Tall Ball: How the Milwaukee Bucks are Separating Themselves in Today’s Small Ball Era

In a league that is predicated on teams copycatting championship-caliber teams’ recipe for success, it’s not surprising to see the majority of teams buying into Golden State’s small ball strategy. The Warriors are the best team in the National Basketball Association, and they might be the best team of all time. After having the greatest regular season of all time and coming up short of winning a championship last season, the Warriors added future Hall of Famer Kevin Durant to their roster. Although there have been a few bumps along the road, the Warriors look poised to win their second championship in three seasons. Teams around the league are using Golden State as a case study for creating a dynasty.

The Warriors start Zaza Pachulia, a 6’11” center whose primary job is to rebound and play with physicality. Although Pachulia is considered a starter, he plays roughly eighteen minutes a game and isn’t part of their small ball lineup. Their 2016 small ball lineup was dubbed the “death lineup” because of how easily they would kill the other team’s chances of winning. Now in 2017, the death lineup is even deadlier with the addition of Kevin Durant. The lineup of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green has taken the NBA by storm. This lineup includes five players that can dribble, pass, and shoot on offense and defend at a high level on defense. Other than Curry, the other four death lineup members can switch any pick and roll. Curry is 6’3”, but the others are all between 6’6” and 6’9” tall (although Durant is rumored to be nearly seven feet tall). They play a positionless style of basketball that other teams are mimicking.

This brings us to the Milwaukee Bucks. Continue reading “Tall Ball: How the Milwaukee Bucks are Separating Themselves in Today’s Small Ball Era”

NBA Mock Draft: Pre-lottery

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  1. Boston Celtics: Markelle Fultz: PG – Washington

With the first pick in the draft, the Celtics need to draft the best player. Markelle Fultz is the best player in the draft. They already have Isaiah Thomas, but he has only 2-3 elite seasons left. It’s better to get rid of a star a year too early than a year too late. Thomas and Fultz may be able to coexist, but the long-term point guard for the Celtics should be Fultz. He’s the obvious choice.

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  1. Phoenix Suns: Josh Jackson: SF – Kansas

The choice for the Suns is between Josh Jackson and Lonzo Ball. If the Suns are ready to trade away Eric Bledsoe, the choice should be Ball. If they want to keep Bledsoe after his career year, the choice should be Jackson. They are both similarly ranked players, so this pick will be made because of need. The Suns have emerging star Devin Booker as their shooting guard, but he’s not a good defender. They need a wing defender to start with Booker. T.J. Warren is a great offensive small forward, but he doesn’t fit in a starting lineup with Booker. He’d be a better sixth man off the bench. Jackson needs to improve his offensive game, but he has the potential to be a 3-and-D superstar.

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  1. Los Angeles Lakers: Lonzo Ball: PG – UCLA

Continue reading “NBA Mock Draft: Pre-lottery”

NBA Combine Recap – Winners and Losers:

Winners:

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  1. Hamidou Diallo: SG – Kentucky

Although Hamidou Diallo didn’t play for Kentucky last season, there’s a chance that he enters this year’s NBA Draft. He had a dominant performance at the combine. His wingspan measured at nearly 7 feet, and he posted a 44.5 inch vertical leap. He’s an intriguing boom-or-bust prospect, but some team will likely take a first round flier on him because of his skill set and combine performance.

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  1. Jordan Bell: PF – Oregon

Continue reading “NBA Combine Recap – Winners and Losers:”

NBA Playoffs Conference Finals – What I expect to see

Western Conference:

1573504_1280x720.jpg(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (2) San Antonio Spurs: Warriors in 4

The Golden State Warriors are the best team in the NBA and it’s not even close. Although I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Warriors lose a game in this series, I wouldn’t bet on it. They have been dominant all season, and seem even more locked in during these playoffs. The Warriors came up short in last year’s NBA Finals, and seem to have redemption on their minds. They dominated the Trail Blazers and Jazz in the first two rounds of the playoffs, and now have an opportunity to defeat coach Popovich’s Spurs. Gregg Popovich might be the best coach in NBA history, but his team isn’t talented enough to beat the Warriors. I think he’ll make adjustments every game, but he doesn’t have enough defenders to slow down the Warriors’ death lineup. Kawhi Leonard is the best defender in the NBA, but he can only lockdown one player. The Warriors seem to be on a mission to complete the greatest postseason in NBA history. They already own the greatest regular season in NBA history, but they left that season without the championship. They are way more talented than last year’s record-breaking team. There might be a few competitive games in this series, but I expect the Warriors to complete their third straight series sweep. Continue reading “NBA Playoffs Conference Finals – What I expect to see”

NBA Playoffs Conference Finals – What I want to see

Western Conference:

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(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (2) San Antonio Spurs: Warriors in 4

I want to see the Golden State Warriors enter the NBA Finals undefeated in the playoffs. The Warriors are probably the best team in NBA history, so it would be awesome to see them chase history. I think it’s a forgone conclusion that the Warriors will be this year’s NBA champions, so having them chase history will make these games compelling. The Warriors made history during last year’s regular season, now it’s time to see if they can make history during these playoffs. Having the greatest regular season and postseason in NBA history under their belts would make these Warriors the greatest collection of talent that the NBA has even seen. Coach Gregg Popovich might be the best coach in NBA history, but he’s no match for the Warriors. Kawhi Leonard is the best defender in the NBA, but he cannot guard Golden State’s death lineup by himself. Although it would be exciting to see these teams compete for seven games, I’d much rather see the Warriors chase history in the NBA Finals. Continue reading “NBA Playoffs Conference Finals – What I want to see”

NBA Playoffs 2nd Round – Results

Western Conference:

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(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (5) Utah Jazz: Warriors in 4

The Golden State Warriors completed a four game sweep of the Utah Jazz. Although Utah was competitive at times in every game, they weren’t able to stop Golden State from going on runs that put the games out of hand. The Warriors’ death lineup was too much for Utah to handle. Point guard George Hill missed the last three games of the series. Although he doesn’t get the notoriety that Gordon Hayward and Rudy Gobert receive, he’s the glue that holds the Jazz together. Utah has faced a number of injuries this season, so they were used to playing without Hill. Although others played admirably in his absence, they weren’t able to overcome his loss. The way that the Warriors were playing, it probably wouldn’t have mattered if Hill was healthy in all four games. Draymond Green was a monster on both ends of the floor. Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant were scoring at will. The Warriors look poised to return to the NBA Finals for a third consecutive season. The Warriors will face the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals.   Continue reading “NBA Playoffs 2nd Round – Results”

2nd Round NBA Playoffs – What I expect to see

Western Conference:

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(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (5) Utah Jazz: Warriors in 7

Before the season started, I picked the Utah Jazz as my sleeper team in the NBA. I said the Jazz were the only team in the Western Conference that could beat the Warriors in the playoffs. I liked the Jazz because they are two-deep at every position. Although depth isn’t as important in the playoffs because teams typically play their bench less minutes, I think the Jazz have enough overall talent to give the Warriors fits. They have the personnel to go big or small, which means they can matchup with any lineup that the Warriors throw their way. Gordon Hayward is one of the most underrated players in the NBA, and should be able to score against all of the Warriors’ wing defenders. Rudy Gobert is a defensive monster and clogs the lane offensively, which will open things up for shooters. The Jazz have enough shooters to space the floor, and have one of the most underrated floor generals in the league in George Hill. I don’t expect the Jazz to win the series, but I think they can push the series to seven games. If the Jazz win, I’ll look like a genius. But I’ll give the Warriors the benefit of the doubt in the seventh game at home.

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(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (3) Houston Rockets: Rockets in 6 Continue reading “2nd Round NBA Playoffs – What I expect to see”

NBA Playoffs 2nd round – What I want to see

Western Conference:

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(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (5) Utah Jazz: Jazz in 7

Before the season started, I said the Jazz had the best chance of any Western Conference team to knock off the Warriors before the NBA Finals. I would look like a genius if the Jazz were able to pull off this monumental upset. The reason I liked the Jazz is because they are two-deep at every position. Depth is a less important factor during the playoffs, but it still should give the Jazz a boost. They’ve had to play a ton of lineups throughout the season because of injuries, so their bench players should be experienced enough to make a difference against a stacked Warriors team. An upset of this magnitude would entice Gordon Hayward to re-sign long-term, and should help the Jazz stay as one of the best teams in the NBA for years to come.

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(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (3) Houston Rockets: Rockets in 7 Continue reading “NBA Playoffs 2nd round – What I want to see”

NBA Playoffs 1st Round – Results

Western Conference:

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(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) Portland Trail Blazers: Warriors in 4

Even with Steve Kerr and Kevin Durant missing multiple games, the Golden State Warriors were able to sweep the Portland Trail Blazers. Portland’s backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum played at a high level during the majority of the series, but they didn’t get much of a contribution from the rest of their team. Jusuf Nurkic tried to return from a broken leg, but was ineffective in the one game he played in the series. The Warriors won by an average of 18 points per game, with game three being the only competitive game in the series. Golden State proved that they can win games without their best player. Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green are talented enough to carry the Warriors through the Western Conference playoffs. With a healthy Kevin Durant in the mix, it’s unlikely that the Warriors don’t win the championship. The Warriors will face the Utah Jazz in the second round of the playoffs.

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(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (7) Memphis Grizzlies: Spurs in 6 Continue reading “NBA Playoffs 1st Round – Results”

NBA Playoffs – What I expect to see

Western Conference:

First Round:

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(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) Portland Trail Blazers: Warriors in 5

The Golden State Warriors coasted through the regular season waiting for this moment. This playoff run will be their redemption for losing in the finals last year. Their first round opponent could be one of their biggest challenges this postseason. The Trail Blazers underachieved all season, but have enough talent to give the Warriors problems. The dynamic backcourt of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum is one of the few in the NBA that can match Steph Curry and Klay Thompson on a nightly basis, but they’ll have to get help from their teammates if they want to compete with the Warriors. The Warriors don’t have the depth that they had last season, but they added a superstar in Kevin Durant that will be instrumental in their efforts to get back to the finals. The Trail Blazers just don’t have enough firepower to match the Warriors. They’ll probably win either game three or four at home, but I don’t expect them to push the series beyond five games.

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(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (7) Memphis Grizzlies: Spurs in 5

After an injury to Tony “first team all defense” Allen in the last game of the regular season (in a meaningless game), I expect the Spurs to defeat the Grizzlies in five games. I would’ve chosen the Spurs to win in six games if defensive star Tony Allen was healthy, but his injury won’t be the deciding factor on who wins the series. The Grizzlies have a lot of talent and veteran leadership, but they are no match for Gregg Popovich and the Spurs. The Spurs have the coaching advantage, which is an extremely important factor in the playoffs. Grizzlies coach David Fizdale is a rookie head coach, so we won’t know how he’ll respond to adversity until the moment that he faces adversity. He seems like he is the right man for the job, but he’ll be outclassed in this series by future Hall of Famer Gregg Popovich. The Spurs have the best player in the series in Kawhi Leonard, better overall depth, and a better coach. This series won’t be very competitive. I like the Grizzlies’ “Grit and Grind” mentality and hope they can keep the games competitive, but I’ll be surprised if they’re able to win more than one game in this series. Continue reading “NBA Playoffs – What I expect to see”

NBA Playoffs – What I want to see

Western Conference:

First Round:

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(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) Portland Trail Blazers: Warriors in 6

Since Damian Lillard predicted that the Trail Blazers would win the series in six games, I think it would only be fair if they lost in six games. People would give him a lot of heat for his prediction, especially if he got the number of games right in the series. I can only imagine how funny the memes would be, and he’d deserve to be ridiculed if his prediction backfires. Lillard is an amazing player and I’d rather him be confident in winning than expecting to lose, but he’s going to regret making this prediction.

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(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (7) Memphis Grizzlies: Grizzlies in 6

Although Tony Allen is injured and may miss the whole series against the Spurs, I’d like to see Memphis advance to the second round. The Grizzlies and Spurs are both older teams that play a unique style of basketball. The Spurs were the second best team in the Western Conference during the regular season, but I think they have the fifth best chance of making it to the NBA Finals behind the Warriors, Rockets, Jazz, and Clippers. The Spurs are a better regular season team than playoff team, and aren’t exciting to watch. The Grizzlies play a slow-paced “Grit and Grind” style of basketball, but I think their style would be more interesting to watch against the rest of the Western Conference playoff teams. Although it’s a longshot, I hope the Grizzlies advance to the next round.

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(3) Houston Rockets vs. (6) Oklahoma City Thunder: Rockets in 7 Continue reading “NBA Playoffs – What I want to see”

My MVP Rankings

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  1. James Harden

Although Russell Westbrook has put up historic numbers by averaging a triple-double this season, James Harden should be this year’s most valuable player. It’s amazing to think that Harden and Westbrook were once teammates, and neither of them was the best player on that team. Harden isn’t having the 30-10-10 season that Westbrook is having, but he’s putting up amazing stats and is helping his team win games at a higher rate. Harden is leading the league with more than eleven assists per game, which is roughly double his career average. He was primarily used as an off-ball shooting guard before Mike D’Antoni took over as head coach this season. Many people speculated if this marriage would work because of D’Antoni’s failures outside of Phoenix. Harden isn’t the floor general that D’Antoni once had in Steve Nash, but Harden’s ability to translate his game into D’Antoni’s system has been one of the most pleasantly surprising storylines of the NBA this season. With James Harden being the facilitator on offense, you’d think that his scoring output would be diminished. But that’s the beauty of D’Antoni’s offense, he likes his teams scoring early and often. James Harden is second in the NBA in scoring behind Russell Westbrook with nearly thirty points per game. Harden received a lot of criticism last season because of his poor effort on the defensive end. Although Harden will never be an elite defender, he has put in the effort needed to be a serviceable defender in today’s NBA. There’s no shame in Harden finishing second in the MVP vote behind the second player in NBA history to average a triple-double in a season, but I believe that Harden’s season has been equally impressive and he’s helped his team more than Russell Westbrook.

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  1. Russell Westbrook

Continue reading “My MVP Rankings”

Ideal Playoff Matchups – What I want to see

First round:

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Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Indiana Pacers: Heading into the final day of the regular season, the Cavaliers and Pacers are the second and seventh seeds in the Eastern Conference, respectively. If the playoffs started today, they would face each other in the first round. The Cavaliers could get the top seed if they win their regular season finale against the Toronto Raptors and the Boston Celtics lose their regular season finale against the Milwaukee Bucks. But the Cavaliers haven’t seemed to care about getting the top seed, and will likely rest their starters. The Bucks have already clinched the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, so they will likely rest their starters too. It seems highly unlikely that the Cavaliers won’t be the second seed in the Eastern Conference. The Pacers will be the seventh seed if they win their season finale against an Atlanta Hawks team that may be resting their starters. The Pacers could fall to the eighth seed or even out of the playoffs if they lose to Atlanta. The Cavaliers and Pacers would be an ideal matchup because we’d get to see LeBron James versus Paul George in the playoffs one more time. LeBron has gotten the best of George in all of their playoff matchups, but it still would be exciting to see. Paul George has recently started to look like the pre-injury Paul George. He’d need a herculean effort to pull off the upset against the defending NBA champions. The Pacers aren’t as good as they’ve been in years past when trying to knock LeBron out of the playoffs, so this series might not be close. But it would still be fun to watch two of the NBA’s best players go head-to-head in the playoffs again.

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San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies: The San Antonio Spurs and Memphis Grizzlies will meet in the first round of the playoffs. Heading into the final day of the regular season, the Spurs and Grizzlies have the second and seventh seeds clinched. The Spurs had another historic season under coach Gregg Popovich. The Grizzlies’ Grit-‘N’Grind mentality has gotten them back into the playoffs, but they don’t seem to be as dangerous as they’ve been in years past. They still have the same cast of characters leading the team, but their play has diminished over the last few seasons. Their style of play is different than most teams and should present some challenges for the Spurs. San Antonio also has a unique style of play. Coach Pop does an amazing job of maximizing his team’s talent each season. Kawhi Leonard has been one of the best players in the league this year, and should lead them deep into the playoffs. Both teams have a lot of postseason experience, so it should be fun to watch them go head-to-head in the first round of the playoffs.

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Continue reading “Ideal Playoff Matchups – What I want to see”

All NBA Underrated/Overrated Team

Point Guards

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Underrated: Kyle Lowry

Although most people believe DeMar DeRozan is the star of the Raptors, I believe his backcourt teammate Kyle Lowry is the more important player. DeRozan is the flashier player who puts up a lot of points and fantastic dunks, but the Raptors would not be a contender without Lowry. Lowry has been a different player since getting in shape a few years ago. He was always a good player, but now he’s one of the league’s elite point guards. It’s not like Lowry isn’t getting his due, but most people don’t give him credit as the star of the Raptors. He’s a smaller point guard on the wrong side of thirty, but he keeps getting better each season. Lowry isn’t as good of an athlete as DeRozan, but he’s a better shooter, passer, and leader. His wrist injury has contributed to Toronto’s recent struggles, but they’ll still have a shot at the championship as long as he returns for the playoffs.

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Overrated: Russell Westbrook Continue reading “All NBA Underrated/Overrated Team”

NBA Trade Deadline Recap

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New Orleans Pelicans receive: C DeMarcus Cousins, F Omri Casspi

Grade: A+

Wow! Only time will tell if Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins can coexist, but this was a trade that the Pelicans had to make. Boogie is one of the most talented players in the league, and they got him for an incredibly cheap price. In today’s fast paced wing-oriented league, it’s a risk to try and build a team around two bigs. But both Cousins and Davis have the ability to stretch the floor, so I could see this pair thriving if they get help at other positions. New Orleans may lose Cousins in free agency after the 2018 season, but they had to take a chance because they weren’t going to be able to get a player of Cousin’s caliber in free agency. Even if they aren’t able to keep Boogie in New Orleans long-term, nobody will blame them for pulling the trigger on this blockbuster deal.

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Sacramento Kings receive: SG Buddy Hield, G Langston Galloway, G/F Tyreke Evans, 2017 1st round pick (top 3 protected), 2017 2nd round pick

Grade: F

Vlade Divac needs to go. Not only was this a terrible trade for the Kings, but he said he had a better trade offer a few days earlier. You don’t tell that to the media even if it’s true. The Kings got fleeced in this deal unless Buddy Hield turns into the next Steph Curry. I have my reservations about Buddy Hield’s potential. It took Buddy four years at Oklahoma to become a top draft prospect in a sport where the best players usually separate themselves at a younger age. Not to say that there aren’t late bloomers, but I’m always skeptical when someone takes four years to dominate in college. Was Buddy dominating as a senior because he was stronger and more physically developed than many of the 18 and 19 year olds he competed against? Buddy isn’t a good ball handler, passer, rebounder, or defender. He’s a one-trick pony that can score in a league predicated on players forcing their opponents to beat them with their secondary skills. I don’t see Buddy becoming anything more than a sixth man off the bench that will occasionally put up a decent amount of points. I was a big fan of Tyreke Evans’ potential coming out of college, but he’s been too injury-prone to trust. And how did Divac not get a first round pick without protections????? I know the Kings didn’t want to pay Cousins the $200 million dollars he would have wanted, but that doesn’t excuse trading him away for pennies on the dollar.

Continue reading “NBA Trade Deadline Recap”

Final Four Preview

Gonzaga vs. South Carolina

The Zags will win if: They don’t let South Carolina’s defense rattle them

South Carolina has one of the best defenses in the country. Frank Martin’s crew plays tough and physical defense for forty minutes. If Gonzaga is able to limit their turnovers and make shots, they should be in great shape. The Zags are the more talented team with playmakers at multiple positions. They should be able to get open shots if they share the basketball.

The Gamecocks will win if: The game is close

Gonzaga hasn’t played in as many close games as the Gamecocks have this season. The Zags were undefeated before losing their final regular season game, which shows how dominant of a team they’ve been all year. But they also played an easy schedule that didn’t challenge them, which could come back to bite them if this game is close. The Gamecocks have looked like a team of destiny during the tournament, and have more experience playing in high pressure moments. If they are able to keep the game close during the final few minutes, look for the Gamecocks to play better under pressure and book their trip to the National Championship game. Continue reading “Final Four Preview”