NBA Lord's NBA Blog

NBA Lord's NBA Blog

Sunday, October 14, 2018 Northwest Division Preview

Up next is my preview of the Northwest Division, home to the Utah Jazz, Minnesota Timberwolves, Oklahoma City Thunder, Denver Nuggets, and Portland Trail Blazers.

One year ago, the Utah Jazz were worried about the departure of Gordon Hayward to the Boston Celtics. One year later, the Jazz seem to have forgotten about Hayward thanks to the breakout rookie campaign of Donovan Mitchell, who averaged 20.5 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game last season. With Mitchell at the helm, the Jazz are one of the most dangerous teams out west and appear poised to wreak some havoc in the playoffs.  In addition to Mitchell, the Jazz have some other quality players in center Rudy Gobert, power forward Derrick Favors, point guard Ricky Rubio, and rookie shooting guard Grayson Allen, giving them a nice blend of scoring and defense.

The most valuable member of this Jazz team is head coach Quin Snyder, who has implemented a really good system predicated on cutting, motion, and ball movement. The Jazz aren't the most talented team in the league, but they make up the difference with their execution and unselfish play. When you add a budding superstar like Donovan Mitchell to such a system, you suddenly have something really special.

The Jazz should win the Northwest Division and put themselves in a position to possibly reach the Western Conference Finals. While the Warriors, Rockets, and Lakers are getting most of the press in the Western Conference, do not sleep on the Jazz.

The Oklahoma City Thunder lost Carmelo Anthony to the Houston Rockets but were able to hang onto Paul George, giving Russell Westbrook one other superstar to take the pressure off of him. With George and Westbrook alone, the Thunder have a team that is capable of beating a lot of teams out west. When those two guys go off, they are very hard for even the best of teams to stop. 

The problem for the Thunder is their lack of depth and lack of a good system. Billy Donovan doesn't seem to know how to get Westbrook and George to play in a system and instead allows them to play street ball. I don't now how much of that should fall on Donovan given that Westbrook and George would be hard guys to coach, but that notwithstanding, the lack of a system in Oklahoma City appears to be holding this team back. 

Due to their raw amount of talent, the Thunder will be competitive and probably make the playoffs, but I do not see this team winning a series. In the playoffs, they become too predictable and aren't able to mix things up. It'll be more of the same in Oklahoma City, which isn't a bad thing but also not a good thing, either. 

Led by Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic, and newly acquired point guard Isaiah Thomas, the Denver Nuggets have a very solid team. They almost made the playoffs last season and will once again be in a dog fight to sneak in. The potential to be really good is definitely there if they can get rookie Michael Porter, Jr. to become everything he was hyped up to be before his injury. Given that Porter is not expected to do much this year, it'll be hard for them to make significant strides from last season. 

A good season for the Nuggets would be to make the playoffs and give someone a bit of a scare in the first round. I don't know if that will happen, but if they can stay healthy, they'll at least give themselves a shot. 

The Minnesota Timberwolves are in a very weird spot right now. They're coming off their first playoff appearance since the 2003-04 season and have a lot to be excited about. However, the drama surrounding Jimmy Butler and his desire to get out of Minnesota has overshadowed all of that. As presently constituted, the Timberwolves have a very good team consisting of Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Jeff Teague to go along with Butler. I understand why Tom Thibodeau wants to keep Butler given the pieces he has around him. At the same time, you cannot let distractions like a disgruntled player distract your team. 

If the Timberwolves are going to trade away Butler, which looks foggy at the moment, they'll want to make sure they get something good back in return. If they trade him away, they can still be a playoff team, but it would really help to get something of value in return. Assuming the drama around Butler can resolve itself one way or another, it should be another exciting season in Minnesota. 

The Portland Trail Blazers are once again led by the backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, who combined for nearly 50 points per game last season. On top of those two dynamic guards, the Trail Blazers also have a gifted big man in Jusuf Nurkic, who averaged 14.3 points and 9.0 rebounds per game last season. Lillard, McCollum, and Nurkic form a nice trio that gives the Trail Blazers outside shooting, inside scoring, and penetration from the wing.

The problem for the Trail Blazers is their lack of depth. Outside of Lillard, McCollum, and Nurkic, they really struggle to get other guys going. Evan Turner, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Zach Collins will need to be the ones who provide some production off the bench in order for this team to be dangerous. If these guys are able to combine for 25 points per game, the Trail Blazers could be a team that maybe wins a series in the playoffs. If they are not able to produce, the Trail Blazers at best will be a playoff team with a first round exit.

My prediction is the Trail Blazers will more or less be the same team we saw last year. They'll win around 47-49 games and be decently competitive in the regular season, but come playoff time their lack of depth will come back to haunt them. I like their top three players a lot, but without getting enough help, there's only so much that they can do.

To connect with NBA Lord on Twitter, click here

To connect with NBA Lord on Facebook, click here

To connect with NBA Lord on Google Plus, click here

To connect with Ben Parker, click here

Thursday, October 4, 2018 Pacific Division Preview

I was debating about whether or not to preview the conferences as a whole or if I should do it the old school way by divisions. Since I wish the NBA placed more of a premium on divisions for the purpose of creating more rivalries, I'm going to preview the NBA season by divisions. Up first is the Pacific Division, home to the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angles Clippers, Sacramento Kings, and Phoenix Suns.

The Golden State Warriors are the defending NBA champions and are the odds on favorites to win it all again. Their core is back and on top of that they've added DeMarcus Cousins, who is coming back from a torn Achilles injury.

The bottom line with the Warriors is that so long as they stay healthy, they're going to be almost impossible to stop this year. They simply have too many weapons for any other team to deal with. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are the greatest shooting backcourt in NBA history, Kevin Durant is one of the best pure scorers in NBA history, and Draymond Green is one of the most underrated players in NBA history. When you then add a defensive specialist like Andre Iguodala and a supremely gifted big man like DeMarcus Cousins to the mix, you have a team that is virtually unstoppable.

The main thing to look for with this Warriors team is how Cousins fits in and how productive he can be coming back from such a serious injury. The good news is they don't really need him until May and June and if he becomes a headache in the locker room, they can always cut him. It's a low risk high reward move that could pay off handsomely.

The Los Angeles Lakers have a new lease on life after landing LeBron James in free agency. Joining James in Los Angeles is Lonzo Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Brandon Ingram, Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley, Kyle Kuzma, and JaVale McGee. The Lakers may not be favored to win the NBA championship this year, but they have a very interesting squad nonetheless.

Personally, I believe the Lakers are going to be very good this year and have the chance to make a deep playoff run. If you have LeBron James on your team, you should never be counted out. LeBron has reached the NBA Finals with lesser talent around him, so they definitely should be feeling confident.

The major question mark is how the surrounding pieces will work together. Rondo, Stephenson, Beasley, and McGee make any team they're on more interesting by themselves. Together, they could form one of the most entertaining teams we've ever seen. Entertaining isn't always a good thing, though. What I'm particularly curious to see is what the Lakers' roster looks like after the trade deadline. I wouldn't be surprised to see a couple of these guys shipped out before the season comes to an end.

The Sacramento Kings are in rebuilding mode, but hopefully for them they finally have a core they can build around in De'Aaron Fox, Willie Cauley-Stein, and Marvin Bagley III. Fox had a solid rookie year, averaging 11.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 4.4 assists per game and looks to have an even more impressive sophomore year. I think he'll prove to be a really good point guard in this league.

The big question is whether or not Bagley is the real deal. He looked like a men among boys in college and has the tools to be an elite player in the NBA. It is imperative for the Kings that he has a big year. If he does, the future will look bright. If he struggles and has an underwhelming season, the future will look murky.

The Los Angeles Clippers don't really appear to have an identity right now. Blake Griffin is in Detroit, Chris Paul is in Houston, and DeAndre Jordan is in Dallas. It's a totally new team led by Lou Williams, Avery Bradley, Patrick Beverley, and Tobias Harris. It's unclear what this team is with them as their new core. Rookie point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is an intriguing talent and could prove to be the next star of this franchise, so it's not like the cupboard is totally barren here.

The change in direction was necessary, but not if it comes with lacking an identity. The Clippers need to find an identity this season if they want to feel good about this change in direction. Otherwise, they'll just go back to being the Clippers of old and that's definitely not a good thing.

DeAndre Ayton is looking like the real deal so far and with quality wings in Devin Booker and Josh Jackson alongside him, the Phoenix Suns finally have a team to be excited about. Actually, outside of the Warriors and Lakers, the Suns have more long term upside than anyone else in this division. The key for them is to keep these pieces together and get everyone to buy into their long term future. Locking in Devin Booker to a five-year, $158M extension helps a ton in that regard.

As far as this season is concerned, if the Suns can win 30+ games, that will indicate significant progress from last season's 21-61 record. They need to look at this as a retooling season and a chance for everyone to get comfortable with one another. If their core has fun playing together and is able to develop some chemistry, it will be a successful season in Phoenix.

To connect with NBA Lord on Twitter, click here

To connect with NBA Lord on Facebook, click here

To connect with NBA Lord on Google Plus, click here

To connect with Ben Parker, click here

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Saturday Slam: Five likely landing spots for Jimmy Butler

                                          (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) 

Earlier this week on, I addressed the tension growing between Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler and head coach Tom Thibodeau. Since that article was published on Tuesday, multiple reports have surfaced that confirm that the Timberwolves will indeed look to move Butler and that he will not be present at team media day on Monday.

Personally, I think the Timberwolves should entertain the possibility of firing Thibodeau if that will keep Butler around, but it does not look like they are going to go that route. With that being the case, below are five likely landing spots for Butler.

#1. Los Angeles Clippers: There have been additional reports that Jimmy Butler would prefer to get traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. He likes Los Angeles and the Clippers are in need of a new superstar to build around.  The Clippers also have some assets that the Timberwolves might like such as Tyrone Wallace, Lou Williams, and rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. If the Timberwolves want to get rid of Butler as quickly as possible, the Clippers should be the first team they call.

#2. Milwaukee Bucks: Butler played his college ball at Marquette in Milwaukee, so going to the Bucks would be a homecoming of sorts for him. I don't know if a duo of Giannis Antetokounmpo and Butler would be enough to get the Bucks to the NBA Finals, but it would certainly be interesting to find out.

#3. Los Angeles Lakers: If Butler wants to go to Los Angeles, the Lakers are the only other alternative to the Clippers. What makes the Lakers a likely landing spot for Butler is they have a ton of assets to offer and are in desperate need of another superstar to pair with LeBron James. A duo of James and Butler would wreak some serious havoc in the Western Conference. They'd be instant contenders.

#4. New York Knicks:  The New York Knicks are rumored to be on Butler's list of preferred destinations and they could really use another superstar to pair with Kristaps Porzingis. If the Knicks can land Butler, they'll definitely be cooking with gas at Madison Square Garden. I don't know how good they'd be, but they'd be an instant playoff team in the Eastern Conference.

#5. Brooklyn Nets: The Brooklyn Nets are also rumored to be on Butler's list of preferred destinations and they are in desperate need of a superstar. On top of that, they have the space to sign him. Like Chicago and New York, an added bonus of trading Butler to Brooklyn is that he'd be out of the conference. The Timberwolves are probably hesitant to help out a team that they might end up facing in the playoffs, upping the odds of Butler getting shipped out East.

To connect with NBA Lord on Twitter, click here

To connect with NBA Lord on Facebook, click here

To connect with NBA Lord on Google Plus, click here

To connect with Ben Parker, click here

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Tomahawk Tuesday: Is Tom Thibodeau the right man to coach the Minnesota Timberwolves

On Tuesday, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Tom Thibodeau met with Jimmy Butler in Los Angeles to talk about his future with the Minnesota Timberwolves organization. Despite reaching the playoffs in his first year with the team, Butler is reportedly unhappy about the direction of the franchise, specifically as it pertains to the job that Thibodeau is doing as head coach and president of basketball operations.

While he has a track record of success in Boston, Chicago, and now Minnesota, Thibodeau has been known to be a hard guy to play for. He demands a lot from his players and doesn't seem to be too sympathetic to the pounding NBA players go through during a full 82 game season. Rather than resting his players and playing his bench, Thibodeau tends to go with shorter rotations, resulting in his star players having to exert more energy on a nightly basis.

Thibodeau's coaching philosophy may be a contributing factor to all the injuries that Derrick Rose had during his time in Chicago as well as injuries to Joakim Noah, Zach LaVine, and Jimmy Butler. While it's conceivable that Butler has other issues with Thibodeau as well, the way he treats his players appears to be his main gripe. If you are an NBA player, you want to make as much money as you can and play basketball for as long as you can. Playing for a coach that runs his players into the ground is something a player should want to avoid at all costs. Even it means playing for a less competitive team.

In regards to how the Timberwolves should handle this, it's a tricky call. The name of the game as far as they are concerned is to win basketball games and Thibodeau has done a good job of that during his brief time in Minnesota, guiding the Timberwolves to their first playoff appearance since the 2003-04 season. On the flip side, when you have such a talented young core consisting of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, do you really want to risk long-term damage to them?

What could ultimately decide this is how the other players on the team feel about him. If it's only Jimmy Butler that has a beef, maybe the Timberwolves trade him for some assets before he gets the chance to walk away from them next summer in free agency. If on the other hand, Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, and others also complain to ownership and take things public, it would probably be the wise thing to fire Thibodeau and find a guy who is a little less stringent in his thinking. I guess we'll have to wait and see what final direction this takes, but if I'm making a prediction, I don't see how Thibodeau stays with this team for the long haul. The short-term benefits don't seem to outweigh the potential long-term damage.

To connect with NBA Lord on Twitter, click here

To connect with NBA Lord on Facebook, click here

To connect with NBA Lord on Google Plus, click here

To connect with Ben Parker, click here

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Saturday Slam: People are overreacting to the Warriors' addition of DeMarcus Cousins

                                         (Getty Images) 

When the Golden State Warriors landed DeMarcus Cousins in free agency, it felt like the basketball world became unglued. Everyone from fans to players were upset that the Warriors landed another superstar. The Warriors already have the most stacked team in the NBA and for them to land perhaps the best big man in the league for just $5.3M felt like highway robbery.

If you follow on social media, you will know that I expressed frustration over the move. So, I don't want to come off as hypocritical when I say people are overreacting to Cousins going to the Warriors. I admit that I contributed to the hysteria and that I overreacted to the news like everybody else.

After thinking about the move for a little while, I've come to the conclusion that this move isn't something to get all up in arms about. What people are forgetting in all of this is the fact that Cousins is coming back from a torn Achilles, an injury that is as serious as they come. If Cousins hadn't suffered a torn Achilles to end his season in New Orleans, the Warriors wouldn't have landed him in the first place. What made him available for just $5.3M is the fact that it is far from certain that he'll ever get back to his regular self again. He might still be able to play at an NBA level, but will he once again put up 25.2 points and 12.9 rebounds per game? That remains to be seen.

I totally understand why everyone reacted the way they did. The Warriors are stacking up on talent and adding Cousins for so little money felt like they were rubbing it in everybody's faces. There's a certain arrogance that this Warriors team possesses that rubs people the wrong way. As one who lives in the Bay Area, I get it. I'm around "Dub Nation" 24/7.

Still, we shouldn't let an overall frustration with the Warriors cloud our judgment over this particular move. The reality is that we are yet to see how strong Cousins bounces back from this injury and until we do, we should reserve judgment about him giving the Warriors a dominant big man. As for the other 29 teams in the NBA that are upset about this move, if they are really so upset, why did none of them offer Cousins a decent contract? The fact that the Warriors are the only team that offered Cousins a deal just shows how uncertain his future really is. If there was good reason to believe he could do some serious damage, another team would have offered him a contract in the neighborhood of $20M or more.

My prediction is DeMarcus Cousins will have a nice year for the Warriors and give them just what they need, which is a sound presence in the paint that can score, rebound, and protect the rim a little bit. However, I do not expect Cousins to produce like he did prior to his injury. A torn Achilles is the most serious injury an athlete can get and for a lot of guys, it might as well be a death wish. With that in mind, I think we should all just step back and wait to see what happens before declaring this move the crime of the century.

To connect with NBA Lord on Twitter, click here

To connect with NBA Lord on Facebook, click here

To connect with NBA Lord on Google Plus, click here

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Saturday Slam: LeBron James is not afraid to speak his mind and it is awesome

One of the things I feel obligated to address on this blog is the way in which LeBron James is not afraid to speak his mind and stand up for what he believes in. In a recent interview with CNN's Don Lemon, James talked about his I Promise School, his future with the Los Angeles Lakers, and how he feels about the direction of our country as a whole. While some athletes prefer to shy away from topics surrounding politics and social justice, James has embraced his celebrity status to shed light on issues that he finds to be important, regardless of what anyone else thinks.

While I don't think every athlete should feel obligated to speak their mind, I think it is awesome that James has felt this moral responsibility. Millions of Americans look up to him, especially young African Americans. To them, he represents the American Dream and all that it stands for. In a divisive time in our country, James has been a beacon of hope and light, reminding us that goodness and decency can still be found in the United States of America.

What I think is most impressive about James is his long-term vision. He understands that he can do so much more than just win NBA championships. He can build a legacy that truly lasts if he is willing to give back to his community, stand up for what he believes in, and do his part to be an instrument for change.

The I Promise School is just one example of that. With this school, at-risk children in his hometown Akron, Ohio and the surrounding areas will get a chance to get an education that they otherwise wouldn't have gotten. Even though he himself didn't go on to college, James still values the importance of an education. He has talked in the past about how much it meant for him to graduate from high school and he wants to make sure that other children get the same opportunities that he got.

Given that he is on the path to becoming a billionaire, it would be easy for James to forget about his roots and spend his time doing other things. He doesn't have to be doing any of this and yet he recognizes how much of an impact he can have on his community and beyond.  When you really step back and think about it, it is amazing what James is doing.

Some argue that James should stick to building schools and other philanthropic projects without weighing in on political matters, but remaining silent about such things would be inconsistent with his larger mission. James isn't just about building schools. He's about molding minds and affecting the social conscious of this country. If he were to remain silent about issues regarding race and social justice, he would be failing to accomplish what he feels is his most important job.

Regardless of who you are, when LeBron James says something, you listen. When he calls out certain people for the way they behave, you listen. You may not like what he says, but you damn sure heard what he said and that is precisely why he's saying it. He's a voice for those who don't have a voice. That's powerful beyond anything that can happen on a basketball court.

Whether you love LeBron James on the court or not, one cannot deny the power of his actions and the force that he is for good off the court. While Michael Jordan will probably go down as the greatest basketball player to ever play the game, LeBron James will undoubtedly go down as having left a bigger legacy. So many guys say they want to prepare themselves for life beyond basketball, but LeBron James is actually doing it. He recognizes the impact he can have as an NBA superstar and is doing all he can to leverage that status for the betterment of society. It is awesome.

To connect with NBA Lord on Twitter, click here

To connect with NBA Lord on Facebook, click here

To connect with NBA Lord on Google Plus, click here

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Saturday Slam: Can Kawhi Leonard lead the Toronto Raptors to the NBA Finals?

Despite having a bizarre finish to his career in San Antonio, Kawhi Leonard found a way to tie things up nicely earlier this week, posting a thoughtful message that thanks both the Spurs fans and organization. Regardless of what may have happened this past season, Leonard still won an NBA championship and NBA Finals MVP while a member of the Spurs. His time there should be remembered well both by the fans and organization, so it's great to see that he was able to post the message that he did.

Looking ahead to his time in Toronto, Leonard has a lot of pressure on his shoulders. Regardless of whether or not he decides to re-sign with the Raptors in 2019 or look elsewhere, he will want to have a big year and prove that he's not damaged goods after a strange final year in San Antonio. In the 2016-17 season, Leonard averaged 25.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game, putting himself in the discussion for best player in the NBA. If he can replicate those type of numbers, he will have certainly erased any doubt about his abilities to still produce at an elite level.

However, producing big numbers isn't the only thing Leonard has to do in order to be a success in Toronto. The real pressure lies in whether or not he can lead the Raptors deep in the playoffs and give them a real shot at winning a championship. The Raptors have had many strong regular season teams, but they've all fallen well short of the ultimate goal. Watching the Raptors choke is becoming an NBA playoffs tradition that we know all too well. We expect them to fail. If Leonard can flip the script and take the Raptors to the NBA Finals, he will have boosted his legacy immensely and made himself a lot of friends north of the border.

In order to get Leonard, the Raptors traded away DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Pöltl, and a protected 2019 first round pick to the Spurs. In addition to getting Leonard, the Raptors also got Danny Green back in the deal, giving Leonard at least one familiar face on his new team. Given the limited amount of pieces that moved in this trade, the Raptors essentially have the same pieces around Leonard that they had around DeRozan. No disrespect to DeRozan, but if Leonard is as good as everyone thinks he is, the Raptors should fair much better in the playoffs.

                                          (Credit: Bob Donnan. USA TODAY Sports) 
My honest prediction at this juncture is that the Boston Celtics will come out of the Eastern Conference, but if there's one team that they should fear, it is the Raptors. Unlike the Philadelphia 76ers, the Raptors are led by a guy who knows what it takes to a win championship. Even with all the possible baggage that comes with Kawhi Leonard, one cannot take away his championship and NBA Finals MVP. He's got that under his belt and as a result the Raptors have to go into this season feeling like they have much better odds at winning a championship than ever before.

To connect with NBA Lord on Twitter, click here

To connect with NBA Lord on Facebook, click here

To connect with NBA Lord on Google Plus, click here