NBA Lord's NBA Blog

NBA Lord's NBA Blog

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Saturday Slam: Michael Beasley has the New York Knicks in playoff contention

                                          (Credit: Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) 

At the moment, the New York Knicks (17-15) have the #8 spot in the Eastern Conference and Michael Beasley deserves a fair amount of credit for having them in this position. During the last 6 games, he's averaged 19.83 points per game resulting in 4 wins for the Knicks. In two of those games, he scored 30+ points.

Beasley is a bit of a controversial player due to some off the court issues that he's had, but there's never been any question of as to whether he's talented or not. He's got a ton of talent. It's just a matter of him channeling his talent in the right way and not getting into trouble off the court.

So far this season, he's been a good citizen and is sticking to what he does best, which is getting buckets. The Knicks have been in desperate need of someone who can take some of the scoring pressure off of Kristaps Porzingis, which is what makes Beasley such a welcomed addition on their team. When you have a second guy on the floor who has the potential to go off for 30 points, things suddenly become a lot easier for Porzingis to play his game and not worry about getting double teamed.

The biggest question right now is whether or not Beasley can keep this up and if the Knicks can continue to make this push for a playoff spot. Personally, I really don't see why not. I was already optimistic about Beasley being a good fit for the Knicks when he initially signed and now that he's producing like this, my optimism is being validated.

It should be noted that Beasley isn't the only one stepping up for this Knicks team. Jarrett Jack has been another pleasant surprise, frequently scoring in double figures and doing a good job at running the offense. Enes Kanter has also been a really good fit alongside Porzingis down low, averaging 13.5 points and 10.0 rebounds per game.

While the post-Carmelo era is still in its infancy, Knicks fans have to like what they're seeing from their team. They have a legitimate franchise player in Kristaps Porzingis and have some quality pieces around him that have them vying for a playoff spot. It'll be interesting to see how this team does as we head into January and the latter half of the season.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Tomahawk Tuesday: Comparing #8 Kobe Bryant to #24 Kobe Bryant

                                          (Credit: CBS Sports) 

On Monday night, the Los Angeles Lakers retired Kobe Bryant's #8 and #24. There has been a lot of debate about which Kobe was better and so I have decided to weigh in.

One interesting to thing to ask yourself when going about this debate is which number do you envision Kobe Bryant in when you think of him? Is it #8 or #24? Personally, when I think of Kobe, I envision him wearing the #8. I think the reason why is that I am old enough to remember Kobe when he was a rookie and also when he won his first three NBA titles with Shaquille O'Neal. I guess I just think of him wearing a #8 because that's what I first saw him in.

When looking at the stats and accomplishments of the two eras, it's pretty evenly split. #8 Kobe averaged 23.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.6 blocks, and 2.9 turnovers per game en route to three NBA championships, eight All-Star appearances, four All-NBA First Teams, and one NBA scoring championship (2006). #24 Kobe averaged 26.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.4 steals, .3 blocks, and 3.1 turnovers en route to two NBA championships, 10 All-Star appearances, seven All-NBA First Teams, and one NBA scoring championship (2007).

While statistics do a great job of comparing the two eras, they don't capture the full scope of what made Kobe so amazing in both eras. In the #8 era, what made Kobe amazing was his phenomenal athleticism and ability to score at will. It was in this era that Kobe scored 81 points against the Toronto Raptors (2006), which is the most points scored in an NBA game since Wilt Chamberlain dropped 100 points in 1962. When he wore the #8, Kobe Bryant was as good of a one-on-one player that we've seen and there were few that could do anything to contain him. In addition to his scoring and athleticism, Kobe won three titles with Shaq, already cementing himself as one of the greatest to ever play.

In the #24 era, Kobe wasn't as athletic or flashy, but he was perhaps even more lethal. It was in this era that Kobe learned to share the ball and be the go-to option on a championship team. As good as he was during the #8 era, Kobe was still in the shadow of Shaq. In the #24 era, he won his first of two rings without Shaq, finally establishing his own separate identity.

When looking at how Kobe played during the #24 era, he was much better from a technical standpoint. He had a lot more moves and developed a post-game, similar to what Michael Jordan developed at the end of his career. Kobe made up for his diminishing athleticism with more tools in his bag and a willingness to play team basketball.

Personally, I think what makes #24 Kobe most special isn't the rings or the fade away jumper. It's the way he overcame adversity and evolved into one of the most beloved players in the game. I hated #8 Kobe all the way through, but I grew to respect and admire #24 Kobe with each passing year. When Kobe continued to play after tearing his Achilles and fracturing his knee, that was when I finally recognized how special of a player he really was. That fighting spirit and refusal to give up was made most evident during those dark moments. That was when the world got to see how much of a fighter he was and how much he loved the game of basketball.

Sadly, I never enjoyed watching Kobe play until the very end of his career. Back when he was winning championships, I hated him and wanted him to lose so badly. Now that his career is over, I frequently watch highlights of his games and admire his greatness. I even find myself rooting for him when I watch him play in his final game against the Utah Jazz, the team of my childhood.

Whether you love him or hate him, one thing that can we can all say about Kobe Bryant is that we miss him. If you are a Lakers fan, you miss cheering him on. If you are a Spurs fan or a Celtics fan, you miss rooting against him. Kobe's impact on the game of basketball truly cannot be quantified and while he never surpassed Michael Jordan as the greatest ever, he carved out his own unique legacy that he can truly call his own. There will never be another "Black Mamba."

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Tomahawk Tuesday: Kawhi Leonard has solid season debut for the San Antonio Spurs

                                          (Getty Images) 

On Tuesday, Kawhi Leonard (quadriceps) made his long awaited season debut against the Dallas Mavericks, scoring 13 points and grabbing 6 rebounds in 16 minutes of action. The Spurs lost the game 95-89, putting them at 3rd in the Western Conference with a 19-9 record. While the game didn't go the way the Spurs would have liked, they have to be pleased with how Leonard performed. His shot looked pretty fluid and he wasted no time getting into a groove, scoring 6 points within the first 5 minutes of the game.

While Leonard looked good, it was still clear that he wasn't 100%. He didn't make a lot of hard cuts to the basket and didn't throw down any dunks. He looked to be about 75-80% out there and it'll probably be at least a couple of weeks before he gets back to full strength.

What's most impressive in all of this is the fact that the Spurs went 18-9 without Leonard, who is considered by many to be the best player in the NBA. Many teams would have struggled to fill the void of their superstar, but the Spurs came together and found a way to make up for his absence through playing team basketball and buying into the system of their legendary coach Gregg Popovich.

LaMarcus Aldridge in particular really stepped up, averaging 22.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. He did a really good job of being the go to option in Leonard's absence and really shouldering the scoring load. Rudy Gay and Kyle Anderson also deserve a lot of credit for the way they filled in at the small forward spot. Together, they combined for over 20 points per game and did a stellar job at giving the Spurs production out on the wing. Without Aldridge, Gay, and Anderson, the Spurs wouldn't have survived like they did.

While it will be no easy task for the Spurs to win the Western Conference crown, they have to like where they sit right now. They're 3.0 games back of the Golden State Warriors and 3.5 games back of the Houston Rockets. Provided Kawhi Leonard can stay healthy going forward, they're going to be really difficult to stop come May and possibly June.

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Saturday, December 9, 2017

Saturday Slam: The Utah Jazz have a special rookie in Donovan Mitchell

                                          (Credit: Clutchpoints.com)

After losing Gordon Hayward in free agency, it looked like the Utah Jazz were heading back towards the NBA Draft lottery. Nobody would have expected them to be at the .500 mark at this point of the season and be one of the top eight teams in the Western Conference. A big reason for their success has been the emergence of rookie guard Donovan Mitchell, who was selected with the 13th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.

Through 26 games, Mitchell has started in 18 games, averaging 17.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.4 steals per game on 41.8% shooting from the field, 37.5% shooting from 3-point range, and 83.8% shooting from the foul line. As good as the Jazz thought he could become, not even they thought he'd be this good.

What stands out about Mitchell is how dynamic of a player he is. At 6'3", 211 pounds, Mitchell has a great combination of size, quickness, strength, and overall athleticism.  He handles the ball really well and is very comfortable playing the point guard position when needed.

While he can dance around defenders and drain a 3-pointer in their face, he has no problem attacking the rim and finishing through contact. His ability to score in a wide variety of ways makes him really tough for defenders to stop.  On the defensive end of the floor, Mitchell has the ability to guard both point guards and shooting guards due to his overall athletic package. He has a good feel for getting steals and forcing turnovers, which leads to easy baskets in transition.

In addition to possessing the physical gifts, Mitchell has the mentality to be an elite player in the NBA. He has no problem taking over a game and being the guy who his team relies on in crunch time. Some rookies have a hard time adjusting to this role, but Mitchell has embraced this role from day one.

While 76ers rookie Ben Simmons likely wins rookie of the year honors, Donovan Mitchell is making a compelling case for himself. He's playing elite basketball and has the Jazz on pace to make the playoffs. He really couldn't be off to a better start.

Note: This blog post also appears on my Utah Jazz blog. Click here to check it out.

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Sunday, December 3, 2017

Skyhook Sunday: Should the Los Angeles Clippers trade DeAndre Jordan?

During the last week or so, DeAndre Jordan's name has come up in trade rumors. According to Gery Woelfel, the Toronto Raptors, Washington Wizards, Minnesota Timberwolves, and Milwaukee Bucks are all interested in trading for the Los Angeles Clippers' star big man. Further, it sounds like the Clippers are exploring the option of unloading him in order to help them rebuild. 

The reason why the Clippers are considering this is the fact that they are having a down year (8-14) and don't appear to be close to contending with the present cast of players that they have. With Chris Paul gone, the line of thinking is why not blow the whole thing up and start from scratch with Blake Griffin as the centerpiece? 

While tanking and blowing up your franchise is a rather trendy thing for NBA teams to do, that doesn't make it the right move for every team. For the Clippers, given how recently they were contending, they might be better off tweaking their roster and keeping their foundation in place as opposed to essentially starting all over. 

At 29 years of age, DeAndre Jordan is still producing and has several good years left in him, averaging 10.1 points, 14.0 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game. As an added plus, he's having his best free throw shooting season ever (59.6%). Personally, I think that if the Clippers want to get back to where they were a couple of years ago, they'd be wise to hang on to Jordan as well as Griffin and make them their foundation for the next five years. Everyone else should be on the open market, but trading Jordan or Griffin would mark the end of an era and officially put them back into full blown rebuilding mode. 

If there's anyone who the Clippers should look to be getting rid of, it's Lou Williams, who at 31 years of age is averaging 18.7 points and 4.1 assists per game. Williams still has a lot of value and could command a lot in the trade market. If the Clippers used him as a means to getting some higher draft picks and some younger talent, that would be a fantastic move. 

I understand why the Clippers are exploring the trade market for DeAndre Jordan, but ultimately, I think it would be unwise for them to move him. He still has a lot to give them and alongside Blake Griffin, they could have one of the best front courts in the NBA for the next several years. The Clippers need to press forward with those two guys as their foundation and look for ways to put the right pieces around them in order for them to succeed. 

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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Saturday Slam: The Philadelphia 76ers are starting to look terrifying


For the last few years, the Philadelphia 76ers have been one of the worst teams in all of professional sports and the laughing stock of the NBA. Their methodical tanking approach has taken on a life of its own with the whole "Trust the Process" motto, etc. It's become almost a joke.

This season however, the 76ers are not a joke. They are 8-7 and have one of the best young duos in the NBA in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Simmons is averaging 18.1 points, 9.1 rebounds, and 8.0 assists per game while Embiid is averaging 22.8 points, 10.9 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.9 blocks.

Earlier this week against the Los Angeles Lakers, Embiid had one of the most ridiculous stat lines you'll ever see: 46 points, 15 rebounds, 7 blocks, and 7 assists. It felt like the coming out party for Embiid and the entire 76ers team. It was like they were putting the rest of the league on notice that they aren't going anywhere.

The major question mark with this 76ers team is whether or not they can stay healthy. Simmons missed his first season in the league due to a foot injury while Embiid missed his first two seasons and only played in 31 games last season. This is the first season where Embiid is actually on pace to play for the duration of the season, which if you think about it is pretty crazy. As for their rookie point guard Markelle Fultz, he's out indefinitely with a shoulder injury and is on track to miss a good chunk of his rookie campaign as well.

The bottom line with this 76ers team is that if they stay healthy and are able to keep their core pieces together, they're terrifying. There's no better way to describe it. Joel Embiid looks like the second coming of Hakeem Olajuwon while Ben Simmons has the makings of another LeBron James. If Markelle Fultz is able to live up to his potential and avoid the injury bug, we could be looking at a legitimate "big three" in Philadelphia for the next decade. For all the talk and jokes about trusting the process, "the process" is not only working, it's putting together a scary good basketball team.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Tomahawk Tuesday: How long can the San Antonio Spurs survive without Kawhi Leonard?


The San Antonio Spurs are 8-5 and currently 3rd place in the Western Conference. While this appears to be business as usual, the Spurs have had to make due without their superstar Kawhi Leonard, who is yet to play in a game this season due to a quadriceps injury. Even worse, he's expected to be out for a few more weeks, putting his return sometime in December at the earliest.

It's no secret that the Spurs are masters of making due with a shorthanded lineup. It is said that Gregg Popovich can grab any five guys off the street and get them to play team basketball. While this principle is certainly true, it would still be foolish to suggest that the Spurs can maintain long-term success without Leonard.

What makes Leonard such a valuable piece to this team is that he literally does everything. He defends both out on the perimeter and in the paint, he can score both inside and out, and he's absolutely lethal in transition due to his combination of size, speed, quickness, and athleticism. There are some who feel Leonard is the best player in the NBA and when you watch him do his thing on the court, it's hard to argue against that position. He is a jack-of-all-trades wing that continues to get better every season.

                                          (Getty Images) 

Fortunately for the Spurs, they have a really talented big man in LaMarcus Aldridge, who is averaging 21.8 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Aldridge is able to carry more of the scoring load in Leonard's absence and act as a legitimate number one option. In addition to Aldridge, the Spurs have a talented veteran wing in Rudy Gay, who has been averaging 13.0 points and 5.4 rebounds on 47.7% shooting from the field, 41.4% shooting from 3-point range, and 83.8% shooting from the foul line.

In addition to those guys, the Spurs have some quality role players in Manu Ginobili, Danny Green, Patty Mills, and Pau Gasol. The Spurs are once again showing that they are a true team. When one guy goes down, even if it's their superstar, they know how to keep the ship afloat.

As for how long the Spurs can survive without Kawhi Leonard, I think the answer is that they can survive just fine so long as he does eventually come back. They can't win a title without him. That's pretty obvious. However, they can play above .500 basketball and keep themselves in the mix to get a top three or four seed in the Western Conference until he returns.

If you are the Spurs, the main thing you need to do is stay patient and make sure Leonard doesn't come back until he is 100% or very close to it. While it may seem tempting to rush him back a bit sooner, if you have been around the block as many times as the Spurs, you have the luxury to give Leonard all the time he needs. It looks like they are taking this approach and I expect it to pay off for them come April and May.

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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Saturday Slam: Will Eric Bledsoe find new life with the Milwaukee Bucks?

                                          (Photo credit: NBA.com)

The big news of the week was the Phoenix Suns trading Eric Bledsoe to the Milwaukee Bucks for Greg Monroe, a protected 2018 1st round draft pick, and a 2018 protected 2nd round draft pick. Bledsoe made it clear on social media that he wanted out of Phoenix and the Suns granted his request.

Bledsoe is in his 8th season in the NBA and is now with his third team, spending his first three years with the Los Angeles Clippers and his next four years with the Phoenix Suns before being traded to the Bucks.

As the 18th overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, Bledsoe has blossomed into one of the better point guards in the NBA, having back-to-back 20+ points per game seasons in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons. His biggest issue over the last couple of seasons has been staying healthy, suffering a torn meniscus in the 2015-16 season, allowing him to only play in 31 games. Last season, he was able to play in 66 games, but once again had his season shortened due to knee soreness.

Now that he is in Milwaukee, Bledsoe is hoping for a fresh start with a team that has a chance to do some damage in the playoffs. Bledsoe never made the playoffs with the Suns and with the current direction they are going in, it wasn't clear if he would be able to get back to the playoffs if he stayed in Phoenix for the long hall.

As far as whether or not Bledsoe will find new life in Milwaukee, he certainly has the chance to do so if he is able to stay healthy and if the Bucks in turn are able to get back to full strength with a healthy Jabari Parker. With Giannis Antetokounmpo at the helm, the Bucks have the pieces to do some serious damage in the Eastern Conference. It's just a matter of building on the foundation that they have and making sure no major injuries happen.

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Saturday, October 28, 2017

Saturday Slam: If LaVar Ball really cared about his sons, he'd shut up

                                         (Mark J. Terrell/AP) 

If LaVar Ball really cared about his sons, he'd shut up. There's no way to sugar coat it. His comments directed at other NBA players, most recently John Wall, serve as motivation for these players to shut down his son Lonzo, who is averaging 11.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 9.0 assists per game during his first four games with the Los Angeles Lakers.

I debated whether or not I should write this article given that I don't want to give LaVar any more attention. At the same time, there's no way for me to not address this guy. As a basketball writer, I have a duty to give my honest, unabashed take on how this moron is putting a target on his sons' back every time he talks trash. While some like LaVar and see him as a marketing genius, others, like myself, see him as an egotistical nut job that doesn't have all of his wits about him. To a certain extent his actions are theatre, but to another extent, this is who he really is. No sane, normal person would act like he does. Even if they were trying to promote their kids and build a brand around them.

While LaVar is batshit crazy, what's perhaps even more troubling is his lack of empathy for his sons. Especially Lonzo, who is the Michael Jackson of the Ball family. If LaVar actually cared about his son and his NBA career, he'd recede into the background and not become a problem that he has to manage. The fact that LaVar continues to make idiotic and egotistical comments just goes to show that all he cares about is himself.

Unfortunately for LaVar, Lonzo is really all that he has. Neither of his other two sons have a serious shot at an NBA career. LaMelo in particular is an overrated little dweeb that has no idea how to run an offense and only knows how to play street ball. The fact that he has his own shoe is a joke and also will likely deem him ineligible to play at UCLA. As for LiAngelo, the middle Ball brother, he's supposed to be pretty good, but the odds of him morphing into a #2 overall pick in the NBA Draft are very low.

I don't like LaVar Ball and I don't give him a hall pass for being some "marketing genius." His behavior is inexcusable and does nothing to help his sons. If he really cared about them, he'd shut up and not seek the spotlight. It's really that simple.

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Friday, October 27, 2017

NBALord.com Podcast: Phoenix Suns fire Earl Watson; Aaron Gordon is becoming a star


On this week's episode of the NBALord.com Podcast, I address the Phoenix Suns' decision to fire Earl Watson, Aaron Gordon becoming a star, and more. Click here to listen to the podcast.




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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Wednesday Windmill: Is Aaron Gordon on the verge of a breakout season?

                                          (Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports) 

On Tuesday night, Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon had a monster game against the Brooklyn Nets, scoring 41 points and grabbing 14 rebounds on 14/18 shooting from the field, 8/10 shooting from the free throw line, and 5/5 shooting from three-point range. The Magic won the game 125-121, improving to 3-1 on the season.

Entering his fourth season in the NBA, the 22 year old Gordon has been viewed as somewhat of a project by the Magic organization. The athleticism has always been there, but they've been waiting for his skills to catch up. While it is early yet, Gordon appears to have flipped the switch, averaging 27.5 points and 11.5 rebounds per game on the season during the two games that he has played.

When looking at his stat line against the Nets, what's most frightening is the 5/5 shooting from three-point range and 8/10 shooting from the foul line. When you combine freakish athleticism with that kind of shooting, you have a player that is virtually unstoppable. There's no way for defenses to contain a combination like that. Pick your poison, inside or out, you're going to get burned.

If Gordon keeps this up, he will have a breakout season of epic proportions. The question of course is whether or not he can sustain this for the duration of the season. Personally, I'm optimistic that he can. I was very high on Gordon when he entered the 2014 NBA Draft because of his motor and athleticism. He seemed to have all the pieces needed to be a star in the league. It was just a matter of being patient and letting him develop.

While we are still early in the season, the Orlando Magic have to be excited about what they're seeing from Aaron Gordon thus far. They drafted him with the hopes of him being their franchise player and so far, he's delivering the goods. If he keeps this up, there's no reason to doubt their chances of becoming a serious force in the East.

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Sunday, October 22, 2017

Skyhook Sunday: The Phoenix Suns are exploding



Earlier today, news broke that the Phoenix Suns fired their head coach Earl Watson after their 0-3 start, which consisted of two 40+ point losses to the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Clippers. To make things even worse, their star point guard Eric Bledsoe appeared to request a trade, stating that he "doesn't want to be" in Phoenix.




There's really no way to paint a pretty picture of what's going on here. To have your head coach fired and your star player demand a trade on the same day is not a good thing. Especially when you've been getting blown off the court.

Probably the main thing to look for at this point is what the Suns do with Bledsoe. If he wants out, they should seriously explore moving him. At the same time, they shouldn't be in any hurry to move him. He doesn't hit unrestricted free agency until the summer of 2019, so it's not like he'll be gone after the season if they trade him. They could also explore moving a couple of other veteran pieces like Tyson Chandler and Jared Dudley to help them rebuild for the future.

At this point, the best thing the Suns can do is just try to calm the waters and bring some sense of normalcy to the locker room. It will be up to interim head coach Jay Triano to make this happen. The Suns are behaving like a team that is 0-20, when in all reality they have plenty of time to turn this season around and not have it turn into a total dumpster fire.

Note: For more insight on the Suns' decision to fire Earl Watson, watch the video below by Phoenix Suns expert Brandon Condron. 



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Friday, October 20, 2017

NBALord.com Podcast: Gordon Hayward is done for the year; Rockets take out the Warriors


On this week's episode of the NBALord.com Podcast, I address Gordon Hayward's season-ending injury, the Rockets' win over the Warriors, and more. Click here to listen to the podcast.





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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Wednesday Windmill: Without Gordon Hayward, the Boston Celtics need Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to deliver


On opening night at Cleveland, Gordon Hayward, the Boston Celtics' big free agent acquisition of the summer, went down with a dislocated and fractured left tibia. Hayward underwent surgery on Wednesday and could be done for the season. Given the severity of his injury, the Celtics have to expect the worst and plan on playing the entire season without their star small forward. With this being the grim reality, the question that is on the minds of everyone is whether or not the Celtics can survive the season without him.


On the surface, there's no way to paint a pretty picture of this situation. Hayward averaged a career best 21.9 points per game last season and is just starting to enter his prime. Given how badly the Celtics fared against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals last season, it's hard to see them reaching the NBA Finals with Hayward on the sidelines for the rest of the season.

If the Celtics want any chance of making a run for the Eastern Conference crown, they'll need to get big production from Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, two small forwards who they selected third overall in the 2016 and 2017 NBA drafts respectively. Given that Brown is in his second year and Tatum is a rookie, there will be more expected of Brown this season to deliver the goods, especially in the early portion of the season.

The good news for the Celtics is that so far, both guys, especially Brown, are stepping up in Hayward's absence. On Tuesday night against the Cavaliers, Brown scored 25 points, grabbed 6 rebounds, and got 2 steals. On Wednesday night against the Bucks, Brown had 18 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. As for Tatum, he finished with a double-double against the Cavaliers with 14 points and 10 rebounds while finishing with 8 points and 9 rebounds against the Bucks.

                                         (John Tlumacki. The Boston Globe) 

If both Brown and Tatum continue to produce like this, the Celtics could find a way to make things interesting in the Eastern Conference. As #3 overall picks, they definitely have the talent to do so. It's just a matter of them finding a way to consistently play up to their maximum potential four out of five nights.

While Kyrie Irving and Al Horford are going to have to carry the load as the two experienced stars on the team, the Celtics' season really comes down to how well Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum step up. They'll be getting the bulk of the minutes at the small forward spot and will need to make up for Hayward's absence. If they are able to do so, the Celtics' season isn't lost. If not, we might as well pencil in the Cavaliers as Eastern Conference champions assuming LeBron James doesn't go down.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tomahawk Tuesday: The Houston Rockets get a huge win in Golden State


On Tuesday night, the Houston Rockets defeated the Golden State Warriors 122-121 to spoil their home opener and championship ring ceremony. James Harden led the charge for the Rockets with 27 points, 6 rebounds, and 10 assists while Kevin Durant finished with 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 7 assists, having his game winning bucket waived off upon further review. 




The fact that this game took place in mid-October doesn't take away from the significance of this win for the Rockets. They're a team that is trying to prove themselves as a legitimate threat to the Warriors and doing what they did on Tuesday night isn't a bad start. They could have packed it in when they were down 101-88 at the end of the third quarter, but instead they chose to keep fighting and not give up. James Harden stepped up big time as did Eric Gordon, P.J. Tucker, and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute off the bench, who combined for 58 points. A gritty win like this took a real team effort.

As far as the Warriors are concerned, I wouldn't worry too much about this loss, but it definitely doesn't feel good to lose on your home floor after receiving your championship rings. These are the kind of games you want to come out and win wire to wire for the purpose of entertaining your fans and sending a firm message to the rest of the league. A lot of what makes the Warriors tough to stop is the mental advantage they have over other teams who believe they have no shot at taking them out. By losing tonight, the Warriors gave their opponents a little bit of hope and sometimes a little bit of hope is all a team needs to pull off an upset.

While the Rockets have 81 games to go before the playoffs begin, tonight's win is still a huge win for them. They came into this game eager to prove that they are the real deal after acquiring Chris Paul and I think they proved that they are, even though Paul himself didn't have as good of a game as he was hoping for. The bottom line is that when it comes to defeating the defending champions on their home floor, you'll take that win and use it as motivation whether it comes in October, December, or March. The timing of the win isn't nearly as important as the win itself.

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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

NBALord.com Podcast: Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins get contract extensions


On this week's episode of the NBALord.com 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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Monday, October 2, 2017

NBALord.com Podcast: Dwyane Wade to the Cavs; Warriors vs. Nuggets court side



On this week's episode of the NBALord.com podcast, I talk about Dwyane Wade to the Cleveland Cavaliers and also my observations from watching the Golden State Warriors-Denver Nuggets game on Saturday from court side seats. Click here to listen to the podcast.



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Sunday, October 1, 2017

Skyhook Sunday: Calling out Stephen Curry will come back to haunt Suns rookie Josh Jackson

                                          (Credit: NBA.com) 

Last week, Phoenix Suns rookie Josh Jackson did something very foolish: He ran his mouth. When addressing two-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry, Jackson did not pull back any punches, choosing to instead criticize the future Hall of Fame player by calling him "small and unathletic." After rightfully receiving blow back for his comments, Jackson tried to save face on Twitter, saying that the media is twisting his words.




Jackson's attempt at giving his comments context failed. When you call a player in the NBA  "small and unathletic", there's no way to not take that as an insult. What's worse is that Jackson's comments aren't even true.  At 6'3", Stephen Curry is not "small" and as a guy who can dunk a basketball and cross up the best defenders in the league, he is certainly not "unathletic."

An example of an NBA player who is "small" would be Isaiah Thomas, who is listed at 5'9". An example of an NBA player who is "unathletic" would be the now retired Brian Scalabrine. If you're going to criticize anyone, your criticism better be accurate. Especially if you are criticizing a guy who has accomplished as much as Stephen Curry.

What makes Jackson's comments especially idiotic is the fact that his team plays in the same division as the Golden State Warriors. He's going to face Curry four times a year, so it's not like he's going to be able to hide from him. If Jackson played for an Eastern Conference team, his comments wouldn't be as big of a deal since he wouldn't really be competing against the Golden State Warriors all that often. But given that he's in the same division as Curry,  he's going to be setting himself up for four nights of hell every year.


                                       
                                          (Credit: Keith Allison. Click here for source)

Do you think I'm exaggerating? Do you think Stephen Curry is too nice of a guy to want to put someone in their place? Think again. Curry might have the look of a really nice guy and I'm sure he is off the court, but on the court, he's an absolute assassin, eager to deliver one dagger after the next to all of his opponents.  Whether Josh Jackson likes it or not, he will get the message loud and clear that Stephen Curry is not "small" or "unathletic."

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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Saturday Slam: How much can Dwyane Wade help the Cleveland Cavaliers?


After clearing waivers following his release from the Chicago Bulls, Dwyane Wade signed a one-year, $2.3M deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday. While Wade is in the twilight years of his career, he's still a very good NBA player, averaging 18.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.4 steals in 60 games with the Bulls last season. If the Cavaliers know how to use him right, Wade could make a huge impact on their quest for another NBA championship.

Like I said above, the key in all of this is for the Cavaliers to use Wade the right way. They can't expect him to play more than 30 minutes per game. They have to use him as a spice, giving him somewhere between 24 and 30 minutes every night while also resting him when appropriate. They need to find this balance between keeping him lubricated and in some sort of rhythm while also not overworking him and jeopardizing his ability to be effective in the playoffs, which is when they really need him.

While Wade has tailed off a bit, he should still be able to play well alongside LeBron James. The two of them really fed off of each other's energy while they were in Miami, especially in the transition. When you have two guys like that out on the wing, you're pretty close to unbeatable.



Health is probably the biggest thing the Cavaliers need to worry about as a collective whole. Isaiah Thomas (hip) isn't expected to be back until January, so it's not like Wade is the only guy whose health needs to be monitored. This team can absolutely contend for a championship. The pieces are there, it's really just a matter of everyone finding a way to stay healthy, which is easier said than done.

If Wade is able to stay healthy and give the Cavaliers the maximum level of production that he is capable of, he's an absolute steal given how much money he's getting paid. Wade is a three-time NBA champion who knows what it's like to play with LeBron. The two of them have been through a lot and know what it takes to win a championship together. Given the moves that the Boston Celtics have made, there's really no reason to not like this move for the Cavaliers.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Tomahawk Tuesday: Golden State Warriors put Donald Trump in his place



For reasons that I will never understand, President Donald Trump decided to take on the Golden State Warriors, saying that Stephen Curry's invitation to the White House was being withdrawn due to his hesitancy to visit.


In response to our Mickey Mouse of a president, the Warriors released the following statement.


 "While we intended to meet as a team at the first opportunity we had this morning to collaboratively discuss a potential visit to the White House, we accept that President Trump has made it clear that we are not invited. We believe there is nothing more American than our citizens having the right to express themselves freely on matters important to them. We're disappointed that we did not have an opportunity during this process to share our views or have open dialogue on issues impacting our communities that we felt would be important to raise. 

"In lieu of a visit to the White House, we have decided that we'll constructively use our trip to the nation's capital in February to celebrate equality, diversity, and inclusion; the values that we embrace as an organization." 

I have not been shy about my dislike for Donald Trump. I think he's an absolute buffoon and a total embarrassment to what our country is supposed to stand for. He has zero regard for free speech, defends all forms of hatred, and only cares to be president to his base, tuning out the 65% of the country that disapproves of his job.

What's even worse is that President Trump delights in fomenting hatred and making our country even more divided. The fact that we have the President of the United States picking fights with a professional basketball team is just mind boggling to me. I don't know if words can convey just how unprecedented and embarrassing this is. If there was something I could do to give Donald Trump a new brain and a new heart, I would. Unfortunately, he'd have to visit the Wizard of Oz to make that happen.

In contrast, the Warriors stand for freedom of speech, equality, diversity, and inclusion. On a national stage, they showed President Trump how he should be doing his job, which is to care about all Americans regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. I just wanted to take the time to applaud the Golden State Warriors for taking a stand against Donald Trump and reminding him that he doesn't represent those of us who did not vote for him.

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Monday, September 25, 2017

NBALord.com Podcast: Carmelo gets traded; LeBron slams Trump

                                          (Doug Pensinger. Getty Images) 

On this week's episode of the NBALord.com Podcast, I address Carmelo Anthony getting traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, LeBron James' comments about Donald Trump, and more. Click here to listen to the podcast.





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Sunday, September 24, 2017

Skyhook Sunday: How dangerous are the Oklahoma City Thunder after landing Carmelo Anthony?


On Saturday, the Oklahoma City Thunder acquired Carmelo Anthony from the New York Knicks, giving up Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and a 2018 second round pick. For the Knicks, they finally get to build around Kristaps Porzingis and free up tons of cap space (approximately $26.5M per year over the next two seasons). As for the Thunder, they get a player who could be the missing piece to a championship run.

After getting Paul George to pair with Russell Westbrook, the Thunder were already cooking with gas, but now that they've landed Carmelo Anthony, they have a legit "Big Three" capable of doing serious damage in the playoffs. Last season, Anthony averaged 22.4 points and 5.9 rebounds per game; Paul George averaged 23.7 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 1.6 steals; Russell Westbrook averaged 31.6 points, 10.7 rebounds, 10.4 assists, and 1.6 steals per game, the first triple-double average since Oscar Robertson in the 1961-62 season.

While the Golden State Warriors still have to be favored to come out of the West, the Thunder might be their biggest threat. Not only do the Thunder have the talent to give the Warriors a scare, they should have the mindset as well. Russell Westbrook, Paul George, and Carmelo Anthony just want to win a ring. They'll be more than willing to sacrifice and share the wealth to accomplish their ultimate goal.

Perhaps what's most scary for the Warriors is the fact that Westbrook appears to have a vendetta against Kevin Durant for the way he left Oklahoma City. There's nothing more scary in today's NBA than an angry Russell Westbrook. When he's angry at you, you don't stand much of a chance. With Paul George and Carmelo Anthony on his team, he'll be capable of doing even more damage than before.

The bottom line with this Thunder team is that they definitely have the pieces to win an NBA championship. It may take some time for them to gel, but once they click, they'll be scary. Even if they don't go all the way this season, they'll make the season a lot more compelling.

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