NBA Lord's NBA Blog

NBA Lord's NBA Blog

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Saturday Slam: Will James Harden push the Brooklyn Nets over the top?

                                              (Credit: Nick Friar-USA TODAY Sports) 

The big news from this week is the trade that sent James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets (click here for the details of the trade). As a result, the Nets now have a "Big Three" consisting of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in addition to Harden. Before they got Harden, the Nets were already considered by many to be contenders, but now that they have Harden, it's fair to wonder whether or not they're the favorites to come out of the East. 

In my opinion, the real key to the Nets having success will be how well the egos of Durant, Harden, and Irving are managed. If they can put their egos aside, play unselfish basketball, and put the team first, they'll be dangerous. If not, there could be trouble in paradise.

 All three of them are among the most gifted offensive players in the game. Irving has fantastic ball handling that can create space as well as anyone in the league. He knows how to get to the rim, shoot it from deep, and also create plays for others. Durant, he's a 7'0" freak with shoes that can make it rain from deep, attack the rim, and just get buckets. That's what he does. Harden, he's one of the craftiest scorers the NBA has ever seen. He's got an array of moves, can shoot it from deep, and also get to the rim while creating contact. The bottom line is it's going to be tough for teams to figure out how to defend all three of them when they're together. 

This isn't to say that from a pure basketball standpoint, they're a lock to win the East. The biggest issue that these three guys have is they're not great defenders. Especially Irving and Harden. For as great as they are on offense, their defense is just so-so. One could of course argue that with those three guys, who needs defense, but in truth, you can't win by just playing really good offense. You need to play defense as well. Just ask Don Nelson. If the Nets are going to accomplish their championship goals, they're going to have to figure out how to improve on defense. Having DeAndre Jordan in the middle certainly helps as he knows how to block shots and get rebounds. But I'm not sure he's enough. 

Ultimately, I like this Nets team a lot. There's talk about the three of them not getting along and things blowing up, but Durant and Harden know each other from their days in OKC and as for Irving, he's a smart enough guy to get in line as well. When looking ahead to the Eastern Conference playoffs, the Nets should absolutely be a factor now that they have Harden aboard. 

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Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Tomahawk Tuesday: The Chris Paul era in Phoenix is off to a good start

                                           (Credit: AP Photo/Rick Scuteri) 

One of the big offseason moves was Chris Paul going to the Phoenix Suns. By making the move to get CP3, the Suns showed a commitment to their fans and to their franchise player Devin Booker that they are committed to winning now. So far, the move appears to be paying off as the Suns are off to a 7-4 start, tied for 2nd place in the Western Conference with the Los Angeles Clippers and 1 game back of the 8-3 Los Angeles Lakers. 

As is expected, Booker is leading the team in scoring, averaging 23.0 points, 4.3 assists, and 1.1 steals per game on 48.6% shooting from the field, 34.8% shooting from 3-point range, and 81.3% shooting from the foul line (we can expect the foul shooting to improve as he is an 86.9% career shooter). Mikal Bridges is doing his thing, averaging 15.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game; Deandre Ayton  is averaging a double-double with 12.5 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 1.0 block per game; Cameron Johnson is getting 12.4 points per game;  Dario Saric is chipping in 10.6 points per game; and Jae Crowder is nearly averaging double figures with his 9.9 points per game. 

As for Chris Paul, the big off-season acquisition, he's averaging 13.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 8.7 assists per game, still performing at an elite level. Paul is doing exactly what he was brought to Phoenix to do. He's providing some scoring, a little rebounding, solid defense (0.7 steals per game), and fantastic facilitating.      

Of course, it's not just CP3 that is responsible for the Suns' emergence as a contender in the Western Conference. Devin Booker is an elite shooting guard and they have some other really solid complementary pieces in Bridges, Ayton, and the other players mentioned above. They are a very deep and balanced team with six players scoring in double figures on average and one other player who is 0.1 points per game shy of being the seventh. That's some real depth.  

While we are still early on in the season, the Suns have to be happy with how this season is starting. CP3 is making an immediate impact and making everyone around him better, Booker is continuing to show why he's one of the top shooting guards in the NBA, and the rest of the supporting cast is doing what they need to do. I look forward to seeing how this Suns team continues to gel over the course of the season. They could be poised for an NBA Finals run. 

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Saturday, January 9, 2021

Saturday Slam: NBA players react to riots at the United States Capitol

 

                                             (Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports/Reuters) 

The big news from this week is the horrifying riots that took place at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, January 6. On the day that the U.S. congress was set to ratify the 2020 presidential election results, a clan of wild-eyed Trump worshiping ruffians stormed the U.S. Capitol building in a mad panic, calling for the head of Mike Pence and desecrating everything in sight. As this barbaric scene was unfolding, Donald Trump was rooting it all on from the comforts of the White House, perplexed that more people around him weren't having fun watching the terror. 

What happened has elicited some strong reactions from members of congress, the media, everyday Americans, and people around the world. NBA players have also weighed in on what happened. Below are some of their reactions. 

"DO YOU UNDERSTAND NOW???!! I know the answer to that. You still don't cause no matter what happens you still won't be judge, looked at crazy, chained, beaten, hung, shot to death cause of the color of your skin!!!! 2 AMERIKKKAS we live in and it was at FULL CAPACITY LIVE IN DIRECT yesterday in our Nations CAPITAL AT THE CAPITOL!! #IPrayForBetterDaysForMyPeople"-LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers)

"An absolute disgrace what's happening at the U.S. Capitol right now. And a blatant example of inequity in how law enforcement chooses to deal with those involved." -Kevin Love (Cleveland Cavaliers)

 

 

 "Smh....."-Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz)


"I scan my timeline and keep seeing the word "embarrassing." I'm not embarrassed, I'm not surprised, or shocked even. Embarrassed would mean that I feel a sense of shame by what is going on. I have no such feeling. These people do not come close to being a representation of me. This is the epitome of white privilege and Trump's ideal ending to his presidency!!"-Garrett Temple (Chicago Bulls)

 

"There is literally a tweet for everything. Cat got your tongue today huh?" -Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)

 

 

"Taking a knee is disrespectful to America but storming the capital is not. What defines an act of terrorism? What's more un-American than storming the capital"-Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics) 

 Taking a knee is disrespectful to America but storming the capital is not

 

There were more Twitter and social media reactions than the just the ones I shared. Many other players as well as coaches expressed frustration, but I feel like the above quotes should give you a pretty good snapshot of what was said. The NBA is a league that is really trying to make a difference in terms of social justice, so it comes as no surprise that players would react as strongly as they did. 

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Monday, November 23, 2020

Mock Draft Monday: James Wiseman was the right pick for the Golden State Warriors

 

                                             (Credit: Santiago Mejia-SF Chronicle) 


Like every NBA draft, there is debate about whether or not the right players went to the right teams and vice versa. There is even more scrutiny about the guys who go towards the top of the draft and this year's draft is no exception. Last week, the Golden State Warriors selected former Memphis Tigers big man James Wiseman #2 overall with LaMelo Ball still on the board. Given the season-ending Achilles injury to Klay Thompson, many wondered whether or not the Warriors should take Ball instead since he's a guard who can shoot the ball and create plays for others. I.e. Perhaps Ball could be an insurance policy for Thompson. 

While this line of thinking isn't all bad, the Warriors were still smart to take Wiseman. He's a versatile, 7'1", 247 pound big man who can run the floor, block shots, score around the rim, rebound, and maybe even score from the midrange. There's a ton to like about him and given his unique package, the Warriors would have been foolish to pass on him. I understand that a guard may be a more pressing need, but the Warriors need to think big picture here, which is why Wiseman was the right pick. 

The one thing the Warriors have lacked over the past few seasons is an impact big man that can do it all on both ends of the floor. Assuming Thompson is able to make a full recovery as expected, the Warriors will have an added dimension that they haven't had before. In addition to their perimeter shooting, stellar guard play, and killer small ball lineups, they'll have a big man who can give them another look that they haven't had before. Some could argue it's a look they don't need, but still, having a big man who can do the things Wiseman does should be welcomed on this team. Plus, their other draft pick is a pretty talented guard in Nico Mannion, who I followed closely during his high school and college career. So, it's not like they didn't address their guard needs at all in this draft. 

In addition to being a good fit for this current Warriors team, Wiseman also has the potential to be a player who they can build their franchise around in the future. Impactful big men like Wiseman don't grow on trees and if you can scoop one up in the draft, you really have no reason to not do so. Hell, one could argue the Timberwolves weren't smart to pass on him even with the presence of Karl-Anthony Towns

The bottom line is when you look at what this Warriors team needs right now and what they need for the future, James Wiseman was clearly the right guy for them to pick. He gives them a post presence they've been lacking and a potential superstar to build around. Warriors fans should be very excited about how their team did in this draft. 

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Saturday, October 24, 2020

Saturday Slam: How will the 2020 Los Angeles Lakers be remembered?

 

                                             (Credit: LakersDaily.com) 


One year after starting their journey for a title in October of 2019, the Los Angeles Lakers finished the job in October of 2020, defeating the Miami Heat in six games. This is the Lakers' 17th title in franchise history. LeBron James won his 4th NBA championship and 4th NBA Finals MVP while Anthony Davis won his first NBA championship. It was a strange season given the time off due to COVID-19 and the return to the bubble in Orlando, but as they always say, a win is a win and the Lakers found a way to get it done despite all the adversity. 

There will be some who will put a bit of an asterisk next to this championship, but I find that to be unfair. Especially since the Lakers came in as the top seed in the conference. The way this season was set up being in a bubble and played on a neutral court favored lower seeded teams and put higher seeded teams who earned home court advantage at a bit of a disadvantage. To win this title despite losing out on home court advantage is just another feather this Lakers team can put in their cap. 

More broadly speaking, this Lakers team will be remembered as the team that brought a title back to Los Angeles after a decade. The Lakers went through some dark times after their 16th championship in 2010. Giving Kobe Bryant an excessive contract, a lack of real identity or future, and tragically, the death of Bryant and his daughter earlier this year. To the credit of James, he came to Los Angeles firmly believing he could win a title and believed that Anthony Davis, a guy who has had injury issues over the years, could be his sidekick. 

In addition to James and Davis, this Lakers team truly embodied what it means to be a team. Head coach Frank Vogel did a really nice job of bringing everyone together and getting everyone to buy in. Rajon Rondo, Kyle Kuzma, Danny Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Dwight Howard, and others played their roles and made sound contributions. Unlike other teams that won due to superior star play, the Lakers won by their depth and unselfishness. This was the most likable Lakers team I've seen win a title for this very reason. 

Ultimately, there's a lot to like about this year's Lakers team. LeBron James showed why he's an all-time great, Anthony Davis proved he could deliver in the NBA Finals, and everyone came together to get the job done. It'll be interesting to see if this team can defend their title and bring an 18th banner to the Staples Center. 

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Saturday, September 19, 2020

Saturday Slam: Can the Miami Heat go the distance?

 

                                                (Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)  

The Miami Heat are currently up 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals with Game 3 coming up later tonight against the Boston Celtics, who will be looking to get a boost from Gordon Hayward's return. At the moment, the Heat have definitely been the biggest surprise of the playoffs, sweeping the Indiana Pacers in the first round, taking out the Milwaukee Bucks in five games, and now possessing a 2-0 lead on the Celtics. Their lone playoff loss to the Bucks was in overtime 115-118 and their average margin of victory in the playoffs is 7.64 points per game. Basically, they're on cruise control. 

At this point, they have to be favored to come out of the East, but the big question is do they have what it takes to beat whoever comes out of the West. It's early yet, but judging by last night's Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, it looks likely that the Los Angeles Lakers will take care of the Denver Nuggets, another team who has had an impressive and surprising post-season. The Lakers would no doubt be the toughest opponent the Heat have faced in the playoffs, but given how easily they've dismantled their opponents thus far, there's no reason to think the Heat aren't up to the task. 

What makes this Heat team dangerous is their depth and unselfishness. Jimmy Butler is the heart and soul of this team, averaging 20.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 2.3 steals per game. He gets after it on both ends of the floor and isn't afraid to have others share the spotlight with him. Goran Dragic is leading the team in scoring with his 22.2 points per game while Bam Adebayo is taking care of business inside with 16.8 points and 11.0 rebounds per game. In addition to those three guys, the Heat are also getting solid production from Jae Crowder, Duncan Robinson, and Tyler Herro. An added bonus is the presence of veteran small forward Andre Iguodala, who knows a thing or two about guarding LeBron James

While they don't have that one singular superstar that leads them, the Heat have really good pieces that come together to form a very balanced and dangerous team. They remind me of the 2004 Detroit Pistons, who defeated a more star laden Lakers team in the NBA Finals. Even though they have more business to take care of, I see no reason to doubt the Heat's ability to win it all. They are clicking at the right time and don't seem afraid of taking on teams that have more talent. 

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Saturday, August 29, 2020

Saturday Slam: The NBA is taking social justice to another level

                                            (Credit: Ashley Landis/Pool/AFP)

 The Milwaukee Bucks' audacious decision to not play against the Orlando Magic in Wednesday's playoff game in protest of police brutality, specifically the lack of justice for Jacob Blake, sparked even more conversation about the Black Lives Matter movement and the need for change when it comes to better policing and racial equality. After a league-wide meeting, the league decided to resume the playoffs on Saturday, but there was reportedly serious talk about cancelling the season. As a matter of fact the Los Angeles Clippers and Los Angeles Lakers were united in their vote to cancel the season. 

What prevented a cancellation was the overall consensus that the best way for the NBA to use their platform was to keep playing. Boston Celtics star Jaylen Brown reportedly pressed players on this, saying that if they were to cancel the season, they better be willing to go in the trenches and not just head home and chill in their gated communities. President Barack Obama also advised players to finish the season for the same reasons. 

Personally, I think finishing the season is the right move for the NBA for all the reasons that Obama and Brown said. However, I do think it's pretty amazing that LeBron James and other players were willing to not finish the season because of how fed up they are with what's going on. The fact that a conversation had to take place on the matter says a lot.

For the first time in NBA history, players are starting to see themselves as more than just basketball players, but as agents for change. They recognize that they have an influence over society and they want to use their platform to the best of their abilities. I think this is great. 

At the same time, NBA players need to remember that without basketball, they have no platform to be agents for change. If they stopped playing basketball, they would also lose the megaphone that they are trying to leverage as much as possible. It's a tricky line to walk, but so far, the NBA seems to be walking it pretty well. It'll be interesting to see how the season finishes up and how players will use their platform going forward. 

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