NBA Lord's NBA Blog

NBA Lord's NBA Blog

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Wednesday Windmill: The Miami Heat are off to a surprising start

If you get a chance to glance at the Eastern Conference standings, you'll notice that the Miami Heat are 9-3, having won three straight games over the Pistons, Cavaliers, and Pelicans. In what many expected to be a rebuilding season, the Heat are instead in the mix for the top seed in the East, just 1.5 games back of the top seeded Celtics. In case you are wondering if the Heat have benefited from a soft schedule, I should quickly add that they have notched wins against the Bucks and Rockets, who are both seeded #2 in their respective conferences. So the Heat have been beating some quality teams en route to their 9-3 start. 

The biggest surprise on this Heat team has been Kendrick Nunn, a point guard out of Oakland University (Michigan) who went undrafted in 2018 and is in his first year in the league. Nunn has been on fire this year, averaging 17.8 points and 1.6 steals per game. Every now and then someone comes out of nowhere and plays really well and this year, that guy is Nunn. 

Nunn hasn't been the only bright spot on this Heat team. Rookie shooting guard Tyler Herro is balling out as well, averaging 13.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. He too is a rookie of the year candidate. In addition to Nunn and Herro, Jimmy Butler (18.4 points), Goran Dragic (16.1 points), Justise Winslow (13.8 points), and Bam Adebayo (13.9 points and 10.6 rebounds) are scoring in double figures as well. 

                                         (Kendrick Nunn. Credit: Lynne Sladky/AP Photo) 

With six players scoring in double figures on average, the Heat have a lot of balance and different looks that they can give teams. This versatility is a major reason for why they are off to such a strong start. No one player is responsible. 

What I'll be curious to see is if the Heat can continue on the pace they're on or if they'll fade as the season goes on. My honest guess is they'll fade a bit and retreat back to the 5-8 range in the East. The reason why is they're young and I expect Nunn and Herro to hit a rookie wall at some point. That said, the East is wide open this year and there is certainly room for the Heat to snag a top four seed come playoff time. If the Heat continue on the pace they're on and avoid hitting any sort of wall, they could be in for really good year. 

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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Tomahawk Tuesday: The Houston Rockets are on a roll

                                          (Credit: Cato Cataldo/NBAE via Getty Images)

At the beginning of the NBA season, there was a lot of debate about how the James Harden/Russell Westbrook experiment would work out in Houston. So far, it appears to be going well as the Rockets are 11-3, having won eight games in a row. On Monday, they blew out the Portland Trail Blazers 132-108 behind 28 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists from Westbrook and 36 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists from Harden. In addition to Harden and Westbrook going wild, Clint Capela dominated inside with 22 points, 20 rebounds, and 4 blocks.

What this game showed is just how scary the Rockets can be when they are hitting on all cylinders. They can score, they can move the ball, they can rebound, and they can defend. What's even scarier is they seem to have a chip on their shoulder. Harden has been viewed as too one dimensional to lead a team to a title while Westbrook has been viewed as having too big of an ego, not willing to be a true team player. I've always found that to be an odd criticism of Westbrook given his high assist totals. But anyways, they appear to be playing with a fire and so far, it's pretty frightening.

Of course, what remains to be seen is whether or not the Rockets can keep this up and be the last team standing come June. While time will ultimately tell whether or not they can, at this point, I don't see why not. The Rockets have already been knocking on the door for a while now and Westbrook appears to have injected new life into their team.

Looking at their upcoming schedule, the Rockets will go on a two game road trip this week to face the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers. This road trip should be a nice test for them as the Nuggets and Clippers are both projected to be playoff teams as well. If the Rockets can get the sweep or even pick up a split, that will be very encouraging.

Even though we are early in the season, if you are a Rockets fan, you have to be feeling good about your team. Westbrook and Harden appear to be able to coexist just fine and the Rockets are currently the hottest team in the NBA. While many see the Lakers as the favorites to come out of the West, the Rockets are making a compelling case of their own to be the front runners. It will certainly be fun to see what happens when those two teams meet later on this season.

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Saturday, November 16, 2019

Saturday Slam: Will it work out for Carmelo Anthony in Portland?


The big news of the week is Carmelo Anthony signing a non-guaranteed contract with the Portland Trail Blazers. After looking like he may never get another shot in the NBA, Anthony is getting at least one more shot. The last full season Anthony played was the 2017-18 season in which he averaged 16.2 points per game with the Oklahoma City Thunder. In 10 games with the Houston Rockets last year, he averaged 13.4 points per game, showing that he can still get buckets.

I think this is a mutually beneficial move for both Anthony and the Trail Blazers. Anthony gets another shot at redemption and a chance to finish his career on a high note while the Trail Blazers add a guy who might give them 10+ points per game. The Trail Blazers need to make some sort of move to give themselves an edge in the Western Conference and maybe this move will do the trick.

For Anthony, if this doesn't work out, he's probably done for good, so he really needs to hope this goes well. He needs to be willing to play within Portland's system and do whatever is asked of him. If he goes out there and chucks up a bunch of shots that are low percentage, he'll get waived really quick.

Personally, I've always liked Carmelo Anthony. He's come across as a class act and has always gone out there and played hard. Unfortunately, his lack of defense and need to take a lot of shots has rendered him somewhat obsolete as the NBA has shifted towards a more positionless league. Specialists like Anthony can't thrive like they once did. Hopefully, this ends on a positive note for Anthony. He's done a lot for the game of basketball and deserves to go out the right way.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Wednesday Windmill: Don't sleep on the Toronto Raptors

After Kawhi Leonard left the Toronto Raptors for the Los Angeles Clippers, many assumed that the Raptors would no longer be a contending team and that their championship window had now closed. They had won their lone NBA championship, could celebrate over the summer, and would now go back to being a middle of the pack team. Those assumptions, at least so far, don't appear to be accurate as the Raptors are 7-3, just two games back of the 9-1 Boston Celtics.

While Leonard is no longer around, Pascal Siakam appears to be ready to take the reins, averaging 26.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game after averaging 16.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game last year. We already saw Siakam as an emerging star during last year's NBA playoffs and now he is really coming into his own. To go along with Siakam, Kyle Lowry (who is out two weeks with a broken thumb), Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka (out indefinitely with an ankle injury) are doing their part to help pick up the slack left from Leonard's absence. This is evident by their 7-3 start.

As you can see above, probably the main concern for the Raptors right now is health. If they want to once again win the Eastern Conference title and get back the NBA Finals, they have to stay healthy. If they are hobbled up come playoff time, they will not go far. But, the same can be said for every team. If you don't stay healthy, you're not going to win the NBA championship.

That said, what makes health extra important for this Raptors team is the fact that their strength lies in their numbers. They have a lot of depth and the ability to wear teams down with their bench play. Also, they do a great job of playing together. While Siakam is their top player, it's not a case where they solely rely on him to carry them. They do a good of collectively sharing the load and taking pressure off of each other.

Ultimately, I believe in this Raptors team. I think Siakam and Lowry form a really good duo and they have a solid supporting cast around them. If they can stay healthy and take advantage of their depth, there is no reason to doubt their ability to once again represent the Eastern Conference come June.

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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Tomahawk Tuesday: The Golden State Warriors should tank this season

After losing on Monday night to the Utah Jazz on their home floor by a final score of 122-108, the Golden State Warriors have fallen to 2-9 on the season. Stephen Curry is out 3+ months with a fractured hand, Klay Thompson is out for likely the season as he recovers from a torn ACL, and as a whole, this Warriors team looks nothing like they have in past seasons. Their starting lineup against the Jazz was D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Poole, Draymond Green, Glenn Robinson III, and Willie Cauley-Stein. Talk about a different looking lineup!

What makes this extra painful for the Warriors is the fact that they just moved into the Chase Center, their new arena in San Francisco. When you move into a new arena, you're beginning a new era and no team wants to begin a new era like this. Ideally, they would be playing competitive basketball and once again putting themselves in the mix to get a high seed in the Western Conference.

But alas, that is not the case. The Warriors are struggling and instead are on pace for the worst record in the Western Conference and possibly the NBA! It's crazy how much they've fallen from last year! The only silver lining in all of this is that with Thompson likely out for the year anyways, the Warriors were not going to win the NBA championship this year. This was going to be a rebuilding season, so if you're going to rebuild for a year, why not take it to the max and go full tank mode?

The Warriors' core trio of Curry, Thompson, and Green is getting older and they won't be around forever. Getting a really talented rookie to add to the mix just might be what this team needs more than anything else, hence the need to tank. If they can somehow land a top three or even top five pick in next year's draft, the Warriors may bounce right back and once again be a contender within a year or two.

As much as the Warriors' front office doesn't want to swallow this pill, the best thing they can do is just ignore this year and be willing to lose as many games as possible. The higher the draft pick they get for next year, the better.

                                           (Credit: Jeff Chiu/Associated Press)

One major decision the Warriors have to make is what to do with D'Angelo Russell, who has shown some promise as is evident by his 52 point explosion against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He could be a nice piece for them to hang onto or he might be better used as a trade chip to help them rebuild. It's not obvious what the Warriors should do with him, so they better use these next couple of months to closely evaluate him. If there's one thing Warriors fans should watch for this season, it's what their team does with Russell. 

Given that they're already tanking the season without even trying to, the Warriors might as well embrace the current and flow with it. Fighting it and trying to salvage this season in the long run is the wrong thing to do. Their sights need to be set on next season and beyond. If they can have this perspective, things should work out alright for them. 

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Monday, November 11, 2019

Mock Draft Monday: Washington Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura is balling out

                                               (AP Photo/Nick Wass) 

When talking about top rookies in the NBA, Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura deserves to be the topic of a lot of conversation. Through eight games, he's averaging 13.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game on 49.0% shooting from the field, 25.0% shooting from 3-point range, and 87.5% shooting from the foul line.

Picked 9th in the 2019 NBA Draft out of Gonzaga, Hachimura hoped to put his native country of Japan on the map and help make basketball more popular in the country. Judging by how he's playing, he appears to be on track to do just that.

Given the uncertainty of the Wizards' future due to John Wall's health (torn left Achilles), it's huge for them to have such a talented rookie in Hachimura. They know they have someone they can build around for the future and that has to give them a ton of comfort.

Hachimura is by no means a finished product, but there's a lot to like about his game. For starters, he's learning how to score. A lot of rookies, even ones who go on to be hall of famers, have a tough time scoring during their first few years in the league. Hachimura is already putting up double figures and adjusting well to the NBA speed. As an extension of his scoring, he's knocking down his free throws and appears to have a lot of confidence in his shot. Many big men never figure out how to make free throws and Hachimura is already shooting his foul shots like he's a guard!

In addition to scoring well, Hachimura is rebounding the ball well and showing that he can bang in the post with NBA level bigs. He's not afraid to go inside and hold his own. When it comes to physicality, this appears to be a strength of his as well.

Overall, the Wizards have to like what they see in Rui Hachimura thus far. He's scoring, rebounding, and appears eager to be the face of their franchise along with the face of an entire country. If he continues on the path he's on, they have a star to build around for the coming decade.

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Monday, October 28, 2019

Mock Draft Monday: The Charlotte Hornets have found a gem in P.J. Washington

                                         (Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images) 

Perhaps the most surprising rookie in the NBA has been Charlotte Hornets forward P.J. Washington, who played at Kentucky. During his first three games in the NBA, Washington has averaged 15.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block, and 3 three-point fields goals made per game. It's been particularly fun for me to watch P.J. play well because I interviewed him when he was in high school. Back when the California Golden Bears were recruiting him. The Cal coaching staff along with many other programs really liked P.J. so in that vein it's no surprise he's finding success in the NBA. At the same time, it's always surprising to see a rookie come in and make such an immediate impact. Especially one who wasn't a top five or top ten pick.

What's been most surprising to me about Washington's performance is his 3-point shooting. I knew he was a jack-of-all-trades kind of player, but I did not know he would come in and be this good of a perimeter shooter. It's truly a testament to his work ethic that he's shooting like he is. Stretch forwards that can do a little bit of everything are really valuable in today's NBA, so if Washington continues on the pace he's on, he is certain to command a ton of money once his rookie contract is set to expire.

On top of being a great perimeter shooter, Washington appears to be bringing a ton of energy to this Hornets team. He's blocking shots, getting steals,  grabbing rebounds, etc. He's willing to do whatever it takes to help his team win and he's reaping the rewards of his efforts.

While it's early in the 2019-20 NBA season, P.J. Washington has earned the attention that he has gotten so far. He's playing hard on both ends of the floor and showing that he should have been picked higher than he was. I know everyone is penciling in Zion Williamson to win rookie of the year honors, but don't sleep on Washington. He is certain to gather a lot of votes if he continues to ball out.

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