NBA Lord's NBA Blog

NBA Lord's NBA Blog

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Wednesday Windmill: Are the Detroit Pistons now for real after landing Blake Griffin?

                                          (Ryan Garza. Detroit Free Press) 

On Tuesday, I provided analysis of the Blake Griffin trade from the perspective of the Los Angeles Clippers. Today I want to do the same thing from the perspective of the Detroit Pistons. For details on the trade itself, I went through that on Tuesday as well. Click here for that in case you missed it.

At the moment, the Pistons are 23-26 and 1.5 games back of the 8th seeded 76ers in the Eastern Conference standings. By adding Blake Griffin, who is averaging 22.6 points, 5.4 assists, and 7.9 rebounds, the Pistons have now put themselves in the drivers seat to take the 8th seed and possibly move up as high as 4th or 5th. However, this move is much more about the future as opposed to making a late playoff push. The Pistons made this move to compete for championships in the future.

I've always been a big fan of Blake Griffin and believed in his abilities. His combination of skill and charisma make him the perfect face for any NBA franchise. Especially a team with a lot of history like the Pistons. By having a franchise player, the Pistons finally have an identity and something to get them excited about for the future. Griffin won't hit unrestricted free agency until the summer of 2022, so they have some time to put the right pieces around him. What helps is that they already have a really good big man to pair with Griffin in Andre Drummond, who has been named as John Wall's replacement in the All-Star Game. Drummond is averaging 14.8 points and 15.3 rebounds per game, making him one of the most dominant inside presences in the NBA. Together, Griffin and Drummond should form one of the most dynamic frontcourts in the NBA.

What remains to be seen is what the ceiling is of this Pistons team. Can they compete for a championship in the coming years? Are they a real threat to challenge the Celtics? Provided they make more good moves, I don't see why not. As you know, I thought the Clippers could have built a really competitive team around Griffin in the coming seasons, so I have no reason to doubt that the Pistons can do the same. Especially since they are in a weaker conference.

While the Pistons still have more work to do to get where they want to get to, landing Blake Griffin is a huge first step for them. What's scary is that Griffin isn't done getting better. He keeps adding more tools to his kit every year, so he's definitely not over the hump. As a matter of fact, I'm not even sure if he's hit his ceiling yet. The Pistons struck gold with this trade and should become a major force in the Eastern Conference over the coming seasons. Goodbye Lob City, hello Motor City.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Tomahawk Tuesday: Trading Blake Griffin means the Los Angeles Clippers are rebuilding

                                                  (Credit: Keith Allison. Click here for source) 

On Monday, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news that the Los Angeles Clippers traded Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons. The full deal is as follows: The Clippers send Blake Griffin, Brice Johnson, and Willie Reed to the Pistons for Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic, a protected 2018 first-round pick, and a 2019 second-round pick.

The Clippers are trying to convince people that they are not rebuilding, but don't let them fool you. That's exactly what this trade means. When looking back on it, the Clippers' decision to trade Chris Paul to the Rockets was already an indicator that they were looking to rebuild, but their decision to part ways with Blake Griffin just confirms it. It also appears to only be a matter of time before they part ways with Lou Williams and DeAndre Jordan as well.

Given that Blake Griffin is 28 years old and won't hit unrestricted free agency until the summer of 2022, I'm surprised the Clippers made this move. I understand that they fell short of their goals of winning a title during the Chris Paul era, but Griffin is still young enough to build around for the next five years. I would have thought the Clippers would have instead decided to hang onto Griffin and build the whole team around him as opposed to shipping him off when he actually might have his best basketball ahead of him.

Advocates of the move will say that Blake Griffin is too injury prone and not a guy who you can build a championship team around. The former has some merit to it, but I'm not convinced either claim is true. I've always liked Griffin's game and he has shown the willingness to improve his game every season. Griffin is already one of the top players in the game and as I said earlier he's not done getting better. The Clippers could have chosen to make Griffin their franchise centerpiece and continue to build an exciting brand of basketball in Los Angeles. Instead, they've chosen to ship off their most exciting player with the hopes of building a championship contender through the draft and free agency.

If you are guaranteed to draft the second coming of Hakeem Olajuwon or something along those lines, then parting ways with Blake Griffin makes sense. But there's no guarantee the Clippers get such a piece via the draft or free agency. Tanking is always a risky proposition because it relies on getting the right pick via lottery, selecting the right player, and also the health of that player. When you have a known commodity like Blake Griffin that has panned out and is committed to getting better, you hang onto that player every time unless you know you have really good odds of getting something better in return. The Clippers don't seem likely to get a better piece, which is why I'm not feeling this move for them.

It feels like today's NBA has embraced this "championship or bust" mentality and while I certainly respect teams for wanting to go all out to win a title, you need to do that with a strategy that will actually pay off. Trading away your franchise player because he hasn't yet led you to a title isn't always the right move to make. Sometimes it's better to be patient and see what you can accomplish with that player as opposed to blowing the whole thing up and wishing upon a star.

Blake Griffin is one of the top players in the league and is not going to be an easy guy to replace. The fact that this move doesn't replace his production or guarantee that the Clippers will replace his production down the line is reason enough for me to dislike the move. I question whether or not this move will pay off for the Clippers in the way that they think it will.

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Sunday, January 21, 2018

Skyhook Sunday: Is it time for the Charlotte Hornets to part with Kemba Walker?

                                         (Credit: Keith Allison. Click here for source)

Earlier this week, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reported that the Charlotte Hornets are open to trading their star point guard Kemba Walker due to an excess of bad contracts and untradeable assets. The Hornets are currently 11th in the Eastern Conference with an 18-25 record and are nowhere close to contending. Walker is having another really good season, averaging 21.7 points, 5.8 assists, and 1.2 steals per game, putting himself in the mix for another all-star appearance. Walker turns 28 in May and still has plenty of good basketball ahead of him, making him a very attractive trade chip. 

The Hornets have a couple of talented young guys in Frank Kaminsky and Jeremy Lamb, but they are still a couple of years away from being serious impact players. Those are guys who they can build around for the future provided they get some more assets, something that Walker can get them if they give him up. 

Typically, I'm against giving up guys like Walker since it's really hard to come by guys like him, but it really feels like the Hornets have backed themselves into a bit of a corner due to their inability to make a strong playoff push this year or next with the present pieces that they have. Getting Dwight Howard was a last ditch effort to become competitive and so far he has not yielded the type of fruit that they were hoping he would. If the Hornets could get some quality assets for Walker to help them build for the future, that would probably be the best thing for them to do. 

Of course, trading Walker only makes sense if you actually can get something good for him. You don't want to trade him for the sake of trading him. If you're going to move him, you better demand a high price and make sure you get something close to what he's worth. The Hornets should be able to get an attractive package for him, but they better make sure they play their cards right and don't make the mistake of giving him up for free. 

Personally, my guess is the Hornets will move Walker, but it'll happen right at the trade deadline. They should take their time with this one and really field all the offers that they can. The longer they wait, the better the offer they'll get and the more they'll be able to leverage other offers that are out there. Walker is a good enough player that a quality contender looking to make a move will be willing to give up a lot to get him. 

As far as what this all means for the direction of the Hornets, they're basically hitting the reset button should they move Walker. They're looking at a 2-3 year rebuilding process at minimum, which is never easy to sell to fans. However, if they really do get the right type of assets, they should be back in the playoff picture in the near future and give themselves a much better chance at actually winning a playoff series and making some noise in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Tomahawk Tuesday: Clippers and Rockets get chippy in Chris Paul's return to Los Angeles

                                         (Credit: Harry How/Getty Images) 

On Monday, things got a bit chippy between the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers. It was Chris Paul's first road game against his former team and it appeared as though emotions were very high as a result. The Clippers won the game 113-102 and improved to 22-21 on the season, putting them at the 7th seed in the Western Conference. With the loss, the Rockets fall to 30-12, putting them now 4.5 games back of the top seeded Golden State Warriors.

Things getting chippy in an NBA game is nothing unusual. It happens all the time. What made this game a bit unusual is the way in which things got chippy. Typically, once the final buzzer sounds and both teams go to their respective locker rooms, the chippiness ends and both teams move on to the next game. In the case of this game, things allegedly spilled over into the locker room, with Rockets small forward Trevor Ariza trying to sneak into the Clippers locker room or something weird like that.

After the game, both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin tried to downplay what happened and for the most part were respectful towards each other. However, when it came to what happened in the locker room, neither guy admitted fault on his team. They both tried to skirt questions about the matter and not directly describe what happened.

Obviously, if you are the Houston Rockets, the biggest thing you need to worry about is what happens to Trevor Ariza. He's the guy that's been implicated in this bizarre story and if he did indeed do as is being reported, he could be looking at a multi-game suspension. Ariza is having a solid season for the Rockets, averaging 12.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game on 42.4% shooting from the field, 38.4% shooting from 3-point range, and 89.1% shooting from the foul line. Losing him for any stretch of time would hurt.

As far as additional commentary is concerned, the guys on Inside the NBA found the whole thing to be rather humorous. Especially the part about the police being outside the locker rooms. I guess they think today's NBA is much softer than the league they played in.

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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Saturday Slam: Zach LaVine has solid debut for the Chicago Bulls

Zach LaVine had his debut for the Chicago Bulls against the Detroit Pistons on Saturday, scoring 14 points on 5/9 shooting from the field and 3/4 shooting from 3-point range in 19 minutes of action. The Bulls won the game 107-105.

LaVine has been recovering from a torn ACL that he suffered last season with the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Bulls traded for LaVine and Kris Dunn with the hopes of getting a quality young back court to build around for the future and they have to be pleased with what they saw. LaVine played a pretty efficient game and had no trouble being inserted into the starting lineup. In what has been a pretty bleak season, LaVine's debut gives the Bulls something to get excited about.

The Bulls don't have a ton of depth at the guard position as is evident by LaVine starting right away. What LaVine gives them is a quality scoring/slashing guard to play off the ball of Kris Dunn, who is more of a traditional pass-first point guard, averaging 13.8 points and 6.3 assists per game. Together, LaVine and Dunn give the Bulls a dynamic back court that is capable of doing a lot of different things on the floor. They can facilitate, attack the rim, and also score from beyond the arc. This young Bulls back court has the chance to be special in the coming seasons due to their versatility and compatibility.

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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Tomahawk Tuesday: The Portland Trail Blazers are hanging tough

Every time people give up on the Portland Trail Blazers, it feels like they find a way to prove their doubters wrong. The Trail Blazers are currently 5th place in the Western Conference and have won three straight games over the Atlanta Hawks, San Antonio Spurs, and Oklahoma City Thunder. What makes their success even more impressive is the fact that they've been doing this without a healthy Damian Lillard, who has played in just two of their last nine games due to a calf strain. During this time, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic have done a really nice job of carrying the load and keeping the ship afloat.

McCollum continues to show why he's one of the best shooting guards in the NBA, averaging 21.3 points per game on 44.2% shooting from the field, 41.9% shooting from 3-point range, and 86.7% shooting from the foul line. Nurkic likewise continues to show why he's one of the top big men in the NBA, averaging 14.6 points and 8.0 rebounds per game.

With a healthy Damian Lillard, the Trail Blazers have a very nice trio that gives them a very balanced scoring attack. Lillard provides them with an elite slashing guard that can facilitate and set the table for others, McCollum provides them with a lights out shooter, and Nurkic gives them a sound presence down on the block. Such a combination is very tricky to stop in today's NBA.

The only knock on this team is that they don't have a ton of depth. Once you get outside of those three guys, there's not much else to get really excited about. If they want to get to the next level and make a serious push for the Western Conference Finals, they need to add at least one more piece and give themselves a little bit better depth across the board. As good as they are, there is a limit to what they can presently accomplish.

That said, this team has been very impressive this season. They're a competitive presence in the Western Conference and have the pieces to perhaps win a playoff series. If they can make a surprise move before the trade deadline, perhaps they can exceed their current limits.

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Sunday, January 7, 2018

Skyhook Sunday: What does Isaiah Thomas bring to the Cleveland Cavaliers?

                                        (Credit: Jason Miller/ 

Earlier this week, Isaiah Thomas made his debut for the Cleveland Cavaliers after sitting out the first chunk of the season as he recovered from a hip injury. During his first two games back, Thomas is averaging 18.0 points and 3.5 assists per game on 52.0% shooting from the field and 41.7% shooting from 3-point range. The Cavaliers are 2-0 in these games, defeating the Portland Trail Blazers 127-110 and the Orlando Magic 131-127.

The biggest weak spot for this Cavaliers team has been at the point guard position. Derrick Rose (ankle) has missed an extended period of time as has Iman Shumpert (knee). With both of those guys out and Isaiah Thomas still waiting to get healthy, LeBron James, Jose Calderon, and even Dwyane Wade have had to run the point guard position. With Thomas now back, James and Wade can go back to their more natural positions while Calderon can move into much much more of a backup point guard type of role. Thomas is the best point guard on this team and is the only guy truly capable of filling in for Kyrie Irving.

Isaiah Thomas does more than just run the point guard position. He knows how to shoot and put up points. With him back, the Cavaliers have a much more potent offensive attack than before. In order to compete with the Golden State Warriors, the Cavaliers need all the offensive weapons that they can get and outside of LeBron James, Thomas might be the best pure scoring option that they have. As good as Kevin Love, J.R. Smith, and Dwyane Wade are, those guys aren't good enough of a supporting cast around James to get past the Warriors in a seven game series. When you add Isaiah Thomas to the mix, I don't think that makes the Cavaliers favorites to take out the Warriors or anything, but it definitely makes them a lot more of a threat.

The addition of Isaiah Thomas cannot fully be quantified by statistics or analytics. Thomas brings a lot of intangibles to this team such as leadership, toughness, and determination. If you are going to win an NBA championship, you need guys who can play through adversity and step up in crunch time. Isaiah Thomas is one of the very best crunch time players in the NBA, leading the league in 4th quarter points last season. With him in the rotation, the Cavaliers have one more guy who they can go to in clutch situations, taking some of the pressure off of LeBron James.

If you are wondering how big of an addition Isaiah Thomas is to this Cavaliers team, I hope this article helped answer your questions. Thomas is a major addition to this team for his point guard play, scoring, and ability to step up in the clutch. I don't think the Cavaliers can win a title without him, but with him at full strength, they absolutely have what it takes to go wire to wire with the Warriors in a seven game series.

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