• One Big Thing: Changing of the Guard

    Coming into Rio, the general consensus was fairly straightforward. USA, France, Spain, Argentina. Some mix of Croatia, Australia, Lithuania and Serbia. The also-rans.

    As it turns out there’s been some turnover on the international scene that people weren’t ready for. A borderline team like Croatia topping Spain? Lithuania over Argentina? Sure, why not.

    Australia whipped France up and down the court. I mean I guess so.

    The supposed also-ran Brazil knocking off Spain? Now we’re talking.

    Slowly, without most of the basketball populous accounting for it, the teams that we took for granted as favorites are looking increasingly vulnerable. Some of that’s understandable given the standard biases of the North American basketball scene.

    Spain has Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic. Argentina has Manu. France has Tony Parker and Nic Batum plus restricted area monster Rudy Gobert. These are names that you hear on TV every night and recognize as being good. There’s some star power there.

    The NBA is definitely the pinnacle of the basketball world; that much is certain. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that European or South American or Asian leagues can also bring the heat. Just because we never hear about them doesn’t mean they’re categorically inferior.

    Lithuania has Jonas Valanciunas, Australia has Andrew Bogut and then what? Delly? So one or two guys and then some non-NBA guys. Really?

    Yes, really. As it turns out, those teams with guys who ply their trade over in Europe are also pretty damn good at basketball. What’s more, they’ve played together. These guys know each other very well and can hop into roles seamlessly in short-term tournaments like this. It’s easier to integrate, say, Nikola Jokic into a roster of four other guys who play together frequently than it is to jam a small forward, center and point guard into a lineup.

    Yeah, I’m talking about France. It helps that Tony Parker has been around forever to ease the transition somewhat but you can’t realistically expect three guys from different NBA teams to jump in with teammates they haven’t played with in a while.

    That integration versus talent issue seems like a double edged sword: would you rather have more NBA guys and throw chemistry out the window or take a group of decidedly less-talented players who’ve competed in countless competitions together?

    It’s possible that the balance between continuity and talent infusion altered some rosters; Spain might have preferred the deep shooting prowess of Mirotic enough to trade off Serge Ibaka’s rim protection. Maybe France felt like Nando De Colo and whatever guard depth they could scrounge up was better than introducing Evan Fournier to the mix. There’s a lot that goes into roster construction that we’re not privy to, and frankly even more that we’ll never ever know.

    That’s not to say that the two are mutually exclusive; in fact the ideal is a mix of both. It’s just increasingly difficult to accomplish, especially if you’re carrying older players who need their minutes managed. Obviously you want Tony Parker, Pau Gasol and Manu Ginobili ready for the medal rounds, but it does make it more difficult to hit your rhythm as a five man unit.

    The type of rapport you need to challenge for gold only comes through reps; reps which teams like France might not get beyond their training camps and practices before the games kick off. And if a veteran guy is on a tight minutes schedule, you better figure it out quick.

    That’s just a stab at the struggles of teams like Spain and France in Rio so far. There’s been some bad defense and horrendous decision making out there. France in particular seems to shrug off turnovers like they’re just a part of doing business. There’s no singular answer for any issues in this tournament, but they just look a step slow in pretty much every facet of the game.

    It just sort of looks like time has passed the usual stalwarts by. For lack of a better term, some of these traditional contenders just look old. Their cores have aged and there aren’t clear replacements in place just yet.

    On the flip side you’re seeing young players like Dario Saric, Nikola Jokic and Bogdan Bogdanovic come up big. Euro leaguers like Miroslav Radujlica, Mantas Kalnietis, Facundo Campazzo are taking control and playing huge roles on successful teams.

    The Spanish group of Pau Gasol, Felipe Reyes, JC Navarro and Jose Calderon are at the end of the line. France doesn’t have a good point guard ready once Tony Parker goes and Rio is the final hurrah for Argentina’s Golden Generation.

    The countries we’re used to seeing on the podium besides the Americans are quickly moving past their primes and are staring down the barrel of a little bit of a retooling period. Who out there is in their prime in the non-USA division? Australia looks like the pick. Canada, maybe? Beyond that it’s fairly wide open. It’s exciting to see some fresh faces on the cusp of the international scene.

    The transition to the next set of contenders will be a fun one; half celebration of the stars who will leave and half spectacle as the new wave emerges. It’s sad for the old guys but it’s great for the game.

Fantasy News

  • Javonte Green
    F, Boston Celtics

    Javonte Green will join the Celtics on a partially guaranteed contract.

    After a strong Summer League performance where he averaged 10.8ppg on 50% shooting, Green will get an opportunity to fight for a roster spot for the Celtics. He most recently played overseas in Germany.

    Source: Tim Bontemps on Twitter

  • Amida Brimah
    C, Indiana Pacers

    The Pacers have signed Amida Brimah to a one-year contract.

    The seven foot big man, Bridah, has had a couple short stints with the Spurs but has yet to play in a game. Expect him to compete for a roster spot come training camp but there are no guarantees that he will make the final roster.

    Source: Chris Haynes on Twitter

  • Daniel Theis
    PF, Boston Celtics

    The Celtics have officially re-signed Daniel Theis and Brad Wanamaker.

    The team rescinded their qualifying offer to Theis in a procedural move to maximize cap space, but he's back in Boston on a two-year, $10 million deal. He'll be battling for backup center minutes and his shooting ability (38.8 percent from deep last season on low volume) could set him apart from the rest of Boston's frontcourt options. As a player who can knock down threes and pick up some steals and blocks, there's deep-league potential for Theis should he end up pushing for something like 20 mpg. Wanamaker decided to pass on larger offers from European teams to return to the Celtics, where he may have a better shot at minutes with Terry Rozier out of the picture. Even so, he's not a fantasy target.

    Source: Boston Celtics

  • Thanasis Antetokounmpo
    SF, Milwaukee Bucks

    The Bucks have made their signing of Thanasis Antetokounmpo official.

    Antetokounmpo is believed to be on a two-year deal that is fully guaranteed for the veteran's minimum. Antetokounmpo has just two NBA appearances to his name, both coming back in 2016 with the Knicks. It's unlikely that he'll play much, if at all, though at least he'll get to hang with his MVP little brother.

    Source: Milwaukee Bucks

  • Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
    SF, Toronto Raptors

    The Raptors have announced the signing of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

    Hollis-Jefferson had a tough season in Brooklyn, suffering an offseason adductor strain and then falling out of the rotation when he was ready to play. The Raptors will take a one-year flier on a player that can capably defend multiple positions while bringing great energy, and he'll fit in with the team's defensive identity. RHJ is only a year removed from being a top-100 fantasy player but it's unlikely that he holds standard-league value in a reserve role for Toronto. Deep-league managers can consider Hollis-Jefferson a late-round flier.

    Source: Toronto Raptors

  • Kelly Oubre Jr.
    SF, Phoenix Suns

    The Suns have officially re-signed Kelly Oubre.

    Oubre is headed back to Phoenix on a two-year, $30 million deal and lost out on a bigger payday as teams alternately gobbled up cap space or played a long waiting game in free agency, leaving one of the top RFAs on the board to settle for a deal that clocks in below expectations. Oubre missed the end of the season because of thumb surgery but blossomed in Phoenix, averaging 16.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.0 blocks and 1.7 3s on .453 shooting. That was good for top-50 value, and while that might be too lofty to expect a repeat without some breaks (the efficiency is a definite question mark), it's clear that Oubre is finally on a team that will commit to his future and there will be enough playing time to make him a late-middle round option in fantasy drafts.

    Source: Phoenix Suns

  • David Nwaba
    SF, Brooklyn Nets

    The Nets have announced the signing of David Nwaba.

    Nwaba will head to Brooklyn on a two-year deal after bouncing around over his first three NBA seasons. It's a nice pickup for the Nets, who will get a hard-nosed forward that's capable of defending and rebounding with tenacity. Nwaba's poor shooting might not do him favors in Brooklyn's system, but he's the type of hustle player that coaches tend to like. Expect him to play a part in Kenny Atkinson's deep rotation, though fantasy value is probably out of the question when everyone is healthy.

    Source: Brooklyn Nets

  • JR Smith
    SG, Cleveland Cavaliers

    J.R. Smith will meet with the Bucks on Thursday, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

    This is the first team other than the Lakers, who have already been deemed an unlikely landing spot, to be connected to Smith. Milwaukee is looking for another wing shooter and Smith would fit the bill in a perfect world, though it's unlikely that he would play a major role for any team after sitting out since November.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • Kyle Lowry
    PG, Toronto Raptors

    Kyle Lowry has undergone a procedure to repair the tendon in his left thumb, per Adrian Wojnarowski.

    Lowry battled with either a left thumb sprain or dislocation (depending on who you believe) in the playoffs and often spoke of how he struggled to handle the ball. It didn't seem to matter too much as Lowry shot 42 percent from deep over the Eastern Conference Finals and Finals, but this procedure is far from surprising. The point guard is still hoping to be ready for Team USA training camp and the FIBA World Cup, so we are not looking at a lengthy recovery here.

    Source: Adrian Wojnarowski on Twitter

  • Naz Reid
    C, Minnesota Timberwolves

    Naz Reid has signed a multi-year deal with the Wolves.

    Reid was originally expected to sign a two-way deal, and this might be the fastest conversion to a standard contract ever. Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic is reporting that it is a four-year deal worth a max of $6.1 million, with a full guarantee on the first season. Reid averaged 12.5 points, 4.7 boards and 2.0 assists in just 18.3 mpg at Summer League and looked like one of the better big men at the Vegas circuit. The Wolves are obviously set at center in the long term, but Reid could definitely emerge as the backup with a little more seasoning.

    Source: Minnesota Timberwolves