NBA Lord's NBA Blog

NBA Lord's NBA Blog

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Tomahawk Tuesday: Is Kawhi Leonard the best player in the NBA?

                                         (Credit: YouTube. Click here for video) 

At 6'7", 230 pounds, Kawhi Leonard is averaging 26.0 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.8 steals per game on 48.6% shooting from the field, 37.2% shooting from three-point range, and 88.5% shooting from the foul line.  He is the leader of this new generation San Antonio Spurs team, guiding them to a 57-16 record, which is second only to the 59-14 Golden State Warriors. Leonard certainly has a very impressive resume, but is he really the best player in the NBA over the likes of Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Isaiah Thomas, and Anthony Davis?

Below is a quick breakdown of each of those player's statistics and the record of their respective teams. By looking at these numbers, we can better determine if Leonard is in fact the best player in the NBA.

Russell Westbrook: 31.4 points, 10.5 rebounds, 10.4 assists, 1.6 steals, 42.3% shooting from the field, 33.4% shooting from three-point range, and 84.0% shooting from the foul line. Oklahoma City Thunder record: 42-31 (6th in the Western Conference).

LeBron James: 26.0 points, 8.4 rebounds, 8.8 assists, 1.2 steals, 54.2% shooting from the field, 37.3% shooting from three-point range, and 67.9% shooing from the foul line. Cleveland Cavaliers record: 47-26 (2nd in the Eastern Conference).

James Harden: 29.4 points, 8.0 rebounds, 11.3 assists, 1.5 steals,  44.8% shooting from the field, 35.2% shooting from three-point range, and 84.8% shooting from the foul line. Houston Rockets record: 51-22 (3rd in the Western Conference).

Kevin Durant: 25.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.1 steals, 1.6 blocks,  53.7% shooting from the field, 37.8% shooting from three-point range, and 87.6% shooting from the foul line. Golden State Warriors record: 59-14 (1st in the Western Conference).

Stephen Curry: 24.8 points, 4.4 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 1.8 steals,  46.3% shooting from the field, 40.0% from three-point range, and 91.8% shooting from the foul line. Golden State Warriors record: 59-14 (1st in the Western Conference).

Isaiah Thomas: 29.1 points, 2.6 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 46.2% shooting from the field, 37.9% from three-point range, and 91.1% shooting from the foul line. Boston Celtics record: 48-26 (1st in the Eastern Conference).

Anthony Davis: 27.9 points, 12 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.2 steals, 2.2 blocks, 50.6% shooting from the field, 31.3% shooting from three-point range, and 79.7% shooting from the foul line. New Orleans Pelicans record: 31-43 (11th in the Western Conference).

When comparing these players to each other, what needs to be factored in is both their individual statistics and the success of their teams. For example, Russell Westbrook is putting up the most gaudy numbers with the triple-double average, but his team is 6th in the Western Conference. Can we really say he's better than Kawhi Leonard when his team isn't doing nearly as well?

When factoring in both individual success and team success, it's pretty clear that there is no clear cut front runner for best player in the NBA. One could easily argue for why each of these players is the best player in the NBA.

The argument that one would make for Kawhi Leonard is that he is the most multi-dimensional player in the NBA and that he is leading his team to the second best record in the NBA. What makes Leonard so scary is that he is no longer just an athletic freak that plays basketball. He's become a skilled basketball player that is also an athletic freak. Look at his shooting numbers: 26.0 points per game on 48.6% shooting from the field, 37.2% shooting from three-point range, and 88.5% shooting from the foul line. The dude can stroke it and when you combine that with his freakish athleticism, you got yourself a scary good basketball player.

                                          (Credit: SD Dirk. Click here for source). 

The biggest concern that NBA scouts had about Kawhi Leonard when he was coming out of San Diego State was whether or not he could shoot at an elite level in the NBA. They were sold on his athleticism, but his shooting was a major question mark. Judging by his shooting numbers, I think Leonard has proven that his shooting is no longer an issue. As a matter of fact, it has become a major strength of his.

By improving his shooting so much, Kawhi Leonard is now a guy who can truly get it done on both ends of the floor. He defends and shoots at an elite level, and he also is able to get rebounds and dish out assists. While I would still take LeBron James on my team in the NBA Finals, I think it's safe to say that Kawhi Leonard is approaching that status. If anything, he might even be better considering that he has better shooting numbers.

When Kawhi Leonard went #15 overall in the 2011 NBA Draft, I was really surprised considering his overall potential. I suggested that the Utah Jazz should have grabbed him at #3 overall and looking back on it, they definitely should have. As a matter of fact, if there was a do over of the 2011 NBA Draft, Kawhi Leonard may have gone #1 overall ahead of Kyrie Irving. What's even more crazy is that Isaiah Thomas would have gone #3 instead of #60.

The bottom line is that Kawhi Leonard has firmly established himself as an elite NBA player and is rightfully in the discussion of being the best player in the NBA. He's always had the athleticism, but now that he has the skills to go along with it, it's pretty tough to argue that there is someone else out there with a more complete package.

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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Skyhook Sunday: The Utah Jazz are going back to the playoffs for the first time since 2012



For the first time since the 2011-12 season, the Utah Jazz are going back to the NBA playoffs, clinching a playoff spot earlier today. As it stands, the Jazz are 44-29 and the 4th seed in the Western Conference standings, with the 5th seeded Los Angeles Clippers at 44-31 and the 6th seeded Oklahoma City Thunder at 41-31. If the playoffs were to start today, the Jazz would face off against the Clippers and have home court advantage.

With a playoff spot now clinched, the Jazz now have to worry about seeding. With the 3rd seeded Houston Rockets 7 games ahead, the best the Jazz can realistically expect to do is hold down the fort at the 4th spot and secure home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Doing so would give the Jazz an excellent chance of advancing in the first round series and likely set up a second round series with the top-seeded Golden State Warriors, who are 59-14 right now.

The remaining 9 games for the Utah Jazz are vs. New Orleans on March 27, at Sacramento on March 29, vs. Washington on March 31, at San Antonio on April 2, vs. Portland on April 4, vs. Minnesota on April 7, at Portland on April 8, at Golden State on April 10, and vs. San Antonio on April 12.

Intuitively, the games against the Spurs and Warriors stand out, but what's good for the Jazz is that with those games coming so late in the season, there are good odds that the Spurs and Warriors will be resting their players, so it's very possible for the Jazz to take two out of those three games. The home games against New Orleans, Washington, Portland, and Minnesota should all be wins, leaving the games at Sacramento and at Portland as perhaps the toughest games just because those are teams that will not be resting anybody. This all means that the Jazz should be able to go 6-3 down the stretch for sure and possibly even go 7-2, which should be good enough for them to secure the 4th seed.

What's made the Jazz so dangerous this season is their versatility and weapons. Gordon Hayward is the star of this team, averaging 21.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game, but he's gotten a lot of help from the likes of George Hill (16.9 points and 4.1 assists), Rodney Hood (12.8 points), and Rudy Gobert (13.7 points, 12.8 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks). The Jazz can beat you out on the wing, they can beat you down on the block, they defend both the perimeter and interior really well, and are young, which means they play with a lot of energy.

What's crazy about this team is that they are 29th in the NBA in points per game (100.3), but also 3rd  in defensive rating (102.5). It's very rare to find a team that is so polarized, but it seems to be working out for them just fine. What allows the Jazz to still be successful despite this chasm is the fact that it isn't like they don't have guys who can score. Gordon Hayward, Rodney Hood, and George Hill can all score the rock from the perimeter while Rudy Gobert does a great job at playing the garbage man underneath for put backs and alley-oop dunks. The Jazz have guys who can score and so while they may not score as many points, it's not like they are a team incapable of scoring. They just like to play at a slower pace and let their defense be what leads them to victory.



In terms of how deep this team can go, I think the Jazz have a great shot at getting out of the first round if they get the 4th seed and clinch home court advantage. Salt Lake City is a really difficult place to win on the road and so if the Jazz are able to clinch home court advantage, I like their chances to advance regardless of the opponent. The Clippers and Thunder are really good teams, but I don't see either team advancing to the second round against a Jazz team with home court advantage. The Jazz are THAT good at home.

As far as a second round match up with the Warriors or Spurs, I think odds are high that is where it would end for the Jazz. Of course, you never know what can happen with injuries and we've also seen  the whole dynamics of a series change when a team finds a way to steal one game on the road. That said, smart money has to take the Warriors or Spurs in a series against the Jazz.

What's important to understand if you are the Utah Jazz is that by clinching a playoff spot, they've had a really impressive season already. This is a young team that is hoping to make a lot of noise in the future and making the playoffs is the first step in achieving this goal. The Jazz are not a championship level team right now but all signs point to them being one in the seasons to come. Their front office has done a really good job of assembling the right talent through the draft and bringing in guys that are willing to buy in to the Utah Jazz way.

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This article also appears on my Utah Jazz blog. Click here to check it out. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Saturday Slam: The Milwaukee Bucks are exhibiting true character without Jabari Parker


With the loss of Jabari Parker, one would think that the Milwaukee Bucks would be heading towards another chance to win the NBA Draft lottery. Parker was averaging 20.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game before he went down with a season-ending ACL injury and was the #2 scoring option on the team behind Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is averaging 23.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Parker's injury looked like a blow to the Bucks' playoff chances, but instead they have found a way to win 11 of their last 13 games and improve to 37-35 overall, which has them as the #6 seed in the Eastern Conference standings. 

What's really enabled the Bucks to catch fire over this stretch has been Khris Middleton, rookie Malcolm Brogdon, and Tony Snell stepping up at the wing position. They've all been able to consistently score in double figures ,which has really taken the pressure off of Antetokounmpo. Middleton wasn't available to play until the middle of the season as he was recovering from a hamstring injury, so he's steadily gotten better as he's approached full strength. As for Brogdon, he's continued to make a strong case for winning rookie of the year honors while Snell has been a very pleasant surprise, looking like a wash out after his days with the Bulls. 



Whether you want to admit it or not, injuries are a part of the game and good teams know how to overcome them. Granted, some injuries are more devastating than others, but regardless, teams have to have the depth needed to stay afloat provided they lose one of their star guys. The Bucks are showing they have such depth and it has really paid off for them this season. 

In terms of how much damage this Bucks team can do in the playoffs, one has to like their chances of winning a first round series provided they hang on to the #6 spot or improve to the #5 spot. The Washington Wizards are #3 and the Toronto Raptors are #4. Both teams are really good, but haven't been in able to get it done in the playoffs during these past few seasons. If the Bucks can stay where the are at or move up to the #5 spot, I think they have a good shot at getting to the second round of the playoffs. Should they slip down to the #7 or #8 spot, I think they are destined for a first round exit, judging by how good the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics have been. 

Even if the Bucks were to have a first round playoff exit, making the playoffs in and of itself would be a remarkable achievement considering the adversity that they have faced. When Parker went down, the Bucks could have mailed in the rest of the season and given up. Instead, they have dug deep and found ways to have role players step up. They have truly exhibited the character of a championship team. 

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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Saturday Slam: Rob Pelinka is an excellent choice for the Lakers GM job

                                                       (Credit: NBA.com). 

Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Lakers announced the hiring of Rob Pelinka as general manager. Pelinka has experience as a lawyer and agent, so his major selling points are his connections in the basketball industry and his experience working with basketball players and front offices as an agent. During his introductory press conference, Pelinka's main message was about returning the Lakers to glory after a few seasons of wallowing in obscurity. While some of his comments came off as a little cheesy, like the comment about the Lakers giving hope to refugees in war torn countries, he overall came off as very sincere and serious about restoring the Lakers to glory.

In comparison to the clowns they had in the front office before, Rob Pelinka seems like a fabulous upgrade. He's plugged in to the basketball industry, knows the ins and outs of it, and he can relate well to players. Plus, he's got a great relationship with Kobe Bryant and firmly believes in the Lakers brand as a force for good around the globe. If you are the Lakers, what more could you possibly want?



The biggest challenge that Pelinka has going forward is fixing the mess that is the Lakers. D'Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram may become a solid one-two punch, but I don't see them forming a championship level threat. Nobody on this Lakers team has "superstar" written all over them and if you are the Lakers, you simply cannot have that.

The good news is that Rob Pelinka is a very well respected person who could attract and recruit quality free agents to round out his roster. The Lakers have always lived on landing quality free agents to take them to the next level and Pelinka appears to have the chops to allow them to do that.

Overall, I really do think Rob Pelinka is a home run hire for the Lakers. He's got the connections, the experience, and the overall understanding of what the Los Angeles Lakers are about. If you are a Lakers fan, you should be feeling really good about the direction of the franchise.

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Skyhook Sunday: NBA Lord Bracket Challenge



Every year, NBALord.com has an NCAA Tournament bracket challenge and if YOU are reading this post, then you are eligible to join in on the fun with the chance to win a shirt! Here's how to join.

Go to ESPN.com and hit on the big button that says Tournament Challenge. It should be on their front page and all. If it isn't, go to the NCAA men's basketball tab and scroll down to hit the Tournament Challenge button.

Once you are on the Tournament Challenge site, search for the NBALord.com group and you are good to go! Below is the information that you need. Remember that brackets are due Thursday morning before the first games, but think Wednesday night.

Group Name: NBA Lord March Madness.

Password: playoffs.

If you have any questions or concerns, you can contact me by any of the following methods. If you are the winner, use any of the methods below to contact me to redeem your shirt!


#1. Comment below on the post itself.

#2. E-mail me (go to my blogger profile and select the option to e-mail me).

#3. Tweet at or DM (Direct Message) NBA Lord on Twitter (@nba_lord).

#4. Message NBA Lord on Facebook (Facebook page is called NBA Lord Nation) or comment below on one of the Facebook posts.

#5. Reply on the Google Plus page.

Note: I have provided direct links to all the NBA Lord social media below.


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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Saturday Slam: The Golden State Warriors rested their stars against the San Antonio Spurs. Why?



For the first time all season, the Golden State Warriors do not appear to be a lock to have home court advantage throughout the playoffs. As a matter of fact, they only have have a .5 game lead on the San Antonio Spurs after getting drubbed in San Antonio on Saturday by a final score of 107-85. The Spurs were without Tony Parker (back), LaMarcus Aldridge (heart arrhythmia), and Kawhi Leonard (concussion) and still found a way to pummel the Warriors, who were without Kevin Durant (knee), Stephen Curry (rest), Klay Thompson (rest), Draymond Green (rest), and Andre Iguodala (rest). 

Yes, you read that correctly. The Golden State Warriors rested their stars against a San Antonio Spurs team that was banged up and only 1.5 games back of them. The question that I have after seeing this box score is why? 

The following is an explanation of the Warriors' logic courtesy of The Associated Press. 


Already without Kevin Durant due to a knee injury, Golden State opted to rest Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala.

“It’s more about May and June than March,” said Matt Barnes, who the Warriors signed after Durant’s injury. “I understand the frustration from people, but we’re working for something bigger right now. So, we’ve got to do what’s best for our players. We apologize. You’ll definitely see our stars when it counts.”

Earning the top seed is important, but Warriors coach Steve Kerr said keeping his team healthy is a greater priority. Golden State concluded a stretch of eight games in 13 days, including the second night of a back-to-back that saw the Warriors arrive in San Antonio at 3 a.m. Saturday.

“We had to get through this night. That was the main thing,” Kerr said. “We had to get through this trip and they allowed us to do that. Obviously, we wanted to win, but we didn’t do that but we made it through to this point. Now we can go home, recharge our batteries and get rolling again."


The nuts and bolts of it is that the Warriors are looking ahead to the playoffs and want to do all they can to rest their players for the playoffs. They aren't worried about basketball in March. They are worried about May and June. Hence, if taking a night off in March helps them stay healthy for the playoffs, then that's what they'll have to do. 

The problem I have with the explanation put forth by Kerr and Barnes is that what they are really saying is that home court advantage doesn't really matter and that just seems silly. Home court advantage absolutely matters. History tells us this. As a matter of fact, in a Game 7 in the NBA Playoffs, the home team goes on to win over 80% of the time. You can think that home court advantage isn't worth playing for, but the numbers tell us otherwise. 

Whether the Warriors want to admit it or not, if they find themselves in a Game 7 in the Western Conference Finals at San Antonio, they may look back at this game in March and think to themselves, "You know what, we had a golden opportunity to steal one in San Antonio and we didn't take advantage." 

It would be different if the Spurs were at full strength and the Warriors really didn't think the could win. But, with Tony Parker, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Kawhi Leonard out, the Warriors should have played Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, and Draymond Green. I understand the NBA is a grind and that this was the second half of a back-to-back, but playing basketball is their job and in a game against the one team in the West with a real shot at knocking them off, they have to be on the floor. It's that simple. 



If Steve Kerr is so concerned about resting his guys, that's fine, but he shouldn't do it in such an important game with so much on the line. Typically, he's right  that the NBA regular season doesn't matter much, but a game against the Spurs in San Antonio is as close to being a playoff game as any regular season game can get. To treat this game like the Brooklyn Nets are coming to town is just absurd and ridiculous. 

I think Steve Kerr is a great coach and I don't want to come off as thinking I know more about what's best for his team than him. I don't. But, if I can be real, I don't understand this one. The Spurs were legitimately banged up and probably wouldn't have won if the Warriors had played their stars. By losing this game, the Warriors are now just .5 games up on the Spurs whereas had they won, they would be 2.5 games up on the for the #1 seed in the Western Conference. Giving up that kind of cushion just to rest your guys in March seems like a stupid trade off to make. The stakes are just too high and the Warriors ultimately didn't say enough in the post game to convince me otherwise. 

Note: Both Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge are out indefinitely at this time. 


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Friday, March 10, 2017

Fadeaway Friday: Will Lance Stephenson stick in Minnesota?

After appearing to disappear off the map, former Indiana Pacers star Lance Stephenson has resurfaced as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves, signing his second 10-day contract with the team earlier in the week after being a free agent for a short period of time due to an ankle injury. The Timberwolves clearly like Stephenson enough to sign him to a second 10-day contract, but the question is whether or not he'll stick with the team for the remainder of the season and possibly beyond.

Kris Dunn and Tyus Jones haven't really stepped up in Zach LaVine's absence like the Timberwolves hoped they would, making Lance Stephenson an attractive option to give them much needed depth at the point guard position. During his time with the Timberwolves, Stephenson has averaged 4.2 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 1.0 assists per game on 47.6% shooting from the field, which isn't very good but sadly better production than what Dunn and Jones have been able to provide.

What's amazing is that at this point in time, the 27-37 Timberwolves are 2.5 games back of the 8 seeded Denver Nuggets, making them very much alive for the playoffs. The Timberwolves are a team that actually is in more need of playoff experience than another high draft pick, so they need to do all they can to make a push for the playoffs.

So, when it comes to evaluating Lance Stephenson, the Timberwolves have to assess whether or not having him on their roster helps them make the playoffs. If you look at his raw production, it's hard to argue that he does. If you consider that he's a veteran guy who's been to the Eastern Conference Finals with the Indiana Pacers, you could argue that having him around helps since he knows what it takes to get to the playoffs. It really depends on how you see it.

                                         (Credit: Fox Sports North. Click here for video) 
                         

What I don't know is whether or not Lance Stephenson has been a good locker room guy or not and that is probably what will ultimately determine whether or not he sticks in Minnesota for the rest of the season. Stephenson has had a history of not being a good locker room guy, which is why he's bounced around so much since his days in Indiana. The fact that the Timberwolves signed him to a second 10-day contract indicates that he might be a better locker room guy than he was in Charlotte and that so far, he's fitting in well with their group of guys.

Personally, I certainly hope that Lance Stephenson is able to find a way to stick with the Timberwolves. He's been an entertaining player and one who I still think might have some gas left in the tank if given the right opportunity. The Timberwolves could use the depth at point guard and also the presence of another veteran guy in their locker room. If they were to make the playoffs, Stephenson could be a guy who gets inside the head of Stephen Curry a bit as a defender, so in that vein it actually makes sense for the Timberwolves to keep him.

At the end of the day, this all comes down to whether or not the Timberwolves see him as offering more than just what he's given them on the court. If they see him possessing some intangibles like leadership and veteran experience, odds are good he sticks with them. If on the other hand, they really don't see him offering any of those intangibles, odds are good he gets released from the team after his 10-day contract expires. It's really as simple as that.


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