NBA Lord's NBA Blog

NBA Lord's NBA Blog

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Tomahawk Tuesday: Utah's Donovan Mitchell deserves to be rookie of the year

                                          (Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports) 

With 11 games to go in the regular season, Utah Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell has his team in the middle of a playoff race, currently 8th in the Western Conference with the potential to finish as high as 3rd. Mitchell was drafted 13th overall in the 2017 NBA Draft and has greatly exceeded expectations, averaging 19.9 points, 3.7 rebounds,  3.6 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. While everyone pegged 76ers rookie Ben Simmons as the no-brainer pick for rookie of the year to start the season, Mitchell has made it a very competitive race and has many people arguing that he should be the one who wins the award.

While Ben Simmons has had a really good year, averaging 16.2 points, 7.9 assists, and 7.8 rebounds per game with the 76ers positioned 6th in the Eastern Conference, I want to put forth my own case for why Donovan Mitchell deserves rookie of the year honors.

#1. Donovan Mitchell came out of nowhere: While everyone expected Ben Simmons to have a great rookie season, nobody knew what to expect from Donovan Mitchell, who was drafted 13th overall after playing three years at Louisville. He burst onto the scene late in college and did just enough to get drafted at the back end of the NBA Draft lottery.

During my annual mock draft I said about Mitchell: "While being only 6’2”, Donovan Mitchell weighs 210 pounds and sports a very impressive 6’10” wingspan. He has great physical tools to work with and knows how to get to the basket. He absorbs contact well and has the potential to be a very versatile shooting guard." 

I should also mention that I did pick Mitchell to get picked 13th, but I would be lying to you if I said I envisioned him to breakout like he has. If we are giving rookie of the year honors to the rookie who has exceeded expectations by more than anyone else, Mitchell takes the cake by a mile. 

#2. Donovan Mitchell has the Utah Jazz battling for a playoff spot: While the same can be said for Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell has his team in the mix for a playoff spot, currently 8th in the Western Conference with the potential to finish as high as 3rd. After losing Gordon Hayward to the Boston Celtics, nobody thought the Utah Jazz would be in this position. Mitchell has nearly made Jazz fans forget about Hayward, which is pretty remarkable when you consider how much Jazz fans cried when he left. Mitchell has done more than put up impressive numbers. He has the Jazz playing winning basketball and at the end of the day that is what matters more than anything else. 

#3. Donovan Mitchell has played against tougher competition: Playing in the Western Conference, Donovan Mitchell has had to play teams like the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, and Oklahoma City Thunder three to four times at least during his rookie season. These are the very best teams in the NBA. Ben Simmons in contrast has only had to face these teams twice. While Simmons is putting up impressive numbers and has his team in playoff contention, Mitchell is doing the same thing against better competition. 

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

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Sunday, March 4, 2018

Skyhook Sunday: The New Orleans Pelicans are on fire

When DeMarcus Cousins went down for the season due a torn Achilles, most people, including myself, assumed the New Orleans Pelicans were doomed and would find themselves back in the NBA Draft lottery. Instead of doing what we all expected, the Pelicans have decided to defy the odds makers and prove that they can still make some noise this season.

As of right now, the Pelicans are 4th in the Western Conference with a 36-26 record and have won eight straight games. Those eight wins have come at Brooklyn, at Detroit, vs. Los Angeles Lakers, vs. Miami, at Milwaukee, vs. Phoenix, at San Antonio, and at Dallas. While not the most intimidating schedule, the Pelicans still deserve a lot of credit for winning all of those games.

Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday have both really stepped up for the Pelicans during this stretch. Davis has had four games of 40+ points and one game of 50+ points while Holiday has had scored 20+ points in each of these games including a 36 point game at Milwaukee and 30 point game at Dallas. These guys are being asked to carry the load for their team and are doing so in spades.

The big question is whether or not the Pelicans can keep this up or if they will fade as we head into March. When looking at the schedule, I think there's good reason to think they can keep this up.  They do have games against the Rockets, Warriors, Celtics, and Spurs left, but they also have games left with the Clippers, Kings, Jazz, Hornets, and Mavericks. Their schedule isn't a cakewalk by any means, but it is manageable. What helps is teams behind them like the Timberwolves and Spurs are dealing with injuries of their own, so it isn't like they are at full strength either.

My personal prediction is that the Pelicans will make the playoffs, but it's honestly too soon to say whether or not they will hang onto home court advantage in the first round. Seeds 3-8 seem to be changing every day, so it really is anybody's guess of as to how those positions will shake out. But that all being said, the very fact that the Pelicans are even in discussion to get home court advantage in the first round is remarkable. They are definitely turning into one of the feel good stories of the season.

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Saturday, March 3, 2018

Saturday Slam: Can the Houston Rockets take out the Golden State Warriors?

The Houston Rockets had a thrilling 123-120 win over the Boston Celtics on Saturday, keeping them toe to toe with the Golden State Warriors for the best record in the NBA. While home court advantage through the NBA Finals is well within the reach of the Rockets, most people are still picking the Warriors to come out of the Western Conference. While I am of the opinion that the Warriors should be favored regardless of who gets home court advantage, let me outline a case for why the Rockets have a good shot at dethroning the defending champs.

The first reason for why the Rockets have a good shot at dethroning the Warriors is the simple fact that they've won the regular season series 2-1. The Rockets won at Golden State on opening night by a final score of 122-121, lost at home on January 4th 114-124, and won at home on January 20th 116-108. Even more noteworthy is the fact that the Rockets are 2-0 against the Warriors when both Chris Paul and James Harden are playing. In the Warriors' lone win over the Rockets this season, James Harden was inactive due to a hamstring strain. Kevin Durant was also out with strained right calf in that game, but that said, the Warriors have not figured out how to beat the Rockets this season when their top two guards are healthy. This fact has to give the Rockets a lot of confidence.

The second reason for why the Rockets should like their chances against the Warriors in the playoffs is the fact that they actually like to play the same type of style. The Warriors often overwhelm teams with all the 3-point shooters that they have, but the Rockets are one of the few teams, perhaps the only team, who can match their 3-point shooting attack. To combat Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and Klay Thompson, the Rockets have James Harden, Chris Paul, Ryan Anderson, and Eric Gordon. When those guys are on fire, the Warriors truly appear to have found their match.

The third reason for why the Rockets should like their chances against the Warriors is that they actually might have the best player on the floor in James Harden, who is averaging 31.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 8.9 assists per game. Earlier this week, James Harden sent Clippers forward Wesley Johnson to the hospital with an epic ankle breaker and he followed that up with a dagger three. It feels like we are all living in James Harden's world and he's just out there doing whatever he wants. If Harden lives up to his MVP status in a series against the Warriors, the Rockets just might pull off the upset.

While I do think the Warriors would win a series over the Rockets because of their depth and superior defense, the Rockets absolutely have a chance to upset them. They just have to play their best brand of basketball and play with no fear. If they can do that, we could see a new team representing the Western Conference in June.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Tomahawk Tuesday: Can the Timberwolves survive without Jimmy Butler?

                                          (Zhong Zi/NBAE/Getty Images) 

The Minnesota Timberwolves are having their best season in recent memory, currently sitting third in the Western Conference standings with a 38-26 record. A major reason for their resurgence has been the addition of Jimmy Butler, who they acquired from the Chicago Bulls during the NBA Draft. Butler has been averaging 22.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 1.9 steals per game and has provided a veteran presence that the Timberwolves have been missing.

Unfortunately for the Timberwolves, Butler has undergone surgery to repair a meniscal tear in his right knee, sidelining him for the next 4-6 weeks according to Shams Charania of Yahoo! Sports. With Butler possibly out until the playoffs start, the big question is whether or not the Timberwolves can survive until he comes back and not slip too much in the standings.

The teams that are behind the Timberwolves are the Spurs (.5 games back), Pelicans (2 games back), Trail Blazers (2 games back), Thunder (2 games back), Nuggets (3 games back), and Clippers (4 games back). It is hard to see a scenario in which the Timberwolves don't make the playoffs, but it is conceivable that they slip to as far as the 8th seed. The gap between the 3rd and 8th spot is only 3 games, which means things are very tight.

The key to the Timberwolves' surviving Butler's injury is really for Andrew Wiggins and Jamal Crawford to step up at the wing positions. Jeff Teague is doing a good job running the point guard position and Karl-Anthony Towns is anchoring the post just fine. But, whether or not Wiggins and Crawford can make up for Butler's production out on the wing remains to be seen. Personally, I think they should be able to since both of them know how to score. Crawford can still get buckets even in this later stage of his career and Wiggins is emerging into an elite wing in his own right. Offensively those two guys should be able to pick up the slack.

As far as defense is concerned, that's probably the bigger concern. Wiggins is an elite wing on both ends of the floor, but the Timberwolves really don't have any one else who can replace Butler's tenacity on defense. The Timberwolves will really need to do a good job of playing team defense and finding ways to mask Butler's absence out on the wing. Jeff Teague will also need to play an expanded role defensively and be a little bit more aggressive when it comes to disrupting passing lanes and forcing turnovers.

The bottom line is the Timberwolves can survive without Jimmy Butler, but it's not going to be easy. When you are a team that hasn't been in this kind of position before, it's tough to then lose your best player right as you head into the final stretch of the season. It'll be interesting to see if they can hang onto their spot until Butler comes back and whether or not any of the teams behind them will be able to capitalize on their vulnerability.

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Saturday, February 24, 2018

Saturday Slam: With Kawhi Leonard likely done for the year, are the Spurs cooked?

Earlier this week, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich told Michael C. Wright of that he would be surprised if Kawhi Leonard (quadriceps) returned this season. The weird part of this whole thing is that Leonard has been medically cleared to play, but is opting not to play presumably because of severe discomfort. During the 9 games that he played this season, Leonard averaged 16.2 points and 4.7 rebounds in 23.3 minutes of action. While it was clear he wasn't yet back to full strength, he was still able to give the Spurs a legitimate boost.

As it stands, the Spurs are currently 4th in the Western Conference with a 35-25 record, 11 games back of the Rockets and Warriors. While they are expected to make the playoffs, it's no guarantee that they do as they are only two games up on the 8th seeded New Orleans Pelicans. This Spurs team isn't as deep as previous years, which makes the absence of Leonard such a crushing blow. Outside of LaMarcus Aldridge, the Spurs really don't have anyone else who they can rely on. Rudy Gay, Pau Gasol, and Tony Parker are solid role players, but they're past their prime at this point and no longer can be asked to carry the type of load that they have in years past.

At this point, the best the Spurs can do is solider on without Leonard and make sure they hang on to home court advantage for the first round of the playoffs. There is the possibility that Leonard returns in the playoffs and if the Spurs can get home court advantage for the first round, they could look at possibly bringing him back for the conference semifinals. While it's unclear how much Leonard could help them if he were to come back at that point, they would still be better with him on the floor playing at 80% than having him on the sidelines in a suit.

                                          (Getty Images) 

The biggest concern for the Spurs is what this means for Leonard's long term future with the team. There are some who believe the real reason he is sitting out is because he's disgruntled and unhappy being in San Antonio. If this is true, then the Spurs have something far more serious to worry about than a quadriceps injury. Leonard has two more seasons left on his contract before he hits unrestricted free agency. As much as they don't want to think about it, if Leonard actually does want out of San Antonio, the Spurs should consider moving him and getting something back for him before he walks away in free agency.

The absence of Kawhi Leonard looms large for the Spurs both for this season and possibly beyond. He's been billed as their next franchise player following Tim Duncan and if he isn't interested in being the next great Spur, they have a lot of things to think about. Fortunately for the Spurs, they do have Leonard under contract for the next little while so they don't have to immediately think about moving him. Right now, their main focus needs to be on making the playoffs and putting themselves in a position to make some noise in the event that Leonard is able to return.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Tomahawk Tuesday: Recapping 2018 All-Star Weekend

Over this past weekend was NBA All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles. It was an exciting weekend that brought the All-Star Game back to its roots, where defense was played for a least a good portion of the game. I will spare you of any commentary on Fergie's national anthem, though let me say that was the weirdest rendition of the anthem that I've ever heard. The rest of the weekend I thought was actually pretty good.

All-Star Saturday Night 

All-Star Saturday Night consisted of three events: the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, JBL Three-Point Contest, and Verizon Slam Dunk Contest. Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie won the skills challenge, Suns guard Devin Booker won the three-point contest with a record 28 points, and Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell won the dunk contest.

What made the skills challenge fun is it once again was a format of bigs versus guards. Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen was the top performer of the big men but was unable to outdo Dinwiddie, who was sort of a dark horse to win the whole thing. Clippers guard Lou Williams came in as the favorite given the home court advantage, but he wasn't able to deliver the goods. There was a little bit of controversy surrounding 76ers center Joel Embiid's performance since it looked like he may have cheated by skipping the part where you pass the ball through the hoop. However, what he did was perfectly legal.  If you miss both passes you have to continue on anyways, so after missing the first pass, Embiid just wanted to get the ball out as quickly as possible. I just wanted to set the record straight on that.

In the three-point shootout, Devin Booker was lights out, especially in the championship round, finishing with 28 points. Booker really heated up in his last couple of racks, making nine of his final 10 shots. His money ball rack was the last rack and he made four of those five shots, so he did a good job of placing his money ball rack in the right place. Booker defeated Rockets guard Eric Gordon, Clippers forward Tobias Harris, and Warriors guard Klay Thompson in the final round. Thompson finished with 25 points, but was mathematically eliminated when he got to the final rack, so it wasn't really as close as the final score indicates.

In the dunk contest, Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell and Cavaliers forward Larry Nance, Jr. were the top two performers, squaring off in the championship round. Mitchell stole the show with his tributes to Jazz legend Darrell Griffith and Raptors legend Vince Carter, though Nance had a really nice tribute dunk to his father and also a really impressive dunk in which he tapped the ball to himself twice off the glass. Mavericks guard Dennis Smith, Jr. also deserves some love for a through the legs dunk he did. The dunk contest wasn't as good as some contests in the past, but the guys who participated still did a nice job.

                                         (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)       
All-Star Game 

On Sunday, Team LeBron defeated Team Steph 148-145 in the All-Star Game. LeBron James led the way for his team with 29 points, 10 rebounds, and 8 assists, taking home the MVP honors. While every all-star game is an offensive clinic predicated on alley-oop dunks and highlight reel moves, what made this game fun was the defense that was actually played. Guys were blocking shots, guys were forcing steals, etc. This actually felt like a basketball game because of the defensive effort that was present. Fans want to see highlight dunks and incredible shots, but they want to see some effort on the defensive end as well. The effort on defense was really good for an all-star game and as a result, the fans got their money's worth in the end. I think the format where LeBron James and Stephen Curry drafted their own teams deserves some credit for making this happen. It made the guys feel a bit more invested in the event.

Overall, I was pleased with the NBA's All-Star Weekend. Everyone seemed to have a good time and did a good job putting on a show for the fans. It lived up to what it was supposed to be, which is fun entertainment that the whole family can enjoy. That is all that we can really ask for.

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Sunday, February 11, 2018

Skyhook Sunday: Winners and losers from the NBA Trade Deadline

The NBA trade deadline was Thursday at 3:00 PM EST and a lot of very interesting moves occurred. The Cavaliers were particularly active at the deadline acquiring George Hill and Rodney Hood from the Kings and Jazz in a three-way trade while sending Isaiah Thomas to the Lakers and Dwyane Wade back to the Heat. Other moves worth noting are the Magic trading Elfrid Payton to the Suns, the Nuggets trading Emmanuel Mudiay to the Knicks, and the Jazz actually parting ways with Joe Johnson in the Hood deal, which could result in Johnson going to a contender assuming the Kings buyout his contract. If you want a full recap of all the trades and moves that happened, check out any of the social media accounts (links provided at the bottom of the article). I posted all of the moves on there.

What I wanted to do in this post is quickly go over who I felt the winners and losers were at the trade deadline. I plan on analyzing some of the teams more closely next week.


The Lakers traded Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance, Jr. to the Cavaliers for Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, and a protected 2018 first round pick. Considering their need for a legitimate star player, I'd say the Lakers were winners in this trade. While Isaiah Thomas has been on the move a lot, that doesn't mean he's not a guy you'd want to have on your team. He was a borderline MVP candidate during his final season with the Celtics. To add a guy of his caliber has to have the Lakers excited. 

Let's be real, Isaiah Thomas wasn't a good fit with the Cavaliers and they needed to get something in return for him. While Rodney Hood wasn't directly involved with the Thomas deal, he is a guy who'll bring quality three-point shooting to the team and an ability to score in a similar fashion as Thomas did. Plus, Hood should fit in personality wise with the Cavaliers and relish the opportunity to play alongside LeBron James on a team that is hoping to reach the NBA Finals. As for shipping off Dwyane Wade, that's kind of a bummer, but at the same time if it isn't working out, why hang onto him? The Cavaliers were wise to move him and not continue with an experiment that just wasn't working. 

Emmanuel Mudiay strikes me as a guy who might just need a change of scenery. I like what he can bring to the table and the Knicks could really benefit from having a true franchise point guard. What's even better is the Knicks only had to give up Doug McDermott to get him. The Knicks were definitely winners at the trade deadline, though losing Kristaps Porzingis for the season due to a torn ACL overshadows this move.

The Suns acquired Elfrid Payton from the Magic for a second round pick, which is an absolute steal considering that Payton is averaging 13.0 points, 6.3 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. I've always liked Payton's game and believed in his ability to become a star point guard in this league. With Brandon Knight's future with the Suns in doubt due to the injuries he's had, this was a no brainer move for the Suns. 

Note: Brandon Condron provided a good breakdown of this trade on YouTube and what it means for the Suns. Click here to check it out. 

The Celtics made no moves at the trade deadline but are still considered winners simply because they got to watch the Cavaliers trade Isaiah Thomas away.  

Getting Dwyane Wade back in a Heat uniform is pretty cool. Especially since the Heat are in the mix to get home court advantage in the first round. They're seeded 7th in the Eastern Conference right now, but that could change with Wade coming back.

Not a move that happened right at the trade deadline, but the Pistons are definitely winners for acquiring Blake Griffin from the Clippers. They needed a franchise player to build around and now they have one. If you missed my blog post on the Blake Griffin trade from the Pistons' perspective, click here. I go into more detail in there. 


I know I'm kinda cheating by also listing the Cavaliers as losers, but here me out on this. While it is good that they got something for Isaiah Thomas and were able to shake things up a bit, the fact that they had to make those moves in the first place is very concerning. Hell, there was even some speculation that it might be good for the Cavaliers to trade LeBron James and totally hit the reset button for good. The bottom line is that while the moves the Cavaliers made were good for their present situation, it's never a good sign to be in a situation where you need to make a flurry of deals before the deadline in order to stay afloat. 

I'm pretty indifferent to the moves the Jazz made at the deadline. Jae Crowder is a nice player and I understand why Rodney Hood and Joe Johnson needed to go as they probably weren't going to come back once they hit free agency. At the same time, Rodney Hood was supposed to be one of their bright young players to build around in a post Gordon Hayward era. To see him go is kind of a disappointment if you are a fan of the Jazz. Even worse, it feels like the Jazz are a team struggling to find an identity right now. Donovan Mitchell is becoming their man, but they're still a long ways off from being a serious championship contender.

When the Toronto Raptors selected Bruno Caboclo with the 20th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, they thought they had found a diamond in the rough. Everyone else was asking what drugs they were on for selecting him in the first place. At the deadline, the Raptors parted ways with their Brazilian draft and stash wonder, sending him to the Kings for Malachi Richardson. That 2014 first round pick is one the Raptors would like to have back. Rodney Hood, Joe Harris, Nikola Jokic, and Jordan Clarkson were all still available and would have been much better selections than Caboclo, who quite honestly shouldn't have been drafted in either round.

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