NBA Lord's NBA Blog

NBA Lord's NBA Blog

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Saturday Slam: Clippers and Spurs have a series for the ages

     The Los Angeles Clippers defeated the San Antonio Spurs 111-109 on Saturday night to advance to the Western Conference Semifinals. It took a full seven games to decide who the winner of this series would be and I say "full" because Game 7 went down to the last second. Game 7 alone had more drama in it than most playoff series' ever do in all of their games combined:  Chris Paul went down with a hamstring strain and returned to hit the game winning shot; Tim Duncan had a huge night with 27 points and 11 rebounds; J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford, and Matt Barnes hit clutch threes to keep the Clippers alive; Boris Diaw and Danny Green hit clutch threes for the Spurs; and Blake Griffin had a triple-double composed of 24 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists.

     Both teams stepped up and deserved to win Game 7 and that is what made it so memorable. Both teams played at a very high level and unfortunately only one team could win. Fortunately for the Clippers, they are the team that advances, but regardless of the outcome, both teams need to be commended for the performance that they displayed on the basketball court. As a fan it was truly a treat to watch these two teams battle it out. I can't remember a more fun and entertaining series in all my years watching NBA basketball and I've been watching NBA basketball since I was an infant.

    In addition to all the sensational shots, plays, and moments of heroism, what really made this series interesting was that home court advantage didn't matter. The Clippers and Spurs split the first four games, the Spurs won Game 5 in Los Angeles, and the Clippers forced Game 7 by winning Game 6 in San Antonio. Usually, home court advantage has a much greater impact on a seven game series. Even if it is between two evenly matched teams.

     But in this series, it really did not matter. Neither team was afraid to go on the road and get a win and neither team felt secure playing on their home floor. I don't want to diminish the fact that the team with home court advantage won the series, but if you look at how this series played out, there's no way one can say home court advantage decided this series. What decided this series was the Clippers playing one percent better in Game 7 and that one percent came from their own will and determination.

     I know that we have only ended the first round of the playoffs and that we still have many interesting series' ahead. But I do not believe that any series we see, including the NBA Finals, will be as intense, dramatic, or compelling as this series. This series had everything you could want in an NBA playoff series and more. While it's a shame that one of these two teams has to be sent packing, it's a blessing that we were able to see them face each other. As fans, we should feel grateful for what we have witnessed.

---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Bear Territory Tuesday: Tyrone Wallace's return makes Cal a contender


     Last week, Cal point guard Tyrone Wallace announced in front of his teammates and certain members of the media that he will return to Cal for his senior season. He said at the press conference that his decision to return for his senior year is fueled by his desire to lead Cal deep into the NCAA Tournament, get his degree, and improve his NBA Draft stock, all of which are good reasons for him to return.

     As for what this means for Cal basketball, this is huge. It will be much easier for Cal to hit the ground running and get off to a good start since they won't be waiting on a guy to evolve into their leader. With Wallace comfortable as the leader, a ton of pressure is taken off of everyone on the team, especially Ivan Rabb, who is already getting hyped as the Messiah of Cal basketball. By having a senior to look to for leadership, Cal will have a much better chance of making a deep run in the NCAA tournament than they would if they were relying on a freshman to lead them. Especially since nobody else on the team has played in the NCAA tournament.

     In addition to Tyrone Wallace's leadership, Cal will benefit from having another really good player on the their roster. Tyrone Wallace is going to get drafted in the NBA in 2016. It's just a matter of where that remains to be seen. He could go as high as the middle of the first round to the middle of the second round. It's really hard to tell at this point where he'll go, but there is no question that he is a legitimate NBA prospect. Cal will certainly benefit from having such a talented player on its roster. Especially a versatile player like Wallace who can play point guard, shooting guard, and even small forward.

     Lastly, Wallace returning helps bring some continuity for Cuonzo Martin who is entering his second season as Cal's head coach. By having Wallace return, Martin will have a guy who already knows his system and can lead in his system. I think if Wallace were gone, Martin would in many ways feel like he was starting from scratch all over again. Wallace brings a feeling of stability to the program by returning and that I think is huge.

     The leadership, talent, and stability that Wallace brings to the Cal basketball program makes Cal a real threat to do some damage in the PAC-12 and NCAA tournament next year. Obviously I will expand much more on this once I do my season preview in the fall, but rest assured that Wallace's return makes Cal a contender for a national championship. I know this team really well and I know what kind of pieces are being brought in. Wallace's return puts in Cal in the national championship discussion. Anybody who says it doesn't simply doesn't know basketball.

---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord  for NBA and Cal basketball news 




   

Daily Dunks: 4/27-5/3

                                                   (Credit: Andy Melton. Click here for source) 

Here is my Daily Dunks page for April 27, 2015 through May 3, 2015. Throughout the week this page will be updated with news from across the NBA until a new Daily Dunks page is created for the following week.

Monday's NBA Daily Dunks: 

#1. Pelicans shooting guard Eric Gordon is expected to exercise his $15.5M option this summer (Click here for details).

#2. Monty Williams is confident that he will return as the head coach of the Pelicans (Click here for details).

#3. Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love (shoulder) will miss the second round of the playoffs (Click here for details).

#4. Cavaliers shooting guard J.R. Smith has been suspended for two games, Celtics center Kelly Olynyk has been suspended for one game, and Cavaliers center Kendrick Perkins has been fined $15K (Click here for details).

#5. The Celtics are rumored to be interested in DeMarcus Cousins (Click here for details).

#6. Mavericks small forward Chandler Parsons (knee) may undergo mircrofracture surgery (Click here for details).

#7. Celtics small forward Jae Crowder has a sprained ACL. He won't need surgery (Click here for details).

#8. Stance is the new sock provider of the NBA (Click here for details).

#9. Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard had 32 points and 7 assists.

#10. Nets point guard Deron Williams had 35 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists.

Monday's NBA Playoff Scores: 

Trail Blazers 99 Grizzlies 92 (Grizzlies lead the series 3-1). Nets 120 Hawks 115: Final/OT (Series is tied 2-2). Bucks 94 Bulls 88 (Bulls lead the series 3-2).

Tuesday's NBA Daily Dunks: 

#1. Dwane Casey will likely return as the Raptors head coach (Click here for details).

#2. Kevin Love is likely to miss the entire playoffs (Click here for details).

#3. J.R. Smith apologizes for his thuggish actions (Click here for details).

#4. The Lakers want Rajon Rondo, but not enough to throw him a ton of money (Click here for details).

#5. The Bucks are trying to make sure local fans get dibs on tickets for Game 6 (Click here for details).

#6. Carmelo Anthony has spoken out about the Baltimore riots (Click here for details).

#7. Pelicans head coach Monty Williams hopes the team retains Omer Asik (Click here for details).

#8. Raptors forward Terrence Ross is unlikely to get a contract extension this offseason (Click here for details).

#9. Elton Brand may join the Knicks next season (Click here for details).

#10. Rockets shooting guard James Harden had 28 points and 8 assists.


Tuesday's NBA Playoff Scores: 

Rockets 103 Mavericks 94 (Rockets win series 4-1). Spurs 111 Clippers 107 (Spurs lead series 3-2).

Wednesday's NBA Daily Dunks: 

#1. Ante Tomic has decided to re-sign with FC Barcelona on a three-year extension instead of coming over to play for the Utah Jazz (Click here for details).

#2. Clippers center DeAndre Jordan is reportedly interested in joining the Mavericks (Click here for details).

#3. Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love underwent surgery on his left shoulder. He is expected to be out 4-6 months (Click here for details).

#4. Timberwolves shooting guard Andrew has been named the NBA's Rookie of the Year (Click here for details).

#5. The Mavericks agreed to part ways with Rajon Rondo after Game 2 against the Rockets and also denied him of a playoff share (Click here for details).

#6. Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley didn't play on Wednesday in Game 5 against the Trail Blazers. His status for Sunday against the Warriors is looking doubtful (Click here for details).

#7. Hawks small forward Kyle Korver has won the 2014-15 NBA Sportsmanship Award (Click here for details).

#8. Timberwolves small forward Chase Budinger has exercised his $5M player option for the 2015-16 season (Click here for details).

#9. Former Wizards shooting guard Javaris Crittenton has plead guilty to manslaughter and will get 23 years in prison (Click here for details).

#10. Clippers head coach Doc Rivers was fined $25K for publicly criticizing officials (Click here for details).

Wednesday's NBA Playoff Scores: 

Grizzlies 99 Trail Blazers 93 (Grizzlies win series 4-1).  Hawks 107 Nets 97 (Hawks lead series 3-2).

Thursday's NBA Daily Dunks: 

#1. The Celtics will extend Jae Crowder a qualifying offer, making him a restricted free agent (Click here for details).

#2. The Thunder hired Billy Donovan as head coach on a five year, $30M deal (Click here for details).

#3. Al-Farouq Aminu will opt out of his contract with the Mavericks (Click here for details).

#4. Carmelo Anthony has joined protesters in Baltimore (Click here for details).

#5. The Magic have extended GM Rob Hennigan's contract through the 2017-18 season (Click here for details).

#6. Thunder center Nick Collison underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and will be out 4-6 weeks (Click here for details).

#7. Damian Lillard is seeking a five year, max money deal with the Trail Blazers (Click here for details).

#8. FC Barcelona point guard Marcelinho Huertas says he wants to re-sign with the Spanish club instead of leaving for the NBA (Click here for details).

#9. Bulls power forward Pau Gasol had 19 points and 8 rebounds.

#10. Clippers power forward Blake Griffin had 26 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 assists.

Thursday's NBA Final Scores: 

Bulls 120 Bucks 66 (Bulls win series 4-2). Clippers 102 Spurs 96 (Series is tied 3-3).

Friday's NBA Daily Dunks: 

#1. The Kings reportedly do not look to trade DeMarcus Cousins (Click here for details).

#2. On the flip side, the Celtics are hell bent on trying to trade for DeMarcus Cousins (Click here for details).

#3. Arron Afflalo is expected to opt out of his contract with the Trail Blazers and test free agency (Click here for details).

#4. Warriors GM Bob Meyers won Executive of the Year (Click here for details).

#5. Klay Thompson's dad is saying the Warriors will go after Kevin Durant (Click here for details).

#6. Joakim Noah says he is excited to be going to Cleveland (Click here for details).

#7. LaMarcus Aldridge to the Spurs is a serious possibility (Click here for details).

#8. Bucks small forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is sorry he tackled Mike Dunleavy (Click here for details).

#9. Mavericks small forward Chandler Parsons underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on his right knee (Click here for details).

#10. Hawks power forward Paul Millsap had 25 points, 9 rebounds, and 6 assists.

Friday's NBA Playoff Scores: 

Hawks 111 Nets 87 (Hawks win series 4-2).

---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Saturday Slam: Why Draymond Green doesn't deserve Defensive Player of the Year



     There has been a lot of speculation and debate about the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award going to Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard despite Warriors forward Draymond Green getting more first place votes. What I will do in this article is offer an explanation for why Draymond Green did not win Defensive Player of the Year and why it makes sense for him to not make the ballot entirely.

     Before I explain my argument, it's important that you understand how the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award is given. Over one hundred sportswriters vote for this award and they each have a first place, second place, and third place vote. First place is given the most amount of points, second place the second most amount, and third place gets the least. If a player doesn't get first, second, or third on somebody's list, they get zero points in their favor.

     So, to understand how Kawhi Leonard won the award ahead of Draymond Green, Leonard simply had more points. He didn't get as many first place votes, but he made up for it in second and third place votes. In the end, Leonard got on more total ballots than Draymond Green and that is why he ended up winning the award.

     What a lot of people are complaining about is the idiocy of those who didn't include Draymond Green on their ballot. The people who have the megaphone are making it out that like Draymond Green got robbed and that he deserved to win this award. Further, they argue that there is no way possible to justify leaving him off the ballot.

     I am not one of the people with the megaphone or one who supports their position. If I had a vote for Defensive Player of the Year, Draymond Green would not have made my ballot. My list would have been Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, and DeAndre Jordan in that order. So, I guess if you'd like, you can call me one of the "idiots" who would leave Draymond Green off their ballot.

     The reason why Draymond Green wouldn't make my ballot is simple: He doesn't make the same impact on defense that those other guys do from a statistical point of view. Anthony Davis was #1 in blocks per game and #8 in rebounds per game during the regular season; Kawhi Leonard was #1 in steals per game; and DeAndre Jordan was #1 in rebounds per game and #5 in blocks per game. Draymond Green isn't top 15 in any of those categories.

      As a matter of fact, the best he does in any of those three categories is tied for 20th in steals per game.  If you want to include defensive rebounds as a category, Green ranks 12th, which isn't bad, but even in that category he is behind Anthony Davis and DeAndre Jordan. Defensive Player of the Year is given to the best individual defender in basketball and I don't see how somebody can be warranted to win that award without being at least a top five player in one of those categories.

     One reading this who still thinks Green deserves this award will argue that there is more to defense than rebounds, steals, and blocks. They will also argue that Draymond Green is a great team defender who took on the challenge of guarding bigger players in the paint. Those points are all true, but there is no way to really quantify or measure that kind of defense. Draymond Green is a great defender because he plays well in the Warriors' defensive system, but playing well in a system doesn't mean you are the best defender in the NBA.

     This award is about who the best individual defensive player in the game is. I.e. The guy you would take first if you wanted to have a great defense. If you had to pick one player to anchor your defense on, would it really be Draymond Green ahead of Anthony Davis, DeAndre Jordan, Kawhi Leonard, and even Rudy Gobert? For me it wouldn't be and that is precisely why some guys left him off of their ballot.

     It isn't because Draymond Green is undervalued or overlooked. It's that the impact he makes defensively isn't as easy to quantify or measure because he is one piece on a team that collectively plays great defense thanks to other quality defenders like Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut. The bottom line is that if you vote for Defensive Player of the Year based on who individually impacts the game the most in a quantifiable way, Draymond Green won't get your vote. Your vote will go to the guy who blocks the most shots, gets the most steals, or grabs the most rebounds. Guys like Anthony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, DeAndre Jordan, and Rudy Gobert.

     It may not seem fair since there is more to defense than just rebounds, blocks, and steals, but those three things are still a big part of playing defense. If a player  doesn't rank especially high in any of those categories, it becomes a lot harder to argue a case for why he should be defensive player of the year when there are guys who rank high in at least one and sometimes two of those three categories.

(Note: Hopefully you enjoy the video I just shared. It's a tribute to Draymond Green, who without question deserves a lot of credit for the Warriors' incredible success!)

---Ben Parker: Follow me on twitter @nba_lord for NBA news 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Western Conference Playoffs Preview: Los Angeles Clippers vs. San Antonio Spurs

#3 Los Angeles Clippers (56-26) vs. #6 San Antonio Spurs (55-27): 

     Out of all the first round series' in the NBA Playoffs, this series should be the closest. Both teams split the regular season series 2-2 and only finished one game apart in the standings. The dominating performance the Clippers displayed in Game 1 should not fool you into thinking this will be a short series in favor of the Clippers. I expect this series to go a full seven games and test both teams' endurance and ability to make adjustments.

     On paper, the Clippers look like the better team. Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are the only two players in this series who average over 20 points per game and both guys do their rebounding and assisting duties well. The two of them make for one of the best one-two punches in all of basketball, and when given a guy like DeAndre Jordan in the paint and Jamal Crawford on the wing, they suddenly become a very dangerous team. The Clippers do it all: They score in a wide variety of ways, play good defense, move the ball, and tenaciously rebound. There really isn't anything they can't do, which  is why they finished with such a good record in a competitive Western Conference.

     The Spurs don't have guys who put up as good of numbers, but they play really well as a unit. Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Tim Duncan have been playing together for years and they have a tremendous amount of trust in each other. In addition, they have a young emerging superstar in Kawhi Leonard who is able to pick up the slack that comes with age.

     Everybody on this Spurs team knows their role and does their job with excellence and precision. They are very selfless with the basketball and beat teams with their precision and ball movement as much as they do with their talent. They are without question the most disciplined team in the NBA.

     I guess the question that one has to answer when it comes to predicting the outcome of this series is what do you trust more: The Clippers' explosion and potency or the Spurs' experience and discipline? I'm going with the Spurs' experience and discipline to prevail in seven games. They are still the defending champions and I have tremendous confidence in Gregg Popovich's ability to make the necessary adjustments to win the series.

---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord for NBA news 

Western Conference Playoffs Preview: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Memphis Grizzlies


#4 Portland Trail Blazers (51-31) vs. #5 Memphis Grizzlies (55-27): 

     The Memphis Grizzlies swept the Portland Trail Blazers 4-0 in the regular season and by having a better overall record, they have earned home court advantage for the series. A huge factor going into this series is that the Trail Blazers are banged up and the Grizzlies are healthy. Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Jeff Green, and Marc Gasol were all able to go in Game 1 and they'll be good to go tonight in Game 2.

     As for the Trail Blazers, Chris Kaman (ankle) and Arron Afflalo (shoulder) will not be available for Game 2 after missing Game 1. In addition, the Trail Blazers have lost Wesley Matthews for the season to an Achilles injury. It will be really hard for the Trail Blazers to overcome these injuries. Especially since they weren't even able to overcome the Grizzlies when healthy.

     The only way the Trail Blazers win this series is if LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard become the best two players in the series and carry the team on their backs. Lillard has averaged 21.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 6.2 assists per game while Aldridge has averaged 23.4 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. They are an excellent duo that has the capability of taking over games against the very best of teams. The problem that they face is they really don't have anybody else who can help them. Nicolas Batum and Robin Lopez aren't bad, but they can't make up for the production that they would have with a healthy Wesley Matthews and Arron Afflalo.

     The Grizzlies on the other hand don't need to rely as heavily on any two players. Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Mike Conley, and Jeff Green share the scoring the load together, which takes pressure off each of them individually. In addition, they have guys like Courtney Lee, Vince Carter, and Beno Udrih coming in off the bench who can also knock down some shots.

     The Grizzlies' biggest strength is their defense and rebounding, which is bad news for the Trail Blazers. It will be really hard for Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge to have huge games against a team that prides itself on defense and crashing the glass since it limits the amount of quality shots they can take. Lillard and Aldridge will have to earn every point they get and as a result will get worn down over the course of the series.

     Lastly, the Grizzlies have plenty of guys who can step up in the clutch given their veteran leadership and experience. Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Vince Carter are all used to playing under the pressure of the playoffs and should be able to perform just as well in clutch moments as Lillard and Aldridge. The Grizzlies have more weapons, more depth, and home court. I got the Grizzlies winning this series in 5 games.

---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord 

   

Eastern Conference Playoffs Preview: Atlanta Hawks vs. Brooklyn Nets


     #1 Atlanta Hawks (60-22) vs. #8 Brooklyn Nets (38-44): 

     The Atlanta Hawks won the regular season series 4-0 against the Brooklyn Nets, indicating that this series shouldn't be much of a battle. Despite not having a true "superstar" the Hawks have been tremendously successful due to their unselfish play and remarkable consistency. Jeff Teague, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap, and Al Horford, who are the leaders of this Hawks team, have been really consistent all season.

     It's very common for all four of them to play well in the same game even though maybe only one of them has a huge night. What has made this possible is that the Hawks really share the basketball, averaging 25.7 assists per game, which is second in the league behind only the Golden State Warriors. The Hawks all trust each other and as a result find themselves playing some of the best basketball in the league.

     The Nets on the other hand average only 20.9 assists per game, which ranks in the lower-third of the league. The Nets have some bigger names on their roster like Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Brook Lopez, but collectively they are very inconsistent. On some nights those guys play really well and they look like a team that could do some damage in the playoffs. On other nights, they look very erratic and too inconsistent to do any damage.

     The Nets also suffer from the problem of having some pieces that don't quite work well together. Joe Johnson is a guy who really needs the ball in his hands a lot and tends to take a lot of ill-advised shots. Deron Williams as a point guard needs to be touching the ball a lot as well. As for Thaddeus Young and Brook Lopez, these guys too need their touches. The fact that the Nets have a ton of guys who want to be the "go-to option" explains why they rank so poorly in assists. They don't move the ball very well and it gets stuck in somebody else's hand for too long.

     The only guy on the Nets who the Hawks should really worry about is Brook Lopez, the Nets' starting center. Lopez has averaged 17.2 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. He is a very talented center offensively and a guy who can give a lot of teams trouble due to his size (7'0, 260 lbs.). The Nets have to make him a priority and hope he can have some big games inside. If they can really get him going, they might be able to scare the Hawks a bit.

     However, I don't think any dosage of Brook Lopez will solve the Nets' problems of being too inconsistent. The Nets are still going to be up and down during this entire series and assuming the Hawks maintain their consistent play, that will ultimately make the difference. I expect the Hawks to win this series in four games.

---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord for NBA news