SH Blog: How Good Are The Pacers? KD Says Wiggins Could Be Hall of Fame; J.R. Smith Rants on Twitter (Again), Fined by NBA (Again)

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andre-iguodala-game-winnerThere aren’t many professionals in this country — young or old — that ever wake up regretting that they took advantage of the rare opportunity to get a good night’s rest.

Despite last night’s Thunder-Warriors game on TNT, I decided to take a night to catch up on some sleep. 

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SH Blog: Knicks To Pursue Kevin Love; Pelicans Sign Childress, Amundson; LeBron Not Happy With Teammates; Pacers Expect Granger Back This Week

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nashAs the NBA season kicks into high gear, two stories surfaced on Tuesday that should come as no surprise.  And of course, they are centering around none other than, traditionally, the leagues two most popular teams: the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers.

In just two weeks, both teams who are annually expected to compete for a title, and at the very least, the playoffs, have turned into the leagues biggest trainwrecks.

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Bernucca: No extensions will be best thing for Bledsoe, Vasquez

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Ryan McDonough GM SunsWhen the deadline for contract extensions came and went Thursday night, point guards Eric Bledsoe and Greivis Vasquez didn’t get paid.

But don’t shed any tears for them. Because when the summer rolls around, they will get their money. And it might be GMs Ryan McDonough of Phoenix and Pete D’Alessandro of Sacramento who are crying.

As reluctant as McDonough and D’Alessandro may have been to pony up for point guards with plenty to prove, they should have done so. Both GMs are relatively young, so they may not remember this commercial from the early 1980s that came with good advice.

You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.

Both GMs chose to potentially pay their players later, and it may cost them millions, given the numbers Bledsoe and Vasquez have a chance to put up this season as they enter a fallow free agent market.

Yes, there’s plenty of big names headed to free agency next summer – Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Paul Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Danny Granger, Chris Bosh, Pau Gasol and Zach Randolph, just to name a few.

Notice anything about the guys on that list?

None are point guards.

Here are the best veteran free agent point guards on the market next summer: Mario Chalmers, Devin Harris, Ramon Sessions, Kirk Hinrich, Rodney Stuckey, Steve Blake, Beno Udrih, Luke Ridnour and Kyle Lowry. In addition, Jameer Nelson could be available if Orlando (or another team) buys out his $2 million guarantee for 2014-15. All capable players – with a combined two All-Star berths among them.

Bledsoe turns just 24 next summer and Vasquez will be 27. Even as restricted free agents with shorter resumes, they immediately go to the top of that list.

The Suns snared Bledsoe in the summer, when the Clippers realized they wouldn’t be able to pay him and decided Phoenix Suns vs Maccabi Haifato get something for him now rather than later. Apparently, Clippers GM Gary Sacks has seen the commercial. McDonough smartly saw him as an ideal piece to his rebuilding project in the Valley, a young player with a high ceiling.

But Bledsoe had never been a starter, and McDonough was understandably apprehensive about giving him starter’s money. The GM also had the more established Goran Dragic’s three remaining years as an insurance policy, so he decided not to pull the trigger on a deal that probably would have cost him anywhere from $32 million to $40 million over four years.

Less than 24 hours later, Bledsoe began his salary drive by scoring Phoenix’s final 14 points vs. Utah, including the game-winning 3-pointer in the final second.

The Kings also acquired Vasquez in the summer as part of the sign-and-trade deal that sent Tyreke Evans to New Orleans. Last season – his first as a starter – Vasquez averaged 13.9 points and 9.0 assists. The only point guard with better numbers in both categories was a guy named Chris Paul.

But D’Alessandro had to drop $62 million to extend DeMarcus Cousins, whom new owner Vivek Ranadive anointed as a cornerstone. He also had an insurance policy in point guard Isaiah Thomas and chose not to extend Vasquez, probably at around $10 million per year.

Both GMs can match any offer Bledsoe and Vasquez get from other teams next summer. And there are going to be offers, because plenty of teams need point guards.

Like Toronto, which can let Lowry walk and put some of its young assets in a sign-and-trade.

Or Milwaukee, where Brandon Knight is not the long-term guy. The Bucks can get down to about $48 million if they don’t make a qualifying offer to the immortal Ekpe Udoh.

Or Orlando, which can get to about $34 million by buying out Nelson, declining some options and deciding if they are serious about making Victor Oladipo a point guard.

Want better landing spots? How about Miami, where Norris Cole is the only player on the books right now. The Heat could let Chris Bosh walk and target Bledsoe.

Or New York, where Raymond Felton really isn’t the answer. The Knicks don’t have any room, but that has never Steve Nashstopped them before.

Or Los Angeles, where Steve Nash could be moved into a backup mentor role in the last year of his deal while giving the reins to Vasquez or Bledsoe.

If Bledsoe gets a big offer next summer, McDonough can easily match because he could have as much as $25 million in cap room. But D’Alessandro can only get his payroll down to about $57 million – and that doesn’t factor in Thomas, who will be unrestricted.

In the NBA’s new financial age, teams are more reluctant to commit to long-term deals of any value because of the punitive repeater tax – which is exactly why McDonough should have signed Bledsoe and D’Alessandro should have signed Vasquez.

It’s hard to imagine either player costing less next summer.

TRIVIA: Who is the only active NBA player with championship rings from different teams? Answer below.

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Preseason Playoff Picture: Eastern Conference

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Kyrie Irving 2Who is crashing the playoff party in the East this season?

Conventional wisdom says the two-time defending champion Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets are head and shoulders above the rest of the Eastern Conference and – barring a disaster – will secure the top five spots.

At the other end of the conference, you can probably toss out the Orlando Magic, Charlotte Bobcats and Philadelphia 76ers, who could pool their rosters to come up with the 15 best players and still not make the playoffs.

That leaves three spots for the remaining seven teams. Last season, those spots went to the Boston Celtics, Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks. Some would argue that each of those teams took backward steps in the offseason and could wind up in the lottery.

The postseason door could be open for teams such as the Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons, who clearly upgraded their rosters this summer in an effort to play in May. But have they done enough?

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Eisenberg: Projecting Dennis Schröder’s Translation to the NBA with Analytics

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In Elton Brand’s 14 NBA seasons, the two-time All Star has played alongside some of the league’s most respected point guards. From Sam Cassell to pre-injury Shaun Livingston to Andre Miller to Jrue Holiday, Brand has grown accustomed to excellence from his floor generals.

So when Brand signed with Atlanta over the summer and was told to check out the highlight reel for his new teammate, a 19-year-old who had been nicknamed “Baby Rondo,” he was understandably skeptical of the moniker.

“People were like, ‘This kid’s just like a young (Rajon) Rondo,’” Brand said. “And I was like, ‘Come on, guys. You can’t compare him to Rondo just because they both have long arms.’”

However, after two weeks of practicing with the now-20-year-old Dennis Schröder , Brand has been won over:

“I was wrong,” Brand admitted. “I can definitely see where those comparisons come from now. It’s uncanny.”

Ask around the Hawks’ locker room and the consensus is clear: Schröder is not your typical 20-year-old. 

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