NBA Lord's NBA Blog

NBA Lord's NBA Blog

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Tomahawk Tuesday: Recapping 2018 All-Star Weekend


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


All-Star Saturday Night 

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

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

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

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

                                         (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)       
All-Star Game 

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

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

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Sunday, February 11, 2018

Skyhook Sunday: Winners and losers from the NBA Trade Deadline


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

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

Winners



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




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



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


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

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




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


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




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


Losers



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




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


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

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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Wednesday Windmill: Are the Detroit Pistons now for real after landing Blake Griffin?

                                          (Ryan Garza. Detroit Free Press) 

On Tuesday, I provided analysis of the Blake Griffin trade from the perspective of the Los Angeles Clippers. Today I want to do the same thing from the perspective of the Detroit Pistons. For details on the trade itself, I went through that on Tuesday as well. Click here for that in case you missed it.

At the moment, the Pistons are 23-26 and 1.5 games back of the 8th seeded 76ers in the Eastern Conference standings. By adding Blake Griffin, who is averaging 22.6 points, 5.4 assists, and 7.9 rebounds, the Pistons have now put themselves in the drivers seat to take the 8th seed and possibly move up as high as 4th or 5th. However, this move is much more about the future as opposed to making a late playoff push. The Pistons made this move to compete for championships in the future.

I've always been a big fan of Blake Griffin and believed in his abilities. His combination of skill and charisma make him the perfect face for any NBA franchise. Especially a team with a lot of history like the Pistons. By having a franchise player, the Pistons finally have an identity and something to get them excited about for the future. Griffin won't hit unrestricted free agency until the summer of 2022, so they have some time to put the right pieces around him. What helps is that they already have a really good big man to pair with Griffin in Andre Drummond, who has been named as John Wall's replacement in the All-Star Game. Drummond is averaging 14.8 points and 15.3 rebounds per game, making him one of the most dominant inside presences in the NBA. Together, Griffin and Drummond should form one of the most dynamic frontcourts in the NBA.

What remains to be seen is what the ceiling is of this Pistons team. Can they compete for a championship in the coming years? Are they a real threat to challenge the Celtics? Provided they make more good moves, I don't see why not. As you know, I thought the Clippers could have built a really competitive team around Griffin in the coming seasons, so I have no reason to doubt that the Pistons can do the same. Especially since they are in a weaker conference.

While the Pistons still have more work to do to get where they want to get to, landing Blake Griffin is a huge first step for them. What's scary is that Griffin isn't done getting better. He keeps adding more tools to his kit every year, so he's definitely not over the hump. As a matter of fact, I'm not even sure if he's hit his ceiling yet. The Pistons struck gold with this trade and should become a major force in the Eastern Conference over the coming seasons. Goodbye Lob City, hello Motor City.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Tomahawk Tuesday: Trading Blake Griffin means the Los Angeles Clippers are rebuilding

                                                  (Credit: Keith Allison. Click here for source) 

On Monday, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news that the Los Angeles Clippers traded Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons. The full deal is as follows: The Clippers send Blake Griffin, Brice Johnson, and Willie Reed to the Pistons for Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic, a protected 2018 first-round pick, and a 2019 second-round pick.

The Clippers are trying to convince people that they are not rebuilding, but don't let them fool you. That's exactly what this trade means. When looking back on it, the Clippers' decision to trade Chris Paul to the Rockets was already an indicator that they were looking to rebuild, but their decision to part ways with Blake Griffin just confirms it. It also appears to only be a matter of time before they part ways with Lou Williams and DeAndre Jordan as well.

Given that Blake Griffin is 28 years old and won't hit unrestricted free agency until the summer of 2022, I'm surprised the Clippers made this move. I understand that they fell short of their goals of winning a title during the Chris Paul era, but Griffin is still young enough to build around for the next five years. I would have thought the Clippers would have instead decided to hang onto Griffin and build the whole team around him as opposed to shipping him off when he actually might have his best basketball ahead of him.



Advocates of the move will say that Blake Griffin is too injury prone and not a guy who you can build a championship team around. The former has some merit to it, but I'm not convinced either claim is true. I've always liked Griffin's game and he has shown the willingness to improve his game every season. Griffin is already one of the top players in the game and as I said earlier he's not done getting better. The Clippers could have chosen to make Griffin their franchise centerpiece and continue to build an exciting brand of basketball in Los Angeles. Instead, they've chosen to ship off their most exciting player with the hopes of building a championship contender through the draft and free agency.

If you are guaranteed to draft the second coming of Hakeem Olajuwon or something along those lines, then parting ways with Blake Griffin makes sense. But there's no guarantee the Clippers get such a piece via the draft or free agency. Tanking is always a risky proposition because it relies on getting the right pick via lottery, selecting the right player, and also the health of that player. When you have a known commodity like Blake Griffin that has panned out and is committed to getting better, you hang onto that player every time unless you know you have really good odds of getting something better in return. The Clippers don't seem likely to get a better piece, which is why I'm not feeling this move for them.

It feels like today's NBA has embraced this "championship or bust" mentality and while I certainly respect teams for wanting to go all out to win a title, you need to do that with a strategy that will actually pay off. Trading away your franchise player because he hasn't yet led you to a title isn't always the right move to make. Sometimes it's better to be patient and see what you can accomplish with that player as opposed to blowing the whole thing up and wishing upon a star.

Blake Griffin is one of the top players in the league and is not going to be an easy guy to replace. The fact that this move doesn't replace his production or guarantee that the Clippers will replace his production down the line is reason enough for me to dislike the move. I question whether or not this move will pay off for the Clippers in the way that they think it will.

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Sunday, January 21, 2018

Skyhook Sunday: Is it time for the Charlotte Hornets to part with Kemba Walker?

                                         (Credit: Keith Allison. Click here for source)

Earlier this week, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that the Charlotte Hornets are open to trading their star point guard Kemba Walker due to an excess of bad contracts and untradeable assets. The Hornets are currently 11th in the Eastern Conference with an 18-25 record and are nowhere close to contending. Walker is having another really good season, averaging 21.7 points, 5.8 assists, and 1.2 steals per game, putting himself in the mix for another all-star appearance. Walker turns 28 in May and still has plenty of good basketball ahead of him, making him a very attractive trade chip. 

The Hornets have a couple of talented young guys in Frank Kaminsky and Jeremy Lamb, but they are still a couple of years away from being serious impact players. Those are guys who they can build around for the future provided they get some more assets, something that Walker can get them if they give him up. 

Typically, I'm against giving up guys like Walker since it's really hard to come by guys like him, but it really feels like the Hornets have backed themselves into a bit of a corner due to their inability to make a strong playoff push this year or next with the present pieces that they have. Getting Dwight Howard was a last ditch effort to become competitive and so far he has not yielded the type of fruit that they were hoping he would. If the Hornets could get some quality assets for Walker to help them build for the future, that would probably be the best thing for them to do. 

Of course, trading Walker only makes sense if you actually can get something good for him. You don't want to trade him for the sake of trading him. If you're going to move him, you better demand a high price and make sure you get something close to what he's worth. The Hornets should be able to get an attractive package for him, but they better make sure they play their cards right and don't make the mistake of giving him up for free. 

Personally, my guess is the Hornets will move Walker, but it'll happen right at the trade deadline. They should take their time with this one and really field all the offers that they can. The longer they wait, the better the offer they'll get and the more they'll be able to leverage other offers that are out there. Walker is a good enough player that a quality contender looking to make a move will be willing to give up a lot to get him. 


As far as what this all means for the direction of the Hornets, they're basically hitting the reset button should they move Walker. They're looking at a 2-3 year rebuilding process at minimum, which is never easy to sell to fans. However, if they really do get the right type of assets, they should be back in the playoff picture in the near future and give themselves a much better chance at actually winning a playoff series and making some noise in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Tomahawk Tuesday: Clippers and Rockets get chippy in Chris Paul's return to Los Angeles

                                         (Credit: Harry How/Getty Images) 

On Monday, things got a bit chippy between the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers. It was Chris Paul's first road game against his former team and it appeared as though emotions were very high as a result. The Clippers won the game 113-102 and improved to 22-21 on the season, putting them at the 7th seed in the Western Conference. With the loss, the Rockets fall to 30-12, putting them now 4.5 games back of the top seeded Golden State Warriors.

Things getting chippy in an NBA game is nothing unusual. It happens all the time. What made this game a bit unusual is the way in which things got chippy. Typically, once the final buzzer sounds and both teams go to their respective locker rooms, the chippiness ends and both teams move on to the next game. In the case of this game, things allegedly spilled over into the locker room, with Rockets small forward Trevor Ariza trying to sneak into the Clippers locker room or something weird like that.



After the game, both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin tried to downplay what happened and for the most part were respectful towards each other. However, when it came to what happened in the locker room, neither guy admitted fault on his team. They both tried to skirt questions about the matter and not directly describe what happened.





Obviously, if you are the Houston Rockets, the biggest thing you need to worry about is what happens to Trevor Ariza. He's the guy that's been implicated in this bizarre story and if he did indeed do as is being reported, he could be looking at a multi-game suspension. Ariza is having a solid season for the Rockets, averaging 12.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game on 42.4% shooting from the field, 38.4% shooting from 3-point range, and 89.1% shooting from the foul line. Losing him for any stretch of time would hurt.

As far as additional commentary is concerned, the guys on Inside the NBA found the whole thing to be rather humorous. Especially the part about the police being outside the locker rooms. I guess they think today's NBA is much softer than the league they played in.


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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Saturday Slam: Zach LaVine has solid debut for the Chicago Bulls


Zach LaVine had his debut for the Chicago Bulls against the Detroit Pistons on Saturday, scoring 14 points on 5/9 shooting from the field and 3/4 shooting from 3-point range in 19 minutes of action. The Bulls won the game 107-105.

LaVine has been recovering from a torn ACL that he suffered last season with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Bulls traded for LaVine and Kris Dunn with the hopes of getting a quality young back court to build around for the future and they have to be pleased with what they saw. LaVine played a pretty efficient game and had no trouble being inserted into the starting lineup. In what has been a pretty bleak season, LaVine's debut gives the Bulls something to get excited about.

The Bulls don't have a ton of depth at the guard position as is evident by LaVine starting right away. What LaVine gives them is a quality scoring/slashing guard to play off the ball of Kris Dunn, who is more of a traditional pass-first point guard, averaging 13.8 points and 6.3 assists per game. Together, LaVine and Dunn give the Bulls a dynamic back court that is capable of doing a lot of different things on the floor. They can facilitate, attack the rim, and also score from beyond the arc. This young Bulls back court has the chance to be special in the coming seasons due to their versatility and compatibility.

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