NBA Lord's NBA Blog

NBA Lord's NBA Blog

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Tomahawk Tuesday: Kawhi Leonard has solid season debut for the San Antonio Spurs

                                          (Getty Images) 

On Tuesday, Kawhi Leonard (quadriceps) made his long awaited season debut against the Dallas Mavericks, scoring 13 points and grabbing 6 rebounds in 16 minutes of action. The Spurs lost the game 95-89, putting them at 3rd in the Western Conference with a 19-9 record. While the game didn't go the way the Spurs would have liked, they have to be pleased with how Leonard performed. His shot looked pretty fluid and he wasted no time getting into a groove, scoring 6 points within the first 5 minutes of the game.

While Leonard looked good, it was still clear that he wasn't 100%. He didn't make a lot of hard cuts to the basket and didn't throw down any dunks. He looked to be about 75-80% out there and it'll probably be at least a couple of weeks before he gets back to full strength.

What's most impressive in all of this is the fact that the Spurs went 18-9 without Leonard, who is considered by many to be the best player in the NBA. Many teams would have struggled to fill the void of their superstar, but the Spurs came together and found a way to make up for his absence through playing team basketball and buying into the system of their legendary coach Gregg Popovich.

LaMarcus Aldridge in particular really stepped up, averaging 22.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. He did a really good job of being the go to option in Leonard's absence and really shouldering the scoring load. Rudy Gay and Kyle Anderson also deserve a lot of credit for the way they filled in at the small forward spot. Together, they combined for over 20 points per game and did a stellar job at giving the Spurs production out on the wing. Without Aldridge, Gay, and Anderson, the Spurs wouldn't have survived like they did.

While it will be no easy task for the Spurs to win the Western Conference crown, they have to like where they sit right now. They're 3.0 games back of the Golden State Warriors and 3.5 games back of the Houston Rockets. Provided Kawhi Leonard can stay healthy going forward, they're going to be really difficult to stop come May and possibly June.

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Saturday, December 9, 2017

Saturday Slam: The Utah Jazz have a special rookie in Donovan Mitchell

                                          (Credit: Clutchpoints.com)

After losing Gordon Hayward in free agency, it looked like the Utah Jazz were heading back towards the NBA Draft lottery. Nobody would have expected them to be at the .500 mark at this point of the season and be one of the top eight teams in the Western Conference. A big reason for their success has been the emergence of rookie guard Donovan Mitchell, who was selected with the 13th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.

Through 26 games, Mitchell has started in 18 games, averaging 17.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.4 steals per game on 41.8% shooting from the field, 37.5% shooting from 3-point range, and 83.8% shooting from the foul line. As good as the Jazz thought he could become, not even they thought he'd be this good.

What stands out about Mitchell is how dynamic of a player he is. At 6'3", 211 pounds, Mitchell has a great combination of size, quickness, strength, and overall athleticism.  He handles the ball really well and is very comfortable playing the point guard position when needed.

While he can dance around defenders and drain a 3-pointer in their face, he has no problem attacking the rim and finishing through contact. His ability to score in a wide variety of ways makes him really tough for defenders to stop.  On the defensive end of the floor, Mitchell has the ability to guard both point guards and shooting guards due to his overall athletic package. He has a good feel for getting steals and forcing turnovers, which leads to easy baskets in transition.

In addition to possessing the physical gifts, Mitchell has the mentality to be an elite player in the NBA. He has no problem taking over a game and being the guy who his team relies on in crunch time. Some rookies have a hard time adjusting to this role, but Mitchell has embraced this role from day one.

While 76ers rookie Ben Simmons likely wins rookie of the year honors, Donovan Mitchell is making a compelling case for himself. He's playing elite basketball and has the Jazz on pace to make the playoffs. He really couldn't be off to a better start.

Note: This blog post also appears on my Utah Jazz blog. Click here to check it out.

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Sunday, December 3, 2017

Skyhook Sunday: Should the Los Angeles Clippers trade DeAndre Jordan?

During the last week or so, DeAndre Jordan's name has come up in trade rumors. According to Gery Woelfel, the Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Milwaukee Bucks are all interested in trading for the Los Angeles Clippers' star big man. Further, it sounds like the Clippers are exploring the option of unloading him in order to help them rebuild. 

The reason why the Clippers are considering this is the fact that they are having a down year (8-14) and don't appear to be close to contending with the present cast of players that they have. With Chris Paul gone, the line of thinking is why not blow the whole thing up and start from scratch with Blake Griffin as the centerpiece? 

While tanking and blowing up your franchise is a rather trendy thing for NBA teams to do, that doesn't make it the right move for every team. For the Clippers, given how recently they were contending, they might be better off tweaking their roster and keeping their foundation in place as opposed to essentially starting all over. 

At 29 years of age, DeAndre Jordan is still producing and has several good years left in him, averaging 10.1 points, 14.0 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game. As an added plus, he's having his best free throw shooting season ever (59.6%). Personally, I think that if the Clippers want to get back to where they were a couple of years ago, they'd be wise to hang on to Jordan as well as Griffin and make them their foundation for the next five years. Everyone else should be on the open market, but trading Jordan or Griffin would mark the end of an era and officially put them back into full blown rebuilding mode. 

If there's anyone who the Clippers should look to be getting rid of, it's Lou Williams, who at 31 years of age is averaging 18.7 points and 4.1 assists per game. Williams still has a lot of value and could command a lot in the trade market. If the Clippers used him as a means to getting some higher draft picks and some younger talent, that would be a fantastic move. 

I understand why the Clippers are exploring the trade market for DeAndre Jordan, but ultimately, I think it would be unwise for them to move him. He still has a lot to give them and alongside Blake Griffin, they could have one of the best front courts in the NBA for the next several years. The Clippers need to press forward with those two guys as their foundation and look for ways to put the right pieces around them in order for them to succeed. 

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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Saturday Slam: The Philadelphia 76ers are starting to look terrifying


For the last few years, the Philadelphia 76ers have been one of the worst teams in all of professional sports and the laughing stock of the NBA. Their methodical tanking approach has taken on a life of its own with the whole "Trust the Process" motto, etc. It's become almost a joke.

This season however, the 76ers are not a joke. They are 8-7 and have one of the best young duos in the NBA in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Simmons is averaging 18.1 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 8.0 assists per game while Embiid is averaging 22.8 points, 10.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.9 blocks.

Earlier this week against the Los Angeles Lakers, Embiid had one of the most ridiculous stat lines you'll ever see: 46 points, 15 rebounds, 7 blocks, and 7 assists. It felt like the coming out party for Embiid and the entire 76ers team. It was like they were putting the rest of the league on notice that they aren't going anywhere.

The major question mark with this 76ers team is whether or not they can stay healthy. Simmons missed his first season in the league due to a foot injury while Embiid missed his first two seasons and only played in 31 games last season. This is the first season where Embiid is actually on pace to play for the duration of the season, which if you think about it is pretty crazy. As for their rookie point guard Markelle Fultz, he's out indefinitely with a shoulder injury and is on track to miss a good chunk of his rookie campaign as well.

The bottom line with this 76ers team is that if they stay healthy and are able to keep their core pieces together, they're terrifying. There's no better way to describe it. Joel Embiid looks like the second coming of Hakeem Olajuwon while Ben Simmons has the makings of another LeBron James. If Markelle Fultz is able to live up to his potential and avoid the injury bug, we could be looking at a legitimate "big three" in Philadelphia for the next decade. For all the talk and jokes about trusting the process, "the process" is not only working, it's putting together a scary good basketball team.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Tomahawk Tuesday: How long can the San Antonio Spurs survive without Kawhi Leonard?


The San Antonio Spurs are 8-5 and currently 3rd place in the Western Conference. While this appears to be business as usual, the Spurs have had to make due without their superstar Kawhi Leonard, who is yet to play in a game this season due to a quadriceps injury. Even worse, he's expected to be out for a few more weeks, putting his return sometime in December at the earliest.

It's no secret that the Spurs are masters of making due with a shorthanded lineup. It is said that Gregg Popovich can grab any five guys off the street and get them to play team basketball. While this principle is certainly true, it would still be foolish to suggest that the Spurs can maintain long-term success without Leonard.

What makes Leonard such a valuable piece to this team is that he literally does everything. He defends both out on the perimeter and in the paint, he can score both inside and out, and he's absolutely lethal in transition due to his combination of size, speed, quickness, and athleticism. There are some who feel Leonard is the best player in the NBA and when you watch him do his thing on the court, it's hard to argue against that position. He is a jack-of-all-trades wing that continues to get better every season.

                                          (Getty Images) 

Fortunately for the Spurs, they have a really talented big man in LaMarcus Aldridge, who is averaging 21.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Aldridge is able to carry more of the scoring load in Leonard's absence and act as a legitimate number one option. In addition to Aldridge, the Spurs have a talented veteran wing in Rudy Gay, who has been averaging 13.0 points and 5.4 rebounds on 47.7% shooting from the field, 41.4% shooting from 3-point range, and 83.8% shooting from the foul line.

In addition to those guys, the Spurs have some quality role players in Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, Patty Mills, and Pau Gasol. The Spurs are once again showing that they are a true team. When one guy goes down, even if it's their superstar, they know how to keep the ship afloat.

As for how long the Spurs can survive without Kawhi Leonard, I think the answer is that they can survive just fine so long as he does eventually come back. They can't win a title without him. That's pretty obvious. However, they can play above .500 basketball and keep themselves in the mix to get a top three or four seed in the Western Conference until he returns.

If you are the Spurs, the main thing you need to do is stay patient and make sure Leonard doesn't come back until he is 100% or very close to it. While it may seem tempting to rush him back a bit sooner, if you have been around the block as many times as the Spurs, you have the luxury to give Leonard all the time he needs. It looks like they are taking this approach and I expect it to pay off for them come April and May.

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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Saturday Slam: Will Eric Bledsoe find new life with the Milwaukee Bucks?

                                          (Photo credit: NBA.com)

The big news of the week was the Phoenix Suns trading Eric Bledsoe to the Milwaukee Bucks for Greg Monroe, a protected 2018 1st round draft pick, and a 2018 protected 2nd round draft pick. Bledsoe made it clear on social media that he wanted out of Phoenix and the Suns granted his request.

Bledsoe is in his 8th season in the NBA and is now with his third team, spending his first three years with the Los Angeles Clippers and his next four years with the Phoenix Suns before being traded to the Bucks.

As the 18th overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, Bledsoe has blossomed into one of the better point guards in the NBA, having back-to-back 20+ points per game seasons in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons. His biggest issue over the last couple of seasons has been staying healthy, suffering a torn meniscus in the 2015-16 season, allowing him to only play in 31 games. Last season, he was able to play in 66 games, but once again had his season shortened due to knee soreness.

Now that he is in Milwaukee, Bledsoe is hoping for a fresh start with a team that has a chance to do some damage in the playoffs. Bledsoe never made the playoffs with the Suns and with the current direction they are going in, it wasn't clear if he would be able to get back to the playoffs if he stayed in Phoenix for the long hall.

As far as whether or not Bledsoe will find new life in Milwaukee, he certainly has the chance to do so if he is able to stay healthy and if the Bucks in turn are able to get back to full strength with a healthy Jabari Parker. With Giannis Antetokounmpo at the helm, the Bucks have the pieces to do some serious damage in the Eastern Conference. It's just a matter of building on the foundation that they have and making sure no major injuries happen.

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Saturday, October 28, 2017

Saturday Slam: If LaVar Ball really cared about his sons, he'd shut up

                                         (Mark J. Terrell/AP) 

If LaVar Ball really cared about his sons, he'd shut up. There's no way to sugar coat it. His comments directed at other NBA players, most recently John Wall, serve as motivation for these players to shut down his son Lonzo, who is averaging 11.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 9.0 assists per game during his first four games with the Los Angeles Lakers.

I debated whether or not I should write this article given that I don't want to give LaVar any more attention. At the same time, there's no way for me to not address this guy. As a basketball writer, I have a duty to give my honest, unabashed take on how this moron is putting a target on his sons' back every time he talks trash. While some like LaVar and see him as a marketing genius, others, like myself, see him as an egotistical nut job that doesn't have all of his wits about him. To a certain extent his actions are theatre, but to another extent, this is who he really is. No sane, normal person would act like he does. Even if they were trying to promote their kids and build a brand around them.

While LaVar is batshit crazy, what's perhaps even more troubling is his lack of empathy for his sons. Especially Lonzo, who is the Michael Jackson of the Ball family. If LaVar actually cared about his son and his NBA career, he'd recede into the background and not become a problem that he has to manage. The fact that LaVar continues to make idiotic and egotistical comments just goes to show that all he cares about is himself.

Unfortunately for LaVar, Lonzo is really all that he has. Neither of his other two sons have a serious shot at an NBA career. LaMelo in particular is an overrated little dweeb that has no idea how to run an offense and only knows how to play street ball. The fact that he has his own shoe is a joke and also will likely deem him ineligible to play at UCLA. As for LiAngelo, the middle Ball brother, he's supposed to be pretty good, but the odds of him morphing into a #2 overall pick in the NBA Draft are very low.

I don't like LaVar Ball and I don't give him a hall pass for being some "marketing genius." His behavior is inexcusable and does nothing to help his sons. If he really cared about them, he'd shut up and not seek the spotlight. It's really that simple.

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