Tokyo 2020: Team USA and 3×3 Basketball

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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.

Team USA

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From left to right: Jackie Young, Kara Lawson, Stefanie Dolson, Kelsey Plum, Allisha Grey (Photo via USAB3x3 instagram)

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.

To keep track of the games, here is a link to the USAB3x3 Olympic schedule.

Note: The USA Men’s 3×3 team did not qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

“Breakaway” A Fight For Justice

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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.

Overview

“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.

Takeaways

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.

Promo from July 13th via @MooreMaya on Twitter



NBA Finals Game 5: Way Too Simple Keys To Victory

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Saturday night, the Phoenix Suns host the Milwaukee Bucks in game 5 of the NBA Finals.

So far, every game has thrilled fans across the globe, and game 5 should be no different as both teams are looking to take command of the series by securing a third win.

Correctable Mistakes

Suns coach Monty Williams mentioned in his inspiring postgame speech that Phoenix’s mistakes in game 4 are “correctable.” And he’s one-hundred percent correct.

Phoenix uncharacteristically lost the turnover battle in their 109-103 loss to Milwaukee. The Suns committed 17 turnovers to Milwaukee’s five.

To fix their turnover woes, Phoenix needs more from Chris Paul tonight.

CP3 scored 10 points on 5-of-13 shooting from the field and committed five turnovers in what was a tough game for the “Point God.”

Jrue Holiday’s harassing of Paul the entire length of the court on the defensive end contributed to the latter’s five turnovers, but Paul’s mistakes were trivial at times.

One of Chris Paul’s crucial game 4 turnovers leading directly to a Bucks bucket that sealed the game

Despite great defense from Milwaukee—and maybe a few nagging injuries—Chris Paul sets the tone for the rest of the Suns, good or bad.

Without Paul’s usual brand of ball security, there’s no way his team can win this game and the series.

Added note: When Chris Paul takes care of the ball and plays well, Deandre Ayton tends to score more.

Milwaukee’s Foul Shooting

Milwaukee’s leader Giannis Antetokounmpo is a prolific paint scorer. Due to his play inside, he tends to draw plenty of fouls.

However, he is not a great foul shooter. The “Greek Freak” is shooting 63.6 percent from the line in the finals. (up from his 56.8 percent mark over the entire postseason)

To make up for their superstar’s poor shooting from the charity stripe, the rest of the Bucks have to shoot lights out from the line.

It will be challenging for the Bucks to shoot well while being hounded by the fans in the Valley, but this is professional basketball. They are more than capable.

If they can shoot well from the line, they increase their chances to win what should be a close game.

Middleton Repeat Game

Khris Middleton looked like the All-Star, $35 mil per year player we’re accustomed to seeing now and then in Milwaukee.

Middleton took over game 4 with 40 points on 15-of-33 shooting. He also scored 10 points down the stretch in the 4th quarter to ice the game.

Middleton is known for having great games at home in the playoffs, but he’s also known for inconsistencies on the road.

Milwaukee has to win a game in Phoenix to win the series. To win in Phoenix, they need at least one more masterclass game from Khris Middleton.

Deandre Ayton

Deandre Ayton needs to look to score more in game 5. He’s defending the paint and rebounding well, but his scoring is what makes his team go from good to great.

Deandre Ayton’s hot game 3 start… The Suns need him to play like this to avoid going down 2-3 in the series

Ayton’s defense of the paint is the toughest assignment for any individual player in the series. However, no matter how fatigued he is, he has to prioritize scoring the ball.

Ayton should be undeterred after shooting 3-for-9 and ending up on the receiving end of one of the most impressive blocks in NBA history.

He should put together a much-improved game tonight.

Prediction & Game Time

In game 4, it took Devin Booker’s benching due to foul trouble to completely halt the Suns’ momentum and give the Bucks control of the game.

Other than that, the Suns played a terrible basketball game and only lost by six points on the road.

I’m taking the Suns (-4) tonight in what should be another close game.

NBA Finals Game 5: Saturday, July 17th 8:30 p.m EST.

Game 4 Box Score

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Featured image of the Larry O’Brien trophy courtesy of NBA.com

District of Buckets NBA Finals: Way Too Simple Game 4 Keys to Victory

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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.

Tweet from Michael Gallagher explaining net rating differences with Ayton and Giannis on or off the court—a metric that shows how much better or worse a team is on the court with a specific player

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.

Predictions


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.

Game 3 Box Score

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In Case You Missed It: 7/2/21

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.

Devin Booker added 22 points of his own. On the Clippers’ side, Marcus Morris Sr. lead the way with 26 points. Patrick Beverley earned an ejection after getting a bit too handsy with Chris Paul.

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.

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The NBA Coaching Job Hunt

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.

Mike D'Antoni tells Rockets he won't return as coach | NBA.com

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:

Mike D’Antoni, Terry Stotts, Steve Clifford

The Devil You Don’t

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

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.

Becky Hammon: 10 things to know | NBA.com

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 Billups

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.

Why Chauncey Billups is Best Bet for Celtics Head Coach - CelticsBlog
Chauncey Billups and Ty Lue working for the Clippers

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.

Future Mention

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.

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Multi-Sport Benefits: Basketball Movement and Football Route Running

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.

Video: How Iverson’s Crossover Inspires Doug Baldwin’s Route Running

Meet Doug Baldwin, the Unsung X-Factor of the Seattle Seahawks | Bleacher  Report | Latest News, Videos and Highlights

Davante Adams: Green Bay Packers

Packers Pro-Bowl receiver Davante Adams also credits his release off the line of scrimmage to footwork and positioning he learned while playing basketball.

Davante Adams vs Jalen Ramsey: Matchup of the day

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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Hiding Behind The Keyboard: NCAA Tournament Fans Take Frustrations Out On Social Media

The men’s NCAA basketball tournament returned with a bang after a one-year hiatus, and emotion around the competition is high. On the court, most of the games display impassioned—albeit often sloppy—basketball that ended championship dreams for a few highly-ranked schools on the first weekend of play.

Off the court, the excitement from fans matches the intensity shown by the players.

Nothing elicits an extreme fan reaction like a March Madness upset. When you combine the emotions of anger and disappointment with a veil of anonymity created by social media, you see just how ugly some basketball fans can get.

Fan reactions to the upset of the 2-seed Ohio State Buckeyes are the perfect example of how ugly social media can get.

Fans expected the 2020-2021 Ohio State Buckeyes to make a deep run before the tournament. According to a Tom Carpenter ESPN article, the Buckeyes were the sixth-most selected tournament winner on ESPN’s Tournament Challenge as 3.5 percent of brackets selected Ohio State as their eventual champion.

Expectations were through the roof for this Ohio State team, so it was a big letdown for Buckeye believers when they fell to 15-seed Oral Roberts in the round of 64.

After the game, fans took to Twitter and Instagram to voice their frustrations.

Buckeyes forward E.J. Liddell used his personal experience to shine a light on the hateful messages he received after the loss. The messages Liddell shared were a showcase of how the negative side of social media intertwines with sports.

Many of the comments I had seen online were from accounts with hardly recognizable profile pictures or names. People with their own free time and without the threat of accountability for their words project themselves directly to an athlete in the public eye thanks to social media.

This level of access to athletes has not been around long, so most of the negative effects on players we witness firsthand through statements like those of E.J. Liddell.

The player reactions to the negative fan talk inspired me to write this because in sports—and especially college sports—fans tend to neglect that PEOPLE play sports. It is unfair for fans to add extra pressure to student-athlete lives with disrespectful and hateful rhetoric. Student-athletes are playing under heightened stressors and restrictions due to the pandemic. Inflammatory responses by upset fans take on a higher level of unacceptability due to the circumstances.

Fair criticism of play on the floor is always fair game, but attacking players and coaches just because you’re upset and know you won’t have consequences for your actions has no place in sports. It is up to sensible fans to remind the people close to us that channeling your anger toward someone you don’t know personally for anything, especially a sporting event, is an immature act that only takes away from the enjoyment of the game.

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NBA Sixth Man of the Year Series: Jordan Clarkson

To tip-off this mini-series, I had to start with Utah Jazz combo guard Jordan Clarkson.

Image result for jordan clarkson 2020 stats

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?

Two words.

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.

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James Harden’s Houston Breakup

James Harden and the Houston Rockets suffered two debilitating losses in a row to the Lakers this past week.

After the second loss, the aforementioned disgruntled superstar let the world know his situation was beyond repair.

In response to Harden’s demands, the Rockets dealt their former franchise player to the Brooklyn Nets in a blockbuster trade.

The full trade per Shams Charania is currently:

Rockets receive: Victor Oladipo, Dante Exum, Rodions Kurucs, Nets 1st rounders (2022, 2024, 2026,), Bucks 1st rounder in 2022 (from nets, unprotected) and 4 1st round swaps (2021, 2023, 2025, 2027)

Nets receive: James Harden

Pacers receive: Caris LeVert, 2nd round pick

Cavs: Jarrett Allen, Taurean Prince

Brooklyn Impact

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.

Rockets Re-tool

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.

Pacers

The Pacers with this move proved something that was long in speculation.

They had no plans to retain Victor Oladipo.

Caris LeVert on Fitting in With Kyrie and KD, and New Coach Steve Nash -  The Ringer
Click to watch Caris LeVert at his best against the Boston Celtics (March 3, 2020)

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.

Cavs

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.