NBA Lord's NBA Blog

NBA Lord's NBA Blog

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 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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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Tomahawk Tuesday: Los Angeles Clippers send early message to Lakers on opening night

                                          (Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images) 

On opening night, the Los Angeles Clippers defeated their crosstown rival Los Angeles Lakers 112-102 behind 30 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block from Kawhi Leonard. Even though it was just one game, the Clippers sent an early message to the Lakers by winning this game. Especially since Paul George (shoulder) did not play.

To a large extent, there was a lot of mystery going into this game considering the fact that both teams have rebranded themselves. The Clippers have added Leonard and George while the Lakers have brought in Anthony Davis, Danny Green, and others to join LeBron James. Both teams expect to make deep playoff runs and contend for the NBA championship as a result of their offseason moves. Given that both teams have a lot of new pieces, what we saw tonight is just a prelude to what we'll see come May and possibly June.

That all said, it's still huge for the Clippers to win this game considering the rivalry that they have with the Lakers. By winning tonight, they set the tone for the rivalry and made it clear to the rest of the Western Conference in the process that they are indeed a legit threat to win the conference despite having a ton of new pieces. Once George comes back, that should take them to another level, which is kind of scary to think of.

As for the Lakers side of this, they have to brush this off as one game and remind themselves that they too were short handed as Rajon Rondo and Kyle Kuzma were both out. On top of that, they're still figuring out how to get their pieces to work together and that come the second half of the season, they're going to look a lot more cohesive.

Overall, tonight was a good night for the NBA. The Clippers and Lakers played a hard fought game, showing that their rivalry should be fun over the course of this season and possibly beyond. The NBA has been stagnant when it comes to rivalries over the years, so this should give the league a nice little pop during the course of the regular season and hopefully the playoffs.

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Saturday, October 12, 2019

Saturday Slam: The NBA should not weigh in on Hong Kong

                                          (Credit: Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images) 

The big news of the week in the NBA was Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey weighing in on the Hong Kong protests, making a statement in support of their right to freedom. While Morey was well intentioned in his statement/tweet, it set off a firestorm that the NBA wants no part of. To his credit, NBA commissioner Adam Silver issued a statement saying he will support the right of all NBA employees to exercise their freedom of speech and that the league will live with those consequences. He didn't totally cave to China and say that Morey was wrong.

While I think Silver handled this as well as he could have, I think that overall, the NBA shouldn't weigh in on this particular issue. I've been studying Mandarin Chinese for the last couple of years and have grown to love Chinese culture. As part of my Chinese studies, I've spent some time learning about current events in China and the political layout of the entire region. I don't have time to get into all the layers of the Chinese geopolitical landscape, but let me just say in short that it's complicated.

Taiwan for example sees themselves as the ones holding down the fort for democracy in China as the Republic of China while Mainland China (known as the People's Republic of China) sees themselves as the one true China. In their eyes, the Republic of China in Taiwan is a rebellious government that must one day be reunited with them.

Taiwan has broken off from Mainland China and started their own thing, which in a lot of ways makes things simpler. They have their own democratic government that doesn't have to answer to the PRC. While there is the potential threat of the PRC coming in and taking over their land, such a move by the PRC would result in too much backlash from the rest of the world. While there is tension there, Taiwan can be comforted by the fact that the rest of the world has their back and will stand with them if something goes wrong.

As for Hong Kong, they're in some weird in-between limbo kind of state. They were under British rule as a colony until 1997 in which they were handed back to the PRC under a certain set of conditions that promised them total freedom for 50 years (until 2047). What's happening now is the PRC is starting to infringe on Hong Kong's freedoms prematurely, trying to expedite the transition. The reason why the PRC is doing this is because there's now a lot more cities that are on par with Hong Kong's economic power such as Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou. In 1997, Hong Kong was by far the most economically powerful city in China, making it a valuable resource that made sense not to touch.

With that no longer the case, the PRC is asking themselves why not just bring Hong Kong back into the fold and get this all over with? Why delay the inevitable? From their perspective it's a totally fair question to ask.

As a result of this weird limbo state and seeing what's on the horizon, Hong Kongers are going through an identity crisis. For so long, they've seen themselves as Hong Kongers first and separate from the rest of Mainland China. They have their own unique culture and their first language isn't even Mandarin. It's Cantonese. Now, they see that in the near future, they're going to become grafted back into Mainland China and thus risk losing their Hong Kong identity. Their language risks getting replaced by Mandarin and their culture risks getting replaced by Mainland Chinese culture. It's a scary thing for them.

With all of this going on and so many layers to unpack, the NBA couldn't possibly address this issue in an adequate or fair way. Especially in a tweet. Instead of muddying the waters, the NBA should let Hong Kong, Mainland China, and Taiwan sort this all out by themselves. The best way they can help is to stay quiet about politics and bring harmony to the region through the game of basketball.

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Saturday, October 5, 2019

Saturday Slam: Toronto Raptors need to sign Pascal Siakam to a max extension

                                          (Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports) 

Shams Charania of The Athletic is reporting that four-year power forward Pascal Siakam is seeking a max contract extension from the Toronto Raptors. After averaging 7.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game in his sophomore season, Siakam had a breakout year last season, averaging 16.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game, establishing himself as one of the top power forwards in the NBA.

With Kawhi Leonard gone and Kyle Lowry getting older, the Raptors need a new piece to build around, making Siakam a no-brainer candidate to fill that void in the coming seasons. He's young, athletic, and evolving into a really nice stretch forward. If they don't lock him up, their future becomes a lot more uncertain.

One of the things I've wanted to address on this blog is that even without Leonard, this Raptors team is still really good with Lowry, Siakam, Serge Ibaka, Fred VanVleet, and Marc Gasol.  When talking about who could come out of the Eastern Conference next season, don't sleep on this Raptors team. They still have a lot of dangerous pieces.

Going back to Siakam, as I said earlier, he's the best piece that they have to build around for the future. At just 25 years of age, he has a lot of room for growth. If he doesn't get offered a max extension from the Raptors, some other team will likely offer him one instead. The Raptors need to listen to his demands and give him what he wants. If they don't, they're going to regret it.

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Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Tomahawk Tuesday: Everyone is sleeping on the Golden State Warriors

Due to the departure of Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson's torn ACL, many assume the 2020 Western Conference champion will be someone other than the Golden State Warriors, who have won the last five Western Conference titles. While there are a lot of good teams in the Western Conference that could certainly dethrone them, it has been surprising how many people, including myself, seem to have forgotten just how much of a strangle hold the Warriors have had. 

I don't want to undermine the significance of losing Durant and the injury to Thompson. Durant was huge to the Warriors' championship runs and Thompson, the second Splash Brother, is a killer back court mate for Stephen Curry. The road just got harder for the Warriors, but that doesn't mean it's impossible for them to conquer. Below are three reasons why the Warriors can still get back to the NBA Finals in 2020. 

#1. Stephen Curry: If there is one player who has had to sacrifice their ego to make this Warriors team work, it's Stephen Curry. Before Durant came aboard, the Warriors were Curry's team and he did a masterful job of running them. Now, once again, the Warriors belong to Curry and you can bet that he is excited. Plus, Curry knows how much he and his team are being overlooked. Look for a very motivated and focused Curry this season. That should scare everyone in the NBA. 

#2. Experience: When you have been to five straight NBA Finals, one thing you definitely have is experience. The Warriors have been through a lot as a team and have always found a way to come out of the West anyways. They know how to dig deep and go to the well better than any team in the NBA. The rest of the Western Conference is much more unproven and until someone comes along and proves that they can beat them, the Dubs deserve the respect that five straight NBA Finals appearances gets you. 

#3. Klay Thompson isn't out for the year: While the Warriors will start the season without Klay, he's not done for the season. He should be back after the All-Star break and help the Warriors make a championship run come playoff time. So long as they have the Splash Brothers as well as Draymond Green, the Warriors should be feeling pretty good. On top of that, they have an amazing head coach in Steve Kerr who can be trusted to make the right adjustments. 

The bottom line: The Warriors have made five straight NBA Finals appearances for a reason and still have a ton of talent and experience. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Steve Kerr have been through the fire before and know what it takes to go all the way. I understand the Western Conference has a lot of interesting new flavors, but that shouldn't make us forget who has been winning the West over these last several years. 

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