NBA Lord's NBA Blog

NBA Lord's NBA Blog

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Skyhook Sunday: Locking up Andrew Wiggins helps ensure a bright future for the Minnesota Timberwolves

Earlier this week, the Minnesota Timberwolves inked Andrew Wiggins to a five-year contract extension worth approximately $148M, which is the designated rookie scale maximum. Since being acquired from the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Kevin Love, Wiggins has lived up to the hype, averaging 20.4 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.0 steal per game during his first three seasons, missing only one game. Wiggins' durability and consistency have earned him this extension and in the process has helped to ensure that the Timberwolves have a bright future.

What's especially exciting for the Timberwolves is the roster they've put around Wiggins. Karl-Anthony Towns is one of the best young big men in the league, Jeff Teague is one of the most underrated point guards, and Jimmy Butler is one of the top slashing wings in the game. The Timberwolves should be a playoff team this season and eventually evolve into one of the most dangerous teams in the Western Conference with more seasoning.

Next season, the Timberwolves will have the chance to extend Towns as well, which means they could have almost $300M invested in two players. While that is a lot of money to invest in two guys who are yet to play in a playoff game, both guys have proven to be worthy of such an investment. They've played up to their expectations and been good representatives of the organization both on and off the court.

Assuming the Timberwolves lock up Towns as well, they're going to have two of the best young players in the league for the next several seasons, giving them plenty of chances to get to the playoffs, win a series, and get the seasoning that is needed to make them a championship contender. While they haven't been a very successful franchise over the years, the foundation for success is finally being put into place. They've drafted the right people, they've brought in the right free agents, and they've trusted the process. It's all finally starting to come together for them.

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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Saturday Slam: How big of a risk are the Philadelphia 76ers taking on Joel Embiid?

                                          (AP Photo) 

The Philadelphia 76ers inked Joel Embiid to a five-year, $148M extension this week, which is the designated rookie scale maximum. Given that Embiid didn't play during his first two years in the league and only played in 31 games last season, many people saw this news and scratched their heads. However, upon closer examination of Embiid's contract, this actually appears to be a pretty low-risk high-reward type of move for the Sixers.

ESPN has the details of his contract below:

"Here's how a perfect storm of calamity would have to unfold for Embiid to earn any less than the full $146.5 million: Across each of the final four seasons of the extension, ending with the 2022-23 season, the 76ers could waive Embiid for a financial benefit if he's lost because of a contractually agreed-upon injury that causes him to miss 25 or more regular-season games and if he plays fewer than 1,650 minutes, league sources said.

Specific injuries are laid out in the contract and include only past problem areas with Embiid's feet and back, sources said. Embiid has to miss 25 or more regular-season games because of injuries to those areas, and play fewer than 1,650 minutes, for Philadelphia to have the option of releasing him for cost savings."
What's important to note about his contract is that the Sixers can only waive him because of injuries to specifically his back and feet. If he were to tear his ACL, they wouldn't be able to waive him. That may sound a little weird, but it makes sense if you consider the fact that no player, no matter how healthy they've been, can guarantee to avoid serious injury.

If Joel Embiid can stay healthy, he'll be worth every penny. He averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game last season in the 31 games that he played in, already making him one of the best big men in the league. Injuries aside, he's for real.

Given that the Sixers need someone to build around and put their faith in for the future, this deal makes sense for them. If Joel Embiid lives up to the hype, they could be contending for championships. If his feet and back continue to let him down, they'll be able to waive him and move on. This is a deal that truly makes sense for both sides.

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Friday, October 13, 2017 Podcast: Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins get contract extensions

On this week's episode of the Podcast, I address the contract extensions given to Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins. I also talk about the Golden State Warriors. Click here to listen to the podcast.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Tomahawk Tuesday: The Golden State Warriors are virtually unstoppable

As we head into the 2017-18 NBA season, we see a league that looks very different than it did last year. The Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston Rockets, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Minnesota Timberwolves all have new looks and should prove to be very exciting teams. However, none of these teams made moves that should take the Golden State Warriors off their perch as the top team in the league.

The Warriors' only obstacle to defending their title is health. So long as they stay healthy, they will win the NBA championship again. They simply have too many weapons. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, and Draymond Green are good enough to be the go to option on nearly every other team in the league. Collectively, they form a unit that is virtually unstoppable.

What makes these five guys so tough to stop is their versatility and ability to play elite basketball on both ends of the floor, both inside and out. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson form the most frightening three-point shooting duo the league has ever seen and Kevin Durant is one of the most lethal scorers the league has ever seen due to his combination of size, skill, and athleticism. As for Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, those guys are some of the best defenders in the league, capable of making things tough on the best of players in the league. They're also guys who you can't leave open on offense.

Outside of those five guys, the Warriors have some very solid role players like JaVale McGee, Zaza Pachulia, Nick Young, Shaun Livingston, etc. They don't just have a ton of talent. They have a ton of talent with depth. It's not like you can easily make up ground when their stars are resting. They have a second string that is good enough to hang with most starting lineups in the league, allowing them to give their stars ample rest and not wear them out too much during the grueling regular season.

Unfortunately for the Warriors' opponents, it's highly unlikely the injury bug derails their season. When you have a team as deep as the Warriors, you can keep your stars fresh and still win games handily. That's what makes this Warriors team close to unbeatable. Nobody can beat them in a seven game series when they are at full strength and even if a couple guys get hurt, they're still probably the favorites.

This upcoming NBA season promises to be very exciting due to all the moves that have happened, but make no mistake; there should be very little drama when it comes to who wins it all. The Warriors are way out in front of everybody else and will practically need to hand the Larry O'Brien Trophy to another team to not come out on top.

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Sunday, October 8, 2017

Skyhook Sunday: Keep an eye on the Denver Nuggets

Going into Sunday's preseason game against the San Antonio Spurs, the Denver Nuggets are 3-0, notching road wins against the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers (twice). Normally I would say not to pay much attention to preseason results, but having watched the Nuggets play courtside against the Warriors last week, I have to say that I was really impressed with how well they played.

What impressed me the most was how tough they played. They did a good job on the glass and battled for 48 minutes. They didn't back down against the champs when playing on their turf.

Personnel wise, the Nuggets have a solid backcourt led by Emmanuel Mudiay and Gary Harris as well as a quality frontcourt featuring Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic, Mason Plumlee, and Kenneth Faried.  In their 108-102 win over the Warriors, Millsap started a bit slow but found his groove, finishing with 22 points and 11 rebounds on 7-11 shooting from the field and 4-6 shooting from three-point range. Emmanuel Mudiay finished with 19 points and 4 assists on 6-10 shooting from the field, putting together a very quality game of his own.

While the Nuggets haven't made the playoffs since the 2012-13 season, I have a feeling that this might be the season they get back there. They have a quality core and a head coach in Michael Malone who seems to know what he's doing. He has them competing and playing as a team.

To a certain extent, my high hopes for the Nuggets is a gut thing. The sample size is too small for it to be anything more than that. That said, Paul Millsap does have a track record of making teams he plays on better than they were before he got there. He helped the Utah Jazz become a consistent playoff team and he helped the Atlanta Hawks reach the Eastern Conference Finals. Millsap is a really good guy to build around and the Nuggets really do appear to have the pieces around him to be successful.

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Saturday, October 7, 2017

Saturday Slam: Is this new NBA All-Star Game format actually better?

Earlier this week, it was revealed that the NBA All-Star Game was getting rid of the East vs. West format in favor of a format that replicates playground basketball where two captains pick their teams. The way it will work is that two guards and three front court players from each conference will be voted in by fans, players, and media while the remaining All-Star players will be selected by the NBA head coaches. The top two vote getters will be the captains.

This departure from the East vs. West format feels weird in that it's the only format I've ever known. It's the only format that any of us has known. That doesn't mean a departure isn't a good idea, but it is important to acknowledge the historical significance of this.

In regards to the format itself, I have to admit that I do like it. It adds more meaning in that players' egos are actually involved in a way that they weren't before. The guys that get picked last will feel the need to prove themselves more and feelings might be hurt a bit as one player passes on a teammate to pick a guy who he thinks might be a better fit for his team. These kind of possibilities make this format very intriguing. As a result of these possibilities, we should see more competitive games since guys will have more to play for.

At the same time, this game still won't have any metaphysical meaning. Home court advantage in the playoffs won't be on the line or anything of that nature. I'm not in favor of the All-Star Game having any such meaning, but it is important to note that we'll still probably see carefree basketball for three quarters and then intense basketball for the final eight minutes or so. That part of the game I doubt will change much.

Still, I do find this new format to be exciting for all the reasons I listed above. More than anything, it shows that the NBA is willing to try new things and not let things go stale. The NBA All-Star Game has been in need of some sort of change and I think fans will welcome what changes this new format brings.

Something that has been kicked around is whether or not this means the NBA is open to shaking up its playoff format by admitting the top 16 teams into the playoffs regardless of conference. While I think such talk is a bit premature, I could see the NBA adopting such a format in the future. I think the league is tired of seeing teams with losing records in one conference make the playoffs while teams with winning records in another conference miss the playoffs. It certainly does make sense for the NBA to explore switching to a format that ensures the top 16 teams make the playoffs.

While a change to the playoff format is probably something that would get fans even more excited, changing the All-Star Game format is a good start for the league. It's always good to come up with creative ways to make your product more exciting for your consumers. This philosophy is what's making the NBA the most successful professional sports league in the country.

Note: My friend Brandon Condron shared his thoughts on the new All-Star format. Check out his video below! 

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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Tomahawk Tuesday: The San Antonio Spurs need Kawhi Leonard to stay healthy

Over the weekend, it was revealed that Kawhi Leonard is expected to miss the entire preseason as he continues to rehab from a right quadriceps injury. Last season, the San Antonio Spurs appeared to be on the verge of upsetting the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals until Leonard went down with a sprained ankle, keeping him out for the rest of the series.

While this is the preseason and not the playoffs, it is not good for the Spurs to start their season right where they left off, which is with an injured Kawhi Leonard. In order for them to come out of the Western Conference, they need to have Leonard playing his best basketball. If he isn't able to stay healthy, they have no chance at reaching the NBA Finals.

While this should be obvious to everyone who follows the NBA, it is still important to underscore this. With all the major moves that happened this offseason, it is easy to forget about the Spurs and just how dangerous they are. They were perhaps a healthy Kawhi Leonard away from winning the NBA Finals last season, which just goes to show how good Leonard is and how significant his health is to the fate of this NBA season.

Last season, Leonard averaged 25.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.8 steals per game on 48.5% shooting from the field, 38.0% shooting from three-point range, and 88.0% shooting from the foul line, establishing himself as one of the most multidimensional players in the league. He does so much for this Spurs team on both of the floor. With him, they can compete with any team in the league over the course of a seven game series. Without him, they're a playoff team that might win a first round series. His impact is that significant.

                                          (Getty Images) 

Hopefully, Leonard's absence in the preseason is just an indicator of the Spurs being extra cautious with him and nothing more than that. If he's ready to roll on opening night without any restrictions, it will be fair to wonder whether or not this blog post is an overreaction to what happened last season. At the same time, given what happened last season, it's hard to call this an overreaction after seeing what happened to the Spurs once Leonard went down.

It should be noted that the Spurs have other things to worry about in addition to Leonard's health. Tony Parker is recovering from a torn quadriceps tendon and it isn't yet clear when he'll be able to play. The Spurs can't afford to start the season with two of their best players unable to contribute. At the very least, they need to have Leonard ready to rock and hope that Parker is able to return sooner rather than later. As good as LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay are, they are a supplement to those two guys and aren't the pulse of this team. They'll play much better when they have those guys to lean on.

At this point, if you are the Spurs, you just have to hope that Leonard is able to go at the start of the regular season and that this quadriceps injury isn't anything too serious. The Spurs have the pieces to contend for a title this season, but they need to stay healthy and make sure they don't get themselves behind the eight ball early on. The Western Conference is simply too loaded for them to overcome a sluggish start to the season.

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