NBA Lord's NBA Blog

NBA Lord's NBA Blog

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Saturday Slam: What does the future hold for Isaiah Thomas?


Earlier this month, Los Angeles Lakers point guard Isaiah Thomas underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right hip and is expected to need four months to recover. While the Lakers are reportedly open to re-signing the two-time All-Star, the future for Thomas remains uncertain. Since being drafted by the Sacramento Kings with the 60th overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, Thomas has proven his worth, averaging 18.9 points, 5.1 assists, and nearly 1 steal per game during his time in the league.  However, he is yet to find a permanent home, playing for five teams in a span of seven seasons.

Thomas has had a really good career. The numbers and All-Star appearances back it up. Yet for whatever reason no team has been willing to commit to him for the long term. He's considered to be a very valuable trade chip but not a guy who you can really build a team around. His value seems to lie in being a guy who you can trade to get other good assets. It's a very weird role to play in the basketball world because you are both desired and unwanted at the same time.

Personally, I think Isaiah Thomas deserves a shot to stay in a place for at least three seasons. Having to constantly be on the go like he has been is very challenging. He has to get used to new systems, new teammates, and new cultures all at the same time. Everyone, regardless of what profession they are in, wants to find some sort of consistency in their lives and it's impossible to do that if you are constantly getting traded from one team to the next.

As for whether or not the Lakers can be that permanent home for Thomas, I don't see why not. They're in desperate need of some sort of veteran presence and Thomas can provide that for them. Assuming he is able to get back to full strength, he'll be able to give them a reliable All-Star to build around for the coming seasons. While he isn't perhaps as good as Kyrie Irving or some of the other superstars in the NBA, he's still a really good player who can make your team more competitive. You can't constantly be looking for "assets" at the expense of a finished product like Thomas who can help you right away.

If Thomas doesn't stay in Los Angeles, he is certain to have several teams interested in his services during free agency. I think where he's best served is in a sixth-man type of role on a championship contending team. He's a guy who can come off the bench and give you points while also providing veteran leadership. He's also someone you can trust in clutch situations as is evident by the fact that he led the league in fourth quarter points just one season ago.

Regardless of where Isaiah Thomas ends up after this season, I just hope it's a place where he can stay for the long term. He's a good enough player to stick around in the same spot and has done all he can to prove his value in the NBA. While the NBA is a business, that can't be used an excuse for why a good player like Thomas can't find a permanent home. Out of 30 teams in the NBA, there has to be at least one place where he can finally build a legacy for his own. He just needs to find where that place is.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Tomahawk Tuesday: How concerned should the Golden State Warriors be about their injuries?

At 54-20, the Golden State Warriors currently sit 6.5 games back of the top seeded Houston Rockets in the Western Conference standings. While still having a really good regular season, the Warriors are not a slam dunk to come out of the Western Conference for a fourth consecutive season. There are two main reasons for this. The first being that the Rockets are really good. The second being that they are dealing with a lot of injuries. I recently wrote about the Rockets and why they are dangerous, so I will address the latter in this article, focusing on the Warriors’ injury woes.

At the moment, the Warriors’ injury report reads as follows: Stephen Curry is out 3+ weeks due to a Grade 2 MCL sprain in his left knee; Klay Thompson has missed seven games due to a sprained right thumb and is likely out through the rest of the week at least; Draymond Green has missed three games due to a pelvic contusion and is listed as day-to-day; and Kevin Durant has missed six straight games due to a rib fracture, though he is hopeful to return on Thursday against the Milwaukee Bucks.

While it is certainly possible that the Warriors heal up in time for the playoffs and overcome these injuries, what has to concern them is the sheer number of games that they’ve played over the past few seasons. The hardest part about reaching four straight NBA Finals is overcoming the sheer volume of games that is required to do so. Playing over 100 NBA games in one season takes a tremendous toll on the bodies of these players. To try to do that four times in a row is insane. The Warriors are starting to show signs of breaking down and it seems to be due to all the games that they have played.

The most troublesome injury is definitely Curry’s MCL sprain. He’s out for at least 3 weeks and possibly more pending on how his knee looks upon reevaluation. Given the nature of his injury, it’s no guarantee he returns at all this season and that has to worry the Warriors a great deal. Even if he is able to return, there’s no guarantee that he’ll be able to be close to full strength. Curry is the heart and soul of this Warriors team. Without him, it’s really hard to see the Warriors repeating as NBA champions.

As for how concerned the Warriors should be, if I were going on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being not concerned at all and 10 being full blown panic, I would say their level of concern should be at a 7. Winning a championship is just as much about surviving the grind of an NBA schedule as it is about being the best team. The grind appears to be catching up with the Warriors and with 24+ games to go in the season, their chances of surviving it for another year look dicey.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Tomahawk Tuesday: Utah's Donovan Mitchell deserves to be rookie of the year

                                          (Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports) 

With 11 games to go in the regular season, Utah Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell has his team in the middle of a playoff race, currently 8th in the Western Conference with the potential to finish as high as 3rd. Mitchell was drafted 13th overall in the 2017 NBA Draft and has greatly exceeded expectations, averaging 19.9 points, 3.7 rebounds,  3.6 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. While everyone pegged 76ers rookie Ben Simmons as the no-brainer pick for rookie of the year to start the season, Mitchell has made it a very competitive race and has many people arguing that he should be the one who wins the award.

While Ben Simmons has had a really good year, averaging 16.2 points, 7.9 assists, and 7.8 rebounds per game with the 76ers positioned 6th in the Eastern Conference, I want to put forth my own case for why Donovan Mitchell deserves rookie of the year honors.

#1. Donovan Mitchell came out of nowhere: While everyone expected Ben Simmons to have a great rookie season, nobody knew what to expect from Donovan Mitchell, who was drafted 13th overall after playing three years at Louisville. He burst onto the scene late in college and did just enough to get drafted at the back end of the NBA Draft lottery.

During my annual mock draft I said about Mitchell: "While being only 6’2”, Donovan Mitchell weighs 210 pounds and sports a very impressive 6’10” wingspan. He has great physical tools to work with and knows how to get to the basket. He absorbs contact well and has the potential to be a very versatile shooting guard." 

I should also mention that I did pick Mitchell to get picked 13th, but I would be lying to you if I said I envisioned him to breakout like he has. If we are giving rookie of the year honors to the rookie who has exceeded expectations by more than anyone else, Mitchell takes the cake by a mile. 

#2. Donovan Mitchell has the Utah Jazz battling for a playoff spot: While the same can be said for Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell has his team in the mix for a playoff spot, currently 8th in the Western Conference with the potential to finish as high as 3rd. After losing Gordon Hayward to the Boston Celtics, nobody thought the Utah Jazz would be in this position. Mitchell has nearly made Jazz fans forget about Hayward, which is pretty remarkable when you consider how much Jazz fans cried when he left. Mitchell has done more than put up impressive numbers. He has the Jazz playing winning basketball and at the end of the day that is what matters more than anything else. 

#3. Donovan Mitchell has played against tougher competition: Playing in the Western Conference, Donovan Mitchell has had to play teams like the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, and Oklahoma City Thunder three to four times at least during his rookie season. These are the very best teams in the NBA. Ben Simmons in contrast has only had to face these teams twice. While Simmons is putting up impressive numbers and has his team in playoff contention, Mitchell is doing the same thing against better competition. 

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

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Sunday, March 4, 2018

Skyhook Sunday: The New Orleans Pelicans are on fire

When DeMarcus Cousins went down for the season due a torn Achilles, most people, including myself, assumed the New Orleans Pelicans were doomed and would find themselves back in the NBA Draft lottery. Instead of doing what we all expected, the Pelicans have decided to defy the odds makers and prove that they can still make some noise this season.

As of right now, the Pelicans are 4th in the Western Conference with a 36-26 record and have won eight straight games. Those eight wins have come at Brooklyn, at Detroit, vs. Los Angeles Lakers, vs. Miami, at Milwaukee, vs. Phoenix, at San Antonio, and at Dallas. While not the most intimidating schedule, the Pelicans still deserve a lot of credit for winning all of those games.

Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday have both really stepped up for the Pelicans during this stretch. Davis has had four games of 40+ points and one game of 50+ points while Holiday has had scored 20+ points in each of these games including a 36 point game at Milwaukee and 30 point game at Dallas. These guys are being asked to carry the load for their team and are doing so in spades.

The big question is whether or not the Pelicans can keep this up or if they will fade as we head into March. When looking at the schedule, I think there's good reason to think they can keep this up.  They do have games against the Rockets, Warriors, Celtics, and Spurs left, but they also have games left with the Clippers, Kings, Jazz, Hornets, and Mavericks. Their schedule isn't a cakewalk by any means, but it is manageable. What helps is teams behind them like the Timberwolves and Spurs are dealing with injuries of their own, so it isn't like they are at full strength either.

My personal prediction is that the Pelicans will make the playoffs, but it's honestly too soon to say whether or not they will hang onto home court advantage in the first round. Seeds 3-8 seem to be changing every day, so it really is anybody's guess of as to how those positions will shake out. But that all being said, the very fact that the Pelicans are even in discussion to get home court advantage in the first round is remarkable. They are definitely turning into one of the feel good stories of the season.

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Saturday, March 3, 2018

Saturday Slam: Can the Houston Rockets take out the Golden State Warriors?

The Houston Rockets had a thrilling 123-120 win over the Boston Celtics on Saturday, keeping them toe to toe with the Golden State Warriors for the best record in the NBA. While home court advantage through the NBA Finals is well within the reach of the Rockets, most people are still picking the Warriors to come out of the Western Conference. While I am of the opinion that the Warriors should be favored regardless of who gets home court advantage, let me outline a case for why the Rockets have a good shot at dethroning the defending champs.

The first reason for why the Rockets have a good shot at dethroning the Warriors is the simple fact that they've won the regular season series 2-1. The Rockets won at Golden State on opening night by a final score of 122-121, lost at home on January 4th 114-124, and won at home on January 20th 116-108. Even more noteworthy is the fact that the Rockets are 2-0 against the Warriors when both Chris Paul and James Harden are playing. In the Warriors' lone win over the Rockets this season, James Harden was inactive due to a hamstring strain. Kevin Durant was also out with strained right calf in that game, but that said, the Warriors have not figured out how to beat the Rockets this season when their top two guards are healthy. This fact has to give the Rockets a lot of confidence.

The second reason for why the Rockets should like their chances against the Warriors in the playoffs is the fact that they actually like to play the same type of style. The Warriors often overwhelm teams with all the 3-point shooters that they have, but the Rockets are one of the few teams, perhaps the only team, who can match their 3-point shooting attack. To combat Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, and Klay Thompson, the Rockets have James Harden, Chris Paul, Ryan Anderson, and Eric Gordon. When those guys are on fire, the Warriors truly appear to have found their match.

The third reason for why the Rockets should like their chances against the Warriors is that they actually might have the best player on the floor in James Harden, who is averaging 31.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 8.9 assists per game. Earlier this week, James Harden sent Clippers forward Wesley Johnson to the hospital with an epic ankle breaker and he followed that up with a dagger three. It feels like we are all living in James Harden's world and he's just out there doing whatever he wants. If Harden lives up to his MVP status in a series against the Warriors, the Rockets just might pull off the upset.

While I do think the Warriors would win a series over the Rockets because of their depth and superior defense, the Rockets absolutely have a chance to upset them. They just have to play their best brand of basketball and play with no fear. If they can do that, we could see a new team representing the Western Conference in June.

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