TSN's Jack Armstrong offers his thoughts on Doc Rivers, the Raptors making the playoffs, Andre Iguodala, Canadians in the NBA Draft and Raptors head coach Dwane Casey.
1. DOC RIVERS (Clippers): Great move for the Clips. Gives them a terrific shot at retaining Chris Paul and they get a top-notch coach who will handle the pressure of a big market like L.A. quite easily. The Celtics get a first round pick in 2015, and more importantly begin the process of dismantling their team to acquire assets for a rebuild/restructure. It will be interesting to see how things are handled right now with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce & Rajon Rondo as well as the hiring of a new coach. GM Danny Ainge is a bold/progressive thinker and will try to be active if/when possible. Right move for both teams.
2. TORONTO RAPTORS - PLAYOFFS?: Think about it for a second. Miami, Indiana, Chicago, Brooklyn and New York - Put those five in the Top 5 in whatever order you'd like for next season. After that, it's a crap shoot for the bottom three spots of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Milwaukee, Atlanta and Boston (the other three playoff teams from this past season) are all going to have a different and possibly weaker look next season. The six, seven and eight spots are up for grabs. I'm as curious as all of you what the Raps decide to do in the coming months with their team building plan. Do they try to develop a winning/playoff environment during the 2013-14 season or go the developmental route and try to acquire assets for down the line? Your guess is as good as mine. This Thursday night's NBA Draft will be our first look at what the direction will be.
3. ANDRE IGUODALA (Nuggets): Opting out of his contract and will be a free agent. The trade to Denver was a great opportunity to showcase his game in an up tempo style that suited his game. He's a versatile athlete who plays both ways well and hard for you. He's got lots of fans round the league and he's proven to be a valuable member of both the 76ers and the Nuggets and has the Olympics experience under his belt. He's polished and he'll be a target for teams with cap space if he keeps his salary/term demands at a fair/reasonable level.
4. CANADIANS IN THE NBA DRAFT (Anthony Bennett-UNLV / Kelly Olynyk-Gonzaga / Myck Kabongo-Texas): If you get a chance, check out Monday's USA Today. There's a neat article on the growth of basketball in Canada. We'll likely see three more Canadian's drafted on Thursday night. Bennett and Olynyk are first rounder's and Kabongo is all over the board in the 2nd round, depending on who you talk with. I'm excited to see how it unfolds and more importantly for the future of Canadian hoops. The best is yet to come!
5. DWANE CASEY (Toronto Raptors): Announced last week that he'll be back as the head coach. Beyond staff decisions, player development and putting together the roster with GM Masai Ujiri, a huge component of improving the team in 2013-14 will be how they perform/execute in the fourth quarter of games. Situational basketball performance is the make/break aspect of teams and coaches. I'm sure Casey and his new staff will take significant time between now and the start of evaluating each and every fourth quarter this past season where the Raptors let a lead slip away that resulted in a loss. Way too many times this took place and it will be the defining judgment piece for this upcoming season. How you perform under the pressure of the fourth quarter spotlight in the NBA is usually the make/break aspect of a team, season and coaching staff. Control to the best of your ability what you can control and move those chess pieces in an appropriate/timely manner and the narrative of a season becomes more fun to watch.