The Wizards 101-99 Friday night win against the Oklahoma City Thunder was a sigh of relief for The District, but the win shows the team still has a mountain to climb to return to the form they displayed early in the season.
The Wizards are 2-4 in their last six games, and their two wins in that stretch are by a combined five points. A close call to the Miami Heat is understandable, but a close call to the Thunder following a blowout loss to the New Orleans Pelicans is a sign of concern.
Even with Bertans’ return last Wednesday, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope shooting 4-of-7 from deep Friday, the Wizards still have question marks surrounding their offensive production and outside shooting.
Costly turnovers and Spencer Dinwiddie’s slow start to the season are more problems that Wes Unseld Jr. has to solve, but the Wizards have the talent to right their offensive woes.
On the bright side, Washington defends well and is currently 6th in NBA in rebounds per game (46.8) and tied for 1st in defensive rebounds per game (37.6).
Individually, Daniel Gafford’s 8 block game against the Thunder is the best Wizard performance of the last six games, and his 8 blocks are the most by a Wizard since JaVale McGee had 12 blocks against the Chicago Bulls in 2011.
As mentioned in my last post, intensity on defense will keep this team competitive, and outside of the Pelicans game on Thanksgiving eve, that intensity is here to stay.
Time to Panic?
With Rui Hachimura spotted in the team facility last week for the first time publicly and Thomas Bryant still recovering from his ACL injury from last season, the Wizards can’t wait until returning to full strength to fix their offense.
It is still too early to panic, but Washington desperately needs a “get right” game against a good team, and Saturday night against the 4th seeded Mavericks is just that. A convincing win versus a team playing solid basketball of late is just what the Wizards need to prove to themselves that their early start is much more than a flash in the pan.
3×3 Basketball is one of the fastest-growing and most electric sports in the world.
The growing popularity of 3×3 convinced the International Olympic Committee to add the sport to the Tokyo games for the first time in Olympic history.
The video above shows how 3×3 is a vastly different game from traditional 5-on-5 and the 3×3 style primarily played in America.
In an interview of USA Women’s 3×3 player Allisha Gray by FiveThirtyEight, she states that 3×3 is more physical than traditional 5-on-5 basketball. “There’s a physicality to the game; you can body people more and be more aggressive than the traditional 5-on-5. You can get away with a lot more fouls.”
The fast pace and physical play should be a breath of fresh air to traditional basketball fans who have seen foul-baiting and foul reviews dominate the game in America.
Overall, 3×3 is a hoopers game. Every player needs to handle the rock, shoot the ball well, defend, rebound, cut, pass, etc.
3×3 is here to stay, and I hope the game grows so much in America that sanctioned leagues appear all across the country.
The USA Women’s 3×3 team is working to bring home the gold in 2021. The four WNBA hoopers led by Duke women’s basketball coach and Alexandria, Virginia native Kara Lawson bring unique talents to form a competitive side for international competition.
Team USA includes Las Vegas Aces guards Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young, Dallas Wings guard Allisha Gray, and Chicago Sky center, Stefanie Dolson.
Katie Lou Samuelson of the Seattle Storm was initially on the squad but will miss the Olympics due to health and safety protocols.
After going 6-0 in Olympic qualifying, Team USA looks like a threat to take home the gold, even without Samuelson. The guards on the team are incredible with the ball in their hands, and Dolson is a physical bruiser in the paint.
Kelsey Plum looks like she hasn’t missed a beat in her comeback from an Achilles injury and the scoring prowess she showed during her time at the University of Washington is on another level since she’s been a pro.
I’m excited to see this team bring back the first USA gold medal in 3×3 basketball.
The United States women’s basketball team is a historical bastion of success on the hardwood.
The USA women are the reigning gold medalists and have yet to miss out on gold in the last six Olympic games.
This rendition of the team is absent a few big names like Candace Parker and Elena Delle Donne, but basketball talent runs deep in this country, and the group assembled has its fair share of walking buckets.
The hoopers playing in Tokyo are a combination of fresh faces of the WNBA, experienced vets, and a few basketball legends.
Team USA suffered back-to-back exhibition losses against the WNBA All-Star team and the Australian Opals but bounced back against Nigeria in a 93-62 win.
Despite the hiccups in friendly play, Team USA has everything it takes to win the gold in 2021.
In our current era, athlete connections to social issues in America are more prevalent than we’ve ever seen in recent history.
As a result, athletes who go the extra mile outside of blanket statements for equality and social media posts are refreshing in a time when our timelines show plenty of empty gestures.
Maya Moore is an athlete that always goes the extra mile, and the story told in her ESPN 30 for 30 documentary “Breakaway” highlights how special of an athlete and person she is.
Featured image of Maya Moore and Jonathan Irons courtesy of @minnesotalynx on instagram.
“Breakaway” follows the life and career of Maya Moore along with the life of her husband Jonathan Irons and his fight for freedom after a wrongful conviction and 50-year sentencing in the state of Missouri.
The biggest takeaway from this documentary is the army of people that it took for a wrongfully convicted man to be freed from prison.
It took Moore’s family, teams of lawyers, resources, notoriety from Moore’s incredible basketball career, along with her stepping away from the game she loves to put enough pressure on the state to overturn Irons’ wrongful conviction.
It is important to note that the Missouri attorney general unsuccessfully appealed the judge’s decision to overturn Irons’ conviction, adding another obstacle to a long-drawn-out fight for freedom.
An Example of Commitment
In her pursuit of justice, Moore showed a high level of commitment to social change through action.
Moore—a two-time NCAA and four-time WNBA champion—left basketball at the peak of the profession to pursue and bring awareness to not just the wrongful conviction of Jonathan Irons but the many issues that plague the criminal justice system in America.
Moore’s actions separate her from many athletes and individuals in America’s recent increase in social justice awareness.
While the blanket statements, black squares, and other gestures can come from a genuine place in the hearts of many, turning ideology into action is the only way to solve problems with our world.
Turning ideology into action is why seeing an athlete like Moore means so much because her success in the public eye could potentially be a blueprint for what it will take for athletes in the future to create meaningful change in their communities.
Where to Watch
“Breakaway” is available for steaming through ESPN watch or ESPN+.
“Breakaway” will also air again on Sunday, July 25th on ESPN2.
The Milwaukee Bucks took game 3 of the NBA Finals at home in a 120-100 beat down of the Phoenix Suns to bring the series score to 2-1.
In a pivotal game 4, both teams need to make adjustments and play at the peak of their abilities to win a game that will be an absolute dogfight.
Featured image of the Larry O’Brien trophy courtesy of NBA.com
Key #1: Deandre Ayton Avoiding Foul Trouble
On paper, Deandre Ayton had a solid game. Ayton scored 18 points and grabbed nine rebounds on 8-of-11 shooting.
Twelve of his 18 points came in the first quarter due to early fouls that pushed him to the bench.
Without Ayton on the floor, the Suns run a small lineup, or they play Frank Kaminsky.
In a smaller lineup and against Kaminsky, Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks supporting cast have an easier time scoring in the paint.
Antetokounmpo punished the Suns in the paint in back-to-back games.
After a 41-point 13-rebound performance in game 3, the Greek Freak is forever linked with Shaquille O’Neal as the only other player in NBA Finals history to post back-to-back 40-point, 10-rebound games.
The Suns also lose significant offensive production when their best screener and post scorer goes to the bench.
Ayton-less lineups lack scoring prowess at the center position. So in pick-and-roll situations, the Bucks can commit more defensive energy to Suns’ guards and wings.
At this stage of basketball, Ayton is aware of his importance. Look to see if Ayton is conservative when contesting shots in game 4.
Key#2: Bounce Back Booker
Devin Booker needs to have his shots fall if the Suns want to put the Bucks in a 3-1 series chokehold.
Booker is a talented tough-shot maker, and the Bucks are doing everything in their power to make each possession difficult for him.
However, Booker is settling for jump shots often in this series. He needs to find a way to score more points around the basket despite the tenacious Bucks perimeter defense.
In game 3, Booker scored just 10 points on 3-of-14 shooting from the field, 1-of-7 from three, and 3-of-5 from the foul line.
Booker has taken a total of five free throws in the last two games. A stark contrast to the 10 he attempted in game 1.
He doesn’t need to slash all game to get more calls, but seeing a close layup or floater go in the basket is beneficial to anyone in a shooting slump.
I’m taking the Bucks in game 4. However, I do not think they win in a blowout.
Phoenix’s mistakes from game 3 are easily correctable, and they’re too talented to not put up a fight in back-to-back games.
Game 4 should easily be the most competitive in the series so far, and I’m looking for the contest to be decided by three points when the clock hits 0:00.
NBA Finals Game 4: Wednesday, July 14th 9:00 p.m EST.
Thursday night, The Phoenix Suns took a commanding 2-0 series lead after beating the Milwaukee Bucks 118-108 in game 2 of the NBA Finals.
A 2-0 series lead is great to have, but four wins secure the Larry O’Brien trophy. There’s plenty of basketball left to play, and until someone steals a game from a home team, the series is wide open.
Foul Shot Disparity
The Suns dominated game 2 like they dominated game 1.
Despite ending up on the wrong end of the foul shot disparity, an injury to Torrey Craig, and a career-high scoring game from an opposing two-time MVP, the suns found a way to keep rolling.
In game 1, the Suns attempted 10 more free throws than the Bucks. Game 2 ended with the Suns attempting nine fewer free throws than Milwaukee.
After game 1, the free throw disparity was a highlight for the media and fans to discredit much of what the Suns did well.
So in game 2, the free throw disparity shows us that making your free throws at a high percentage takes precedent over simply getting to the line.
The Bucks made 15-of-23 from the foul line and have made 61.5 percent of their free throw attempts through the first two games.
On the flip side, the Suns shot 12-of-14 and are making a blistering 92.5 percent of their free throws in the series.
Booker and Crowder Find Their Stroke
Devin Booker and Jae Crowder found their shooting stroke from deep after a rough night beyond the arc in game 1.
Booker had 31 points, five rebounds, and six assists in game 2. He shot 12-of-25 from the field and 7-of-12 from three. Most impressively, Booker did not attempt a foul shot the entire game.
Crowder finished the game with 11 points and 10 rebounds. He shot 4-of-8 from the field and 3-of-5 from the three-point line.
As mentioned in the District of Buckets game 1 preview, Booker and Crowder need to be in a rhythm as the series changes to Milwaukee.
Monty Williams’ Brilliance
Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams proves every night why he’s a coach of the year caliber basketball mind. Game 2 was just another day at the office.
Early in the first quarter, the Bucks’ aggressive attacking put them in a position to take control of the game. Coach Williams counteracted the Bucks’ paint attacking by running a few minutes of a 2-3 zone.
Running a zone in today’s NBA is a risky tactic due to the high level of outside shooting most teams possess.
However, a zone requires a different thought process to attack.
Changing the way an opponent attacks the basket can slow runs and give your team time to adjust. By the time you switch back to man-to-man, there’s a chance you disrupt the momentum of the other team.
The Bucks ended the first quarter up three points. In the 2nd half, the Bucks outscored the Suns by one point.
The game was decided in the second quarter when the Suns switched the momentum of the contest after exiting the zone. Phoenix outscored Milwaukee 30-16 in the 2nd quarter and never looked back.
Through two games, Williams is coaching circles around Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer. If coach Bud can’t match the coaching adjustments of the Suns, Milwaukee has a steep mountain to climb.
Holiday & Middleton Struggle
The offensive inconsistency of the Milwaukee supporting cast continued in game 2.
Jrue Holiday was more aggressive, but his shooting struggles continued as he went 7-of-21 from the field en route to 17 points, five rebounds, and seven assists.
Holiday’s defense traveled to Phoenix, but his shot did not.
Hopefully, his shot will find itself as the series turns to Milwaukee, but he has to show the basketball world these two games were just a fluke.
Khris Middleton also struggled as he scored 11 points on 16 shots.
There isn’t much to say about the supporting cast because they’re getting great opportunities to score.
The ball has to fall in the bucket.
Giannis is a Constant
If there’s one thing the Bucks can be happy about going into game 3, it’s that Phoenix has no answer for Giannis.
Antetokounmpo had a historic finals performance. He set a playoff career-high 42 points, and his 20 points in the third quarter are the most in a Finals game since Michael Jordan scored 22 points in 1993.
Game 3 Predictions
I’m predicting the Bucks defend home court in game 3.
From an eye-test standpoint, they’re moving well on defense and playing aggressively on offense.
I expect that Holiday and Middleton will have great games. I’m betting on their progression to the shooting averages we are accustomed to seeing from them.
If the Bucks outside of Antetokounmpo show up, game 3 will be a tough contest for Phoenix.
Don’t forget: In the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, the Bucks went down 0-2 against the Harden-less Brooklyn Nets after losing 86-125. They ended up coming back and winning that series.
The talent is there to compete with this great Suns team. It is all about execution now.
NBA Finals Game 3: Sunday, July 11th 8:00 p.m EST.
Tuesday night, the Phoenix Suns bested the Milwaukee Bucks in game 1 of the NBA Finals 118-105. In what was an electric start to the series, we witnessed moving parts on both teams critical to success or failure in each game and the entire series.
This post is a brief look at storylines, matchups, and potential adjustments that may carry over into game 2.
The Suns used Deandre Ayton as a screener early and often to create action on the pick and roll. Ayton (or whoever is being guarded by Brook Lopez) as the screener creates scoring opportunities for Phoenix and pressure for Milwaukee.
Ayton set solid screens that made it tough for Bucks defenders to chase Phoenix’s guards. Milwaukee also switched many of these screens set by Ayton and left Brook Lopez on an island against Chris Paul (32pts) and Devin Booker (27pts) all night.
The Suns’ first eight points of the game came from forcing Lopez switches. Lopez switches also open up a pass to Deandre Ayton in the paint after he rolls to the basket against a smaller defender.
Ayton’s finishing around the rim is stellar. He finished the game with 23 points and 19 rebounds on 8-of-10 shooting.
The Bucks played a small lineup to adjust to the play of the Suns’ guards. They sometimes ran Giannis at center. They also brought in Bobby Portis and Pat Connaughton to put more athleticism on the court and allow them to switch. However, this couldn’t last long since Brook Lopez was one of the few Bucks scoring the ball in the first half.
Lopez ended the game with 17 points. But the groove that Chris Paul found after the early Lopez switches led to his domination of the contest. Chris Paul finished the game with 32 points and nine assists.
Next game, I expect the Bucks to find more scoring outside of Lopez and work to keep more athleticism and quickness on the court if they plan to switch everything on the pick-and-roll.
Jrue Holiday, Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo
Plenty needs to happen for the Bucks offensively to keep pace with the Suns. First, they need more out of Jrue Holiday. Holiday finished with 10 points, seven rebounds, and nine assists but the issue Tuesday night was his shooting. Holiday was 4-for-14 from the field and 0-of-4 from the three-point line.
Holiday is a better offensive player than he showed in game 1, and in game 2 he needs to use his size advantage over Chris Paul and attack the basket.
Giannis Antetokounmpo proved the hyperextended knee that kept him out of two Eastern Conference Finals games is healthy enough to make LeBron-Esque chase-down blocks and power through Deandre Ayton in the paint on offense.
However, by the end of the third quarter, he looked gassed. Coming back after an absence is hard to do in an NBA playoff series, so it may take a few games for the Greek Freak to play with his usual motor for four quarters.
Antetokounmpo finished with 20 points, 17 rebounds, four assists, two steals, and one block. A solid stat line for anyone who played 35 minutes. Despite shooting an efficient 6-of-11 from the field, there were times that the superstar looked passive on the offensive end.
A PASSIVE GIANNIS WILL NOT WIN GAMES IN THE VALLEY. I expect by game 3 of the series—assuming his knee holds up—Giannis will play with an offensive motor that matches what he has on the defensive end.
Lastly, for Milwaukee, All-Star Khris Middleton—who led the Bucks scoring with 29 points last night—needs to have the scoring outburst he displayed in the second half earlier in the game. Middleton’s scoring allows the Bucks to keep pace and even helped cut a 20 point Suns’ second-half lead to single digits.
Booker and Crowder 3pt Shooting
Almost everything went right for the Suns last night—except for Jae Crowder and Devin Booker knocking down their long-distance attempts.
Booker (1-for-8) and Crowder (0-for-5) shooting poorly is something I don’t expect to continue, but as the series progresses and changes location in game 3, establishing a rhythm beyond the arc to prepare for the road is crucial for Suns success.
A Shift In Foul Calls
One thing to look for in future finals games, especially game 2, is a potential shift in foul calls. At home in game 1, the Suns were 25-of-26 from the free-throw line. The Bucks were 9-of-16. The Suns receiving 10 more free-throw attempts is rooted in some questionable no-calls against the Bucks.
When this happens, a righting of the wrong by the officiating crew is due. The free-throw attempts for both teams should be closer to even in game 2.
Game 2 Predictions
I’m predicting a closer finish down the stretch—within five points *wink*—and still taking the Suns in game 2. I think Phoenix will ride the energy of the crowd in the Valley and will be difficult to stop offensively.
The silver lining for the Bucks is they can figure out exactly what works well for them and use it to capture some wins when the series switches location to Milwaukee.
We will find out if I’m right when game 2 tips-off Thursday night on ABC at 9:00p.m EST
It is finally time for the annual meeting of the NBA’s best from east and west. The 2021 Finals will deliver fans an entertaining fight for NBA immortality.
The Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns tip-off the 2021 NBA Finals Tuesday night, so here is DoB’s preview to get you ready for the series.
The Milwaukee Bucks
The Eastern conference representative in the NBA Finals dealt with a fair amount of doubt, criticism, and adversity this season. Adversity only strengthened this team, and they are more than ready to fight in a seven-game series for the NBA’s top prize.
The Bucks(46-26) finished the regular season as the 3rd seed in the East. Milwaukee’s playoff run includes series victories over the Miami Heat (4-0), The Brooklyn Nets (4-3), and the Atlanta Hawks (4-2).
Key Stars: Milwaukee
The engine of the Mike Budenholzer coached Milwaukee Bucks is two-time league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Giannis this postseason has seen his fair share of tests. Skill-wise, his free-throw and jump shooting issues are highlighted by opposing defenses. Physically, the Bucks star is dealing with pain stemming from a hyperextended knee suffered during the Atlanta Hawks series.
I fully expect to see Giannis early in this series, and even though he’s questionable for game one, I would confidently say that if he doesn’t suit up and the first game goes in Phoenix’s favor, we should expect to see Giannis in game two.
With Giannis ailing, we’ve seen the other talented Bucks step up and do what they do best. Two-time NBA All-Star Khris Middleton has strung together a few impressive playoff series’ and has scored 30+ points three times in his last eight games.
Jrue Holiday is one of the most underrated two-way guards in the league. Jrue has more than done his part to propel the Bucks to their first Finals appearance since 1974. The underrated aspect of Holiday’s game is his offensive contribution. Forever known as a defensive stalwart, Jrue’s offensive game is an afterthought amongst many casual fans. Jrue showed in the Eastern Conference Finals (22 points and ten assists per game vs. ATL) that his offensive game is as good as any guard in the league.
Holiday will be depended on to help the Bucks thrive with a hobbled Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Matchups I’d Love to See: Milwaukee
Jrue Holiday vs CP3/Devin Booker:
I expect Holiday to be primarily matched up on Chris Paul, so it will be interesting to see how he fairs against the ‘Point God’ but I also expect that there will be instances when the Bucks will throw him on Devin Booker. Both matchups will be tough for Holiday, as CP3 and Booker are easily one of the most talented backcourts in the NBA. Offensively, I expect Jrue Holiday to take advantage of his size over Chris Paul and his strength over Booker to effectively score and navigate through the Phoenix defense to make plays all series.
Brook Lopez defending the pick and roll:
Lopez has done a great job defending all postseason, and his effectiveness at defending the rim is one of the key reasons Milwaukee is in the finals. Lopez’s deficiency on defense is his lateral quickness. To avoid exploitation of that deficiency, the Bucks will have Lopez play a drop coverage.
Drop coverage in the pick-and-roll is when the defender of the screener (Lopez in this example) “drops” away from the action to defend the roll and a potential drive. Simultaneously, the on-ball defender fights through the screen to stay with his man.
The issue with drop coverage in this series is that CP3 and Booker have three-level scoring abilities. Scorers who can attack the rim, mid-range, and shoot from deep, challenge the drop defender in so many different ways. This series should be difficult for Lopez, but he is more than able to compete.
Note: CP3 this season shoots 51.6% from mid-range and that’s where Lopez’ coverage will be tested.
Mike Budenholzer vs. playing Bobby Portis:
This is as simple as it gets, the Bucks have enjoyed Bobby Portis’ versatility, but sometimes throughout the playoffs, his minutes have been hard to come by. I’m watching to see if he gets around 15 mins per game minimum as the Bucks seem to be more successful the more he plays.
The Phoenix Suns
Almost a year removed their 8-0 2020 NBA Bubble finish to an otherwise disappointing season the Phoenix Suns are now the NBA Finals representative for the western conference.
The Phoenix Suns turnaround has many leaders. The media rightfully gives Chris Paul plenty of attention but, general manager James Jones, head coach Monty Williams, and franchise scorer Devin Booker have changed the culture over the past few seasons. A culture change so strong it seems like CP3 changed it overnight.
The Suns (51-21) finished the regular season as the 2nd seed in the West. Phoenix’s playoff run includes series victories over the Lakers (4-2), the Denver Nuggets (4-0), and the Clippers (4-2). The Suns’ regular-season record gives them a home-court advantage in the Finals.
Key Stars: Phoenix
In their first Finals appearance since 1993, The Phoenix Suns will rely on 24-year-old shooting guard Devin Booker to lead the way. Booker is averaging 27 points per game in the playoffs and takes the lion’s share of the offensive responsibility for the Suns. Booker has a mid-2000’s scoring mentality (he can score on all three levels and isn’t afraid of the mid-range) and will once again be put to the test against Milwaukee’s defense.
In the Western Conference Finals, Booker shot 38.2 percent from the field while playing through a broken nose. In the Finals and despite Milwaukee’s defense, I fully expect Booker to progress to somewhere around his average playoff field goal percentage of 44.4 percent in this series.
Suns’ maestro “Point God” Chris Paul will play in his first NBA Finals in his 16-year career. CP3 has done a great job commanding the Suns since his return from a shoulder injury he suffered in the first-round matchup against the Lakers. Chris Paul will have his hands full with Jrue Holiday on both ends of the floor.
The third key star for Phoenix in this series is big man Deandre Ayton. Ayton has grown before our eyes this season, and is a walking double-double. Ayton’s performance will be the X-factor for the Suns as he will see plenty of time guarding Giannis and the Bucks’ size on the defensive end.
Matchups I’d Love to See: Phoenix
Suns wings on Khris Middleton:
Khris Middleton is the type of player who, once he sees a few shots go in, becomes incredibly hard to stop. However, Phoenix has the athleticism and length between guys like Mikal Bridges and Jae Crowder to make things difficult for the Bucks All-Star. If the Suns can neutralize Middleton, the scoring pressure on the rest of the Bucks rises.
Booker vs. P.J Tucker:
I’m unsure of the amount of time we will see these two directly match up, but if there are moments that pit Tucker against Booker, keep an eye out for any extra agitation and physicality. After seeing Patrick Beverley get under Booker’s skin—outside of actually breaking his nose—it will be fun to see tenacious defender P.J Tucker attempt to get in the mind of the young star.
Overall, this NBA Finals matchup is one of the most interesting in recent history as only one player (Jae Crowder PHX) has previous NBA Finals experience.
Happy Friday! And in case you missed it, below are a few notable events in the basketball world this week.
Phoenix Suns Advance
The Phoenix Suns sank the Clippers 130-103 in game six of the Western Conference Finals to clinch their first NBA Finals appearance since 1993.
Chris Paul shrugged off his back-to-back pedestrian performances in games four and five to deliver a masterclass in game six.
CP3 delivered 41 points, four rebounds, eight assists, and a very impressive ZERO turnovers in 35 minutes as he advanced to his first Finals in his 16-year career. An already beautiful moment for Chris Paul compounds his shared success with head coach Monty Williams, who coached Paul during his early days with the New Orleans Hornets.
The Phoenix Suns currently await the winner of the Eastern Conference Finals series between the Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks.
Bucks Go Up 3-2
After both Trae Young and Giannis Antetokounmpo went down with injuries, “Next man up” became the mantra for the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks.
With the Eastern Conference Finals series tied 2-2, the main man to step up and give Milwaukee a 3-2 series lead was Bucks big man Brook Lopez.
Lopez dominated his way to the bucket the entire game en route to a 33 point performance that saw him shoot 14-of-18 from the field. Aside from the dominating play of Lopez, Khris Middleton played a great game and found himself just two assists from a triple-double as he posted a 26/13/8 stat line, and Bobby Portis added 22 in his 36 mins of play.
Final score Bucks 123, Hawks 112.
Trae and Giannis Injury Updates
With both stars out for game five, it is important to understand the current reports on their respective injuries.
Giannis: No structural damage to his knee, but his timetable is uncertain. It is impressive to note that after hyperextending his knee in game four, Giannis walked off the court on his own power.
Trae: Trae Young sat game five while still dealing with a bone bruise in his foot he suffered when he slipped on a referee in game four.
Young was seen before game five testing out his mobility so there’s a chance that we could see him in game six if he heals a bit more before then.
Chauncey Billups Controversy
The Portland Trail Blazers’ controversial selection of Chauncey Billups as their next head coach is a major point of discussion this past week. Aside from the decision itself being controversial, the decision is problematic at several levels.
The source of the controversy starts at the coaching selection due to Chauncey’s connection to a 1997 sexual assault allegation. Billups’ connection to the assault in 1997 is already one level of an issue as it sends a negative message to fans about the people in the Trail Blazers organization.
The message is negative because there were plenty of other qualified coaching options without sexual assault mentioned in their past. The team knowingly made their decision understanding that there was a potential backlash over the individual they hired, signifying that the Xs and Os mattered that much more to them.
The Billups hiring is controversial on another level due to the response it elicited from Trail Blazers centerpiece Damian Lillard.
Lillard told the Blazers coaches he liked out of the names he heard, and Billups was allegedly named. Lillard has stated that—like most of us—he was unaware of Billups’ history. On social media, members of the Blazers fanbase attributed his clout in Portland to allowing a hire that many dislike.
Overall, Chauncey is definitely a great basketball mind. However, when you have options on the table like Becky Hammon and Mike D’Antoni, you have to make a decision that represents your organization and fanbase. The Blazers did not make that decision.
With the offseason in full swing for 26 of the NBA’s teams, the search to fill coaching vacancies is heating up.
Every year, a few interesting—and on the flip side—disappointing names are mentioned every coaching cycle. Hiring practices that people experience in daily life mirror themselves every offseason in the NBA.
Today, I’m analyzing a few of the candidates across the league and why teams may be hesitant to bring in new, unproven talent at the NBA head coaching level, along with several reasons they should take a flyer on a new name.
The Devil You Know
A factor of NBA hiring, also a factor in any recruitment hunt, is how experience in the current role can sometimes trump a qualified applicant looking to prove themselves.
As a fan who loves change, the movement by mediocre coaches to head coaching spots across the league can be disheartening. However, from the ownership perspective bringing in a name with NBA experience in the head coaching spot allows the brass to give an underperforming roster a new look before risking a rebuild.
For example, all four of the remaining coaches in the playoffs (Ty Lue, Mike Budenholzer, Nate McMillan (interim HC), and Monty Williams) have proven track records leading a team and have their new squads on the cusp of glory in this current postseason.
However, picking a coach for the pedigree can backfire.
Boston Celtics NBA Finals winning coach Doc Rivers in 2013 was traded from Boston to the LA Clippers for a first-round pick. After his time in LA came to a close, Doc advanced his way to becoming the Sixers coach.
Even though injuries hampered his success in a few playoff series, we’ve seen a few of his playoff losses include a lack of adjustments expected from a title-winning coach.
I’m not giving league management excuses for recycling talent, but I can understand how the threat of a full-rebuild is bad for business. Hiring a familiar name signals to fans their team is moving in the right direction.
Some of the big names that fit this description in the coaching pool and are either rumored to have interviews with teams or are actively interviewing are:
The other side of the coaching hire coin is to pick a talented individual without NBA head coaching experience.
There are plenty of great coaches waiting in the wings for their chance to run a team, and picking a new name and face is a great for teams attempting to invigorate their fanbase and take the team in a fresh direction.
An advantage to selecting a coach with an unproven track record is that a team has a chance to uncover a guru. Every great coach had someone believe in them for the first time, and comparable to the emergence of new player talent in the NBA, we are overdue for someone to emerge as the next Phil Jackson, Erik Spoelstra, or Gregg Popovich.
A personal reason I have for favoring this method is I would love to see an increase in the diversity of coaches in the league. For as long as the league has allowed POC and women on the bench, we’ve seen talented names passed over for the big jobs.
Hiring a coach is a tough process, but expanding the hiring pool instead of picking up the same few names allows the game to progress and influences a potential spread of new ideas that can take basketball to heights never seen before.
Some names I’m watching in this current coaching cycle:
Becky Hammon patiently waited in the wings for the San Antonio Spurs since she joined the team in 2014 as an assistant after her lengthy professional playing career. Hammon has gained plenty of notoriety as of late, as the Portland Trail Blazers fittingly selected her as the first female finalist for an NBA head coaching job.
Hammon holds a fair share of firsts during her tenure as an assistant in San Antonio. She is the first woman to assume the role of head coach for an NBA Summer League team, a Spurs team she led to the summer league title in 2015.
Hammon also became the first woman to coach a regular-season NBA game when she stepped in for Gregg Popovich after an ejection in the 2020-2021 season.
To couple with her accolades, we’ve seen players give Hammon the utmost respect when commanding a team.
One day, hopefully soon, Becky Hammon will get her chance to be a head coach, and the world will see her basketball mind on a nightly basis in the league.
Chauncey ‘Mr. Big Shot’ Billups is a name circling coaching interview talk. Billups would be a great candidate for a team to hand the reigns to in the future.
Billups has one of the most extensive and impressive NBA careers a point guard could have. In 1,043 games, he averaged 15.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 5.4 assists per game. He also quarterbacked the Detroit Pistons to the 2004 NBA Championship, upsetting the heavily favored Lakers in a gentleman’s sweep 4-1.
Billups’ expertise during his playing days transfers over to his young NBA coaching career. Currently, he is a lead assistant on a Clippers team that has shown in the playoffs they can adjust to almost anything an opposing team throws at them, something I would love to see him elicit from his own squad.
Hopefully, you learned a bit about the current head coaching carousel in the NBA and now are thinking about the motivations that teams could have going into one of the most important processes for team success in the NBA.
District of Buckets plans to revisit this topic and also add a few coaching prospect names to your radar:
Ime Udoka, Dawn Staley, Rick Carlisle and more to come in the future.
In a world of increased specialization for youth athletes, it is refreshing to see multi-sport athletes thrive at the highest level of competition.
In the NFL, there are stories about pass-catchers translating basketball-style movement to success in football. The NFL has seen players such as Tony Gonzalez, Antonio Gates, and Julius Thomas make the jump from collegiate basketball to professional football using skills from the hardwood. Former Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin was an avid basketball player in high school, and Arizona Cardinals wideout Deandre Hopkins was a four-year high school varsity hooper.
The marriage between basketball-style movement and football can produce some impressive results. Much of the positioning and footwork from basketball can pay big dividends when running routes on the gridiron, as many of the translated movements are great for separation.
Doug Baldwin: Seattle Seahawks
Doug Baldwin has gone on the record saying basketball was his “first love.” Some of his route running footwork and releases have basketball crossover roots. It is safe to say his use of basketball-style movement was successful as Baldwin amassed 493 catches, 6563 yards, and 49 touchdowns over his eight-year NFL career.
Packers Pro-Bowl receiver Davante Adams also credits his release off the line of scrimmage to footwork and positioning he learned while playing basketball.
Adams is known for having one of the best releases in the game. His signature hops at the beginning of his routes allow him to react to the cornerback’s positioning and always keep them off balance. Adams’ route running basketball ties go beyond footwork and positioning. Adams also credits reactionary basketball skills as a tool he uses to recognize how a defensive back is trying to play him, and he adjusts based on the situation.
In the 2020-2021 season, football fans witnessed the effectiveness of this route running style for Adams every week, as he shredded defensive backs to the tune of 115 catches, 1,374 yards, and 18 touchdowns.
There are always benefits to playing multiple sports in developmental years, as many skills can overlap. As evidenced by the pass-catchers mentioned in this article, the overlapping skills may provide situational advantages that a player without the multi-sport experience won’t have in their repertoire.
It was eye-opening to see how basketball skills can impact a football field, and I can’t wait to see how Davante Adams displays his mastery off the line of scrimmage next season for the Packers.
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Last week, my focus was on Sixth Man of the Year front-runner Jordan Clarkson who has done nothing but push his lead for the award further since my last post.
This week, my focus shifts to players who may thin the gap of Clarkson’s lead if the opportunity presents itself.
Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon is a player who, when healthy, can catch Clarkson’s production.
This season, as of February 17th, 2020 (7:00 pm EST), Gordon is averaging 18.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game. These raw numbers plus his shooting splits of 46.5 percent from the field, 35.2 percent from three, 84.4 percent from the line, and most impressively, 61.7 percent on two-point attempts.
Statistically, if the numbers stand, this season would land somewhere around Gordon’s third most productive in his career, an impressive feat for a vet who has played in the league since 2008.
These numbers place the 2017 Sixth Man award winner in striking distance if Clarkson ever slows down this season. Aside from the numbers, it is always important to look at how Gordon impacts a game.
Gordon has all the tools to be an effective scoring guard at 6’3, but what puts him on another level of bucket-getting, in my opinion, is the way he uses his frame to attack the basket. Plenty of players can use raw strength to bully their way from time to time, but Gordon has an innate ability to know when to initiate contact. Initiating contact with a defender at the right time and with the proper amount of force to avoid offensive fouls can ruin defensive timing and create space in any part of the court.
Combining his ability to create space using his body and masterful guard skills is what makes Gordon one of the most difficult players to guard in the NBA, and he’s easily one of the players who can make a legit run at the Sixth Man of the Year award in 2021.
Check back next week for another player firmly in the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year race.
To tip-off this mini-series, I had to start with Utah Jazz combo guard Jordan Clarkson.
Jordan Clarkson has been an NBA journeyman since his selection out of the University of Missouri in 2014. Despite his frequent change of scenery, Clarkson demonstrates nightly that the one constant in his career is his ability to put the ball in the peach basket.
Clarkson has a wide variety of moves in his bag, a respectable jumper, and the athleticism to mesh with his skill and create a lethal assassin when the ball is in his hands.
Clarkson is a piece that makes the 20-win, 5-loss Utah Jazz a force to be reckoned with and a legitimate threat to the Lakers’ repeat.
What’s changed? And what value does he add to his team?
So, you may be wondering, if Clarkson possessed this ability for so long, why did it take until now for him to finally become a front-runner for Sixth Man of the Year?
Opportunity and fit.
The current setup of the Utah Jazz is a glass slipper that fits on Clarkson’s game.
Clarkson gives you instant scoring, and the Jazz desperately need shot creation on their second unit.
Also, Clarkson’s athleticism and commitment to the game allowed him to grow substantially on defense, and because of that growth, he’s seen high value minutes in the rotation.
Receiving a golden opportunity to play within the comforts of his game has taken Clarkson to new heights.
Clarkson is averaging a career-best 17.5 points per game and 4.4 rebounds per game on 46.3 percent from the field, 38.7 percent from three, and a blistering 97.2 percent from the line.
This level of production should garner him All-Star consideration. Remember, I said “consideration.” not an All-Star spot.
Clarkson is playing at an All-Star level—and I plan to start the Jordan Clarkson #NBAAllStar movement with this post— but, due to external factors such as fan and player voting, and the productive seasons of other guards in the west, I don’t think he will get the nod.
If Clarkson’s production withstands the marathon of the NBA season, there is no doubt in my mind that he will be the Sixth Man of the Year for the—currently—first-seeded Jazz.
Clarkson is the top dog in the Sixth Man of the Year award race, but that doesn’t mean he’s running unopposed.
Stay locked into District of Buckets for more on the Sixth Man award race, and take a look at the latest episode of Fantasy Basketball – This Week for more updates around the NBA.
This trade shuffles the power balance in the East as it gives the Nets three definite superstars —depending on when Kyrie Irving returns.
Brooklyn has always been Harden’s preferred destination, and in the day since the trade, we’ve seen reports of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant — via Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks — willing to sacrifice more to win right away.
Based on Kyrie’s role sacrifice in Cleveland and Durant’s sacrifices in Golden State, we know they are willing and able to do what it takes to win rings.
To people making jokes about Harden dribbling too much, I’d like to remind you, Mike D’Antoni pushed Harden to expand his facilitating game in the later Houston years, and many of his assists were within the flow of the game. He’s a player that can run an offense as a passer and allow Kyrie and KD to do what they do best.
On defense, Deandre Jordan can anchor the paint. Jordan’s paint presence sets a foundation for the Nets to hover around an average defense rating for the rest of the year, but the loss of Jarret Allen will hurt their rotation on that side of the ball. (Currently 13th in defensive rating)
I see Brooklyn signing some vets using the disabled player exception they received after Spencer Dinwiddie went down to sure up the defensive side of the ball.
The primary issue at this moment is the uncertainty around Kyrie.
To sum the move up, if KD, Kyrie, and Harden share the floor this season, it is championship or bust.
They gave up developing young players in Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince along with a bevy of picks, so the pressure is now on Brooklyn to produce with the high level of talent.
The Rockets are in a tough spot as Harden left them with no other option than to deal him, and they suddenly shift on a major roster overhaul after contending for the last couple of years.
However, they’ve received plenty of picks for the future in their trades of Harden and Russell Westbrook, so the transition is less painful for the front office — in theory — with the future addition of young talent.
Oladipo is expected to be a rental and is rumored to leave when his contract is up this year.
P.J Tucker is also projected to be a trade target for contending teams.
Despite all of the locker room turnover, a Wall/Oladipo backcourt could be fun to watch while we have it, and Wall, Cousins, and Christian Wood will welcome the change as they can now focus on competing every night and building chemistry.
The Pacers with this move proved something that was long in speculation.
They had no plans to retain Victor Oladipo.
In return, Indiana gets a real hooper in Caris LeVert. LeVert is a certified scorer and averaged around 18 points per game last season.
LeVert’s arrival is not too much of a game-changer for the Pacers, as we’ve also seen them shift to a Brogdon/Sabonis one-two punch, but LeVert’s abilities are a strong addition to this squad.
Keeping this last section short and sweet.
The Cavs get some young and talented frontcourt players in Allen and Prince.
I’m interested to see what this means for Andre Drummond and the other frontcourt players in the Cavs organization as they look to build around their talented guard duo of Darius Garland and Collin Sexton, aka, “Sexland.”
The impact of this trade will echo through the league, and as it develops, please stay tuned into District of Buckets on all social media platforms and watch the upcoming episode of Fantasy Basketball – This Week on YouTube.
Sunday night, the Wizards beat the loaded Nets 123-122, and Washington displayed they have the offensive firepower to hang with any team in the league.
Playing up, or as Wizards fans are frequently subjected to, down to the level of their opponent is a Wizards staple under coach Scott Brooks, and it seems the trend will continue in 2021.
The big story, however, is the way the game ended. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant both had chances to win the game late but came up short.
The talented duo has garnered plenty of ill-will from fans across the league, so not making clutch shots will come with plenty of background noise.
The ridicule is fun for some, but I feel it’s wasted motion when fans attack guys early in the regular season who are defined by the postseason.
I’m reaching out to the casual fan who may listen to the loudest voices in social media.
Many of the loudest voices impact the way we see the game, and I just want everyone who reads this blog to be aware that the best way to evaluate the abilities of a player is to do the most simple thing — watch them play.
The NBA regular-season is approaching fast, and here are some trends to note before the games start to count.
Here is a quick rundown of a few NBA stories to watch heading into the year.
The Lakers rotation looks deadly
After winning the NBA Finals in the bubble, many people expected the league to catch up to the Lakers.
However, in the offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers retooled their lineup by adding 6th Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell, 6th Man runner-up Dennis Schröder, Wesley Matthews, and Marc Gasol.
LA re-signed key veterans Markieff Morris and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and saw flashes of increased development from Talen Horton-Tucker and Kyle Kuzma.
In the preseason, the Lakers beat the Clippers 131-106 while running an 8-man rotation without superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
I usually hate to put this much stake into preseason games, but the limited rotation showed that when everybody is locked-in and clicking, this team can go 10-12 deep in their rotation without missing much of a beat.
A scary sight for the rest of the league.
Russell Westbrook intangibly improves the Wizards
Russell Westbrook is a player who is no stranger to stuffing the stat sheet, but his impact to the Washington Wizards organization is the way his competitiveness will rub off on the younger players.
From his first practice, Wizards coach Scott Brooks said that Westbrook set an “intense” tone for the rest of the team.
His impact showed in the Wizards’ sole preseason win in Westbrook’s debut, and even though there are still plenty of question marks on this team, we know that Westbrook has the potential to change the culture in the District.
The Suns are the best they’ve been since 2010
The Phoenix Suns offseason addition of Chris Paul will maximize the potential of Devin Booker.
Booker was an All-Star in a season that saw him average 26.6 points a game for the second consecutive year on increased efficiency in 2019-2020. (+2.2 in field goal percentage and +2.8 in three-point percentage)
Booker also led the Suns to an 8-0 NBA Bubble record, a run that symbolized a changing of the culture in the valley. The change of culture mixing with the influx of new talent and the addition of a future Hall of Famer in Chris Paul makes this the best Suns team in a decade.
Patrick Williams is a Hooper
I’m not here to absolve the Chicago Bulls for reaching to take Patrick Williams with the fourth overall pick, however, I am here to let everyone know — Patrick Williams can hoop, and can make a big impact in year one.
In the preseason, Williams’ skillset showed his game is better suited to the spacing of the NBA game than the college game, which would explain his lackluster numbers in college. (even taking into account the limited usage he had at Florida State)
He’s not in the Windy City to lead the team in scoring, or honestly anything. He’s a do-it-all player who can give you solid minutes, play good defense, and fill some of the holes the Bulls have in their roster.
Steph Curry Has a Legit MVP Chance
The Warriors aren’t the powerhouse they used to be, but they still have Steph Curry.
Curry’s increased usage could bode well for his MVP chances assuming he stays healthy this season.
Side note: The extra attention on Curry on the perimeter allows for first-round big-man James Wiseman to have matchups inside he can take advantage of with his athleticism.
New Look Rockets Aren’t Enough For James Harden
The Rockets made drastic changes to their roster this offseason.
John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, and Christian Wood give Houston a different feel on the court, but it isn’t enough to entice superstar James Harden to stay.
Kevin Durant is Healthy
After a long recovery from an Achilles injury in 2018, Kevin Durant will be taking the floor tonight. Durant has looked good in preseason, and you can tell he’s worked his way back near the form that has his status cemented as a basketball legend.
His talent will always be there, but the main question mark will still be his post-injury explosiveness. There were moments in preseason games where you could see him move a bit slower.
Either way, it shouldn’t matter too much, as Durant’s ability will keep him in the upper echelon of NBA players this season.
The Pelicans are primed to compete
In case you haven’t seen the news, Zion Williamson is not on a minutes restriction this season.
A healthy Zion, Brandon Ingram, and Lonzo Ball are a young trio that will be one of the NBA’s toughest combinations to stop this season.
The impact Zion had on the floor in limited time last season was special.
Every player on the court has to account for every move he makes.
Zion will open up opportunities for Ingram to continue being the offensive threat we’ve seen him grow into.
Lonzo’s playmaking and defense allows New Orleans to compete with any team in the league.
Wednesday night, The Washington Wizards traded franchise cornerstone John Wall and a 2023 first-round pick to the Houston Rockets in exchange for MVP guard Russell Westbrook.
To analyze this trade, we have to consider how this trade impacts the following.
1. The Basketball Court
2. The Fanbase
Before getting into the emotional impact, it’s time to look at how this move changes the way the team plays the game of basketball.
To keep this first part short and sweet, Westbrook’s domination of the basketball puts the fit in jeopardy in Washington, and while Wall’s pass-first mentality fits anywhere, we have yet to see him cede touches and play a bit more off the ball.
Due to injuries, Wall has not seen the floor in roughly two years. Assuming Wall produces similarly to when we last saw him—even when healthy, he is not the player Russell Westbrook is.
On almost a daily basis, you can pull up Twitter and see someone blaspheming about the abilities of Westbrook. However, he is more than capable of propelling a 25-win, ninth-seeded team in the East this past season into the playoff picture.
His skill set, albeit similar to Wall’s, is separated by his higher motor. Wall plays hard, but no basketball player brings more heart to the floor than Russell Westbrook.
Westbrook brings his best effort every night and expects the same for his teammates, and if you’ve watched the Wizards over the years, you understand that one of the biggest knocks on this team is that they often play down to the talent level of lesser opponents. Talk about his intensity all you want, but you know he isn’t holding back against anybody.
In Washington, Westbrook will be one of the primary paint attackers and will either draw extra defenders off the Wizards shooters or have an easier time in the lane—something that worked well in Houston.
One thing absent in Houston for Westbrook was coach Scott Brooks. This trade allows for the two to unite for the first time since their Oklahoma City Thunder days. The ceiling for their success is lower than it was in OKC when you saw the pair maximize one another, along with the talent of Kevin Durant and James Harden as they reached the 2012 NBA Finals.
However, in 2020 The Wizards are Beal’s team, adding Westbrook solidifies the starting five, and when coupled with the development of Rui Hachimura and Thomas Bryant, plus the re-signing of the Latvian marksman Davis Bertans, instantly improves the team in talent, and hopefully in win total.
On Houston’s end, they get a player returning from a multitude of season-ending injuries, but also a talented guard, who is feeling “110% healthy” and looking to remake his mark in a rapidly changing league and pair with James Harden.
The Rockets are going through a makeover of their team as well, and the trade is a move that looks to appease their current superstar and potentially bring in future young talent with a first-round pick in 2023.
Fan & Community Impact
This trade hits D.C sports fans incredibly hard due to the presence that John Wall had among fans in the area. Wall has given back to the community time and time again and even became a staple within the culture, whether by showing up in Shy Glizzy videos (NSFW warning: Language) or being forever linked with Rosebar.
Regardless of what anyone thought of him, John Wall’s connection to this city was deep, and he is forever a part of the D.C community.
On the flip side, the D.C community also gets a guy who has the potential to represent the area just as well in a short time. Westbrook’s intensity on the floor represents the area well, and he is also known along with his wife Nina to be incredibly charitable and embracing of his playing community.
Adding Westbrook gives the Wizards a fighting chance to win 15-20 more games than the previous season, and Wall allows the Rockets to have a number two on the roster with a much lower usage rate.
Wall and Westbrook have roughly the same amount of money and time remaining on their contracts, but Wall has a 15% trade kicker—a trade kicker being the percentage of the salary that becomes a bonus for a player when traded.
Overall, both sides needed to make this deal. The move appeases the superstars on both sides and both teams can compete in their respective conferences.
It’s sad to see John Wall go, but at the same time, all we can do in life is pick up the pieces and keep going.
Officially, this is now a Russell Westbrook defender blog.
The 2020 NBA Draft was as eventful as ever, and keeping track of the moves is tough, but don’t worry, I’ve decided to share with you some notable news from the first round of the draft.
The first three selections in the draft went as planned, and LaMelo Ball going 3rd overall to the Charlotte Hornets was no surprise. I love the fit as it gives LaMelo the perfect situation to step right into an impact role, with even more opportunity for growth depending on what Charlotte does with Terry Rozier and Devonte Graham at the guard spots.
As he sends another son to the NBA as a top-three pick, Lavar Ball reminded us all that his unorthodox and often criticized methods paid off with his choice of hat for the evening.
At the ninth overall selection, the Washington Wizards stuck to a draft philosophy as old as time itself—Take the most talented guy remaining on your draft board. As a result, 19-year-old Deni Avdija will take his talents to Washington, D.C
Avdija is the youngest MVP in Israeli League history, and even though his selection might have surprised Wizards fans at nine, they made a pick that represented value based on his pre-draft projections.
Avdija was ranked within the top six by The Athletic and The Ringer, and Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard stated he had scouted him since he was 16-years-old, so it’s reasonable to see how once Onyeka Okongwu was off the board, Avdija was the ideal selection.
If you’re unfamiliar with his game, please take the time to check his highlights below and keep in mind to analyze how he moves, creates space, and scores.
Most people watch highlights and just focus on the ball going in the basket, but you can notice plenty about a players ability if you take note of just how surgical they are with their movement in the way they score.
Footwork and technique always show up on tape.
Ricky Rubio Returns to Minnesota
Ricky Rubio returning to the Wolves is a big note of my draft night because of what the move signals. Bringing Rubio back is an indicator to me that the Timberwolves made a trade to give their young team a leader and a proven winner.
Yes, I said what I said. Rubio knows how to win games better than most rotation point guards in the league, and his presence increases the ceiling of every player on the roster.
Rubio is a great veteran guard and will find minutes in the rotation due to his playmaking ability. Lineups Involving Rubio will allow scorers to work off the ball and focus on doing what they do best—put the damn thing in the bucket
After Selecting Anthony Edwards 1st overall and adding other young playmakers in the draft, the Wolves are turning in a direction that takes them a step closer to the playoffs.
Next, Minnesota must make the right moves in free agency to help maximize Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell’s impact in the upcoming season.
Celtics Take Aaron Nesmith and Payton Pritchard
Sharpshooting, every team needs it, and the Boston Celtics made spacing the floor a priority on draft night.
For a team planning to be in the thick of the eastern conference, the selections of Aaron Nesmith and Payton Pritchard are picks that can help space the floor on day one.
Pritchard was one of the most competitive guards in the country at Oregon. He never backed down from a challenge and has an impressive skillset that propelled him to lead the Pac-12 in both scoring and assists a year ago. I project him to be effective off the bench and eventually develop to a point where he can command the Celtics second unit as soon as this season.
Joining up with Pritchard is Vanderbilt product Aaron Nesmith.
Nesmith is a lights-out shooter, and the combination of these players in the first round will help the Celtics lessen the blow of potentially losing Gordon Hayward this offseason.
The chart speaks for itself as the Vanderbilt product is one of the, if not the best catch-and-shoot rookies in the class. His value fills a much-needed hole in the Celtics offensive attack by adding another off-ball shooter to the rotation.
Tyrese Haliburton is one of the most talented mismatches in this class due to his size at the point guard position. He’s also skill-wise everything you want in a playmaking guard, so it was confusing to see him fall to Sacramento with the 12th pick.
The Kings should feel great with the selection, but as a fan, I’m worried that he may not be able to maximize his potential in Sacramento.
The 76ers were active during the first draft under new GM Daryl Morey. The Sixers may have one of the steals of the draft with Kentucky guard Tyrese Maxey’s selection at 21st overall.
Acquiring Maxey raises the talent level of the roster, and Morey’s trades rid the Sixers of Al Horford’s bloated contract and brought shooting to the team in the form of Danny Green and Seth Curry.
Klay Thompson’s Injury
Without a doubt Klay Thompson Tearing his Achilles is the most impactful story that occurred on draft night. The Warriors potentially lose one of the biggest pieces of their organization as they were primed to make a twilight run in the western conference.
The injury did not result in a change of plans for the team on draft night as they selected the most talented player on their draft board, Memphis big James Wiseman, 2nd overall.
The first round of the draft mirrored the unpredictability of the world around us as we saw many surprises one can attribute to the stoppages of sports last spring.
The first round was absent a few all-conference and conference player of the year candidates, so we may see a few gems in this class from late in the draft.
I’ll share my thoughts on some moves from the 2nd round— including undrafted free agents—in my follow up post.
The 2020 edition of the NBA Draft takes place this Wednesday, and I’m leaving the mock drafts for my second post and focusing today on the atmosphere surrounding such a unique draft, along with answering some draft questions I received from a few readers.
A Unique Player Evaluation Period
Due to the rampaging pandemic, the traditional pre-draft process is different than what we’re used to seeing, and one question that comes to mind is if this the most difficult year to evaluate talent.
The short answer to that in recent memory is yes, but enough information has been compiled on the highest-profile picks so, we should firmly know if their current value is accurate. (Ex. Mid-First, Lottery, Undrafted, etc are generally accurate labels, but the exact position is harder to pinpoint)
Many players primed for selection in the lottery are mocked accurately.
However, a lack of traditional workout periods coinciding with an abrupt end to the NCAA season could be the difference that may massively overrate or underrate a prospect with several question marks headed into the draft.
For teams, a lack of a traditional evaluation schedule could be the difference in drafting a franchise star or a bust.
For players, it can be the difference between finding the right fit and blossoming into their potential or being out of the league in a few years.
For the 2020 draft, finding the right fit is crucial due to the class having talent but lacking in star quality.
In my opinion—for the NCAA prospects, the lack of the tournament is a big loss. I’m forever a big believer that the tournament shows how the best prospects react to a high-intensity win-or-go home environment. You see how their game looks when everything is in control, you see their body language when they are fighting a deficit, and most importantly, who executes against the best when the clock dwindles into winning time.
I have plenty of players I wanted to finish their campaigns, but if I had to pick one guy I wish we saw more of, I would select Arkansas guard Mason Jones.
Jones is a player that will go lower than his talent suggests because he is leaving for the draft as a Junior. Without a potential SEC tournament run to improve his stock, (Arkansas beat Vanderbilt in the first round) I wouldn’t be surprised to see teams take younger guys with a higher theoretical ceiling—something I find insane because his numbers are some of the best in the class.
Player A- 22/5/3 on 45% shooting
Player B- 19/5/2 on 40% shooting
So, I loaded that comparison, but keep in mind that Player B is the likely number one overall selection in the draft, Anthony Edwards. (Assuming the Timberwolves make the pick instead of trading it or deciding to take LaMelo #1)
Edwards has a higher ceiling, but they both played in the same conference against similar competition, and arguably, Jones still has room to grow at the NBA level. However, an abrupt ending to the season didn’t allow us to see the best that Jones might have put forward to increase his stock.
I’ll have to stop here as I work on some more content between now and the draft, but stay locked in as I bring you more content before the picks.
The Brooklyn Nets ended their search for a head coach with the hiring announcement of former Phoenix Suns Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash.
The hiring has seen mixed reviews among the NBA fan community, and today I wanted to take the time to analyze some of the potential pros and cons that could make this hire boom or bust.
Pros: Steve Nash
The Brooklyn Nets’ main benefit from this hire is the acquisition of one of the most accomplished and brilliant basketball minds to ever play the game.
Steve Nash showed a willingness to improve players around him during his playing days, and his mentality should carry over to coaching. Mixing his basketball knowledge and his good relationship with Kevin Durant — evidenced by his days as a Golden State Warriors consultant — is a recipe that could yield success in the big apple.
Nash can mesh the high octane talent on the Nets roster, and more specifically, can handle the task of meshing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to create a title-contending product.
Nash’s expertise will also help the rest of Brooklyn’s rotation, and I am looking forward to how he impacts the guards on the team.
Cons: NBA Head Coaching Experience
Steve Nash accepted this job with a lack of NBA coaching experience. The concerns here are real because lack of experience is what makes a move like this a risk. There are so many moving parts in an NBA organization, so it can be hard to trust an individual without experience on the coaching side of the game.
However, Nash recently held a consultant role with the Golden State Warriors and was able to be close to an organization and view the game from the lens from a non-player.
To sum up the move, I’d say it’s worth the risk because you don’t have doubts about Nash’s basketball mind when it comes to X’s and O’s, and hiring him appeases the superstars. One of the most overlooked parts of the head coach position in the NBA is the management of talent and egos, and I can’t think of a better way to manage all of the personalities on an NBA roster by adding a former MVP.
Every team in the bubble is playing hard, and the level of basketball has mimicked the first week of the regular season as many players have fresh legs and a rejuvenated hunger to compete among the world’s best.
With the final seeding games approaching, and the official NBA all-bubble team announcement this upcoming Saturday, I decided to put a team together consisting of some of the most impressive players in the NBA restart.
Without further ado, here is the District of Buckets All-NBA Bubble Team.
PG: Damian Lillard
Before basketball stopped, Dame was on one of the hottest stretches of scoring we’ve ever seen from a guard, and his return to basketball has continued his run of high-powered scoring.
In the last two games, Lillard went off for a combined 112 points against the Mavs and Sixers, and his level of play has Portland sitting in the 8th playoff spot in the western conference.
Lillard told the media that he “Packed for the whole three months” and backed that statement up with his play — The Blazers can clinch their spot as the team to beat in the play-in game with a win in their next matchup.
Per game stats: 37.0 points, 4.4 rebounds, 9.3 assists
Fun Fact: Ever since Patrick Beverly clowned Dame for missing two go-ahead free throws, Lillard has shot 33-of-34 from the line. Dame is also the only Blazer with back-to-back 50-point games.
SG: Devin Booker
Devin Booker’s scoring is no surprise, but the 7-0 bubble winning streak for the Phoenix Suns is one of the biggest surprises in the NBA.
Booker earns his spot here in my lineup over both Harden and Luka Dončić for the one reason he’s often snubbed out of critical acclaim for his scoring abilities in the past — winning — yes, winning. The Suns 7-0 record in the bubble validates that his scoring ability translates to wins in a “win or go home” environment, and places him ahead of two guards that are performing at a similar level.
The Suns are tied with the Blazers and Grizzlies and need to win their next game to clinch a berth in the play-in series.
Per game stats: 31.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, 6.1 assists
Shooting %: 49.7% field goal, 34.9% 3pt, 93.5% ft
+/- : 8.0
Fun Fact: Devin Booker has scored exactly 35 points in three straight games.
SF: T.J. Warren
T.J. Warren was averaging 19.8 points per game heading into the bubble, but nobody expected him to put on an offensive clinic in Orlando.
T.J. Warren has always been a good scorer, but his willingness to fire more from deep, and his ability to hit at a high clip has taken his game from solid to show-stopping.
After Domantas Sabonis’ injury early in the restart, Warren has established his place in the lineup even further and is a driving force for any continuing success Indiana might find in the bubble.
Based on his play for the Pacers, it is safe to say they got a monster return in a trade that only saw them give up cash considerations.
Per game stats: 31.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists
Shooting %: 57.8% field goal, 52.4% 3pt, 88.9% ft
+/- : 11.7
Fun Fact: On August 1st, Warren put up 53 points on 69 percent shooting — Nice— against the 76ers.
PF: Kristaps Porzingis
I’m gonna be upfront and say that Kristaps’ place on this team is purely about putting the ball in the bucket. Porizngis is the only player on this list who holds a negative plus-minus and a sub .500 bubble record. However, he has been individually impressive and is the bubble player that I would want at the 4 in a lineup.
Porzingis scores at a high rate and his production will be desperately needed when the Mavs take on Clippers in the first round of the playoffs.
Per game stats: 30.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists
Shooting %: 47.6% field goal, 38.1% 3pt, 89.1% ft
+/- : -4.7
Fun Fact: On July 31st, Kristaps had 39 points and 16 Rebounds against the Houston Rockets.
C: Joel Embiid
Joel Embiid has been playing great ball for the Sixers in the bubble. Embiid looks to be the main driving force for Philly in the playoffs, as they will be without Ben Simmons for the foreseeable future. Despite injuring his ankle and missing a game, Embiid’s play thus far has been enough for him to secure the center spot in my All-Bubble Team lineup.
Per game stats: 24.4 points, 11.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists
Shooting %: 51.2 field goal, 76% ft
Record: 3-2 in games played
+/- : 3.6
Fun Fact: In the Sixers’ loss to the Pacers in the bubble, Embiid put up 41 points and 21 rebounds.
Heart, Passion, and a true example of a blue-collar hooper, Montrezl Harrell brings maximum energy when he steps on the floor — the self-proclaimed “modern-day Rodman” will bring his toughness to the Clippers title hunt when he returns to the NBA bubble.
Harrell finishes everything at the rack, as is evidenced by his 18.6 points per game on 58 percent shooting from the field.
Trez is a reliable two points around the rim, and brings attention inside that makes life easy for the phenomenal perimeter players that the Clippers have stacked on their roster.
He’s not a floor spacer, but he thrives where a power forward must thrive — rolling to the basket after setting hard screens. He also puts defenders on an island in isolation with ease and often sees multiple defenders crash the paint when he attacks.
On the defensive end, Harrell uses his physicality to intimidate scorers around the basket, and as a result, leads the Clippers in blocks with 1.1 per game.
Currently, Montrezl is dealing with a family issue away from the bubble. His absence —hopefully — is only temporary as it would be a pleasure to watch him play his part in the most dynamic bench duo in the NBA with fellow Clipper Lou Williams.
Can’t wait to see what he’s able to do when he returns.
In honor of the return of basketball this week, I wanted to remind you of—or introduce you to, one of the best scorers in the game, Washington Mystics forward Emma Meesseman.
Meesseman is a surgical scorer.
She picks her spots well, and when you mix good shooting with good shot selection, you get efficient scoring.
In the Mystics 2019 Finals run, Meesseman averaged 19.1 ppg while shooting 58.2 percent from the field, 58.1 percent from three, and 82.4 percent from the free-throw line.
Meesseman’s postseason marksmanship mirrored her regular season. In the regular season, she missed out on making the 50-40-90 club only by not having the required minimum amount of field goal attempts. (55.2 FG%, 42.2 3PT%, 90.5 FT%)
Aside from her sniper-like accuracy, Meesseman does a phenomenal job of using her size and footwork to create space in one-on-ones. She also moves incredibly well off-ball, and when paired with the talent on the Mystics, she always seems to be open.
As an individual defender when you run into a player this skilled, who doesn’t need much space to get a shot off, with a high basketball IQ, you’re helpless if they’re making shots that night.
Meesseman is one of the most accomplished Belgian basketball players of all time, and her career accolades speak for themselves, so get ready to experience the legend of “Playoff Emma” when the WNBA returns.
Be sure to tune into ESPN on July 30th at 6p.m EST to watch Emma and the Mystics go to work on national television against the Seattle Storm. (one of only three nationally televised games, all but three will be shown on local television.)
TBT 2020 lived up to the hype and served as an oasis in the middle of the sports desert during a tumultuous year. The tournament showed us that with a strict quarantine bubble and vigorous testing, sports can still take place even during a pandemic.
It was a pleasure to be granted media access to The TBT, and I am forever grateful for being able to get a close look at how sports media works. (Mostly via Zoom)
This post is a quick shoutout to the two teams who made the deep run to the title match, and a short video of some of the action that took place late in the tournament.
The tournament delivered high-quality play and compelling storylines that captivated the attention of the basketball world for a “March Madness” like atmosphere in the middle of July.
Rising out of the madness were the Marquette Golden Eagles Alumni, who, behind Tournament MVP Darius Johnson-Odom, downed Sideline Cancer 78-73 in the title game and won the $1,000,000 prize.
The Golden Eagles boasted four players with NBA experience. (Darius Johnson-Odom, Dwight Buycks, Travis Diener, and Jamil Wilson)
Experience at the highest level of basketball is what proved to be the difference as they remained cool, calm, and collective down the stretch.
The Golden Eagles also did a phenomenal job of holding Sideline Cancer’s leading scorer Marcus Keene to only 6 points on the night, a reward that validates the aggressive defensive scheme that was stressed the whole game.
We witnessed a great run from the Golden Eagles, and I’m looking forward to seeing how they will defend their title in TBT 2021.
The TBT 2020 runner-up is first in the hearts of many.
The Basketball Tournament, also known as the TBT, tips off this weekend on ESPN, so I wanted to quickly catch you all up to speed before the teams hit the floor in Columbus.
The TBT is an open 24-team tournament, with a winner-take-all prize of $1,000,000. The TBT has grown substantially in interest and talent over its 7 years of existence, all while giving fans the intensity of the NCAA March Madness single-elimination style.
My favorite thing about the TBT is the talent pool the players come from. The talent in the tournament ranges from players who have “Elite” overseas and NBA experience to even a team full of D2 legends.
The range of talent displayed is amazing because it highlights how great a player must be to succeed at higher levels of the sport, which is something I feel most fans don’t understand when they decide to flip on a game.
To qualify for tournament selection, teams have to fill out an application, and based on multiple criteria (including fanbase support), they are chosen to participate. Once selected and entered into the pool, the bracket is made, and the fun begins.
TBT 2020 will look a little different with only 24 teams. (The TBT had 72 teams in 2018 and 64 teams in 2019)
The Elam Ending
The Elam Ending is what truly separates The Tournament from any other basketball competition on the planet.
The Elam Ending was implemented for TBT 2017.
The Elam Ending was created by Nick Elam, a professor who dedicated his time to figure out how end-of-game situations could move away from late-game fouling. (Fun Fact: Intentionally fouling as the trailing team in a basketball game works roughly 1.5 percent of the time)
The ending starts at the 4-minute mark of the 4th quarter.
First, the game clock is shut off. Next, a target score of 8 points more than the current score of the leading team is set. (Ex. if a game is 60-50, a target score of 68 ends the game)
The first team to reach the target score wins, and the game has to end on a made basket.
For TBT 2020 District of Buckets has received online media day access to 4 teams.
Herd That- Marshall University Alumni
Men of Mackey- Purdue University Alumni
Stillwater Stars- Oklahoma State University Alumni
War Tampa- Players from the state of Florida and Auburn Alumni
Throughout the tournament (July 4th-July 14th), I am going to focus on these 4 teams. My goal is to highlight the best performances each team has on the court and focus on the playing careers of the players hunting for the glory of the $1,000,000 prize.
This past Friday, the NBA released the schedule for its reboot in Orlando.
While it has been a pleasure to discuss upcoming NBA action, a developing argument about the legitimacy of a 2020 NBA Championship has gained popularity over the past few weeks. More specifically, an argument stating a Finals win in the Orlando bubble would not hold the same weight as any other championship.
As with most basketball arguments, the name LeBron James comes to the forefront.
There have been arguments made that if his Lakers win it —due the circumstances surrounding the reboot (COVID & social justice concerns)—the championship should not be viewed in the same light as his other rings.
I am vehemently against that idea, and anyone who wants to debate it can mention me personally, I have time to hear it all.
If you think the accomplishment of winning an NBA championship in the midst of a once in a lifetime pandemic somehow DIMINISHES the value of the win, you are just flat out wrong.
After teams complete their seeding games, they enter a relatively normal-looking playoff period. (based on number of games played)
Even though the optics around the game will differ (no real home games, no fans, etc.), every team will have the same chance to take the Larry O’Brien trophy home as even if play never stopped—However, this is all assuming that there are no hiccups and the reboot plan runs smoothly.
If the NBA’s plan alters course, and changes occur en route to a championship, the door is wide open to discuss a lack of legitimacy.
Until that happens, the last team standing is the rightful champion of the league, as always.
Please feel free to share your opinions on the platforms listed below.
Pro athletes in 2020 are displaying the power their platform holds within local communities.
During this mass period of demonstration, athletes have been incredibly visible. However, the question of how they can use their status to find concrete and quantifiable ways to improve the lives of others often arises.
Luckily in the D.C area, we have no shortage of athletes who love to give back, and impact the local the communities where they live.
A recent example of that desire to help is put on display by John Wall’s “202 Assist” program.
Wall’s foundation joined with the D.C government and Lydia’s House —A local organization that helps citizens in Wards 7 and 8— to provide rent assistance to D.C residents in ward 8.
Add the obstacles created by COVID-19 to the fact that Ward 8 households use 62 percent of their income to pay rent on average, and you can arrive at the conclusion that paying rent in a city with a high cost of living is an advanced challenge under current circumstances.
From May 22nd to June 22nd, “202 Assist” fundraised $531,860 in rent relief funds, and the organization is in the process of putting those funds to use.
Much of the work that Wall and other D.C athletes contribute to holds immense value beyond the donations and demonstrations themselves.
Wall’s presence in the D.C community is highly appreciated and needed.
It has been a pleasure to see one of my favorite players help people survive during a bleak time.
The Hawks hold one NBA Championship -won in 1958- and while we associate the Hawks with their current location in Atlanta, Georgia, their time as the crown jewel of professional basketball occurred in America’s gateway to the west, St. Louis, Missouri.
The Hawks’ time in “The Lou” lasted from 1955 to 1968, and in that time frame, they were home to several legends of the game and one of the most questionable trades in NBA history.
The team flourished on the court, but in a fashion that would become familiar to pro sports fans in the area, the Hawks would eventually succumb to poor attendance and relocate to Atlanta.
The First MVP: Bob Petit
The most successful player to take the court for the St. Louis Hawks is easily Hall of Famer Bob Petit.
Bob Petit is one of the pioneers of the NBA, and during his time in the league, averaged an impressive 26.4 points and 16.2 rebounds per game.
Petit was named the NBA’s Most Valuable Player twice, once in 1956 and again in 1959. His MVP award in 1956 was the first time the league named an MVP, forever linking St. Louis to one of the top accomplishments basketball players aspire to attain.
Bill Russell Trade
In the 1956 NBA Draft, the Hawks held the 2nd overall pick. With the 2nd pick in the draft, the Hawks selected the University of San Francisco standout and immortal basketball legend Bill Russell. However, they traded their selection to the Boston Celtics for Ed Macauley and Cliff Hagan.
Short term, the trade worked for the Hawks, The acquisition of two Hall of Fame level talents for one player, and THEN using both players to win a championship against the team you traded with, in most cases is an undisputed win.
However, long term, the Hawks lost out on having a player who would go on to change the game of basketball forever. Bill Russell’s legacy with 11 NBA Championships in a Celtics uniform (3 against the STL Hawks) is untouchable for players in the modern game, and his successes in “Beantown” were the building blocks of the expectation of greatness for Celtics franchise.
The magnitude of the mark Bill Russell left on the game leaves us wondering, what would his legacy look like if he played in St. Louis? Would the team still be there today if the trade never happened?
Unfortunately, we’ll never know, but we can acknowledge the Hawks’ success as they reached the pinnacle of the NBA in 1958.
The 1958 St. Louis Hawks won the Western Division with a record of 41-31. In the playoffs, they beat the Detroit Pistons in 5 games and then would go on to beat the Celtics in 6, capturing the only NBA championship in Hawks history.
Note: Bill Russell was hobbled with an ankle injury for most of the series.
Overall, the Hawks’ time in St. Louis bred basketball success, and due to the legacy of players such as Bob Petit, it was also impactful in shaping what the league would eventually become in the future.
Hopefully this post left you with a few small tidbits of knowledge and hey, who knows, one day some of this might show up on a trivia question and you never would’ve known if you didn’t check out District of Buckets.
In the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, we’ve witnessed iconic images of the United States that will define this time in history.
We’ve seen everything from the ugliness of police brutality, to images of citizens uniting across the country, expressing their first amendment rights.
In a changing world, and amidst a potential return to play, the NBA is finding itself at the center of the social issues currently captivating the Nation’s attention.
The political mobilization of Black athletes in the U.S impacts the young generation of African-Americans. An impact I’ve witnessed firsthand through experiences with my father.
Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their fists on the world’s stage at the Olympics in 1968, along with Muhammad Ali making his stance against the Vietnam war were both images of Black pride that occurred during my father’s youth.
I could always tell these moments carried weight for him, and I firmly believe the images of athlete activism that we see today will hold the same weight for the youth going forward.
The importance of seeing the most visible athletes take stands for what they believe in will forever lie in the beauty of children seeing their superheroes fight for them.
Some recent examples of this include a moment in 2012, a brief moment when the Miami Heat posed with their hoodies up to show solidarity after the killing of Trayvon Martin.
In the time following their message, we’ve seen NBA players wear “I can’t breathe” warm-up shirts and slowly increase the use of their platform to speak about the need for social change.
We should not always look to athletes when we have societal issues, but due to the clout they hold in our society, their voices and actions matter, and can amplify the words echoing in the streets.
Black athlete demonstration is also important because it combats the destructive idea of Black Exceptionalism, or in layman’s terms, the idea that being seen as exceptional is enough to omit an individual from many issues plaguing the community at large.
Unifying with the people shows that it is impossible for us to “Talented Tenth” our way to progress, it’s going to take as many bodies as we can get to push for change.
NBA Champion Stephen Jackson is the man in the middle of it all.
He’s the closest big name in sports connected to George Floyd, and as a result, he has decided to use his platform to pressure the nation to improve.
Jackson has marched in the streets, taken interviews across the country, and mobilized NBA players to fight alongside him.
Recently, Jackson expressed his opinion on the NBA returning. He mentioned a return to play could steal focus from what is going on in the streets.
Jackson was the type of player who brought an edge to every team he played for.
Every game, his opponents would feel his presence, and he brings the same energy to the sports media world on his show “All The Smoke” and to his role in the fight for social justice in the United States.
In honoring his friend George Floyd, Jackson is doing whatever he can to make the world a better place.
In the 70 plus days since the NBA shut down operations, the same old conversations comparing basketball eras have been recycled incessantly. I decided I was tired of it and started lining up hypothetical matchups between NBA greats on NBA2K20.
NBA 2k20 is a cool tool to visualize how in-game matchups might work. For all the negativity I talk about the game 2K does an adequate job of programming tendencies and abilities to get an accurate view of play styles, and the way players work within their teams.
Naturally, I created a poll on twitter to decide which matchup to try first.
The 72-Win Chicago Bulls and the Big-3 Miami Heat are both impressive teams in their own right, and a matchup between these teams allows for us to also look at how a matchup between Prime LeBron James and Michael Jordan might play out.
Rules and Notes:
The Bulls have home-court advantage due to having a better regular season record (72-10)
I am playing as the home team in every game and making adjustments as the games continue, as would happen in an actual playoff series.
9-min quarters due to the increased speed of 2K in comparison to an actual game.
Game 1: Bulls 104-92 Heat (Bulls Lead 1-0)
I started the game with Rodman on LeBron, didn’t go well. I then Switched Pippen on LeBron, Pippen could bother him on the perimeter with his combination of size, quickness, and strength. Rodman helping on the drive proved to be effective. I strayed away from putting Jordan on LeBron defensively because I needed him to use more energy on offense.
Despite LeBron’s injury at the start of the 3rd, Wade and Bosh were able to hold their own, but without LeBron, Jordan’s offensive output was too much to match.
A Mario Chalmers/Ron Harper matchup at the PG spot is intriguing. Harper was an incredible defender, but Chalmers is more than capable of taking advantage of his opportunities when teams have to focus on stopping the Big 3.
The Heat threw Shane Battier and Mike Miller at Pippen, Battier is the better defender of the two, but Guarding Pippen is a whole other level. Even though Battier is a solid defender, Pippen can exploit any mistakes on the defensive end better than most.
Wade v. Jordan: Wade will still get his points, but dealing with Jordan for the majority of the game tired him out and limited his offensive scoring output. Wade put up a great fight and carried the Heat offensively after LeBron got hurt, but eventually, he runs out of steam having to deal with the G.O.A.T.
Chicago Bulls Luc Longley and Bill Wennington are looking at a LONG SERIES of dealing with the slashing of James and Wade, along with the skill of Chris Bosh. Despite being outmatched, these two get a boost for having Rodman crash the boards with them. This combination allows Chicago to clean the glass, and as a result, they have won the rebound battle through two games.
Notable Stats: (Bulls)
Jordan: 51/4/5 (20pts in the 4th)
Pippen: 19/4/2 (7-14), (2-4) from three
Luc Longley:9/15/5/1 (4-5)
48-34 Rebounds, Trailed by 17 before LeBron left game.
LeBron: 27/6/5 (Left in 3rd) +17 +/-
Wade: 25/2/1 (11-21) from the field
Bosh 10/15/3 and 1 block
Udonis Haslem +13 +/-
Game 2: Heat 117-110 Bulls
The main differences between Game 2 and Game 1:
LeBron played the whole game and caught fire in the 1st with 24 points
Pippen was cold (6-15) from the field
Matchup notes: Pippen was not holding his own against LeBron early and it took me switching MJ on him to slow his production down. LeBron still dropped buckets on buckets en route to a 60-point game.
Miami ends game on 27-13 run.
Chi- 12 turnovers
Mia- 20 points off turnovers
Scroll to 2nd tweet for game 2 highlights.
Notable stats: (Bulls)
Jordan: 44/6/4/1/3 (18-31), (1-4) from three
Pippen: 16pts on (6-15), (2-3) from three (-21) +/-
Kerr: (0-4) from three
LeBron: 60/9/4/2/1 (22-44), (2-4) from three (10-12) from the line
Wade: 22/8/5 (10-18)
Bosh: 16/11/1/2 (6-9)
Mario Chalmers: 8 assists, (+23) +/- (Highest on team)
After two the series heads to Miami all tied up. 1-1.
I’ll be bringing you the rest of the series with detailed analysis in the coming days and more DoB content every week on this site, twitter, and Instagram.
In the past week, we learned the NBA Draft process, like much of life, will face a few setbacks. The dates of the NBA Draft Combine, Lottery, and Draft are moving to a later undetermined date.
Even though we don’t know exactly where teams are picking, or the final opinions teams my have on prospects, there has been plenty of time to evaluate the talent in the current class. This class lacks some of the polish that we’ve seen from classes in the past few years, but with the NBA’s recent commitment to developing young players, the ceilings for many of the prospects seem reachable in comparison to past draft classes
Today, we’re taking a look at Anthony Edwards and James Wiseman.
Anthony Edwards (6’5 220lb Guard) Georgia
Georgia freshman Anthony Edwards has been talked about as a potential #1 pick. However, in this class, there isn’t a clear cut #1 at the moment. Without the traditional draft process timeline, it is hard to have a gauge of where these guys will call home in the NBA (especially without knowing which team holds the #1 selection).
In the midst of all of the uncertainty there is one consensus, the potential for Anthony Edwards is seemingly boundless.
The first thing that stands out for Edwards is his size for the guard position. At 6’5 225, he would already be one of the bigger guards in the league. He also is incredibly tough to stay in front of for opposing defenders, and he has all the tools offensively to make games infuriating for his matchup.
The main critique of his game is his shot selection and playmaking. In the few Georgia games I have watched this year, there were times where he would settle for jumpers and get tunnel vision at the basket. This shot selection led to Edwards shooting 40 percent from the floor and roughly 29 percent from three.
None of his issues draw from his basketball ability, and many of his decision-making skills will improve after he becomes a pro. He demonstrates a willingness to improve his game, and while I don’t expect him to make a Luka or Trae Young type of impact in his first two years, he has promise that can lead him to a successful career in the NBA.
James Wiseman (7’1 240lb Center) Memphis
Right now, if the lottery odds hold, the Golden State Warriors would receive the first pick in the draft. With a need for frontcourt help, it makes all the sense in the world for the Warriors to take James Wiseman #1 overall.
If you read my last draft post, I mentioned Obi Toppin is a good fit for the Warriors. I stand by that statement, but I am adding that he is the right choice if Wiseman is off the board. (This assumes the Warriors have a pick other than #1)
Due to issues with NCAA eligibility, Wiseman had limited opportunities to show us what made him the #1 prospect in the nation in 2019.
In the games he played this season, we saw that he moved incredibly well for being 7’1, 235lbs. He also showed an understanding of where to be on the court at all times, and finished everything remotely around the bucket at a whopping 76 percent from the field.
This combination allows for him to feast on opposing teams offensively and defensively in the interior.
During his brief collegiate career, Wiseman averaged 19.7 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks per game. In his 3rd regular-season game, he had 14 points and 12 rebounds in 22 minutes against Oregon, a team that finished ranked 13th in the country before the end of the NCAA basketball season.
The short glimpses are enough to decide that Wiseman should be able to help any NBA team as soon as the next season tips off.
Episode 5 of “The Last Dance” gave us a look at the public image of Michael Jordan. The highlight of his marketability, in the public eye, was without a doubt his “Like Mike” Gatorade commercial.
The importance of this ad is the way it lifts Jordan on the highest pedestal for athletes. Reaching this pedestal is a seemingly unmatchable goal, but one kid born in Philly did everything in his power to be like Mike.
In the short amount of screen time we saw Kobe last night, we witnessed the basketball connection he had with Michael Jordan. We saw a young Kobe picking Jordan’s brain during the 1998 All-Star game and the reaction the latter had to a young player with a “Killer instinct” much like his own.
The importance of those small moments of recognition were the building blocks of a relationship that helped build up the next player to inspire a generation of hoopers to pick the ball up and start playing.
Kobe’s game emulated Jordan in ways we may never see again.
The main similarity on offense is the fadeaway jumper. On defense, a calculating mind, tenacity, and pride in defending the basket linked MJ and Kobe.
The biggest takeaway for me from the limited screen time in episode 5 for Kobe is the instant recognition of the dedication to the game MJ recognized in him.
Due to the postponement of major sports, and the release of “The Last Dance” Jordan documentary, basketball fans are stuck in the past. It can be great to reminisce about those who made us love the game, but now is the time to focus on players that can give fans the same feeling in the future.
The 2020 Draft is full of talent, and today I decided to focus on three of my favorite players who will hear the commissioner call their names on draft day.
Isaac Okoro (Auburn Tigers) 6’6 220lbs SF
Isaac Okoro will bring a high level of effort and intensity that is amplified by the high level of physicality he can bring to a game.
Offensively, he needs to refine his outside shot, but he showed great touch around the basket and is one of the most fluid athletes in the class. One area of his game I’ve seen analysts overlook is his passing ability. Okoro showed brilliant decision-making that shined in the open court during his time at Auburn.
Defensively, Okoro is a BEAST, and that should easily translate to the next level. He can guard multiple positions due to his combination of quickness and strength. Okoro is adept at anticipating where ball handlers are going and using his quick hands to help with steals and blocks.
When you combine his strengths on both sides of the floor, you have a complete prospect who, if developed correctly, has the making of a Swiss Army knife at the NBA level.
Obi Toppin 6’9 220lbs PF
Easily the best name in the draft class, Obi is a player fans enjoy watching because of how electrifying he can be. He’s a guy that often made ESPN for his in-game dunks, but his game has so much more than that.
On offense, Toppin was über efficient. He shot 63 percent from the field and 39 percent from 3. As a Power Forward, his ability to stretch the floor is one that has NBA teams salivating at his potential. He also finishes everything around the rim. With all of these tools, I am interested to see how an NBA offense is going to use him.
At Dayton, Toppin was a rim runner in transition. He would sprint down the floor and often was the recipient of a lob that forces one-on-one with a smaller defender. If this didn’t work, Dayton would reset their offense. Dayton kept great spacing and often took Toppin out of the paint and allowed for him to use his dribbling ability and off-ball movement to beat opponents. And if all that wasn’t enough, defenders would have to worry about him shooting a deep trey.
Depending on what the Warriors decide to do in the draft if he’s available, I could see them taking Toppin instead of Wiseman because of how well he fits the way they play. (They could find a center without going through the draft)
Defensively, Toppin relies on his vertical and wingspan to make life tough for his opponents. His lateral quickness is the weakness in his game. If he switches on pick & rolls, NBA guards will make him pay every time. If his offensive game isn’t as efficient as it is in college, it might be hard to keep him on the floor in certain matchups.
Overall, I’m not too worried about him on the defensive end, but it lowers his ceiling, and his strengths on the offensive end have the potential to outbalance his weaknesses.
LaMelo Ball 6’7 181lbs Guard
There was no way I was going to start talking about the 2020 draft class without mentioning LaMelo Ball. We’ve all been hearing plenty about him for years, and it’s time for him to test his talent against the best in the world.
LaMelo has some of the best handles in the draft class. He can go wherever he wants on the floor, and he shares the passing vision his brother Lonzo has. What separates LaMelo from Lonzo is how much the kid loves to shoot, and during his time playing in Australia, that love turned into 37 percent shooting from the field, and 24 percent from three.
He has plenty of confidence in his lightning-quick jumper. Combine that confidence with a few mechanical issues, and you have a perfect recipe for a volume shooter.
His percentages don’t alarm me as an 18-year-old playing against pros in the NBL. If he shows effort to improve his game all of his shortcomings are fixable, he has limitless potential as a true combo guard.
On defense, his strength can be an issue. Bigger and stronger offensive players can move him around with ease. His main asset at his position defensively is his size. His size can allow him to contest shots well. Also, I’ve read that his effort can sometimes wane on defense, but when he decides to play D, he can lock down on the perimeter.
LaMelo is a player that is worthy of the attention he’s been getting. All of the experience he has overseas is a bonus to whatever team drafts him. He should be ready to play day one in the NBA.
LaMelo Ball, Obi Toppin, and Isaac Okoro are only a few names in the NBA’s 2020 draft pool, and I’ll be back next week with a few more names you can get familiar with before draft day.
A 10-3 start—the best start to a Wizards/Bullets season since 1974—shows the Wizards are competing nightly as one of the best teams in the NBA.
However, the NBA season is a marathon, not a sprint.
A few things need to go Washington’s way to continue the high level of play we’ve seen thus far.
Saying a team needs to stay healthy is a cliché, but for a team that thrives off depth, it is imperative the links in the chain they’ve built hold strong.
The Wizards are proving their depth can win.
Bradley Beal missed the last two contests due to personal reasons, and every player on the floor stepped up to bring two W’s to The District.
With an already deep roster, the Wizards are still missing a few key pieces that can bring the rotation to one-hundred percent.
Center Thomas Bryant seeks a December return to action after his knee injury last season. Davis Bertans is Week-to-Week with an ankle injury, and Rui Hachimura is currently out of game action (personal reasons).
For a team that thrives off of the ability to throw a variety of matchups at opponents, Washington will have to hope for a healthy season to maximize the potential we’ve seen through the first 13 games.
Sustained Defensive Intensity
The most dramatic change this season in DC is on the defensive end of the court. Wes Unseld jr. has his team communicating well and stifling opponents en route to the 4th best defensive rating in the league (102.7).
The key to success through the marathon of the season is to have motivated players every night.
Daniel Gafford, Montrezl Harrell, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are a few names expected to bring intensity to every game but, the emergence of Deni Avdija and his activity and execution in every individual matchup is a key component of the fast start this season.
Deni has the size and athleticism to stick with most players in the league and is showing this season the anticipation and composure to hang with superstars down the stretch. I’ve watched Deni force turnovers on Giannis in crunch time, along with a sound 4th quarter against Brandon Ingram that fueled a Wizards comeback from a 19-point deficit Monday night.
The team rallies around intensity, and as the NBA season continues, it can be hard to get excited about every matchup. Bringing the same energy regardless of opponent eluded Wizards teams in recent history, so a reversal of history is necessary for continued success this season.
Another All-NBA Bradley Beal Season
He’s the true number one option in the Wizards offensive attack, and to keep his team around the top of the standings, Bradley Beal has to play like the All-NBA talent he is.
Despite a slow scoring start for Beal this year, the Wizards are winning, but you can see the offense go flat during stretches without him on the floor.
In a half-court setting, every basketball team needs a guy like Beal who can score when the game slows down. The Wizards are lucky to also have Spencer Dinwiddie in the backcourt, but if Beal can play at an All-NBA level, Dinwiddie will also soar to new heights.
Through 13 games, the team has shown us they have what it takes to be good. To go from good to great and sustain a spot at the top of the East through the season, this team has to constantly improve, stay healthy, and bring the fight to opponents every night.