Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Jimmy Butler has been playing some amazing basketball as of late, averaging 25.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 4.1 assists on the season while putting up four 35+ point games in his last 10 games. The man who the Chicago Bulls are hoping to be their franchise player for the next decade is certainly living up to the hype and delivering the goods.
What's perhaps even more impressive is how efficient Jimmy Butler is playing. He's shooting 48.0% from the field, 42.3% from 3-point range, and 89.0% from the foul line. Not only is he getting buckets, he's doing so without having to waste many shots. The shots he's taking are good shots and he's making his opponents pay.
Jimmy Butler has always been a terrific slasher and attacker to the basket, but where he's really made strides is his ability to knock down the 3-ball. In his rookie season, he shot only 18.2% from 3-point range on just 0.3 attempts per game. This season, he's shooting 42.3% on 3.5 3-point shot attempts per game. That's a huge improvement from Butler over the last 6 years.
The jump from last season to this season has been huge in and of itself. Last season, Jimmy Butler was shooting 31.2% from 3-point range on 3.1 attempts per game which is 11.1% worse than where he is now (42.3%). Not only that, but he's shooting a higher percentage this season on more attempts!
What's interesting about this is that Jimmy Butler has always been a solid foul shooter. He's an 81.9% career foul shooter and has never shot lower than 76.8% from the foul line, which was his free throw percentage in his rookie season. While his free throw percentage this season (89.0%) is significantly better than his previous best season (83.4%) in 2014-15, 83.4% from the line is still very good.
The real growth has been in his 3-point shooting, which allows him to be a much more versatile and frightening player to go up against. Not only can he get to the rim and beat opponents off the dribble; he can also spot up from 3-point range and make opponents pay for not putting a hand in his face. Either way, no matter how his opponents guard him, Jimmy Butler will make them pay.
Jimmy Butler is truly turning into one of the most dangerous players in the league and a legit franchise player for the Bulls because he is starting to turn into the whole package. He has great size for an NBA wing (6'7", 220 pounds), plays great defense, gets to the rim, knocks down his free throws, and now he's knocking down his threes. I picked the Chicago Bulls to reach the Eastern Conference Finals this season largely because of Jimmy Butler and so far he is not letting me down. So long as Jimmy Butler continues to play like he is, the Chicago Bulls will remain an upper echelon team of the Eastern Conference.
Tuesday, November 22, 2016
The Sacramento Kings continue to be one of the weirdest teams in the NBA. They have a spanking new arena in downtown Sacramento that is absolutely incredible and yet amid all the joys that come with that, there are reports of them being willing to trade just about everyone on their roster, it feels like. During the past week and a half, I have heard Willie Cauley-Stein, Omri Casspi, Rudy Gay, and even DeMarcus Cousins mentioned in trade rumors, which if you are doing in the math is nearly one-third of their roster. In the cases of Willie Cauley-Stein, Omri Casspi, and Rudy Gay, it appears to be a situation where all three guys want to get the hell out of Sacramento and get a fresh start elsewhere. As for DeMarcus Cousins, this too might be the case, but I have to say that he does seem to be enjoying his time as a prominent figure in the Sacramento community.
What I want to address is whether moving any of these players makes sense. Personally, I don't think it really matters what happens to Willie Cauley-Stein, Omri Casspi, or Rudy Gay. Those guys, even Rudy Gay, are complementary pieces around the franchise player in DeMarcus Cousins, who is currently averaging 27.5 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. The Kings could trade any of those guys and they would still more or less have their same identity, which is a team built around DeMarcus Cousins.
As for trading DeMarcus Cousins is concerned, this would be a big deal and does matter. Before the Sacramento Kings say sayonara to the man known as "Boogie", they better be sure moving him is really the right move. You don't just give away a 27 and 10 guy without giving it some serious thought. Especially when that guy is just 26 years old and has not yet reached his prime. Love him or hate him, DeMarcus Cousins delivers the goods night in and night out and has proven himself to be one of the best big men in the NBA. I know he gets criticized for his poor attitude and inability to lead, but I really think it's unfair to criticize him in these areas when he hasn't had a team around him to lead.
here for source)
To be more clear, DeMarcus Cousins' inability to "lead" the Sacramento Kings to the playoffs can't be put on his attitude or lack of commitment since the teams he's played on have not been very good. He's more or less been the only player Kings fans could get excited about since the days of Chris Webber, Mike Bibby, and Vlade Divac. He's been the only guy to give them any sort of hope at becoming relevant and competitive again. Ben McLemore hasn't been able to be that guy, Jimmer Fredette sure as hell wasn't that guy, and Rudy Gay was a nice addition, but not a guy who they could rely on to be the cornerstone of a championship contending team.
In addition to not having the right players, the Kings until this season have had all sorts of coaching problems. Most notably the addition of George Karl, who hated DeMarcus Cousins from the moment he set foot in Sacramento. Karl never gave Cousins a chance to lead or be "the man" on the Kings and Cousins suffered as a result. George Karl continued to pin it as a "George Karl vs. DeMarcus Cousins" kinda thing as if they were dueling each other as opposed to working with each other. DeMarcus Cousins has been mistreated by the Sacramento Kings for far too long and now that he finally has a competent head coach in Dave Joerger the Kings are starting to seriously consider moving him? It's time for him to move on? Get real.
The only time it's time to move on is if you've led your team to a championship and your team is now over the hill or you went as far as you could and reached your maximum potential. Neither is the case with DeMarcus Cousins in Sacramento. In his case, the Kings haven't reached their max potential due to incompetent moves on their end. They've drafted the wrong supporting cast players around him, they've traded away the wrong people, and hired coaches that don't know how to work with him. DeMarcus Cousins hasn't been the problem in Sacramento, the Kings have been.
What's evidence of the Kings' dysfunction is the fact that they are the verge of blowing everything up before figuring out where they want to go. If the Kings sincerely believe that it is time for them to move on from DeMarcus Cousins, I suppose that's fine, but if they do, they better have a game plan of what to do next. Guys like DeMarcus Cousins don't grow on trees and if you trade him, you better be certain you are getting something very promising in return. Otherwise, you might as well keep him, continue to build around him, and actually get him the pieces that he needs in order to be successful. I personally believe that DeMarcus Cousins can be a legit franchise player in the NBA and I see no good reason to think that he can't be that guy in Sacramento provided the Kings get him the help he needs.
On a separate, but still Sacramento Kings related note, I got the chance to visit the Golden 1 Center, the Kings' new arena on Monday night on media assignment for GoldenBearReport.com, Cal's Rivals.com site. It was a lot of fun to be a member of the media in an NBA arena. What I can say about my experience at the Golden 1 Center from an NBA standpoint is that it is truly a beautiful arena with an absolutely incredible screen above the court. The Kings definitely built themselves a state-of-the-art arena in downtown Sacramento. I was very impressed with the layout of the arena from the press room to the court itself. Excellent arena and an absolutely amazing place to watch a game.
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Saturday, November 19, 2016
Saturday Slam: Should NBA championship teams boycott trips to the White House during the Trump administration?
Credit: Gage Skidmore. Click here for source.
Earlier this week, the Milwaukee Bucks, Dallas Mavericks, and Memphis Grizzlies all made the decision to not stay in Trump Hotels when their teams play against the Knicks and the Nets in New York. This is a great way for these teams to protest against the Trump Administration since it is peaceful and powerful at the same time. With the NBA being such a progressive league that stands up for the rights of the LGBTQ community and stands up against any form of discrimination, one has to wonder whether or not NBA championship teams will visit the White House during a Trump administration.
The NBA has done a great job at using its global platform to raise awareness about environmental issues, health issues, and also issues surrounding equality and discrimination. With that in mind, the NBA would really send a message if their championship teams elected to not visit the White House during their visit(s) to DC to take on the Washington Wizards.
For those of you who may not understand the gravity of an NBA boycott of the White House, what needs to be understood is that as far back as I can remember, NBA championship teams have made it a tradition to visit the White House the following season. They've always made it a priority to visit the White House and give the president a jersey with his name on it. The president makes a few jokes, the players make a few jokes, they embrace, they have a good time, etc. But with the NBA being such a diverse league with players from all racial makeups, nationalities, and backgrounds, I'm not sure it's possible for NBA championship teams to have a "good time" when visiting Trump in the White House.
Going a step further, what message could it send to the fan base of a respective team to see Trump's name on the back of their team's jersey? Might it offend them? Might it not make them want to come to the games? Might it hurt the fan base?
The answer to these difficult questions is that it could and perhaps therein lies the answer. The NBA is about making all of its fans feel safe and comfortable coming to the games. If seeing their favorite players shake hands with Donald Trump makes fans feel uncomfortable or angry, maybe it is just best for NBA championship teams to skip visits to the White House during Donald Trump's administration.
By not visiting the White House during a Trump administration, NBA players would be sending a strong message of solidarity to their fans that are African-American, Latino, Muslim, LGBTQ, etc. I think it would let them know that they don't stand for what this administration stands for and that they themselves are not going to be idle in letting the administration set forth racist, xenophobic, islamophobic, homophobic, and anti-environment policies. NBA fans really look up to their favorite players and by boycotting trips to the White House during a Trump administration, NBA fans would see their favorite players as guys who have their back and care about making sure they don't get left behind.
Thursday, November 17, 2016
The #1 overall pick in the 2016-17 NBA Development League draft was Anthony Brown, the former Stanford standout that was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in the early 2nd round of the 2015 NBA Draft. During the 2015-16 NBA season with the Lakers, Brown averaged 4.0 points per game on 28.6% shooting from 3-point range in 29 total games played (20.7 minutes per game). Brown didn't have the rookie season he was looking for, but he should prove himself in the D-League this season as a player worthy of another shot in the NBA.
I watched Anthony Brown play during his senior year at Stanford and I was very impressed with what I saw. He has a good body on him (6'7", 211 pounds) and he has the ability to stroke it from deep, averaging 14.8 points per game on 44.1% shooting from 3-point range during his senior year at Stanford. Anthony Brown is a guy who I expected to get drafted in 2015 and I was certainly not at all surprised to see him go as high as he did. He has all the tools to be an NBA player and just needs to find the right place in order for him to succeed.
I am confident that with the Erie BayHawks, Anthony Brown will have a very productive season and prove himself worthy of an NBA call up. He's already off to a great start, scoring 31.5 points per game on 66.7% shooting from 3-point range in 7.5 3-point shot attempts per game. In addition to popping 3s, Brown is getting to the rim well and really showing off his full repertoire. He's throwing it down in transition, finishing well around the basket, etc. Anthony Brown is getting the chance to be the feature player with the Erie BayHawks and is so far making the most of the opportunity.
If you are looking for players to monitor in the NBA Development League, Anthony Brown is definitely one of those guys to keep a close eye on. He's a truly NBA level talent that has all the pieces to be a rotation NBA player given the right situation. Look for him to shine with the Erie BayHawks and be back in the NBA in the very near future.
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
The Los Angeles Clippers currently possess the top record in the NBA with a 10-1 record, having won 7 straight games. The Clippers are known to flame out early in the playoffs and not deliver the goods, so should we really be paying that much attention to this? I think the answer to this question is we should definitely be taking note, but it's obviously still way too early for Clippers fans to start thinking this is the year they're going to break through and win their first NBA championship.
What is encouraging about the Clippers' hot start is that they have beaten some quality teams on the road like the Grizzlies, Spurs, and Thunder. In addition, Chris Paul (19.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 8.5 assists), Blake Griffin (20.2 points, 9.5 rebounds, 4.1 assists), DeAndre Jordan (10.5 points and 12.4 rebounds), J.J. Redick (13.3 points on 43.5% from 3-point range), and Jamal Crawford (11.2 points) are all healthy and playing well as a unit. A big problem for the Clippers over the years has been their inability to stay healthy. Usually Chris Paul injures his hamstring and can't go in the playoffs or something very similar derails their quest for the Larry O'Brien Trophy. In addition, the Clippers have not been able to lock up home court advantage for the Western Conference playoffs, making things all the more tougher to win a title.
So, as far as how seriously we should take the Clippers, I would say we should take them seriously so far as they (A) Remain healthy and (B) Stay atop the Western Conference standings. If the Clippers can find a way to enter the 2017 NBA Playoffs with the #1 record in the Western Conference at full strength. Look out. They could be very tough to eliminate.
Saturday, November 12, 2016
On Tuesday, Donald Trump shocked the world by winning the electoral vote for president of the United States. Unless the electoral college goes rogue and votes for Hillary Clinton (which they should), Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States come January 20, 2017. First of all, let me say that you can count me in among the millions of Americans that are utterly horrified at the idea of Trump presidency. In case you missed it, I compared Donald Trump to Donald Sterling, the former Los Angeles Clippers owner a few months ago. I said that if Donald Trump's racism disqualifies him from owning an NBA team, it should disqualify him from being President of the United States. I stand by those remarks and I always will.
As for what a Donald Trump presidency means for the NBA, I think it is entirely possible that having Trump in the White House will create a sudden interest in NBA free agents wanting to play for the Toronto Raptors, the lone NBA team that will be able to escape the wrath of a Trump administration. With all this talk of people wanting to move to Canada, why is it crazy to think that there will be some NBA players who want to get out of the United States until a new president takes over? The Toronto Raptors could be on the verge of a major free agency coup all courtesy of Donald Trump taking over as President of the United States.
While Toronto is a beautiful city in a beautiful country, their status as Canada's lone NBA team hasn't exactly been a plus when it comes to recruiting free agents. But, with Donald Trump taking over the helm, suddenly, their lone Canadian NBA status makes them a team that can provide NBA players with a path to join the mass American exodus into Canada that is sure to happen.
The only question is whether or not the very best players in the NBA will want to escape to Canada. If not, the Toronto Raptors may only see a slight improvement in the quality of free agents that they make, but should some really high profile players like Blake Griffin decide they want out of the United States and see Toronto as their only option, the Raptors could quickly build a championship contending team for seasons to come.
While the concept of a Trump presidency leading to a Toronto Raptors NBA championship sounds absurd, let me ask you this: If you are an NBA player who dislikes Donald Trump, wouldn't you give the Toronto Raptors a more serious look? Wouldn't that team look a lot more appealing to you than they did before? I think upon serious reflection, the answer is absolutely you would.
So, with that being the case, I think it's totally reasonable to expect big things from the Toronto Raptors during the Donald Trump administration. The very best players in the NBA are likely to seriously consider Toronto as a possible destination for them in free agency as a means of escaping Donald Trump. It's really not as crazy of a notion as you would think.
So, with this all being true, I really think a Donald Trump presidency is wonderful for the Toronto Raptors. They've been looking for a free agency recruiting advantage for quite some time and now they finally have it: They don't play in a country that is ran by Donald Trump. It's a simple advantage, but one that could pay major dividends for them in the coming seasons.