Scotto: Nets Want Raptors, Not Bulls in Playoffs

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1909fuhgeddabouditThe Nets and Bulls are on course for a potential rematch of last year’s first-round playoff series.

Is this the ideal scenario for Brooklyn? As they say in the borough, “Fuhgeddaboudit!”

It’s been a frigid winter in Brooklyn, and a trip to the “Windy City” could dampen any hopes of the Nets springing ahead to the next round.

Raptors soaring and succeeding since Rudy Gay trade

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DeMarDeRozanSH1The Toronto Raptors had no intention of making the playoffs this season.

Head coach Dwane Casey admitted as much earlier in the season, but the talent on the team turned out to be above average in an Eastern Conference that turned out to be historically subpar. So general manager Masai Ujiri sent the overpaid Rudy Gay to Sacramento on Dec. 8 with the team in first place at 7-12, and the Raptors have turned into one of the East’s best teams.

Toronto is 29-15 since the seven-player Gay trade was announced, a move that allowed their other core players to expand their roles and help the Raptors become an unexpected lock for the Eastern Conference playoffs at this point in early March.

Point guard Kyle Lowry was mired in trade rumors but emerged as an All-Star snub and an overwhelmingly positive force, and with room to operate on the wing, he is the unquestioned primary scorer, DeMar DeRozan flourished and became an All-Star for the first time.

The NBA Offseason: A Betting Preview

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dwighthoward

The Dwight Howard signing had a humongous effect on the futures market for who will win the NBA title.

And then it started a trickle-down effect.

SH Blog: J.R. Smith out for 3-4 months after patellar tendon surgery, Jennings to Detroit being discussed

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Metta World PeaceEver since reports surfaced that Metta World Peace would be amnestied by the Los Angeles Lakers, his name has been tied to one team that has shown the greatest interest in attaining the forward: the New York Knicks.

Although World Peace expressed interest in the idea of playing overseas in China for a while, he received an offer worth staying for from the Knicks and has agreed to join them on Monday. ESPN has details:

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StatBox Free Agency Breakdown: Winners & Losers July 11 Update

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Most of the star players in free agency are now off the board, but there are still plenty of impact players to discuss in this updated version of the Free Agency Breakdown with unique analytic angles. We here at Sheridan Hoops will break everything down for you into bite sized Winners & Losers style pieces.

HowardThe Houston Rockets, GM Daryl Morey and Dwight Howard were WINNERS after agreeing to a four-year deal worth $88 million to finally, mercifully, ending the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. Morey set out a year ago to acquire two stars to legitimately compete in this SuperTeam Era that currently rules the NBA and got them in Howard and Harden.

Houston also signed Francisco Garcia to a team-friendly contract worth $1.3 million over two years. Garcia could probably replace Carlos Delfino in a spacer-type role for Houston after shooting 37.4 percent from three last season. Houston then picked up another spacer in Reggie Williams, who needs to greatly improve from his 30.6 shooting percentage from three last season with Charlotte.

Of course, the Howard deal makes the Los Angeles Lakers the big losers of the offseason for getting nothing out of Howard and looking ridiculous in doing so. They will now try to delude themselves into thinking players like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony will come next offseason. Good. Freaking. Luck.

But if there is any consolation for Laker fans, I do like their signing of Chris Kaman a lot. Despite a sharp decrease in minutes with the Mavericks last season, from 29.2 to 20.7 per game, Kaman shot 50.7 percent from the field (his best percentage in a season in which he played over 40 games since the 2005-2006 season) and averaged 10.5 points with 5.6 rebounds. His Win Shares per 48 minutes was his best mark since the 2007-2008 campaign. Expect better production in LA with a slightly increased workload. And Jordan Farmar won’t be a bad player either for the veteran’s minimum.

Josh SmithDwight Howard’s good friend, Josh Smith, ended up with Detroit for four-years and $56 million and Al Jefferson cashed in for three years and $41 million with Charlotte. This brings us a really interesting philosophical question: Can these players be the highest paid, and best, players for playoff teams? The answer is likely no. But does that mean the teams shouldn’t try?

Despite a subpar year by his standards Smith is still a really good player, so the jury is still out on this signing for the Pistons. Smith will make a really good frontcourt with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, but do the Pistons have the backcourt to compete? Not right now, even with the Chauncey Billups signing (two years, $5 million).

LAC_Billups_ChaunceyBillups will add veteran leadership and a fan favorite to the Detroit roster, but he’s only played 42 total games over the last two seasons. But when he’s played he’s been good, shooting 36.7 percent from three last season with a Win Share/48 number that’s well above average. It’s just hard to envision Billups being healthy all season. Billups will join Will Bynum, who Detroit re-signed to an affordable two-year deal worth $5.75 million. Bynum shot a career best 46.9 percent from the field and averaged nearly 10 points per game for the Pistons in 2012-2013.

It’ll also be interesting to see how the team uses reigning Italian League MVP Gigi Datome, who inked a two-year deal worth $3.5 million. Our resident Euro expert A.J. Mitnick told me that he’ll need to adjust to the NBA game, but the potential is there for Datome to become a nice NBA player. I’ll take his word for it…

On the Charlotte side of things, there’s no doubt that Jefferson is a really, really good player. Anyone who shoots nearly 50 percent from the field and averages nearly 18 points and over nine boards per game is really good. His defense will certainly help an inept Bobcats team in that department, but his offensive rating of 109 last season leaves something to be desired.

Can Jefferson, Cody Zeller and Bismack Biyombo coexist in the frontcourt? Can Jefferson be the best player on a playoff team? Jefferson has made the playoffs just twice in his nine-season career, losing in the first round on both occasions. Golden State signed David Lee to an enormous contract, and Golden State ended up okay by hitting it big by drafting Stephen Curry, Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson. Charlotte will have to do that in order to not look foolish with this Jefferson signing, so, again, the jury is still out.