NBA Lord's NBA Blog

NBA Lord's NBA Blog

Monday, December 30, 2019

Mock Draft Monday: Should LaMelo Ball's foot injury be a concern?

                                          (Credit: Getty Images) 


Earlier this month, it was announced by the Illawara Hawks of the Australian NBL that LaMelo Ball would miss four weeks due to a foot injury. ESPN/Draft Express' Jonathan Givony provided more details back on December 8th:

"Ball suffered a bruised foot in practice with the Illawara Hawks of the Australian NBL last week and was prescribed to rest by a foot specialist he visited, which will likely keep him out of action until January...Ball will rehab his injury in Australia and is expected to make a full recovery and continue to play for the Hawks as they close out the regular season in mid-February." 

On the surface, this injury doesn't seem like a big deal. Given the injury happened towards the beginning of this month, Ball should be back in the next week or two. It seems like both he and the Hawks are being precautious. Both for the sake of his NBA career and for the sake of their season. It certainly isn't anything that should cost him any time come NBA training camp in the fall of 2020.

At the same time, missing these four weeks gives NBA teams less opportunities to watch him play and more importantly, he'll enter the NBA draft with this injury on his resume. Even though it doesn't seem like a big deal, NBA teams factor in everything when it comes to picking a player. You can bet they'll be asking him about his foot and doing their due diligence on that. Will it cause him slide in the draft? Probably not, but you never know. He could also suffer another seemingly minor setback that casts more seeds of doubt in the minds of NBA teams.

Overall, Ball's injury as I said isn't something to worry about. At least not right now. But it is something to be aware of when looking ahead to the 2020 NBA draft. All these little things matter. Especially when there's so much money and expectations on the line with each pick.

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Saturday, December 28, 2019

Saturday Slam: The Houston Rockets would be crazy to trade Russell Westbrook

                                         (Credit: David J. Phillip/Associated Press) 


Rumors have been swirling about the 21-10 Houston Rockets possibly trading Russell Westbrook. I don't know what the basis of these rumors are, but let me just say that if the Rockets did make such a move, they would be crazy to do so.

For starters, they just got Westbrook. They're not even half-way through their first season with him. It's way too early to tell whether or not he'll be the desired upgrade over Chris Paul that they were hoping he would be. When the whole reason for why you got him was to possibly win a championship, it would be foolish to trade him before you even play one playoff series with him.

Secondly, Westbrook is playing pretty well, averaging 24.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 7.1 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. Those are very good numbers. It's not like he's stinking up the joint. He's bringing his hard hat to work every day and for the most part is doing everything one would expect from him.

Finally, the Rockets are right in the mix for the top seed in the Western Conference, just three games back of the 24-7 Los Angeles Lakers. If the Rockets were hovering around .500 and looking like a team that might miss the playoffs, maybe it would make sense for them to pull the trigger on such a move. Given they have a 67.7% winning percentage and are in the mix for the top seed in a very competitive Western Conference, it's hard to see a good reason for them to blow things up.

All of this is to say that the Rockets would be crazy to trade Russell Westbrook and I don't put much stock in these trade rumors. No situation is perfect and there's always going to be second guessing about offseason moves. But with how things are going, the Rockets don't have much reason to second guess the addition of Westbrook, making rumors of him being being traded likely ridiculous.

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Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Wednesday Windmill: The Philadelphia 76ers gave the Milwaukee Bucks coal for Christmas

                                         (Credit: Eric Hartline/USA TODAY Sports) 

On Christmas Day, the Philadelphia 76ers put the wood to the Milwaukee Bucks, defeating them 121-109. The 76ers hit a franchise record 21 3-pointers as Joel Embiid (31 points & 11 rebounds) and Tobias Harris (22 points) led the way. The 76ers improve to 23-10 while the Bucks fall to 27-5.

If you follow the NBA, you know the 76ers are good, so seeing them win against the Bucks at home shouldn't come as a shock. What is surprising though is the way in which they won. The 76ers aren't known to be much of a 3-point shooting team, so to see them go wild like they did from beyond the arc took everyone by surprise. Especially the Bucks.

As an extension of that, seeing them win so convincingly was surprising. Had they won by five points or fewer, one might even say that's what we should expect from a quality team playing at home on Christmas. But for them to dominate the Bucks and blow them out is another matter.

Even though this is just one game, the 76ers definitely sent a message to the Bucks and the rest of the Eastern Conference that they are a force to be reckoned with. That if they play like this with more regularity, they might represent the East in the NBA Finals.

Touching quickly on the Bucks, this game is disappointing, but nothing to get overly upset about. If you're them, you have to chalk this up as a bad game that you'll learn from. The Bucks have the best record in the NBA and should feel confident in their body of work. They also have the best player in the NBA in Giannis Antetokounmpo and are still the odds on favorites to win the East. No reason for them to freak out. Just move on to the next game and do a better job defending the perimeter.

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Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Tomahawk Tuesday: The Denver Nuggets are Mannheim Steamrolling into Christmas

                                         (Credit: Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images) 


As we head into Christmas Day, the Denver Nuggets have the hottest winning streak in the NBA, having won seven games in a row. They're now 21-8 and currently second in the Western Conference behind the 24-6 Los Angeles Lakers. On Christmas Day, they'll look to make it eight wins a row as they have the 8-23 New Orleans Pelicans coming to town. That game will close the NBA's five-game Christmas Day special.

Considering what we saw from the Nuggets last season, their success shouldn't be a surprise. They have five players scoring in double figures and two legitimate All-Star level players in Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic. When you combine that kind of balance with All-Star talent, you have a recipe for success.

The only question for the Nuggets is whether or not Murray and Jokic are both ready to lead a team to a championship. They've proven their worth in the regular season but are still yet to prove their worth come playoff time. Like all young duos, they have to go through the fire and have their breakthrough moment. While their moment hasn't come yet, I have a feeling it's coming soon.

If you are tempted to skip out on Christmas Day's Nuggets/Pelicans game because it isn't as flashy as Lakers/Clippers, please reconsider your decision. The Nuggets are playing really good basketball and are putting themselves in a good position to get home court advantage through much of the NBA playoffs. If you're going to be sitting around the television Christmas night, please turn on the Nuggets and see basketball being played the right way. You won't regret it.

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Monday, December 23, 2019

Mock Draft Monday: Is it risky for James Wiseman to pull out of school?

                                          (Credit: AP Photo/Karen Pulfer Focht) 

Rather than accepting his suspension and returning to the Memphis Tigers in mid-January, James Wiseman has made the decision to withdraw from school and formally declare for the 2020 NBA draft. In my previous post on Wiseman (which you can read here), I wrote that Wiseman's NBA draft stock shouldn't be affected by his suspension. However, I was still assuming that he would return to school and give NBA scouts a chance to see what he can do.

By withdrawing from school, Wiseman is banking on his physical profile and overall potential doing the work for him to get picked in the top two of the 2020 NBA draft. The thought process is that playing in college only bears the risk of injury and that there's no upside in staying. Is that really true?

The answer is complicated. If you are certain to go #1 or #2 in the upcoming NBA draft, it's hard to argue against pulling out of school, training on your own, and avoiding the risk of injury. However, the key lies in being certain that you'll go #1 or #2. If your draft stock is more fluid, then it becomes trickier.

In the case of Wiseman, he appears to be right on the border. NBADraft.net has him projected to go #2 at the moment, but he could slide down to #3 behind LaMelo Ball or even out of the top five if a couple guys in college (e.g. Dayton's Obi Toppin) really ball out. By sitting out this season, Wiseman is denying himself a chance to showcase himself against those guys and that could come back to haunt him on draft day.

The other issue of course is what teams will think of him for pulling out. Does it show a lack of competitive fire? Are they certain he'll play hard for them if he gets bruised up a bit in his rookie year? Will he instead want to sit out and avoid ruining his chance at a more lucrative contract down the road? Some teams may think that, which once again could hurt him.

To quickly sum this all up, is it risky for James Wiseman to pull out of school? The answer is yes, but if he feels confident enough in his skill set to get picked #1 or #2 in the 2020 NBA draft, it's worth it. Why risk getting injured and seeing your draft stock fall from #2 to #10? Worst case, Wiseman falls to #5 or #6, but that's like a doomsday scenario. In all likelihood, he's going at least #4. On top of that, he was already facing a suspension and would only be able to play for like 6 weeks. Wiseman is making the right move. I just hope he's making it while also calculating the risks that come with it.

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Saturday, December 21, 2019

Saturday Slam: Adam Silver's mid-season tournament idea makes no sense to me

                                         (Credit: USA TODAY Sports)


One of the more interesting stories floating around the NBA right now is commissioner Adam Silver's goofy idea of a mid-season tournament involving all 30 teams in some sort of round robin format that turns into a knockout tournament. The prize? $1M for each player on the winning team.

On the surface, it seems like a cool idea. I mean, who doesn't love tournaments, right? The problem with this tournament idea though, is it just doesn't make sense. How would it fit into the regular season standings as a whole? Would winning it guarantee a playoff spot? If not, why care? The NBA is all about June and winning the NBA Finals, something that this tournament doesn't seem to really fit into.

Adam Silver seems to think that having a tournament for the sake of a tournament is a good idea and I'm here to tell you that it isn't. Tournaments need to have meaning. Especially at the pro level. A cash prize isn't enough to give a tournament meaning.

Instead of adding a mid-season tournament, the NBA needs to look at tweaking the league format that they already have. For starters, eliminate conferences and give every team in the NBA a more balanced travel schedule. The Timberwolves, Thunder, Pelicans, and Grizzlies all have brutal travel schedules as the eastern most teams in the Western Conference. If you eliminate conferences, you could give those teams a travel schedule that is more fair and less imbalanced. I mean, the Timberwolves make three or four trips to Los Angeles every year and just one trip to Milwaukee. That's stupid.

As an extension of that, by eliminating conferences, that means the NBA could adopt a top-16 playoff format, making it so that the best teams in the NBA regardless of conference make the playoffs. A lot of fans have been pushing for this for a while and would totally embrace this change. It would create more playoff matchup possibilities and reward the better teams, creating a better playoff experience.

Another idea for the NBA is to do a tournament before the season starts and include teams from all across the globe. Add teams from Europe, China, Australia, New Zealand, and other parts of the world into one big maddening pre-season World Series of basketball kind of thing. Something like that might get eyeballs. If you're going to go creative, go creative to the max and really have some fun.

Lastly, the NBA can make the season more exciting by reducing the number of regular season games and the number of playoff games. Going back to best-of-five in the first round would be a great place to start. If each game had more meaning, that alone would make the season better.

Unless Adam Silver goes wild and adopts something like my World Series of basketball idea, he would be wise to look at more minor modifications to the season like eliminating conferences and going back to best-of-five in the first round of the playoffs. Sometimes less is more and simpler ideas are better.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Wednesday Windmill: Are the Indiana Pacers a healthy Victor Oladipo away from winning the East?

                                          (Credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images) 


On Tuesday, the Indiana Pacers defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 105-102 at home, improving to 19-9 overall and 6th in the Eastern Conference. As has been a staple of theirs over the years, the Pacers have a pretty balanced scoring attack with five players scoring in double figures: Malcolm Brogdon (19.1 points per game), T.J. Warren (17.8 points per game), Domantas Sabonis (17.7 points per game), Jeremy Lamb (14.6 points per game), and Myles Turner (11.1 points per game). When you have so many different weapons, you're a very difficult team to stop both at home and on the road.

That all said, the Pacers appear to be lacking at least one additional weapon, which is where Victor Oladipo comes in. Oladipo hasn't played all season due to a knee injury and it remains unclear when he'll return. His absence is nothing small as he averaged 18.8 points, 5.6 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 1.7 steals per game last season. He's their best player on paper.

The good news for the Pacers is that so far at least, they're playing really well without him. They're on pace to make the playoffs and are keeping themselves within striking distance of a top four seed in the East for when he returns. Assuming he does return this season and is able to play like his regular self, this Pacers team just might make a run at the Eastern Conference crown.

What makes Oladipo so good is that he's a complete two-way player. It's not just the points. It's the rebounding, the assists, and the steals. He does a little bit of everything and knows how to get it done on both ends of the floor. Guys like him are invaluable and truly make a difference on their teams. He's the kind of player every coach wishes that they had.

When talking about which teams could come out of the East this year, don't sleep on the Pacers. They're already one of the better teams in the league and are still awaiting the return of their best player. That should have everyone in the East on notice.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Tomahawk Tuesday: How will the return of De'Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley III affect the Sacramento Kings?

                                         (Credit: Getty Images) 

After both being out for an extended period of time due to injury, De'Aaron Fox (18.2 points & 7.0 assists) and Marvin Bagley III (13.0 points & 7.3 rebounds) are back for the Sacramento Kings. Tonight, the Kings lost on the road at Charlotte, but got solid production from their two young stars off the bench. Fox finishing with 19 points and 8 assists and Bagley finishing with 14 points and 7 rebounds.

At this moment, the Kings are 8th in the Western Conference standings with a 12-15 record. Considering that they are currently in the top eight despite having gone without Fox and Bagley for most of the season, the Kings should feel good about how their season has been going. It stands to reason that with them now back, the Kings shouldn't just be eying a playoff berth, they should be looking to climb up the Western Conference playoff ladder.

In addition to having Fox and Bagley back, the Kings also have the advantage of a favorable home schedule. Of their first 27 games, they've only played 11 games at home and will play two more road games at Indiana and at Memphis before returning home to face the Rockets on December 23rd. That means that of their first 29 games, 18 of those games will have been on the road. For them to navigate such a tough early schedule without Fox and Bagley is pretty impressive and should give them a lot of confidence.

That all said, climbing up the standings won't be easy for this young Kings team. The Suns, Trail Blazers, and Timberwolves are all nipping at their heels and it's not like the Jazz, Rockets, and Nuggets are just going to go belly-up. The Kings will have to earn it.

Over the next several weeks, we're going to find out what this Kings team is really made of. They've weathered a tough storm and now have two of their better players returning with a favorable home schedule. If they can't take advantage of what they have in front of them, this is going to be a really disappointing season in Sacramento.

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Monday, December 16, 2019

Mock Draft Monday: Going to the Golden State Warriors offers the best of both worlds


If you head over to NBADraft.net, a site that I contribute to during the months leading up to the NBA draft, you'll notice that the Golden State Warriors are currently projected to get the top pick in 2020. Of course, one cannot predict the lottery and how that will shake out, but regardless, at the rate they're going, the 5-23 Warriors are going to end up with a really nice draft pick.

Typically, most teams picking in the top five of the NBA draft are rebuilding and a few years away at least from being serious contenders. The Warriors are an exception as they were in the NBA finals last season. They are only in tank mode due to Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry both getting injured. Come the 2020-21 season, both guys should be back to full strength and ready to gun for another championship alongside the help of a top rookie.

If you are one who is gifted enough to see themselves at the top of these mock draft boards, you have to be praying to go to the Warriors. You'll get paid top rookie money and not have to be a part of a long rebuilding process. Instead, you'll instantly get to be a part of a team that is eager to get back to the NBA finals.

As for what kind of rookie the Warriors should be targeting, they could use more help in the front court, making Memphis big man James Wiseman and Duke big man Vernon Carey logical targets. Given the presence of Thompson and Curry, it wouldn't make sense for the Warriors to go with a point guard or a wing unless they really fall in love with one. Georgia shooting guard Anthony Edwards might turn out to be such a wing.

As we head into 2020, it will be interesting to see how the Warriors do and if they fully embrace tanking. I wrote a blog post earlier about how they should do that and given where they are in the standings right now, it looks like they're taking my advice to heart. It kind of sucks for Warriors fans to watch their team struggle to this degree, but with Thompson and Curry set to return next year alongside a lottery pick, the future remains bright.

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Saturday, December 14, 2019

Saturday Slam: The Los Angeles Clippers are starting to gel

                                         (Credit: Sports Illustrated) 

In last week's Saturday Slam piece, I wrote about the Los Angeles Lakers. This week I'm writing about the team who they share the same building with: The Los Angeles Clippers. At 20-7, the Clippers are just 3.5 games back of the 23-3 Lakers and starting to look like the team we all thought they would be.

On Friday night in Minnesota, Paul George (46 points) and Kawhi Leonard (42 points) became the first duo in franchise history to each score 40+ points in a game, guiding the Clippers to their fourth straight win. The two of them are forming a really scary tandem, capable of scoring, rebounding, and playing elite defense.

Around George and Leonard is a killer supporting cast in Lou Williams (19.9 points & 6.2 assists), Montrezl Harrell (18.7 points & 7.6 rebounds), Landry Shamet (9.1 points), and Patrick Beverley (7.8 points & 1.5 steals). These four guys are the glue. The ones who really make the engine go.

As we saw last year, these guys were capable of playing winning basketball before George and Leonard arrived. They just didn't have enough to go all the way. What George and Leonard are able to give the Clippers is that extra boost to become a true championship contender. In addition to having a steak, you need a little sizzle to win an NBA championship and the Clippers have that now.

While the Lakers are the favorites to come out of the West, the one team they should be keeping a close eye on is the Clippers. The Clippers have a legitimate one-two punch in George and Leonard, a great supporting cast, and toughness. Harrell and Beverley are the kind of players who won't back down to anyone and after what we saw him do in the NBA Finals last season, there's no reason to think Leonard is afraid of anyone, either. It's going to be fun to see what they do in 2020.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Wednesday Windmill: The New York Knicks are a total joke


After making the decision to fire head coach David Fizdale, the New York Knicks once again confirmed that they are a total joke. At 4-20, they sit at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, acting like coaching and not their lame roster, is the problem. The Knicks have four players who I think are actually worth anything: RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, Marcus Morris, and Julius Randle. That's it. The rest of the roster is trash and can be done away with. Even those four guys, while solid, aren't nearly enough to field a competitive team.

By firing Fizdale, the Knicks are neglecting to acknowledge what's really going on here. They keep making dumb decisions in free agency and in the draft. They don't know how to build a cohesive roster and instead throw darts at a wall, hoping something sticks. It's pathetic and an embarrassment.

What's sad is that the Knicks are such an iconic NBA franchise playing in the most iconic basketball arena in the world: Madison Square Garden. If the New Orleans Pelicans toiled in obscurity for 10+ years, nobody would give a damn. But the Knicks? They're a team a lot of people care about. Both fans of the team and the NBA as a whole. If the Knicks are competitive, even remotely competitive, there's an added buzz to the league that makes it all the more fun.

That isn't to stay the NBA should give the Knicks any extra breaks. The Knicks need to figure this out on their own and get their act together. Ultimately, this comes down to ownership. James Dolan is a clown of an owner and might as well have bubbles coming out of his fanny. He's a complete embarrassment to the league and should resign from his position. So long as he remains at the helm, the Knicks will continue to be a laughingstock. There really isn't anything more that needs to be said.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Tomahawk Tuesday: Luka Doncic isn't Michael Jordan, but he's damn good

                                         (Credit: Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) 

On Sunday, Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic finished with 27 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists in his team's 110-106 loss to the Sacramento Kings. While his team lost the game, he did surpass Michael Jordan for most consecutive games with at least 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists since the NBA/ABA merger. Jordan's record was 18 games and Doncic now has 19 games achieving the feat. For your reference, Oscar Robertson had 29 games of 20/5/5, but it was before the merger.

Scottie Pippen, who has turned into an apologist of sorts for his 90s Bulls teams, made a statement to TMZ about how Doncic can't be compared to Jordan because he doesn't have six rings: "He got six titles yet?!" The question Pippen was asked was whether or not he sees any of MJ's game in Doncic. It's actually a pretty fair question. Instead of giving a good response, Pippen gave one of his pompous "I'm not the GOAT, but I played with the GOAT, so that makes me more important than you and your silly question" answers. It's annoying. I understand MJ is the greatest basketball player of all-time, but that doesn't mean he can't ever be compared to anybody.

Look, it's highly unlikely that anyone will come along who matches MJ's overall impact on the sport. A major reason for that is timing. MJ came along in an era in which the NBA had most of its fan base in the United States. Thanks to him, the NBA became much more popular worldwide. No matter how good someone else is, they'll never be able to replicate that same impact. On top of that, it's highly unlikely, though not impossible, that someone else will lead a team to six NBA championships in the same decade without losing in the finals. Maybe someone will come along and win seven, but the odds of that are really low.

That isn't to say Doncic can't put his own stamp on basketball. We need to stop looking for the next Michael Jordan because there's only one Michael Jordan. We need to instead appreciate what other great players bring to the table and cherish what they're accomplishing.

While he isn't Michael Jordan, Luka Doncic is damn good. He's one of the most versatile players we've seen and he's only in his second season. So long as he keeps playing like he is, he'll make the Basketball Hall of Fame and go down as one of the greatest, if not the greatest player of his generation. As tempting as it is to compare him to those that came before him, we need to do our best to live in the present and admire what he's doing for its own sake.

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Monday, December 9, 2019

Mock Draft Monday: Cavaliers players are frustrated by John Beilein's college style

                                          (Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports) 

This blog post may not seem related to the NBA draft or rookies, but it does involve a rookie head coach who is coming from the college ranks. In case you haven't heard the news, Cleveland Cavaliers head coach John Beilein is reportedly receiving backlash from his players. Shams Charania and Joe Vardon of The Athletic have the details (Click here to check out the full article):

"Cavaliers players are bristling at new coach John Beilein because he’s treating this season like they, and he, are still in college, numerous sources told The Athletic.
It’s already gotten to the point where players are looking past Beilein to his lead assistant, J.B. Bickerstaff, for guidance, those sources said.
Grievances include his nitpicking over basic fundamentals, too much harping in lengthy film sessions, not enough versatility on offense, and a broader lack of understanding of the NBA game and opposing players."

The article includes quotes from multiple players, one of which says: "Our assistants are definitely more prepared for the NBA." That's a pretty scathing quote.

We've seen this movie before: Successful college coach seeks new challenge in the NBA. Gets fired. Ends up back in college, coaching at a lesser school. Anyone remember what happened to Rick Pitino?

I'm not saying John Beilein's decision to leave Michigan for the Cleveland Cavaliers will result in him getting fired and ending on the bench at say Winthrop, but what I am saying is there is a history of college coaches not able to find success in the NBA. What I want to unpack in this post is why is this such a common trend? I mean, basketball is basketball, right?

I think that line of thinking is actually the first problem that college coaches encounter. They think basketball is basketball and that when they get to the NBA, they can approach things the same way they did in college. What makes this line of thinking dangerous for college coaches is that while basketball is basketball, the NBA is a whole different brand of basketball. NBA players are the very best in the world and they demand to be treated as such.

In college, if your players start to act up, you can demand respect by reminding them that they're not in the NBA. You can play the whole "You're in college to get an education and prepare for the NBA" card.  In the NBA, there's no higher level that you can tell these players to strive towards. They've made it and as such feel entitled to being treated like multimillionaire superstars. Even if they're on a rookie contract.

Beilein seems naïve to this reality and is getting chewed up as a result. In college, your players have to respect you because you're their coach. In the NBA, it's the other way around. You have to respect the players because you've been given this amazing opportunity to coach them. They don't have to listen to you and quite honestly, they have better job security than you do. Especially if they're really good.

The bottom line, assuming these reports are correct, is that Beilein needs to wake up and realize that he's not in Kansas anymore. Coaching NBA players is possible, but you have to do so through the lens of letting them know that you know just how freaking gifted they are at basketball. I don't mean that in a sarcastic way. NBA players legitimately are ridiculously gifted. There's a reason they are where they are and other basketball players are not. If Beilein can start to make his players feel more valued and respected because of where they are, then he might start to find success. If instead he continues to harp on them and make them feel like they're in college, his NBA coaching days will end real quick.

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Saturday, December 7, 2019

Saturday Slam: Can anyone stop the Los Angeles Lakers?

                                         (Credit: Russell Isabella-USA TODAY Sports) 

It didn't take long for LeBron James and Anthony Davis to find synergy on the basketball court. The newly formed Los Angeles Lakers are 20-3, having won 9 of their last 10 games. I got a chance to watch the Lakers a bit this week as they defeated the Utah Jazz 121-96 in Salt Lake City on Wednesday and the Portland Trail Blazers 136-113 in Portland on Friday.

What really stood out to me is how effortlessly they dominated. James and Davis looked like they were out there on the playground having fun while Dwight Howard was prancing around like a happy little kid as he blocked shots, grabbed rebounds, and even made a 3-pointer. Watching James and Davis execute a pick and roll is a thing of beauty and also very frightening for opposing teams. When they get it going, it's hard to see anyone stopping them.

In addition to having a superstar duo in James and Davis, the Lakers have a really good supporting cast around them in Howard, Kyle Kuzma, Danny Green, Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Avery Bradley, and JaVale McGee. Aside from Kuzma, that's a pretty veteran group and it shows in how well they play.

While the Lakers have a lot of depth, it really is James and Davis that are making them go. James is averaging 25.6 points, 7.0 rebounds, 10.7 assists per game, and 1.3 steals per game while Davis is averaging 26.6 points per game, 9.1 rebounds, 1.4 steals, and 2.7 blocks. Both are putting themselves in the MVP conversation and playing some of the best basketball of their careers. Especially Davis.

At this point, the only thing I can see slowing down the Lakers is the grind of the NBA season. If Davis catches the injury bug and others get banged up, there is a real chance some other team comes out of the West. Otherwise, this is the Lakers' to lose. They have two of the top five players in the NBA and are already playing like a cohesive team. If you are the rest of the NBA, you should be very afraid.

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Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Wednesday Windmill: The Milwaukee Bucks are lighting up the East

                                         (Quinn Harris/Getty Images) 

The Milwaukee Bucks currently sit atop the Eastern Conference standings with an 18-3 record, having won 12 straight games. That's their best winning streak since the 1981-82 season. Giannis Antetokounmpo leads this Bucks team with 30.8 points, 13.4 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.4 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game, truly living up to his nickname: "The Greek Freak."

In an Eastern Conference that has appeared to be wide open, the Bucks are coming out and reminding everyone that they are the team to beat. They had home court advantage last year and are eager to reclaim it once again. Even though it's only December, the Bucks are making a definitive statement with this winning streak. I don't care what month it is. Having a double digit winning streak is mighty impressive.

The main question surrounding this Bucks team is whether or not Giannis can keep up at this frenetic pace for the entire season. If he can, the Bucks will be playing in June. If not, their lack of depth could hurt them. They lost a really good shooting guard in Malcolm Brogdon to the Indiana Pacers and it's unclear if they will be able to make up the difference in the long run. So far, it appears to be working out, but the season is still young.

The other question is whether or not they'll be able to handle the pressure come playoff time if they do get home court advantage. Regular season success is one thing while playoff success is another. Right now, the Bucks are showing that they are a great regular season team, but as we've seen in NBA history, being great in the regular season doesn't always translate to playoff success. Just ask the 2006-07 Dallas Mavericks and 2001-02 Sacramento Kings.

Regardless, what the Bucks are doing deserves recognition. They have the best winning streak in the NBA and are on track to rack up at least a few more wins before it ends. While it may seem like a cute little mantra, "Fear the Deer" carries real meaning in today's NBA.

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Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Tomahawk Tuesday: Carmelo Anthony is having a renaissance in Portland

                                         (Alika Jenner/Getty Images) 

The big news in the NBA this week is Carmelo Anthony picking up Western Conference Player of the Week honors. After looking like his career was dead in the water, Melo has risen out of the ashes of basketball obscurity like a phoenix, averaging 17.7 points and 6.0 rebounds per game during his first six games with the Portland Trail Blazers. As you can tell by his expression in the above photo, he is genuinely out there having fun.

For all the criticisms he has gotten for being a ball hog and not a team player, Melo has actually been a pretty stand up dude for his entire career. He's stayed out of trouble and has been a class act. He's been supportive of LeBron James who he came into the league with and genuinely doesn't seem to be comparing himself to other people. That is quite refreshing.

If there's anything we've learned from Melo's comeback, it's that the basketball world missed his presence. He's been one of the best and brightest stars in the NBA for the last 15 years and has done a lot more for the game than he gets credit for. That's why we're all so happy to have him back!

As for whether or not he'll continue to have this renaissance, I don't see why not. Getting buckets is what he does best and Portland seems to have created a perfect environment for him to do so. He just needed to find the right fit.

Lastly, Melo definitely didn't deserve to go out on a sour note, so in that vein it's great to see him having success again. At this point, he's made all of his money and honestly doesn't have anything left to prove. He's just playing for the love of the game and out there having a good time. I think that's something we can all get behind.

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Monday, December 2, 2019

Mock Draft Monday: Could Zion Williamson still win Rookie of the Year?

                                          (AP Photo/Steve Marcus) 

When Zion Williamson was drafted #1 overall by the New Orleans Pelicans in June's draft, he was the heavy favorite to win Rookie of the Year honors. 20 games into his rookie year, Williamson is yet to play in a regular season game as he is recovering from right knee (meniscus) surgery. It's also unclear when he'll make his regular season debut, though the vibe seems to be sometime this month.

Even if he does return by the end of the month, he will have missed over 25% of the regular season, which could ruin his chances of winning Rookie of the Year. Especially when rookies like Ja Morant (Memphis Grizzlies), Rui Hachimura (Washington Wizards), R.J. Barrett (New York Knicks), and others have been playing really well. At this point, odds of Zion winning Rookie of the Year honors seem slim. Especially since his return date is still up-in-the-air.

That said, it's not impossible, at least in my view, for him to still win the award. For starters, Morant just went down with back spasms and is listed as week-to-week. It is possible that other rookies get hurt and miss some time as well. If Williamson can play at least 50 games this year and really ball out, it's conceivable that he puts himself back in the conversation.

Secondly, NBA awards have had a history of not making sense. The fact that Steve Nash has two MVPs while Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal each have one is a perfect example. We also have had weird debates about whether or not a guy who misses his rookie year is eligible to win the award in his sophomore year. Ben Simmons vs. Donovan Mitchell was the most recent example of that. Even with more deserving candidates, it is possible that members of the media defy all common sense and still give him the award even if he plays only like half the season. They've done it before, so what's stopping them from doing it again?

Lastly, it's possible no other rookie makes a really strong case to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. We could find ourselves in a situation come April where Zion has played the best out of every rookie when looking at the per game stats while no individual rookie has made a strong enough case for them to win the award over everyone else. In other words, it could be a Zion versus the field kind of deal. If we find ourselves in that kind of situation, where the ONLY thing holding Zion back is his lack of games played, he might still sneak out with the award.

While I do think the odds are stacked against Zion and that he probably won't win Rookie of the Year, don't totally count out the possibility. There's still plenty of basketball left and thus opportunities for him to work himself back into the conversation. If he does come back in a reasonable time frame and plays really well, we could be in for some really interesting debates in the second half of the season.

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Monday, November 25, 2019

Mock Draft Monday: James Wiseman's NBA draft stock shouldn't be hurt by suspension

                                         (Credit: AP Photo/Karen Pulfer Focht) 


Due to receiving funds from Memphis head coach Penny Hardaway to help him move to Memphis, the nation's top player James Wiseman has been suspended 12 games and fined $11,500 by the NCAA. He has to give the money to a charity of his choice. It should also be noted that Hardaway gave Wiseman the money when he was a booster and not a head coach, so that makes things not quite as shady.

What I'm sure some people are wondering is whether or not this suspension will hurt Wiseman's draft stock. While I can't predict the future and confirm what will be the end outcome of all this, I personally don't see this having any effect on his draft stock. For the simple reason that (A) this issue has nothing to do with his on-court performance and (B) this kind of stuff (players receiving benefits) happens all the freaking time in college basketball.

If you thought college hoops was this clean sport where everyone plays fair and only a handful of guys get benefits, you live in a fantasy land. That's not to say there aren't clean programs out there. There are. But, what is an unfortunate fact is there are a lot of programs that are not clean and even more that toe the line.

What Wiseman and Memphis are really being penalized for is getting caught and also being high profile. If Wiseman was the 13th scholarship player on Memphis and not the top player in the country, nobody would have given a crap about him receiving funds from Hardaway. On the flip side, you could also argue if he was the 13th scholarship player on Memphis, Hardaway wouldn't have bothered to give him the funds in the first place. But that circular argument or whatever you want to call it misses the point.

The point is this happens all the time and the NCAA just randomly lays down rulings without any rhyme or reason. I mean, the fact that Sean Miller is still coaching at Arizona in and of itself is pretty mind boggling. If he's allowed to continue to coach after all that he's been accused of doing, it's pretty absurd that Wiseman is not allowed to play. Especially since he will be able to play come January. I'm ok with the fine and him having to give the money back. That's cool. But for crying out loud, let him play!

Going back to the title of this post, this suspension should have no impact on Wiseman's draft stock. If anything it could help it. That's 12 less games when he could get hurt! Plus, NBA teams draft largely on potential and what you could be in five years. They're not overly worried about what you look like at the moment. Especially if you are a freshman.

The bottom line is regardless of the NCAA's ruling, Wiseman will in all likelihood be the top pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Athletic 7-footers like him don't grow on trees. Him taking money from Hardaway or anyone else doesn't change that fact.

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Saturday, November 23, 2019

Saturday Slam: The Dallas Mavericks have been beating the pulp out of opponents


At 10-5, the Dallas Mavericks sit at 5th place in the Western Conference, having won four straight games. In their last two wins, they've handed the Golden State Warriors a 142-94 loss and the Cleveland Cavaliers a 143-101 loss. While neither of those teams are very good, your jaw still drops when you see wins that lopsided in the NBA. Especially when it's done by the same team.

In the win over the Warriors, Luka Doncic finished with 35 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists before putting up 30 points, 7 rebounds, and 14 assists against the Cavaliers. Doncic has been on fire as of late, showing why he may one day win NBA MVP honors.

(Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports)

Given how crowded the Western Conference field is, it's easy to forget about the Mavericks, which is why I wanted to give them some love this week. They're playing hard, they're playing as a team, and they have one of the most exciting young players in the NBA. There's a lot to like about what they're doing right now. 

Like all young up and coming teams, the question is can the Mavericks sustain this and be a factor come playoff time. Personally, I don't see why not. In order to be a competitive team in the NBA, you need a true superstar and they definitely have one in Doncic. He may be young, but he plays like a poised veteran. He's not afraid to take big shots and he genuinely likes having that load on his shoulders. 

As we continue to march through this NBA season, keep a close eye on this Mavericks team. The ingredients to have a competitive team are definitely there. If they can somehow get a top four seed in the West, they might even win a first round series.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Wednesday Windmill: The Miami Heat are off to a surprising start



If you get a chance to glance at the Eastern Conference standings, you'll notice that the Miami Heat are 9-3, having won three straight games over the Pistons, Cavaliers, and Pelicans. In what many expected to be a rebuilding season, the Heat are instead in the mix for the top seed in the East, just 1.5 games back of the top seeded Celtics. In case you are wondering if the Heat have benefited from a soft schedule, I should quickly add that they have notched wins against the Bucks and Rockets, who are both seeded #2 in their respective conferences. So the Heat have been beating some quality teams en route to their 9-3 start. 

The biggest surprise on this Heat team has been Kendrick Nunn, a point guard out of Oakland University (Michigan) who went undrafted in 2018 and is in his first year in the league. Nunn has been on fire this year, averaging 17.8 points and 1.6 steals per game. Every now and then someone comes out of nowhere and plays really well and this year, that guy is Nunn. 

Nunn hasn't been the only bright spot on this Heat team. Rookie shooting guard Tyler Herro is balling out as well, averaging 13.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. He too is a rookie of the year candidate. In addition to Nunn and Herro, Jimmy Butler (18.4 points), Goran Dragic (16.1 points), Justise Winslow (13.8 points), and Bam Adebayo (13.9 points and 10.6 rebounds) are scoring in double figures as well. 

                                         (Kendrick Nunn. Credit: Lynne Sladky/AP Photo) 

With six players scoring in double figures on average, the Heat have a lot of balance and different looks that they can give teams. This versatility is a major reason for why they are off to such a strong start. No one player is responsible. 

What I'll be curious to see is if the Heat can continue on the pace they're on or if they'll fade as the season goes on. My honest guess is they'll fade a bit and retreat back to the 5-8 range in the East. The reason why is they're young and I expect Nunn and Herro to hit a rookie wall at some point. That said, the East is wide open this year and there is certainly room for the Heat to snag a top four seed come playoff time. If the Heat continue on the pace they're on and avoid hitting any sort of wall, they could be in for really good year. 

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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Tomahawk Tuesday: The Houston Rockets are on a roll

                                          (Credit: Cato Cataldo/NBAE via Getty Images)

At the beginning of the NBA season, there was a lot of debate about how the James Harden/Russell Westbrook experiment would work out in Houston. So far, it appears to be going well as the Rockets are 11-3, having won eight games in a row. On Monday, they blew out the Portland Trail Blazers 132-108 behind 28 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists from Westbrook and 36 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists from Harden. In addition to Harden and Westbrook going wild, Clint Capela dominated inside with 22 points, 20 rebounds, and 4 blocks.

What this game showed is just how scary the Rockets can be when they are hitting on all cylinders. They can score, they can move the ball, they can rebound, and they can defend. What's even scarier is they seem to have a chip on their shoulder. Harden has been viewed as too one dimensional to lead a team to a title while Westbrook has been viewed as having too big of an ego, not willing to be a true team player. I've always found that to be an odd criticism of Westbrook given his high assist totals. But anyways, they appear to be playing with a fire and so far, it's pretty frightening.



Of course, what remains to be seen is whether or not the Rockets can keep this up and be the last team standing come June. While time will ultimately tell whether or not they can, at this point, I don't see why not. The Rockets have already been knocking on the door for a while now and Westbrook appears to have injected new life into their team.

Looking at their upcoming schedule, the Rockets will go on a two game road trip this week to face the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers. This road trip should be a nice test for them as the Nuggets and Clippers are both projected to be playoff teams as well. If the Rockets can get the sweep or even pick up a split, that will be very encouraging.

Even though we are early in the season, if you are a Rockets fan, you have to be feeling good about your team. Westbrook and Harden appear to be able to coexist just fine and the Rockets are currently the hottest team in the NBA. While many see the Lakers as the favorites to come out of the West, the Rockets are making a compelling case of their own to be the front runners. It will certainly be fun to see what happens when those two teams meet later on this season.

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Saturday, November 16, 2019

Saturday Slam: Will it work out for Carmelo Anthony in Portland?

                                         (Credit: Clutchpoints.com) 

The big news of the week is Carmelo Anthony signing a non-guaranteed contract with the Portland Trail Blazers. After looking like he may never get another shot in the NBA, Anthony is getting at least one more shot. The last full season Anthony played was the 2017-18 season in which he averaged 16.2 points per game with the Oklahoma City Thunder. In 10 games with the Houston Rockets last year, he averaged 13.4 points per game, showing that he can still get buckets.

I think this is a mutually beneficial move for both Anthony and the Trail Blazers. Anthony gets another shot at redemption and a chance to finish his career on a high note while the Trail Blazers add a guy who might give them 10+ points per game. The Trail Blazers need to make some sort of move to give themselves an edge in the Western Conference and maybe this move will do the trick.

For Anthony, if this doesn't work out, he's probably done for good, so he really needs to hope this goes well. He needs to be willing to play within Portland's system and do whatever is asked of him. If he goes out there and chucks up a bunch of shots that are low percentage, he'll get waived really quick.

Personally, I've always liked Carmelo Anthony. He's come across as a class act and has always gone out there and played hard. Unfortunately, his lack of defense and need to take a lot of shots has rendered him somewhat obsolete as the NBA has shifted towards a more positionless league. Specialists like Anthony can't thrive like they once did. Hopefully, this ends on a positive note for Anthony. He's done a lot for the game of basketball and deserves to go out the right way.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Wednesday Windmill: Don't sleep on the Toronto Raptors


After Kawhi Leonard left the Toronto Raptors for the Los Angeles Clippers, many assumed that the Raptors would no longer be a contending team and that their championship window had now closed. They had won their lone NBA championship, could celebrate over the summer, and would now go back to being a middle of the pack team. Those assumptions, at least so far, don't appear to be accurate as the Raptors are 7-3, just two games back of the 9-1 Boston Celtics.

While Leonard is no longer around, Pascal Siakam appears to be ready to take the reins, averaging 26.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game after averaging 16.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game last year. We already saw Siakam as an emerging star during last year's NBA playoffs and now he is really coming into his own. To go along with Siakam, Kyle Lowry (who is out two weeks with a broken thumb), Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka (out indefinitely with an ankle injury) are doing their part to help pick up the slack left from Leonard's absence. This is evident by their 7-3 start.

As you can see above, probably the main concern for the Raptors right now is health. If they want to once again win the Eastern Conference title and get back the NBA Finals, they have to stay healthy. If they are hobbled up come playoff time, they will not go far. But, the same can be said for every team. If you don't stay healthy, you're not going to win the NBA championship.

That said, what makes health extra important for this Raptors team is the fact that their strength lies in their numbers. They have a lot of depth and the ability to wear teams down with their bench play. Also, they do a great job of playing together. While Siakam is their top player, it's not a case where they solely rely on him to carry them. They do a good of collectively sharing the load and taking pressure off of each other.

Ultimately, I believe in this Raptors team. I think Siakam and Lowry form a really good duo and they have a solid supporting cast around them. If they can stay healthy and take advantage of their depth, there is no reason to doubt their ability to once again represent the Eastern Conference come June.

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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Tomahawk Tuesday: The Golden State Warriors should tank this season




After losing on Monday night to the Utah Jazz on their home floor by a final score of 122-108, the Golden State Warriors have fallen to 2-9 on the season. Stephen Curry is out 3+ months with a fractured hand, Klay Thompson is out for likely the season as he recovers from a torn ACL, and as a whole, this Warriors team looks nothing like they have in past seasons. Their starting lineup against the Jazz was D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Poole, Draymond Green, Glenn Robinson III, and Willie Cauley-Stein. Talk about a different looking lineup!

What makes this extra painful for the Warriors is the fact that they just moved into the Chase Center, their new arena in San Francisco. When you move into a new arena, you're beginning a new era and no team wants to begin a new era like this. Ideally, they would be playing competitive basketball and once again putting themselves in the mix to get a high seed in the Western Conference.

But alas, that is not the case. The Warriors are struggling and instead are on pace for the worst record in the Western Conference and possibly the NBA! It's crazy how much they've fallen from last year! The only silver lining in all of this is that with Thompson likely out for the year anyways, the Warriors were not going to win the NBA championship this year. This was going to be a rebuilding season, so if you're going to rebuild for a year, why not take it to the max and go full tank mode?

The Warriors' core trio of Curry, Thompson, and Green is getting older and they won't be around forever. Getting a really talented rookie to add to the mix just might be what this team needs more than anything else, hence the need to tank. If they can somehow land a top three or even top five pick in next year's draft, the Warriors may bounce right back and once again be a contender within a year or two.

As much as the Warriors' front office doesn't want to swallow this pill, the best thing they can do is just ignore this year and be willing to lose as many games as possible. The higher the draft pick they get for next year, the better.

                                           (Credit: Jeff Chiu/Associated Press)

One major decision the Warriors have to make is what to do with D'Angelo Russell, who has shown some promise as is evident by his 52 point explosion against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He could be a nice piece for them to hang onto or he might be better used as a trade chip to help them rebuild. It's not obvious what the Warriors should do with him, so they better use these next couple of months to closely evaluate him. If there's one thing Warriors fans should watch for this season, it's what their team does with Russell. 

Given that they're already tanking the season without even trying to, the Warriors might as well embrace the current and flow with it. Fighting it and trying to salvage this season in the long run is the wrong thing to do. Their sights need to be set on next season and beyond. If they can have this perspective, things should work out alright for them. 

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Monday, November 11, 2019

Mock Draft Monday: Washington Wizards rookie Rui Hachimura is balling out

                                               (AP Photo/Nick Wass) 

When talking about top rookies in the NBA, Washington Wizards forward Rui Hachimura deserves to be the topic of a lot of conversation. Through eight games, he's averaging 13.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game on 49.0% shooting from the field, 25.0% shooting from 3-point range, and 87.5% shooting from the foul line.

Picked 9th in the 2019 NBA Draft out of Gonzaga, Hachimura hoped to put his native country of Japan on the map and help make basketball more popular in the country. Judging by how he's playing, he appears to be on track to do just that.

Given the uncertainty of the Wizards' future due to John Wall's health (torn left Achilles), it's huge for them to have such a talented rookie in Hachimura. They know they have someone they can build around for the future and that has to give them a ton of comfort.

Hachimura is by no means a finished product, but there's a lot to like about his game. For starters, he's learning how to score. A lot of rookies, even ones who go on to be hall of famers, have a tough time scoring during their first few years in the league. Hachimura is already putting up double figures and adjusting well to the NBA speed. As an extension of his scoring, he's knocking down his free throws and appears to have a lot of confidence in his shot. Many big men never figure out how to make free throws and Hachimura is already shooting his foul shots like he's a guard!

In addition to scoring well, Hachimura is rebounding the ball well and showing that he can bang in the post with NBA level bigs. He's not afraid to go inside and hold his own. When it comes to physicality, this appears to be a strength of his as well.

Overall, the Wizards have to like what they see in Rui Hachimura thus far. He's scoring, rebounding, and appears eager to be the face of their franchise along with the face of an entire country. If he continues on the path he's on, they have a star to build around for the coming decade.

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Monday, October 28, 2019

Mock Draft Monday: The Charlotte Hornets have found a gem in P.J. Washington

                                         (Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images) 

Perhaps the most surprising rookie in the NBA has been Charlotte Hornets forward P.J. Washington, who played at Kentucky. During his first three games in the NBA, Washington has averaged 15.0 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block, and 3 three-point fields goals made per game. It's been particularly fun for me to watch P.J. play well because I interviewed him when he was in high school. Back when the California Golden Bears were recruiting him. The Cal coaching staff along with many other programs really liked P.J. so in that vein it's no surprise he's finding success in the NBA. At the same time, it's always surprising to see a rookie come in and make such an immediate impact. Especially one who wasn't a top five or top ten pick.

What's been most surprising to me about Washington's performance is his 3-point shooting. I knew he was a jack-of-all-trades kind of player, but I did not know he would come in and be this good of a perimeter shooter. It's truly a testament to his work ethic that he's shooting like he is. Stretch forwards that can do a little bit of everything are really valuable in today's NBA, so if Washington continues on the pace he's on, he is certain to command a ton of money once his rookie contract is set to expire.

On top of being a great perimeter shooter, Washington appears to be bringing a ton of energy to this Hornets team. He's blocking shots, getting steals,  grabbing rebounds, etc. He's willing to do whatever it takes to help his team win and he's reaping the rewards of his efforts.

While it's early in the 2019-20 NBA season, P.J. Washington has earned the attention that he has gotten so far. He's playing hard on both ends of the floor and showing that he should have been picked higher than he was. I know everyone is penciling in Zion Williamson to win rookie of the year honors, but don't sleep on Washington. He is certain to gather a lot of votes if he continues to ball out.

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Saturday, October 26, 2019

Saturday Slam: Can Kyrie Irving lead a renaissance in Brooklyn?

                                         (Credit: AP Photo) 

Kyrie Irving is starting a new chapter of his career with the Brooklyn Nets and so far, it's going pretty well for him. In his opening game with his new team, he put up 50 points, 8 rebounds, and 7 assists in a 127-126 overtime loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves. In his second game, he put up 26 points and 5 assists in a 113-109 win over the New York Knicks. With Kevin Durant out for the entire season, the Nets will be relying heavily on Irving to carry the load and so far, he appears to be up to the challenge.

Since moving to Brooklyn, the Nets have struggled to find an identity, which is somewhat ironic given that the very reason they moved to Brooklyn was to find one. After going through several different possible faces of the franchise (E.g. Deron Williams and D'Angelo Russell), the Nets are hopeful that they finally have the right pieces to have a championship contending team.

While this year will not yield championship fruit due to Durant's absence, it is possible that Irving will be able to lead a renaissance of sorts in Brooklyn, giving the Nets a new lease on life. He's always wanted to be the face of a prominent franchise and this is his chance to be one. In Boston, he had to share the spotlight with Gordon Hayward, Jaylen Brown, and others, but this time it really is his team.

If he can't get it done in Brooklyn, he might as well pack it up and call it a career. Or move to China and lead the Beijing Ducks to another championship. Both options will be on the table.

When talking about stories to follow in the 2019-20 NBA season, how this new look Nets team does will be something to monitor. Especially with Irving as their new face. The NBA desperately wants competitive basketball back in the Big Apple and with the New York Knicks remaining a giant question mark, the Nets are their best bet to bring some real buzz back to the region. At least in the near future.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Wednesday Windmill: Are the Boston Celtics taking a big risk on Jaylen Brown?

                                          (Credit: John Tlumacki-The Boston Globe) 

Earlier this week, it was announced that the Boston Celtics and fourth-year small forward Jaylen Brown agreed on a four-year, $115M contract extension. The deal was reached after Brown initially turned down a four-year, $80M extension, citing a belief that he could earn more in the open market. Brown's decision to turn down the Celtics' initial offer paid off handsomely for him as he earned another $35M.

While this deal is clearly good for Brown, what's up for debate right now is whether or not this deal is good for the Celtics. They already have Kemba Walker and Gordon Hayward signed to max contracts and third-year small forward Jayson Tatum likely demanding a big contract a year from now. They have a logjam at small forward and it stands to reason that they can't keep everyone happy both with how they're getting paid and how they're being used. There's only so many minutes in a game and it's hard to play Hayward, Tatum, and Brown together.

If you look at how Brown has performed over his first three years in the NBA, he's been solid, averaging 11.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 0.8 steals per game. While he still has a lot of room for growth, he has overall backed up the Celtics' decision to draft him third overall in the 2016 NBA draft.

During his freshman year at Cal, I was around Brown a lot thanks to my gig covering Cal basketball for Rivals.com. It was clear from his first game at Cal that he was a supremely gifted athlete and that it was just a matter of time before he would put all the pieces together. While he hasn't put all the pieces together yet, it would be foolish to not think he'll get better. Especially since he's turning 23 tomorrow. He's still very young with a ton of upside.

Given all that, I don't think it's crazy for Brown to get the contract that he did. He keeps getting better and is also a really smart, articulate guy that brings a lot to an organization both on and off the court. The Celtics do have to figure out what to do with Tatum and Hayward as well, but I think if they had to let one of them go, Hayward would be the one. He's the oldest and has already been through a really gruesome injury. The smart move for the Celtics might be to actually move Hayward for more assets and really build around Tatum and Brown. Together, those two could form a really dynamic duo over the next decade. Of course, they could also try to keep all three and see if they can co-exist for the long term. I'm skeptical that they can, but perhaps they'll prove me wrong.

Overall, I do think the Celtics made the right decision in giving Jaylen Brown his money. He's one of the most talented young players in the NBA and provided he continues to grow like he's projected to, they'll get their money's worth. That I'm confident of.

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