might be a reasonable buyout candidate.
4. Kenneth Faried, PF, Denver Nuggets: The Manimal has been put on the shelf in Denver for a lot of different reasons, primarily that he can’t stretch the floor and has a bad defensive reputation.
But Faried has helped young guys on the Nuggets get acclimated to NBA life, particularly Jamal Murray and Malik Beasley. He’s also playing better defense than he ever has, which is obviously relative. Is he going to struggle against shooters in space? Sure. But he’s also still the high-energy super-athletic freak he’s always been.
On a good team, Faried has the capacity to makes plays that turn a game. He’s worth taking a flyer on.
5. Tyson Chandler, C, Phoenix Suns: Chandler’s an expiring contract next summer for under $13.5 million and the Suns are looking to buy bad contracts with cap space for picks. He also can still defend better than most seem to realize.
Chandler hasn’t wanted to be moved, but a team like Minnesota could use another rim protector and would benefit from his experience. He’s willing to give the hard foul a lot of guys aren’t.
CLUTCH-DRIVE: How to stop Lillard Time in its tracks
Damian Lillard is one of the most feared clutch players in the league. “Lillard Time” is such a habit that it has its own accompanying wrist-tapping motion. Which makes how the Denver Nuggets defused it last week all the more impressive.
In a key division game between two playoff hopefuls, Denver managed to break out of an offensive slump behind Jamal Murray’s career-high 38 points. On a late possession, the Blazers brought the ball up down one. C.J. McCollum got a clear look at a mid-range jumper, but missed. The Blazers went on to collect two more offensive rebounds, yet still the Nuggets’ defense held.
Watch Gary Harris guarding Lillard. At the eight second mark as Lillard looks to pop free off the top sideline screen, Harris swoops in like a hawk and denies the pass from Evan Turner, resulting in a Turner fadeaway that kills seven seconds. When the Blazers again grab the loose ball, they manage to get it to Lillard. At the 19 second mark of the video, Lillard catches and looks to turn and fire, but Harris is right there.
After the game, Jusuf Nurkic claimed Lillard was fouled. The Blazers called timeout to set up another play after the initial call gave the ball back to Portland. But Nuggets color commentator Scott Hastings alerted the Denver bench that it was off Lillard. Assistant David Adelman pleaded with the officials for a review, which they were granted.
Nuggets ball. Will Barton hits two free throws, putting Denver up 3, which prompts the debate of whether to foul or not.
“It was a situation where we talked about it, should we foul, should we not foul?” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said after the game. “And it was a situation where we were going to foul if the ball had gotten inside the 3-point line. We didn’t want to foul outside and risk giving up three free throws.”
Instead, the Nuggets went to a completely different tactic. They trapped the ever-loving hell out of Damian Lillard.
“It was just trying to speed him up, not let him walk into a pull-up 3,” Malone said. “We’ve seen Damian make that shot time and time again.”
“I was gonna raise up over both of them, honestly,” Lillard said after the game. “I didn’t care. I felt confident. But when I did, I couldn’t see where Mason [Plumlee] was when I took the last step into it, and I didn’t want to go out with him just blocking my shot because I didn’t see him.”
“I saw Nurk right under the basket so I just made the pass. And right after I passed it to him I looked at the clock and saw there were two seconds, I was like (shakes head), quick foul, maybe try and get a last shot. But it happened fast.”
What’s even more incredible about this is that Lillard recounted a sequence from last season to Rob Mahoney on the Breakaway podcast where he elected not to pass it to a wide open Plumlee [then with the Blazers] on the roll and instead launched a shot like that. Here, he made that pass, but it took too much time off the clock.
Denver was able to inbound, Barton hit two free throws to put Denver back up 3. With no timeouts, a desperation heave from Portland was intercepted and Denver walked out with a crucial win.
All just to stop Lillard Time.
THE CONVERSATION: All-Star Shenanigans
The consensus is that next year the draft should be televised. Let me make an argument why the players felt the way they did (even if LeBron James himself said he wanted it televised).
You’re a star player. You have people constantly hitting you up for money and favors. You have to manage media, team PR, community service and sponsor obligations, not to mention be one of the 12 best players in the world.
Now, on top of all of it, you have to deal with the drama of selecting guys in order for an exhibition game as you’ve been voted captain, which you never signed up for in the first place. Or you have to deal with being selected last and all the jokes and questions that come with that.
If the All-Star game is supposed to be a celebration, the draft for the teams takes the whole drama and pettiness to a level that could feel unnecessarily awkward. Funny for viewers at home? Sure, but I get why the NBPA resisted.
Meanwhile, my wife actually had a perfect solution for this problem: rolling selections.
LeBron picks Kevin Durant first? After Steph Curry picks his first guy, it’s back to LeBron’s team, but instead of LeBron picking, it’s now Durant who picks the next player for the squad. He can consult with LeBron, but it would make it more democratic and share the blame while also making extemporaneous decisions more exciting.
It would be a heck of a lot better than a conference call with results posted on social media later, that’s for sure.
BUYING STOCK IN: Philadelphia 76ers
On December 30th, the Sixers rolled into Denver and got just their second win of the year without Joel Embiid. Since that night, they are 7-2, with the best net rating (plus-10.8 per 100 possessions) of any team in the league.
Even after losing J.J. Redick to injury, they’ve kept up an offensive surge. T.J. McConnell, Dario Saric, and Jerryd Bayless have all shot over 40 percent from 3-point range in this stretch, with Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot shooting 57% from deep (!). McConnell and Ben Simmons have combined for 24 points and 10 assists per game while Embiid keeps doing Embiid things.
As opposed to the beginning of the year, they’re running some interesting stuff, like this double-DHO set that uses the gravity of Ben Simmons’ athleticism off the bounce to clear room for Dario Saric:
Check out how Embiid freaks out the defense to the point where Milwaukee has three different guys lose track of their assignment here, leading to a wide open TLC corner 3:
Philadelphia has the defense. Now their guys are hitting shots and developing chemistry. Maybe this team is going to hit that 43.5 over bet after all.
SELLING STOCK IN: The Knicks
I’m not just saying this because I just got done watching the Nuggets basically half-ass their way to a double-digit win over this team.
Joakim Noah left the team for personal reasons and there are rampant rumors about his being unhappy with his role. Head coach Jeff Hornacek seems to have lost their attention again, while Kristaps Porzingis continues to have the weirdest shot selection of any All-Star. He’s still so productive because of his skill and athleticism, but if asked today whether I’d rather have Porzingis or Lauri Markkanen, I’d have to think about it for a while.
This team has bad mojo around it right now.
GIVE THE MAN SOME CREDIT: Alvin Gentry and Chris Finch
The Pelicans could defend last year but couldn’t score. This year they’re struggling to get stops, but man is the offense humming. Look at the ball movement on sequences like this.
The Pelicans use more dribble hand-off, off-cut, off-screen, and transition plays than last year. They lead the league in 3-pointers made in transition this season. Finch was a big key to Denver’s No.1 ranked offense after January 1 last year, and he’s working his magic alongside Gentry this season in New Orleans.
He probably needs to be on head coaching radars this summer.
THE RUNDOWN: What I’ve been reading…
Go listen to Rob Mahoney’s excellent Breakaway podcast with Damian Lillard talking about leadership and locker room dynamics. There’s a conversation in there about LaMarcus Aldridge and how Aldridge reacted to Lillard’s rookie eagerness. That probably should have been a warning sign for the Spurs in their free agency discussions with him, even as he has a terrific season.
Want to get in on the Tiger craze? Our golf DFS stuff is fascinating with Woods finally making noise.
I wrote on the Wolves and how they still have work to do in order to look more like a dangerous playoff team.
John Wall’s letter to his father is a powerful reminder of what he has gone through to get to this point in his life.
That’s funny, “expert generalist” is what 90% of all sportswriters are.
Matt Norlander went and visited with the family of late former Butler basketball player Andrew Smith and the little boy whose life he saved. This is some of the best sportswriting you will read this year.