Tar Takes 3/25: UNC to face Auburn in Sweet 16, Zion and Duke barely escape UCF, Lonzo Ball no longer with BBB

On this week’s episode of Tar Takes, Ryan Lipton and David Matlock analyze UNC’s two wins over Iona and Washington and look forward to their matchup against the Auburn Tigers on Friday. They also look at Duke’s one-point victory over UCF and discuss the recent news involving Lonzo Ball severing ties with Big Baller Brand.

UNC struggles for a period against No. 16 Iona, beats No. 9 Washington easily. What are your thoughts on the Tar Heels after the first two games?

UNC v. Auburn: What are the keys to victory against Auburn?

Would we rather play Houston or Kentucky in the Elite 8 assuming UNC beats Auburn?

Duke v. UCF comes down to one point. Does the one-point win show a weakness in Duke or is it a catapult for Duke to make a run going forward?

Lonzo Ball breaks away from BBB brand after company founder in trouble for fraud

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Top 5 rookies to watch during 2017 NBA regular season

Los Angeles Lakers G Lonzo Ball (Photo via Elsa/Getty Images)

Basketball season is still a little ways away, and yes, the NFL only just got started. But in 2017 it’s fair to say (and many have) that the NBA has succeeded in becoming a year-round sport.

NBA fans are tuned in constantly, and when we get news like the Kyrie Irving trade so late in the summer, it’s no wonder why. In this kind of climate, fans can’t wait for the 2017-18 season to start, so now would be a good time to cover one of the most perennially enjoyable subjects: the new rookies!

The 2017 draft was widely believed to be the best in many years, and that means we’re about to see one of the most hyped rookie classes in recent history take the court for the first time. Chances are, there will be some surprises – a few rookies who come out of nowhere (like 2016-17 Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon) and some who disappoint. But for now, as we prepare for the beginning of the season, here are a few names you’ll want to watch very closely.

Lonzo Ball – PG, Los Angeles Lakers

Everything about the Ball family is pretty ridiculous. Lonzo’s father LaVar has become a celebrity in his own right, largely by promoting his three talented children. He certainly helped propel Lonzo to the Los Angeles Lakers, and he recently unveiled a signature shoe for his youngest son, LaMelo, who’s still in high school (sort of). It’s a nonstop publicity cycle, and it’s distracting. Underneath it all, however, Lonzo Ball can play, and he proved as much during Summer League. He’ll be asked to take the reins of a Lakers team that’s trying to win, and it will be fun to watch. He’s an excellent facilitator who should make a young team more productive on offense.

Markelle Fultz – PG, Philadelphia 76ers

Fultz is incredibly easy to overlook, for a number one pick, because of the aforementioned publicity cycle around Ball. Lest we forget, however, Fultz was a strong number one pick. In a loaded draft, he was slated pretty early as a likely top selection, and betting markets went as far as to label him a number one certainty. Fultz is a dynamic scoring guard who will have the ball in his hands as the Philadelphia 76ers finally look past “The Process” and start attempting to win games. Rumor has it passing forward Ben Simmons – another rookie, after missing his entire first season – will be handling some of the point guard duties. But Fultz will be on the floor a lot, and we’ll get to see if he measures up to his number one pick status.

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Jayson Tatum – SF, Boston Celtics

We know that the Boston Celtics reloaded in a big way this summer, signing Gordon Hayward and trading for Kyrie Irving. But we also know they have some pretty intriguing young pieces in their own system. Jaylen Brown was a good rookie last year, and now the team will work in former Duke star Jayson Tatum. Tatum is an offensive maestro who could wind up in the Rajon Rondo role of the next Celtics powerhouse – not in that he’s a point guard, but in that he’ll be the young piece working with a more experienced core. What will be interesting is to see if he spends some time at shooting guard, which may be Boston’s only weak position.

Dennis Smith, Jr. – PG, Dallas Mavericks

Dennis Smith, Jr. may have as much raw talent as any rookie in this class, even though he was picked ninth overall. He also may have about as big an opportunity as any of his classmates, as he’ll run the point for the Dallas Mavericks from day one. The Mavericks don’t make too many high profile draft decisions, and Smith may wind up being the most important player they’ve taken since Dirk Nowitzki. If his Summer League performance was any indication, he’s ready to go.

Terrance Ferguson – SG, Oklahoma City Thunder

The piece ends with a less heralded prospect who could make a major impact. Terrance Ferguson came to the NBA from Australia, and it’s already clear that his fellow rookies think highly of him. In a rookie survey, they ranked him as one of the best shooters and athletes in the class. Ferguson will likely start off playing behind Andre Roberson, but if he’s good enough to become the starting shooting guard, the Oklahoma City Thunder will add another major weapon to a core that already includes Russell Westbrook, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. If Ferguson is one of the better rookies, the Thunder may easily be the second-best team in the West.

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Why Thunder guard Russell Westbrook shouldn’t have signed extension

Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (Photo via David J. Phillip/AP)

Ryan Lipton, host of the JR Report Podcast, discusses Russell Westbrook signing a new five-year $205 million extension with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Why the move makes sense but isn’t the best decision for Westbrook on and off the court.


Ryan Lipton is the founder of The JR Report. For more news and The JR Report updates follow him on twitter @rytime98.

Why Thunder G Russell Westbrook should bolt to LA

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook is in no rush to sign his mega-max extension with Oklahoma and it is not without reason.

Westbrook is one of the most competitive players the NBA has ever seen and, without a doubt, he wants to do whatever he can to add an NBA championship to his résumé. However, it is unlikely OKC could ever bring the former Bruin to the promise land.

As such, it would be smart for Westbrook to not the sign the extension and look to become a free agent after the 2017-18 NBA season.

Here are The JR Report’s reasons why.

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Staples Center hosting a Los Angeles Laker game (Photo via Juan Berna)

Build Westbrook’s brand

Westbrook has yet to sign an extension that would bring him at least $200 million over five years, a contract that would be very tough to pass up. Nonetheless, a move out of OKC might hurt his NBA salary, but would not hurt his bank account.

In Oklahoma City, Westbrook would be able to bring in one of the highest salaries out of anyone in the league, however, greatness off the basketball court isn’t earned through salary but through endorsements and ownership of a brand.

It would be difficult for Westbrook to attain an elite status off the court while being in Oklahoma City since his current city holds the No. 45 biggest television market in the country compared to Los Angeles’ No. 2 rated market, per Station Index. 

If Westbrook took his talents to Los Angeles, he would be met by an incredible market with many opportunities for his flamboyant style and outspoken personality.

It is possible that Westbrook could be the face of a clothing company, build his own shoe brand and be the face of one of the most notable franchises in the world.

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January 18, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) during the first quarter against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Thunder 121-100. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Winning is most important

To be mentioned among the all-time greats, one must win championships, except for a few exceptions including Charles Barkley.

Therefore, Westbrook’s easiest path to cementing himself in NBA history is by winning.

Los Angeles has plenty of cap room in the future to assemble a very talented team. The organization also has a young core that could offer impeccable depth in combination with the expected arrival of NBA superstars in the coming years.

The Lakers, currently, have forward Brandon Ingram, forward Julius Randle, guard Jordan Clarkson and guard Lonzo Ball.

Most importantly, the organization will have Ingram and Ball for just over $13 million in the 2018/19 season, per Spotrac. Consequently, the team will have plenty of flexibility to sign players like Paul George and Russell Westbrook with smart maneuvering.

Los Angles would probably have to part ways with Randle and center Brook Lopez, but it would be worth the price of acquiring George and Westbrook.

If they can find a clever way to get rid of Clarkson and Deng, maybe in a deal together, they could shed another $30 million in cap space to help go after another star, maybe LeBron James.

If James, George and Westbrook go to Los Angeles, which is completely possible, the Lakers would immediately become the biggest threat to the Golden State Warriors in the West.

If the aforementioned trio could knock the Warriors off, then each of their legacies will skyrocket as they were able to topple what some believe to be the greatest NBA team ever.

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Photo via Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Westbrook, head home

Westbrook moving to Los Angeles makes too much sense. It makes sense on the court as he will infinitely improve his chances of winning an NBA title. The former Bruin will also be able to catapult his brand to new heights. Lastly, he will be heading home since he was born in Long Beach, California and played for the UCLA Bruins.

With those three reasons, it should not surprise anyone to see Westbrook in a Laker uniform come the start of the 2018-19 NBA season.


Ryan Lipton is the founder of The JR Report. For more news and JR Report updates follow him on twitter @rytime98.

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Why Lakers should trade for Bulls’ Dwyane Wade

The Los Angeles Lakers are in a great position to ascend rather quickly among the NBA ranks as long as they make the proper moves from now until the beginning of the 2018 NBA regular season.

First and foremost, Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka have been smart by making moves that have put them in a flexible spot for the future.

For example, Los Angeles has just under $54 million on the books for the 2018-19 season. The majority of it comes from Luol Deng and Jordan Clarkson who are due $18 million and $12.5 million respectively, via Spotrac.

However, players like Brook Lopez ($22.6 M) and Corey Brewer ($7.5M) are not under contract and will free up over $30 million in cap space, just enough to bring in a max player like Paul George.

For reference, Gordon Hayward’s contract has an average salary just under $32 million, just two million more than the cap space freed up by Lopez and Brewer.

Whether or not they sign Lopez in the future will depend on what free agents they can entice to come to SoCal. However, they were smart as they have the maneuverability to do what they want. Personally, him coming back at a right price would be a great move to lock up the center position for the foreseeable future.

Nonetheless, here is one step the Lakers can take now to improve their chances of becoming a contender in 2018.

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Photo via Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

 

Package Deng and Clarkson

Obviously, the Deng contract is a major issue going forward as he is due close to $18 million per year over the next three seasons. An absurd number for a 32-year-old who scored just 7.6 points per game last season and just played in 56 games.

Unfortunately, no team, except maybe the New York Knicks, would take on Deng’s contract without getting something in return. Los Angeles will need to use Clarkson smartly.

A winning team could use Clarkson as a role player and a poor team could use him as a rebuilding piece, much like the Lakers, yet no winning team would want to take on Deng’s massive contract. Therefore, Los Angeles would need to ship him to a rebuilding team.

Essentially, the Lakers need to give up Deng and Clarkson for nothing in return. Then, the rebuilding team can take on a $18 million contract, for they have no one else good to pay and they got a future asset for taking on the contract.

With the aforementioned circumstances, it is hard to find a trade that works for Los Angeles and another team, but we worked hard to find a plausible trade offer that is a win-win for the two teams.

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Photo via Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

 

Dwyane Wade for Deng, Clarkson, 2020 first round pick

The first trade offer involves sending Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade to Los Angeles for Clarkson, Deng and the Lakers’ 2020 first round pick.

The trade works out since Wade’s salary is close to equaling Deng and Clarkson’s salary, per ESPN’s NBA Trade Machine.

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Photo via Getty Images

 

How Los Angeles wins

At the moment, this trade would be a major win for Los Angeles. They would become better now, with Wade, and are better for the future since they shedded Deng’s $18 million contract. The only negative is that they would lose a nice piece in Clarkson, but getting rid of Deng far outweighs keeping Clarkson.

Wade is due $23.8 million in 2017, but he only has one year left on his contract so he doesn’t impact their future free agency plans.

Moreover, Wade will offer a veteran presence to nurture Lonzo Ball, Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram.

The Lakers would also improve their ability to land LeBron James next year. Remember, James wants to play with his best friends again, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony. If Wade is in Los Angeles, then it would increase the chances of being able to land LeBron.

In regards to the draft pick, Los Angeles should be a good team by 2020, so their draft pick will have much less value.

All in all, the trade would free the Lakers of horrible contracts, bring in a better player who can develop the young guys and improve their chances of landing the greatest basketball player in the world.

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Photo via David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

 

How Chicago wins

The Chicago Bulls are not going to win any playoff series anytime soon after the departure of guard Jimmy Butler. Even with him, the odds would not be in their favor to win a playoff series.

As such, it is now rebuilding time for Chicago. They need to acquire as many draft picks as possible, gather young assets and cut salary cap.

In this deal, the organization would cut Wade’s $23.8 million and would acquire Clarkson who has three years left on his contract.

Deng’s contract is messy, but the Bulls are in the for the long haul. Deng would also be making a return to Chicago which would be a nice sight for the fans to see him retire as a Bull.

In addition, the Bulls would be bringing in a first round selection to help build for the future.

It is time for the organization to focus on winning and not worry about a relationship with Wade. Do what is best for the future.

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Photo via Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images

 

Send it

The only way this deal doesn’t make sense is if the Bulls don’t want to part ways with their hometown hero Dwyane Wade. If they can get over that, then it would be a sound sports decision for both the Lakers and Chicago.

For Magic Johnson, the Lakers should be building through free agency by bringing marquee stars to Hollywood, not by drafting players.


*** All data and information on salary cap and contracts via Spotrac ***

Play the scenario: Lakers win top-3 pick

Photo via Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Lakers keep the pick

Should the Lakers be fortunate enough to keep their pick, there is little doubt as to what direction they would go with their selection, regardless of position.

Whatever pick they possess, NBA commissioner Adam Silver will say the same line: “The Los Angeles Lakers select… Lonzo Ball out of UCLA.” It’s hard to imagine the Lakers doing anything other than choosing Ball, as both sides have expressed interest with zero subtlety.

Lonzo showed his interest when asked whether he’d prefer to be drafted with the Number 1 pick or be drafted by the Lakers, “I’m going to go with the Lakers. I’m a family dude. All my family is in L.A. So, to be able to play in front of them, I think that would mean more to me,” via ESPN.

His infamous father, LaVar Ball had a take on it as well.

“I’m going to speak it into existence,” Ball told ESPN. “I want him to be a Laker.”

It’s pretty obvious Lonzo would love to see the Lakers’ jerseys with Ball printed on the back.

Magic Johson in attendance of UCLA game.jpg
Magic Johnson in attendance to watch G Lonzo Ball (Photo via Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

On top of the Ball family’s expressed interest, Magic Johnson, the new President of the Lakers, has indicated that the feeling is mutual. Johnson has scouted one college game all year, and that one game was UCLA vs Oregon, which happened to feature Lonzo Ball.

Magic received questions about Lonzo while he was watching the game and offered nothing but praise to Ball and the rest of the Pac-12.

If the Lakers select Ball, they will have taken a major leap forward in their rebuilding process. Ball is the ideal player to bring the yet-to-be-discovered talents out of each individual on the Lakers’ young roster, for Ball has a unique talent to see plays develop a couple steps ahead of everyone else on the floor.

The pairing of Russell and Ball could end up being a match made in Heaven, with Russell being a score-first combo guard. Therefore, Russell would thrive on spot-up 3-point attempts being created by Ball and his isolation sets would be opened up by the deep threat Lonzo has proved to be.

Russell wouldn’t be the only Laker to benefit greatly from Ball’s presence, as Ingram has the capability to truly maximize the UCLA standout’s vision. Ingram can cover the floor in a small number of steps with his length and would be the beneficiary of many long outlet passes or dump offs from running the floor alongside Ball.

Lonzo’s knack for finding passing angles that seem only visible to him, would serve as a catalyst for the development of the entire roster and could be the factor that pushes them to new heights. Randle could become a dominant pick and roll finisher, Nance and Clarkson could be the ideal fast-breaking mates when the Lakers decide to push.

Everything would finally look up for the Lakers and the playoffs would certainly be within reach in the near future, as the Lakers would have a young squad who is as dangerous a rebuilding group as you can find around the league.


Part two of a three-part series on the Lakers’ offseason:

DESPITE THE RECENT STRUGGLES, LAKERS’ FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT

PLAY THE SCENARIO: LAKERS LOSE TOP-3 PICK

Five takeaways from Week 1 of March Madness

Photo via Michael Conroy / Associated Press

1. The ACC is not the best conference

The ACC was unanimously considered the best conference in all of college basketball. Some dare said that this might be the best conference season of all-time.

People were saying the ACC was a shoe-in for ten tournament teams, and it looked like they would be until Syracuse, who probably got gypped, didn’t make the cut. Nine teams made the tournament from the ACC,  still an impressive feat for a conference, making it the premier conference this season.

However, the tournament proved otherwise. After just two rounds, the ACC is down to just one contestant, the University of North Carolina.

Not only did the teams lose, they were embarrassed. The average margin of defeat for the ACC was 13.9 points per game. Most of the games were never even a contest. Florida State lost to an 11 seed by 25, Virginia lost to Florida by 26, and Miami lost to Michigan State by 20. The ACC lost almost every game they were in, and when they lost, they lost by a large margin.

Even UNC  was minutes away from not advancing to the Sweet 16. They should have been eliminated but got lucky with a 12-0 run and a few good calls from the refs to barely beat out Arkansas.

2. The referees have been horrible

The referees have had an impact in too many games this weekend.

Northwestern’s cinderella story was cut short by the refs. A horrible miscall of goaltending cost NU two points, momentum, and a technical foul leading to more points the opposite way.

With 49 seconds left in the North Carolina Arkansas game, Joel Berry, up by one point, was driving and obviously traveled. The refs didn’t blow their whistles and let Berry throw up an errant shot that was then tipped in by center Kennedy Meeks. The lead extended to three and essentially wrapped up the game.

For more bad calls from this past weekend click here.

3. Teams of destiny move on

March Madness is always filled with “teams of destiny”. Teams that lack the talent to be elite, but seem to make an improbable tournament run.

This year, Northwestern, South Carolina and Michigan are making their cases for this year’s team of destiny.

Sadly, Northwestern’s case ended this weekend because of the poor call mentioned above.

However, Michigan and South Carolina are still alive with a ton of momentum and confidence.

South Carolina knocked off no. 2 Duke by scoring 65 points in the second half in an impressive 88-81 win. They are led by underrated coach Frank Martin and have a realistic chance to continue their run of destiny. With the no. 1 seed also knocked out from their region, their road to a Final Four is that much easier.

They take on the no. 3 Baylor on Friday.

Michigan has also continued their improbable run. It all started with an almost plane crash, to winning the Big-10 tournament and now an appearance in the Sweet 16. It is going to get much tougher with no. 3 seed Oregon on Thursday, but with the feeling of destiny attached to this Michigan team, it wouldn’t surprise me if they upset Oregon.

4. Lonzo Ball is no joke

UCLA’s Lonzo Ball is a stud. Ball played 38 minutes, scored 18 points, had 9 assists and 7 rebounds against Cincinnati. He seems to be the closest thing to LeBron James we have seen in a while, minus the once in a generation athleticism.

Lonzo, who is a better shooter than James, has a very similar play style. He isn’t going to will his team to victory by scoring 35 points on 30 shots. Rather, he is going to fill out the stat sheet like he did against Cincinnati. He is a 6-6 point guard, who can also lead his team in rebounds (averages 6.1 per game), can score when he wants (14.7 ppg), but most importantly, sets up his teammates (7.6 assists per game).

No matter where Lonzo goes he wins. He has turned UCLA back into the big-time program they once were with his arrival. As a member of Chino Hills, his high school, he went undefeated with his two younger brothers and won the California Open Division State Championship. He expects to win every time he steps on the court and it is rare that doesn’t happen.

UNC, Kentucky and Butler better watch out. This man is no joke and he is coming for them.

5. Worst first-round of March Madness followed up by best second-round ever

The first two days of March Madness had barely any upsets. The upsets that occurred were upsets based on seeding. If the number next to their name was taken away, no one would be surprised by the results of those so-called “upsets”.

Nevertheless, it has been worth these first two boring days for one of the best weekends in college basketball history.

We saw powerhouses like Duke, Notre Dame, Villanova, Virginia, Louisville and Michigan State go down, while other top-tier programs, UNC, Kentucky, Gonzaga, Baylor and Oregon, hardly survived near-death experiences to advance.

The last two days were amazing to watch with almost every game coming down to the last few minutes with many resulting in major upsets of the most recognizable college basketball programs.