NBA Lord's NBA Blog

NBA Lord's NBA Blog

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Tomahawk Tuesday: How dangerous are the Utah Jazz?

     If there is a team that will make a huge jump in the 2016-17 season, many people are expecting that team to be the Utah Jazz, who are coached by Quin Snyder. The Jazz added George Hill and Joe Johnson in the off season and expect to have Dante Exum and Alec Burks at full strength come opening night to round out a roster that consists of Gordon Hayward, Rudy Gobert, Rodney Hood, and Derrick Favors.

      Due to their talent, youth, and upside, there is tons of chatter of the Utah Jazz being a top 10 team in the NBA and a team that can threaten to reach the Western Conference Finals. Considering that the Utah Jazz went 40-42 and finished 9th in the Western Conference last season, to call them contenders this season feels to be a bit of stretch to me.  I don't deny the talent level that is there and the upside that this team has. Dante Exum very well become one of the top players in the NBA and Rudy Gobert likewise has all the tools to be the next dominant big man in the NBA. In addition, Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward, while not all-stars, are getting better every season and establishing themselves as one of the best players in the league.

     But with that all being true, I don't see them as a team that will threaten to come out of the Western Conference. They're just not there yet and that's ok. They're right where they should expect and hope to be, which is to be a team that people are looking at and saying, "Those guys are gonna be really good in a couple of seasons."

     Jazz Nation will say that the future is now and that this team is gonna make serious noise due to their off-season acquisitions, health, and one more year of seasoning. While I do think that all of those things bode very well for the Jazz, I still think the Jazz will be in a dogfight to make the playoffs and win a series. The Warriors and Spurs will be the top two teams in the Western Conference again and the Thunder with Russell Westbrook will still be very dangerous even with Kevin Durant jumping ship. As for the rest of the conference, the Clippers, Grizzlies, and Trail Blazers should prove to be competitive. Even the Timberwolves should be a team that people keep an eye on.

     The Western Conference is still loaded and the Jazz have to go out and prove that they are one of the best teams in the conference. If there is anything that should worry the Jazz it is their lack of a true superstar. Rudy Gobert and Dante Exum have superstar potential, but they aren't there yet. Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors, while being very good players, don't have superstar potential.  They have all-star potential, but not the potential to be guys who lead a team to a championship. They can help a team win a title, but they can't be the centerpieces of a championship team like John Stockton and Karl Malone proved themselves to be.

     As for what type of expectations we should have for this Utah Jazz team, I think we should expect them to make the playoffs with the hopes that they find a way to win a series. If they do that, they should be very happy with how they are progressing. I love the direction that this team is going and I have no doubt that a championship may be coming to Utah in the near future, but I don't think they will make the huge leap that other people are expecting.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Saturday Slam: Kevin Garnett had a solemn dedication that will never be duplicated

Kevin Garnett, 1999
(Credit: Cliff. Click here for source) 

    After 21 seasons in the NBA, Kevin Garnett is calling it a career, finishing with career averages of 17.8 points, 10.0 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game. Kevin Garnett accomplished a lot in his career. He won an NBA championship with the Boston Celtics, was named Mr. Basketball in the state of Illinois in 1995, and he put the Minnesota Timberwolves franchise on the map. He is without question a first ballot hall of fame player and one of the best players of his generation. 

     When looking back on Kevin Garnett's career, what stands out the most is the passion that he played with every night. Kevin Garnett had an almost psychotic approach to the game of basketball. He was obsessed with giving it his all on every play and never backed down to anybody. If an opponent took a shot after the whistle, Garnett would still block the shot and prevent it from going through rim. 

     Kevin Garnett could not allow himself to give his opponents one iota of confidence and did everything he could to get in their heads. He was the king of trash talk and on court swagger to the point that it absolutely annoyed you if he was playing against you. At the same time, if he was on your team, he fired you up and made you believe you could win. He was absolutely a guy who you wanted in your corner when the chips were down. He put his teammates first and was willing to die for them if needed. 

     Kevin Garnett was old school in that he really played for the love of the game. He didn't play for the money, the fame, or the personal recognition. He played the game of basketball because he loved it and had a solemn dedication to it that is seldom seen. He never disrespected the game or took it for granted. Every minute he was on the floor he cherished and he gave it his all. He recognized that he had a talent and a gift that few people had and he did not want to waste it for even a moment. 

   Just like how there will never be another Kobe Bryant or another Tim Duncan, there will never be another Kevin Garnett. I'm not sure we will ever see another player who plays with quite the same amount of fervor and vigor that Kevin Garnett played with. He loved the game and it showed in every moment that he was on the floor. Even when he was at the end of his career, he still had a desire to reunite with the Minnesota Timberwolves franchise and mentor the next generation of NBA players. His heart has always been in the right place and the game of basketball has been richly blessed because of it. Kevin Garnett, you will be missed. 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Saturday Slam: Shaquille O'Neal, Yao Ming, and Allen Iverson headline 2016 Hall of Fame class

This weekend, the Basketball Hall of Fame enshrined its newest members.

All 10 people deserve Hall of Fame status, but since this is an NBA blog, I would like to reflect on Shaquille O'Neal, Yao Ming, and Allen Iverson.

                                          (Getty Images)

Shaquille O'Neal: Shaquille O'Neal is one of the most dominant big men the NBA has ever seen. He won four NBA championships and reached the NBA Finals six times. He averaged 23.7 points and 10.9 rebounds per game during his entire career and at his peak averaged close to 30 points and 14 rebounds per game. What I've liked most about Shaquille O'Neal is that he had fun along the way. While he brought his A-game every night and delivered the goods, he did it with a smile on his face and understood that the NBA is as much about entertainment as it is about competition. His understanding of this is well reflected on Inside The NBA, where he combines comedy and humor with quality insight.


Allen Iverson: Allen Iverson might be the greatest player to play the game at 6'0 and under. "The Answer" showed up every night and played with as much heart as anyone we've ever seen play the game. He didn't let his size prevent him from putting up big numbers. In the 2000-01 season, he was awarded with the NBA regular season MVP award due to his 31.1 points per game and ability to carry the 76ers on his back. He took the 76ers all the way to the NBA Finals and put up a remarkable performance in Game 1 to steal a game in Los Angeles before falling to the Lakers in five games. It's unfortunate that his "practice rant" became so famous because in truth, Iverson played with a tremendous amount of heart and never gave up.

Yao Ming: While his NBA career was cut short due to injury (8 seasons), Yao Ming has made a tremendous impact on the game of basketball from a global perspective. Thanks to Yao Ming, the NBA and the game of basketball has flourished in China. Without him, basketball wouldn't be nearly as global as it is now. So, while his NBA career doesn't warrant hall of fame status, his impact on the sport absolutely does warrant hall of fame status.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Saturday Slam: How important is winning an Olympic gold medal in basketball?

     During these Olympic games, Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, who currently is competing for Team USA, told ESPN that Olympic gold medals are "above NBA rings." While it is true that for many athletes an Olympic gold medal is the most prized possession in their sport, NBA players are judged on how many NBA championship rings they win as opposed to how many Olympic gold medals they win.

     A big reason for this is the fact that over the years, USA Basketball has dominated the rest of the world to the point that it is a foregone conclusion that they will win the gold medal. The United States is home to the most NBA players of any country and as a result the best basketball players in the world. This isn't to say that other countries don't have amazing basketball players as well. The world is certainly catching up, especially when we see how many close games USA Basketball has had in the 2016 Olympic games. Even with that being the case, USA Basketball is still heavily favored to win the gold medal every time. When they win a gold medal, we yawn and when they don't, we freak out and are absolutely shocked.

     So, with that being the case, how important is an Olympic gold medal in basketball? The answer is it that it is important for USA Basketball players and career defining for players outside of the United States. For a guy like DeAndre Jordan, who has played very well in these Olympic games, a gold medal would be a very nice addition to his trophy case. Especially when he himself doesn't have an NBA championship ring.

     Even for USA Basketball players with NBA championship rings, an Olympic gold medal is still valuable because of what the Olympics represent for all of sports. When you win an Olympic gold medal for USA Basketball, that means you are one of the very best players in the world and that in and of itself is a huge achievement. The accomplishment doesn't so much lie in the basketball games that are won but rather in playing on the most elite basketball team in the world.

     For guys competing for countries outside of the United States, take Serbia for instance, who is playing USA Basketball for the gold medal, winning a gold medal could very well be bigger than winning an NBA championship or at least on par with it. To lead your team to victory against a team composed of 12 NBA all-stars is nothing short of incredible and truly a feat for the ages.

     Leading your country to a gold medal in basketball with the United States standing in the way would make any player a hero in their country and perhaps even a basketball hall of fame player. It's that incredible of a feat. If Serbia defeats the United States tomorrow, Nikola Jokic and Milos Tedosic will become national heroes and true legends of the game. It would be basketball's version of "Miracle on Ice."
      So, in summation, winning an Olympic gold medal is a big deal in basketball. It's just that it matters differently depending on whether or not you are playing for USA Basketball. It's that simple.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Tomahawk Tuesday: Don't sleep on the San Antonio Spurs

     Like always, the San Antonio Spurs continue to make really good moves while not getting enough attention. While the departure of Tim Duncan created a lot of headlines, the additions of Pau Gasol and David Lee have not gotten enough attention. Pau Gasol averaged 16.5 points and 11.0 rebounds per game last season with the Bulls, which is a significant upgrade over Tim Duncan's 8.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. As for David Lee, his 8.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game were nothing to write home about, but they essentially replace Tim Duncan's production. If Lee is able to play better than he did last season, he too could be a significant addition to the squad.

     The Spurs won 67 games last season and essentially are bringing back the same squad they had last season plus Pau Gasol. If that isn't reason to take the Spurs seriously, I don't know what is. They still have Tony Parker running the point with Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge continuing to gel as the franchise players for the present and future.

     While the Golden State Warriors have understandably grabbed all the headlines by landing Kevin Durant, they are no slam-dunk to win the NBA championship next season. One of the main reasons is the San Antonio Spurs and all the good moves that they are making on their end. While I do agree that the Golden State Warriors are the favorites to come out of the Western Conference in 2017, the San Antonio Spurs will be right there putting the pressure on them. I guarantee it.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Saturday Slam: A quick look at the 2016 Olympic basketball tournament

     Given that the Olympics began this weekend, I thought it would be good to preview the Olympic basketball tournament. Especially since 46 NBA players will be competing, which is the most in Olympic history. What I will do is give you a quick preview of each of the 12 teams competing in this event.

United States: Jimmy Butler (Bulls), Kevin Durant (Warriors), DeAndre Jordan (Clippers), Kyle Lowry (Raptors), Harrison Barnes (Mavericks), DeMar DeRozan (Raptors), Kyrie Irving (Cavaliers), Klay Thompson (Warriors), DeMarcus Cousins (Kings), Paul George (Pacers), Draymond Green (Warriors), and Carmelo Anthony (Knicks) is the USA roster and while it does lack some big names like Stephen Curry, LeBron James, and Russell Westbrook, it is still a LOADED roster.

The bottom line is that so long as these guys don't let their egos get in the way, which I don't think they will, the United States should have no problem bringing home the gold. They have a fantastic combination of athleticism and skill. Kyrie Irving for example might be the most skilled player in this whole tournament while DeAndre Jordan is certainly the most athletic. I would be shocked if the United States had any games that were decided by less than 10 points.

Argentina: Argentina has one of the most competitive rosters in this tournament. They have a couple of current NBA players in Luis Scola (Nets), Manu Ginobili (Spurs), and Nicolas Brussino (Mavericks) while also having a couple of former NBA players in Carlos Delfino and Andres Nocioni. They definitely have skill, but size isn't exactly their forte with nobody bigger than 6'10". The way that Argentina will have to make up for their lack of size is to play really clean and efficient basketball, something that they've been capable of doing in the past. Look for Argentina to make some noise and threaten to win a medal.

Australia: Australia has several active NBA players on their team: Andrew Bogut (Mavericks), Patty Mills (Spurs), Joe Ingles (Jazz), Matthew Dellavedova (Bucks), and Arron Baynes (Pistons). Plus, Cameron Bairstow played in the NBA last season with the Bulls.

While only Andrew Bogut would be considered a "high profile" player, the very fact that they have five active NBA players on their team makes them very dangerous. If Patty Mills and Joe Ingles can stroke it from deep while Andrew Bogut controls the paint, these guys will be tough.

Note: Andrew Bogut did play in their opener against France and scored 18 points, so he appears to be fully healthy.

Brazil: Brazil, like Australia has a lot of NBA players on their team, though not a lot of really big names. Their two best players are NenĂª (Rockets) and Leandro Barbosa (Suns), but they have three other NBA players in Raul Neto (Jazz), Cristiano Felicio (Bulls), and Marcelinho Huertas (Lakers).

The advantage that Brazil has is that they have a nice blend of post play and wing play. Barbosa, Huertas, and Neto make for a very nice backcourt while Nene and Felicio make for a quality front court. The balance of this Brazilian team could propel them towards an Olympic medal.

China: China is a very young team that quite honestly isn't very good. They have zero active NBA players on their roster and only one player with NBA experience in Yi Jianlian, who washed out of the league pretty quick. That isn't to say there is no talent on this team. They have two big men, Zhou Qi and Wang Zhelin, who were drafted in the NBA in this most recent draft, but neither of them have much experience playing against NBA level players. Look for China to struggle in this event. Their 62-119 loss to the United States certainly does not give me any reason to think otherwise.

Croatia: Philadelphia 76ers fans should keep an eye on Croatia due to the presence of big man Dario Saric, who is looking to lead his country to a medal. Saric is coming over to the 76ers this year and will get an early taste of NBA level basketball in these Olympics. Croatia has a couple of other NBA players on their roster as well in Mario Hezonja (Magic) and Bojan Bogdanovic (Nets).

Mario Hezonja will be really interesting to watch since he was drafted #5 overall in 2015 and spent the year overseas with FC Barcelona. Hezonja is a freak athlete at 6'8", 218 pounds and he can shoot the ball well, so Magic fans too should get excited to see how he does. The Croatian team doesn't have very many NBA players, but the ones they do have could make an impact. Croatia is a dark horse to get a medal at these games. The could definitely surprise people.

France: The NBA players representing France are Nicolas Batum (Hornets), Joffrey Lauvergne (Nuggets), Tony Parker (Spurs), Boris Diaw (Jazz), and Rudy Gobert (Jazz). Plus, Nando De Colo could probably still be in the NBA, but he opted for more money with CSKA Moscow. France has some serious talent with Tony Parker running the point and Rudy Gobert down on the block doing what he does best, which is disrupting shots and catching lobs for easy dunks.

The Parker, Batum, and Gobert trio alone makes France very scary and then when you add a nice supporting cast in Diaw,  Lauvergne, and De Colo, you suddenly have a quasi NBA team on your hands.  Rudy Gobert is a game-changer and Tony Parker is still one of the best point guards in the league. I would be shocked if France did not get a medal at these games.

Lithuania: Lithuanians are known to be large people and their basketball team is no exception with nobody under 6'4" and four players that are at least 6'10". Jonas Valanciunas, the center for the Toronto Raptors is the star of this Lithuanian team, but there are two other NBA players on this team in Domantas Sabonis (Magic) and Mindaugas Kuzminskas (Knicks), both of whom play forward. The key for this Lithuanian team will be to take advantage of their size and really control the glass. If they do a good job at this, they won't be an easy out for any team. Look for Lithuania to make some noise and threaten to win a medal.

Nigeria: Nigeria has 1.5 NBA players. Michael Gbinije plays for the Pistons and Ben Uzoh plays in the D-League with the Canton Charge. The only guy with any serious NBA experience is Ike Diogu. Josh Akognon spent a year with the Dallas Mavericks, but that's it. All in all, look for Nigeria to get waxed at this event, but props to them for being the top team coming out of Africa. That's not nothing.

Serbia: The only current NBA player on the Serbian team is Nikola Jokic, a big man for the Denver Nuggets. Miroslav Raduljica played briefly in the NBA and Bogdan Bogdanovic was drafted in the 1st round by the Phoenix Suns in 2014. The best player outside of Jokic is probably Milos Tedosic, who has been a really solid player overseas, playing with CSKA Moscow during the last few seasons. Tedosic is a combo guard, so Serbia definitely has weapons on the perimeter as well as in the paint. Serbia should win at least a couple of games, but I don't see them winning a medal when it's all said and done.

Spain: Spain has a ton of NBA talent on their team with Pau Gasol (Bulls), Ricky Rubio (Timberwolves), Nikola Mitotic (Bulls), and Rudy Fernandez, who plays for Real Madrid but is a guy who'd be averaging double digit points per game in the NBA if he wanted to be. Plus, they have Sergio Rodriguez (76ers), Jose Calderon (Lakers), Willy Hernangomez (Knicks),  and Alex Abrines (Thunder).

The amount of NBA talent for a non-USA team is really impressive and the non-NBA players are also some of the best players not playing in the NBA. France might be the team to give the USA the most trouble, but many think it will be Spain due to all the talent that they have. Look for Spain to make a lot of noise and put themselves in a position to compete against the United States in the gold medal game.

Venezuela: I'm gonna be totally honest with you. I haven't heard of any of the Venezuelan players and they have nobody that is bigger than 6'9". They do have one Division 1 player in Anthony Perez of Ole Miss, who just finished his senior year averaging 7.0 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. So, they definitely have quality basketball players, it's just that relative to the rest of the competition, they aren't very good.

Prediction: United States takes the gold, France takes the silver, and Spain takes the bronze.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Wednesday Windmill: How much better will the New York Knicks be?

      The New York Knicks will have a different look in the 2016-17 season with the additions of Courtney Lee, Brandon Jennings, Joakim Noah, and most notably Derrick Rose. They already appeared to be turning the corner with the selection of Kristaps Porzingis in the 2015 NBA Draft, but with these additional moves over the summer, the future in New York suddenly appears to be getting brighter.

     For the first time in his New York Knicks career, Carmelo Anthony actually has a supporting cast to be excited about, which in and of itself is a big deal. But considering that the Knicks went 32-50 last season, are these moves enough to actually make them a serious force in the Eastern Conference? How good will these Knicks be?

     The short and simple answer is that how good the Knicks will be directly correlates to how healthy they will be. Joakim Noah (29 games) and Derrick Rose (66 games) both struggled to stay healthy last season, which is reason for Knicks fans to treat the addition of both players with a fair amount of skepticism. If those guys don't stay healthy and on the floor, the Knicks will still be hard pressed to crack 41 wins, let alone make a serious dent in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Plus, it isn't like it's only Noah and Rose who've been injured. Brandon Jennings played only 48 games last season and 41 games the season before due to rupturing his left Achilles.

     The amount of injuries that these new additions to the Knicks have suffered is certainly a serious concern and it also makes you wonder why the Knicks were willing to roll the dice on Noah, Rose, and Jennings as opposed to one of them. Maybe the idea is that one of them will have to stay healthy, but even so, it's very risky to have your season riding on the health of fragile players who aren't what they used to be.

     Joakim Noah's injury was a shoulder injury, which shouldn't be taken lightly, but I'm much more optimistic that he'll be able to return to form as one of the league's best rebounders and shot blockers. But Brandon Jennings (Achilles) and Derrick Rose (multiple ACLs) have had much more worrisome injuries that are very hard to bounce back from. Derrick Rose is a former league MVP who at his peak was perhaps the best player in the world. But now, he's at best a B-grade player who is only capable of showing flashes of the brilliance he once had. As for Brandon Jennings, he hasn't been able to have a scoring average in double figures since the Achilles injury, so in his case I'm even more skeptical of his ability to become a productive player again.

     The only other noteworthy addition that I haven't mentioned is Courtney Lee, who has been more of a role player over the course of his career, playing good defense and knocking down some threes. Lee can't be expected to be anything better than what he's already been, which is to score around 10 points and shoot close to 40% from 3-point range. That's solid, but nothing to get super jazzed about.

     At the end of the day, the additions to this New York Knicks team look a lot better on paper than they actually are. Carmelo Anthony will still need to carry the load and Kristaps Porzingis will have to continue to be the Great White Hope of the franchise and build upon his stellar rookie season. If Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and Brandon Jennings all stay healthy and play better than they did last season, the Knicks will actually be pretty good and threaten to win a playoff series. The problem is that the odds of that happening are about as high as the odds of Cookie Monster switching to brownies. It could theoretically happen, but we all know it's not. In terms of a win total projection for this Knicks team, I'll say they improve by 10 wins, finishing with a 42-40 record, which might be good enough to make the playoffs.