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NBA Tier List: Nets, Bulls, Warriors, Suns lead the way

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The top of the NBA’s heap has made itself known with teams like the Golden State Warriors and Brooklyn Nets asserting themselves as the cream of the crop.

There are teams creeping up on them, and there could probably be more if not for injuries some of the expected contenders have sustained, leading to a very packed and difficult to discern middle of the pack.

Here’s how we view the league in this week’s edition of the NBA Tier List.

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Tier 1: Don’t sleep on Phoenix and Chicago

A lot of attention this season has, deservedly, been paid to the league-best Warriors as well as the drama-filled, star power featured on the Nets, but quietly the Phoenix Suns — one of last season’s Finalists — have won 12 straight and look like they could catch the Dubs for tops in the NBA.

And similarly, the Chicago Bulls possess the same 12-5 record as the Nets and look to have an early MVP candidate in DeMar DeRozan, whose combination of near-impossible efficient scoring from the mid-range and paint and playmaking has proven to be the glue to help bring in all the talent the Bulls boast.

Tier 2: Serge Ibaka did something mildly interesting

Los Angeles Clippers big man Ibaka returned to the lineup Sunday after choosing to take a rehab stint with Agua Caliente Clippers of the G League, something that has been an option for a while for a lot of players but is rarely used.

In his return, the Clippers won, snapping a string of ugly losses to the New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies. In all, the Clippers have won nine of their last 12 games and while it’s true Paul George looks to be carrying an unsustainably heavy load, as long as they continue to win it’s hard to drop the Clippers.

Tier 3: The injury and COVID list

From the Los Angeles Lakers just getting LeBron James back, to other all-stars like Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid just being out with injury and in COVID protocols, there are a number of teams at this mid-range level that are just plain tough to get a handle on.

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There’s expectation that the Lakers should get better, but there’s no guarantee. And it looks like the hot start that the New York Knicks got off to has ended as they’ve dropped seven of their last 11, while the nice story that was the Cleveland Cavaliers could be coming to an end with word that Colin Sexton is done for the season with a torn meniscus.

Tier 4: Maybe this is just who the Raptors are?

The Toronto Raptors were a pleasant early surprise, jumping out to a 6-3 start to the season and looking every bit the defensive juggernaut they were advertising themselves as before the season began. Ever since, however, they’ve gone 2-7 and their high-risk, high-reward defence completely cratered, and not even the return of Pascal Siakam to the lineup has helped matters much.

Yes, they remain shorthanded as OG Anunoby has missed Toronto’s last three games while they’ve been out on an extended road trip, but maybe – just maybe – a team that competes hard but ultimately falls short more often than not is just wat these Raptors are.

Tier 5: Kings fire another coach and Isaiah Stewart wants all the smoke

The Sacramento Kings fired coach Luke Walton following a blowout loss to the Utah Jazz on Sunday, Sacramento’s sixth defeat in seven games. The Kings were only 6-11 on the season and were 68-93 under Walton’s tenure, so firing him doesn’t exactly come as a shock, but given the sheer amount of turnover this franchise has seen (Sacramento has had 11 different head coaches now counting interim bench boss Alvin Gentry since Rick Adelman departed in 2006) it’s small wonder this franchise has the longest playoff drought in the NBA.

Elsewhere, as you no doubt have already seen, Detroit Pistons forward Isaiah Stewart got smacked in the face by James and likely would’ve knocked the Lakers superstar out had it not been for just about everyone preventing him from getting to James.

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Supplementary discipline will be on the way. Detroit visits Los Angeles on Sunday, so the league may look to suspend both one or both players for at least that length of time to avoid problems. However, from a destination television point-of-view, having the two players available Sunday would be far more interesting, no?



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Trevor Lawrence’s response to bad game will say a lot about 2022 Jaguars

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Trevor Lawrence turned the ball over five times against the Eagles. How he responds this week vs. the Texans will be telling.



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Is Tyler Herro Worth His Contract Extension?

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(Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)

 

The Miami Heat have been one of the NBA’s best teams over the last three years, and one of the biggest reasons why has been guard Tyler Herro.

The 13th overall pick in the 2019 draft, he had a breakout season last year and won the Sixth Man of the Year award.

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As he enters the final year of his rookie contract, there was some talk about whether he would sign an extension with Miami or if it would trade him elsewhere, perhaps in a deal for a big star such as Donovan Mitchell or Kevin Durant.

But Herro has remained put, and he has now agreed to a four-year, $130 million extension.

That translates to an average of over $30 million a year for the 6-foot-5 22-year-old.

Herro has become a very good player, but is he worth (or going to be worth) that much money?

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Herro Has Become A Spark Plug For Miami

The University of Kentucky product came to the Heat at a time in which they were rebuilding.

Dwyane Wade, the greatest player in team history, had just retired, and it was thought they may be in for a prolonged rebuilding process.

Even when they traded for All-Star forward Jimmy Butler, not much was expected from them, as ESPN picked them to finish seventh in the Eastern Conference with a 43-39 record.

Instead, Miami went 44-29 and took the fifth seed in the conference, then went all the way to the NBA Finals where it lost to the Los Angeles Lakers.

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Herro was a revelation for it, as he averaged 13.5 points in 27.4 minutes per game in the regular season while shooting 38.9 percent from 3-point range.

Last season, he increased those numbers to 20.7 points a game on 39.9 percent from downtown, in addition to 4.0 assists per contest, which was up from 2.2 his rookie year.

While he looked like a very dependable spot-up shooter a couple of years ago, he has emerged as something of a creator off the dribble.

Of the NBA’s contending teams, the Heat are perhaps the most offensively challenged, and they desperately need someone like Herro to take that next step forward into legit All-Star territory in order to bolster their chances of winning a world championship.

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Can Herro take that next step?

 

A Look At Herro’s Offense

For evidence of Herro’s growth, look no further than the percentage of his baskets that were assisted on.

That number went from 47.4 percent as a rookie to 33.4 percent last year on 2-pointers, and from 78.4 percent to 70.9 percent on 3-pointers.

Miami will play its first preseason game of the new season on Tuesday when it faces the Minnesota Timberwolves, and it will be interesting to see how much better Herro will be in his fourth year in the NBA.

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If he shows continued improvement, especially as a shot creator, not just for himself but also for his teammates, head coach Erik Spoelstra will have to increase his workload and possibly even move him into the starting lineup.

In addition to occasionally making the All-Star team, that’s the stage Herro needs to get to in order to prove to everyone he’s worth every penny of his new extension.

The post Is Tyler Herro Worth His Contract Extension? appeared first on The Cold Wire.





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49ers Made A Powerful Statement On Monday

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(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

 

Coming into Monday’s game between the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams, there was a considerable amount of concern about the 49ers.

Their offense was struggling mightily, and after an ugly 11-10 loss to the Denver Broncos the previous week, some were even speculating on whether head coach Kyle Shanahan could or should be on the hot seat.

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One of the funny things about the NFL is how quickly a team’s fortunes and perception can drastically switch with just one win.

That win came against the Rams, and it wasn’t exactly a squeaker where one or two plays decided the contest.

No, the 49ers dominated the Rams, winning by a score of 24-9 and controlling the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football very well.

San Francisco is now 2-2 and tied with Los Angeles and the other two teams in the NFC West, and suddenly, it is looking like a potential Super Bowl contender again.

Things can change quickly in the NFL.

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The 49ers’ Defense Stepped Up Against The World Champions

While San Francisco’s offense looked very solid for a change, it was its defense that made its mark and won this contest for it.

The Rams, who looked very potent offensively last season, were held without a touchdown on Monday, and they had lots of trouble making any big yardage plays.

They went just 5 of 15 on third downs, and although Cooper Kupp had 122 yards and tight end Tyler Higbee had 73 yards, very few of them were gained when things mattered most.

L.A. quarterback Matthew Stafford was harrassed into one interception and seven sacks, and overall he posted a very dismal 71.0 passer rating.

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With just over six minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Rams were down 17-9 and had a first down on the 49ers’ 44-yard line.

Instead of marching further downfield to perhaps tie the game, second-year safety Talanoa Hufunga intercepted a pass intended for Kupp and ran it all the way back for the touchdown that sealed the win for the Niners.

They came into this contest tops in points allowed, yards allowed, first downs allowed and passing touchdowns allowed.

Hufunga may be developing into a star, while middle linebacker Fred Warner continues his ascent as one of the league’s best at his position.

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As the old saying goes, defense wins championships.

 

Deebo Samuel Was Deebo Samuel

Through the first three games of the season, Samuel, who was named to the All-Pro First Team last year, had a relatively quiet 131 receiving yards and 111 yards on the ground.

But offensively, he was the unquestioned star for the 49ers on Monday, as he tallied 115 yards and a touchdown in the air.

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His biggest play came inside of three minutes left in the second quarter when he made a catch in traffic and broke at least one tackle while taking the ball 57 yards into the end zone for a touchdown.

It was his best play so far this season, and perhaps it’s the one that will take the proverbial cap off his overall game and be a prelude to some more big games in the near future.

The post 49ers Made A Powerful Statement On Monday appeared first on The Cold Wire.





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