NBA

Pistons win top pick in NBA Draft lottery

By Sports Desk June 22, 2021

The Detroit Pistons will have the first overall selection in the NBA Draft for the first time in 51 years. 

Detroit won the NBA Draft lottery Tuesday after finishing with the second-worst record in the league (20-52) this season. 

The Houston Rockets (17-55) will pick second overall, followed by the Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors, Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Pistons, Rockets and Magic each had 14 per cent odds to earn the top pick, while the Thunder and Cavaliers had the next-best chance at 11.5 per cent. 

The Pistons last had the first overall pick in 1970, when they selected Hall of Famer Bob Lanier. 

It will be Detroit's highest selection since the Pistons infamously took Darko Milicic second overall in 2003 -- behind only LeBron James but ahead of future Hall of Famers Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. 

Heading into the July 29 draft, most analysts have tipped Cade Cunningham of Oklahoma State as the likely top pick. 

 

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  • Casemiro signing will not resolve Man Utd's problems, warns Saha Casemiro signing will not resolve Man Utd's problems, warns Saha

    Casemiro's imminent arrival at Old Trafford will greatly enhance Manchester United's midfield options but will not resolve all of the club's problems.

    That is according to former United striker Louis Saha, who also told Stats Perform that Cristiano Ronaldo was wrong to ask for a move.

    Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti confirmed on Friday that Casemiro is set to leave the Santiago Bernabeu, with United reported to have agreed a £51million (€60m) fee.

    Casemiro, a five-time Champions League winner with Madrid, is one of a number of midfielders to have been linked with the Red Devils.

    Having appeared to have missed out on Frenkie de Jong and Adrien Rabiot, Casemiro's move to Old Trafford could be completed as early as this weekend.

    While the Brazil international will bring a number of qualities to United, Saha believes his former side's issues run far deeper than simply bringing in a new midfielder.

    United find themselves bottom of the Premier League for the first time since August 1992, which is the only previous occasion they lost their opening two games in the competition.

    "It's a massive signing," Saha said. "But it is not a midfielder, it is not a striker, it is not a defender, goalkeeper or other transfers that are going to solve United’s problems. 

    "So don't be stupid in thinking, 'Oh, okay, we signed the big player who won the Champions League a few times, all our problems will be solved'. 

    "He'll really help the strikers to feel more confident that they have a certain kind of base that helps a team that wants to win titles. But he won't solve every player’s problems."

    Casemiro is set to become United's fourth signing of the window following the arrivals of Tyrell Malacia, Christian Eriksen and Lisandro Martinez.

    A number of first-team players have exited Old Trafford since the end of last season, meanwhile, with Paul Pogba the highest-profile departure to date.

    The future of Ronaldo remains in the balance ahead of the September 1 deadline, although a number of teams have opted out of making an approach for the forward.

    Ronaldo is reported to have asked for a transfer just a year after rejoining United, which Saha believes has left the Red Devils in a difficult situation.

    "I respect so much Cristiano and I think he's in this bracket as such a special player that I completely understand the way to manage this is not easy," he said.

    "Cristiano's a massive player and got 24 goals last year. That has a massive impact on the opposition because they fear him.

    "It's a difficult position. But on the same terms, we can recognise that he has put the club in a very difficult situation, because he hasn't maybe spoken out at the right moment.

    "I think the timing and the essence of this could have been kept a bit more private, until the deal is done or nearly done because of the respect that you have about the situation. 

    "The manager is trying to build a team, and you're saying you're unsettled and you want to leave. It's really hard. I don't think that he was right."

    Ronaldo scored 18 Premier League goals last season – only Mohamed Salah and Son Heung-min (both 23) scored more – and netted a team-high 24 in all competitions.

    Bruno Fernandes was the only other United player to reach double figures, finding the back of the net 10 times.

    Saha, who won four trophies in five seasons with United, feels it is down to others to step up rather than Ronaldo if the five-time Ballon d'Or winner stays.

    "He got 24 goals last season and shut all the criticism in terms of his personal ability, and that was in a team not playing well," Saha said.

    "He is the only goalscorer who's got more than 10 goals, which is a joke. I mean, that's not normal. 

    "No other players could support when he wasn't scoring. We've seen bits from Bruno Fernandes, who is a bit of a shadow of the player he was before the arrival of Cristiano. 

    "The club and the other players haven't performed to facilitate a good rehabilitation for Cristiano Ronaldo's comeback."

  • Is Casemiro the midfielder Man Utd need? Is Casemiro the midfielder Man Utd need?

    It is easy to imagine how Manchester United landed on Casemiro's name in the week that followed their shambolic 4-0 defeat at Brentford.

    United were preyed upon by the Brentford press, giving up three chances and two goals from high turnovers as Christian Eriksen – a false nine in their previous match – ended up as the deepest midfielder and struggled badly.

    Through two games, no Premier League side have allowed more shots following high turnovers than United (eight).

    At the very least, Casemiro – a five-time Champions League winner anchoring one of the great modern midfields at Real Madrid – should make United harder to play against.

    Yet the 30-year-old, whose arrival at Old Trafford appears imminent, possesses a vastly different profile to the previous two midfielders United very publicly pursued – ultimately unsuccessfully.

    The progression from Frenkie de Jong to Adrien Rabiot to Casemiro was not a particularly obvious one, but have the Red Devils now ended up with the right man?

    No more 'McFred'

    Few United fans who have seen their 'McFred' midfield repeatedly overrun in recent seasons would complain about the club recruiting an upgrade on Fred.

    The numbers would suggest that is what they are buying in Casemiro, who is comparable to his Brazil team-mate by several metrics.

    Only two LaLiga midfielders made more recoveries than Casemiro (230) last season, yet his 8.0 per 90 were topped by Fred's 8.7. Fred matched Casemiro for tackles per 90 (both 2.8) and edged him in terms of interceptions (1.4 to 1.3).

    However, Casemiro's physical presence ensured he won 59.7 per cent of his duels, far outperforming Fred's 47.8 per cent.

    And the Madrid man, crucially, is more effective with the ball once he has won it.

    Carlo Ancelotti's side attempted 43 shots at the end of sequences that started with Casemiro recovering possession, seeing the midfielder lead LaLiga in this regard and trail only Marcelo Brozovic (44) across Europe's top five leagues.

    Although just 27.6 per cent of Casemiro's passes were played forward – versus Fred's 30.4 per cent – he was at the heart of so many Madrid attacks.

    Casemiro played 34 passes to players who immediately created chances for team-mates, which compared very favourably with Rabiot (12), Scott McTominay (18), Fred (19) and, indeed, De Jong (22).

    Carrying United's hopes

    There was an obvious appeal to the attempted signing of De Jong, who would have offered something different to the United midfield.

    Highly skilled with the ball at his feet, De Jong's carries progressed the play 113.6 metres upfield per 90 last season. United's five midfielders (Fred, McTominay, Eriksen, Bruno Fernandes and Donny van de Beek) have progressed the ball only 384m combined so far this season – or 192m per 90.

    Casemiro clearly cannot offer this dynamism either, given he carried the ball just 54.3m upfield per 90 last term.

    And United could seemingly still benefit from a player of De Jong's talents, as Casemiro is used to being able to rely on others in midfield to fulfil this role; he was by far Madrid's least progressive midfield carrier in 2021-22, behind Toni Kroos (80.6m), Luka Modric (85.7m), Eduardo Camavinga (91.1m) and Federico Valverde (133.3m).

    But considering the difficulties in getting that deal done with Barcelona, United's scattergun approach has at least – via Rabiot – picked out a player capable of helping them both with and without the ball.

    No Premier League team has conceded more goals at this early stage than United, while they have only netted themselves courtesy of an own goal.

    One man alone may not be able to get United's season back on track, but Casemiro is primed to give it a good go.

  • LeBron James deal about 'brand' as well as ability, says sport finance expert LeBron James deal about 'brand' as well as ability, says sport finance expert

    The Los Angeles Lakers' decision to give LeBron James a two-year contract extension worth $97.1million is as much about the player's brand as his ability, says sport finance expert Dan Plumley.

    James had been entering the final year of a contract worth $44.5m. His new deal includes a player option for the 2024-25 season.

    The extension takes the 37-year-old to $532m in guaranteed career earnings, which would mean he is the highest-paid player in the history of the league.

    Despite his increasing years, James is still one of the top performers in the NBA, averaging 30.3 points per game in the 2021-22 season.

    Speaking to Stats Perform, Plumley admitted he is surprised by the short-term nature of the deal not usually seen in US sports, but understands the brand of the athlete is often as important as the ability.

    "I think that's now more the case than ever in every professional sport," said Plumley, who is principal lecturer in sport finance at Sheffield Hallam University. "Every team's looking at how they can use their superstars across respective sports.

    "Of course, it's about first and foremost what they can do on the court, on the pitch, it's absolutely still about that.

    "But the other side of it is what do they bring from a commercial side of things and what's the brand association, and what's the fit like, and how can the club or team leverage some of that against the superstars that they've got?

    "It's absolutely the case with LeBron James. Of course it is. But I think it's the case across the board now for a lot of professional teams."

    With James approaching 40 by the end of the two-year deal and with a history of injuries, there appears to be significant risk in the investment for the Lakers, but Plumley thinks it will be worth taking if it produces a championship or two.

    "I think that there's the risk... but there was also the risk of losing him and losing the asset and losing the brand association and the value that somebody like LeBron James brings with the Lakers and everything else he's got going on in his personal life as well," he said.

    "We know he's connected to Liverpool [Football Club, minority ownership] and the wider network that he operates in. So there's that at play where you're balancing the risk.

    "From the playing side of things, yes, the injury risk is there but I think the Lakers felt that it was enough to get the next two years where they could potentially win something again with LeBron, and that risk was far lower than losing him. I think that's where they've ended up at.

    "With the NBA, we know that careers can go a little bit later versus other sports. I think when you balance that off, the Lakers have obviously arrived at the decision that it's better to keep him now for a couple of years than potentially lose him."

    In terms of the wider future of the NBA, Plumley understands there is danger in seeing deals increase in size, but believes basketball and other US sports will be safe from significant damage due to their closed nature and draft system.

    "I think there's always the danger that you see figures like this, and we know that the salary cap is there, and there will always be a limit on this," Plumley added.

    "But we've seen increases in the salary cap over time, which is not unusual when you think about the amount of money coming in. So if there's more money coming in, then there's an argument to raise the salary cap.

     

    "I think what teams will always be suggesting and the way that side of things has gone is that there's an expectation that they need to keep raising the salary cap. And that's always okay if you've got the money coming in to support it, so I think that will be the trade-off.

    "It's always a risk in any professional team sport. They are reliant on broadcasters and they're reliant on commercial partners to generate that revenue at the league level. And while that's okay and growing, these little increases in salary caps have been okay.

    "The question always is 'where's the benchmark?' And if the benchmark has gone higher, because this is the biggest contract we've ever seen, then others will start to look towards that as the new benchmark. And I think that's just the risk in the background that you run.

    "American sports are a little bit more protected in that sense, because of the nature of their league systems."

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