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.
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.
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.
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.
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