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


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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