NBA Lord's NBA Blog

NBA Lord's NBA Blog

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Wednesday Windmill: Should we be comparing LeBron James to Michael Jordan?

                                         (For The Win-USA TODAY Sports)

After putting up 35 points, 15 rebounds, and 9 assists in Sunday's 87-79 Game 7 win in Boston, LeBron James has now reached the NBA Finals in eight consecutive seasons. The first four seasons were with the Miami Heat while the last four have been with the Cleveland Cavaliers. During the first seven appearances, James has gone 3-4 in the NBA Finals, guiding the Heat to two titles and the Cavaliers to their first title in franchise history. As a result of his iron clad grip over the Eastern Conference, James is starting to evoke memories of Michael Jordan and the dominance that he had during his prime.

When comparing a player to Michael Jordan, one must be very careful. His Royal Airness won six NBA championships, six NBA Finals MVP awards, five NBA MVP awards, one Defensive Player of the Year award, and also Rookie of the Year honors in 1985 . On top of that, he's a 14x All-Star, 11x All-NBA Team member, 10x scoring champion, 9x All-Defensive Team member, and 3x steal champion, averaging 30.1 points (#1 all-time), 6.2 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 2.3 steals per game for his career.

King James in comparison has won three NBA championships, three NBA Finals MVP awards, four NBA MVP awards, and Rookie of the Year honors in 2004. On top of that, he's a 14x All-Star, 13x All-NBA Team member, 6x All-Defensive Team member, and 2007-08 scoring champion (30.0 points per game), averaging 27.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 7.2 assists, and 1.6 steals per game for his career.

While James' career is not yet over, if the goal is to have a resume that closely mirrors that of Jordan, he has some catching up to do. For starters, he's only halfway to having the same amount of championship rings. Even if the Cavaliers win the title this year, James will still need to win two more titles to have six championship rings. Given that championship rings are the primary measuring stick for basketball greatness, it will be hard for James to be considered the greatest of all-time if he falls short of six rings.

As far as the other accolades are concerned, Jordan also possesses three more NBA Finals MVP awards, one more regular season MVP award, nine more scoring titles, and three more All-Defensive Team honors. Jordan also led the league in steals three times, a category that James has never led the league in. So, in the accolades department, Jordan has James beat as well. Especially on the defensive end.

With this all being said, that doesn't mean we can't compare James to Jordan or that Jordan is automatically the better player. There are things that James has going for him in this debate.

The first thing that really stands out is the raw number of NBA Finals appearances that James has, which is nine. While Jordan went a perfect 6-0 in the NBA Finals, he has three fewer NBA Finals appearances under his belt. It would be silly to say that in order for James to be considered the greatest of all-time, he'd have to be 9-0 in the NBA Finals. The fact that James has led his team to more NBA Finals appearances than Jordan is not something to ignore. Especially if he keeps finding ways to do it for the next couple of seasons.

The second thing that James has going for him is his raw consistency. Jordan won three straight NBA titles, retired from basketball for almost two seasons, and then won three straight NBA titles again, giving him six titles in eight seasons. While it's utterly phenomenal that Jordan came back and won three more titles, it's perhaps even more remarkable that James has reached the NBA Finals in eight consecutive seasons without taking a break or going on a hiatus of any kind. Night in and night out, James has shown up for the last eight years and found himself playing into June in each of those years. James' ability to take that beating and get back to the NBA Finals each time is astounding. Jordan may have six rings in eight seasons, but he can't say that he reached the NBA Finals more than three times in a row.

                                          (Getty Images) 

The third thing that James has going for him is the fact that he's had to deal with more pressure over the course of his career and he has pretty much lived up to the expectations that were set for him. When he was a junior in high school, James was already getting compared to Jordan and by the time he was drafted out of high school as the #1 overall pick to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers, he was proclaimed to be the seconding coming of Jordan. Most human beings would fold under such pressure, but James instead thrived and embraced those expectations. Jordan in contrast played three years in college and got to grow into his status as the greatest of all-time. He had much more time to slowly develop while James was thrust into the spotlight before he even finished high school.

The last thing and perhaps the most important thing that James has going for him is that when watching him play, it's hard to say there's anyone in NBA history you would rather have on your team. As a 6'8", 250 pound small forward, James has the size and athleticism of Karl Malone coupled with the quickness and court vision of John Stockton. That's a frightening combination. Considering that he can play every position on the floor and do virtually everything on the court at an elite level, it's hard to automatically pick Jordan over him.

When looking at the full scope of everything, it's really difficult for me to pick who the greatest of all-time is between Michael Jordan and LeBron James. Both guys have incredible resumes and if there is anyone who seriously challenges Air Jordan for the top spot on the all-time list, it would be King James.

That all said, if I have to pick between the two, I'm going to go with Michael Jordan. The reason why is he was a better defensive player and he channeled his killer instinct with much more regularity. As good as Jordan's offense was, his defense was just as good. He could shut down the best players in the game, doing a phenomenal job of reading passing lanes and getting steals. If you want to know the real secret to Jordan's championship success, look at his defense. That's where it all started.

The iconic moment of Jordan's career is the shot he hit to beat Utah in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals. Everyone remembers how he pushed off of Bryon Russell to nail that shot and while that was a crafty move, nobody seems to talk about the steal he had on the other end of the floor in which he stripped the ball out of the hands of Karl Malone. It was the steal that was just as important as the shot and yet it's only the shot that we remember.

As for the killer instinct, this is what separated Jordan from the rest of the pack. Nobody has been more of an assassin on the court than him. While James is starting to channel that same instinct now, he had to learn how to do it as opposed to Jordan, who had it caked into his DNA. Jordan wanted to rip out the throat of his opponents each and every time he stepped on the court, possessing an almost demon-like viciousness.

That mentality is why Michael Jordan never lost in the NBA Finals and why he was never even taken to a Game 7. Once Jordan figured it out, I don't think anyone, not even LeBron James, could stop him. That's why he'll always be the greatest of all time. Truth be told, if there's anyone who can give Jordan a run for his money in the GOAT department, it's Tiger Woods, but that's a topic for a different day.

To connect with NBA Lord on Twitter, click here

To connect with NBA Lord on Facebook, click here

To connect with NBA Lord on Google Plus, click here

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Tomahawk Tuesday: Can the Golden State Warriors win the NBA Finals without Andre Iguodala?

                                         (Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports) 

With the Houston Rockets now out of their way, the biggest concern the Golden State Warriors have is the health of Andre Iguodala, who missed the final four games of the Western Conference Finals due to a left leg contusion. During that stretch, the Warriors went 2-2, needing all seven games to advance to the NBA Finals.

While Iguodala's stats (6.0 points, 3.8 rebounds, and .8 steals) don't indicate that of an impact player, those who follow the Warriors know how instrumental Iguodala is to their success. What Iguodala brings to the Warriors is patience, veteran leadership, and elite defense. There's a calming effect he has on this team that makes everyone play better and more in synch. When he's on the court, everyone seems to be much more comfortable and at ease. When he's not on the court, the Warriors seem to be a bit lost, missing a key part of their identity.

When looking ahead to their matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers, the area where Iguodala can be particularly effective is guarding LeBron James. At 6'6", 215 pounds, Iguodala has the size, length, strength, and quickness to defend James and make him work. Without Iguodala, the only other guy on the Warriors who has the physical package to defend James effectively is Draymond Green. Unfortunately for the Warriors, Green can't guard James for the full 48 minutes. He's going to need some help and without Iguodala, it's unclear where that help will come from.

While the Warriors have plenty of offensive firepower to blow the Cavaliers out of the building, we've seen their offense go stagnant at times. Kevin Durant as good as he is tends to go iso more often than he should and stands around in the corner far too often, not doing a good job of moving without the ball. There are moments when he wastes possessions and doesn't run the offense the way Steve Kerr wants him to. As for Stephen Curry, he's like a volcano. When he erupts, he's unstoppable, but if he's not erupting, he tends to take a lot bad shots and give away possessions. The same can be said of Klay Thompson to a lesser extent.

When the Warriors are going through those rough patches, Andre Iguodala has done a good job of being the glue guy who holds everything together until everyone else finds their rhythm. That's why his absence has had such a huge effect. When he's not on the court and things start to go south, the Warriors start to panic and let their opponent gain confidence.

If the Warriors want to win this series, they're going to need Andre Iguodala. His presence on the floor and ability keep everything together is vital to their success. If he's not able to go, I don't see them coming out on top.

To connect with NBA Lord on Twitter, click here

To connect with NBA Lord on Facebook, click here.

 To connect with NBA Lord on Google Plus, click here

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Saturday Slam: Can the Cleveland Cavaliers win in Boston without Kevin Love?

                                          (David Richard-USA TODAY Sports). 

On Sunday at 8:30 PM EST on ESPN, the Cleveland Cavaliers will try to steal a Game 7 in Boston against the Celtics to reach the NBA Finals. LeBron James is coming off a heroic Game 6 performance in which he scored 46 points to go along with 11 rebounds and 9 assists. He'll look to have a similar type of performance once again in a hostile environment. The big news going into Game 7 is the absence of Kevin Love, who is currently in the NBA's concussion protocol. Given that the Cavaliers lost their first three games in Boston by an average of 17 points, it's really hard to imagine them winning on Sunday without Love, who's been averaging 17.6 points and 9.3 rebounds per game this season.

Earlier in the week, I wrote a piece about how tough the Celtics are to beat in Boston. While they've struggled on the road, they've been lights out at home. The whole team plays much better and really feeds off the energy from their home fans. Even if the Cavaliers were going into this game at full strength, it would still be dicey to pick them to win. But without Love, it just doesn't seem possible given all the numbers.

So, with that all being the case, why even write about the topic? Kevin Love is out and the Celtics are unbeatable at home. That means no chance for the Cavaliers, right?

As much as I want to guarantee that the Celtics will win on Sunday, the reason I cannot make such a guarantee is because the Cavaliers have LeBron James, who is the best player in the league. We've seen James carry his team on his back against all odds and to think he can't do it again would be disrespectful and foolish. While I do believe the Celtics should be favored to win tomorrow because of how tough they've been at home, that doesn't mean I believe the Cavaliers have no shot. So long as they have James out there, they have a shot. He's that good.

                                          (David Richard-USA TODAY Sports) 

Now, that all stated, James can't literally win this game by himself. He's going to need help from both his teammates and the Celtics. With Love out, J.R. Smith and Kyle Korver are both going to need to step up and get in a nice rhythm early on. If those guys are both able to heat up from beyond the arc, that will really help take the pressure off of James. In addition to those two guys, the Cavaliers will need to do a good job defending and controlling the glass. Tristan Thompson will need to have a big night on the glass and really limit the Celtics' second chance scoring opportunities.

In regards to the Celtics, they're going to need to help James out by choking, which could happen. They are a young team who hasn't been in this position before. It would be really easy for their young guys to tense up a bit and not play their best basketball. It will be key for the Celtics to come out of the gates strong and shake off their nerves. If they're playing tight basketball early on, that will really help LeBron James and the rest of the Cavaliers build the necessary confidence to steal this game.

My prediction for this game is that the Celtics will win because the odds say that they will. They're unbeaten at home in the playoffs and as such deserve to be favored. That said, if there's anyone who can beat the odds and pull off the upset, it's LeBron James. This is why I'll be tuning in to watch with keen interest.

To connect with NBA Lord on Twitter, click here

To connect with NBA Lord on Facebook, click here

To connect with NBA Lord on Google Plus, click here

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Wednesday Windmill: Can the Boston Celtics be stopped at home?

Despite being 1-6 on the road, the Boston Celtics are now 10-0 at home in the playoffs after Wednesday night's 96-83 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals. After dropping two straight games in Cleveland, the Celtics bounced back like Drake, dominating the Cavaliers from the opening tip. Jayson Tatum led the way for the Celtics with 24 points and 7 rebounds while Jaylen Brown finished with 17 points of his own.

As frustrating as their road woes have been, the Celtics have made the most of their home court advantages in each series, winning every single game in Boston. As a result, they are now just one win away from reaching the NBA Finals with a Game 7 in Boston in their back pocket. With how these playoffs have gone, it is fair to wonder whether or not the Celtics can be stopped on their home floor.

10 years ago, the Celtics experienced a similar kind of situation, winning their first two series' 4-3 before defeating the Detroit Pistons in six games to win the Eastern Conference crown. We've seen this Jekyll and Hyde behavior from them before, but thanks to having home court advantage, they've been able to scrape by. Teams work all season to put themselves in the position to have home court advantage and the Celtics make the most of it, using up nearly every home game they have to advance.

The key to understanding this phenomenon is recognizing how difficult it is to win a road game in Boston. There's something about the place that makes it nearly impossible to get a win. The parquet floor, the retired jerseys, and all the championship banners give Boston an almost magical environment. It's like playing in a living museum. The fans are passionate and they get behind their team like few fan bases do.

                                         (Chad Finn. The Boston Globe) 
When you combine that environment with an exciting young team, you have the recipe for home dominance.  Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier, and Al Horford all feed off of the energy created by their home fans and play their best basketball as a result. Away from home the Celtics are very vulnerable, but at home they're nearly invincible. If anyone had any doubts about how much of an impact their home environment has, those doubts should be erased after what we saw on Wednesday.

The unfortunate reality for LeBron James and the Cavaliers is that if they want to get back to the NBA Finals, they're going to have to win a game in Boston and with the way things are going, the odds of that happening do not look likely. In each of the three games played in Boston during this series, the Celtics have won by an average of 17 points. That's as dominant as you can get.

As much as I want to believe in LeBron James' abilities to will his team back from the dead and beat the odds, it's really hard to ignore these numbers. The Celtics have been lights out at home and until some team cracks the code, they should be favored in every home game they play in these playoffs. Picking against them is not only disrespectful. It's flat out foolish.

To connect with NBA Lord on Twitter, click here

To connect with NBA Lord on Facebook, click here

To connect with NBA Lord on Google Plus, click here

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Tomahawk Tuesday: The Houston Rockets have some life

                                          (Getty Images)

On Tuesday night, the Houston Rockets stole a game in Golden State by the final score of 95-92, tying up the Western Conference Finals at 2-2. James Harden finished with 30 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals while Chris Paul finished with 27 points, 2 rebounds, and 4 assists on 5/9 shooting from 3-point range. As a result, the Rockets have won back home court advantage. If they hold serve at home in games five and seven, they'll win the series.

After getting down 12-0 to start the game, it looked like the Rockets had little chance of winning. Kevin Durant (27 points) and Stephen Curry (28 points) both had the Warriors in a nice rhythm early on while James Harden and Chris Paul had a tough time getting the Rockets going. James Harden really showed signs of nerves when he passed up a wide open 3-pointer, electing instead to dish it off to P.J.Tucker in the corner. As a result of their early struggles, the Rockets found themselves down 28-19 after the first quarter.

To their credit, the Rockets didn't give up.  James Harden woke up in the second quarter along with Chris Paul, outscoring the Warriors 34-18, giving themselves a 53-46 lead at halftime. The highlight of the first half was definitely the facial dunk that James Harden had over Draymond Green. It was almost like passing up that three in the first quarter caused James Harden to wake up. From then on, he was wide awake and in full attack mode.

The second half went similar to the first. The Warriors outscored the Rockets 34-17 in the third quarter, taking an 80-70 lead into the fourth quarter. It once again looked like the Warriors were going to pull away, but the Rockets found the strength and will to battle back for a second time, pulling out a 95-92 win thanks to some clutch baskets from Chris Paul, Trevor Ariza, and James Harden to go along with some stellar defense and rebounding.

P.J. Tucker was the x-factor in this game, finishing with 16 rebounds despite only scoring 4 points. Without his aggression on the glass and tenacity, the Rockets would not have pulled out this win. This game was as much about the Rockets' gritty defense as it was their clutch offense. To hold the Warriors to 92 points on their home floor is really impressive. The Rockets deserve a ton of credit for the way they defended tonight.

While a lot of people are still picking the Warriors to win this series, the Rockets have found new life after stealing this game in Oakland. They have home court advantage back on their side and will come home to a hungry and rabid fan base in game five. They got the game they needed to win and now it's a matter of them protecting their home court. If they bring the same determination and grit at home as they did tonight, I don't see the Warriors winning another game in Houston.

To connect with NBA Lord on Twitter, click here.  

To connect with NBA Lord on Facebook, click here

To connect with NBA Lord on Google Plus, click here

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Saturday Slam: The Phoenix Suns need to draft DeAndre Ayton with the #1 pick

                                         (Getty Images) 

Earlier this week, the Phoenix Suns won the NBA Draft Lottery for the first time in franchise history, giving them the top pick in June's NBA Draft. There is a lot of debate about what the Suns will do with the pick, some even suggesting that they might trade it to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Karl-Anthony Towns. While there are a lot of options on the table for the Suns to explore, they will be fools if they trade the pick or use it on a player other than DeAndre Ayton, the freshman center from Arizona.

As some of you know, I also cover Cal men's and women's basketball for, which gives me a chance to see the top players in the Pac-12 when they come to Berkeley. I got to watch DeAndre Ayton in person against Cal and I was amazed at how NBA ready he is. At 7'1", 250 pounds, Ayton moves like a gazelle and has phenomenal strength, allowing him to dominate his opponents down on the block. In addition to a tremendous physical profile, Ayton is showing that he can knock down open jumpers and stretch the floor.

Ayton was the whole package at Arizona, averaging 20.1 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game on 61.2% shooting from the field, 34.3% shooting from 3-point range, and 73.3% shooting from the foul line. He won both Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and Pac-12 Player of the Year honors, taking the conference by storm. While there are things that he needs to improve on like getting better position in the post and being more alert on defense, he's as good of a prospect as anyone in this draft. If you are looking for a guy in this draft to build your franchise around, you won't find a better option than Ayton.

While the Suns would be crazy to not take Ayton purely because of his abilities, what should be the nail in the coffin is the fact that he played his college ball at Arizona. The possibility of having a former Arizona Wildcat as the face of their franchise should make this a no-brainer decision for the Suns. If the Suns draft Ayton, ticket sales will increase and there will be a buzz around their franchise that they haven't had since the Steve Nash era. Arizona Wildcats fans who previously didn't give a lick about Suns basketball will suddenly have interest in them purely because of Ayton. Arizona fans are some of the best fans in the Pac-12. To have more of their support would be fantastic for the Suns franchise.

This post isn't intended to show any disrespect to the other options that the Suns have. If they draft Luka Doncic or trade the pick for Karl-Anthony Towns, those wouldn't be bad decisions. It's just that DeAndre Ayton offers a package that nobody else in this draft offers. It's not quite a LeBron James to Cleveland type of situation, but it's in that neighborhood. The Suns were gifted a golden opportunity by getting the top pick in this year's draft and if they decide to not get Ayton, they'll regret that decision for the next 15 years.

Note: I also provided some analysis of DeAndre Ayton for Click here to check it out. 

To connect with NBA Lord on Twitter, click here

To connect with NBA Lord on Facebook, click here

To connect with NBA Lord on Google Plus, click here

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Saturday Slam: Can either the Boston Celtics or Houston Rockets reach the NBA Finals?

On Sunday at 3:30 PM EST on ABC, the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers will play Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals in Boston. On Monday at 9:00 PM EST on TNT, the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors will play Game 1 of the Western Conference finals in Houston. Despite not having home court advantage, both the Cavaliers and Warriors are expected to reach the NBA Finals and face off once again for the fourth consecutive season.

While Warriors fans and Cavaliers fans would probably prefer another rematch, the rest of the NBA's fans are dying to see a different NBA Finals match up, preferably Rockets vs. Celtics. While the odds are stacked against them, it is possible that the Celtics and Rockets both reach the NBA Finals. It's just a matter of them playing up to their maximum potential and getting a little bit of luck to go their way.

First, let me address the Celtics and what they need to do. While they don't have LeBron James on their side, they do appear to have the deeper team even without Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving. Terry Rozier has done a fabulous job of stepping in for Irving as the team's floor general, averaging 18.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game in the playoffs while Al Horford has also stepped up his game, averaging 17.0 points and 8.7 rebounds per game in the playoffs. In addition to the stellar play of Rozier and Horford, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum have also stepped up their play, both averaging around 18 points per game.

The key for the Celtics more than anything will be to not get psyched out by the Cavaliers and just play their brand of basketball, which is predicated on crisp ball movement and gritty defense. If they come out with a lot of energy in Game 1 and play the way Brad Stevens has been coaching them to play, they could sneak out with a Game 1 victory and build some momentum from there.

While I do think the Cavaliers will win the series, I do think that the Celtics have the ability to make this series a lot more interesting than people expect. Unlike the Raptors, the Celtics seem to believe in their abilities and do a good job executing the game plan outlined by their head coach. It's just a matter of them continuing to do what they do well and not let LeBron James get in their heads. So long as they are able to contain him and do what they do, they could find themselves playing into June.

In regards to the Rockets and their series with the Warriors, they too need to buy into what they've done all season and not let the Warriors get in their heads. When Chris Paul and James Harden are playing up to their maximum potential, the Rockets are scary good. They move the ball really well, knock down threes, and are a handful in the transition. The brand of basketball that they play is both exciting and effective.

If I could label anyone as an x-factor for the Rockets, it would be Clint Capela, who is averaging 14.4 points, 12.2 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks per game in the playoffs. He's really blossomed into one of the best big men in the NBA due to his combination of size, quickness, athleticism, and skill. He's very difficult to stop when he's down on the block and in turn, he does a great job of protecting the rim and controlling the glass. The Warriors will not have an easy time containing him. He more than any other player on this Rockets team could make the difference in this series.

I think the Warriors will likely win this series, but the Rockets should not be underestimated. They have a fantastic backcourt in Chris Paul and James Harden to go along with one of the league's best big men in Clint Capela. On top of that, the Rockets have some really solid role players in Ryan Anderson, P.J. Tucker, Eric Gordon, and Trevor Ariza. Similar to the Celtics, the Rockets have the pieces to reach the NBA Finals, it's just a matter of them executing their game plan and not panicking when the Warriors go on a run.

To go back to something I touched on earlier, the fact that both the Celtics and Rockets have home court advantage should not be understated. Home court advantage matters more in the NBA than any other league. As long as the Celtics and Rockets can hold serve at home, they'll be just fine. While they want to win every game at home, Game 1 will be especially crucial for both teams. If the Cavaliers and Warriors both steal Game 1 on the road, it's going to be tough sledding for the Celtics and Rockets. If on the other hand, the Celtics and Rockets win Game 1, they'll establish authority early on and give themselves some much needed confidence to win their respective series.

While it is likely that we once again see another Warriors/Cavaliers finals, it would be foolish to instantly write off the Celtics and Rockets. These teams have home court advantage for a reason and need to  be respected as a result. If the Warriors and Cavaliers want to get back to the finals, they're going to have to earn their way back and take out a very quality opponent. It's going to be fun to see how this all unfolds.

To connect with NBA Lord on Twitter, click here

To connect with NBA Lord on Facebook, click here

To connect with NBA Lord on Google Plus, click here

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Tomahawk Tuesday: Chris Paul finally reaches the conference finals

                                         (Rick Bowmer/Associated Press) 

Amid all of his career achievements, Chris Paul has never played in a conference finals game. That will change next Monday when the Houston Rockets host the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. To get to this point, Chris Paul had to lead the Houston Rockets past a gritty Utah Jazz team, putting up 41 points, 7 rebounds, and 10 assists in Tuesday's 112-102 series clinching win. When watching the game, it was clear that Chris Paul was determined to not let his team down, hitting several clutch shots in a row to put the Jazz away in the fourth quarter.

What's most impressive about Chris Paul is the fire and passion that he plays with every night. Listed at 6'0", 170 pounds, Paul has been undersized his whole career, but that hasn't stopped him from being the best point guard in the NBA since John Stockton. He has a tremendous feel for the game and always looks to make the right play. Like Stockton, Paul excels at setting up his teammates but also knows when to score and take over a game.

Whether or not Paul can guide the Rockets past the Golden State Warriors remains to be seen, but regardless, he deserves a ton of credit for accomplishing what he has this season. For those that have followed his career closely, seeing Paul excel like this in the playoffs is nothing new. He's always been a clutch performer. It's just that he's never had the pieces around him to get over the hump. Now that he has better pieces in Houston, he's proving himself to be a legitimate franchise player and one who can do big things in the playoffs.

While I am from the Bay Area, a part of me is rooting for Chris Paul to lead the Rockets all the way. I not only like the way he plays, I like the way he conducts himself. Throughout the duration of his career, Paul has been a class act and has always conducted himself in a professional manner. He hasn't complained about his short comings, but instead brings his hard hat to work and vows to get better with each season. It's easy to root for guys like that.

To connect with NBA Lord on Twitter, click here

To connect with NBA Lord on Facebook, click here

To connect with NBA Lord on Google Plus, click here

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Skyhook Sunday: The Toronto Raptors need a bad boy

Once again, the Toronto Raptors fell victim to the late game of heroics of LeBron James, watching him bank in a game winner to give the Cleveland Cavaliers a 3-0 lead in the series.

While LeBron James continues to show why he's the best player in the NBA, the Raptors continue to show that they are lacking a key ingredient necessary for them to win a championship. While losing at the hands of one of the games' greatest players isn't reason to hit the reset button, the Raptors clearly have work to do in the offseason to get themselves over the hump next year.

While some may say that DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry isn't enough of a one-two punch, I don't think talent is where the Raptors are lacking. They have plenty of talent. The issue lies in them not having an irritant. Somebody who can play dirty and get under the skin of LeBron James a bit.

Nobody on this team is willing to muck things up or even so much as attempt to get inside the head of LeBron James. The Raptors are like a boy band without a bad boy. They need a bad boy. Somebody to give them an edge.

When you look back on some of the most recent teams to win NBA championships, almost all of them had a guy who qualified as a bad boy/irritant. The Golden State Warriors have Draymond Green, the Cavaliers have JR Smith, the Dallas Mavericks had DeShawn Stevenson, the Chicago Bulls had Dennis Rodman, etc. Even more recently, the Indiana Pacers were able to make things competitive against LeBron James thanks to the presence of Lance Stephenson, who isn't afraid to go off the rails and get in LeBron James' grill.

                                         (Screenshot from YouTube) 

As presently constructed, the Raptors are too afraid to even so much as lay a hand on LeBron James. They don't stand up to him. They let him walk all over them and then when he hits a game winning shot, they act all stunned and surprised, expecting us to feel sorry for them. This attitude needs to change. The Raptors need someone on their team to get angry and not tolerate getting beat like this. They need somebody to start a fight, throw a punch, do something to create some competitive tension.

I'm not advocating the Raptors clothesline LeBron James or anything like that. But what I am advocating for is somebody to stand up to him and make it clear that they aren't going to back down. They need somebody to try to wrestle a ball away from him, blow in his ear, or do anything that might upset him. Winning in sports is as much about the mental side as it is the physical side and right now, the Raptors have nobody that gives them any sort of mental edge over the Cavaliers.

If the Raptors can't draft a bad boy, they need to either pick one up in free agency or via trade. They have to do it. They can keep their core together, but they need to trade a bench player or two for someone who gives them the type of toughness that I'm describing. If they go out and make such an acquisition, I think they'll be poised to make a serious run at a title. If they don't, they'll continue to be a soft team that lacks a spine.

To connect with NBA Lord on Twitter, click here

To connect with NBA Lord on Facebook, click here

To connect with NBA Lord on Google Plus, click here